Today is a celebration on Government Worker FI!
Most of the content on my blog has a very specific purpose.
But twice a year (on my birthday and on my blog’s birthday) I like to share more personal content with you. I take stock of where I am at in life and on the blog and I talk about what I want to do in the next year.
Curious about what I talked about in the past?
- GovernmentWorkerFI Turns 1
- GovernmentWorkerFI Turns 2
- 2019 Birthday post
- 2020 Birthday post
- 2021 Birthday post
In this year’s post, I’m going to talk about how far I’ve come blogging, what my current challenges are, and where I want to go in year 4 of blogging.
Please do not confuse my personal blog for financial advice, tax advice or an official position of the U.S. Government. This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.
My blog traffic history
Year three on the blog was where it all came together.
I thought it’d be fun to take you behind the scenes and share my blog traffic (without actual numbers). And because I couldn’t help myself, I thought I’d tell you about some key moments along they way.
- (a) I got frustrated and quit blogging. (Honestly, I think I might have quit a couple of times before that too. If I would have known I would still be blogging 3 years later I would have kept better notes.) The blog lies dormant until…
- (b) I decided to renew my domain. I publish weekly blog posts for a while.
- (c) I quit blogging again. It felt too hard to create blog content during Covid. (Ironic given everything that’s happened since then).
- (d) I pay for my first course on keyword research. I start producing weekly content for SEO.
- (e) I write a viral blog post about Dogecoin and get a massive traffic spike.
- (f) I write a viral blog post about getting rich from selling tomatoes and get a massive traffic spike.
Here are the key lessons I’ve learned after 3 years of blogging.
Lesson 1: It’s natural to “quit” but you never actual quit until your domain expires
I think I’ve quit blogging at least 5 times. But as long as you keep renewing your domain and hosting, you never actual quit.
And unlike quitting sports where your skills deteriorate quickly with time, posts I wrote in 2019 are still ranking in Google. If something comes up and I feel like I never want to blog again, I know I can step away for awhile and this website is still going to be doing something.
Lesson 2: It’s worth it to buy courses
I’m not exactly sure why I thought I could run a successful blog without ever taking any courses on blogging. Perhaps it is because there are billions of words freely available on the internet and I assumed I’d be able to learn it for free.
Actually, I’m 100% sure that everything I’ve learned in one of my courses probably is freely available somewhere on the internet. But investing in courses was a great way to learn how to run a blog quickly. And they’ve paid for themselves many times over.
Lesson 3: I can write content that resonates with people
I enjoy writing and have aspired to be “a writer” (whatever the hell that means) for a while. But I never considered myself a writer. Instead, I thought of myself as someone who writes in his free time.
When my Dogecoin post went viral, I felt like I actually was a writer. I felt like I could actually write content that affected people. It was a good feeling.
Even though I’m not a famous writer, or successful blogger, or anything else for that matter, I now know that I am a writer.
Win #1 2021 was the year I rocked my email list
#NotHumbleBrag I have been rocking my email list in 2021.
My email list quadrupled in 2021 and I’ve gotten email open rates that have approached 90%. (If you are a brand reading this, feel free to back up a dump truck full of money to my house at any time.)
I learned a TON from Liz Wilcox’s email membership community.
However, I don’t follow Liz’s templates any more. Instead, I just try to write content that is super relevant for my fellow federal employees every Wednesday morning.
I have fun with my emails. And I think my readers have fun with them too… I almost always get 2-3 replies from readers with ideas or stories about how they’re using my writing each week.
Win #2 I met my traffic goal
Looking back on the goals I set this time last year, I wanted to get to 10,000 sessions per month which seems silly now. I achieved that goal just a few weeks after setting it.
The rest of my 2nd anniversary post was sort of an existential crisis about the right amount and types of content to produce. Although it took me some time to figure it out, I think I’ve figured those things out too.
- Publish as much SEO’ed content possible, weekly at the very minimum. I’ve also been able to hire some help writing which has been amazing.
- Write 1 “fun” post about money a month that has the potential to go viral.
- Keep writing my monthly spending reports for my hardcore fans.
While my site grew a lot in 2021, I wish I would have published more content to grow faster. Instead, I worked on optimizing existing content. While I did improve my Google rankings on that content, it wasn’t a life-changing amount of growth.
(In retrospect it seems obvious that new content could help you grow faster than fixing old content. I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking last year).
Win #3 I (finally) built some backlinks
The best part about writing content people relate to? It builds backlinks.
Not only was the Dogecoin post shared widely on social media and served up by the “Google Suggest” algorithm, people also linked to the article like crazy on their own sites.
Beyond writing viral content, I worked on (ethically) building links throughout 2021 as well.
I’m hoping to continue building links in 2022 and hoping that having a stronger link profile will help my site better compete for top spots on Google.
My word for 2022: “Integrity”
In my first two years of blogging, I set very specific SMART goals.
