Case Studies | Marketing

Making Sense of Cents $1 Million Blog Analysis

What if you could earn over $100,000 per month from a blog?

Blogger Michelle Schroeder-Gardner started the Making Sense of Cents blog 10 years ago and has since grown it into a business earning over $1 million per year.

If you want to make an income from blogging, there is so much to learn from the Making Sense of Cents blog. By analyzing the website, we can see what Michelle has done to grow this blog into a wildly profitable business.

In this article I’m going to uncover exactly how Michelle generates over 500,000 monthly page views. You will learn the main traffic sources to the blog, how she builds her email list and how she monetizes the blog.

About Making Sense of Cents Blog

The Making Sense of Cents blog was first started by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner in 2011.

While working as a financial analyst, Michelle started blogging on the side as a hobby at first. As the blog gained traction, Michelle was able to quit her job and began working on the Making Sense of Cents blog full time.

By 2018, the blog was generating over $100,000 per month in revenue.

Michelle previously published income reports on the blog up until 2018. In that year, she reported a total of $1.5 million in earnings for the year. Michelle was able to achieve all of this before age 30.

Schroeder-Gardner has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, CNBC and Business Insider.

Top Sources of Traffic

Social Media

In her podcast interviews, Michelle claims her top source of traffic is Pinterest. As of May 2021, Making Sense of Cents has 158,000 followers on Pinterest and 3.1 million monthly views.

The blog also has over 109k followers on Facebook and Michelle has 29k followers on Instagram.

On Pinterest, most of her posts follow the same format – a compelling headline/title with a stock image.

The headline in these graphics is the most important element to capture people’s attention and motivate them to click through to the blog.

You will notice that the majority of these pins use a ‘how to’ or listicle style headline (eg. 8 Ways to Grow Your Savings Fast). There are 3 key reasons why these headlines work so well to attract clicks..

  1. They promise a solution/benefit. Take for example the headline above, ‘How We Paid Off $195,000 in Debt in 18 Months.’ The person scrolling through Pinterest who sees this pin knows exactly what benefit they will get from clicking through to the post. They know they’re going to learn how to pay off debt.
  2. They evoke curiosity. Consider the headline ‘How This Couple Reached Financial Freedom Before 40 And Live on A Sail Boat.‘ This headline leverages a psychology principle known as open looping. The viewer wonders ‘how did they reach financial freedom before 40?’ The loop is now open. To close that loop, they need to read the blog post to find out how they reached financial freedom.
  3. Use of specific numbers. Using numbers in a headline is one of the best ways to capture someone’s attention. You will notice in the screenshot, many of these headlines feature two numbers. Eg. ‘How I Paid Off $62,000 in Debt in 7 Months.’ The use of specific numbers ($62,000) make the headline even more compelling to viewers.

The design on these pins could easily be outsourced at a very low cost. Each pin design follows the same format, with an attention grabbing headline and stock image beneath.

This format requires minimal design knowledge so you could find a low cost virtual assistant through Fiverr or Upwork to create pins like this. You would just need to provide them with compelling headlines to use.

Email List

As of 2020, the Making Sense of Cents blog had an email list of over 100,000 subscribers.

Having an email list of this size allows Michelle to drive more traffic back to the blog, promote her courses and also promote affiliate products.

Michelle grows her email list by offering free resources that require an email address to opt in for. They look like this…

making sense of cents email marketing

When someone enters their details, they are added to the email list and will continue to receive emails unless they unsubscribe.

The email opt-in above titled ‘How To Start A Blog Free Email Course’ appears to be, the blog’s top source of email subscribers.

In her 2019 annual income report, Michelle says over 60,000 people have signed up for this free course.

But she also has various other email opt-ins throughout the site to build her email subscriber base. This includes…

  • 10 Day Money Management Course
  • 10 Tips to Increase Your Affiliate Income
  • 8 Easy Steps to Make Money From Sponsored Posts on Your Blog Cheat Sheet

Each of these are free resources that allow Michelle to build her email subscriber list and then continue sending these subscribers back to her blog in the future.

