This is a follow up story for Katie Goes Platinum. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hey there! My name is Katie Emery and I’m the founder of Katie Goes Platinum, a website devoted to the topic of gray hair.
My site is a one-stop-shop for women of all ages and at every stage of their gray hair journey. I offer a lot of practical “how-to” articles for women at the beginning stages of their gray hair grow-out, as well as informative and fun articles for women who are mid-transition or who’ve already fully grown out their gray hair.
My main product is “information.”
I listen to the women in my gray hair Facebook support group and write informative articles to address their questions and concerns and provide answers in blog posts on my site, on Instagram and Facebook, or YouTube.
My main source of income is ad revenue from AdThrive, a premium ad network. I also make money through affiliate marketing and (occasionally) sponsored content.
Women ranging in age from their 20s through their 80s are my target audience. The majority of my site traffic comes from the United States, but I have readers from around the globe as well.
I average about $6000 a month in gross income from the site, which is much more than I anticipated when I first started it. My goal is to double that amount next year, fingers crossed!
The best part about this business is connecting with my readers.
Going gray can feel scary in a culture that associates gray hair with aging (and aging - for women especially - is frowned upon), so I get a kick out of helping women see that going gray is not only practical (it saves time and money) but also FUN and Liberating!
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
2020 was a boom year for my blog for obvious reasons: the pandemic forced workers to work from home, and salons were temporarily closed for weeks or months at a time. Many women took advantage of this forced isolation to stop dyeing their hair and let their gray hair grow in.
Since interest in gray har skyrocketed, so did my blog traffic and, therefore, my income.
Try to tackle the tasks that will make an immediate impact on your revenue FIRST. These will give you the best ROI.
Unfortunately, my blog income took a hit in 2021. Traffic decreased once the world opened up again and people left their forced isolation.
Another hit to my traffic came from Pinterest. Pinterest was one of my main traffic sources but they changed their algorithm to prioritize pins that keep people on their site (as opposed to clicking through to the content creator’s website).
Once I realized that my income was going to precipitously decline if I didn’t take action quickly, I threw myself into survival mode and worked to remedy the situation.
I took a course called RPM Revamp by Lena Gott which was super valuable!
It taught me how to increase ad revenue on my posts so that, even if traffic went down, I could keep my ad revenue high. I created a checklist of all the actionable items that were presented in the course, and I’ve been systematically going through each of my top 20 posts and implementing her ideas.
The chart below illustrates how my pageviews have decreased or stayed flat over time, but the ad revenue has not plummeted as you’d expect:
I also re-read an ebook by Debbie Gartner about Blog Income Recovery and started implementing her suggestions to improve the SEO on a number of my posts, and that has kept my traffic from imploding. (A number of my posts were written to appeal to Pinterest readers, so they needed a lot of tweaking to generate organic traffic).
Since my site mainly relies on ad income and affiliate marketing, I decided to (finally!) branch off into products.
To test the waters, I started creating PDFs of my popular (and lengthy) blog posts and offering them for sale in my Shopify store for only $5, using techniques I learned in Debbie Gartner’s 1 Hour PDFs and Ebooks.
They’ve been selling pretty well, to my delight!
I created my first PDF in Microsoft Word, but I now use Designrr and that has made the process much easier, as I can just import my blog post into the software and tweak the formatting from there.
One of the hardest things I had to do this year was lay off my Virtual Assistant. She did a lot of content repurposing for me (i.e., taking my blog posts and turning them into Facebook and Instagram posts, Instagram Reels and TikTok videos, etc.) but once I analyzed my traffic, I realized social media wasn’t generating enough traffic for me to justify the $900/month I was paying her for her services.
Instead, I refocused my efforts on SEO.
AdThrive recently offered a fantastic service to its publishers: a tool called Topic that helps you get content ideas and revamp existing content. I’ve used that tool to improve a number of my high traffic posts and it’s already making a difference in organic traffic. What a relief!
I also decided to start getting more serious about email marketing. AdThrive offered us a free email course by Matt Molen called Email on Autopilot and it has helped me to better understand how important my email subscriber list is - unlike traffic from social media or Google, the list is YOURS and if you keep them happy, they will buy from you.
Using the techniques I learned in that course, I created better opt-ins to grow my list, and the growth has been fantastic.
This is my most popular opt-in:
And here are the results since I implemented it:
One thing that helped with email marketing is that I finally got accepted into RewardStyle! Amazon doesn’t let you use their affiliate links in your email newsletters, but I can link to Amazon products via RewardStyle and that has helped tremendously! I casually link to many products now in my newsletter, and I’m starting to see some income growth from that.
