March 2012 was a CRAZY month in which we saw multiple Google changes wreak havoc on several blog networks (which still continues at the time of this writing), leaving behind it a wave of mass hysteria and confusion. Despite all the fuss, I did manage to improve my operations last month in a big way. In March, I also diversified my income and found a new source of revenue. This is something that I'm looking to expand upon in the future. So, how'd I do? Let's get to it.
Key Activities in March 2012
If you recall my goals from last month's progress report, I wanted to focus on the following:
- I will break the $400/month barrier in AdSense alone. (Success)
- I will create 5-10 new sites to replace losing sites. (Fail)
- I will expand current winners again with new long-tail keywords. (Success)
- I will start at least 1 case study. (Fail)
- I will stop checking rankings daily. (Success)
- I will stop checking AdSense earnings daily. (Fail)
As you can see, I'm very happy about point #1, which I'll cover later on. As for new sites, with all the confusion going on this month I was too busy doing research, reading, and testing that I didn't manage to create a whole lot of new sites. I launched 2 so far and have content for a third, but this was still short of my goal.
I did have some great content come in this month from my all-star writer at TextBroker, in addition to some other places that I tried. I love my writer at TextBroker because he basically knows how I think, so I don't have to instruct him as much when I ask for something to be written. I did try new sources for content, but the results weren't that good, so I ended up having to do a lot of manual rewriting myself. As I mentioned to Joseph Archibald on his blog, I'm a bit of a content snob, so I don't allow sub-par written work on my sites.
I failed to launch a public case study amidst the chaos. However, I did use some of my throwaway domains to launch new backlinking tools at them to see what happens. They aren't monetized and are in low-competition niches in terms of AdWords competition. I did this so there was no incentive to throw more links at these sites to push them forward. I'm doing a few trials of different software/services here and there just to see what I'm comfortable with, but I don't have any meaningful data to present since it's much too soon to tell.
I've finally managed to stop checking my rankings daily (#winning). However, I still check my AdSense stats daily (#fail). I have started to pay more attention to the page views within the AdSense interface and use that to gauge if I've gained/lost rankings. I still use the free rank checker tool for Firefox from SEOBook to check rankings, but it's a laborious process to record all the results so I haven't bothered as much. One day I might invest in a tool to do this automatically, but for now I'm fine with what I've got.
I Lost My Virtual Assistant
Sadly, my awesome VA had to leave, presumably for another job that paid more. This was pretty depressing for me, because he was such an amazing worker and corrected so many of my mistakes that I let slip by. I did try another hiring round on oDesk, but the candidates of that campaign were so abysmal that I haven't hired anyone yet.
I think that I'm going to hold off for now and take things back under my direct control for the next few weeks. I'll post the same job again and see what happens. Hopefully there will be some better candidates out there that can match the quality of my previous VA.
I Started a Fiverr Gig
Awhile ago I purchased a subscription to SEMRush, which helps me a lot with competition analysis and keyword research. I thought that I'd put my subscription to more effective use, so I started selling reports on Fiverr. Although lately it looks like the undercutting game has begun since other people have caught on and are offering more for less, basically. So I don't know if I'll take it to the next level with this particular gig. Anyway, it's something that I wanted to try and see if I could bring in a few bucks here and there, since it's pretty easy to do.
I went old school and setup a bunch of Google Alerts on several keywords that I monitor to do some good old fashioned blog commenting. This isn't exactly the sexiest way of creating backlinks but it does the job. Unfortunately, a lot of the links are nofollow links that don't pass full link juice to my sites. Anyway, it's better than nothing. I'm going to be experimenting with more dofollow links that I can find for April.
Honestly, they were pretty good, despite all the problems going on in March. I can't really complain. I've had a lot of them slip down in rankings but that didn't seem to hurt so much, because many other sites rose up in the ranks to compensate. I expect things to get better as time goes on, since I should start to see some more domain and page authority now.
