January was a fascinating month to be involved in digital marketing. Primarily the excitement came to those who focus on SEO as some of the largest fluctuations in the history of search results were observed. That is the kind of excitement no SEO really wants to have. We’re happy to report that we had no casualties and have had several sites benefit from the updated core algorithm.
As discussed in our biggest mistakes of 2015 article we have been focusing 110% on optimization. Effectively combing through our entire business and shedding anything that isn’t producing value. We’re also looking for small tweaks to existing projects that could have large returns. For example focusing on increasing email optins and increasing revenue from YouTube. We’re happy to report this has had a dramatic and near instant impact on traffic, conversions, profits, reducing fatigue, crystalizing our goals and setting the course for the coming year.
We also hired Matt Diggity for a short mastermind session and took away a few gold nuggets to help with future projects. More importantly we were able to confirm that what we knew, was in fact what we needed to know. This sometimes is the most helpful realization of all as you can simply focus on doing instead of worry about researching so much.
Authority blog #1 saw massive traffic gains (143%!) as well as subscriber gains (41%!) so we opted to get in bed deeper with Traffic Planet hosting and moved up to their $99/mo Elite plan. This give us a lot more room for now and allows us to add some of our high quality PBN’s there too. With nearly 6k subscribers now on that blog we’re also having to begin paying for email service. For now we’re sticking with Mailchimp as we understand the platform but we’re considering Convertkit and a few others moving forward because of automation.
We also focused a lot on outsourcing which was another of our goals for 2016 including spending over $1200 hiring and firing writers on several platforms including iWriter, Hirewriters.com and iNeedArticles.com looking for talent. Sent off a few properties to PBNFox to have them built out properly. And started working with a new VA to help with odds and ends tasks such as PBN testing, article publishing, link rentals and more.
Finally we had several direct buyer inquires on one of our affiliate sites. It’s funny that this happened as we also had a informative and helpful conversation with Coran over at EmpireFlippers.com regarding selling off a few of our properties. This is something we’ll exploring more in the coming months.
So how did our portfolio perform? Let’s take a look.
Traffic / Improvements
Total traffic to sites: 104,458
Affiliate site #1: 4,502 (previous month 4,885, 7.27% decrease)
This site got by far the most love of all our affiliate sites this month. While traffic is off slightly this month that’s actually a huge success since this site normal has a massive drop following strong Q4 sales. We invested nearly $600 into content for this site this month from iWriter, Hirewriters, iNeedarticles and an infographic to syndicate for link acquisition. We published 3 new 6k word ultimate guides, overhauled the design and site speed by moving from Divi to StudioPress. Part of this justification for this was trying to break through the headaches of outsourcing content. Something we’ve struggled with as most people do. Now we’ve got a solid team of writers and we’re off to the races! It’s like a high when you can just order content and focus on other work.
We had planned to do a giveaway on this site with the WordPress Giveaway Plugin by Kingsumo, but didn’t get around to it. Interestingly we did a little outreach and had several manufacturers offer to sponsor the giveaway so we should be able to pull this off at no cost to ourselves!Check out how dramatic the redesign has been!
Increased on page times by nearly 300338
Alyssa gets all the credit for the redesign. Though we are looking for a UI and UX designer to work with. What is awesome about Alyssa’s work is that she has developed a system that we’ve rolled out to other affiliate properties making it easier to train new VA’s as well as publish really awesome, high converting designs across all properties. Conversions are up across all properties as a result. Another of our goals for 2016 was to build more systems. A
Affiliate site #2: 668 (560 previous month, 19.2% increase)
This site has basically been untouched for 8 months. It’s ranking modestly for a few of the short tail keywords, but has yet to produce a sale. Rankings were slowly sliding backwards. As an exercise we invested a few hours into cleaning up the site structure by combining smaller pages in to larger hummingbird friendly pages. We also used our new found writers to help us add several thousand words of fresh content to the site giving it a huge bump in size. The best part was that Alyssa, due to her redesign system and outsourced writers, need only plug in the content as it was handed to her which was a MASSIVE life saver for building new pages. We also did a bit of linking to this site from our PBN for the first time and dripped a few really high powered links which made the site respond nearly immediately.
