This is an interview with Debbie Gartner of The Flooring Girl.
Hey Debbie, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m now a full-time blogger at TheFlooringGirl.com where I blog about flooring, painting and home décor. I now have a new second blog at HealthySavvyAndWise where I share blogging tips.
You’ve been blogging for 9 years but only started monetizing in the last 3. Why is that?
When I first started, I didn’t even know that monetizing was an option. My blog was a marketing vehicle to drive local customers to my flooring store, and it worked. Years later, I wanted to need to make a change in my life so I could get out of debt.
How did you end up in $68K of debt and what steps did you take to change your situation?
I’m not allowed to go into that (due to a non disclosure agreement). Things very sudden and very hard, especially as I live in a very cost of living area…and of course, I was a very in debt, so I didn’t have money to invest…and I was on the brink of filing bankruptcy.
I, of course, cut down on all costs, but there’s only so far you can go when you own a condo outside NYC and you’re paying off a huge amount of debt. I just paid for that, food, gas/car insurance and almost nothing else.
When things broke (and they did all the time), I had to just leave them “as is.” My heat/AC broke, my dishwasher, my microwave, my vacuum. Almost everything.
I was working on a computer that was falling apart and would shut down as I worked. Months later one of my friends lent me money for a new computer and she allowed me to pay her back by teaching her how to blog and do SEO.
I knew it would take a long time to monetize my blog, so I took on 2 part-time jobs: 1) I blogged and did SEO for some local businesses and 2) I did painting estimates for a local painting.
In between, I worked on and learned how to monetize my blog. It was a lot of work.
How did you come up with the idea of TheFlooringGirl?
That just popped into my head one day at a meeting where I was thinking about a flooring estimate from the night before and the two little girls yelled to their parents, “Mom, Dad, The Flooring Girl is here.”
So after the meeting, I went home to see if the domain was available, and it was so I registered it. A couple of months later I had a site (I paid someone to do that since I knew very little back then). That was in 2011.
How did you grow your traffic in the first year?
All I did was write blog posts that were SEO optimized and some backlinking. Back then, Pinterest wasn’t really public. And I also didn’t really care about traffic (because I wasn’t monetizing, nor did I know I could).
All I cared about was local customers finding me and calling me for appointments.
I was obsessed with SEO and learned everything I possibly could.
Very quickly I was able to get 3 appointments a week for my flooring business. A year or two later that grew. It grew my business and reduced my marketing costs at the same time.
What’s different about being in the Home Decor niche as a blogger?
I don’t know. In many ways, it’s just like every other business – understand your target customer, what they want and need, find it for them and communicated it.
Previously I had worked at several top packaged goods manufacturers like P&G, Mott’s Apple Sauce/Apple Juice and Revlon, so I think marketing is pretty universal. You just need to learn the specifics of your target and their needs.
What are your top traffic sources and which one is your favorite?
SEO/Organic traffic is #1 one source of traffic (and even more so for profit). I generally get around 350,000 pageviews/month from organic traffic and it’s generally very consistent.
It’s much longer-lasting and more passive, meaning that it will last for years with very little work. And, it converts the best, therefore it’s my favorite.
Pinterest is my 2nd main source of traffic and it generally brings in about 200,000 pageviews/month, but it often fluctuates. I make at least 3 dollars more for every pageview I get from organic traffic vs every pageview from Pinterest.
And, that’s really all I do for my home décor blog. I have not found the other vehicles nearly as effective nor efficient and there is only so much time in the day.
I mean I do get some pageviews from the Facebook blogger groups for my free SEO course and my SEO ebooks, but for my home décor blog, it’s SEO + Pinterest.
How many page views does your blog get now?
Over 500,000 pageviews a month. In some months, it’s more like 600,000.
How did you make your first $100 blogging?
I experimented a bit before I really monetized with Amazon Associates and made $100 in my first month. I was too busy with my job to do much else at the time.
Now, I usually earn around $7,000/month just on Amazon.
How much are you currently earning per month with your home decor blog and in what ways?
For the last 7 months, I have been earning over $20,000/month.
Reached that after 2 years and 3 months of monetizing. (but I had an established blog so it would be unfair to compare that to someone just starting out).
The largest portion is from affiliate marketing (55%), followed ads (33%) and products (17%), but it does vary by month.
The products are mainly my SEO/blogging products. I need to figure out how to do more in Home Décor arena.
In addition (and not included above), I also do some local design consultations and flooring estimate.
What was the hardest part about monetizing a new blog?
Everything LOL. No seriously, it was really hard to figure out how to make affiliate marketing work when most people buy flooring and painting locally (and not online). I had to find other things to promote.
How did you get started with affiliate marketing?
I was a slow learner. I took 2 courses and 1 book.
1) Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing (by Michelle Gardner-Schroder),
2) Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers (by Carly Campbell) and
3) Niche Post Conversion (by Jennifer Ledbetter aka PotPieGirl).
What’s your content creation strategy like?
Generally, I just post once per week. That’s really all you need to do if you optimize for SEO.
I have slightly less than 300 articles to date. I will definitely do less at times. Over the last 4 months, I have only written 4 and I plan to write only 1 for the last 3 months of the year.
Instead, I’m SEO Optimizing my top 30 Affiliate posts for Q4 (and just 1 quick post that I forgot to do in the spring).
This is the beauty of doing well with SEO. Your work becomes cumulative and you don’t need to post that often. It’s more about quality over quantity.
For posting strategy, I usually try to do long-tail keywords and I probably optimize 80%+ for SEO, maybe even 90%.
I try to choose questions my target has, mainly about flooring and painting as I know those the best.
What are the blogging tools you can’t live without?
Google Search Console is the most important one (for SEO) and it’s free. Of course I rely on Google Analytics, too.
And, I love Tailwind as it saves time and the analytics help.
Tell us about your other big project, Healthy, Savvy & Wise.
This is a website that my friend Dagmar Bleasdale and I bought in June from a friend. It’s an outlet for us to share blogging tips without cluttering up our home décor blogs.
We don’t want to confuse Google nor our readers. It’s really more of a side hobby now, and soon we will need to dedicate some more time to it to really grow it.
What’s next for you and The Flooring Girl?
Oh I have so many things I want to do. It’s so hard to choose.
Of course, I want to do some more SEO/Blogging books/courses, but I also want to figure out how to make products work for Home Décor.
I will continue blogging (I have around 100 topics up my sleeve). I may even start an email list for Home Décor Audience.
Since I want to do so much, I think I’m going to have to scale up with some more help next year. So prioritize and leverage my super talented VAs.