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How Tana Built The 'Debt Free Forties' Blog To 15,000+ Visitors Per Month

In 2017, Tana created a blog called ‘Debt Free Forties.’

As you might guess, a lot of her blog posts center around how to make money, save money, budget money, and pay off debt.

Upon emailing her to ask if she wanted to interview with me, she told me her site generates over 15,000 visitors per month.

This is incredible.

Remember, visitors are different than views. Many visitors will typically stick around and read other posts, so you can bet Tana’s created a website that’s either pushing 20,000 views per month, or is way past it.

Without a platform like Medium to help her grow, this is an insane accomplishment. 

Not only that, but it’ll likely be easier for her to keep growing her site. Why? As her Domain Authority rises, she gets more traffic and backlinks will inevitably flow towards her website. In other words, she’s well established. 

She’s gotten through “the dip” period that Seth Godin loves to talk about and she’s now enjoying the fruits of her hard labor writing posts and growing her site more and more. 

The impression I got from Tana is that she’s really good at persevering and knocking down doors to find out what works.

In the ten questions that follow, you’ll hear how she tried one thing, moved on to something else, and eventually found success after sticking with this blogging thing for four straight years.

I think anyone, regardless of whether you want to grow a Medium blog or a personal site outside of Medium can learn something from Tana.

The ten questions are beneath the next section listing out all the places you can give her a follow.

Where Can You Find Tana?

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a sponsored post. I love Tana and found her blog online after some Google Searching and asked if she’d like to be interviewed for my blog. She agreed. This is just some good old-fashioned transparent blogging advice I think you’ll find ridiculously useful.

1. Tana when did you start your blog and how did your blog do in that first year after starting it up? 

Thanks Tom, I’m so excited to share my blogging journey! I started Debt Free Forties in July 2017 after toying around with the idea for 6+ months. I figured I’d finally give it a whirl since I kept coming back to the idea of creating one.

The first year was a lot of figuring out what the heck I was doing. Even though I build websites for a living and work at a marketing firm, I still didn’t have much experience building blog traffic. I mainly focused on building the framework of my blog by creating content, starting an email list, and building a Pinterest account.

My goal was to build an email list from the start and monetize Debt Free Forties as soon as possible. I took an affiliate marketing course and applied that information to my work, and created a printable freebie that users could download in exchange for hopping on my mailing list.

2. When did your blog start really taking off and getting traffic?

My blog finally started to take off last spring when I focused more and cut out meaningless work that didn’t move the ball forward. Previously, I’d been all over the place, trying to do ALL the things (content creation, Pinterest, SEO, emails, affiliate work, etc.) while working a full-time job and raising two young kids. I wasn’t very successful and was on the path to burning out big time.

Pinterest had become very volatile for me, and I felt like I was throwing myself against a brick wall. I could not break through to higher traffic, no matter how many courses or advice from Facebook groups I took.

So I decided to walk away for a bit and focus primarily on SEO. I took a great course and only concentrated on writing better content and cleaning up older articles.

3. What was your first really popular blog post, and how did it start getting a lot of traffic?

As far as the popularity of any particular article, it’s ebbed and flowed. Some do a ton better on Pinterest, while others kill it in search engines. I’d say the first one that did decently in both arenas was about a no-spend challenge with a free printable. It originally started getting traffic through Pinterest, but I’ve been able to beef it up with SEO work as well.

4. If there was a pie chart showing all the places you typically get blog traffic from, what would that look like?

If my traffic were a pie chart, it’d look like:

  • 70% organic traffic
  • 18% social traffic
  • 11% direct traffic
  • 1% referral traffic

5. How much does your blog fit in to your personal income pie right now? Is it a large slice?

I keep my blogging separate from my personal income, so at this point, I’m feeding the majority of the revenue back into the business. As we all know, there are many monthly expenses when it comes to blogging, like hosting, an email campaign tool, Grammarly, and outsourcing content, to name a few. I’ve started to make more than my monthly expenses but am setting additional earnings aside for future courses, yearly fees, and other costs to balance out the slower months.

6. How do you primarily monetize your blog, and which revenue streams are the most profitable for you?

Most of my monetization comes from ads, followed by affiliate revenue. I have wanted to get into sponsored posts but haven’t dipped my toe in the water just yet.

7. What are all the different ways you make money online?

I have several income streams for making money online. I do freelance website design/development projects, as well as blogging. I love to use to get paid to provide feedback on sites — it’s easy and pays nicely. I’ve tried surveys and focus groups, but less so lately since they don’t pay enough for my limited time at this point. Lastly, I have opened an Etsy shop to sell SVG designs for crafting.

8. What’s your favorite way to make money online?

I think my favorite way to earn money online (besides my blog) is the Etsy shop. While I only have about 12 designs up, I love that it’s very passive, and once you do the initial work, there’s not a ton of follow-up with buyers since the purchases are digital downloads. Perfect for a time-constrained introvert like me!

9. What’s the future look like for your blog? Do you have any big projects in the pipeline?

I started outsourcing some work this year on my blog, so I think that I’ll continue to try to grow traffic as much as possible. Eventually, I’d love to flip it and start another one. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of building traffic, I’m looking forward to applying that knowledge to future endeavors and building multiple blogs.

10. What’s one blogging lesson you knew when you first started your journey?

The one blogging lesson I wish I knew when I started was to focus on one thing at a time. It’s easy to get sold on a ton of courses and end up with shiny object syndrome. Much like a toddler, it’s essential to get one skill down pat before shuffling off to the next.

Also, be sure to give things time. Sure, we all want instant results, but make sure you give each avenue a solid try before hopping on to the next idea. Best of luck and happy blogging!

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