Welcome to my May 2016 Monthly Income Report here on SPI!
As always, each month I publish a detailed report sharing the ins and outs of my online businesses, including everything from the lessons learned to the money earned. If you’d like to read all of my previous income reports (which have been published monthly since October 2008), check out the income report archive page.
We’ve got a few things to cover, so let’s get right into it.
Important Goings-On in May
A common question I get from those who have been following my online journey for a while is this:
What happened to FoodTruckr?
For those of you who are new here, FoodTruckr.com is a niche site I created publicly here on the blog three years ago for something called The Niche Site Duel. Over the course of about a year, in several blog posts, I revealed every step I took along the way to build and monetize the site.
This was actually the second time I challenged myself with a niche site duel. The first time was in 2010 when I documented how SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com, my first niche site, got its start. That one was a real duel (excluding the swords!) where I went head-to-head against another person. It was a ton of fun. And still, six years later (and three years since I’ve last updated it) it continues to earn a passive income!
Over the past year, I’ve taken a break from developing FoodTruckr.com. After two product launches, I asked the team to stop managing the site and I moved my energy elsewhere, mainly to making the experience here on SPI better for you via the recent website redesign, a better email list experience, and much more.
That being said, FoodTruckr continues to grow despite not adding any more content over the past year:
With an average of 40,000 unique visitors per month and over 75,000 page views, there are definitely loads of folks finding value from the site, and I’m still seeing income coming in from book sales too—about $1,000 per month.
So, where is all this new traffic coming from?
Seventy-four percent is coming directly from organic search.
This is awesome!
We spent a lot of time and effort to put great content on the site, sometimes putting in many hours of research into individual articles, and it’s definitely paying off. Even without fresh articles over the past year, because of its evergreen content, the site continues to grow through natural organic search, and the additional sharing and exposure (on social media, for instance) that comes along with it.
More interesting, however, is this data from my Google Search Console that covers how many impressions certain keywords get, and how many people click-through to FoodTruckr from those keywords:
For some keywords, like how to start a food truck, the click-through rate is relatively high at 17.13 percent, while others have a lot of impressions but an incredibly low click-through rate, like food truck for sale at 2.3 percent.
Coincidentally, food truck for sale was the first “seed” keyword I discovered back in 2013 during my research that led me to learning more about the underserved community of food truck owners and my push to create an extensive and helpful resource for the industry. There is obviously a lot of potential here with this website and brand, especially when you consider that the food truck industry is still growing strong.
Also, consider the fact that starting a food truck business isn’t cheap. Some people spend over half a million dollars to start a food truck company!
And this is why I’m really excited about this announcement: FoodTruckr is coming back to life.
In May, a company that I had a relationship with through FoodTruckr reached out to me to see how the site was doing and if they could contribute in any way. One thing led to another, and we’re now going to be working together as partners on FoodTruckr.com.
Legal documents are still being created at this very moment, so I’ll wait to announce exactly who I’m working with, but I decided to share 50 percent of FoodTruckr with this company in exchange for adding a whole team of people who will work on consistent content creation, product development, and more business opportunities. In others words, they are fulfilling the role of what I would probably have done a long time ago had I not had other projects to pull me away from it.
FoodTruckr will be a new entity all on its own, and the goals are to (well, at first) increase profitability. With the assets and resources that this new company is bringing to the table, this partnership couldn’t be any more perfect, and we’ve already started adding new content to the site and re-engaging FoodTruckr’s social media followers.
The books will continue to sell under the brand, but they will become a small part of the overall strategy, which includes referral arrangements with other partners such as insurance companies, lenders, food truck builders, equipment companies for things like point-of-sale (POS) systems and other “inside the food truck” related equipment, and of course more educational material, and potentially some physical goods too.
Since it’s already the top place on the web to get online information for starting and running a food truck business, with the right strategy in place, and these connections all working together, it’ll definitely help to generate more income and make even more of an impact on this growing industry.
I’ll definitely keep you posted on the progression of the site, but I hope you’re excited to see more life coming from FoodTruckr. I know some of you thought it was a failure, and to me it never was. It has generated thousands of dollars in sales, has helped a whole lot of people get started on the road to food truck success, and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.
My Trip to Utah!
Speaking of food, I took a trip to Utah mid-month to perform the opening keynote for a first-time conference called Everything Food Conference, a conference for food bloggers who want to grow their business.
To be honest, I didn’t even know it was the first time this conference was held, because from my very first contact with the directors, Kami and Sabrina, everything was super professional and very well done. It wasn’t until day two that I learned it was their inaugural event.
I didn’t know what to expect from a food blogging conference. My only real experience with food bloggers was my interview with Lindsay and Bjork from PinchofYum.com in SPI Podcast Session #148. It was actually comforting to know they were going to be there—at least I knew somebody!
