Case Study & Income Report #7 [July 2020 edition]

image_pdf

Normally for me, July is my second biggest income month of the year across my portfolio of sites. It’s been that way for a long time, even as I’ve sold sites and started new ones in other niches.

But this is a weird year.

Anyways, this report should be slightly shorter than previous ones simply because I did so little work on my sites. Hopefully you still find some interesting takeaway.

Remember, the sites in this report are only a portion of my portfolio and not the only sites that bring in revenue.

**And as always, I’m an affiliate marketer and this post contains affiliate links, meaning I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links

What Happened in July

Personally, I spent most of the month getting settled into my new apartment. This consisted mostly of me realizing I didn’t have something that I needed and placing an order from IKEA. I’ve placed far too many orders with IKEA last month.

My site that got hit by the May algo update has been slowly recovering on its own (meaning Google has made some adjustments). I’ve done absolutely nothing to the site thus far because I haven’t had the time.

I also spent some time moving more sites to Cloudways, this time from an old Siteground GoGeek account. Still super impressed with the speed I’m getting before even optimizing the site for better load time.

Here’s the GTMetrix speed test before the move:

siteground speed

And the after:

cloudways speed

I put this site on a Linode 1GB server simply because I already have Digital Ocean and Vultr servers and wanted to see if any of them are better than the others. Seems pretty comparable to me, so I’d suggest the Digital Ocean option simply because it’s the cheapest.

If you need faster, cheaper hosting, Cloudways does have a free trial period for you to test them out.

Overall, content production across the portfolio was down to almost nothing due to me not having much time and just feeling some burnout. I didn’t even do any real link building other than HARO.

so lazy gif

Instead, I spent most of my productive hours planning out keywords and article titles for my sites. I like to do this is batches of around 100 so that I’ll be able to work for at least a couple of months before needing new keywords.

But real talk – I spent a fuck load of time playing Stardew Valley instead of working.

The Sites – July 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 products + sponsorships/direct ads
  • Income Goal: I’ll be happy with $2,000/mo but I think it has the potential for low to mid to high four figures monthly (if not more).
  • Growth Plan: HARO, joining niche relevant groups/forums for traffic leaking, ebooks/books, social media marketing. This will be a large site/brand.
  • The case study angle: building a successful non-affiliate site

Let’s just be real here – I really dropped the ball by not getting any work done on this site for July. I didn’t even outsource a single article.

That’s a big fail and honestly a disappointment. Yes, I had personal stuff taking up time and I was feeling some burnout but outsourcing content is basically effortless.

No links went live either. And nothing really to report in terms of traffic because only two people arrived via organic search.

However, I did start to see some new keywords pop up for pages other than my homepage, which is a good thing. But the best ranking for any of those so far is #62.

new Ahrefs KW

I can tell you that this niche is rather competitive with most of the big players clocking in at DR70+. The lower authority sites are all around DR40, so I knew when I started that this was going to be a long road.

New posts for this site: zero

New links for this site: zero

Summary for site #1: The site saw zero progress/work from me, but articles are starting to get their first ranking keywords.

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

Traffic still going in the right direction, though it seems that the new traffic is for informational posts so the rise is not carrying over to affiliate revenue. That’s bad news for my immediate bottom line, but good news for when I qualify for one of the high paying ad networks.

Much like site #1, I did zero work on this site. I didn’t even take the 5 minutes it would require to order a link from NO-BS.

However, I did get lucky in that the site earned a natural link from a high DR site. That link was to an informational article, which is likely where the traffic increase for the month came from.

New posts for this site: zero

New links for this site: one (earned naturally to info post)

July traffic

So, traffic increased a few hundred sessions/users…but income went down. I did not dig into analytics to see what the top posts for the month were, but just knowing that traffic was up while affiliate revenue was down tells me that info posts dominated the month.

Total income for this site last month: $76.90

Yeah, that drop is certainly disappointing. And it’s easy to let something like this demotivate you, but I’m keeping my focus on that end goal of Mediavine or AdThrive.

The income for this site is a mixture of AdSense and Amazon affiliate. I use AAWP for the Amazon links on this site.

Summary for site #2: Income is down and traffic is up. Did zero work, but earned a great natural link.

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

I have to tell you that July was, by far, the weirdest month that I have ever had with this site. This site so many returns that I lost over $2,500 in commissions with one of the affiliate programs that I use (not Amazon).

