How I Coded A Blog From Scratch And Monetized It

$500
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
Millennial Moderator
from Seattle
started
$500
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
870K
alexa rank
364
followers
239
followers

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! My name is Aleksey Weyman and I’m the founder of Millennial Moderator. Millennial Moderator is an online publication that shares valuable tips and best practices across a variety of topics including technology, business, lifestyle, and more.

Our mission is to be a treasure chest of valuable insights on how to get ahead in life- both personally and professionally. Today, we are averaging $500 USD/month and around 3000 monthly readers, with imminent plans to scale upward. Millennial Moderator earns revenue from affiliate advertising networks such as AWIN, sponsored editorials, and our brand new service- Coupon Book.

how-i-coded-a-blog-from-scratch-and-monetized-it

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Millennial Moderator started as a hobby project. I was teaching myself how to write basic HTML/CSS as a hobby, and a blog seemed to be the most accessible way to channel my practice, so I created a simple website and wrote a couple of articles to fill the space. This was the first article I wrote, and I’ve left much of the original styling for the sake of origin.

It’s up to us as entrepreneurs to design the future of the world, to reshape entire industries and start new ones. Keep that eagerness alive in whatever way possible.

While I do have a BA in Technology Innovation Management from the University of Washington, I have had no formal programming experience, nor training. Everything I learned came from personal interest and research. I do, however, consider myself to have an eye for innovation, which quickly became the main source of value of my blog- that is to show people the most innovative, industry trends we could find.

After about 6 months of creating and filling Millennial Moderator with content, I really began to see the value that it provided for readers, and we refined the brand into what it is now. Most of our early Mods were based on personal experiences, which worked well because most of our readers (at first) were the people I shared the pieces with, people of the same age, profession, etc.

Business validation came from readers who enjoyed the articles I wrote, and as I wrote more, people became more interested. I wish I had screenshots of people's comments, but most of them were in person, the people that I shared Mods with in real life. Though I did occasionally get some recognition for sharing value on forums like Reddit.

Developing MM took a massive amount of time, mostly because of my lack of familiarity with coding, but also because I work a 9-5 job. All of my programmings was done late at night or early in the morning, but I made sure to read and catch up on forums throughout the day as best I could.

Take us through the process of designing and prototyping the site.

While most bloggers start with a template platform like Wordpress or Squarespace to build their website, I chose to build mine from scratch.

Website builders are very limited in what they can do, and most have revenue models designed to get you to purchase up to the higher plan, which creates a financial barrier of entry to bloggers.

I bit the bullet and learned HTML, CSS, and JS through online tutorials, quite literally gluing Millennial Moderator together piece by piece. It took a lot of fine-tuning to optimize the website for speed, mobile device formatting, SEO, etc, and even to this day, we are testing new ways to make the experience better for our readers. Though I know I’m not the best programmer in the world, I’m happy that I was able to push myself to sit down and work through it. Those kinds of self-taught lessons build our self-confidence and trickle into other parts of our lives.

After our MVP was completed, we started monitoring the user experience and adding/removing features based on what our readers asked for. Most of our monitoring came from Google Analytics- we meticulously tracked the bounce rate and session duration to see if people tended to stay on the site or leave it. We also used Heatmaps to see where people were clicking- for example, we originally had a ‘search’ icon on our banner that people were constantly clicking, however it was not performing the way we wanted to and decided to remove it entirely, so as to ensure the best experience for readers possible.

One slight modification that really made a big difference was adding Twitter cards integration on our webpages, which helped increase our Twitter conversions by at least 30%. We actually shared a Mod about how to set up Twitter cards, which you can read here. Because we built MM from scratch, our startup costs were very low, literally nothing more than a $12 USD domain registration fee and about $0.50/month of infrastructure costs. This continues to help us keep our margins exceptionally low.

how-i-coded-a-blog-from-scratch-and-monetized-it

Describe the process of launching the business.

Our launch was very, very soft. It was so soft in fact, that the first people who saw the website were strangers on the internet in online coding forums, where I asked for assistance in solving code issues. Imagine a sculptor who walks out on a stage in front of a crowd and throws a pile of raw clay on the ground, then proceeds to turn it into a work of art- that’s me with Millennial Moderator, and I’m still building.

Once Millennial Moderator found its characteristics (design, tone, etc), we began studying our analytics and designing marketing campaigns to attract readers. We use Google Analytics as well as heat maps to study the behaviors of our readers, and show them content at times that work best for them. We engage in a variety of different social channels, but some of the big ones are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Medium, and our own newsletter. About six months into the blog's creation, we really started to see traffic count increasing organically. The graph below shows just after we hit our 6month mark in Feb.

how-i-coded-a-blog-from-scratch-and-monetized-it

I’ve learned a lot of lessons from starting Millennial Moderator, but one of the biggest that I frequently find in all walks of life is the importance of not kidding yourself. If something isn’t working, it needs to be changed. Because I built MM from the ground up, there were a lot of features that I didn’t know how to implement, and I wrote them off as ‘not necessary’. To this very day, I am finding more and more that these features DO need to be added if we want to give our readers the best experience possible. For example, the search icon feature that I mentioned earlier- I am realizing more and more that we need to bring it back, as we fill our site with more and more content. The stakes might not be as high with a startup, but if you have a massive business and decide to put an issue on the backburner, it could very well be your undoing.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Attracting and retaining customers (in our case readers) really comes down to providing the most value possible.

