to generate over $3,000/month
in less than 10 months!
It was another record traffic month! But my nothing but good news story had to stop at some point and here it is a post where I don’t get to report record income numbers for my case study website.
Also in this post I go into why I am planning on killing an email list that is getting a 50% opt in rate! I am curious if you think I am making a bad decision.
Although I am still very happy with the site and progress throughout my business, July was a month of a couple failed projects. I will dig into those in a lot of detail in this month’s post and what I have learned from them.
First… I am trying to keep consistent about getting these income reports out within the first week but all my focus was on creating the monster expired domain tutorial…my apologies. In my Aug income report (hopefuly published in the first week of September) I will talk more about the impact of that 8000 word, 6 video and custom tool post.
Confidence in SEO Strategy – Both my student loan site and my newer site in the insurance niche are getting solid organic traffic (more so on the student loan site). The results from promotion(yahoo answers and blog commenting), guest posting, resource building/outreach and using relevant expired domains is continuing to have me confident that my very manual high touch SEO approach is continuing to work. My mix of pure white hat techniques (resource building, guest posting) with some grey hat (expired domains) seems to be hitting it on the head right now.
Record Traffic at PayMyStudentLoans.com
Learning – Last month I spoke with a few people making fulltime income online and enjoyed being able to learn about how they are doing it. The key take away I learned from these successful people online is their focus on a singular business model. I am not saying this is the only way to do it but it is the way the people I spoke to who are all having more success than I am are doing it!
Productivity – Mostly because I was on vacation but I was able to get some valuable “hard” work done that will continue to push my business forward. Systematizing and offloading a couple processes I have been doing and creating what I hope will be a great piece of evergreen content with the expired domain guide.
Website Speed –My VA moved hosts from a shared HostGator account to WPEngine and saw a doubling of speed for my student loan site (plus this blog). I am holding judgement on whether that resulted in an increase in traffic or not but when the data is in I will have a post on here summarizing the impact of the move and if I am able to determine if it was worth it financially.
Here are a few high quality expired domains if you are interested…
Last month saw 3 key failures…the surprising thing is I don’t feel like any are set backs in my business. All are just one less idea to test to get to the optimal model.
“Real” Business Idea – Failure – Last month I pursued an idea I had to create a 24×7 On Call VA service to help people do the things I have my VA’s do. My unique selling proposition was clear…
- 24×7 On Call Support
- Trained/Vetted VA’s from my team
- Access to developer licenses of premium tools etc
Here is the explainer video I had created…
(video created using PowToon – If you are looking to have a similar one created contact me and I will put you in touch with the VA I used on ODesk - Here is the most helpful article on explainer videos I read – Stop Making Explainer Videos)
Ultimately after listening to The Lean Startup(recommended!) and getting a Minimum Viable Product up (premium area with a ZenDesk account) and reaching out to people to try out the Beta Version I had very very low participation and people that did use it only used it once even though the service was almost free for the beta testers.
So even though the business could be profitable with 20 users using the service 5hrs / week I have decided that it would be pushing a rope up hill and killed the project. $500 and 3 weeks with 25% of my focus on it isn’t bad for running a new business idea to ground.
For anyone that thinks this service looks interesting Dan Norris formerly of informly and who has the podcast WebDomination created a very similar service at about the same time. It was interesting emailing him back and forth after to discuss why he found initial success with his when mine failed since timing was essentially the same. His offer is more focused on premium WordPress support than general VA support and had a large list of website owners of larger sites. Not that I think it makes the difference between success and failure but have a look at his sales page, the thing is beautiful!
Income Drop – My student loan site saw a sizable decrease in income even though I had record traffic numbers. More on this below! No need to panic I just need to dig in and understand why and how to continue growing the site in a profitable way!
Insurance Site (poor monetization) – Although the traffic has been growing and the site is getting well established in Google the monetization has been TERRIBLE. The focus on the Canadian Insurance industry may have been a mistake. The CPA offers in it are a fraction of the payout in the US and so I am moving towards an AdSense model. My learning here is that I should have tested this market out with a smaller site to prove its potential profitability before diving head first into an authority site. I am confident it will become a $500 per month site but I may see about some out of the box monetization options working with insurance brokers. There may also be the chance that I pivot(Lean Startup Reference Again) this site and all its content to target the US market where monetization is way way more lucrative,10x larger payout for affliates.
