It’s been almost a year since I made the decision to start Niche Site Duel 2.0 and add another niche site to my portfolio, which eventually became FoodTruckr.com.
The blog, targeted toward existing and future food truck owners and operators, went live about 6 months ago. A lot of time was spent beforehand conducting niche research and viability.
Since then, the site has been chugging along and going just as expected – somewhat slowly.
The approach this time around (which differs from my first niche site built the security guard training niche), is focused on getting to know the target audience, building a community, and creating high-quality well-researched content for them. This is similar to what happened with Smart Passive Income, which took about a year and a half to two years before any significant growth and monetization happened.
That’s not to say that the content on SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com isn’t on-point. It is (and a lot of research and phone calls went into that site’s content as well), but someone looking for information about how to become a security guard wants it quickly and then moves on, and plus I was using techniques to rank the site that have a much lower success rate now than they did back in 2010-11.
Today, I’m excited because in this post I’ll be giving you a snapshot of where FoodTruckr stands now, including traffic stats, something that didn’t go as expected (in the bad kind of way), and also monetization – which includes the first earnings from the site!
Here we go…
The word is getting around about FoodTruckr. As a result of reaching out and making connections to a number of different food trucks and organizations, traffic seems to be on the rise.
Here are the traffic numbers since the start of the year (unique visitors):
- January: 9,426 visitors
- February: 10,606 visitors
- March: 13,561 visitors
Since I made the decision to reveal the URL of the site (so it would be more interesting to you and you can follow along) a number of you in the audience have checked out the site yourself, and so the numbers do reflect that, but what’s more important than the numbers is the increased exposure and feedback from those in the food truck community.
In FoodTruckr School Podcast #11, I interviewed a food truck owner from Fort Wayne Indiana who said he was a big fan of the show and the website, and listens to every episode when it comes out.
I’ve noticed several trickles of traffic coming in from multiple forums and blogs where FoodTruckr is getting name dropped, including some major features like this one below:
I also received several emails from other service providers in the industry who want to collaborate and be listed on the resource page, and one email in particular came from the casting director of a food truck reality show on the Food Network.
More on that in a later post…I’m still waiting to hear back from them.
But a key lesson here is this: even though I don’t own a food truck myself, and the writer/researcher that’s working with me to help create content doesn’t own a food truck either, we’re still able to provide huge value to this community. FoodTruckr is slowly becoming an authority in this space due to the branding, content, and the obvious urge to add value and help this underserved community.
The content itself is largely based off of simply listening to what current and future food truck owners have questions about.
As Marcus Sheridan would say: “They ask, you answer.”
If the answer is unknown, it will become known.
Rankings and Keyword Report
Here’s a table of the latest rankings for target keywords for the site:
Rankings have climbed high over the past 2-3 months, which is fantastic, although how to start a food truck and start a food truck were at one point #2 in Google and have slipped a little.
No forced backlinking has been done on my end, unlike what I did for Niche Site Duel 1.0.
In NSD1.0, I wrote and submitted articles to article directories and I created new blogs and web 2.0 sites that linked back to my main site. Although those techniques are not completely dead and still work for some today, they don’t work nearly as well as they used to, and I wanted to take the safer, longer term approach with FoodTruckr for this case study.
Sadly, since revealing the URL here on SPI, there’s been an attempt by someone (or many someones) externally to affect the site with negative SEO. Negative SEO is when there’s an attempt to de-rank your site and ruin its authority by sending several (often hundreds or thousands) of bad links with irrelevant or red-flag triggering anchor text.
What’s the most popular anchor text right now for FoodTruckr?
It’s a male-enhancing pill that starts with the letter V. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Here’s what Google Webmaster tool tells me:
Yes, someone is creating links to the site that use THAT as the anchor text, and it’s overwhelmingly the most used anchor text linking to the site, besides the domain name.
How much, you ask?
Scum, don’t you have anything better to do? Apparently not.
Despite the attempt at negative SEO, all is well. I’m disavowing, and I’m still ranking high and getting a ton of traffic from Google for keywords that I want to be found by.
