Case Study & Income Report [May 2020 edition]

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Well, it’s that time again people. Though, honestly, it seems kind of ridiculous to be talking about frivolous things like making money online when people are getting shot at by police in the US right now.

But here we are.

May as well jump right in, eh? Okay then. And standard disclaimers in three, two, one…

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 May

Do you ever have those moments where the month ends and you look back, thinking, what the fuck did I do all month?

That’s where I’m at right now. So, let’s see if I can reconstruct what I worked on.

I wrote a lot of blog posts. I mean, in April I think I only published one here, but I up and got prolific on ya and delivered five shiny new posts in May.

What can I say? Other than I’ve got a lot of shit to say lately. So, expect more new posts in June as I’ve already got some draft posts started.

you're welcome baby gif

I also spent a lot of time obsessed with site speed. (But you already know that from my recent blog posts.)

Part of that site speed obsession resulted in me moving sites away from WPX and an old Siteground account to Cloudways. In fact, six days ago I moved one of the sites from WPX to a Vultr server at Cloudways, and wow, what a speed improvement.

And that’s just the initial speed. I haven’t even gotten to work tweaking things like changing the theme to GeneratePress Premium, etc.

Here’s what the before and after speed looks like for that site:

wpx vs cloudways

Pretty nifty, eh? Needless to say, I’m super stoked about Cloudways and highly recommend them if you’re looking for a new web host. (If you missed my full review, here it is).

I also finished up testing out BigScoots for a couple of sites that need a bit more support than Cloudways offers. Loving their service so far, and the server speed actually seems to match Cloudways.

Other than that, my month was about content creation, link building, and a little bit of consulting. Oh, and I started two new sites in ultra competitive niches….cause I hate having free time…apparently.

The Sites – May 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.

let's do this

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

Congrats to me because this is now officially more than a one-page site! If you recall, it was just a landing page MVP version so that I could immediately get started on HARO link building.

So, I’ve only got two new posts up on the site, but it’s a good start. The reason that it took me all month to get up two blog posts is because all of my time before that was spent plotting out the structure of the site.

That took me forever. FOR-EV-ER! Seriously, this niche is so freaking big that I was struggling at first to come up with what my top level categories (hubs) are going to be.

fuck today gif

I typically build sites with somewhere between four and six top level hubs just so the nav bar isn’t cluttered. And I feel like that helps keep me focused in on the niche as I build out the site.

So, now I’ve got my top level hubs and the topics that go under each hub all planned out. And, I’ve got a rough idea of keywords/blog post titles for those topics.

I can’t show you those top level hubs without revealing too much, but I can show you what the tabs are on my spreadsheet.

spreadsheet tabs

If you’re wondering why I start my site creation with structure before doing anything else these days, then the answer is simple. I now know exactly where I’m going with this site and I should be able to push forward for many months before getting stumped on keywords/topics.

Speaking of keywords…

The algo update was kind to this site. It only has one keyword showing up in Ahrefs, and here’s the latest May data for it:

ahrefs KW up

Honestly, this jump from #57 last month is better than I would have expected this early in the game for site that only was a landing page until last week. Especially since my competition all have massive DRs.

And I just now realized that I don’t have any analytics on this site yet, so I have no idea if it’s seen any traffic.

I also managed to get a total of six links pointed at this site last month. Four of those links were from HARO, one was from a Gravatar profile I set up for my fake persona, and one from the personal website that I setup for my fake persona.

New posts for this site: two

New links for this site: six

Note: the SerpLogic links I bought previously for this site are not yet live.

Summary for site #1: The site now has two live articles, and six new backlinks. Entire site structure plotted out and it benefited from the algo update.

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 for this site seems to be rebounding since lockdown has been lifted in most of the USA. And since I’m currently focusing on links for this site, I did not add any new content.

While I did place an order with Nobs.link, the only new link this site got in May was a natural one.

