How Gemma McBride Turned a Google Update Crash into $9,000 A Month
A lot of moms and dads out there can probably identify with Gemma McBride’s story. A mother of two, she set out to build a profitable blog as her maternity leave came to an end. She dreaded the thought of going back to work, especially at a job that required considerable travel away from her new family.
Inspired by other successful bloggers, Gemma took the plunge in 2017 and created Seaside Sundays. She started out using Pinterest to drive traffic, and then shifted to SEO.
Keep reading to find out how she qualified for Mediavine in just 3 months, how she recovered from a devastating Google update, her thoughts on YMYL niches, and the step-by-step process she uses when launching a new site.
Meet Gemma McBride
I’m a mom of two girls, ages 5 and 8.
Before blogging, I worked in sales in the travel industry for over 10 years. But I always enjoyed writing and researching for work. In fact, writing copy for the website was one of my favorite tasks, so I guess my love of blogging grew from there.
Why She Created Seaside Sundays
While I would love to be noble and say that I created the site because I wanted to make the world a better place, honestly I created it to make money.
I was on maternity leave with my second daughter and was dreading going back to work. My job involved a lot of travel and it was hard to juggle with little kids.
One night I was on Pinterest and I came across a pin that led me to the income report of Grace from Chasing Foxes. She was one of the original Pinterest bloggers and her income report showed she had made $5000 in one month.
I wondered if I could do it, so I started learning what I could. My initial goal was to make $2000 a month to cover my expenses.
I found a post on starting a blog from Abby at Just a Girl and her Blog, and I followed it step by step. Then I read everything I could about Pinterest and joined lots of Facebook groups.
My first blog, Seaside Sundays, was initially created in 2017.
About 3 weeks into the blog, I made my first dollar from Amazon Associates and within 3 months I had qualified for Mediavine with over 70,000 page views.
For the first year or so, all my traffic was from Pinterest. Back in the day, there were lots of people who made a full-time living just from Pinterest traffic.
I originally had a goal of making $1000 a month and Mediavine helped me achieve that within six months.
I now have 3 sites on Mediavine and credit them to a lot of my success with blogging.
Gemma McBride’s Current Revenue
On average, I’m making around $9,000 a month.
Every month is a bit different because of seasonality and the highs and lows of ad revenue throughout the year.
One thing I would advise anyone who wants to become a full-time blogger is to diversify their revenue streams.
That might mean splitting your income between products and ad revenue, but it can also mean having more than one site.
The Google Update
Last year Seaside Sundays was hit pretty hard by a Google update and search traffic went to almost nothing.
It’s always hard to know why a Google update hits you and this was the first time I had ever been negatively affected by one. My guess is that fertility is a YMYL topic and medical experts were preferred for these types of keywords.
It could have spelled the end of my blogging career if I had not had another site making money, plus Pinterest traffic to rely on too.
Luckily, my site rebounded the next time there was a Google update and it forced me to really work on things like site speed and reader experience.
I moved my site to Mediavine Trellis, which immediately sped it up, plus it helped me pass core web vitals. I also paid for a month of Ahrefs and fixed any errors on my site related to ALT text and broken links.
The result was an increase in Google search traffic overall, so in a way getting dinged by the update was a blessing.
My income is pretty much split 50/50 between ad income and affiliate income, with a small portion coming from sponsored posts and my own online products.
Gemma McBride’s Products
I have two types of products: how-to blog ebooks and some fertility printables.
The blogging ebooks include:
I have over 100 affiliate partners. Most of my sales are from my affiliates.
A lot of people think that Amazon Associates isn’t worth it because the commissions are pretty low and the cookie only lasts 24 hours.
But I’ve found it to be really great for easy sales because people use it so much that even if they click through and don’t buy the product you recommend, you can often make money on a purchase they make within the 24-hour window.
Her Blog Creation and Growth Strategy
How I grow my businesses has changed throughout the years.
Until 2021, I was mainly focusing on Pinterest and spending 1 to 3 hours a day pinning and creating new pins using the Pinteresting Strategies method from Carly Campbell.
Pinterest still remains a huge part of my marketing strategy but the truth is that it’s not as reliable as it was back in 2017 or 2018.
I now create new pins for new posts and leave it at that. I don’t spend hours pinning manually or using Tailwind to loop pins.
Gemma McBride’s Steps for Site Creation
Now I have a pretty basic strategy I follow when building a new site up from scratch.
First of all, I pick a great, fast theme for my sites.
Although I love pretty websites, functionality is really what matters. I use Mediavine Trellis for all my sites and I am very barebones when it comes to plugins and add-ons.
If I can avoid using a plugin, I will. Site speed is terribly important for SEO.
Once my new site is built (which should only take an hour or so), I start pumping out the content. I have found that 100 posts is the sweet spot for traffic.
It doesn’t matter whether you publish those 100 posts in a month or in a year, at the beginning all you need is content out there.