Affiliate site #3: 505 (461 last month, 9.54% increase)
Didn’t touch this site at all, or do any social media engagement which is the foundation of the site. This site continues to get Youtube views as we moved some of the modules we built onto our Channel so it earns a little each month from both ads and Amazon revenue, but it’s not something we’re passionate to grow at this point.
Affiliate site #5: 2,876 (2,532 last month, 13.59% increase)
This site is the dream site. We haven’t touched it and it just keeps going up, converts highly and just keeps making money. It’s actually a blog, but one page on that blog I randomly wrote about a problem I had solved is what makes this site tick. The blog doesn’t get much traffic as I don’t work on it much anymore since we’re focused other places, but this page nearly out earns entire sites. The rankings have been stable at #1 for months. Proof it pays to be on top. Alyssa did a little design on this page to clean it up as the site had been migrated to better hosting and had some bugs.
Affiliate site #6: 2,772 (8,217 last month, 66.49% decrease)
This site is sort of a conundrum that we’re slowly working through. It has a MASSIVE holiday push and tops all our charts for holiday traffic and revenue and when that traffic falls off it’s like a cliff. However, something is fishy with the site overall. Traffic didn’t just die this year, so did rankings. We spent a few days analyzing the site with a fine tooth combing using things like Screaming Frog, Algoroo and Panguin tool. We have come to the conclusion that the site was hit with a quality penalty. We’ll just call it a Panda penalty even though there weren’t any specific Panda updates right about then.
Year over year traffic drop is very similar, but what changed was the massive ranking changes. We realized that there were dozens of pages on the site with no content at all. Just ads. Several pages were super thin content or had a very high ad / content ratio.
So we went hard to work on this site also. We want to try to get the site overall to recover and restore the rankings. Not only because it has such strong earnings and is a main producer for us, but it will be interesting to have a site turned around. Some things we did this month to give the site new life was add around 4k words of new content again via iWriter, HireWriters and iNeedArticles.com. Alyssa overhauled the site with a fresh design and applied our design system using StudioPress. We also agreed to consolidate many of the thin pages into larger pages and go for hummingbird signals. Overall the site lost 30 thin pages, gained 5 new robust pages. The pages are much more robust and provide a lot of value to the reader. Now we wait to see what will happen.Oh I forgot to mention another clue I had to the penalty. We sold off a domain to the former owner in December. The content on that site was golden and required a lot of effort to create. So we migrated the content from the sold site to this affiliate site. We also set up redirects and crawled the sold site with Webmasters. We also requested the new site owner to add some code to their htaccess file to ensure the redirects were followed by Google. In the end I think the time between us migrating content and turning over the site to the new owner was too short. The result was a duplicate content penalty as Google hadn’t fully indexed the migration.This is nearly a full blog post on it’s own, but in summary the new site owner was an epic bitch and hasn’t ever responded to our emails since we transferred the site. So basically we got the shaft and made a mistake by trying to simply move the content over without sufficient time for it to index. Lesson learned. I hope my suspicions are correct and after some time we’ll get our rankings back since we have removed all that content from the site.
Affiliate site #7: 406 (508 last month, 20.08% decrease)
This site represents all of our knowledge for seo and design as of 8 months ago, but it’s a summer focused product so not much going on right now and it was too young to capitalize on last summer so it’s just been sitting. The design and content are spot on, so we started doing some initial link building to the site in prep for summer rankings. The site had it’s first nice big sale at the end of the January which bodes well for summer.
