Q1 ended over a month ago… which means my first blog/podcast update for 2020 is overdue! There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
The first quarter of 2020 was productive and record-breaking for ESBFI. Here’s what happened from January to March:
Some of my favourite treats from my favourite bakery
Celebrating my blogiversary
I’m so lucky to have such an amazing family. Right from the start, they’ve been there to support and encourage me on my blogging journey.
Thank you, family. I couldn’t have made it this far without you!
A magazine interview and photo shoot
In January, I was asked to take part in an article about FIRE in Canada… but there was one caveat: I couldn’t be anonymous. Ack! I not only had to share my name, age, family info and location, but I also had to agree to be photographed!!! Double ack!
Long story short: I agreed. So… very soon, you’ll see a real photo of me in a national magazine. Gulp! I’ll tell you more when the article is released.
All-time traffic highs
I reached 4,255 pageviews in January, which was a new record for me! (My previous record was 4,028 in October 2019.) My top posts for January were:
Most of my acquisitions came from direct traffic, organic search, and social media (which was mostly Twitter, then Facebook).
Google Adsense earnings way down
I don’t get it—despite seeing record traffic, my monthly AdSense earnings have been abysmal since my peak of $31 in October. They literally dropped off a cliff in November and have stayed low since. I’m lucky if I earn $4 per month these days!
It’s been very frustrating, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. Throughout January, I spent time learning how to improve my AdSense earnings. Here’s what I learned:
I’ve set everything up properly, I don’t have invalid traffic, and I’m not in violation of any of the terms and conditions. I went through all the checklists, but still have no clue why I’ve seen such a huge drop in earnings. 😫
No to Auto ads
I could possibly do better with AdSense by turning on Auto ads, but I refuse to do that. When I tested them early on, I wasn’t happy with them for these reasons:
- I didn’t like the ad placements. They appeared in awkward spots, which affected readability and aesthetics.
- The ad sizes were too big, which also affected readability and aesthetics.
- The ‘sticky’ ads that pop down from the top or bottom were really annoying. I hate then on other blogs, and I didn’t want them on mine.
Due to all these downsides, I decided to place my ads manually. This gives me complete control over how they look and how many appear in each post. It means lower earnings, but if it’s a better reading experience, I’ll take the trade-off.
I’m loving my ‘post-when-I-can’ schedule
February was a busy month for me personally, which meant there wasn’t much time for blogging. (Read my February update to find out what I was up to.)
Crazy months like these are what prompted me to institute a ‘post-when-I-can’ schedule. It means I no longer pressure myself to stick to a rigid schedule (which I did for most of 2019).
It’s been incredibly freeing, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a strict schedule. I know that’s neither professional nor recommended. But it’s working, so I’m sticking with it for now!
Another traffic milestone
Unexpectedly, my traffic continued to grow and break records in February, with the blog hitting 5,294 pageviews!
My homepage received most of the views, with my January update placing second. In third place was my Flash Food review (which is becoming a consistent source of traffic).
The majority of my acquisitions again came from direct traffic, organic searches, and referrals (mostly from Twitter).
Learned more about SEO
I’ve always wanted to learn more about SEO, but never did because it seemed so technical and boring. Well, my tune changed after seeing good organic search numbers in January and February.
I was surprised to find that the basics are a lot easier than I’d previously thought. I was also surprised to find that SEO is actually pretty interesting—once you dig in a little.
Putting my knowledge to work
So, what am I going to do with all this newfound knowledge? For now, I’ll use it to keep my high-performing posts ranking. Eventually, I’ll create new content to target specific keywords.
However, this doesn’t mean I plan to churn out impersonal, SEO-optimized content. No way! All it means is my content planning will be more thoughtful. It will allow me to not only serve my readers, but also give my articles a better chance of ranking in Google.
In March, my blog (and life) were unexpectedly swept into the madness of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a recap of my corona-related articles:
- In Should We Cancel Our Trip to Japan Because of Coronavirus? I wrote about the ripple effects of the coronavirus and how we debated over our decision to cancel our trip to Japan.
- Sadly, we ended up cancelling our trip, which prompted me to write this follow-up post: How We Maximized Our Refunds After Cancelling Our Trip to Japan. In it, I walk through how we received 100% of our money back.
- In The Coronavirus is a Bigger Deal Than I Thought I address my incorrect thoughts on the coronavirus after realizing it was far more serious than I’d originally believed.
- Next, I shared an update of sorts with How We’re Physical Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Finally, I wrote Gas Up Your Car Without Leaving Your House: My Filld Review in which I share the benefits of using this fantastic mobile fuel delivery service.
That’s five new posts in less than four weeks! For me, that’s typically a near-impossible accomplishment. Could it be? Am I finally getting faster at writing? I sure hope so!
More record traffic
January and February both saw record traffic, but March smashed all my previous records! (Including the February 2019 anomaly of 7,500 pageviews from my 13 Ways to Reach FI Sooner article, which was featured in Rockstar Finance.)
In March, I received a total of 10,017 pageviews!!! This was just enough to allow me to apply for a new ad network. (See I applied for Monumetric below for more on this).
I’m so grateful to all of you, my amazing readers, for helping me reach this goal. THANK YOU!