New posts for this site: zero

New links for this site: one

Overall, I’m quite pleased that the traffic is starting to rebound on this site. Especially since I’m hoping to put display ads on it once traffic reaches 10,000 monthly.

site2 may traffic

The traffic increase compared to the previous month saw a rise of around 1,600 users. So, that puts this site back at January’s traffic numbers.

Sadly, the traffic rise did not have a corresponding income rise. In fact, income (and overall RPM) is down compared to the previous month.

Total income for this site last month: $88.71

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 but traffic is up, I can only assume this is still related to Covid-19. One new link acquired.

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

This site is still my primary focus because the niche has been on fire with people being stuck at home for COVID-19 lockdowns.

So, it’s been an interesting month for this site. The performance has far exceeded my expectations, including my income goal.

ron swanson happy

Here’s the highlights and where I’m at with this site:

  • Busted past my soft income goal, so now I need to start thinking about when I want to sell it.
  • I have another site that overlaps with the niche/content a bit, meaning that if I sell this site then I also have to sell the other one…and I’m not yet ready to do that.
  • I can apply for Mediavine now because I got another one of my sites into MV (meaning that I can add this one as well)
  • Traffic exploded for this site in May, meaning it would have qualified for MV on it’s own this month!
  • I’m behind on traffic diversification, so this site is at a bit of risk with mostly Google traffic
  • Pinterest traffic doubled to over 4,000 monthly
  • I’m a bit fearful that in the next few months income/traffic will drop with states lifting the lockdown.
  • I don’t know what I want to set for my new income goal/how long do I want to keep this site?
  • I finished a month of testing this site with BigScoots hosting and I’m keeping it there.

New posts for this site: ten

Every single new post is informational. Why? Because I’m using them for internal linking + they were easy keywords to boost my traffic.

Average word count for these is a bit lower at closer to 1,400 words.

site 3 traffic

Based on the traffic graph above from Google Analytics, it’s clear to see that this site benefited from the algo update. But you know Google, the winds of fortune can change at any time!

Overall, this site saw around a 10,000 jump in visitors compared to the previous month. And as previously mentioned, around 2,000 of that growth was a result of Pinterest.

say what?!?

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 I only logged in 10 times this past month.

It’s super low effort, and I love that. Team Lazy for the win!

New links for this site: zero!

I responded to a couple of HAROs, but nothing really panned out. I’m not really worried about that though.

Total income for this site last month: $6,056.33

Another crazy income jump, eh? The best part that it’s mostly non-Amazon earnings, which means a net-30 payout.

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 rise also resulted in an RPM increase to around $130.

this will do nicely

So, here I am again celebrating that this is the highest ever monthly income for this site…did I mention ever in it’s history? 🎉🎉🎉

Summary for site #3: Income and traffic is on an upward trend and exceeded my soft income goal. I expect to get this site on Mediavine in June.

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

Again, I didn’t put much effort into this site. Instead, I’m just sort of letting it marinate in the SERPs and gain a bit of age.

Plus, with the COVID-19 stuff, no one would really be searching for this particular topic. But since restrictions started easing up later in the month, I got a bit of motivation.

New posts for this site: one.

Traffic for this site is basically stagnant, staying right around the same numbers as the previous month. At this stage though, I don’t even care about that.

site 4 traffic

New links for this site: zero.

I never got around to creating the social accounts for this site, like I’d planned on doing. Will I get around to it in June? I can’t wait to find out!

Total income for this site last month: $0.00

Yeah, it’s still not monetized at all, but you’re not surprised, right? Honestly, I probably won’t even start to think about monetizing the posts until later in the summer or start of fall.

Summary for site #4: Traffic stagnant, one new post added to site.

New Expenses For May 2020

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

I know there’s been some confusion with income, expenses, and profit, so I’ll be displaying things differently going forward. Here’s new expenses for the sites for May:

Site #1

  • $7.00 Digital Ocean droplet at Cloudways (lower cost this month due to adding another site to the server & splitting cost)

site 1 monies

I wrote the new content, so the only expense was the hosting for this site.