In hindsight I wish I had built a smaller site to test out this market before going full blown into this niche. I would have been able to see the poor monetization and changed course earlier.
Authority Website (PayMyStudentLoans.com) Stats for June
Income = $1,540 (-1,573.91) wow big drop! But I am not worried and I will explain why…
- CPA #1 (loan consolidation) = $438.00 (-$42)
- CPA #2 (load consolidation) = $1,050 (-$1,579)
- CPA #3 (credit check) = $52.99 (+$52.99)
- CPA #4 (debt monitoring) = $0
CPA Offer #1 = $438
This is the third month of gradual decline. This is partly due to summer but I would like to see an increase next month!
CPA Offer #2 = $1,050
This is the big one! I knew I would see a slight decrease since I had seen a small drop in leads generated from June compared to May but this was bigger than I expected.
After some data analysis I believe I understand the mechanics at work with the decrease…
The biggest reason for the drop is within the sales funnel on the companies end I saw fewer conversions from leads to sales, with the payout only coming from sales and there being relatively few a slight drop results in a large income drop. By using a pay per action (loan distributed) vs a pay per action (lead sent) vs pay per click (AdSense) I need to be prepared for more volatility in earnings in exchange for hopefully higher overall earnings. I need to focus on improving the metrics I can (namely number of people sent and initial leads started)…this is the best indication of my websites effectivess. Although the story with these metrics was not all good it was much better than the final income numbers.
- February = 54 Leads w 4,373 visitors = 1.23% Conversion
- March = 98 Leads w 5,652 visitors = 1.73% Conversion
- April = 151 Leads w 9,022 visitors = 1.67% Conversion
- May = 194 Leads w 12,745 visitors = 1.52% Conversion
- June = 178 Leads w 11,671 visitors = 1.53% Conversion
- July = 152 Leads w 14,537 visitors = 1.05% Conversion
Comparing the number of leads per visitor for the last 5 months vs July there is a conversion difference of 0.5% or from 1.55% to 1.05%. Using a great free tool at VisualWebsiteOptimizer I wanted to determine whether this was statistically significant or not and the answer is…
So doing some digging into the data I wanted to try and determine why…
Poorly Targeted Traffic - I was featured on NichePursuits which resulted in a number of visitors but even when subtracting every referral from NichePursuits and AuthorityWebsiteIncome I am still below my previous conversion numbers.
After doing more analysis my tentative conclusion is that even though I saw growth in my traffic it was from some keywords that do not convert well (no cosigner, bankruptcy keywords) which result in lower conversions. Since this was just one data point it is going to take another month to really confirm/refute my theory.
Sincere apologies for the last few paragraphs to all non number geeks!
CPA Offer #3 = $52.99
This item is promoted in an email I send when people opt-in. The offer converted but I am questioning whether or not it is worth it at all to have an opt in list.
Costs = 42.11 (basically on auto-pilot this month)
The VA’s typically do a lot of things for me such as research post material, identify potential guest posting opportunities, publish content, modify graphics, upload and syndicate videos I make and other assignments as they come up.
All my team members are hired through ODesk
- VA #1 – Content Publisher = $0 @ (posting/scheduling of created articles per my content calendar)
- VA # 2 – Backlink/General = $10 (web 2.0 creation, Link Authority, blog carnival submission, Friday post creation)
- VA #3 – Website Manager = $5 (he takes care of security/speed on all my sites – no work this month)
- VA #4 – Social Media Manager = $0 (not going to use on this project)
- VA #5 – Outreach – $0 (moved onto another assignment)
- Content Creation = $0.00 (all already created and scheduled)
- Hosting = $7.16 @ HostGator but moved to WPEngine
- LeadPages = $0 one time fee paid last month
- AWeber = $19.95 (for the size of list my student loan site has)
Running Net Income/Loss
Still a great looking graph and I am closing in on the $10k earned from this site over the last 11 months. It would be great to break the $10k in net income for the first year of its existence…
Traffic =14,537 Unique Visitors (NEW RECORD)
A great month for traffic with consistent traffic growth, after being stagnant last month it was nice to see an increase in traffic.
Looking at this traffic growth month over month it definitely shows me moving in the right direction!
Healthy metrics consistent with previous months
Email Opt Ins – Working Very Well (50% Conversion)
July saw a near doubling of my email list again from 349 to 611.
Even with the great conversions I am getting from LeadPages I am questioning whether or not I should be collecting emails.
