April 2012 Progress Report

| May 7, 2012 | 4 Comments

Hi Everyone,

April brought significant change to the Google SERPs with one of the most notorious updates in a long time: the Penguin update. We also saw Panda 3.5 and 3.6 in same month as well (April 19 and 27). It’s been awhile since we’ve seen such updates in rapid succession.

Like Wes, from Chasing Pace, I’ve debated on whether or not to release these reports in the future. Partially because I want to keep my AdSense account, and in light of the fact that there have been some really high-profile bans occur recently, it’d probably be best to keep statistics to myself (including the ones that Google allows you to make public). Secondly, as Wes mentions I do not find these reports to be working as intended — i.e., they don’t serve my original purpose. Like him I may change these drastically or get rid of them altogether.

The Bad News

The Bad News - Rankings DropLet’s cut to the chase here. I’ve been relatively pleased with my Panda performance as all my rankings have increased, however Penguin was another story. I have lost most, but not all, of my page 1-3 rankings including all my top earners with Penguin. Another was seemingly claimed two days ago, and I’m not sure if I can attribute that to Panda 3.5, Penguin, or Panda 3.6. Anyway, I’m disappointed that my sites with loads of great content got whacked, while I have some really small sites surge to the top but earn small amounts.

I am not totally convinced about reports saying that the problem is due to link diversity, use of blog networks, or whatever. Regardless, I don’t have the same rankings as I used to, and I will be forced to rebuild or recover.

For the record, I have not ever used more than 11% exact anchor text when link building. Also, my sites do not all have the same link profile. I’m guessing that this is probably why I had some sites survive whereas others did not.

The Good News

Prior to the Penguin update on the 24th, I achieved record-high earnings after the Panda 3.5 update took effect. That day I almost broke the $100/day barrier, coming up just shy at $94 for the day.

I’ve also accomplished all of my long-standing goals since the beginning of the year.

I’m really happy about this. For one thing, back in December/January it was really hard to keep motivated when I was earning basically nothing. I’ve always thought that the hardest part was understanding how to make money online, and staying focused on the process. The difficulty was believing that I could go from $0 to $1. Funny as it sounds, that was really hard. But going from $1 to $100, in retrospect, was very easy. Conceptually I like to think of that as: “Well, I know how to make a dollar, let’s just do that 100 times.” And then 1000 times, and then… you get the idea. Scale the shit out of it, as the AdsenseFlippers would say.

With my rankings down, I certainly do not expect to exceed or even meet the same amount earned in April. I’m not even sure where I’ll be at the end of May. I do expect it to be a lot less.

New Opportunities

Ever since I started niche marketing, I’ve become more of a go-getter in terms of looking for new things to try and exploring new opportunities to earn online. In April, I had two separate opportunities present themselves to me, which was nice for a change. One of these that I can talk about is for a local client that wanted to rank his website higher in the SERPs to help with his traditional marketing campaigns. I can’t reveal the niche but it’s something that I would have never thought of in a million years.

I got wind of this right around when Penguin dropped, so when I spoke to this client I explained that it would be irresponsible of me to attempt to rank his site without a lot of experience under my belt. What I offered instead was to create my own website in the niche, rank that, and then sell him the website or lease some ad-space and a toll-free number. I also suggested that he try AdWords or some other PPC campaign just to see if something at the top of the SERPs would do anything for his business. He was pretty keen on this since you can get the free $75 or $100 with cheap hosting packages from Bluehost for example.

Doing the above is a low-risk option for the both of us, so it’ll be fun to see what I can do for “local” SEO. The niche is fairly competitive, so this will be an interesting challenge.

Worthy of a case study, maybe?

Alternatives to AdSense

In April I also decided to try out Media.net and Infolinks on 2 of my sites. The application process was fairly straightforward and similar to applying for an AdSense account in that you need to submit a site for their review and apply the Javascript code to get the ads working. I like the fact that you can get real human support from both companies, and not just the standard “Check out our forums!” response when you try to get help from Google.

Media.net

Media.net does not perform well for me though. I don’t know why, but I’ve made a grand total of $0.01 on my 2 sites combined. I thought at first it was because the ads weren’t contextual, but when looking at them on my site they fit the theme of the niche. I may have to play with this a bit more.

Infolinks

Infolinks, on the other hand, surprises me. You will make a lot less though; Infolinks does not pay nearly as much as Media.net or AdSense. However, the links are in-content text links, and in once particular niche it performs really well where even AdSense has failed me. I’ve basically turned a $0-5/month earner to a $10-$15/month earner if I can maintain the CTR. That may not sound like much but it adds up over time. The domain name is “free” after a month and the rest of the year I can get content to maintain itself. Neat!