All of these things I’ve been doing have kept my income from decreasing and I’m hopeful that all this hard work will lead to a traffic and revenue increase in 2021.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I learned quite a lot this year. I realize now that I relied way too heavily on Pinterest and Facebook to drive traffic to my site when I should have been paying more attention to increasing my organic traffic via SEO and email outreach.
I also spent too much time on social media. Facebook is suppressing traffic to my site (in my Facebook group as well as on my Facebook page) as they want me (and all of us!) to pay for ads. But I will not do ads just to generate traffic - it’s not good ROI.
Instagram is a great way for me to connect with my audience, so I will not give it up, but I’m going to focus more on providing informative content via Reels and IGTV (video content, in other words) and less time on photo posts as Instagram is prioritizing video content these days.
Not providing products was my biggest mistake and one that I’m hoping to remedy in 2022. My little eBooks have been surprisingly popular, so I’m thinking of doing some long-form eBooks and also offering some mini-courses in 2022.
My Gray-Friendly Salon Directory was supposed to be a money-maker, but salons are still reeling from the loss of business due to the pandemic, and they don’t want to spend the money on subscribing to my directory. In the meantime, it’s a valuable resource for my subscribers, so I just continue to offer free listings to salons that are recommended by my readers. I’m hoping to start marketing it better to salons in 2022.
The best decision I made this year was to not just give up and accept my lower-income, but to work my butt off to keep learning and growing!
I started an Apple Music playlist called “Starting Over” that I play on constant rotation to remind me that I’ve had setbacks before, but always bounced back through sheer willpower and determination.
My Mom considers this my finest trait, and I’m proud of it - I refuse to throw in the towel because I’d rather pivot and learn something new and adapt. That’s one of my greatest strengths - not giving up.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
In 2022, I plan to expand the list of products available for sale on my site and to learn all about tripwires and funnels, which are my bête noire, if I’m going to be dramatic about it.
I simply do NOT understand tripwires and funnels, and I get super muddled trying to figure them out, so I signed up for the 6 Figure Blogger course to help me better understand how to use them to sell products.
I’m thinking about partnering with my friend Joli Campbell of QuickSilverHair.com to launch a course. She and I both have similar target audiences but we’re coming at the same material from different points of view, so I think partnering with her will be great for our readers! She’s super knowledgeable and we work well together, so I’m confident this will go well.
I’m going to work harder on videos for Instagram and YouTube. I am not super confident in front of the camera but I’m working on it. I rely heavily on Meredith Marsh’s YouTube coaching to produce my content - I couldn’t do it without her!
I recently rented a small studio near my home so I can produce video content in peace, without interruptions from dogs, kittens, husbands, or children.
We’ll see if that works!
I haven’t formulated a 5-year plan yet (planning is NOT my strong suit) but off the top of my head, I’d like to start a few other niche sites and produce enough income to replace my day job. I’m the main breadwinner in my family, so I can’t leave my day job (aerospace marketing) until I generate enough income for us to live in Southern California without my day job (not an easy task).
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I’m a huge reader, but most of the books I read are not relevant to my business. The latest book I read and loved was The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sheriff, and even if it doesn't help your business one bit, you should read it! It’s delightful.
The best book I read about business this year was $1,000 100 Ways: How Real People Make Real Money on the Side (and how you can too) by Nick Loper.
I might be biased, as I’m featured in it, but I LOVED it. I’ve been a fan of Nick Loper’s podcast for years, and I admire how he offers such valuable content about starting and growing a side-hustle business.
I asked my sons and husband to read the book, too, as I think multiple revenue streams are important and rewarding and you never know where they will lead.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
The most important thing you can do for your business is to analyze and adapt, and not give up! It can feel overwhelming at the beginning, but try to take it one day at a time and concentrate on one task at a time.
If you try to do everything at once, NOTHING will get done.
Instead, break your gigantic task list down into multiple sub-tasks and tackle one at a time. Multi-tasking will get you nowhere fast (I say this from experience).
Try to tackle the tasks that will make an immediate impact on your revenue FIRST. These will give you the best ROI.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m taking a break from hiring virtual administrative assistants for the time being, but I might be interested in hiring video editors in the near future. I used Adobe Premiere Rush and can do the editing myself, but I don’t enjoy it.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Why You Should Go Gray This Year
- How to Go Gray from Colored Hair
- How Not to Look “Old” with Gray Hair
If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me here.
Discover the best strategies of successful business owners
Join our newsletter and receive our handcrafted recap with the best insights shared by founders in Starter Story each week.
Useful, convenient, and free:
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.