See the new thing I tried with my woodworking blog that made me question if this whole blogging for traffic thing is really worth the time and effort it takes to make it happen, or if earning from it is even obtainable.
Enjoying this series?
It’s all about how I’m turning a hobby site into a money-making blog.
Monkey See, Monkey Try
Woodworking videos – I see them everywhere – on Instagram, on Pinterest, in Facebook groups, and of course, on YouTube.
During my initial research into turning my hobby carving site into a money-making woodworking site, I knew videos would play a key role in my success.
And I specifically planned to take the extra time to include them in every post.
But, because I’m building so many things for the first time, I didn’t feel comfortable making full videos of me doing the entire build.
However, those are the types of videos folks love to see to learn exactly how a thing is built.
And it is precisely what makes folks say, “I can do that!” and encourages them to try it too.
Instead, during these first builds I took a LOT of still shots and made a video of them with voice-over.
Now and then I would include a live action shot.
But those snippets were brief, like :30 seconds or less.
I so wanted to try making a full build video too.
And I thought I had the perfect project to do it.
Pallet Board Dog Kennel Crate
My dog, Zak, likes to keep an eye on me in the shop. But it’s dangerous to have a dog underfoot or for me to constantly have to check on what he might be getting into.
So, I got him a soft-sided kennel that worked, but was a little small and didn’t have room for a blanket.
I thought about getting a metal crate, but I wanted it to be mobile, which meant I would need to build a bottom platform.
And since I had a bunch of pallets and scrap plywood laying around, I decided to just go ahead and build the whole crate for him.
I had no plans, just an idea in my head.
It was actually a simple, fun, and quick build.
Filming it, however, was another story.
It wasn’t supposed to be a series
Because this was such a simple build, the plan was to have one post with one video sped up, with a voice over to explain the process.
And then I would take still shots from the video to add to the post transcript.
That was the plan.
Nothing about it turned out that way.
I decided to do a real-time explanation of each part of the build as I was doing it instead.
That meant I could not speed up that part of the video.
There were 5 distinct parts to the build.
So that meant there were 5 longer talking introductions.
I didn’t realize until I had finished the project that all those segments would make for a 20 minute video when they were spliced end to end.
The optimal YouTube video length is 5 minutes or less.
There was no way I would do well with a 20 minute video.
So I had to split it up into a 5-part series.
That meant making 5 videos and 5 posts, and the whole thing was going to take at least 5 times longer than I had originally planned.
It actually took 10 times longer, and here’s why.
All those photos!!
Because I had to make 5 posts instead of one, I suddenly needed 5 times the number of still photos to add to each transcript.
As any blogger who does food or crafts can tell you, image processing for posts takes a LOT of time to do.
Beyond the photos for the build, I also had to design 5x more
- video covers for YouTube
- Featured images for the post
- Hero Pinterest image
All those videos!
Video editing takes even more time than photos.
The plan was to make one live intro and outro.
And then I would just have a little bit of voice-over work with some still images.
And then speed up the actual build process.
Instead I had 5 intros and 5 outros and LOTS of splicing and voice over work.
All those site changes!!
Reusable blocks were something I was crazy excited about when Gutenberg first came out.
It was going to give me a super simple way to include tools and supplies into each project.
What I didn’t realize at the start was just how many different combos of tools and supplies I used on every project.
Plus, I decided not to put affiliate links to those tools and supplies directly in each post.
Instead, I chose to put links to sections of my Shop Tools page. And that page would have the affiliate links.
Here’s why I decided to do it that way.
One of the horror stories I hear from bloggers with Amazon affiliate links is that it is a time-consuming nightmare chasing broken links all over the site when a product is no longer available.
So, I thought having one page with the actual affiliate links was a more sensible way of doing it.
And I thought having reusable blocks with the tools and supplies would make it easier to change them out too.
Well, that was the plan.
The reality ended up being a bit of mess.
Rebuilding the tools page
I had broken up my tools page into sections for must-have hand tools and then nice-to-have hand tools.
Then I did the same with power tools, with must-have and nice-to-have.
And then the same with supplies and such.
Then I put all of the must-have sections at the top of the page, and the nice-to-have lower on the page.
My thinking was that folks would see a must-have thing quickly and click over to Amazon to get it.
But that arrangement became a linking nightmare on the post side of things if I wanted to have one section of just power tools.
I built the original tools page during the summer.
By Christmas, I had made a Starter Tools Guide and video which needed to be added to my tools page too.
So, I rebuilt the tools page. You can see my new Shop Tools page here.
The tools are still in sections with anchor links. But all hand tools are in one section. They still have a must-have or nice-to-have organization, but it’s still all one section to link to. I did the same for the power tools and all other sections.
And now it’s easier for me to use those jump links to send folks to the proper part of the tools page from any post now too.
No more reusable blocks for this
For this new Pallet Board Crate series, I decided to not use the tool and supply reusable blocks I had made.
Instead, I opted for a much cleaner layout that mimicked the look of the tools page layout in general.
The new Tools and Supplies section in the post is now easier to read and easier to link out as well.
All of the reusable blocks on my older posts still work too. But eventually I’ll want to update them to this new look so things all over my site are more uniform.
This is the one time I’m grateful I didn’t have time to turn out a lot of posts in 2019!!!
So, yes, it’s more work, but now is the time to do it.