So, one of my new strategies will be to put Infolinks on the websites where AdSense just does not do well. So far, I think it’s working out.

Getting Started With CPA

So I’ve started preparing for the future and began looking into CPA (Cost Per Action) companies. I’ve heard that CPA is another great alternative to AdSense so I wanted to see if that was really the case. Unlike AdSense, you sign up with a CPA company and have a set list of CPA offers to choose from to promote. You are paid for a lead that you get from promoting the offer, where the user does some sort of “action”. It could be submitting their zip code, signing up to a mailing list or service, or something else entirely.

In addition, it’s interesting because you also can’t promote CPA offers in any way you choose. For example, some CPA offers do not allow you to use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc. to market the offer. Some don’t allow email lists but allow search (SEO) traffic. It all depends on the offer. I find this really intriguing as it forces me to explore other means of traffic generation to promote the offer.

MaxBounty

Adscened Media

I’ve applied to and have been accepted into MaxBounty and Adscend Media. What I really like about them is that you get assigned an affiliate manager (AM) who works with you to promote offers, help with conversions, etc. Again, this is like a 180-degree turn from the AdSense way of doing things where you are up the creek without a paddle sometimes.

Now, I know next-to-nothing about promoting CPA offers but I should be able to make something happen eventually. The good thing is that I have explained this to my affiliate managers and they are more than willing to help me with promotion strategy, which is awesome. I’m beginning to like this a lot more than AdSense since the payouts are also higher.

Key Activities in April 2012

Here were last month’s goals:

  • I will achieve $800 monthly revenue with AdSense (DOMINATED. CRUSHED. SUCCESS!)
  • I will continue my SEO experiments on several domains to test the effects of different backlinking strategies. (Ongoing)
  • I will expand my high traffic sites with more content (I have a huge queue of 30 articles ready to go). (Success, but lost rankings, so this is also a fail somewhat)
  • I will reinforce my sites with higher quality links. (Success, but it didn’t matter)
  • I will continue to build relationships with other niche marketers, IMers, and SEO professionals through blog commenting and Twitter every few days. (Success, meeting lots of new people and reinforcing current bonds with other marketers)

Income Breakdown

Total April Earnings: $1528.05 (+$785.76 from March)

  • AdSense Earnings: $1452.05 (+$760.76 from March)
  • Affiliate Earnings: $0 (no change)
  • Fiverr Earnings: $76 (+$25 from March)

Not gonna lie, April was pretty damn sweet overall. I didn’t expect to do so well, but I did in a big way. I killed not only my earnings target from March but also reached my overall mid-year goals that I set from way back when I started.

With my rankings down, I won’t achieve this next month, but regardless I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Instead of crying over spilled milk, I have to look back and admire what I’ve been able to do over the past 5 months or so.

I’ve got the process, so I can do it again. At the very base of it, I know my niches that make money and the ones that don’t, so I can concentrate on those this time around. I should be able to rebuild my income, but it will take another 5 months probably. Maybe longer if and when Google has a say in it. But the point is that it can be done again and again.

Fiverr continues to surprise me. I sell SEMRush reports there, and I get a few returning customers so it’s been pretty good. It’s flipping burgers for sure, but I think part of the reason I’ve been successful online is that I’m willing to flip burgers where others are not. I suppose I could outsource this, but why bother cutting into my margins further when Fiverr and Paypal already do? Anyway, SEMRush is an important tool that I use everyday to enhance my keyword research, so I’m intent on keeping the subscription. My Fiverr gig justifies the cost and it isn’t an issue.

In terms of affiliate earnings, I still don’t see anything even though I have a balance in both Unique Article Wizard and LinkAuthority. The former doesn’t pay out until you reach $100 (which I haven’t) and the latter had some huge issue with Paypal, so I had to switch my account to Moneybookers instead. I have no clue what’s going on there so I imagine that it’s something that I have to sit on for a bit.

What’s Left of My Empire

My top earners now are sites that weren’t ready for prime time, so to speak. I wasn’t prepared for them to rank so fast after Penguin decimated a lot of my other top earners. The sites had little content since they were just holding position, and I didn’t even have AdSense on them. So I had to scramble to put good content from TextBroker on them. Luckily my Level 4 writer is a BOSS and helped me out big time.

I don’t know the exact percentages as I haven’t studied, but I estimate that I’m seeing just over 50% of my portfolio knocked down. Unfortunately the other 40-50% that actually ranks doesn’t make as much money as the rest used to. This is simply a function of the particular niches, number of searches and the CPC. Not much else to say other than it sucks.

