I recently received a notification that it was time to renew the domain for this blog.
“Oh yeah,” I thought to myself, “I forgot to write a recap last year about the blog.” I remembered writing 7 Reflections On My First Year Blogging // A Peek Behind the Curtain, and I knew I had missed a couple of anniversaries since then.
Time seems to have been scrambled in my mind, because I really thought it had only been around three years since I first started writing for Financial Mechanic. Luckily, I have fingers, and can count, and realized it’s actually been five entire years since I started this blog. WILD!
In honor of this lil blog’s birthday, I’ll do a recap of the most popular posts, notable events, and general musings about the last five years! Just to give a heads up, the first part of this post will sound a little like a ‘brag fest’. Things were going quite well the first few years. By the end? Well… you’ll see.
In 5 years, I have written 203 posts.
On those posts, people have commented 2,193 times.
Overall, the blog has been viewed 676,282 times by 417,651 people!
The Glory Years of Growth 2018-2020
Usually in these recap posts you get to see how a blog has grown over time. Certainly, the first three years of Financial Mechanic showed exponential growth!
The Year When It All Began: 2018
In 2018, my biggest source of traffic was Twitter, mostly from a picture of mine– completely unrelated to the blog– that went semi-viral. My most-read post that year was 6 Things I Don’t Regret Buying. I just checked and I still use every single thing on that list (Well I sold the bike, but I have a new bike so it still counts). Every other week I had new posts ready to go. I wrote shorter posts more often, and ended up with 53 posts by the end of the year.
In life, I was working at a large e-commerce company as a software engineer in Portland, Oregon.
The Year I Was On The Front Page of CNBC: 2019
I kicked off 2019 writing guest posts to try to get my name out there. I wrote for The Luxe Strategist, Fiery Millennial, and Get Rich Slowly. One day I received this pretty jaw-dropping e-mail in my inbox:
That’s how I wrote a post that made it to the front page of CNBC, and trended at the number 1 spot for a few days:
By the end of the year, I could really feel the momentum building. In September, I attended FinCon, a conference where finance meets media. I got to put faces to the names of so many interesting websites, and I had the distinct honor to be nominated for a couple different categories:
Best New Personal Finance Blog
Best FI/RE Blog
I was also on the leaderboard for the People’s Choice award.
In the end, I didn’t win any of the awards, but I was still touched to be nominated in the first place. There was always next year!
The top two posts that stood out to readers was a post on becoming a software engineer without a CS degree (quite applicable these days for folks who are looking to switch industries) and 7 reasons you need to stop riding your bike to work. That one makes me think I should try being funny again.
Mid 2019, I moved from Portland, Oregon to a cute little town in upstate New York.
The Year I Thank Google For: 2020
In 2020 my readership rocketed! Forbes ran a feature on me, and it seemed like every post I wrote was featured in syndicates and “Best Of” collections. I wrote 49 posts.
Two were instant hits, the article I wrote when I had to sell my bike in order to move, and the article keeping track of all the costs of adopting my little MechaniCat.
This is when Google started to notice me. Check out my referrers for 2020:
Through some Googling, it looked like “WordPress Android App” was actually links of mine in Google’s “Suggested Articles” pane. People I haven’t seen since university were sending me screenshots of my articles showing up on their Google homescreen!
Huge shoutout to Zach of Four Pillar Freedom and Collecting Wisdom, Physician on Fire, and Geldnerd for featuring me as well, for a small blog it really means a lot to get support from larger blogs like these.
A Viral Post
The biggest hit on my blog in 2020 wasn’t actually a post I wrote. It’s a tad embarrassing to say that one of the best performing articles on your own site wasn’t even written by you, but luckily this author is insanely talented and her story is so interesting that its meteoric rise simply makes sense.
The post was shared so many times on Twitter that I was accused of making bots to spam the link. However, A Purple Life‘s article really resonated with people, especially this quote: “I’m not afraid to fail, but I am afraid to spend the most active years of my life attached to a computer doing someone else’s bidding.”
Even though it was published in 2019, I’m including it in the 2020 section because that was when it was picked up by Google and brought in a significant portion of the referrals seen above. People flocked to it, and it was also the most-commented post with 163 comments.
This time at the Plutus Awards Nominations, I didn’t make it into any of the FI/RE categories, but I did receive a nod in the “Best Financial Content for Women” category.
I knew there was no way I was going to win this one, because the other folks in that category are huge powerhouses.
Mid 2020, I moved from upstate New York to Santa Barbara, CA.
The Slowing Years of Slump 2021-2022
The story up until now sounds like a usual success story. I was putting in thousands of hours and seeing results. However, that growth did not last long. After 2020, there was a pronounced slouch in readership.
It almost reminds me of those T-shirts mocking the evolution of man:
So what happened?
I did hear from other blogs that readership went down during the pandemic. Suddenly people were juggling work, children, and home life. Some of it could naturally be attributed to that, but also my own publishing frequency plummeted.
In my first year of blogging, posting looked like this:
In the last year, it looked like this:
While there were certainly big life changes happening in 2018-2020, one of the biggest life changes hit me at the end of 2020. This precipitated my move to The Netherlands in April 2021, which required that I get a new job and navigate the bureaucracy of residency in another country.
What did this mean? More energy going into keeping my head above water in life and less energy into the blog. I wasn’t getting contacted by major publications anymore, I wasn’t writing guest posts, and in 2021 I didn’t make it on the list of Plutus Nominated blogs at all. Yet I think it’s important to share progress, even if the progress is downhill.
2021: Is This A Cat Blog or a Finance Blog?
In my referral numbers, you can see that Google stopped sharing my articles, so traffic took a huge hit. No other sources replaced this traffic. In the beginning of blog writing, I also engaged with other social media platforms like Reddit and Facebook, but by 2021 I was only really sharing my posts on Twitter.
Financially, I was doing better than ever. In terms of my goal to retire with $1.2M by the age of 32, I was right on track. In fact, my article about How I Saved $580,000 By The Age of 27 was the highest performing post published in 2021.
However, two other posts started to see more organic traffic:
- How Much Does It Cost To Adopt A Cat? A Comparison of Three Families
- 7 Pros and Cons From The First Month Of Fostering A Cat
It looks like during the pandemic people were interested in fostering cats, and they were ending up on my finance blog to read about it. Hey, I’m not complaining! I still foster cats in The Netherlands and post photos on my Instagram page.
I hope that exploring this side-alley-cat-niche isn’t too distracting from the overall purpose of the blog: to educate young adults in finance and share the journey of one twenty-something with the goal to become Financially Independent and Retire Early.
2022: Hope for The Future of Financial Mechanic
That brings us to this year, 2022! While I did slow down in posting recently, I am starting to feel reinvigorated to write more. Maybe I can take a lesson from the early days; posts don’t need to be perfect to be published. I can also write shorter posts if that’s easier.
It’s also okay that the blog isn’t a super-smash-hit-success right now. Of course I’d love to see it grow, but mostly that is because I want to be able to help as many people as I can. My goal is to boost people in their careers, finances, and dreams for their lives. I have been more focused on these last couple years on staying relatively consistent in posting over focusing on growth.
This is just a reminder that I am the only person behind the blog. I run all the back-end servicing of the blog, designed my own logo, write my own content (aside from the guest posts, obviously), and do my own marketing. I have moved every year the last few years, held down a 9-5 job, and wrote this blog for free.
One thing that can help is if you use the form below this post to sign up and follow me 🙂
It’s a small hobby for now, but I would like to see if I can get the momentum up again. May the next five years be full of adventures, financial independence, and stories all about it!