It’s The Apocalypse? Case Study & Income Report [Mar 2020 edition]

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It’s hard to believe that this time last month I’d just gotten home after a two week vacation in Portugal. Now the world’s been turned upside-down, with most of us stuck at home hoping that we don’t get sick…and maybe doing a wee bit of day drinking.

I’d like to say that being forced to stay inside has led to amazing amounts of productivity on my end. But that would not be true.

For existing websites, a lack of productivity is something that they can usually weather. But if you’re just getting started (like some of my new sites), then you already know that no work = no results on new sites (most of the time).

So, let’s jump right in (and pay attention to the changes for site #1 mentioned below).

What Happened In March

I think we all know what happened in March…and it’s still happening around the world. I haven’t left the apartment in like three weeks now.

And I don’t have a balcony or any outdoor space. What makes it worse is that the weather here has been surprisingly awesome. So, it’s kinda miserable but also I don’t want to get sick.

That’s a look at the view out my window. Maybe by the next report this virus will be a bit more under control and we can all safely go outside.

Or, maybe it’ll just be more of the same here for me. Who knows!

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

The Sites – March 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 $500/mo $2,000/mo but I think it has the potential for low to mid to high four figures monthly (if not more).
  • 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. 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

Okay, so with the inevitable global recession coming up, I’ve had to temporarily sideline the site that I was planning on developing here.

But, this works out well because I’ve had an even better idea. That’s the good news for me. The bad news is that it won’t be a small site, so more work for me.

More good news — I’m actually excited about this one, unlike my previous idea.

I’ve already done some keyword research in this niche, but I have a little more to do before I actually start the site. This is important because I like to get a rough plan for my site architecture so that I don’t end up having to change things later on.

When I build new sites these days, I try to focus on the hub and spoke model. So, I want my hubs (or my main categories) in my navigation bar. And then, the rest of my content needs to fit under one of those hubs.

Right now, I expect to have the MVP version of this site up by the end of next week. I’m trying to get it up ASAP as a single landing page sort of site (just temporarily) so that I can start responding to HARO requests.

Summary for site #1: I’m building a completely different site now!

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

With many Americans sheltering in place during the month, this site didn’t perform as well as usual. And, I didn’t really give it much focus.

New posts for this site: one

Didn’t plan on this one, but the topic is something that I think will do well on Pinterest. And I didn’t write it (still part of that trade I’d made with a copywriter last month).

New links for this site: one.

It’s a guest post that was zero cost. And, I wrote the guest post article, so it only cost me time.

I’d intended on doing more links for this site, but with everything going on in the world these days I just didn’t do it.

Traffic for the site fell during the month. Rankings remain stable, so I think that it’s just this virus and no one really being interested in this niche.

site 2 traffic

The traffic drop was almost 600 users. Of course, this is not the trend I want to see, but not really anything I can do about what’s going on in the world at large.

All I can do is try to stay focused on doing the work so that when things start going back to normal in the world, the site will recover and grow.

Though traffic was down for the month, the site’s income actually increased. As a result, the RPM also increased.

Total income for this site last month: $76.60

With the current traffic, that puts the site at an RPM of around $22. I like seeing an RPM and income increase, but I really want a traffic increase to go with that.

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

AAWP is having a 40% off sale through midnight April 7th!

Summary for site #2: Income is up but traffic is down, probably due to Covid-19.

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

As you probably know, the home fitness niche really gained a lot of traction with so many people being stuck at home in March. And I’m happy to share that traffic and income are up on this site.

My focus for the month was all about content for this site. And I prioritized content that I thought would do well with the newly stuck at home crowd that can’t get to their local gym for workouts.

New posts for this site: twelve

I focused on informational content primarily because this niche does well on Pinterest. And I had no expenses for these articles because I wrote them myself or got them for free as a guest post.

Like the previous month, the average word count of these posts was over 2,000 words.

site 3 traffic

In the analytics screenshot above, you can see when the traffic started picking up later in the month with people stuck at home. I think there was also a small Google update at the month’s end, which this site benefited from.

Granted, the regular fresh content throughout the month also may be responsible for the traffic growth.

I did have a few posts do really well on Pinterest and one, which got shared by a reader on LinkedIn, brought in over 500 visits in a single day. (it’s that spike you see on March 24th)

Compared to the previous month, this site saw an increase of just over 5,000 users for the month.

This is clearly a huge growth, so let’s look at some things that I did (and other factors) that might have led to this growth (so you can try to replicate it with your sites):

  • niche got hot through no actions of mine
  • good amount of fresh content to the site
  • fresh content that did well on social (Pinterest and LinkedIn)
  • I sent out my first email newsletter to the list I started building in January
  • one of my new posts was a roundup post, so it brought in new readers (this was a test)
  • scored three new natural links

It’s hard to say if it was mostly one of those things that led to the growth, or just a combo. That’s why it’s important to not get stuck focusing on just one thing.

