It’s hard to believe this is our 1st year anniversary! Our Retires Great review of the past year shares our trials and tribulations with a glimpse behind the scenes. What we did right and all those moments we questioned ourselves. We’re celebrating our anniversary with cake, balloons, and this post!
Whether you’re interested in starting a website or just curious about our journey, read on. The first year is the most difficult, especially when you’re new. Haunted with self-doubts and an almost overwhelming repertoire of new skills to learn. Hard work with little reward; not surprisingly, a high percentage of new blogs give up in frustration.
How We Came to Be
In case you’re wondering, our story is one of fulfillment doing something we believe in. I’ll be the first to admit there was no grand plan. Rather, due to life circumstances, we both decided we needed a change.
My small business, reselling telecom services, was sucking the life out of me. The telecommunication industry is dominated by the corporate giants. Every sale was a fight from the beginning, ultra competitive and being undercut by the same companies that I’m promoting their services. At 59 years of age, this was not how I wanted to spend my time.
Debbie’s situation was more dire. On April 30, 2019 her employment came to an abrupt and screeching halt. She was emotionally and physically devastated. You can read more of her story at Bad Boss. At age 56, her initial intent was to take the summer off and look for another job in the fall.
Neither of us had any desire to re-enter the corporate world. The bureaucratic BS and reporting to another substandard boss held about as much appeal as a root canal. We could afford to retire. We’re not rich, however, would be comfortable living within our means.
Yet, fully retiring didn’t appeal to us either. Our fear was we’d be bored to death. We wanted to do something, preferably online. That’s when we began brainstorming ideas, some of our initial thoughts included:
After way too many late evenings, we finally agreed a retirement lifestyle blog was something that interested and excited us. We both had loads of life experiences and were uncertain what our retired lives would look like. Some of our considerations included:
Another aspect we discussed, what were our expectations? From the start, we had no illusions that we were going to make any money at this. This was something we wanted to do that was meaningful, challenging, and would make a difference for others.
Perhaps, at some point in the future when we're successful, we might earn something. Maybe we could write a book or recommend a product / service (affiliate commission). Additionally, we've learned invaluable online skills and will continue to expand our knowledge.
If you’re wondering how much it costs us, all in we spend about $450 a year. For us, it’s more of a labor of love as we each average 30-35 hours a week. A good portion of this time is spent learning about online marketing and doing research.
Our focus is “transforming retirement from good to great”. While you need sufficient savings to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, money doesn’t buy happiness. While the majority of us wish they had saved more, we also want to make the most of the next phase of life ahead. The framework of retirement reveals finances are the foundation, yet there are numerous other aspects for a really fantastic retired life.
Choosing Our Name
Now that we know our niche, what should we call ourselves?
We wanted something relatively short and memorable, was descriptive of our site, and definitely with a .com. After endless searches, we absolutely lucked out when we found Retiresgreat.com!
Almost all the good stuff with a .com has long since been taken. Without a bit of luck, we would have been faced with a much longer name such as “retirewithapassion.com”. Or how about “babyboomerretirement.com”, which turns out to be a premium name costing $1,007.28.
Alternatively, we could've used one of the lesser known suffixes such as .org, .net, .biz, .online, .club, .life, etc.
After clearing the first hurdle, now we have to produce amazing content. Unless we offer incredible insights and value, who in their right mind is going to spend time on our site?
The First Three Months
A Retires Great review of our first three months showed how dismal they were! Our beautifully crafted posts remained largely unread. Almost as if we didn’t exist. Our running joke, you could almost hear the sound of crickets!
The stark reality was we were a brand-new site. No one had ever heard of us. Surely it couldn’t be this difficult? What were we doing wrong? Those insidious self-doubts were running rampant in our minds.
Our First Four Articles
We poured our hearts and souls into writing those first articles. Hours of research and countless revisions. This wasn’t like writing a report at work and we needed to re-learn how to write. By the middle of June came the proud moments of publishing these articles. The first four included:
Every day, we checked how they were doing and no one even visited our site until July 1!
Talk about being naive, somehow, we expected more people would find us. You know the old saying, build it and they will come.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
During this time, we continued to learn. Besides publishing valuable information, it becomes apparent we also need to do search engine optimization (SEO). Without it, the internet search engines tend to overlook you.
Back to the drawing board as Debbie reads up on SEO. She also learns about the “Google Sandbox” where it can take anywhere from 3-6 months for a new website to rank in the search results.
It felt like we were banging our heads against the wall.
Again, the sound of crickets accompanied each new article. We started questioning if this was such an awesome idea and maybe we should just retire.
It becomes almost an obsession for me checking to see if anything will ever rank on Google. Absolutely disheartening to scroll through 21 pages of search results, and find nothing.
When you search for something, there’s a much higher probability you’ll visit our site if we’re on the first page. The reality is that, rarely, does the average person scroll past the first page. Some internet guru once stated “You could hide a dead body on page 2”.
According to Neil Patel and other internet gurus, you should be spending as much time promoting as writing. Yikes, more stuff to learn and do! We set up Facebook and Pinterest accounts. You’d think these sorts of things would be straightforward. I can assure you they were anything but!
Jumping ahead a little, surprisingly, Debbie has achieved success on Pinterest. In fact, as of a few days ago, we're getting an average of 639K impressions a month! Wow, pretty impressive statistics in my eyes! We're still not exactly sure what it translates into or what it all means. Other than lots of folks are, at least, aware of us on social media platforms.