Where I’m Headed

I’m going to rebuild my portfolio. However, this time around I’ll probably speak less about my AdSense sites since rebuilding won’t be any different than when I initially started back in December. Rather than bore you to death recounting the experience, I’m really going to try and expand on those new opportunities that I got wind of, and also try my hand at some CPA promotion. Not because I think I will do any better or worse, just because I believe that I should learn how to do other things in terms of earning online. AdSense is something that I know how to do now. So most of the rebuilding will probably outsourced or automated where possible.

No mentors this time around. No training wheels. No nothing. Just me. From what I’ve learned so far, I’d rather be the guy creating the answers, instead of asking the questions.

Goals for May 2012

  • Take a break and enjoy life with family. Mother’s Day is coming up real soon, and I want to make it fun.
  • Relax more. If you’ve been following me you’ll know that I push myself pretty hard. Harder than most I think. That’s just the type of guy that I am. But as my wife cautions I also have to learn when to take it easy. I forsee a few bottles of Gewurtztraminer on the horizon. 🙂
  • Start rebuilding my AdSense empire. I’m looking at a new keyword tool that I believe has been slept on, so to speak. It’ll be a true competitor to Longtail Pro in that it’s also a desktop-based program. While it’s not worth it for me, it may be so for you to take a look at it. I still use SECockpit with great success and it’s my preferred weapon of choice, so my motivation for looking at this tool is that it’s an alternative that may be of use to you.
  • Setup my local SEO project website. Like I said, the niche is something I would never have even imagined or brainstormed, so this should be fun to tackle.
  • Setup my first CPA website. My affiliate manager recommended one that allows SEO promotion, so I’m going to try that.

And that’s it folks. No “money-based” goals for May. I’ve learned that if you have good systems and are simply passionate about what you do, and you like doing it, the money just follows you. I have to wait and see what May is like before I can accurately set future goals.

As always, I’m very gracious and thankful for all the success I have seen so far.

See you in June!

Andre

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Comments (4)

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  1. Nice work, Andre! I’ve been interested in the CPA stuff for a while now, but have trying to just get my sites up in the rankings first. Curious to see how this plays out.

    With SEMRush, are you still finding it extremely useful? I have to admit I was a bit crushed when the databases were updated and my main site was still listed in the top 10 (it’s been in the 30s since 4/24). I was hoping to gain some greater insight on what my competitors are doing. But the top 10s in SEMRush does not reflect the current SERPs for the few searches I’ve done.

    Thanks for broadening my culture a bit (I had to google to find out WTH Gewurtztraminer was).

    • Andre Garde says:

      Thanks! The twist on CPA is basically the marketing method for the offer. Otherwise it’s mostly the same as other affiliate programs.

      I suppose I could give up SEMRush but it’s useful enough for me at generating extremely large lists of keywords. Like I mentioned, my Fiverr gig justifies the cost so I can keep it around. For me I like to know *what* keywords a site ranks for, not necessarily *where* they rank, so the exact SERP positions aren’t as important.

      I’m not a wine afficionado but former co-worker suggested it to me based on my fondness for chai tea. Apparently gewurtztraminer means “spicy”, so he thought that it would be good to try. And it is! 🙂

  2. Joe says:

    Good report! Your earnings were pretty much the same as mine for April.

    Glad to see you are still confident after the recent updates. Do you plan to build (and SEO) your new sites in the same way even though the game has changed so much in terms of Panda and Penguin?

    I know you’ve had a good month but do you think you can repeat that success after the recent changes to how Google is working?

    I made $3000 one month but don’t think I could get back to that level as the game has changed so much.

    Nice to see your fiverr gig is doing well. I’ve re-started my fiverr UAW gig but not had many customers this time.

    Is there any use getting a SEMRush report if I don’t have a keyword research tool like SECockpit? I am building a new site so would like a list of relevant keywords from amazon but would I then need to be able to analyse them to see which ones I could realistically rank for?

    Good luck for May!

    • Andre Garde says:

      Hi Joe,

      I build my sites in the same way but SEO has changed. I outlined what I do before (check my backlinking strategy that lasts). I do it based on what I see, so I don’t have a “one-size fits all” strategy. I like the randomness across all my sites.

      It’ll take time but I’m confident that I can repeat the success that I’ve had. Building sites is a little slower without a VA this time but I could probably get up to 100 by the end of the year pretty easily. May’s going to be a down month as I’m behind the pace set in April by quite a bit. But I am nowhere near wiped out as many other people experienced.

      You can still use a SEMRush report to get a list of seeds but you’ll be forced to use the GAKT and check competition manually if you don’t have SECockpit or some equivalent. Well I’d still do the latter anyway.

      Good luck as well in May!

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