Anastasia Gutnikova fell into the digital marketing world by chance, but she’s definitely taking it by storm. After getting a few years of experience under her belt, she decided to put all of her knowledge into practice. Over the last four years, she’s built two successful sites, developed several courses, and is growing a YouTube channel.
Today, this blog growth hacker and Pinterest marketing expert brings in +$10/k per month from her multiple projects. And this interview is chock-a-block with great insight and advice.
Keep reading to learn:
- Why and how she became a blogger and Pinterest expert
- How she joined Mediavine
- How her Pinterest strategy has evolved over time
- Why she created her courses
- Why she built a second site
- How she drives traffic to both
- How much money she’s making in total, and where it comes from
- Her number one marketing strategy
- Her thoughts on SEO, keyword research, and link building
- How she grows and maintains her email list
- Her favorite tools
- What aspect of her business is the most difficult for her
- Her greatest accomplishment as an entrepreneur
- The biggest mistake she’s made
- Her advice for other entrepreneurs
Meet Anastasia Gutnikova
I live in Portugal with my husband and daughter, and we have a cute little dog. I’ve been working online full-time as a blogger and Pinterest marketing expert for about 4 years.
As for my professional background, I landed in the online marketing world almost by accident. My first serious job was as an editor at an online magazine, which was a project run by a big digital marketing agency. The magazine was all about SEO, online advertising, and social media marketing.
As I was writing content on all these topics and interviewing marketing specialists and online business owners for the magazine, I learned a lot about how things work in this market.
Later I shifted my job from editing to public relations and marketing. In this role, I worked in a few digital agencies and also internally for businesses.
How She Became a Blogger
I always wanted to work for myself and have the freedom to live in any country I wanted. First, I started a blog to try to make some money with ads. However, I quickly realized that my blog could be the source of many income streams.
I started Anastasia Blogger in February of 2017 and was accepted to Mediavine by the end of that first year.
I used my blog as a portfolio or case study to get lots of clients as a Pinterest marketing consultant and sell online courses.
Funny enough, I had no experience with Pinterest when I started my blog. I learned it all while trying to build traffic to my own blog.
How She Became a Pinterest Expert
I learned about Pinterest as a great source of free traffic after reading the income and traffic reports of other bloggers who started a couple of years before me.
The main approach I used was studying what other bloggers with a high percentage of traffic from Pinterest were doing with their accounts. Even when I started, many bloggers had already experienced significant updates on Pinterest; some were complaining about traffic loss after some algorithm update.
I still decided it was worth trying to build my Pinterest account. When I see new bloggers these days discouraged when established bloggers complain about traffic loss, I just want to tell them: You might be missing the best opportunity to grow your blog fast if you ignore Pinterest.
Even now, almost 5 years later, there will always be someone who lost some traffic. There are also always lots of people who have grown traffic from zero on Pinterest in less than a year.
Maybe the problem is that people who have something to complain about are louder about it. People who are growing and happy with their results usually prefer to keep this information to themselves to have less competition in the niche.
By the end of the first year of blogging, I got my blog approved to join Mediavine. It was the first time I earned over $1400 in a month with ads on my blog.
You can see below how my traffic was very slowly growing from 0 within the first year of blogging. Also, over 90% of my traffic was coming from Pinterest.
Her Pinterest Strategy at the Time
Around 2017, we were repinning the same pins multiple times and used a lot of group boards. But these strategies are considered spammy on Pinterest these days, so don't try it in 2022!
I would categorize my blog as a very broad lifestyle niche. This happened because I focused so much on Pinterest traffic. I constantly experimented with different topics and trends popular on Pinterest to get more traffic from this platform.
At that time, I realized that Pinterest is a big deal and can be especially helpful for new websites to grow traffic because Google SEO takes more time to establish authority.
So I started sharing my journey on my blog. I spent about 3 months building the first version of my Pinterest SEO course to help other people grow free traffic from this platform. I also offer two more courses: Blog Your Way to 10k and Pinterest SEO Secrets and Coaching.
Anastasia Gutnikova Starts a Second Site
I started my second blog exactly a year after my first blog. The main reason was that I was looking to focus AnastasiaBlogger on blogging and Pinterest marketing topics and keep all the other lifestyle content on my second blog. I thought at the time that would help me rank better in Google because I'd focus more on a specific niche.