Authority blog #1: 90,862 (37,387 last month, 143.03% increase)
What can we say about this blog. In few words this experiment is SMASHING our expectations. It’s pure whitehat and it’s going gangbusters. We had 6.5 YEARs of watch time on the Youtube channel during January, blog traffic has been spiking as several other major sites have been picking up our content and syndicating or featuring it. Alyssa has been doing several case studies around this blog such as exploding our email optin rates from 0.6% to over 5% using SumoMe welcome mat in this case study as well as increasing traffic from Pinterest and increasing revenues from Youtube videos. All signals on this site are upward! We had some of our best iWriters produce some backend SEO content for the first time to drive additional search. Those pages have been ranking quickly and adding in some nice search traffic to compliment all the other traffic sources we’ve accumulated.
Alyssa did a tiny bit of guest post / link outreach during January with great success. She’s averaging a 60% success rate and has landed some really powerful links on relevant sites for free!Because we’ve been so focused on cleaning up our affiliate portfolio and our PBN we didn’t spend a ton of time on this site other than publishing a video, blog post and a few FB/Instagram posts.
Authority blog #2: 1,867 (3,059 last month, 38.97% decrease)
This site is more of a side project for us and isn’t something we devote a lot of time to but rather helps us document a lot of things we start and helps keep us accountable. It also helps drive SEO consulting clients. We publish content and case studies passively when we feel like it. We have however been more active and consistent with our email list which has helped continue to grow referrals to the blog. In most cases this site gets traffic from social networks which take time to promote. We did however increase subscribers which is helping the site grow slowly.
Affiliate site #1: 34 (total 168 subscribers)
So we had a wicked weird realization during January that going after email optins on an affiliate site had a major NEGATIVE effect on sales and conversions. While we did get a nice flow of emails our sales were dismal during the same period. It became obvious when we looked at bounce rates. We when placed the SumoMe welcome mat on this and our other affiliate sites bounce rates jumped up meaning big time lost potential revenue.
Affiliate site #2: 2 (total of 3 subscribers)
Same basic observation as Affiliate Site #1. We removed Welcome mat by SumoMe from this site nearly immediately leaving the Smart Bar in place for passive subscribers. The low traffic and low optin rates from the Smart Bar result in well, low subscribers! At this point a case study is in the queue for using these types of tools on affiliate sites. We need more testing to decide how to best use them before documenting our efforts. If you run a blog, SumoMe is a no brainer!
Affiliate site #3: 12 (total of 107 subscribers)
Zero effort put into this site. Though we did put Welcome Mat on it to see if we could get some of the traffic coming from our Youtube Channel to convert into email subs. It’s working passively. We don’t really care about bounce rates. If they don’t want to opt in then we don’t care if they leave. Nice attitude eh?
Affiliate site #5: 4 (total of 129 subscribers)
We again added SumoMe welcome mat, but as we mentioned above this site generates a nice profit each month from a product unrelated to the blog. We again noticed a jump in bounce rate with the welcome mat and pulled it off the site pretty quickly. We’ve left the Smart bar and Scroll box which of course most of the organic visitors don’t engage with.
Affiliate site #6: 14 (total of 135 subscribers)
Repeat the comments above! Focusing on buyer conversions, not email optins. We did however do an email test to the list we have and with one email (very poor test sample) the open rate was dismal with 1 open out of 135 subs. Doesn’t mean much, but not something we want to focus on presently.
Affiliate site #7: 1 (total of 11 subscribers)
Same as above. Removed welcome mat in favor of buyer conversions.
Authority blog #1: 3,391 (total of 5,673 subscribers)
This blog shows where SumoMe shines. Recall we had a 0.65% conversion rate to subscribers and increased that to over 5% with SumoMe welcome mat. We’ll it’s only getting better.
Read more about how we increased our subscriber conversion rates.
- Amazon US: $1,137.80
- Amazon (Other Countries): $60.71
* Did you know that unless you have EasyAzon, you don’t get credit for Amazon sales in other countries? EasyAzon “localizes” the link for the appropriate country and once you set up accounts in those countries, you will get credit for those sales.
