December ended up being the best month for the site in 2016, despite being out of seasonality. It's probably a Christmas bump, along with the fact that I've consciously built in monetization paths that are counter-cyclical to the natural seasonality of my niche.
I normally wouldn't add a navigation menu, but this is actually a long post as it covers 2016 as a whole as well.
I hope you enjoy this inside look at building an authority website, and please say "Hi!" in the comments.
In November's report, I said the focus for December would be:
In December, I am putting out at least 5 more buyer's guides, including a Christmas gift guide for my niche.
On the promotion side, I am going to heavily invest in process-building so all of the tedious bits are slowly automated or outsourced. The first step is to deeply understand the processes, because outsourcing / automating something you don't understand is a quick way to have really efficient processes that don't actually provide results.
I did most of this in December - let's get into the weeds.
1. Putting Out Buyer's Guides
I realized that there's a certain threshold of competition and traffic that I can "auto-rank" for based on my existing site authority, so I cranked out some more buyer's guide posts related to those that were pretty simple.
The rest of the guides that went out this month were written by the expert I hired...and they're amazing. I still need to hire out the formatting and editing, but the quality here is top-notch. I expect to invest heavily in this writer in the future, as his pieces get better and better as he understands more of what I'm looking for as far as quality and structure.
2. Promotion Process Building
I got really lucky here. A friend of mine who owns websites generating 4-5x as much as mine per month gifted me with his promotion process, which included Excel macros that drastically speed up the research part of the outreach process.
These spreadsheets plus a service like MailShake made promoting each piece of content about 10-15x easier for me on both a time and frustration level. When you make a jump of that magnitude, all sorts of doors open up for you. Instead of doing outreach for the largest and most time consuming posts, I now can do outreach for every post, because it takes a couple of hours vs. ten or more hours.
I scored more links in December than I did during the rest of the year combined, simply by doing using this process. Not only that, for all of the sites that I didn't successfully land a guest post or link from, there were other opportunities that I could manufacture out of reaching out to these people.
Overall, promotion in December was a huge win.
3. A Quick Pagespeed Tip
I use WPX Hosting (previously TrafficPlanet Hosting) and got an email from them letting me know that they just enabled PHP 7.1, and that I should consider switching to it. I've coded before, but I don't know too much about how a switch like that would affect pagespeed. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try.
There are a lot of things you can do to improve pagespeed, but this was hands down the quickest and easiest change I've ever made. It improved pagespeed by a huge margin.
Here's the GTMetrix report for my homepage, on PHP 5.6:
Now the report after switching to PHP 7.1:
Doesn't seem like a lot, but just wait until you get to a more content-heavy piece. Here's the report for one of my longer pieces of content, 5k+ words and chock-full of images on PHP 5.6:
And here it is again after switching to PHP 7.1:
HUGE decrease in pagespeed, without changing anything else. Of course, you have to make sure all the plugins you use are compatible with the latest version of PHP, but I found that all of the most crucial ones I use worked just fine.
My sites feel faster, which to me is more important than the raw % decrease in loading time. I write for people first, not search engines. If it feels faster for a human being, I expect my long-term results in all areas to improve as well.
December 2016 Profit Report
As always, Amazon makes up the bulk of the revenue for the site. October saw a few larger purchases, which boosted income nicely. I suspect some of these came as a result of adding targeted exit intent popups on some of the higher-ticket review pages.
Here are the other sources of revenue this month:
- AdSense - $24.06
- Clickbank - $0
- YouTube - $96.75
- Amazon - $3,062.63
- Ezoic - $315
- Content Writing - $250
Total Revenue: $2,748.44
2016 In Review
2016 was the first year that I took this site seriously. I did it with trepidation, not fully sure that I'd be able to grow it to the level I wanted to. I made more than my fair share of mistakes, wasted money, overspent, underspent, and underplanned.
But even with all of those mistakes, the site grew considerably when compared to 2015. In 2015, it made somewhere around $4,500-$5,000.
This year, it made:
- AdSense - $614.26
- Clickbank - $266.02
- YouTube - $883.02
- Amazon - $11,064.16
- Ezoic - $2,668.83
- Content Writing - $1,750.00
- Media.net - $16.68
Total Revenue: $17,262,97
That's a 3.5x revenue improvement over 2015 — not too shabby considering I only really started working on the site again in May of this year.
Goals for 2017
After seeing how the work I put into the site in 2016 paid off, I came up with some ambitious goals for 2017:
1. Hit a Natural Cap on Affiliate Earnings
Every niche only has so far to expand in the affiliate space before they naturally cap out. For my niche, I don't think I'm anywhere close to this point, with at least 3-5x more to go in my specific niche.
2. Escape the Fragility Trap of Affiliate Earnings
If you've followed along with my reports, then you know that Amazon makes up the bulk of the site's income. This is fine — I comply with every one of Amazon's affiliate terms, even the ones that other, larger sites ignore. I do this because I want the chance that I get removed from their affiliate program to be as close to zero as possible. On top of that, forcing myself to adhere to every one of their terms actually forces creativity in the way that I present and talk about products on the site.
That said, it's never smart to have such a large percentage of your income from one source that you don't completely control. To combat this, I've been testing out other monetization models, ecommerce being the most obvious one. In 2017, I'd like to expand into ecommerce products that at least match the revenue I made in 2016 on affiliate products.
To accomplish this, I've scheduled some calls and meetings with people who know far more about ecommerce than I do to get me up to speed. I expect to validate a fair number of products before finding one that I feel is a good fit.
3. 10x YouTube Channel Growth
In 2016, I put out quite a few videos on my YouTube channel before refocusing on what was actually increasing income — written content on my website. The simple truth is that unless you're using YouTube as a platform to drive traffic to products and services that you offer, it's not a scalable income model for most people. Sure, there are people that crush it on YouTube off of the back of ads alone, but in my industry that's not the norm, nor would I want to become a full-time YouTuber in order to accomplish that goal.
However, with the addition of an ecommerce product or service, suddenly scaling up YouTube makes a lot more sense. Some of my most popular videos have 300k+ views, which can be great lead generators for these products. This goal is conditional on validating a product.
4. Scale Content Creation 2-3x
I did a lot of legwork on systemizing the entire content process for the site (and any site, it is a generally-applicable process). However, I haven't done as good at job at filling the system up with content that's continually coming out. There are also some gaps in the process, like formatting, editing, and image creation that bottleneck me still.
2017 will see me iron out the rest of the annoying bits in content creation and promotion in order to go truly hands-off with content creation on the site. Expect more content on Supreme Strategies about how I manage to get this done.
What'd you get done in 2016? How are you going to 2x, 5x, or even 10x your results in 2017?