Savvy bloggers rise to the challenge

Kelan and Brittany Kline are twenty-somethings with a knack for living a good life without taking on mountains of debt.

I’m not sure whether they were personal finance junkies first or if their “spend less/live more” mission encouraged it.

Either way, it’s clear the pair has found their niche with The Savvy Couple, Kelan and Brittany’s personal finance and lifestyle blog.

The Savvy Couple: Kelan & Brittany Kline

The backstory

As Brittany settled into her career as a teacher, Kelan worked a series of unfulfilling jobs. Roughly a year of less-than-amazing employment was all it took for him to realize he was more likely to find satisfaction working for himself.

As a somewhat (LOL) older, after-the-fact observer, it’s easy for me to look at Kelan’s varied choice of post-college jobs and see a restless entrepreneur.

With decades of ill-fitting job experiences to my credit, I absolutely love how Kelan didn’t waste much time figuring out that entrepreneurship was calling. Props to Brittany, too, for recognizing it was the path Kelan needed to be on.

Along the way to starting a home inspection business, Kelan and Brittany’s affinity for personal finance derailed everything.

It began with something we all do when obsessed with a topic: find/read/watch bloggers and vloggers in that niche.

They quickly realized that, despite all the noisy, BS, “make money blogging” bloggers, there was genuine opportunity out there for quality bloggers.

As in, quit-your-day-job money.


Temporary insanity (a.k.a. starting a blog)

If you ask me, blogging is at once the most marvelous and ludicrous thing a person could decide to do to earn a living.

Sure, the internet has page after page of “how to start a blog” advice. Unfortunately, not many of those pages are clear, accurate or trustworthy.

Hosting companies and website platforms all tell you how easy it is.

They lie.

Once you’re actually inside the site-building process, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed with how difficult it is.

“Starting out, as far as the technical aspects, we didn’t know much about websites,” Kelan admits. “We definitely had some hiccups.”

Pretty much nobody tells you that setting up and running a blog involves technical challenges that might kill the faint of heart.

Domain names. Hosting. DNS. SSL. E-mail. HTML. CSS. WTH?

On top of all that, the one thing that will (eventually) make your blog better – WordPress – often adds to the confusion.

“We absolutely hated WordPress,” Kelan says.

He laughs about it now. But at the time he and Brittany started their blog, they’d never used anything like WordPress.

Recipe for success: Work. Learn. Work some more.

The Savvy Couple launched less than two years ago.

The Savvy Couple home page

From the time the site went live in July 2016, Kelan and Brittany worked to learn the ins and outs of blogging with WordPress.

Mostly, they turned to the blogging community for help with WordPress.

As someone doing the reverse (WordPress expert turns to blogging community to become a more effective blogger), I’ve seen a wealth of knowledge shared. It’s not always technically the best, however I have yet to see anything harmful or completely wrong.

More than anything, I see a “we’re all in this together” sentiment, and a genuine desire to help one another succeed.

Gaining proficiency with WordPress and as bloggers helped maximize what the pair could accomplish in the nights and weekends they had available to work.

Six months in, the blog had grown to the point that Kelan knew they could earn enough money to make it a worthwhile full-time pursuit.

Extreme frugality had helped the pair sock away enough in savings that they’d be able to stay afloat for a year after Kelan’s regular income was gone.

In mid-May of 2017, about nine months after launching The Savvy Couple, Kelan quit his job. He figured they’d need a year to replace that paycheck with blog income, but he was wrong.

It happened within three months.

Bumps in the road

I met Kelan online, less than a month ago, in the Breaking the One Percent (BTOP) blogging group (s/o to BTOP! Great group – highly recommend!) on Facebook. He messaged me after seeing my comments about image optimization on a thread discussing speed.

Before optimization.

Kelan knew The Savvy Couple website’s speed wasn’t great, and intended to do something about it. Later. The day we met, he figured he’d just optimize his images and maybe get me to take a quick look at his site.

When I ran a preliminary test on his site I immediately knew two things:

  • The Savvy Couple needed more than just image optimization.
  • I had to help.

The site required between 10 and 15 seconds to load. Since visitors become impatient and begin to leave starting just after the two second mark, The Savvy Couple was probably losing page views.

When your income depends on visitors seeing your content, fewer page views means reduced income.

The Savvy Couple has some loyal readers who’d surely stick around longer than two seconds. Even the most die-hard visitor, though, browses fewer pages in a slow-loading site.

