Over the past 4 months, Perrin and I have been building the site aPennyShaved.com for Niche Site Project 2. More accurately, Perrin has been doing the work in building the site, and I have simply been coaching him through the process.
Today, I am very excited to share a full income report for the month of December. And its a FANTASTIC income report! Both Perrin and I are blown away with the spike in earnings for the month, which is shared below.
And as a reminder, Perrin has never earned more than a couple of dollars in any online venture he’s pursued previously.
At first I thought perhaps it was just a spike due to Christmas buying. However, as I look at the stats, its clear that much of the growth can also be attributed to increased rankings and traffic of the site itself.
In addition, the traffic and earnings continue to grow through the first 6 days of January. The site is on pace to have a better month in January than it did in December. Way to go Perrin!
If you are hoping to replicate what Perrin has done with aPennyShaved.com, I’ve done my best to document every single step of the process on the Niche Site Project 2 page here.
Perrin and I continue communicate by email and chat, where I provide minor consulting along the way. However, we have not done anything differently than what has already been covered in all these posts.
With that, I’m happy to turn the rest of this post over to Perrin to report on the month in his own words.
Take it away Perrin…
NSP2 December Income Report
Welp… aside from August 1984 (when I was born), December may have been the awesomest month of my life. A bunch of exciting stuff happened, and a lot of it had to do with my site. I’m too pumped to bore you with an introduction, so I’ll just jump right into it.
Warning: this post is a monster!
First things first: I met my goal! When we started this project, our goal was to create a website that made at least $500 per month. I’m happy to report that I met (and exceeded) that goal! More on this below.
Even cooler, we met this goal two months before the timeframe we’d set for ourselves. We wanted to create a profitable site that was pulling in about $500/mo within six months. We started at the beginning of September, and the site had its first $500+ month in December. That means that instead of the six months we’d allotted, we did it in four. Pretty cool, right?!
So, I met my goal, and based on how the site’s been performing this week, I looks like I’ll meet or exceed that same amount in January, too!
Last time we spoke, I was having trouble measuring my traffic. My Google Analytics was being super weird; it wasn’t correctly bucketing my data – it was labeling everything as direct traffic – so I the only organic traffic data I had were rough estimates from Google Webmaster Tools. Based on that rough data, my traffic for last month was:
- Clicks: 3,000
- Impressions, 27,000
- Inquiries: 448
Needless to say, those metrics have increased quite a bit. Here’s a screenshot from GWT for the last 30 days:
That’s a pretty solid jump. Based on GWT, in the last 30 days (which includes a few days in January), I got 8,000 clicks from around 90,000 impressions. However, in my view, the most encouraging metric by far is the number of inquiries I’m showing up for. 448 to 1,443 is a huge jump. I’m showing up for almost exactly 1,000 more keywords than last month. That’s awesome!
Additionally, I installed several another traffic tool, since I wanted to see more accurate data than GWT while I was trying to get GA working. I looked at a bunch of tools, and I ended up deciding on Webtrends’ Reinvigorate. I don’t know if it’s better or worse than other options, since I haven’t tried them all, but here are some of the things I do like about it:
- It shows real-time data
- It seems to be fairly accurate
- It shows heatmaps of on-page clicks (more below)
- The dashboard is fairly intuitive
So far, I’ve been pretty happy, and I’d recommend it. It’s not free, but it’s cheap — $10 for three sites. Anyway, here’s what my traffic looks like according to Reinvigorate:
Reinvigorate shows me getting 500-700 visitors per day (I’m writing this on January 5, so that day isn’t complete yet). Now that is a massive jump from last month. I’m extremely excited about this number, and, while I didn’t have a specific traffic goal, I feel like this is really solid.
The site still only has 23 articles on it, and I’m adding more at a pretty good clip. So, I think the traffic KPI I’m going to set for myself is going to be 1,000 visitors per day. I still feel like this is pretty lofty, but each new article seems to add about 100 inquiries, and whichever keywords I target ranks on page 2 or above within a few days.
Finally, I got Google Analytics to work! Took long enough, right? I installed, uninstalled and re-installed enough plugins to confuse me beyond knowing what actually fixed the problem. However, I can tell you that what is currently working is All-in-One SEO Pack’s GA tracking feature (which I think is pretty new). Anyway, here’s what GA is reporting:
Obviously, most of the traffic is for January because that’s when I got it working. You can see the major flat line in December when I was trying to figure it out – ha. Anyway, at around 750 visitors/day, it looks like GA is actually seeing slightly more traffic than Reinvigorate. There’s always going to be some discrepancy between analytics platforms, but this is one is fairly minor.
So that’s the big news for the traffic! Over all, I’m obviously very happy with the traffic. In fact, it’s almost surreal to know that many people are actually reading the stuff I’ve written. I mean, I have a degree in poetry, remember? I’m used to nobody reading my stuff! Ha.
Last time we chatted, I was ranking on page 1 for seven of my first 15 keywords. Several others were on page 2, and a few more were on page 3 or lower. Today, however, I’m ranking on the first page for ten of my first 15 keywords. Four of my keywords are in the top five and one of them is in the #1 spot (the same one from last time). My primary keyword, “Best safety razor, is still at #2, which is totally cool for the time being; I’m starting to bring in a lot more long-tail traffic, anyway.