All those hours!!!
To this point I’ve spent 50+ hours on this project.
(Actually, I just stopped counting the hours after it hit 50.)
- actually building the crate
- the new tools page layout
- the new material and tools list look in the post
- Making 5 videos
- Making 5 posts
- Creating a new build series page
As of the writing of this post I have 2 parts of the series published, both on YouTube and the site.
I still have 3 more to finalize and publish.
Was it worth it?
Not in the short-term, meaning the whole first quarter of the year.
I had two more pieces of content planned for February because I’m dedicated to getting out more content this year.
This crate was intended to be a fun “filler” piece of content.
It is not a major build and does not warrant series.
This wasn’t supposed to be that!
And, doing what turned into a five post series also knocked me out of doing anything else for the month. That also means less variety of builds and topics on my blog.
Plus, one of those other planned pieces was a springtime project and March is actually a little too late to publish it. That’s especially true on Pinterest, as it can take 45 days to catch on there.
So, I may just have to recycle that project for the 2021 editorial calendar.
What I learned from this
The most important lesson I got from this hoohaa was to just film me building – no talking during the build process.
It’s super easy for me to speed up the video portion while doing a normal-speed voiceover.
And, I can do a better job of controlling time with the voiceover by reading from a script rather than ad-libbing in the live video.
That will really help with keeping the whole video as short as possible. And that means more watch time percentage on YouTube.
Had I known that it was going to turn into 45+ hours on just this series, I would have taken still images from the videos and made a voice-over video from those. And then used those stills in the post too.
Live and learn.
At least I got my Shop Tool page laid out way better.
And I managed to figure out a way to do the materials and tools list in each post with a layout that makes way more sense than the reusable blocks were going to be over the long term.
The cost of doing it
So, a few good things did come out of this process.
But they came at a price.
And that price was steep enough for me to wonder if I could make a go of this venture and see any monetary pay back in a reasonable amount of time.
Winter is my heaviest season with BlogAid.
That’s exactly why I planned a quick, fun build and other indoor projects up to mid January, and before I had to close the shop for the worst of the cold weather during February.
Instead of having light woodworking post projects to add into my heavy BlogAid schedule, I was pretty bleary eyed trying to do all of these video edits and post creations after hours during the week – after I had already put in a full day on the computer with BlogAid client work. And then going for up to 8 hours a day on the weekends.
If I’m going to work on something for 50+ hours, I want to get paid.
And of course, with low traffic to a new blog, there’s not much chance of that happening soon.
Getting serious about traffic
What else this unexpectedly long project highlighted for me was just how serious I needed to get about devoting time to getting my Pinterest strategy rocking.
To be honest, I’ve always thought Pinterest was a circus.
And their most recent changes in February 2020, to require even more fresh pins than ever before, seems to me like a hamster wheel job from hell that is entirely unsustainable.
My SEO is working fantastic on Heartwood Art. That includes my video SEO. And so are my efforts in Facebook woodworking groups.
I can see the traffic increasing steadily from these efforts.
But the truth is, Pinterest will most certainly be the fastest way to massive traffic.
SEO will take at least another year to really start driving big traffic numbers, and that’s only if I can do at least another 20 new posts.
The truth is, the sooner I join that Pinterest circus, the sooner I have a chance to earn something for all the time I’m devoting to this side gig project.
Don’t give up to soon or try low barrier gimmicks
So, I’m going to stay with it, learn some lessons the hard way, and keep doing better with it as I go.
Sticking with it is the only way all this effort has a chance to be worth it.
What I am not going to do is try to rush into monetizing any other way besides Amazon affiliate links, as far as direct revenue from traffic alone.
I’ve done WAY too many site audits where folks are using Google Adsense or one of the lower-barrier to entry ad agencies to know better than to even bother with them.
They RADICALLY slow down page load speed.
Beyond that, they make for a terrible user experience.
And worst, they pay pennies.
It’s just not worth it to do.
I’ll do what I have to do over the next year to build the kind of traffic that will allow me to apply for a good ad agency like Mediavine instead. So, I’m setting my sites on spring for devoting the time to learn Pinterest deeply and make a gazillion new pin images to start circulating.
As much as I would like to get going on that now, there just isn’t time in the schedule.
Affiliate links and ads aren’t my only monetization plans
Right now I’m simply documenting the process of building out my workshop.
And I’ll be documenting the things I build for my new house too.
But, neither of those things are my end goal.
I’m building a workshop so I can do wood art and decor.
And I plan to sell those pieces.
I don’t mean Pottery Barn knock-offs for cheap type art.
I mean high-end, centerpiece of the room artwork that has a high degree of craftsmanship and a price tag that reflects it.
Money directly from the site will be a bonus.
More reasons to take this journey
I have a LOT of clients who blog for dollars.
It’s in my best interest for the future of BlogAid to learn all I can about their world.
That includes a real understanding of how much time it takes to run a business like that, as well as what they need from their site to make a real go of it.
Everything I’ve learned in the last year through my Heartwood Art venture has already paid for itself in my BlogAid business.
So, has it been worth it? In that way, yes.
And if I can keep at it, even part-time, then Heartwood Art will eventually be self-sustaining too.
See the Dog Crate Series
And be sure to watch at least the beginning and end of the first video to how much Zak loves his new shop kennel and what a good boy he was during filming!!