- Ringio: $68.75
- Black Hat Community: $110.80
- Envato Marketplace: $8.69
- Shareasale: $7.20
- Donations: $145.00Earnings were off quite a bit from December, but this was still the best January we’ve ever had with numerous sites pulling in 300% year of year earnings. Give the redesign work Alyssa did on Affiliate Site #1 and then replicating that across all properties had a huge impact on monthly profits. We’ve also been getting donations on our Authority Blog #1 which is super cool. People just saying thank you. A note about Affiliate Site #1. This site in the first two days of February had more earning (profits) than it did all month in January. Hopefully this means we’re off to record sales on that site!
- On-page ads: $12.46
- YouTube: $1,148.88Well Alyssa got our Youtube channel dialed in this month. She’s done some keyword optimization listed in this case study and has increased the RPM on our ads by over 80% from $7 to over $12.
Product #1: n/a
No product sales this month. That’s already changed for February though. We’ve worked on a couple different products (available only to our email subscribers) for the month of February so we expect this revenue stream to increase slightly. We’re also considering launching a digital e learning course in a niche that’s booming at the moment. Not sure this will happen in February though. We are already passively capturing leads for such a product and there’s some solid interest.
- Selling domains: $378.00
- High DA link rental: $330
- PBN selling: $1,125One benefit of thinning out our network was a nice influx of cash. This helped offset the cost of upgrading our network which gets expensive quick. We ended up with a profit after all the dust settled though our network is now half the size. We were also able to auction off several of the domains we lost to deindexing during our horrible PBN hosting experience with IPNetworx. We still lost a considerable amount on those domains over all, but we were able to recoup some of our investment.We’ve ironed out many of our link rental processes and are now doing outreach to agencies and some other trickery to attract large link buyers. Hopefully we fan dilute a bit of the cost of maintaining our new-and-improved network through some good link rentals during February. These high quality link rentals are also available on a “self serve” basis which has attracted a few new customers.
Blog Posts Written
This month was slow for blog posts. Our other work load just did’t leave much room for authorship. However we did start several large posts which should be completed during February.
- CASE STUDY: Increasing Traffic to Your Website Using Pinterest
- [OPTIMZATION – Amazon Income ] Facebook post
- [ Stuck on Page 2 Case Study ] Facebook post
- 10 Tips for Hiring an SEO Consultant (in progress)
- How to steal your competitors backlinks and outrank them easily (in progress)
- eBook: Mastering Content Outsourcing, A complete guide to how we find and hire the best writers (limited release)
Summary + Looking forward
This Profit Report turned into a small thesis! In conclusion we moved a lot of mountains during January. Alyssa hammered out a great design system around StudioPress themes that we can deploy fast and has high conversions.
Our PBN network is stronger than ever and rankings survived the Burj Khalifa and are doing well.
We had some big wins and some minor losses using SumoMe welcome mat which was very eye opening.
We decided to increase our relationship with TrafficPlanet Hosting as they’re doing great a carrying the traffic loads on our Authority Blog #1 and gives us room to grow up PBN on some premium hosting.
We didn’t get a chance to use KingSumo WordPress Giveaway plugin yet, but look forward to getting one together for Affiliate Site #1 in February.
Going into February we’re focusing on smoothing out our project management by looking a month out, getting systems built so that work can be published in advance for an entire month leaving us time to rest and enjoy life!
We know that we aren’t doing excellent at publishing profits earned which is something we’re working on for our properties so that each site is run like a separate business. Look for these reports to materialize in the next profit report. In the end we spent a lot of money in January doing damage control and investing deeply in our properties to right the ship. We did however we came our slightly ahead in immediate earnings due to a late month jump in revenue. Our investments are already paying off in traffic and sales so ideally within 60 days we’ll have money in the bank for our work.
We welcome feedback, thoughts and input on these reports! Any great takeaways? Anything we accomplished this month resonate with you, give you an idea or inspiration? Leave us a comment below! Make it a great month!