When bloggers try to compete in a crowded and competitive niche, they often think they need to be super innovative, and come up with something so advanced and unheard of. Sometimes, that works.
However, as Lynette from Cleverly Simple has found, the opposite can be true as well. In the coupon/budgeting niche, blogs tend to get a bit noisy and complicated, and she’s found success by keeping things simple. It’s one of the things that has really helped her grow an audience (to what is now over 90,000 unique visitors each month).
In this interview, we not only discuss how and why Lynette created Cleverly Simple, but also how she makes money with the blog and what seems to be the most effective.
I’ll let her explain the rest…
Lynette, I’m a big fan of your site, Cleverly Simple. You have a lot of great content about saving money and “do-it-yourself” ideas, along with some really delicious-looking recipes. Tell us a bit about your background and journey. What gave you the idea to start this blog? Is this a full-time job for you, or are there other projects/businesses you’re involved with?
Hi Eric! Thanks for being a fan of Cleverly Simple. I started the website in 2010 when my husband finished graduate school. One year earlier we found that we were expecting our first child. I had always wanted to be a stay at home mom.
However, quitting my job meant living on no income for one year while my husband finished school. We had savings and my husband had a significant scholarship. We decided to go for it.
We knew we would have a very tight budget. I could not change our rent payment but I could change the amount of money we were spending on groceries. I learned everything I could about saving money. One year later, when my husband graduated, I started Cleverly Simple so I could continue to share my adventures with friends and family after we moved. Little did I know what it would become. I continue to stay at home with my two young boys. My website is the only job I have outside of taking care of my kids.
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far with your blog and online business?
This past year has been my greatest success. Last year I attended a conference that forever changed the way I thought about my website. Instead of seeing it as an income generating hobby, I really started to dig into the analytics to study it as a business. I was too personally attached to what I was doing. I started to be more intentional in what I was sharing based on what my analytics were telling me that my readers wanted to see.
Before that time, I would share based what I thought they wanted or based solely on feedback. While feedback is important, it’s not the only insight into a business. Because of my hard work behind the scenes, my traffic has grown 100%. I now have over 90,000 unique visitors each month visit Cleverly Simple. I’ve also cut back on the amount of information I’m sharing.
I consider this a great success because of how hard it was for me to remove myself personally and think business when creating my editorial calendar. The great thing is, I still get to share what I love with my readers, I’m just more intentional about when I share it.
I’d like to learn a bit more about the coupon classes that you host – it seems like a really cool idea. How have they worked out for you? I noticed that you don’t charge for the classes – is this a revenue generating venture for you, or is it a lead in to something else that you sell?
I started teaching classes in partnership with Savings.com in 2012. I had never taught a coupon class in my life! While I do have a teaching background in public school, the thought of sharing about coupons with adults was completely foreign to me. I worked hard to get my name out there and the classes have been a huge success. Some of my most loyal readers have come from teaching classes in my area. I love that I get to hear their stories face to face.
While I do not charge individuals to attend the classes, I do charge the venue. They do generate revenue for Cleverly Simple not only via the fee I charge to host the class, but also because of the loyal fan base it has created.
In general, I know that the coupon/saving money niche is highly competitive. What have been the primary ways you’ve been able to stand out and grow your blog’s traffic?
When I started to use coupons I followed coupon/saving blogs to learn how to coupon. One of the recurring things I witnessed was how overwhelming all the information was. I really wanted to break it down and share how simple using a coupon can be. I always tell people in my classes that using one coupon is better than using none!
One of the first things I did on Cleverly Simple was to create a video series on YouTube to walk people through the couponing process. Over the last year I’ve realized how much my readers love how simple I keep things. I found that I was over sharing and was caught up in the hype of my niche. As I mentioned before, by stepping back and breaking it down simply with recipes, DIY and the grocery lists I’ve allowed my blog to take off this year.
I can see that you’ve tried several different forms of monetization with your blog, from ads, to affiliate links, to sponsorship – and perhaps some other things that I missed. What’s been your most effective way that you’ve monetized the site? What about least effective?
Ad revenue from Google Adsense has probably been one of my most consistent ad revenue streams. I have a couple of posts that are ranked highly on Google. When it’s the right season, they do very well for me. I’ve been focusing more on sponsorships and that’s one of my goals this year. I have enjoyed working with companies that I really believe in and I’m hoping to do more in the future.
Affiliate income is key when you own a money saving website. Over time, while my traffic increased, my affiliate income did not. It was something I had to think about when I started to share less deals last year. Instead of posting a lot of deals each day, I’ve found that I’ve generated as much income from affiliates by sharing one really well-written content post.
Looking generally at becoming a successful blogger: If you had to take your best advice or inspirational thought and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Think about your blog as a business. Work smarter, not harder. [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources as a blogger?
I use PicMonkey a lot. I purchased a Canon Rebel T3i this past year and PicMonkey helps me to make my pictures more relevant for my website. I also use Photoshop when I’m designing elements for my website. I designed my current site and had someone code it for me.
My other favorite websites to follow are Smart Passive Income with Patt Flynn. I am also excited to attend Digital CoLab this summer. I am intentional now about attending conferences that will grow my blog as a business.
Finally, where can people find you online?
In addition to Cleverly Simple….
Thanks so much for your time today, Lynette, and telling us about your success with Cleverly Simple!
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