Organic Traffic/SEO

Michelle says that SEO was not a major focus for her blog until recent years. It was only around 2018/19 that she began focusing on SEO to generate traffic.

Despite this, the Making Sense of Cents blog still generates a lot of traffic from search engines.

Based on SEM Rush data, the blog is currently generating over 62,000 visits per month from organic traffic in May 2021. This is actually a considerable drop since 2020. In February 2020, the site was gaining over 182,000 visits per month from organic traffic.

making sense of cents blog traffic

This fall in organic traffic may be the result of Google algorithm updates over the past 12 months and also a significant drop in backlinks.

Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors in SEO. And the number of backlinks to Making Sense of Cents has fallen from over 1.1 million in September 2020 to 285,000 in April 2021.

Top Organic Traffic Pages

The following two posts are currently generating the most organic search engine traffic for the blog in May 2020. In this section, we’ll look at how much organic traffic these posts generate and the reasons why they are performing well in Google.

How To Become A Mystery Shopper

According to SEM Rush data, this post titled ‘How To Become A Mystery Shopper‘ is the top source of organic/SEO traffic of the Making Sense of Cents website.

SEM Rush predicts this one post generates over 6000 monthly visitors from search engines in the US alone. It also ranks for over 788 keywords in the US.

In 2021, this post is ranking in the top 10 results on Google for keywords including:

  • How to become a secret shopper – 2900 monthly searches (first position)
  • How to become a mystery shopper – 1300 monthly searches (first position)
  • Secret shopper jobs – 6600 monthly searches (third position)
  • Mystery shopper – 9900 monthly searches (ninth position)

The post contains 2238 words and has 559 backlinks from 55 referring domains according to SEM Rush data.

The post ranks number #1 on ‘how to become a secret shopper’ and outranks other websites like Forbes, Money Crashers and Wikihow.

making sense of cents secret shopper
US Search Results for How to Become a Secret Shopper

You can see in the search results above that this is a competitive term to rank for. Nearly every page ranking in the top 10 has over 200 backlinks.

But the Making Sense of Cents post is able to outrank competitors because it matches the search intent, provides quality in depth content and has a good number of backlinks.

The Market Force page ranking 3rd has more backlinks, however, it doesn’t match the search intent as well. It’s a product page, whereas Michelle’s post is informational. Google knows that based on the keyword (how to become a secret shopper), the user is looking for information.

The Penny Hoarder page ranking 6th also has more backlinks. More than double that of Making Sense of Cents.

But their content is far less in-depth, containing just 569 words. If their post didn’t have so many backlinks, it would be lucky to rank in the top 20 results.

6 Simple Steps That Will Teach You How To Write A Check

This post on how to write a check is the blog’s second highest organic traffic page according to SEM Rush.

In May 2021, the post is currently generating over 2500 monthly visits from search engines. The post has also suffered a major drop in traffic since 2020, when it peaked at over 30,000 monthly visits in September.

making sense of cents how to write a check

The blog post currently ranks for keywords including…

  • How to write a check with cents – 12,100 monthly searches (6th position)
  • Writing a check example – 5400 monthly searches (11th position)
  • How to fill out a check – 60,500 monthly searches (19th position)

The post contains over 2883 words and has 76 backlinks from 17 domains.

Revenue Sources

The Making Sense of Cents blog makes money through four main sources. These are..

  1. Affiliate income
  2. Course sales
  3. Sponsored posts
  4. Advertising

In her November 2018 income report, Michelle provided the following breakdown of income from the blog..

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate programs are the top source of revenue for the Making Sense of Cents blog. The blog earned nearly $58,000 in revenue from affiliates in November 2018.

What is affiliate marketing? Websites earn commissions by placing links to other businesses products on their own website. When someone clicks on one of these links and purchases something through that website, the affiliate site is rewarded with a commission.

The Bluehost affiliate program was the top revenue generator for Making Sense of Cents. In November 2018, the sites earned over $30,000 in commissions from this program alone.

Michelle earns this revenue by placing links to the Bluehost website throughout her blog posts. When someone clicks on one of these links and purchases a hosting plan from the Bluehost website, Michelle earns a commission from that sale.