Site #2

  • $6.50 Vultr server at Cloudways (lower cost this month due to adding another site to the server & splitting cost)
  • $114.00 on guest post from Nobs.link

site 2 monies

Site #3

  • $89.10 for Wordfence Premium (bought 3 licenses, so got a slight discount)
  • $17 hosting with BigScoots (promo code pricing)

site 3 money

I also outsourced some content, but have not paid for it yet because I pay this writer upon delivery.

Site #4

  • no new expenses (No hosting expense because it’s on a shared account right now and I don’t wanna do the math)

site 4 monies

I hope that is less confusing than the previous updates. If not, just lemme know and I’ll make adjustments.

Final Thoughts & Summary

Overall, I’m stoked with how this little collection of sites performed. And my overall portfolio is also doing quite well through the Google update.

With the exception of a test site in a competitive niche that someone decided to negative SEO.

people bunch of bastards gif

Anyways, I had every intention of spending May with my focus spread across the sites, but that didn’t happen. For June, I hope to get site #3 into Mediavine and work on getting site #2’s traffic up because I can add it to Mediavine as well once it reaches 10,000 monthly.

And I need to continue my content push with site #1 since I now have my content plan. Plus, I’ve started those two brand new sites, which I may add to this report. Haven’t really decided yet.

The new sites do get me back to almost or right at 20 sites in the portfolio now, which means that I soon need to make some decision about reducing my total number of sites. Twenty sites seem to be my limit, based on previous experience.

Personally, I’m hoping to move into a new apartment before the month’s end, so that may take away from productive time. Especially if the new place doesn’t have internet setup when we move in.

Quick summary for the month:

all sites performance

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 were already earning and ranking before starting this whole thing.

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

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5 thoughts on “Case Study & Income Report [May 2020 edition]”

  1. Great review Shawna. I always look forward to these because you drop some great gems that I find very helpful.

    Google’s algo actually helped one of my sites as well. I saw a nice bump with some keywords I was targeting. I honestly don’t do much to the affected sites other than beef up the posts with more valuable content and resources.

    I wanted to ask you if you have ever used the The Hoth for link building? I see you use Nobs.link as a service. Has your experience been good?

    Also like you I’m reworking my hosting due to site speed and security. I initially started with Hostgator but they are not the best when it comes to site speed optimization and site security. I’m currently looking into Cloudways and will likely switch over after a little more due diligence.

    All the best

    Reply
    • Hey Samuel! Glad you’re getting some value from these. I never really know if I’m sharing things people already know or that are actually helpful – so that’s good to hear!

      It’s been maybe four years since I last used the Hoth. I’d tested them out for their guest posting service and they delivered complete garbage. Honestly, I think they were (are?) using PBNs for their GP service. Got a refund and haven’t used them since.

      I started using Nobs.link well over a year ago. I’d ordered 10+ links and was all set to write up a review…then they completely changed the service So, now I’ve started over with them. I have no complaints thus far. You get to see the domains first, then they reach out. And it’s real outreach because I’ve had sites refuse to link to me and had to pick an alternative. Their pricing is also more transparent than anyone else I’ve used (and cheaper).

      In regards to your hosting, if you’re coming from Hostgator then you’re probably going to see an improvement pretty much anywhere If you’re on Facebook there’s a group called WordPress Hosting where you can see legit reviews from people. I did a lot of reading there before diving in with Cloudways. But check it out cause you may discover another host that better meets your needs. Feel free to reach out if you need any help!

      Reply
      • Hey Shawna,

        This was an awesome content piece and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I didn’t have this huge urge to build a niche site out to make some extra $$$ for fun haha!

        Also, thank you very much for linking out to us and recommending NO-BS Marketplace in your comments, it doesn’t go unnoticed and we’re stoked you’re enjoying the service!

        Already looking forward to June’s income report!

        All the best,
        Jackson

        Reply
        • Hey Jackson! I hope you follow that urge and get started on a site 🙂 And I’m happy to mention you guys as a solid service.

          Reply

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