It’s All (Really) Starting Now: Case Study & Income Report [Feb 2020 edition]

As I sit here to write up this report, I can’t help but think, what the hell have I gotten myself into? So, that’s where I’m at — how was your February?

But seriously, this is not only a big commitment but kinda nerve-racking. I mean, normally with a case study if it’s a failure, then it’s a one site public failure. But I signed up for four potential public failures.

Madness.

Okay, enough about my (potential) insanity, let’s dive right into this.

What Happened In February

Before I share my data and you think I’m a hardcore slacker, I want to remind you that I was out of town for part of the month. Half the month, actually.

I went to Portugal, where I got the world’s laziest attempt at a ham sandwich, and stopped by Paris on the way home.

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This “sandwich “ doesn’t even has a full slice of ham on it 😒 #travel #portugal

A post shared by Shawna Newman (@unlockadventure) on

So, I only got a half-month’s work done on any of these sites. Sure, I took my laptop with me to Portugal and Paris, when I had the best of intentions to get some work done.

But if you follow me on Instagram, then you already know that my time was spent complaining about the state of public toilets in Europe, eating pastries, and drinking cheap wine.

I should’ve just left the laptop at home.

Anyways, I hope this update isn’t too dreadfully boring and I’ll try to pack as much data in the article below as I can to keep you interested.

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

The Sites – February Update

In case you missed it in the announcement post, or just can’t remember, I’ll be recapping the basics of each site before I give you the details on what the month looked like for each site.

Site #1

Here’s what you should know about this site:
  • Niche: Professional services
  • Monetization: display ads + info product
  • Income Goal: I’ll be happy with $500/mo but I think it has the potential for low to mid four figures monthly.
  • Growth Plan: I’m not sure yet. I could focus on HARO links + guest posting and maybe FB ads, but I need to do more research in this niche first. Also, I expect this will be a small site in terms of how much content needs created for it.
  • The case study angle: building a successful non-affiliate site

This is a brand new site that I only recently got the idea for and the site has not been built yet.

That’s right, I made zero progress on this site in February. It’s an evergreen niche though, so I’m not too concerned about that.

Plus, I plan to get the MVP version of the site live by the end of the first week of March middle of March.

I should also note what is probably the real reason why this site did not get launched in February as planned. I never actually added it to my list of tasks for either week that I was working (before the travel).

Site #2

Here’s what you should know about this site:
  • Niche: Transportation
  • Monetization: affiliate (Amazon + others) + display ads
  • Income Goal: I’ll be happy with $1000/mo but I think it has the potential for mid four figures monthly based on a conversation I had with someone in this niche.
  • History: Site has been earning steadily and is profitable. It was sitting, neglected, when I decided to pick it back up this year.
  • Growth Plan: hit it with lots of informational articles to optimize content for ad money (first goal = Ezoic and eventually Mediavine). I also need to update old content & utilize more non-Amazon affiliates with longer cookies. I may end up testing Pinterest on this site to see how it performs.
  • The case study angle: prioritizing links over content + expanding beyond Amazon + beyond Google traffic

Consider this the start of my revival attempt for this site. Though, admittedly, there’s nothing new to report this month.

New posts for this site: one

And since I know that at least one person will ask, it’s an informational post with over 2,000 words. I got the content for free by trading some consulting time for content with a copywriter.

I wasn’t really prioritizing content, so one post for the entire month is an okay goal. But what about the links?

New links for this site: zero.

What can I say? The month got away from me with this one. You may find it interesting to know that the last links built for this site were in September 2019 when I was testing a guest posting service.

Traffic for this site fell slightly in February. Here’s what Google Analytics looks like for the site last month:

GA traffic

The drop from the previous month was around 900 users. Right now I just need to double the site’s traffic to hit the requirements for Ezoic.

Income and RPM were also slightly down for this site. Last month’s income is a mix of AdSense and Amazon affiliate.

Total income for this site last month: $55.30

That puts the RPM right around $14. So, not great but it could be worse. While I’d like to see this one higher, I’m not too concerned right now since I’m just getting started with the rebirth of this site.

Site #3

Here’s what you should know about this site:
  • Niche: Health/Fitness
  • Monetization: affiliate (Amazon + others) + display ads (and maybe products?)
  • Income Goal: I haven’t decided what I’ll be happy with yet for this one – maybe $5000? But I do know this site has five-figure potential.
  • History: Site has been earning steadily and is profitable. It is somewhat seasonal, though the niche is evergreen.
  • Growth Plan: Hit it with lots of informational articles to optimize content for ad money. This site has enough traffic for Ezoic, but I’m holding out to qualify for Mediavine. I also need to update old content & utilize more non-Amazon affiliates with longer cookies/higher paying offers. HARO is the only link building that I currently have planned for this site.
  • The case study angle: prioritizing content over links + building a mailing list + monetization diversification + alternative traffic growth

The two weeks before I went on vacation I spent some time editing old posts on this site and adding a few new ones. I also identified some new affiliate programs that are a good fit for the site and applied for those (and earned $25 from one already!).