*sticks out tongue*
Here’s a chart of the search inquiries FoodTruckr is being found with (from Jan 15 to April 15) – click to enlarge:
That blue line.
I love that blue line.
The blue line charts the number of impressions FoodTruckr is getting on search engines. Anytime the homepage or an internal page shows up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) it counts as 1 impression. Clicking through is another story, and that’s based on a number of things including search intent, copy and exact rank – but you can see those numbers in the above chart as well.
As you can see, food truck business plan is the top keyword that provides the most traffic to the site.
Interestingly enough, the most popular article still is our very first one: 50 Food Truck Owners Speak Out: What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Food Truck.
It’s a great read, you should check it out.
And if you do, you’ll notice how by simply reaching out to your target audience and spotlighting them a bit can give you a TON of information for what the major pain points and issues are for your audience, and what articles and/or products you could create to help solve those problems in the future.
A while back, I had mentioned that I wanted to create an industry-wide survey as a way to:
- Collect data from our target audience that would be useful for FoodTruckr.com, other food truck owners and vendors in the industry.
- Build authority by making FoodTruckr.com the home for this (potentially) annual survey.
So, a survey was created!
Then, it turned into a nightmare of a thing to execute.
Surveymonkey was used to help create the survey, and the questions were largely based off of other survey’s researched in other industries. After creating the survey and tackling all of the topics and data points necessary to be useful, it came out to one that was about 75 questions long.
That’s a lot of questions right there.
There was the option to break it up into several smaller surveys, but that opens up a whole new can of worms, including having to keep asking the same people to take the survey.
I decided to go with the long survey, because I figured if someone was all for the purpose behind it they would go through the entire thing. If they were going to answer 30 questions, they would be likely to keep going.
I also wanted to giveaway something as incentive to take the survey, so I got legal help to help me figure out what the stipulations of giving away a prize to a random survey taker would be. I contacted a few vendors in the industry who were willing to throw into the prize bag, which was awesome.
Well, after further investigation, it was apparent that this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought it was going to be. There are a TON of different legal issues that come along with giving away a prize like this.
What I was trying to do would be classified as an illegal lottery in most states, with potential fines and even criminal prosecution in certain states.
When you charge an entry fee and then give away a prize at random, that’s a classic lotto.
But…what entry fee? I’m not charging anything to take this survey.
Well, here’s the scoop. Most of us think of an entry fee as money, like when a person goes into a convenience store and pays a few bucks for a lotto ticket. However, the actual definition of the phrase in most states is much broader and includes the providing of information.
Since a participant would have to provide information in the form of survey answers before they are eligible for the grand prize, the process could be interpreted as running afoul of the entry fee provision.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself: “Well, everyone does this, and they don’t get in trouble!”
But, a ton of people speed on the freeway and break the law, but they don’t get in trouble either. That doesn’t mean it’s legal, and the fines for running an illegal lottery are much higher than those you could get from a speeding ticket.
Then I asked, what if we gave something small away to everyone who completed the survey.
It turns out this is better, however it was brought to my attention that something like this could get way out of hand. For example, what if 100,000 people took this survey, could I possibly fulfill all of those giveaways?
Are the giveaways given to those who complete the survey, or just start it – and how do we know if a person is legit and someone from the industry?
That’s when I had the idea to have food truck owners require to put in their EIN (employer identification number), which was a terrible idea because that’s like asking for people’s social security numbers.
Eventually, we ended up using a SurveyMonkey feature to create individual links for the survey that could only be accessed by only one person, and those links were sent individually to the food truck owners I’ve previously contacted and had chats with. The survey was also capped at 100 respondents, just in case.
So far, we’re close to 25 legitimate responses. The responses are fantastic, but there’s more work to do in order to get to 100, which was the goal. Then, we’d have some real data and analytics that I feel would be useful. 25 is too small of a sample to get real data from.
On our way, but boy – that was a mess. Wouldn’t know if we didn’t try though!