As far as what to write, I have realized that the content finds you.
For example, with Seaside Sundays, I originally wanted to write about kids’ crafts and things to do with kids. I wrote one post about fertility and that is what resonated with my audience, so I kept writing fertility posts and my traffic took off.
For me, listening to my audience is key.
Most of the posts on my site are a direct result of an email from a reader or a question I get in the comments. I often use those as a jumping point for a post because I figure if one person wants to know the answer, more likely do too.
One mistake a lot of people make when they start to blog is they focus on what they want to write about, instead of taking a step back and looking at what their audience wants them to write.
I take some time to go through Google Analytics and see what people are reading and then I go out and write more posts in the same vein. Capitalizing on what works is the best way to build traffic quickly.
The Gift Guide Approach
If you want to make money with affiliate marketing, make sure to create gift guides and affiliate round-ups as quickly as possible.
It doesn’t matter what niche you’re in, you can create a gift guide around it. These posts do well on Pinterest, especially around the holidays.
I would say that most of my affiliate income comes from gift guides. I use the exact same template for every single gift guide I write to make it quick and easy to get them published.
You can see my exact template in my ebook Gift Guide Blueprint, which I wrote after a lot of requests from my email subscribers.
For every new post I make, I create at least two pins right away and publish them a month apart. I use the native Pinterest scheduler nowadays, although I still use Tailwind for communities.
I’m still finding that Pinterest is the key to building up your traffic in the beginning, while you’re still in the Google sandbox.
Sometimes your pin can get ranked in Google via Pinterest, which really helps traffic.
The other link building strategy I use which also helps me get traffic is what I call “The sharing policy.”
Most people don’t do this and it can help you so much, plus it’s free.
A sharing policy is sometimes also called a copyright policy.
It’s simply a place on your blog where you let people know they can link back to your site and use a photo for a round-up or post without having to ask for permission.
When I create round-ups on my sites, I mainly use sites that have published sharing policies because I don’t have time to email everybody for permission.
I know for a fact my round-ups have given lots of bloggers some nice free traffic, all because they had sharing policies published on their sites. Plus they got a free do-follow backlink.
Achieving Current Revenue Levels
I quit my full-time job in 2018 and it was after that that my income really grew. I have been making six figures since 2019 from Seaside Sundays, not including my other blogs.
Blogging is really time-intensive, but the more you put in, the more you get out of it.
Gemma McBride’s Current Traffic Stats
Seaside Sundays gets around 100,000 to 200,000 page views a month, depending on the season.
Pinterest is still the largest referrer, followed by Google.
Gemma McBride’s Top Three Tools
The number one tool I use almost every day is Keywords Everywhere. This is a cheap Chrome extension that will show you the keyword volume for anything on Google search.
I love it for quick checks as I am always short on time and just don’t have the energy to mess around with SEO tools that are overly complicated.
The next tool I use all the time is Pin templates from Blogging Like You Mean it. This is a subscription service where you get new pins sent out every month. I use them to save me time and to keep my pins fresh. You can also use free templates from Canva or PicMonkey.
The last thing I swear by is Facebook groups for bloggers. I know this isn’t a tool, but the information there is invaluable, plus I have gotten a ton of backlinks from round-up requests and link sharing offers.
As you can see, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on expensive tools in order to succeed.
Her Greatest Challenge
By far, the ever-changing blogging landscape is a headache. I miss the golden age of Pinterest when it was so easy to get traffic.
I know there are Instagrammers who feel the same about that platform and of course, Facebook is always changing its algorithms too.
It can be hard to keep up with all the changes and you constantly have to change your techniques and strategies.
Her Main Accomplishment
I’ve received a lot of emails and messages from women saying that my fertility advice has helped them get pregnant and not feel so alone during the process.
For me, that is a huge accomplishment that I didn’t even know I was capable of.
I do not offer medical advice on my website as I am not a reproductive endocrinologist. The posts I have written are more about what worked for me and fertility news with links to respected sources.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I have wasted so much time through the years by panicking whenever there is a new “event” in the blogging world that threatens to end it all.
Social media can get hysterical and you have to learn to tune it out.
I remember when GDPR came out, everyone was acting like the sky was falling and sites would get shut down. The same happens whenever there is an algorithm change.
You need to learn to breathe and to keep on swimming, as Dory from Finding Nemo would say.
Her Biggest Mistake
My biggest mistake is not starting sooner. I wish I had started back in 2011. I wish I had launched more sites in 2017 when Pinterest was much easier.
There is no mistake you can make when blogging that is bigger than not blogging itself.
Gemma McBride’s Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
My advice is to have a loose, broad niche you want to focus on but be prepared to switch topics and to write about other stuff as you see what your audience relates to.
If something isn’t working, be ready to move on and try something new.
Even if it works for someone else, every niche is different and what worked even a year ago might not work right now.