Suzi Scheler runs a beauty blog against animal testing and even though it’s in a relatively specific niche, the blog brings in enough revenue for Suzi to do it full-time.
Revenue of $16,000/mo
Email list size of 37,000
Founded in 2014
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
Hi! My name is Suzi Scheler and I built an online business so I can have more freedom and be location-independent. I have a personal blog, but my main focus goes to Cruelty Free Kitten, a beauty blog against animal testing. It’s different from most beauty blogs out there because I research the brands and only feature those that fit the cruelty-free criteria.
For being a relatively niche site, it receives a fairly large audience — between 600,000 and 800,000 monthly pageviews. I started the blog in 2014 and last month, I made a little over $16,000 in passive income.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
Before I started this journey, I was a freelance translator. I loved being able to work from anywhere in the world, but I wasn’t doing something creative and challenging enough.
After learning about the possibilities of blogging and making a living online, I quickly got the idea of starting a cruelty-free beauty blog. I already had some knowledge on the topic, and at that time, it was just starting to become more popular. That’s what told me to go for it.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
My plan initially was to monetize my blog using affiliate links and Adsense, and I started the monetization process on day 1.
Adsense turned out to be a dud, and I wouldn’t recommend it today unless you’re new and have no other alternative. Today, I also joined an ad network I’m happy with after some trial and error. Almost half of my blogging revenue comes from ads.
My favourite way to monetize is through affiliate links. This is because these links can be included organically (unlike ads) and I can choose who and what to link to. In the very beginning,
I added affiliate links throughout my blog using Amazon Associates, Linkshare, and ShareASale. I still use these networks today and a decent portion of my income comes from Amazon, but I also moved to Reward Style.'I started the monetization process on day 1.'Click To Tweet
A lot of bloggers in my niche focus on sponsorships and brand collaborations, but I’m not big on those for 2 reasons. First, I love building passive income.
Today, I could take a 6-month vacation with no direct impact on my earnings, which would be impossible if I relied on sponsorships and had to constantly put out content. Second, I want to build my own brand and create my own products instead of solely promoting other people’s. In other words, I don’t want to be too dependent on external factors.
Walk us through some strategies you have used to build up the traffic?
In the beginning, I did a lot of small things that added up. I contributed to discussions on forums, answered people’s questions anywhere I could, promoted my site, and participated in Twitter chats. This helped spread the word about my blog, which is necessary if you’re not getting any initial traffic.
SEO is still the most important aspect of building traffic and I’ve learned about SEO since before my site launched. To get backlinks, everything listed above helped to some degree (the more you promote your blog, the more potential links). I also guest posted, but I did so selectively on sites with a high authority. When it comes to backlinks, I applied the “quality over quantity” rule.
Social media is another big source of traffic for me, especially Facebook and Pinterest. I grew all my social media accounts as I launched the site.
How have you grown your email list?
My email list is at 37,000 right now and I’m getting around 800 new subscribers a month. I started collecting emails since I launched my blog, but with no traffic and with no lead magnet, I was barely getting any subscribers at first.
The first game-changer was coming up with a lead magnet to offer new subscribers. There are several opinions on which types of lead magnets work best, but for me, simplicity was key.
My lead magnets target my ideal reader and offer them something valuable yet short (as opposed to a long ebook for example).
The placement of my opt-in forms also had a big impact on my opt-in rate. For example, very few people use the opt-in form in my sidebar. I place my opt-ins at the end of every post right before the comment section.
These forms not only stand out more, but they also target visitors who are already interested in my content since they’ve reached the end of the post.
How do you write great content?
Writing doesn’t come easy to me and I feel as though I still haven’t found my “voice” after 3 years of blogging. Nevertheless, I write from the heart and speak my mind on my blog, which I’ve gotten positive feedback for. I also keep the style simple, casual, and friendly. I want my articles to be easy to read and accessible to everyone.
The most important aspect of my content, I’ve found, is the title. This is true for almost every article out there. You can spend endless hours on your writing, but if your title can’t grab your reader’s attention, you’ve lost them already. Personally I like to polish my titles and make them interesting, which can take some brainstorming.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
My biggest challenge to overcome is very personal, and it’s the fear of putting myself out there. When I first started my blog, I treated it like a magazine. I was behind the scenes.
I’m an extremely reserved and private person, which is funny considering I have a blog in the first place. But I’ve learned that you can’t be an anonymous blogger. Or at least, anonymity greatly hinders your success.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I was very inspired by Pat Flynn. Shortly after I started blogging, I listened to his Ask Pat podcast, which is a daily podcast about having an online business. He answers questions from his listeners and touches on topics ranging from marketing to SEO, and this is a podcast I recommend to all beginners because of how accessible it is.
Outsourcing is another thing I’ve learned to do throughout my journey. I’ve only recently started to dabble in hiring outside help for my site, but it’s essential to do this as your business grows. The book Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker was very helpful when I started my hiring process.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
I see a lot of new bloggers trying to emulate successful bloggers and their blogs. While you can learn a lot from successful bloggers, I don’t think this approach works. The key is to differentiate yourself and do something new, exciting, and original. That’s what those successful bloggers did, and it worked for them at that point in time. Since they’ve already done it, it’s no longer new and original and it no longer works as well as it did for them years ago.
The online world is constantly evolving, which means there’s always room for more online businesses and blogs. Putting a new twist on a saturated topic or relying on your unique personality can really make you stand out.
Where can we go to learn more?