The food, of course, was amazing. But beyond that, I met so many fans of SPI while I was there, I felt like I was right at home! Plus, their community of bloggers are so friendly and tight with each other, it really did feel like I was invited into a family gathering—something I hadn’t really felt at a conference since the first FINCON in 2011 when I had my first speaking gig ever.
I was the opening keynote on the evening of May 19, and I was stoked because it was brand new material that I developed just for them. As much as I stress over creating new content for presentations (because it’s much easier to tweak an existing one), I LOVE to get creative and try new things and see how the audience reacts.
I started off light-hearted by sharing some titles for the presentation that I had thought were appropriate for a food blogging conference:
Corny, I know (see what I did there), but if you can start your presentations with a laugh from the audience and poke a little fun at yourself at the same time, you’ve got their attention and they will be engaged for much longer.
Plus, I wanted to share those slides with you since they are definitely a “one time use” kind of thing. I did, of course, share a lot of useful and actionable content during the presentation, and I had some amazing compliments afterward too, which was super nice. That always makes the trip worth it, because I typically don’t like to be away from home too much. I always miss my family, so that’s why I try to go above and beyond with the work that takes me away from home. It makes it worth it.
One compliment in particular made me really happy. It was from a husband of one of the attendees who said he just joined his wife to keep her company and expected to be bored out of his mind. He said that, after my presentation, he was reinvigorated, motivated, and excited to potentially start blogging on his own! He also said that he was excited for the rest of the conference and learning more from me later on. He said it helped him understand why his wife was there.
I love that compliment. I’ll never forget it.
The rest of the conference was awesome, and I had some time to explore Salt Lake City, even on a city bike, where I got to admire amazing architecture and scenic views around Temple Square.
My Trip to Bluehost Headquarters
Since I was in Utah, I decided to plan a trip to Bluehost HQ, which was about forty-five minutes away from my hotel in Salt Lake City.
Bluehost is a hosting company—the first one I had ever used. SmartPassiveIncome.com has outgrown Bluehost, but many of my other niche sites still live on a Bluehost hosting platform, and I’ve always had a great experience with them, which is why I recommend them as a web hosting solution for those who are just starting out. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
I wasn’t going to only take a tour though, although when I did I was completely blown away by how massive this company is, and the infrastructure that’s all involved.
Their data servers are located away from the main offices in a remote area of town in a super secure building with MASSIVE back-up generators and a ton of hardware. They have this very unique cooling system for the servers that uses different rooms (hot rooms and cold rooms) depending on which way the boxes are facing. A lot of the hardware stuff was over my head, that’s for sure, but I was amazed from it all as I walked by literally millions and millions of websites.
Like I said, I wasn’t going only for the tour, and as much as I loved meeting the team (they are all super cool!), I really had come into Bluehost HQ with some concern, and I spoke directly to the CEO of the company to talk about these things. We were together for about four hours.
You see, I’ve noticed over the past a year, a consistently increasing uptick in the number of complaints I’ve had from recommending Bluehost to my audience, and the terrible customer service experience people have been having. I still get the same number of “OMG they are the best,” comments and many people have an amazing customer experience with them like I’ve had in the past, but the complaints have been coming in more frequently, which is cause for alarm.
Before, there were hardly any issues. Things that had happened in the past, like power outages and what not (I think this was back in 2012, there was a bad one that affected a lot of people), those one-off things have been taken care of and systems are in place to make sure they don’t happen again. I saw first-hand during my tour how multiple large generators can keep sites up even in a power outage, and the redundancies put in place to make sure data doesn’t ever get lost.
But a consistently increasing number of complaints really had me worried, and I knew that if this continued on for much longer, that I could no longer recommend Bluehost to my audience. This would be a huge blow to my income as it’s the number one affiliate that I promote, but I know that if I end up recommending a product to you that fails, I’ll eventually get to a point of failure too.
The CEO, James Grierson, cleared his entire afternoon to invite me into his office and hear me out. It was very comforting to know that he wanted to hear everything I wanted to say. I brought up my concerns with Bluehost customer service, and was quite honest with him about how I couldn’t continue to promote the company if that wasn’t going to be fixed. I even shared a couple emails I received from the SPI audience who had a poor customer experience.
I learned through our chat that he knows there’s an issue and admits fault in some of the systems. I never felt that he was defensive, and I was excited to learn that changes have already been happening to fix the problem.
I also learned that James has only recently come on board as the CEO. When he came on board, the company had been very focused on releasing new products and increasing sales, and through that effort, a lot of the customer service aspects of the business were not given as much attention as they probably needed. This perfectly aligns with the Bluehost experiences I’ve heard many of you share over the past year.
The great news is that James is very clear in his goal of putting more focus back on customer service now, which made me really happy. He even let me look over his shoulder at some of the things that will be rolled out soon within the company to mitigate the issues.
