Welcome to my September 2011 monthly report!
Every month I write a detailed report about my online businesses.
I do this not only to help me keep track of my progress, but also to show you what's working for me, and what's not.
In my monthly reports I always include an extremely detailed breakdown of the income I've earned online and I conclude with some of the more important things I've learned during the month.
I do this to motivate and to be transparent. Plus, I personally feel that if a person is publishing information about making money online he or she should show all sides of the equation so that the readers can make honest decisions based on honest information and common sense, not on hype.
As always, I don't consider myself a “guru” and I use my own experiences, experiments and case studies as my teaching tools, and that's usually what I write about.
I hope you enjoy this month's report 🙂
Important Goings-On in September
Most of September was dedicated to preparing myself for my first public speaking engagement. I really wanted to do well and knock it out of the park.
Public speaking is something I've always wanted to get into and I know that if I can master the craft my entire business will benefit because of it.
As a result of all of my preparation I didn't focus as much as usual on my online businesses, but that was a conscious decision I made.
I took my own advice and made sure to focus on one thing at a time.
My presentation was my number one priority and after going up on stage and doing my thing, I'm happy to say that all of the hard work definitely paid off.
One of the best parts about it was reading all of the tweets that people posted during the presentation:
And there are literally hundreds of tweets like this. It was such an amazing and humbling experience and I just wanted to once again thank the entire personal finance blogging community for their kindness and support, and also thank you, the SPI reader, for listening to me worry so much about it leading up to it.
Now it's time to shift gears and prepare for my presentation at Blog World Expo in November, which will be longer and more technical. But—now that I have my first presentation under my belt I probably won't stress as much.
I say that, but we'll see what really happens. 🙂
Interestingly enough, even though I focused less on my actual businesses my overall income continues to grow. The reality of passive income was not only apparent during the one day city-wide blackout that happened in the beginning of the month, but it was also illustrated during the month in whole.
I love the fact that I can take breaks or focus on other things (like public speaking) and my business can still run and function on its own.
Security Guard Training Headquarters
For those of you new to SPI, I recommend you check out The Niche Site Duel to see exactly how I built SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com from scratch.
The little work I did do on some of my income streams included experimenting with the Adsense ads on this niche site. With 400 to 600 uniques a day it's a perfect platform to run these types of tests on.
Back on March 2nd, I ran an experiment that dealt with where the ads were placed on the site. This resulted in a 139% increase in revenue, which over a long period of time can add up to huge amounts.
I had honed in on the proper placement of the ads, concluding that having a horizontal text link ad across the top and a large rectangle ad block justified to the right within the first paragraph of text in a post were the best for my site.
All sites react differently to how and where the Adsense ads are placed, and the best thing you can do it test, test, test!
This month, my experiment dealt with how the ads look.
I will write a more detailed post about this soon because I know it's something a lot of you are interested in, but changing the font, font size and font color of one ad block increased my click-through rate (for that one ad) from 2.87% to 5.02%.
This is why even though I had about 5000 less pageviews on the site in September vs. August (even though I still maintain the #1 ranking for security guard training), I was able to increase the income generated from this niche site from $1,498.39 to $1,585.50.
Ad optimization is extremely important, and like I said I'll write a more detailed post about exactly what I did in the near future.
Other Niche Sites and Ranking Changes
Many of you know that I also have other niche sites which are also bringing in an income each month through Adsense and affiliate earnings.
Please respect that I do keep these other niche sites private. I would love to reveal them but I've already learned from revealing the security guard niche site that there are people out there who will go into the exact same niche, create a site that looks very similar, and publish content that is 95% the same as mine.
Not cool, especially because I followed the rules and did the research to create the unique content on my own.
One of my niche sites, which was previously ranking at #3 for its target keyword. It had been at #3 for the past few months, until I saw a sudden drop in rankings a couple of weeks ago. It moved from #3 all the way down to #62.
From my previous experience, when something like this happens the best thing to do is to just keep going (as long as you're following the plan as you should). I did not tell my VA to stop and all I did was write 4 more articles (over 500 words each) and posted them on the site in 4 consecutive days. By the 5th day, I was back in the top 10 and now the site is sitting at #2 for the keyword, higher than it was before.
