A lot can happen in a year, and a lot can not happen in a year.
With 2012 just about over, it's a great time to see what we've accomplished, but also what we've possibly fell short on. If you didn't meet your goals or follow your plan exactly how you wished, that's okay. Plans are just guesses, but as long as you keep learning and keep pushing forward, you're doing good.
Here's an overview of some of what happened in 2012, including what happened to that purchased website I kept talking about but never revealed (which I do below) and some lessons learned too:
Security Guard Training Headquarters
Although this niche site began in late 2010 as a simple challenge, it continues to grow and proves to be one of the most successful niche site case studies out there. Even two years later, people are still using the details in the case study to start their own sites and get results. In fact, this tweet just came in two days ago:
Although Google and its search engine are constantly changing and making SEO difficult to keep up with sometimes, the theme for what consistently will rank higher in the search engines (and what Google wants to see) is always the same—unique, high quality content, which is what the security guard training site is based off of.
This is why it has survived (and thrived) through all of Google's recent algorithm changes, including Panda and Penguin. It makes sense because there is just no other site that has information as complete as this.
If you're having trouble remembering how I got the information for this niche (since I'm not a security guard myself) here it is once again:
I picked up the phone, made some calls and asked a bunch of questions. That's it.
I think that'll be a big theme in 2013 for myself as I create new businesses and for everyone else out there who wants to build an ultimate resource—you have to do whatever it takes to best serve a market in need.
Here is some interesting data about the site:
- In 2011, the site grossed $14,247.24.
- In 2012 (with 1 half-day left), the site grossed $25,218.15. (a 77% increase)
I did meet my 2012 goal of earning more than $3,000 from the site in a single month, and I'm hoping the upward trend continues in 2013.
- In 2011, the site saw 152,092 total visits.
- In 2012, the site saw 308,810 total visits. (a 103% increase)
Primary Keyword (security guard training)
- In 2011, security guard training accounted for 32.88% of my total traffic.
- In 2012, security guard training accounted for 10.28% of my total traffic.
Long Tail Keywords
- In 2011, the site was found from 27,946 total keywords.
- In 2012, the site was found from 59,861 total keywords. (a 114% increase)
The success and growth comes from the long tail. Although I saw an increase in rankings for all of my top keywords (see this), most of my traffic comes from the keywords that I didn't purposely target. It happens as a result of just publishing more.
Some of the long-tail keywords that I'm being picked up for are from new articles that were published in 2012, and others are from articles that I published within the first few months of the site.
The big lesson is: just write more, and be patient, and if you haven't started yet—get started already! It takes time for results to happen.
Other Forms of Monetization
Since 98% of the income from the site comes from Google Adsense, one of my goals was to expand outside of Adsense and diversify how income was being generated from the site, and I didn't waste any time trying to figure it out.
In January of 2012, I started with private advertising. I did sell a number of advertising banner spots in the sidebar of the site, however the addition of those ads dramatically decreased my Adsense earnings and overall income generated from the site, so I ditched the private ads.
I then re-attempted CPA (cost-per-acquisition) offers for Criminal Justice degrees, the only CPA offer that seemed to align with the niche site, but after over 50,000 impressions, a 0.05% click through rate and no leads, I took down the banner ads and links that were promoting this offer.
Finally, with a couple of months left in the year I connected with a security guard training company in California that has an online training course. I convinced them to create an affiliate program so I could start promoting their course to my California visitors, and immediately I saw sales coming in. It's nothing spectacular and relatively speaking it's small change, but it's an additional $100-$200 a month without affecting my overall income like the private ads did.
I'm happy that I've at least explored other monetization options, but I have yet to really find something as profitable as Adsense, which still scares me. I don't want to just rely on that one source of income. I have more options to explore in 2013, which includes a directory, adding gear to the site and also some B2B services as well.
We'll see what happens.
Niche Site Course
After the success of the niche site duel, even though I shared the entire process of building a site from scratch for free, people still wanted something more. They even told me they'd be willing to pay for it.
So, I started developing an online course. I spent each day for about 3 months creating high-quality video content and daily action items that would guide people towards a successful niche site and also hold people accountable for their actions.
About three weeks from launch I was putting the finishing touches on the course and even had a few beta testers going through the program for pre-launch feedback. Then, Google came out with their penguin update.
The update forced me to reassess the validity of my course and I had to make the decision to put it on hold until I could test the new search engine environment. While creating new sites and testing various strategies to go along with them, Google came out with even more updates and that's when I decided to scrap the whole thing.
Although I was disappointed that months of work was all for nothing, I just simply cannot ask people to pay for a course that I'm not 100% confident in. Even today, after testing even more sites, the strategies I outlined and update do work, but only sometimes.
Sometimes isn't good enough.
Money was left on the table, yes, but that's okay. I'd much rather continue to build trust with my audience than try to earn a few (or a lot) of extra dollars from them up front.
Putting my audience's interest ahead of everything else has always been my best strategy and will continue to be.
My New Book
Mid-year, I started working on my first book, Be Everywhere. To say that it's been a challenge is a huge understatement—it's been a war!
I say that because I'm battling a two things that are delaying completion of this project: time and myself.
Time is a factor because in order to write this book, I need large chunks of time which I do not have anymore since the birth of my daughter in September. I was 20,000 words into the book and had planned to finish it before she was born, but she came a month early and I haven't added much to the book since.
It's been one of my biggest disappointments of the year, but family will always come first and I'd much rather invest time with my daughter now while she's young because she won't be young for long. I can always continue to write the book later, and I will starting early next year.