Where my traffic came from
My coronavirus articles attracted an incredible amount of traffic, and as always, my Flash Food review brought in a fair number of pageviews. (Though I wonder if Flash Food is doing okay these days, with people shopping less in-store?)
As for acquisitions, there was quite a shift this month. Unlike January and February, social media topped direct traffic and organic search in March—by far!
Social media breakdown
The majority of my social media traffic in March came from Twitter. I consciously put a lot of effort into it, and it paid off to the tune of 700+ pageviews. However, it was a ton of work since I tweeted every post manually. (I really need to start using Hootsuite!)
Facebook also sent a lot of traffic my way, but it’s hard to tell exactly where it came from. The most likely sources are the ESBFI page, and the ChooseFI Canada sharing thread. But it could also be random shares on Facebook.
(If I was a better blogger, I would share links with UTM codes so I could track my acquisitions better. I just never have the time to do it!)
This may not last
March was an amazing month for traffic! Unfortunately, I don’t think this increased traffic will continue. Many blogs have seen significant drops in traffic recently.
I’ve already seen a large decline at ESBFI for April, so my prediction is so far coming true. Ah well—I’ll just have to keep plugging away. High traffic months will return one day.
Continued low earning with Google
Okay, it’s getting completely ridiculous now! Please help me make sense of this:
- March 2019: 3,000 pageviews; $23 in ad revenue.
- March 2020: 10,000 pageviews; $6 in ad revenue.
I don’t get it—how did more than triple the traffic lead to a fraction of the ad revenue?! If anyone has insights to share, please help me out! I’m beyond confused.
I applied for Monumetric
With such disappointing results from AdSense, I was overjoyed to have finally met the minimum pageview requirement for Monumetric* (10,000 over 30 days).
*Monumetric is a premium ad network, like Mediavine or Ad Thrive. For more on Monumetric, check out this detailed review from Tom Blake at This Online World.
As soon as my March numbers were in, I applied for Monumetric’s Propel program. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to join! Unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived—their automated reply said it would be 2–3 months before I’d hear back!
I tried to contact them recently for an update, but haven’t received a reply. I’ll just have to be patient and hope for the best.
Q1 2020 was a good one for ESBFI—I earned nearly as much in one quarter as I did in my entire first year of blogging!
Watch for my annual blogiversary post in January for the full reveal with all the numbers.
Phew! That was a lot to run through for my blog—now it’s time for a podcast update. Q1 was also action-packed at Explore FI Canada. Here’s what happened:
After a 9-week stretch of weekly releases, we decided at the end of January to revert to bi-weekly releases. This was largely due to a change in my co-host Ryan’s work schedule, which would give him a lot more time with his daughter… but a lot less time for EFIC.
Though I miss recording with Ryan as much as I once did, I’m thrilled that he gets to be at home with his daughter four days a week. Also, truth be told, a bi-weekly release schedule is far more sustainable for us!
The future of EFIC
As a listener, you won’t notice much of a change. Ryan’s still going to be around, making random appearances as his schedule allows. You may just hear a little more of Money Mechanic and I as we continue hosting interviews and roundtable discussions!
May 3, 2020 UPDATE: As it turns out, you will be noticing a big change—Ryan has decided to leave the show. (More on this at the bottom of the post.)
February was a messy, crazy month at EFIC. Ryan took six weeks off from the show in January/February and I was trying to work ahead so I could leave for our trip to Japan.
Thank goodness our co-host Money Mechanic came through during this busy time. He took my requests for edits and shortened timelines in stride, and delivered every time. Thank you, MM!
Ryan got back to work on EFIC at the end of February… which meant it was his turn to be battered with my crushing demands to get sh*t done. (Which we definitely did!) Big thanks to you too, Ryan.
In March, the EFIC team was hard at work producing new episodes, including an informative and timely episode about homeschooling.
We also released a short message to let our listeners know how we plan to address COVID-19 on the show: we’ll mention it, but won’t focus too much on it.
I think we’ve found a good balance, and we hope you’ll agree as we release our content in the coming weeks.
I’m sad to share that my co-host Ryan recently decided to part ways with Explore FI Canada. It was a difficult decision for him, but I understand his reasons.
Ryan—I’ll miss all the fun and laughs we had. I wish you all the best with your blog, and hope you enjoy every extra minute you get with your daughter. Don’t be a stranger!
What does this mean for the podcast?
We’re sad to move on without Ryan, but the show must go on! Money Mechanic and I are still committed and will be here to bring you new FI content every other week.
We look forward to continuing to connect with our listeners and guests, and will keep working to improve and grow the podcast. 🙂
And that’s a wrap!
Wow, that was a busy quarter! I had no idea in January (or even February) that an invisible, highly-infectious virus would take over the world, the internet, and most of my blog content. What a crazy turn of events we had—all in a single quarter.
What about you?
How was Q1 for you? Did you notice an increase or decline in traffic? Also: how do you feel about pandemic coverage in your own content? Are you shying away from it, or are you finding it hard to avoid?
Finally, if you have any insight on why my AdSense earnings fell into the abyss, please fill me in! I’m so confused.
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