According to the Bluehost affiliate website, their affiliates earn $65 for each sign up. Although, it’s quite possible that Michelle may have negotiated to receive an even higher commission rate considering the size of her website.

The Bluehost affiliate program is also one of the top revenue sources for blogger Adam Enfroy, who made over $600,000 from affiliate marketing in 2020.

To maximize her affiliate earnings from Bluehost, Michelle has references to Bluehost on over 178 pages throughout the website. Most of these include an affiliate link.

As well as these links to Bluehost throughout the blog, Michelle also uses affiliate links in her emails to subscribers.

The site also earns a considerable income from the Six Figure Blogger course. contains over 38 pages linking to Six Figure Blogger sales page.

Paid Courses

Online courses are responsible for over a third of revenue generated on the Making Sense of Cents blog.

The blog currently offers two paid courses. These are Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing and Making Sense of Sponsored Posts.

Michelle has earned over $1.1 million in sales from the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course alone.

Why Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course Is So Succesful

Making sense of Affiliate Marketing is Michelle’s flagship course and a big driver of revenue from her blogging.

The course sells for $197 USD or two payments of $105. It features six modules on how to generate income through affiliate marketing as well as other bonuses.

In this section, we’ll look at the reasons why Michelle has been able to generate over $1.1 million in sales from this course. We’ll dig into the psychology behind the course’s landing page that makes it extremely compelling to readers.

While the landing page for this course is certainly not as extensive and salesy as many courses, there are three things done very well. These three factors make the landing page highly persuasive to readers…

1. Offers A Clear Promise

On the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing landing page, it’s immediately clear what you can get from this course.

This headline tells the reader they can learn how to build a six figure blog from this course. That’s a clear and tangible result.

Below this, the next subheading on the page reads “learn how I went from $0 in affiliate income to over $50,000 per month.”

Again, this makes it crystal clear to the reader what they can get out of this course.

The headline is the most important piece of real estate on any landing page or advertisement. It’s the one element on the page that nearly everyone will actually read. Most people will just scan through the rest of the page.

Anyone considering spending their time and money on a course will want to know one main thing: what’s in it for them?

The page headline and subheading answers this question. Even if the reader only scans through the rest of the page, they know what they can get out of this course just from reading the headline.

2. Testimonials That Raise Confidence

When someone is considering buying this course, or any other similar course, they’re likely to have a few common questions…

  • Does this actually work?
  • What result will I get out of this?
  • How long will it take?

Persuasive sales pages will always address these questions and concerns. And one of the more effective ways to do so is through testimonials.

Testimonials are one of the best ways to increase confidence and trust in a product and Michelle uses them extremely well on her landing page.

The screenshot above is from one of the many testimonials on the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing landing page. This is an extremely effective testimonial for several reasons..

  • It’s personal. It includes a picture of the person who left the testimonial and her full name. Adding these personal details makes the reader feel confident that this is a real and genuine review.
  • Specific details. The testimonial includes specific details about when she started the course, how much her traffic has grown and how much her income has grown since starting the course. This is much more powerful than vague details about results.


If you’re trying to build an income from blogging, Making Sense of Cents is one of the best blogs you can study. Michelle Schroeder-Gardner has built this blog into a extremely profitable business.

While many websites will build their business around mostly one source of revenue, Michelle has been able to develop multiple streams of income from this blog. She is not reliant on affiliate marketing only. Even if Bluehost or another affiliate program were to cut her commissions, she would still have steady income from courses, sponsored posts and advertising.

There is still much more to learn from the Making Sense of Cents blog, beyond what I’ve covered in this post. I recommend taking some time to analyze the blog yourself.

Look at how Michelle promotes her posts through Pinterest. Study her income reports to see where she generates her income from. Sign up for email list so you can see how she nurtures her subscriber list and funnels people into her courses.

Related Reading

How Adam Enfroy makes over $100,000 per month from a blog he started 2 years ago

How Timothy Sykes makes over $20 million per year from his trading website

This Is How Kerwin Rae created a $17 million funnel using video marketing

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *