Website Income

4 Improvements to My Authority Website and 1 Failure

A few weeks ago Quinn from and I shared a public review of each other’s authority websites. These reviews included recommendations on how to improve our sites.


All Posts from Our Site Review Exchange Series:


From his review here are the changes he recommends and the impact of each change…


A. Monetization

Suggestion #1 – AdSense Removed

Personally I am not a huge fan of AdSense Only websites but Jon acknowledged recently he wants to move up the value chain and I found out the majority of his earnings already come from better ways to monetize. This is awesome news because I think much bigger opportunities await Jon’s website.- From Quinn’s Review

I have struggled with making much money from AdSense and after split testing 5 different ad blocks have yet to have one with a greater than 1% CTR.

As a result I have switched the main monetization area of the site to my CPA offers.

Another benefit of removing AdSense from the site is that the “commercial look” of the site is reduced and that increases the chance that bloggers and institutions will link to the site.

The general theme I am working on with my authority site is to…

act and promote my site like a blogger and monetize like a business.

An interesting article a reader of this site (Daryl Mander) shared in the comments was this study from 2010 showing that on average sites adopting monetization methods other than AdSense typically have a higher earnings per visitor. (read article here)


Suggestion #2 – Email Opt Ins

I have written about the failure of generating email subscribers and RSS readers in my income reports.

Based on his suggestions I went through his exercise to identify what my ideal visitor is looking for and update my email opt in form accordingly.


Here are the questions I(Quinn) ask myself to create a sales funnel:

  • What does his(my) ideal visitor look like?
    • Recent graduate with private student loan debt, a job and looking at ways to reduce the financial burden of the debt repayments.
  • What would his(my) ideal visitor buy?
    • The ideal visitor would purchase a private student loan consolidation.
  • Why would someone sign up to his(my) newsletter?
    • To get a list of tips that will help them save money on their student loans
  • Finally, how could he get them to buy once he(I) has(have) them in the funnel?
    • Once on the list they could go into an auto responder series educating them on the pros and cons of loan consolidation and provide affiliate links to loan consolidation companies. In addition this could be supplemented with useful information on financial products most graduates require (freemium financial monitoring software (mint), car loan comparisons etc)


These questions come from Quinn’s ninja marketing post.


Based on my answers to the questions above I have modified my opt in box, below is the before and after…








The updated email opt-in form is much more specific to the ideal target visitor and their #1 desire – Save Money!

However, the result has been no improvement in opt ins. With over 1500 visitors in the last week(great week for traffic!) there has been 0.0 opt ins.

This is another data point confirming that obtaining opt-ins from my audience is proving extremely difficult!


B. Content:

Suggestion #3 – Improve User Engagement

Quinn has tested my content creation strategy and had ok success. His on page content suggestion was to improve interlinking on my articles for deeper engagement.

I believe I can improve on this and have now added to my wordpress publishing procedure a requirement for 3-5 HIGHLY relevant natural internal links which improve engagement/user experience.

Whether it is an article I have written or an article I outsourced, my VA uploads all articles and must follow a simple checklist I created. Using this checklist he must now ensure that there are 3-5 highly relevant natural internal links before an article is scheduled.


C. Web Design/Engagement

Suggestion #4 – No Logo

I have no excuses on this one! No logo looks amateur! However, I am now working with a graphic designer to get one created.

I believe a lot of people believe that a logo along with a perfectly set up website is required before they can start a website. In my mind a logo  one of those things that is a nice to have but won’t make the difference between success/failure for my site so I have been spending my time more heavily on other priorities.

Here are the first drafts of the potential logo’s I am creating…



I have plans to not just pick the one I like the most but actually test how each one impacts the key metric a logo can improve – Bounce Rate.



Suggestion #5 – Improve Menu Titles

Quinn’s suggestion is to improve the titles to make them more engaging, I completely agree that my current titles are leaving engagement on the table!

Unfortunately I have run out of room on the site to be able to do this and include all the content. I realize I may be losing some engagement by not having more enticing headlines but the SEO benefit of a logical page/post structure is worth more to me I believe.

In my next site re-design likely at least one year away I will be looking at implementing this recommendation.


D. SEO On Page

His SEO on page recommendation is to improve interlinking of my posts, see suggestion #3 above for how I will be implementing this.


E. SEO Off Page

Quinn likes a lot of the strategies I have been using…

1. Blog comments and social profile interaction to build relationships (love it)
2. Guest posting on relevant sites (love it)
3. Web 2.0 properties like blogger etc using the ok quality articles my content creation system puts out (see link building notes)
4. Building backlinks to web 2.0 properties using with the lower quality content my system creates (see link building notes)
5. Finding expired highly highly relevant domains and 301 redirecting to my site (only a few and ONLY if they are very very relevant) (like it)
6. Finding expired relevant domains and building a small “feeder” site using original relevant content (no benefit yet – this is my long term foundation) (love it)
7. Building backlinks to my feeder sites with with the lower quality content my system creates (see link building notes)

He cautions that some of these strategies could get me in hot water with Google if they are done incorrectly. I agree they “could” but I am not using any automation or spun content and my main site has some added protection by using tiered backlinking for any non-white hat techniques.