Monetization and FoodTruckr’s First Earnings
A couple of weeks ago, my team members flew to my hometown of San Diego to help plan the next 6 to 12 months of the Smart Passive Income Brand so we could get clear direction on what was happening next and who was doing what. We usually meet over a Google Hangout every two weeks, but with what I have in store for SPI later this year, I felt we needed to all be in the same room.
This is the first time I ever did anything like this, but the experience was invaluable. I haven’t been working with this team for even a year yet (I hired them to help me tackle the more ambitious projects I’m working on that I cannot do on my own), and although they aren’t working for me full-time or even part-time (they are contracted out on a per-project basis and work hourly), to have everyone in the same room focus just on SPI and what is coming ahead, it was awesome.
We spent a couple of hours focused on FoodTruckr and coming up with a plan for monetizing it. We each grabbed a stack of post-in notes and started coming up with ideas on our own, and then categorized them, as you can see below:
As you can see, we came up with a lot of ideas! They are categorized based on:
- Software Solutions
- Digital Information Products
- Services and Audits
- Affiliate Marketing and Advertising
Our next task from here was to figure out what we could possibly execute within 1 month (if possible), 3 months, 6 months and 12 months.
Within the shorter time frame, things like advertising on the site and on the podcast were the most realistic.
I’m most excited about the 3 month time frame, because in a couple of months a major series of posts that are being published on the blog, our How to Start a Food Truck Series, will be finished.
Like I did with the free information on GreenExamAcademy.com, and like Darren Rowse from ProBlogger did with his 30-post series How to Build a Better Blog in 30 Days, that content will be packaged into a nice eBook, along with additional things like checklists and bonus material, and sold on the site.
Emails from readers are already coming in about how useful and straightforward that content is, and a few have mentioned they would be willing to pay for that type of information. This is exactly what happened with GreenExamAcademy.com, so I’m very excited about this.
Within the 6 month time frame there are things like website and social media services or software, city-specific how to start a food truck guides, and even a course on adding a catering business to your food truck (which is how a lot of them survive the winter months).
Beyond that, there are offerings like branding audits and overhauls, marketing plans and even a conference was an idea one person had, which is crazy – but not too far-fetched when you think about it.
Overall, it was a great session and gave me a lot to think about in terms of what’s next for FoodTruckr. A lot of you thought I haven’t been paying much attention to this project. Well, I hope this shows you otherwise 🙂
It’s just a much slower process, like I said before. There are no overnight successes, and this is an obvious example of that.
FoodTruckr’s First Earnings!
Two days ago (on Sunday), I decided to experiment by adding Adsense onto FoodTruckr.
Because it’s quick and sometimes can do really well, like it does on SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com and also on GreenExamAcademy.com when I first started monetizing it before selling my own products and later taking Adsense out.
It can also do very not so well. I tried it here on SPI a number of years ago. The ads were shameful, made the site look dirty and were never clicked on.
I can’t imagine Adsense being on the site for long-term, especially with all of the offerings that will come in the future, but for now, I thought it would be interesting just to see what happens.
I chose to add only two ads:
- A 300×250 rectangular block on our most popular post; and
- a square 250×250 ad in the sidebar.
I could have gone crazy and put ads everywhere, but I don’t want to ruin the look and feel of the site, and again, this was just a test.
So how’d it go?
Well, I’m happy to say that after a day, FoodTruckr earned it’s first dollar!
$3.12 to be exact.
That’s obviously not a huge amount, and the click-through rate is under 1% – but it’s still an income, and I still feel great about it! Over the course of a year, this would amount to about $700.
I remember my first Adsense earnings on GreenExamAcademy.com. It earned $1.18 on the first day, and it felt amazing! Seriously amazing, because that’s when I knew it was possible and it kept me moving forward. Then, when I launched my eBook, things started to take off, as you can read in my very first income report.
This may seem like a joke to many of you, but to me, it’s not. I’m very happy with these few dollars because we all have to start somewhere, and each site has to start somewhere too.
I’m excited to see what lies ahead for FoodTruckr. It’s got a long way to go, but the trajectory is positive and I can’t wait to share more when things start to unfold.
I hope you enjoyed this report!