Apparently, there needs to be some sort of balance between the content published on the site and the backlinks pointing to it. As we all know, content plays a major role in search engine rankings now and a site that lacks content, or one that hasn't updated for a while, runs the risk of being “temporary penalized” if all of a sudden new backlinks are appearing out of nowhere.
Of course, this is all speculation based on my own experience, but to me this makes sense.
So, if your niche sites sees a sudden (and significant) drop in rankings, try adding a lot more unique content to your site. If you do that and are patient with it, you might climb back to where you were.
Smart Passive Income
The numbers for SPI just keep blowing my mind.
In September, SPI surpassed 4 million pageviews and 1.75 million visitors since its birth.
The number of subscribers surpassed 30,000 as well. I'm not sure if I'll reach my goal of 40k by the end of the year, but it should be close. My exposure at Blog World Expo should help with that.
Affiliate earnings keep growing too, and to know that this is happening without any active promotion in a month where all I did was essentially write more blog posts, is amazing.
SPI also flirted with the #1 spot in Google for “passive income,” surpassing Wikipedia every now and then throughout the entire month. This has only recently started happening ever since upgrading the website to the Thesis Theme.
Lastly, I also upgraded to a better CDN (content delivery network). I switched from Amazon CloudFront to MaxCDN.com, which increased the site's speed even more.
The page load time is now close to 3 seconds.
Okay, let's get to 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. (Click here to read a typical monthly expense report which breaks down where my time and money is spent)
Another incredible month, and my Bluehost earnings are just through the roof. I'm so thankful!
As I mention in all of my reports, I'll be the first to admit that significant percentage of my income comes directly from this blog, mostly from the products that I offer as an affiliate (about 15-20% of the income listed under “affiliate income” does not come from this blog). To be honest, it was never my primary intention to make money from this site. My primary intention was and will always be to help other people understand how businesses and blogs work on the internet, and for them to be better at it after reading, watching or listening to my material, which all comes from the wins and fails of my own real-life case studies and experiences without pushing or promising anything.
I know that I've created a wonderful resource here on SPI with a ton of free information about all kinds of things related to online business and blogging, and the fact that people are kind enough to offer me something in return—whether it's by going through an affiliate link, encouraging me to create a product of my own to sell, asking me for mentorship or advice, or even just thanking me for helping them earn more money online or get more traffic to their website, I am extremely grateful for and I will continue to give back with valuable content and my experience in return.
Things I Learned in September
In September, I was reminded about the importance of relationships. Online, there needs to be some level of trust between you and your readers before you can expect any type of transaction to happen—from clicking on a link to clicking on a buy now button.
If you haven't noticed, a lot of the articles I wrote in September were about the importance of building relationships:
- SPI Session #26: Two Types of Relationships You Must Develop Online in Order to Succeed
- How to Manage Relationships Online Like a Pro (for Free)
- R.A.O.K. Friday
- And you could even include part of my presentation from the Financial Blogger Conference
Content, design, SEO—those things are all important—but they should each be guided by the relationship you want to have with your readers.
Another thing I learned was just how much people appreciate transparency.
I hear it all the time here on the blog and via email, but a lot of people came up to me in person last week, shook my hand and just thanked me for being honest—which is weird because I ask myself: does that mean everyone else is being dishonest?
I guess in the industry I'm in, people don't necessarily “lie” (although some do, straight up), but most tend to “bend the truth”, and that scares me. Although I'm happy that being honest helps me stand out of the crowd, I wish everyone were transparent so that we could all feel safer about the decisions we make online.
Transparency is trending and you even see big brands using it as a marketing tool. Domino's Pizza, for example, has recently been producing commercials and YouTube videos that reveal customer testimonials about their pizza, including the bad ones, and then explaining that they have to do better.
I like it.
To finish up, I'm currently working on my first paid product for the SPI community and transparency will play a huge role in my approach and how it's marketed. It's not for everyone, but its in high demand and it's going to be awesome. 🙂
Thanks for all of your support, and here's to a happy, healthy and profitable October.
R.I.P. Steve Jobs