Starting a blog or content-based website is an excellent way to monetize your expertise. R.J. Weiss leveraged his career in finance by starting and growing a personal finance blog, The Ways to Wealth.
In this interview, R.J. shares how he used Pinterest to begin making money with the site and how he’s used search engine optimization (SEO) to grow it to $20,000 per month in revenue.
My background has been primarily in financial services, where I’ve held various roles, from insurance planning to financial planning. I am a Certified Financial Planner and have always been passionate about helping people with their finances.
In 2016, I decided to start something outside of my job. The idea of an SEO-based content site resonated with me, so I created The Ways To Wealth.
Initially, I had no plans for it to become a main source of income. I simply wanted to post various reading lists from famous investors as I was collecting them independently. However, as I continued to work on the site, I saw the opportunity to turn it into a successful business.
Today, The Ways To Wealth is a financial content site that generates most of its revenue from search. We write content such as best-of lists, reviews, and general personal finance advice.
Our revenue model is split about 50/50 between advertising and affiliate partnerships. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and look forward to continuing to grow and help people with their finances.
On average, the revenue generated is over $20,000 per month. However, the amount may vary depending on the seasonality of the business. During Q4, the advertising revenue is at its peak, but the affiliate revenue may not be as high. On the other hand, Q1 is great for affiliate revenue but not so much for advertising revenue.
Averages above $15,000/month net profit.
The Ways To Wealth generates revenue through affiliate marketing and advertising. Currently, the revenue is pretty evenly split between the two. In the past, the revenue was more heavily reliant on affiliate marketing, but this year, RPMs have been high, so it’s fairly split.
We also create a lot of supporting content around our affiliate posts, much of which doesn’t include affiliate links but is monetized with ads. The objective is to help people make wise decisions when they’re making any type of financial decision, and often, that requires a lot of supporting content.
The initial drive was another source of income. The financial services firm I was at when I started was in the initial stages of being acquired. So, the idea was that if I could diversify my income, I’d have more options. I highly value being in control over my time, which I had at the time, so the idea of working full-time for another company was what motivated me.
But, why I chose to create a personal finance site, was that I worked with a lot of high-net-worth individuals. I wanted to bring this knowledge I was learning to everyday people to help them improve their lives.
I registered the domain in August of 2016. At first, it was just a side project that I worked on for a few hours a week. However, the reading lists started gaining traction and even got some links from bigger-name sites.
In December 2016, while doing freelance work as a copywriter, I had a terrible experience with a client who was overly demanding and showed little sympathy when my entire family got sick with the flu. This was my ‘aha’ moment when I realized I didn’t want my time to be controlled by someone else ever again.
After that experience, I decided to go all in on The Ways To Wealth. I started waking up early every morning and treating it like a real business that I wanted to earn a full-time income from.
Initially, I started with very little start-up capital. It purchased a domain name and hosting (around $100). I spent around $100 to buy a solid WordPress theme shortly after. After a few months, I also invested in a keyword research tool as well for under $50/month.
I don’t have clients, but as far as traffic, the site’s first visitors came from search. I did some very light link-building at the time and landed some links on sites that curate personal finance content.
For the first six months, it was just a casual side project. But around the sixth month, I decided to go all-in and try to earn a full-time income before the firm I was working for was acquired in October 2017.
Although I had a job, I used to work on the website early in the morning for a few hours before work and tried to squeeze in some time at lunch and on weekends. Thankfully, I never had trouble waking up early, and I still do to this day to get some work done before my kids leave for school.
What really inspired me to take the leap was reading income reports from other bloggers. At that time, people like Pat Flynn were posting income reports that motivated me greatly.
In the personal finance space, I saw bloggers posting income reports and getting hundreds of thousands of page views from Pinterest, which surprised me. But I had the attitude of “If they can, why can’t I?” so I started building up the site on Pinterest.
While Pinterest has changed a lot since then, what was unique about Pinterest traffic was that I was able to drive a significant amount of traffic from Pinterest in a short period for a new site. While Google was and is a slog, Pinterest was like a rocket ship.
By committing to the platform and learning everything I could, by the middle of 2017, I was consistently driving over 100,000 visitors to the platform and reached my goal of earning enough to run the business full-time once I left my job.
I started to figure out long-term that the best strategy to grow was organic search. However, I knew that would take some time to build. So, I started to build a profile on Pinterest to get traffic.
In addition, I saw how other sites used Facebook advertising to drive traffic. So, I leveraged that as well to start growing my audience, with the benefit that these didn’t take as long as organic search did to scale up. In the background, I had my eyes set on long-term organic search as the main revenue driver, which we eventually achieved in 2019.
I have a managing editor and four writers contributing articles. Additionally, I recently hired a virtual assistant to help with data organization, among other various tasks.
I really enjoy my work of creating content and learning about cutting-edge FinTech products, and I plan to continue doing so for a long time. While I fully expect AI to impact my business and the world of search in general, I’m a bit more bullish than most on independent sites that have something meaningful and valuable to say.
Yes, as it accounts for the majority of the site’s revenue.
We use many forms of keyword research. There’s the typical approach with Ahrefs of finding high-volume but low-competition keywords. However, we’ve recently tried to take that a step further with efforts to be the first to an emerging trend.
New trends may not always show up in keyword tools, but we’re betting on future growth. With a lot of domain expertise on the team, we’ve gotten better at spotting these trends, but we’re by no means batting 1,000%.
We then try to cover the entire topical map of many subjects. For example, the reward site Swagbucks is one of our top affiliate partners. So, we’ve written a review of Swagbucks, an article on the best ways to earn on Swagbucks, a list of top alternatives to Swagbucks, and much more around the topic.
In addition, we’ve been publishing a lot of what we call our promo vertical, which talks about deals and offers. These often get the last click in terms of affiliate revenue. So, instead of someone coming to our site, reading a Swagbucks review, and then going back to Google to search for the Swagbucks bonus, we have a page all about the Swagbucks sign-up bonus.
The whole idea is to anticipate the next search so they never have to click back to Google, and of course, provide them with a great experience while on our site so they trust us enough not to have to click away.
I had the forcing function of the firm I worked at was selling and not wanting to go work for someone else, so I made every decision I could to get to a full-time income by that certain date. I also had to get my finances in order as much as I could, so I prioritized saving instead of investing for the year or so leading up to the sale. I had about six months of living expenses saved.
It’s always better to make decisions based on hands-on experience rather than just theorizing about something without actually trying it yourself.
Personally, I never would have thought that using Pinterest for my personal finance blog would be the key to feeling comfortable enough to quit my job and support my family, but that’s exactly what happened. Of course, it wasn’t an overnight success – I had to commit myself to it and try out different marketing strategies to see what worked and what didn’t.
There are many ways to grow your business, but often the best way to make an educated decision is to give your ideas a good test, commit to them, and see what happens.
The most significant challenge I faced was getting hit by multiple Google updates. The first one came in late 2019, and the second one in early 2020. Unfortunately, this happened as the pandemic started, making it even more difficult to navigate.
However, looking back, I realize that the challenges helped me build a stronger business. I had the opportunity to rethink my approach and focus on building a brand that stood for something. I realized that I was too focused on short-term goals and needed to build something that had real durability.
One of my favorite podcasts is Founders. I’m actually going through the entire archive right now, starting with episode #1. It’s so good, and it’s eye-opening to see what someone who is at the top of the podcast game right now, sounded like in episode #1.
I love to travel, and one podcast I make sure to catch every episode of Frequent Miler.
The Clearscope webinars, which are also available as podcasts, are a valuable resource for SEO marketing.
Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.
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