Some of it relates to the employees and how they are trained and situated within the office, and other parts are more tech related and making processes easier for customers to understand and execute, so there are less inquires needed.
Overall, it was a fantastic meeting. James is an amazing CEO and very much aligns with what my goals are too, which is to help as many people as possible. It’s a tough job, especially with a large company with a lot of people who have to be involved in certain decision-making aspects of the business, but I’m seeing improvements in the right direction now, and, as such, I’m still 100 percent confident in my recommendation for Bluehost as a hosting company for those just starting out.
I know I may have lost a few followers here and there because of poor experiences some may have had, but I pay careful attention to the noise all of you make when something isn’t the way it should be, and thank you, seriously, for bringing all of this to my attention. It helps to make improvements, and I’m happy to be here as an ambassador to relay any information I can to those who can make change happen like this.
To James and the Bluehost team, thanks for your hospitality, your time and attention, and for doing what you need to do to put customers first again.
Note for Bluehost users: If you are up on Bluehost and need customer service help, I learned that the best channels are via phone first, and then their @BlueHost Twitter account. Chat is still helpful most of the time, but you’re no longer speaking to someone in the office at that point. Pick up the phone and call for the best and quickest help from inside their actual office.
Phew, what a month! Okay, let’s check out the numbers.
Full Disclosure: Some of the items in the list below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase through that link, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Note: Items with an empty difference percentage were not present on the previous month's income report.
Lessons Learned in May
After my trip to Utah, I made a quick stop in Denver to attend Social Media Shenanigans, an event that Joel Comm puts together for social media fanatics in that area. Denver was gorgeous, and I met up to have lunch with one of my best friends, Greg Hickman from System.ly. We also played a little ping pong before the event, just because.
The event was a lot of fun. Super casual and a lot of friendly meet and greets. Plus there was also a nice Facebook LIVE stream setup Joel had put together which featured some interviews that were happening throughout the night for his audience.
Then, at 8:00 p.m., it happened: I was asked to come up to the stage and speak for about ten to fifteen minutes.
I was the featured guest at this event, but I didn’t realize I was going to get up on stage to speak. When I got the invite to go up, of course I had to go, but I was nervous because I had nothing prepared.
You might be surprised by this, but I still get super nervous before I get up on stage to speak. Even in Utah at the Everything Food Blogger conference, I still had sweaty palms and lost my breath a little bit twenty to thirty minutes before it was my time to talk.
Getting nervous used to bother me, especially back when I first started speaking on stage, because I thought it was a sign that I wasn’t prepared, or wasn’t confident in what I was doing. Maybe that was the case at first, but now that I’ve received formal training and have spoken dozens of times, the nervousness still continues to follow me around. It’s just less scary now.
Even with a lot of preparation, sometimes for months, I still get nervous, but I now see it as a sign that the thing that’s making me nervous is something that I actually care about. Typically, once I’m up there the nerves go away and, since I’ve prepared so much, I’m in the zone and in the flow with my presentation and slides.
But this time, there was no preparation. No slides, no outline, no time. Nothing. There were about 100 people there just waiting to hear me say something. What was I going to speak about? I didn’t know.
The nerves kicked in per usual, but they were definitely elevated. I think Greg saw me getting nervous since he was standing right next to me while Joel was introducing me. But, when I was called up on stage and I started talking, I felt more natural than I had ever felt on stage before—and this without ANY preparation!
I told a story about when I first heard about Joel, and how that inspired me to create an app company of my own back in early 2009. From there, I spoke about the fear I had when I first started podcasting, and then how every time I look back on what I’ve accomplished, I always seem to surprise myself, which led to an honest look at how I have always shot too low, and how I’m trying really hard to aim higher and go bigger. And finally, I touched on how just by being me I’ve been able to stand out of the crowded space of online business, and how we should all put a little bit more of ourselves into what we’re doing, because making sales, gaining a following, and becoming an authority is all about that human to human interaction now, even in the online space.
Random and unplanned jokes produced a few laughs here and there, and it even ended with me beatboxing (like I do on my podcast) and another person in the audience rapping over my beat. It was awesome.
Even that night in my hotel room, after the event was over and I was ready to go back home to my family, I reflected on just how comfortable and natural I felt on stage, and how much I’ve grown since 2011 when I first started speaking in public. I’m still going to get nervous before I get in front of a crowd, but my confidence and belief in my own skills to deliver a message that matters, to make it entertaining, and memorable has finally been realized.
The big lesson here is that in order to grow, you have to put yourself out there. You have to get uncomfortable and do it often, and although that nervousness may never go away, the confidence in your skills to own that stage, whatever stage you happen to be on (blog, podcast, a real stage in person), will become stronger and stronger over time.
Keep getting uncomfortable, because that’s where awesome starts to happen.
Cheers, thanks for reading this report, and here’s to another month of trial, error, and success.