This was the plan. But over time, I never really had the courage to delete all the existing lifestyle content from AnastasiaBlogger. All I did was redesign it to show everything related to blogging and Pinterest marketing on my homepage. I still keep all the lifestyle content in other categories of the site; they’re just not available right from the homepage.
I drive traffic to my blog from Pinterest, Google, and YouTube videos. I’m getting quite a lot of traffic to my content related to Pinterest marketing and business topics.
How Much Money She’s Making
Here's a broad overview of my earnings, which tend to fluctuate from month to month.
In the last 6 months, I made a total of about $25k from Mediavine ads on my blogs.
Pinterest Services and Courses
As for 1:1 Pinterest services, it's essentially trading time for money. Even with Pinterest account audits, I usually spent about a full working day for each client.
In the last couple of years, with a baby at home and limited time for work, I did my best to reduce the amount of 1:1 work. I focused my efforts on building an automated funnel for selling my online courses.
But I still accept a few 1:1 clients here and there. I feel bad about turning away my old clients who come back for a second consultation a year or two later. So maybe I take on one or two clients a month, and I currently charge $450 per account audit.
As for my online courses, I took the last 6-month period in my dashboard, and it was almost $32k.
Ebooks, Affiliate Income, and Other Sources
I also sell ebooks and meal plans on my blogs, which is about $200 in total per month. I also monetize my blog with affiliate products and sponsored content.
Affiliate income is harder to gauge. I receive it on different platforms, and it’s more irregular than ads and course sales.
For example, I promoted an online course program from another company and made about $17k in commissions. The promotion only took 2 weeks and was mainly via email. However, as people were able to pay in monthly installments, some of the payments were paid up to 3 months later.
This was my best promo as an affiliate so far, and I will promote the same product 4 to 5 months later. In the meantime, I had a few other promotions and made $12k with one of them and $8660 with another.
Some months I have a spike in affiliate income. In other months, it can be just a few thousand dollars.
Her Top Marketing Strategy
I think that Pinterest is very underestimated as a free traffic-generating platform. I can see this even based on requests coming from businesses for sponsored content. They’re often interested in collaborations on Instagram or YouTube. And almost no one asks for promotion on Pinterest.
While an Instagram post can generate some leads, it won't work as an evergreen traffic source. Every pin on Pinterest gets into the search index and can potentially drive you traffic for months and years from search results on the platform.
With Google SEO, new sites usually spend the first year in the so-called "sandbox" and have a hard time competing for any keywords. You can still compete for popular keywords on Pinterest even with a new site.
Of course, as with any other platform, over time, Pinterest is getting more competitive. It can take a few more months than it would in 2017 to see some traction on your pins.
But definitely, new sites can still grow on Pinterest, and it doesn't give a strong advantage to old and authoritative sites as Google does.
The Importance of SEO for Anastasia Gutnikova
As I mentioned, Pinterest has been my #1 and biggest traffic source, especially at the beginning of my journey. When I create content for my blogs, I always make sure to use on-page SEO and internal links on the site. That said, over the years, I haven't done much in building backlinks.
I've grown a certain domain authority (DR 54) just from links coming in from other websites without any outreach on my side. My blogs have grown organic traffic from Google only based on on-page SEO. With both blogs being 3+ years old, I am now getting about 50% of traffic from Google.
I never tried to target the least popular keywords because I'm always trying to make my content optimized for Pinterest and Google SEO simultaneously.
For Pinterest, it just doesn't make much sense to target keywords that are too narrow. This is because they will likely have a very low search volume on Pinterest. This platform is home to broad ideas and topics. People are mostly looking for inspiration, not for specific products, brands, or models.
I usually go after broad keywords and add a few extra words to create a more long-tail keyword on top of the broad term. This way, I make sure I have a chance to rank on Google as well.
For example, let's take a popular keyword on Pinterest, "keto chicken recipe." Then I will do additional keyword research for Google and find less competitive related keywords. And in the title of the post, I'll try to combine them:
Easy keto chicken recipes with cream cheese
For keyword research, I use the Keyword Surfer Google Chrome extension. And on Pinterest, the easiest way is to just rely on the search suggestions as they show the most popular keywords.