The other factor is myself. When I actually had time to write, it was always a constant battle of “this isn't good enough” and “it needs to be perfect”. Since this is my first book, I know those feelings are natural and I should follow my own advice and just write and forget about being perfect—but it's hard.
Bird by Bird [Amazon link. Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] has been a huge help, as well as the wonderful and inspiring Facebook community I formed around my first book (which is 3000 people strong now!), but still—this isn't like writing a blog post, which I've become very good at. It shouldn't feel any different, but it is.
I hope to plow through the book in 2013.
The lesson here: nothing great comes easy, and if it's a struggle to complete something it's something probably worth completing.
My Other New “Book”
This might sound really weird, especially after I just wrote about how I wasn't able to finish Be Everywhere yet, but I've recently started and completed the content for a second “book” already.
Okay—it's not exactly a book, but it's close. It's actually called a Snippet and it's a new publishing platform coming out early next year that combines a book and a blog to create short and enjoyable reading experiences. I was lucky enough to be contacted to be one of the first publishers to use the platform, and I have to say that I'm pretty excited!
Each chapter in a Snippet is a mandatory 1000 words or less, and it incorporates all types of multimedia, from high-quality images and slideshows, to audio files and video. There's also the ability for developers to create specialized apps for this platform, allowing snippets to possibly include things like polls, Twitter hashtag streams and much more, right inside the content itself.
I wrote my Snippet in a week last month. For those of you who saw I'm Fine, Thanks and wanted more about my story, you'll see more of it in the book.
Snippets are not yet available, but when they are you can be sure you'll hear from me about it!
Will this take off? Who knows, but when opportunities present themselves to you sometimes it's worth putting a little extra effort in to get things done.
My Purchased Website
At the beginning of the year I had planned to purchase a website, improve it and then see if I could turn it into a profitable addition to my passive income portfolio. A lot of you knew I purchased a website, however I never went into much detail about this project which I was hoping to share much like the niche site duel.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.
I did end up purchasing a website from Flippa.com, a golf website at http://www.beginnersgolftips.com.
I purchased the site for a total of $2750.00 (see auction page here), which was a gamble because the site had never been monetized before. That was my first mistake, although I was willing to take that risk.
The search engine traffic and keyword rankings were very attractive to me as it had been sitting in the top spots for some decently trafficked keywords for a very long period of time. It was showing similar numbers to that of my security guard training website, including cost-per-click in Adsense. Plus, I do golf myself so I could potentially create content on my own if I needed to, although the plan was to hire a golf writer to add content for me.
When I purchased the site, I was happy that the transaction went well. I hear horror stories of people getting scammed when transferring web property from one person to another. We used escrow.com to handle the payments to ensure that everything was legit.
After that, my first task was to convert it to a WordPress blog, which was an interesting experience. In order to do this and keep all of it's ranking and traffic I had to manually create a secondary site and make sure all of the articles and link structures were the same. I could have made my VA do it, but I wanted to see what the process was like.
It wasn't too difficult—it just took a long time because there were 60 articles on the site when I purchased it, all with links to deeper articles within the site that I had to make sure were still there when I flipped the switch to the new platform.
After the switch to WordPress (using the thesis theme ) I let the site sit for a month because I wanted to see if that affected the traffic one way or another, and it did. I actually started to see a slight increase, which was pretty cool. I was getting about 150-170 unique visitors a day. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
My next task was to keep everything and add Adsense on the site to monetize it. Immediately, the site started to make money—but not too much, only a few dollars a day.
I was able to move around the Adsense blocks and optimize the colors to the point where I was making up to $10.00 per day on Adsense. Remember, I did nothing to improve the site except move the site to WordPress, so $10/day is pretty good in my eyes, I could make up the cost of the site in less than a year at that rate.
Unfortunately, that didn't last too long. A few months later and failed attempts to hire a golf writer, Google came out with an algorithm update that cut the traffic by 66%. That update appeared to be the EMD or Exact Match Domain algorithm update.
The results of this update were a little weird though and hard for me to understand. The site still ranks #1 for it's primary keyword, beginner golf tips and #2 for golfing tips for beginners, but a lot of the terms that were more heavily searched for in Google that was driving traffic got hit, such as golf tips and golfing tips. Where I was at the bottom of the first page (and getting a lot of traffic), I was no longer within the first 100 results.
It probably didn't help that the content had not been updated for a couple of years, although it is evergreen content related to golf.
As such, you can see what happened to my traffic around that time (in late September). You can click to enlarge if you wish:
With less traffic coming to the site, less people were there to potentially click ads and my revenue went from $6-10 per day, to $2-3 per day.
Here are my income results since starting this experiment:
That's a total of $956.01.
The earnings are poor and it's going to take me much longer to make up the cost. Part of the reason for the poor performance is Google's algorithm update, but probably more so because I just haven't put very much time into the site, and I probably did overpay for it.
Buying websites is tough business, and I've learned that if I ever do this again I will do my homework better and actually make sure I have a plan to put more time into the site.
All that said, it's nice to finally share the results of what happened with you.
Things didn't go according to plan, once again, but it was definitely a learning experience.
Are You Ready for 2013?
These are just some of the major things that happened in 2012, amongst a number of other things, big and small—wins and fails.
The best thing that happened in 2012?
Easily, the birth of my daughter. She's reminded me, once again, about why I do what I do and what's most important to me in my life, and for her and my family, and for you who I consider family as well, I will continue to push forward in my business in and do everything that I can to help you reach your goals in 2013.
I have some major plans for SPI next year. In case you missed it, check out what's on deck by clicking here!
Thank you for an amazing 2012!
Happy New Year to you, be safe and here's to a profitable and healthy 2013!