Our First Successes - After 3 Plus Months
Our first taste of success came from an unexpected post – The Pros and Cons of a Gluten Free Diet. We finally broke through onto the first page of Google. Yippee!
The idea stemmed from a luncheon with friends. All are retired with several mentioning they had eliminated bread from their diets. They said they felt better and lost a few pounds. There is lots of hype on the topic and we figured it should be an interesting post.
Who would've thought that would become our break through article? More importantly, we had finally broken out of the Google sandbox. That prompted our happy dance and for the first time realizing we must be doing something right.
Our Writing Style Evolves
Some of our earlier pieces used a story telling format. For instance, History of Retirement starts off with the story of Jack, a fireman facing mandatory retirement early in the century. Seemed like a good idea at the time, yet it was not overly popular.
Our thoughts are people seem to skim and only read when they see something that catches their interest. Hmm…perhaps we need more facts and figures with outstanding visual information.
This prompted us to start doing more screen shots of relevant facts and images. As an example, in the search engine optimization section above, we took a screenshot of the “Google sandbox”.
Other Posts Began to Rank
Still feeling the glow of our initial success, we noticed some of other articles beginning to rank on the second and third pages. After more than 3 months, they were creeping higher.
Even more heartening was the steady increase of folks reading our blogs. In September, a record high 52 visitors.
A Massive and Unexplained Spike
To this day, we have no explanation what happened in October. Approximately 5,800 people viewed Baby Boomer Facts during the last two weeks of the month! We knew it was one of our better posts, but what the heck just happened?!
Below is a screen shot from Google analytics for October.
Now, not only were we doing the happy dance, we were in disbelief with the incredible spike of new users. Then, just like a dream, it was over and everything reverted back to normal.
At the time, Debbie was just getting started with Pinterest. Being brand new, we had no idea what we were doing. Again, that learning curve. Then, for some unexplained reason, Pinterest froze our account for a month and a half leaving us dead in the water.
Our speculation is that someone with a massive audience re-pinned “Baby Boomer Facts”. We’ll never know for sure what happened (no analytics), but it sure was exciting.
The New Year
We took a two-week vacation to Puerto Vallarta in early December. That was where the photo on our home page was taken (thanks again, Ray, for taking the picture!). Up until this point, our publication schedule was somewhat erratic.
Realizing we need to be more consistent; we’re now bearing down with a post each week. Practice does make perfect and each week it’s getting a little easier. On January 15, one of the articles I’m most proud of was published. It involved sharing my experience and compiling the things I wish I’d known before my career came to a crashing halt.
Bulletproof Your Future and Avoid Forced Retirement was on page one within four days! Shortly after, it was on the very top of the search results.
This was followed up with How to Deal with Forced Retirement in 2020, also making it onto the first page.
Networking with Other Blogs
Early in the new year, I began interacting with some of the more established blogs. Besides gaining new perspectives, we felt like part of an online community. The comment sections are often the most interesting as readers share their experiences.
Soon, I was also sharing my thoughts and ideas. Something we didn’t expect, this piqued the curiosity of others to take a peek at our site.
Our Content is Getting Found!
Remember I mentioned how the search engines ignored us during our initial months? After all this time (6 months later), some of our initial articles began to rank. For instance, our very first one has risen to the top of the page one!
More importantly, people appear to value our information and are returning. We’re now getting about 300 visitors a month.
The Past Three Months
What a world of difference 9 months makes! This Retires Great review made us realize that all our hard work, patience and perseverance has paid off!
We’ve given birth to our fledgling site. This is our 41st article and the number of visitors has tripled from a few short months ago.
Retirement for First Timers
After writing and publishing a substantial amount, it dawned on us to put together a free eBook. Basically, a concise road map with the most relevant facts.
You’d think writing an eBook would be easy after all we’ve written! It probably took us over a hundred hours. Also included are links to more in-depth sources where appropriate. Our intent is to continue to update the content to keep it current.
The Power of the People
Back in April, Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto raised the question “What is the most important key to a successful retirement?”. With his large and highly engaged audience, 350 people responded with their thoughts. We analyzed this data producing the following graph.
Incredibly insightful findings from real people with over a quarter identifying “planning and preparation” as the key. Further to this, Fritz then shared our analysis with his readership. Our results were published on Top 12 Tips for a Successful Retirement. During that week alone, we received over 200 additional visitors.
Our First Podcast
Much to our delight, we were approached by Kemkem from Next Bite of Life to participate in a podcast. She thought our site was fantastic and believed her audience would gain value from our message.
Being our very first podcast, we were both somewhat nervous. Fortunately, she helped us feel comfortable and, I must confess, it was fun to do. Stay tuned as we’ll share more of our experience when it airs in a few weeks.
Retires Great Review - What a Ride!
Our first year has been action packed. It's been a roller coaster of challenges and small victories. The most important part for us is that we are having fun and looking forward to each day.
Could we retire - sure! But whatever we chose to occupy ourselves with would pale in comparison to having your own website. There have been moments when doubts arose and we questioned ourselves. The truth is we're very happy and gain enormous satisfaction in everything we have accomplished.
You might wonder what it's like working with your spouse? For us, it's been wonderful and we never seem to run out of things to talk about. In many respects, we've grown closer. Imagine some of the dialogues we had over The Pathway to Marital Happiness and Fulfillment! LOL 😊
Has all the blood, sweat and tears been worth it? Unequivocally that is a resounding, YES!