New posts for this site: ten

Considering that I only had two weeks of work last month, I’m happy with this amount of articles. I wrote most of the articles myself simply because the content is on topics that I’m interested in right now.

The articles that I didn’t write were free as a result of trading consulting time for content + one was a sponsored post.

The content was 90% informational content, focused on topics that I think will do well on Pinterest. Average length was over 2,000 words.

traffic

As you can see, traffic for this site increased a bit toward the end of the month. I think there was a small Google update mid-month, but the increase may also be a result of the fresh content during the first half of the month.

Compared to the previous month, I’m looking at a drop of around 500 users for the month.

However, income and RPM is up, which is what really matters. And, I only need to roughly double traffic to qualify for Mediavine.

New links for this site: one.

I responded to one HARO request and got a link to the homepage out of it. It’s super niche relevant, which is exciting, but the DR/DA of the site is lower than my site. I still think it will be a valuable addition to my link profile though due to the relevancy.

Total income for this site last month: $608.41

Historically, this is one of the lower earning months of the year for this site, so while under $1K isn’t great I’m not too upset by it.

Last month’s income is a mix of AdSense, Amazon affiliate, other affiliates, and one sponsored post. And the RPM was around $59.

Honestly, that’s a really terrible RPM for this site, so that’s something that I’m keeping an eye on for the future. Normally it’s closer to $80 this time of year.

I am testing out some new affiliate programs (trying out non-Amazon stuff), so that may be the cause of the RPM drop.

Site #4

Here’s what you should know about this site:
  • Niche: Lifestyle
  • Monetization: display ads + affiliates + products + info products (+ possibility for real world business offshoot)
  • Income Goal: I think I’ll be happy with $2500/mo but I know of a few people in this niche making $20K+/month.
  • Growth Plan: Right now I’m all about content creation. Next up is traffic diversification and this niche does well on Pinterest. For link building, I haven’t decided yet. There are a lot of guest posting opportunities in this niche though.
  • The case study angle: mega authority site from day one to mega status –> building a brand from the beginning with long term growth focus on diversifying traffic + monetization

Literally the only thing that I did for this new site last month was content. It’s starting out slow, but things will start ramping up soon.

Actually, I did do one other thing. I tried to get a trademark application started for this brand. According to my lawyer, an application for this brand will likely be rejected.

Why? Because one of the words in the brand/domain name is shared by a major organization in the USA. The word is a very generic one, but my lawyer told me that he’s seen other businesses using the same word in their name have the application rejected.

So, I’m considering changing the domain/brand…but I also really love the domain I have now.

But here’s the thing – the idea that I have for a new domain is also awesome and I love it. However, it’s way more niched down than I wanted to go with the domain. Still not sure what I’ll do.

New posts for this site: three

All of the new posts are informational and target the super low-hanging fruit type of keywords. I’d guess that the average length of these posts is just under 1,000 words.

Right now, the total posts for this site has just hit the 15 posts mark last month.

Wanna know how I do 95% of my keyword research for sites, and have been for years? Learn more here.

New links for this site: zero.

I wasn’t even thinking about links for this site last month. In fact, I haven’t even taken the time to set up social profiles for this site, which is normally something that I do immediately.

But so far my focus has been exclusively on content. Once I double the amount of posts, I might start looking more into link building. I haven’t really decided what my attack plan is going to be yet.

traffic

I’m happy to see that this new site is getting organic traffic. Though, it doesn’t appear that those organic search visitors wanted to stick around too long.

Since I haven’t excluded my IP address in Google Analytics, I thought that this screenshot would be the best view.

Total income for this site last month: $0.00

Obviously, I have not yet monetized this site. Since I’m focusing on informational content right now, I don’t know when I’ll start to monetize it.

Recurring and General Expenses For The Sites

Since I’m sure there will be some newbies who read this, I’ll briefly cover some general expenses for these sites. These are what I consider pre-existing expenses for the most part.

As the sites incur new expenses, I will detail those each month.

Domain names: I buy all of my domain names at NameSilo where it is $8.99 for a .COM

What WordPress theme do my case study sites use? A mixture of GeneratePress Premium and Astra Pro – both are clean and load quickly. The fees for these vary.