I could be exposed to a potential Google penalty but it is a risk I believe I have mitigated, knowingly accepting and the benefit is worth the risk.


Final Thoughts

I want to thank Quinn for taking a look at my site and providing me with some very valuable tips which I have implemented many of on my site and already have seen benefits from his monetization tips!

About the Author Jon

I am a 33 year old husband, father of 3, engineer and a huge fan of developing systems to build useful and profitable websites. The reason I build online businesses is to provide financial independence for my family and yours AND so I can spend time outside skiing and biking with my family.
Jon Gillham, Online Entrepreneur

Leave a Comment:

The Financial Blogger says January 14, 2013

Hey Jon!

I think you are on the right way to build a strong site. It is true that removing adsense makes your site less commercial :-).

I like the 1st and 4th logo, nicely done!

The change in your newsletter box is also pretty good. Any thoughts on putting the box higher on your site thought? it could generate more subscribers. This is one thing I’ve tried with my site and I notice that I get a lot more subscribers when the box is above the fold.

    Jon says January 14, 2013

    Thanks, I think the 1st and 4th logo are the best as well. It will be interesting to see if there is a measurable impact on bounce rate when I split test the logo’s.

    I have made several attempts with the newsletter…homepage call to action, different locations on sidebar, bottom of article, welcome bar, but none have been able to substatioully move the needle off of 0 sign ups. My thinking now is I am unable to provide a compelling enough reason for a difficult target audience (recent graduates) to provide their email address. However my CTR on my affiliate offer seems to be doing well so I think my energy split testing and improving that vs split testing and improving sign ups is a better use of time.

    But moving it above the fold with the modified opt in form may be worth a test.

    Thanks for the feedback!

Evan says January 14, 2013

I didn’t know that changing the logo could affect bounce rate, that is surprising but I guess makes sense.

Just wanted to say thanks for sharing all the information you have been. Watching you grow a successful website has been totally helpful!

    Jon says January 14, 2013

    Hi Evan, I am not sure that changing the logo will result in a bounce rate change but it is my hypothesis and I will be doing some split testing to check. I will be sure to share the results (success or failure) on this site for everyone to hopefully learn something from.

Daryl Mander says January 18, 2013

Hey Jon,

It’s very puzzling that it is so difficult to get email opt ins in this niche. Maybe you need to offer an incentive to sign up? Those logos are pretty good, I’ve paid $50 and got much worse logos than that before. Where did you find your designer and how much are you paying?

Thanks for linking to me in your post. You misspelled my name btw! 🙂


    Jon says January 18, 2013

    Hi Daryl, an incentive could potentially work a little better. For now I am not going to be focusing on it as much as other activities on my site.

    Thanks for the feedback on the logos, they cost me $30 total and I got them through a contractor on ODesk. The way I pick my graphic designers on ODesk is to simply put up a short fixed bid description and then pick the designer that has the best portfolio and a lot of hours on ODesk. One thing I don’t do is interview, I know this sounds crazy but I find that my ability to pick the right candidate is only marginally improved from an interview and by not interviewing the turnaround time is so much faster!

    I corrected the spelling, thanks for letting me know and my apologies!

Brian @ Backlinko says February 1, 2013

Awesome actionable info. I’ve found that switching from Adsense to CPA can literally triple a site’s revenue overnight.

One tip for your opt-in box. I’ve found that putting a benefit-rich checklist of 2-3 things they’ll get from signing up helps boost opt-ins.

For this case you could put something like:
-Lower Your Monthly Payments
-Slash .5% Off of Your Interest Rates
-Find Out the Truth About Consolidation

    Jon says February 2, 2013

    Brian, I am glad you have found the same result…I think people are way too keen on focusing on only one kind of monetization strategy. AdSense is great but it isnt great for every site in every niche!

    Thanks for the tip on the opt-in box…I have tried a lot of things to try and improve my opt in rate but have still been struggling to get anything that works. I have implemented the recommended changes and will see if it results in any improvements!

    Thanks for your comments and I really enjoy reading your stuff!

David Landen says February 7, 2013

I like the new opt in box. It looks less cluttered. As a former financial aid director, student loan debt is something that a lot of students have to deal with. Student loan consolidation is a good option for someone with a few loans different loans.

    Jon says February 9, 2013

    Based on your experience do you have any suggestions on how to make the opt-in box better? Although its looking good I am still not able to get many email opt ins.

Add Your Reply