What I've found most interesting is that even if you're on page 3 for a 1200-4400 exact match local search term, you can still bring in a few dollars here and there. This happens on a consistent basis. I haven't gone over my analytics with laser beam scrutiny, but I suspect that it might be something like Bing/Yahoo rankings, image searches, or extremely long tail keywords that I hadn't thought of that could be bringing the traffic in.
So, I'm not too obsessed with ranking high anymore with ONE particular keyword, but moreso to have a bunch of them ranking decently. With the extra traffic came this lovely letter in my Webmaster Tools account:
What I've also found is that I'm now also starting to rank in the top 10 for the first word of the keywords that I'm ranked for. What I mean is that I'm ranking for the word "baseball" when my keyword is "baseball gloves". This is a completely unintentional but favourable situation, as it's bringing in more traffic. The downside is that the traffic is a bit less targeted, so I'm seeing a little bit higher bounce rate since there's little to no context on singular-word keywords.
In general, I'd say that rankings were up on my sites across the board. There are still about 5 or so that are languishing out of the top 1000, so I'll have to see what can be done about those next month. I may have forgotten to backlink these (it happens when you have a lot of sites).
Total March Earnings: $742.29 (+$549.67 from February)
- AdSense Earnings: $691.29 (+$498.67 from February)
- Affiliate Earnings: $0 (no change)
- Fiverr Earnings: $51 (+$51, income stream didn't exist prior to March)
Firstly, let's get the negative side out of the way. I don't do a good enough job of selling my affiliate software/services, and it shows. I still have only one sale from Unique Article Wizard, and they don't even pay you until two months later, and only if you break $100 per month.
That aside, I CRUSHED my February goal of $400 with AdSense and blasted that figure right into outer space this month. My top earners started to surface this past month and I really hope that the success that I experienced continues. Traffic exploded on one of my sites, which gets about 200-300 daily uniques. This is actually quite small, but remember that these niches that I'm targeting are really micro niche in terms of scale.
On one day this month I managed to hit in excess of $60 for the day, which was a massive jump in come that really took me by surprise. Sadly, I wasn't able to repeat this success on a consistent basis, but I think that I will get there eventually and make it happen.
The lowest that I made in a day was about $5. Not really sure what happened there other than traffic faltering. Rankings were consistent, so again, I've got no idea what went wrong.
The vast majority of my sites are earning something, with the rest having not earned a single penny in March. Pretty bummed about the latter because I found myself in niches that just don't convert well, or the competition was tougher than I originally anticipated. Oh well.
As for Fiverr, again I'm not sure if I'll continue with it on any serious level. But, it has introduced me to the idea of selling services, and this is something that I'd like to explore in order to diversify my income stream.
I am thinking of scaling up again to push past the 100-site mark, but could use the capital to do so. I was thinking of selling sites, but to be honest, I've been on the fence about it. I've worked with these sites for quite awhile and I've actually come to like quite a lot of them. So I was thinking that it might be hard to part with some of them. I suppose that every man has a price, but I still feel that there is some growth potential for a lot of them and I could do better.
I'm not keen on putting my sites on Flippa and going through all the motions there. I'd rather try to sell privately first and use Flippa as a last result, so I can cut out the middle man and save on fees too.
If you're interested in buying a package of sites, or know someone who does, let me know.
Goals for April 2012
I'm going to keep it simple and conservative this month will all the changes going on. It's going to be heavily focused on continuation and preservation. Here's what I want to do:
- I will achieve $800 monthly revenue with AdSense.
- I will continue my SEO experiments on several domains to test the effects of different backlinking strategies.
- I will expand my high traffic sites with more content (I have a huge queue of 30 articles ready to go).
- I will reinforce my sites with higher quality links.
- I will continue to build relationships with other niche marketers, IMers, and SEO professionals through blog commenting and Twitter every few days.
As always, I'm very gracious and thankful for all the success I have seen so far.
So you in May!