New links for this site: three

I only responded to one HARO request during the month, and despite being told that they’d use my answer, the article went live without it. 🤷

However, I did discover in Ahrefs that three sites had naturally linked to me, which is always a nice surprise. One of those links was a result of that roundup post.

Seeing if I got any backlinks from a roundup post was one of the things that I was testing. Only getting one isn’t a great result, but the social traffic and increase in signups to my mailing list means that I will do it again.

Total income for this site last month: $1388.69

As you can see, income more than doubled. I assume part of the reason for this is the traffic increase.

One of the affiliate programs that I use also boosted my commission rate by 3% for the month, so that also was a contributing factor.

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

The traffic and income increase now puts the site’s RPM at almost $87. While I’m happy with the increase, I am not happy with this RPM because I think it should be higher based on the cost of the products that I promote.

But I am celebrating that this is the highest ever March income for this site. 🎉🎉🎉

Summary for site #3: Income and traffic is on an upward trend.

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

I spent the entire month trying to decide what to do about the rejected trademark registration for this domain. It really crippled me in terms of moving forward with working on the site.

So, I decided to just stick with the domain and brand that I have because I really love it and it’s really just perfect. I don’t think I’ll have any problems with the major organization that, in my opinion, really doesn’t conflict with my brand or lead to any confusion.

I may end up buying an alternative domain to hold onto, just in case I have problems down the road. But for now, I’ve decided to stick with what I’ve already got.

New posts for this site: zero.

What you may find interesting is that Ahrefs is showing the site ranking for almost 40 keywords so far. And the site’s best ranking is a keyword coming in at #7 as of March 30th.

ahrefs ranking

I mentioned that my initial content targets low hanging fruit, and you can see in the image above that’s exactly what’s started ranking for me.

New links for this site: zero.

Still haven’t even setup the social accounts for this site, since I wasn’t sure if I’d keep the same brand/domain.

The site managed to bring in 13 organic users, which is not too shabby for a site this new with so little content.

site 4 traffic

Total income for this site last month: $0.00

The site is still not monetized at all, and likely won’t be for a few more months.

Summary for site #4: Traffic up slightly, despite zero work done by me.

New Expenses For March 2020

I actually did not spend anything for these sites last month. If you want to know about any recurring expenses or previous expenses, then refer to last month’s post in this section.

Wait a minute, I just realized that I did have one expense.

I bought a domain for site #1 since I’m changing what I’m doing.

I haven’t actually put that site on any hosting yet, so that expense will appear next month. Right now I’m leaning towards using a Vultr or Digital Ocean droplet at Cloudways since it’s so cheap and ultra fast.

Thoughts On The Month

This is a weird time for the world, so I expect that this won’t be the only update where things are a bit wonky with traffic and income.

Though I didn’t get as much done on these sites as I would’ve liked to, I did manage to spend some time planning out my workflow for April.

I’ll be testing out creating custom videos for one of the sites in this report. It won’t be a talking head video or one of those garbage slideshow videos.

I’m talking really nice quality shit here. The kind of videos that run $20-$50/hour for a video editor.

I’ll be testing the videos in a variety of ways – Pinterest video pins, in blog posts, and with a YouTube channel.

I’ve been working with a video editor and we actually already finished up the bumper reel, which is the animated logo bit you see at the start of branded videos, for the upcoming videos.

Quick note: I use WP Rocket on all of these sites and they’re running a 20% promotion through April 14th. They have a 14-day money back guarantee, so I suggest you consider testing it out and seeing if your site speed improves.

Final Thoughts & Summary

All things considered, I feel like the month went pretty okay for this collection of sites. Sure, I didn’t get anything really done on two of them, but these are crazy stressful times.

Going forward, I’ll be looking for ways to improve my productivity because I’m getting too much stress and anxiety about the state of the world….which is causing more stress and anxiety about not getting things done on my sites.

Hopefully, staying in the apartment will spare me catching the virus and I’ll actually get more work done in April.

Income summary for March:

  • Site #1 = $0.00 (no change)
  • Site #2 = $76.60 (+ $21.30)
  • Site #3 = $1388.69 (+ $780.28)
  • Site #4 = $0.00 (no change)

And remember, these four sites are only a portion of my portfolio 🙂

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

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4 thoughts on “It’s The Apocalypse? Case Study & Income Report [Mar 2020 edition]”

  1. Good progress.. I am sure once this covid-19 stuff starts to melt off, your site will be in a good position. Again, glad to see the report. Stay safe

    Reply
  2. Hi Shawna

    What can I say? Another great update. Your page is a hidden gem for Affiliate Marketers. Your 4 websites are going to become a massive success. No doubt about that.

    What do you think about the recent cuts in commissions from Amazon? 1% commission? Jeff, you greedy bastard.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words. Sadly, I’m not surprised that Amazon decided to hit people when they were down 🙁 Hopefully people who were 100% in on Amazon are ready to pivot and diversify. And I said a while ago that I think we’ll see a lot of people move to display ads this year, and this commission cut I think makes that an even greater possibility.

      Reply

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