There’s also keyword software called Pin Inspector for more advanced research based on Pinterest's suggestions. In case you want to learn a bit more about it, I made a tutorial on my YouTube channel.
How Long it Took to Reach Current Revenue Levels
The revenue in my business varies from month to month. One month I could promote my course and get twice as many new members as I usually do. I mentioned that by the end of the first year of blogging, I made over $1400/month from Mediavine. That was a key point for me when I decided to quit my day job and focus on blogging full-time.
For anyone looking to replace their corporate income, I think it will take at least the first year of working on your own business as a side hustle, in the evenings and on weekends.
Anastasia Gutnikova’s Current Traffic Levels
The traffic for the last 6 months has been quite stable on my main blog, with around 100k pageviews a month.
And on my second blog, this is the traffic:
Her Email List
I have an email list that I like to keep very neat at around 20k subscribers. I once went up to almost 30k, but I noticed that my open rates were declining. This is normal for old subscribers who maybe signed up 2 or 3 years ago. Eventually, they stop opening your emails because they learned what they wanted or have already bought your product.
So I cleaned up the cold subscribers who signed up more than 1 year ago. Last time I removed about 5000 subscribers, and my average open rates went up from about 20% to almost 30%.
To grow my email list, I use various lead magnets. I promote them in every possible way: on my blog posts, YouTube videos, and Pinterest.
Most lead magnets are printables, checklists, templates, and eBooks. I also have a free Pinterest training, or you could call it a webinar, which also works as a lead magnet. It helps me introduce people to Pinterest marketing, explain the basics, and what they can achieve on this platform.
At the end of the free class, I invite whoever is interested in learning more to join my Pinterest course.
Anastasia Gutnikova’s Favorite Tools
My favorite tools are Pinterest, Google, and YouTube.
Her Greatest Challenge
The biggest challenge for everyone dealing with online marketing is the constantly changing nature of all the platforms which give us traffic, leads, and clients.
Sometimes the changes will result in halving your traffic for a few months. You have to just keep working, and who knows if your traffic will double overnight with the next update.
It can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and not all people are equally ok with this. So, I can't say that digital marketing or building a business that depends so much on online platforms will work for everyone.
But personally, I got used to these ups and downs, and I still find many more benefits in running my own online business than a corporate job where you are also dependent but, in this case, on your bosses.
Her Most Important Accomplishment
The best month I've had so far was when my income surpassed $40,000. It included all the income streams which I mentioned earlier. This was in November 2020.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I wish I had more trust in myself, and I wish I were less fearful of the changes and risks. When I started my blog, I worried about running my own online business as it implies much higher financial risks than having a full-time corporate job.
But during the pandemic, we all saw how easily you can lose your corporate job and how no one has a 100% guaranteed job and salary.
If I could only imagine that in the years of global economic instability, I would feel much more financially secure with my online business than my ex-colleagues with their corporate jobs, it would have given me more confidence as I was starting this business.
Anastasia Gutnikova’s Biggest Mistake
My biggest mistake is something I am still guilty of, but it's a work in progress, and it's not something you can fix overnight.
I have a hard time delegating parts of my work that are repetitive—the things that aren’t my favorite tasks and are just very time-consuming.
You see, as bloggers and online business owners we typically wear many hats. We have to be our own SEO specialist, content creator (in my case, both text and video content), graphic designer, social media marketer, sales manager, and customer support, and that's not even close to the full list. We have to always be aware of new tools and test software to know which gives the best value for the price.
My issue is probably perfectionism. That's why I often find it easier to do something myself. Even if it takes me too much time and slows down the growth of my business in general. I prefer to do it myself rather than find a trustworthy person and explain to them what I expect as a result of their work.
Delegating tasks is a job that needs systems and requires a lot of communication and administrative skills. Interestingly, I had to do this at my corporate jobs, and I did it quite well then. But in my own online business, I have yet to start delegating tasks because I still do way too much myself, which slows down my business growth.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
The main advice I would give is just to keep going. I know many people who never get further than the planning stage. They’re trying to calculate all the pros and cons of starting their own online business, but the only way to know what they’re capable of is by actually running a business.