Out of every single one of your competitors, you have to be the most valuable and make it a no-brainer for customers to choose you. Some people call this your ‘x-factor’- that one thing that makes your offer irresistible. Millennial Moderator always shares practical tips that can be implemented immediately in life, tips that will undoubtedly make life better, and we explain everything in simple terms.

No other blog sets out to provide as much applicable value to readers as we do. Even if they’re not necessarily looking for tips or guides on how to do things, readers come to Millennial Moderator simply to discover new things, because they understand that our mission and x-factor is to always bring the most practical value to our readers' lives. It might sound simple, but having that x-factor and belief is the first step in attracting and retaining customers. Even just a visit to our home page, exposes you to numerous topics and features that all set out to make your life better in some way. We also have a Randomize button at the top of our home page, which gives readers the unique opportunity to learn something new- sort of like a stumble upon.

Being the online publication that we are, Millennial Moderator posts on all social media several times throughout the week. We’ve created #themoreyouknow content that stimulates the minds of our community, and we reply to people that comment/private message us. We study our analytics to know when readers are coming to our site from certain platforms and schedule posts based on those numbers. We also look at important statistics like where our readers are coming from geographically, which device they’re viewing our site on if they were redirected from another source, and so much more. Knowing this kind of information empowers us to make smarter marketing decisions, and helps us deliver more value to businesses that we partner with.

how-i-coded-a-blog-from-scratch-and-monetized-it

how-i-coded-a-blog-from-scratch-and-monetized-it

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Millennial Moderator is profitable, and we have many plans to scale upwards by the end of 2019 and beyond. Today we are planting our roots deep and preparing to lunge upwards.

We spend on average $100/month on advertising and earn about $500/month revenue. Infrastructure costs are less than $1/month. As our blog increases traffic, our affiliate ads earn us more revenue. We only use advertisements that appeal to the topic of the Mod, and we never overdo it- I think this is one of our strengths. Then our editorials are always on a b2b basis, which gives us the flexibility to design unique ad campaigns that bring the most value to the business, and people pay for value. Now with our Coupon Book service, we plan to deliver even more value to our readers by giving them the best offer we can find, sent straight to their email. Millennial Moderator functions as an ecosystem in this way.

We see about 3000 readers on the site each month, all coming from a variety of sources, including an increasing amount of organic finds- which is a good sign that our SEO is improving. By the end of 2019, we hope to be at 5000 readers/month and closer to $1000/month in revenue. Currently, we are sourcing guest writers for free, but have plans to incorporate a paid writing system at the start of 2020 if not sooner. Anyone who is interested in writing for MM can contact us on our website.

We have two main goals on our upcoming timeline. The first is to build a custom CMS, that would allow writers to submit their own works, which could then be auto injected into the blog- a feature that is currently not in place. Our other goal is to start sponsoring community events around education or business development. As a life improvement publication, Millennial Moderator sits at the pinnacle of education, and I personally want to see the company involved with as many learning-themed events as possible.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Millennial Moderator is built entirely on AWS infrastructure, so I do have a bias for that platform. AWS is very cost-effective because it’s built on a per-usage basis, which means if your website doesn’t have a ton of traffic, you won’t end up paying as much. This is a huge help for startups! For ad placements I use AWIN, it’s a great network for newer affiliates and they have tons of advertisement options. The ad units are easy to implement and easily scale with different device sizes.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’m a huge advocate for utilizing NET time (No Extra Time), so I’m constantly listening to audiotapes while traveling, at the gym, or even sleeping. I’m actually in the process of creating audiotapes designed to be played while we sleep, more info about that will be coming soon via my newsletter. In terms of books, I’ve really enjoyed ‘As a Man Thinketh’ by James Allen- it’s a great read for revitalizing the soul.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

It’s up to us as entrepreneurs to design the future of the world, to reshape entire industries and to start new ones. My biggest advice to entrepreneurs is to keep that eagerness alive in whatever way possible. For me, it meant finding the reason WHY I did something, WHY I chose to start and continue Millennial Moderator.

The WHY keeps me going because when I think about why I’m doing it, I feel those butterflies that I felt when I first came up with the idea. Entrepreneurs are creative and like creatives, we have to constantly try new things and have fun in the process, with no worries of constraints or restrictions. Don’t find all the reasons why something won’t work, instead find the one reason that it will work, and put faith into that.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Right now we are looking to hire a head of marketing, someone to:

  • Oversee all scheduled posting content
  • Engage in social communities
  • Increase social engagement numbers.

Pay is weekly, negotiable based on experience.

Interested candidates can contact us at [email protected]

We are also looking for more guest writers, however, this is an unpaid opportunity at this time. Note that paid writing offers will be present first to writers who have written for us before. Interested writers can contact us on our about page.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Aleksey Weyman,   Founder of Millennial Moderator

Want to start your own business?

Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.

We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help others get started.

If you liked this story, join our mailing list for new interviews every Tuesday.

Interested in sharing your own story? Shoot me an email!

-  
Pat Walls,   Founder of Starter Story

Are you ready to boost your revenue?

Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!

We've interviewed many impressive businesses who swear by the results of the product, including Brumate, Beardbrand, and many more.

Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!

Ask A Question


Check out our premium interviews:
Learn how businesses are earning as much as $2.5M per month.