If I do some simple math and ask myself what is more valuable a click to my affiliate offer or an email subscriber I should be able to determine which option on my site is best…
- According to LeadPages and confirmed by Google Analytics I received 1,593 visitors to my 2 squeeze pages
- Based on my LeadPages near 50% conversion I have given up 809 direct affiliate clicks if I linked directly to the affiliate offer and not sent traffic to the LeadPage
- Once they others got on my list I generated an additional 409 affiliate list clicks from follow up emails within AWeber
- 1,593 potential clicks (if linked direct) vs 1193 (784 initial plus 409 from people on my list) = Potential 30% Improvement
Now this analysis makes a few simplifications and has some counter arguments…What about the added benefit of return visitors? What about building relationships? What about the probability that a warm follow up email click is more likely to convert?
These are valid points so now it comes down to a judgement call – 30% increase in affiliate clicks from that one path now or continue to build my email list?
My plan – to keep tracking and reporting easy is on Aug 1st I will implement several changes including the removal of my email list for 2 months and measure the results of both the ongoing email list clicks and the increase in affiliate clicks.
Do you think I am making a mistake shutting down my high converting emails opt in forms?
Content, Promotion and Backlinks
In this section I will show exactly what I have done over the last month to continue to grow my site…
On Page Content = 17 New Posts
All these posts were pre-scheduled a couple months ago and the site is continuing to run on autopilot.
Outreach – Blog Commenting & Social Media
None this month
None this month
I use majestic SEO (free) to track my link profile and help estimate how my link building efforts are being viewed by Google.
- Referring Domains = 402 (+72)
- Backlinks = 26,530 (-6,777)
- Citation Flow 36 (+1)
- Trust Flow 21 (-)
I believe I had some site wide links which have now disappeared off some sites that had A LOT of indexed pages. This is the reason for the substantial backlink count drop. But I care more about trust flow and it stayed even.
My goal to keep this site on autopilot with minimal invested has me a little worried though. Without promotion efforts I am concerned I will slip in the quality of my link profile and rankings. This we will find out over the next couple of months.
Last Month’s Goals
- Automate Guest Posting – 1 VA working on her own to publish 4 (FAILURE)
- Blog Commenting – 1 VA working on her own to publish 30 (FAILURE)
- Costs Maintain at $50 (SUCCESS)
- Monetize –Earn over $3,000 per month (FAILURE)
Next Month’s Goals
- Keep on Autopilot – Minimal Promotion
- Set up for several tests to start Aug 1
- Costs Maintain at $50
- Monetize –Earn over $2,500 per month
2013 Website Goal Progress: (33% of the way there!)
My website case study PayMyStudentLoans.com will earn more per month than Pat Flynn’s case study site SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com for at least 3 months of the year
- Before June I was 0 for 5
- January (-$2,796.18)
- $452.13 for PayMyStudentLoans.com
- $3248.31 for SecurityGuardHQ.com - Report
- February (-$1,675.35)
- $1126.55 for PayMyStudentLoans.com
- $2,801.90 for SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com – Report
- March (-$2,076.94)
- 759.63 for PayMyStudentLoans.com
- $2,836.57 for SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com – Report
- April (-$1,581.86)
- $1,127.1 for PayMyStudentLoans.com
- $2,708.96 for SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com – Report
- May (-$367.55)
- $2,341.41 for PayMyStudentLoans.com
- $2,610.62 for SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com – Report
- June (+1,622.01)
- $3,114.90 for PayMyStudentLoans.com
- $1,492.89 for SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com – Report
- July (-1,013.61)
- $1,540 for PayMyStudentLoans.com
- $2,553.61 for SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com – Report
A little back and forth here, one month we are close, next month I beat him and then last month he retakes the lead. But I don’t think he is too worried, partly because he doesn’t know this competition exists and second the other $100k he made last month is probably keeping him busy!
My Overall Online Income Goal Progress
As discussed in my long post about my online income history and my overall business strategy post here my goal is to be making $15k/month securely by my 35th birthday and move my family back to our hometown to raise our kids there.
I am going to add a section to my monthly reports showing my overall online income and progress towards $15k/month.
- Actual = $2,495 net income
- Planned = $3,050 net income
With the drop in the student loan site and the one time WPEngine expense my Actual Net Income dropped below my planned.
The overall trend is continuing in the right direction and I am still very confident my current plan will get me there.