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I’ve also made some good progress with my front-page keyword, “Best electric shaver,” which is now sitting at #12, although I’m really fighting for each spot for that keyword. I’d be happy just to get it on the first page, really.
Anyway, here are the rankings for my first 15 keywords. Check it out:
At this point, rankings are fun, but aside from my two primary keywords, I’m not too worried about them. Usually, most new keywords I target (with new articles) rank somewhere on the second page in a couple of days and result in 100~ more inquiries on GWT, which means I’ve got plenty of SEO juice flowing through my site, and that’s really all that matters on the rankings front.
Now for the fun part! Remember November? In November, I made about $39. During the first couple weeks of December, I had a feeling I was going to have a pretty solid month, since the site was finally starting to bring in a steady daily income. Plus, I knew December is always a heavy retail month, which is great for sites like yours and mine.
So where did I end up for December? Take a look…
I made $659.41! I know I say something like this every time I talk to you guys now, but… that’s crazy! It’s just way beyond what I thought I was capable of.
And let me tell you something, it’s just amazingly fun to wake up each morning, check your Amazon Associates account, and see money coming through the door all on its own. There’s nothing like it, really. It’s almost like a runner’s high – this weird mix of euphoria and remembering all the hard work you put in. I highly recommend it!
On-Page Optimization: Notes and Observations
Ever wondered if it’s worth going through all the trouble of making those tables for your primary articles? Do people actually click on them? Are they actually making you money? I wondered this, too, so I used Reinvigorate’s heatmap overlay to do some preliminary testing. Take a look:
At least for my primary article, my table is attracting the most clicks by far. Further, the top couple of items seem to be attracting the most clicks of the table. Additionally, it’s the text link that’s attracting most of the clicks. I think those are all good lessons:
- Tables convert;
- Text links convert; and
- The top item(s) in your table will get the most clicks
As I’m adding more content to my site, I’m starting to realize it’s just not feasible to do tables for every post. It takes way too much time. However, you absolutely should do them for your primary posts (or at least your top several posts).
Outsourcing success! How I’m hiring writers now…
Ok, I know this bad boy is getting long, but I also wanted to tell you my new strategy for outsourcing content, since I tried several services out there and have largely been unimpressed (with the exception of TextBroker, which I actually kind of like).
Anyway, here’s the main strategy: Use my social networks to hire people I already know. If you live in an English-speaking country, and you’re on Facebook, you almost certainly know a dozen writers who are willing to write content for next to nothing. In fact, many of the writers I’ve hired this month have been writing stuff for free just to build a portfolio.
Of course, I’m a writer, and I believe in paying people for their work, so I pay them what I think is fair (which is what I would have done an article for when I was freelancing): $20 per 1,000-word article. Most writers will jump at those kind of prices, especially since there is no middle man, which means they’ll make more than they would through an agency.
How’d I do it? I hopped on Facebook and posted the following: “Any writers looking for a part-time job? I need someone to write 2-5 articles per week @ $20/per. Any takers?”
In about an hour, I had four people willing to write for me. But not just any four people… four English-speaking college graduates with writing experience. And they were from all over, really. Here are the people I hired:
- My old philosophy professor’s wife
- My dad’s former administrative assistant
- A fellow poet I’ve never met in person
- My own brother
So, really… all types of people. All four of them have written articles for me at this point, and all four have been great. If you’d like to see a sample of the quality, check out the article titled “Best straight razors” on A Penny Shaved.
I recommend given each person you plan to hire a test article. You can see how they write, and they’ll be able to ask you any questions. Then, if you’re both happy (even if there are some kinks to work out), you can slowly build up your work flow and refine your process until you can just send them keywords and get back finished articles, which is the ideal way to work.
- The quality will probably be extremely high. Writers you get this way will probably be English-speaking college graduates.
- You’ll know them and can contact them. Hiring writers who can contact me (and vice versa) via Facebook or gChat to ask questions has been invaluable. You can work with them along the way instead of just submitting your keywords to a big agency and hoping for the best.
- It’s much more reliable and easier to give criticism. They’re your friends, after all, so it’s easier to gently correct them.
- You may be able to find a long-term writer. Having someone who knows your process can be a big step forward in your business.
- Most writers won’t be able to handle large batches. It’s probably a side-gig for them, so the sweet spot I’ve found is 3-5 articles per week. Not a lot, but plenty if you’ve already got an established site. So, if you’ve got several sites, you’ll need several writers.
- Not a good method if you have unreliable friends. But you can avoid this by hiring people you trust and you know work hard.
For now, I’ll be using a combination of this method and TextBroker (for large batches). If you do decide to use this method, spend some time writing up a good process document and provide plenty of examples for your writers to use as templates.
My December was nuts. My January should be just as good (crossing my fingers). But one thing is for certain: I’m having the time of my life. This stuff is fun!
Most importantly, though, I couldn’t end this report without saying thank you! You guys have been so encouraging to me, and I’ve made a handful of great new personal friends/colleagues through this Niche Site Project 2 (looking at you, Doug, Jason, Curt, Daniel and Jon!).
So thanks again, everyone, and keep up the good work!