It’s like trying to reach a destination via a road filled with speed bumps, when you should be on an expressway.

The best laid plans…

After preliminary testing, Kelan and I talked about the steps I wanted to take to optimize The Savvy Couple. I suggested making more-conservative changes at first, then evaluating the gains we made.

Some things – image optimization, for example – are easy wins requiring little to no sacrifice. Other measures require giving up more, e.g., money, a favorite plugin or a familiar workflow.

In the midst of step one (image optimization), Kelan and Brittany’s web hosting service crapped out.

When Kelan and I had our initial call and he told me he was on a shared hosting plan with a popular web host, I’d cringed. With a resource-intensive site bringing in 100K+ views per month, I was surprised he hadn’t experienced trouble sooner.

I suggested a hosting change as a next step, and told Kelan he’d be surprised by what a difference it’d make. Plus, with proper hosting we’d be able to set up Cloudflare and really boost his speeds.

He resisted, initially. His host had been great for two years. He’d been able to run The Savvy Couple problem free until now, and for only $2.95 a month.

Smooth move

When the site hiccuped and the host took it offline, it was sobering.

Kelan and Brittany are all about savvy money decisions. Sometimes that means avoiding higher-ticket products and services. More often, it’s about spending strategically.

Obviously hardcore, right?

Within hours, Kelan had taken the bull by the horns.

He secured managed WordPress hosting as I recommended, but chose a host that likely edges out my top pick by a nose. The new host (BigScoots – funny name, great service) moved The Savvy Couple site for free, and had it up and running in a flash.

With the site on solid hosting ground, I completed the optimization. Although I’d helped Kelan cut his load time in half, the site still took more than double the recommended 2-3 second maximum to finish loading.

My basic WordPress Website Speed Optimization service measures stop here, because this is where I can do the most good for the best price.

However, even with the basic service, I leave clients with a report that includes notes on any other steps they can take to further improve their site’s performance.

Note: I do offer customized options for sites that need help with more extensive optimization measures.

Beyond the basics

For Kelan, my strongest recommendation was to use Cloudflare. Actually, it would be fair to say I harped on it, since I began talking to him about Cloudflare almost from the beginning.

Because The Savvy Couple’s design and workflow relied on more resource-intensive elements, I knew that with only basic optimization we wouldn’t get the performance we needed.

The average person might assume we were all just nerding out on speed for bragging rights or because we’ve got nothing better to do. But anyone who earns money from their site (or is working toward that goal) understands that just getting people to their site is only half the battle.

We’ve got to keep them there long enough for them to see we have what they need.

If you think it’s insane how big a deal experts say two seconds is, I might agree. But when you look at things like bounce rate and how many pages each visitor views, and observe your own behavior on slow-performing websites, you realize it’s not theory.

Slow sites lose views, visitors and revenue.

One more leap of faith

Kelan was reluctant to try Cloudflare. Because of the way his previous web host required Cloudflare to be set up, two prior attempts with the service had wreaked havoc on his site.

With BigScoots, though, I think Kelan saw from the beginning that they were all about a) performance and b) service. That boosted his confidence that nothing funky in the hosting setup would take his site offline.

Once again, Kelan went for it – Cloudflare began serving up The Savvy Couple.

In an instant, average page load times dropped to less than 2.7 seconds.

That’s more than a 70% reduction in page load time.

These huge gains were possible because Kelan didn’t simply hire me to do my thing. He was willing to allow me to guide him, was open minded about most of what I recommended, and even willing to reconsider key recommendations he’d initially ruled out.

I am so excited to see where Kelan and Brittany take The Savvy Couple from here. Their “expansion plan” was underway before I arrived, but I’m glad I could help clear the way 😉

It’s deeper than just speed

Every site is different, and every website owner has different goals for their site. But when visitors show up, we all need our sites to deliver.

If you’ve pulled yourself up by the bootstraps to create a successful blog or online business, you might know that you’re up against countless bigger, better-funded competitors whose sites started somewhere other than a kitchen table.

As you’ve seen with Kelan’s story, the key to succeeding as a blogger has less to do with how big your budget is than it does consistently and strategically investing in delivering content visitors want, when they want it.

Help visitors see more of your great content

We help entrepreneurial bloggers and website owners create optimized sites that encourage visitors to stick around. Learn more about our WordPress Website Speed Optimization service, and get in touch with us if you have questions about whether it’s right for your situation.

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