To say this is shocking is an understatement. I have never had any of my sites clock returns like this in month, even on sites where I’ve promoted products that cost over $2,000.

shocking face slap gif

This specific brand has a fairly liberal return policy, so I can only assume that everyone bought a fuck ton of equipment in April/May (used it at home) and then returned it just before the return period ended since they can now leave the house.

This was a real slap in the face, but a good lesson in knowing the return policies of the programs you work with and not counting on that money until the return period is over.

New posts for this site: zero

I actually did outsource some posts on Writer Access, but I had to send them back for rewrites. And I didn’t get a chance to approve them before month’s end.

July traffic

So, traffic for this site did edge up a few thousand visitors. Though I’m still working on diversifying my top 10 posts to increase my chances of getting into Mediavine. However, someone recently told me that if your US traffic us under 75% that they won’t accept your site….and this one is under 75%…so I gotta work on that as well.

The traffic increase for this site seems to be mostly a result of Pinterest. For July, Pinterest was 15% of the site’s traffic, which is an increase.All I’m doing with Pinterest is using Tailwind with the Tribes Power-Up that gives me access to 10 tribes. I only login to Tailwind when I publish a new post, meaning that it’s super low effort.

New links for this site: three

This site managed to pick up three natural links in July (one to a money post!). I did respond to some HAROs, but nothing came of that (yet).

Total income for this site last month: $3,087.55

That’s a respectable number, but knowing that it could’ve been more than $2,500 higher if not for those returns really makes this a painful drop. Now I really don’t know what to expect for August – more returns?

Last month’s income is a mix of AdSense, Amazon affiliate, and other affiliates. I use the AAWP plugin on this site as well.

Summary for site #3: Traffic increased; shocking drop in income due to product returns; another possible wrench thrown into my plans to get this site into Mediavine.

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

You know what I’m about to say – I did zero work on this site. I never even logged into the site the entire month. And yeah, I’m kind of ashamed about it, especially since I know the revenue potential of this niche.

I really need someone to just slap me. Or maybe I’ll just give myself a content sprint challenge soon.

The worst thing is that I have a spreadsheet full of easy keywords to target and I didn’t write or outsource a single one. But, miraculously, despite me doing nothing at all on this site, it’s still chugging along just fine on its own.

high site traffic

Google Analytics is showing me this congratulatory message. Though when I dig into the the traffic, it looks like maybe things started to taper off toward the month’s end.

This site in an evergreen niche, but I have a feeling that it could make me a hefty amount of money during the holiday season, so I really need to start ramping things up with it in the immediate future.

July site traffic

This site is still ranking for around 100 keywords, including some featured snippets. Though by the traffic numbers, you can see that I’m going for ultra longtails right now.

New posts for this site: zero

New links for this site: zero

Total income for this site last month: $0.00

Still haven’t created the social accounts for this site, and still haven’t monetized it at all.

Summary for site #4: Slight traffic increase, rankings on the rise, and zero work done on it for the month.

New Expenses for July 2020

If you want to know about any recurring expenses or previous expenses, then refer to February’s report in this section.

Here’s new expenses for the sites for July:

Site #1

  • $7.00 Digital Ocean droplet at Cloudways (two sites on this server, so I split out the cost for just this site)

site 1 expenses

Site #2

  • $6.50 Vultr server at Cloudways (two sites on this server, so I split out the cost for just this site)

site2 exp

Site #3

  • $17 hosting with BigScoots (this really was the last month of promo code pricing)

site 3 exp

Site #4

  • $6.50 Vultr server at Cloudways (two sites on this server, so I split out the cost for just this site)

site expenses

Final Thoughts & Summary

There’s not much for me to say here – I did basically nothing all month and the sites mostly chugged along just fine. Though there was the shocker of the huge amount of returns and loss in commissions for site #3.

Really my only plans for August are to get back to being productive. I know, it’s a low bar I’ve set for myself. And I’m hoping that the returns for site #3 slow down and I don’t have a repeat of July.

Quick summary for the month:

site summary

And remember, these four sites are only a portion of my portfolio 🙂  I also want to remind you that sites #2 and #3 were existing sites that have been earning and ranking before starting this whole thing.

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

Sharing is caring!

Level Up Your Inbox

Hey! You should be awesome and get my updates by email.

4 thoughts on “Case Study & Income Report #7 [July 2020 edition]”

      • haha good idea clarifying this for people. I actually use This Person Does Not Exist for most of my sites when I create a fake persona and use those photos when responding to HARO…kinda depressing that it’s so easy.

        Reply
    • Did it happen to be on UpCity? I’d gotten an email from them to link back to the post but by the time I got around to it they seemed to have removed me

      Reply

Leave a Comment