However, I don’t think those goals were helpful. I would have accomplished those things regardless of whether I had set them as my SMART goal for the year.
In fact, if anything, I had set my goals too small. I achieved them shortly after setting them and then promptly forgot about them until I looked back at what I wrote last year.
So instead of setting a goal, this year I want to set a framework for the blog in 2022.
Whatever I do on the blog this year, I want to do it with integrity.
I have written before about how Steven Pressfield’s War of Art has been a major influence on my blog. To use his terminology, I have “gone pro” and bring the dedication and work ethic of a professional to my writing. In other words, I treat the blog as a second job.
This website is a major part of my identity. I really want to see it grow and thrive.
I’m obsessed with reading people’s blog strategies and consume podcasts targeted at people who buy/build/flip niche websites. I could tell you all of the latest SEO trends for niche sites and what strategies the most successful people are using.
I want to do those things too. In fact, I’ve started several other niche sites this past year.
Doing it my way
But… I don’t want to grow at any cost. If my web businesses are part of my identity, I want my business to match who I want to be as a person. If I have to choose between success and doing the right thing, I am going to choose doing the right thing. (And honestly, I can afford to do things with integrity because this is not my sole source of income.)
For instance, I hired the first writers for my site this year. If you’ve consumed any content by niche site creators, they complain about having to paying writers as much as $15-20 for a 1,000 word article.
That’s makes my stomach churn.
(Also, I don’t understand the complaint. If you think that the writer is making too much money an hour at $0.02/word then you must assume that they are not researching any content and instead just typing up garbage).
Instead of seeing how I could take advantage of someone desperate enough to need to work for something much less than minimum wage, I tried to calculate what the most I could pay someone and have the ROI work out.
I was nervous as hell at spending a lot (for me) money on content.
And then my writers started sending me their articles (on very complicated federal employee niche topics) and they were amazing.
Literally AMAZING. As in… I had to do was hit copy-paste-publish amazing. It also made me question what value I bring to this blog when people on my email list can produce content as good as or better than my content. (#ExistentialBusinessCrisis).
I’m still not sure exactly how long it will take the content to pay for itself, but I do know it’s quality content, I’m proud of it, and at some point it’s going to pay off. (And you better believe I have a million spreadsheets tracking the ROI for each article I’m hiring out right now.)
I think there’s a lot of lessons to unpack there about hiring out content. But mostly, I’m glad I followed my gut about what felt like the right thing to do.
My blog friends
Every other Wednesday I meet with a small group of other bloggers in a mastermind format. (The group is organized as part of Pete McPherson’s Online Impact membership community).
We take turns coaching each other on the biggest problems/questions we have in our blogging/online business journeys. I am so thankful to my mastermind group for helping me navigate my biggest struggles in 2021. The group is a great fit for where I am at in my my blog journey. I’m confident they’ll help guide me to grow with integrity in 2022.
So a big thank you to:
for helping me this past year!
What I’d like to write next January
If you have made it this far, you know I’m not into the whole SMART goal thing. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have dreams for the blog. But it’s hard to tell if they are too aspirational or not.
So instead, I thought I’d write out my goals in a letter format from my future self to my current self.
Congratulations. You survived another year of the pandemic. Bad news. You’re still bald.
2022 was the best year on your blog yet. You finally cracked your revenue goal of $500 per month and are well on your way to your first $1,000 month.
Your TSP School series was a major success. Not only does it have more than 50 articles to help federal employees navigate their benefits, but it was also nominated for a Plutus Award in the Best Content Series category.
Your SEO work continued to pay off and you finally outrank those two financial advisors that use content to suck federal employees into their funnels for services they may not need.
Speaking of financial advisors, your outreach work finally paid off and you were able to connect with a couple of brands that want to market to federal employees. These brands are a great fit for your readers and they now sponsor your amazingly strong email list which now has more than 2,000 engaged subscribers.
Although it’s not a major focus, you occasionally feel compelled to write commentary on the financial Zeitgeist that other finance bloggers consume like catnip. These articles are widely shared and help you connect with more federal employees.
Finally, you are finally starting to see some traction in the YouTube algorithms. More federal employees are finding your channel. Embedding your videos in your blog posts is helping your on-page SEO for your most important and competitive articles.
Did you enjoy the article? I’d love it if you shared it on the social media platform of your choosing. If you’d like to discuss this further, you can shoot me an email or leave a note in my Facebook Community.
SamSam i.e. "Gov Worker" started working for the government at age 18 and loved it so much that he never left. He started GovernmentWorkerFI in 2019 to help fellow federal employees understand their benefits, take control of their finances, and live their best lives.
Reflections on 2 years of blogging
A meta post where I blog about what I learned about blogging over the past two years.
GovWorker’s first blogaversary
GovernmentWorkerFi.com turns 1 today. Check out my blogaversary post where I share insights from my first year of personal finance blogging.