Hosting: I keep my sites spread out on a few different hosting plans to protect my portfolio. The sites in this report are hosted on –

Premium plugins: For these sites, there are a few premium plugins that I’m using right now. And I may end up adding more later, depending on my needs. I’m using:

Other things that I pay for: There are few other things that I use for these sites that you may have to pay for as well:

I’ll likely end up with more things that I have to pay for as time goes on, but for now these are the things that are pre-existing expenses for these sites.

Note that I’m not tracking the expenses above because 99% of them are for things that are shared use with other sites that I own/manage. I just want you to know that these are expenses that you may incur with your own sites.

Thoughts On The Month

I want to reiterate that February was an abnormal month for me since I was on vacation for half the month – and I did zero work while on vacation.

And since I knew that I was going out of town, my productivity was terrible at the first of the month. Normally, the way that I work is with checklists and a weekly task list.

I have an old school paper planner on my desk where at the start of each week I put my task goals and then each day I track what I work on and note any tasks that need done that day.

When I don’t use my planner and this goals/tasks/checklist system, my productivity always suffers.

Additionally, I am in a private forum with yearly writing word count challenge with weekly check-ins. So, it’s sort of like having accountability partners since we joke with each other whenever someone is slacking off.

And, I do a weekly check-in post in my private Facebook group + I share what I’m working on, etc. monthly with the group. So, that’s sort of a secondary accountability thing for me.

Final Thoughts & Summary

So, this update ended up being way longer than expected. Going forward, I’ll be looking for ways to give you even more data while shortening the length of the report.

You’ll probably start to see more stand alone blog posts that detail what I’m doing on these sites and then I can just link out to the relevant posts from the updates.

And as of today, I don’t have any travel planned until June, so the next reports should be meatier since I’ll have more productive hours than I did in February.

Income summary for February:

  • Site #1 = $0.00
  • Site #2 = $55.30
  • Site #3 = $608.41
  • Site #4 = $0.00

Got any questions? Requests for other data in future updates? Let me know.

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8 thoughts on “It’s All (Really) Starting Now: Case Study & Income Report [Feb 2020 edition]”

  1. Hi Shawna,

    How do you go about doing HARO link building? I recently signed up to their free emails but have yet to get anything out of it, any tips?

    Also with Ezoic I believe once you have one site setup on their system you can add another site yourself even traffic is below their threshold.

    Keep it up!

    Reply
    • Hey Dan,

      Since not all niches have regular HARO requests, I like to look for shoulder niche opportunities. Of course, this is easier in some niches than others. But don’t limit yourself to just your narrow niche. And try to answer ASAP so that you’re one of the first responses that they see (just don’t half-ass your response in your quest to be speedy).

      When responding to a request, I try to keep it as concise as possible. I usually don’t introduce myself and just get right to the point of answering questions. The only times that I start with an introduction is if the journalist is looking for people with specific credentials/experience. This is a good resource – https://www.joshsteimle.com/marketing/how-to-get-quoted-using-haro.html

      I did just this week see someone else mention that about Ezoic, so thanks for the reminder!

      Reply
  2. Hi, Shawna thanks for sharing this,

    I run a Shopify store that takes a lot of my time and I also have a niche site that I am currently building on the side for the past year.

    How do you stay focused while building 4 sites? Do you make the keyword research yourself?

    Do you outsource content writers?

    Thank you so much!

    Alin

    Reply
    • Hi Alin,

      I’d be lying if I told you that I managed to always stay focused! At the end of each week I write my goals/tasks for the next week in an attempt to prepare for success. And at the start of each month, I take the time to look back on the previous month to see how I did, in terms of productivity. This helps me to identify problems in my process so that I don’t spend another month not reaching my goals.

      I also try to set small, achievable goals each week/month, with bigger goals defined for each quarter/year.

      But what really keeps my butt in the chair is that I don’t want to get a “real job” as I haven’t had one in over 10 years now.

      I do 100% of keyword research on my own. I’ve been doing this so long that it only makes sense for me to do because I know it will be more efficient than outsourcing it.

      I do outsource some content. I have one American writer that I use for several sites, who I found on UpWork years ago and now we work together off-site at a rate of $0.035/word. I also use some high school kids on one site at a rate of $30 per article (1500-words avg). But for the sites in this report, I’m doing most of the content myself just so that I can keep costs down to show people how you can make a successful site if you don’t have the money to do much outsourcing. Anything that I end up outsourcing for these sites will be listed in future updates as I incur expenses.

      Reply
  3. Hi Shawna, thanks for the update.

    I also have a site that passed the eZoic traffic threshold but while researching I found a lot of complaints about ezoic slowing down a site. So, I’ve stayed cleared of them. What has been your experience.

    While I’m trying to up my traffic and get into Mediavine, I actually applied to Monumetric, which has similar requirement as ezoic but with better reviews from other webmasters.

    Maybe you should check them out.

    Reply

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