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Giving Thanks & Gaining Momentum
Across my 2021 monthly blog check-ins, I’ve talked about setting big goals—without taking baby steps for granted. Oftentimes progress feels slow (like when I had to pour thousands into fixing technical issues this summer). As I approach the end of the year, though, it’s pretty clear that all the work that has gone into the site is *very* worth it.
I’ve achieved 90% year-over-year income growth on the site, and a decent December *should* make doubling my revenue a reality!
November was a particularly busy month in my non-affiliate-site life. I had several trips out of town, and it was tough to make as much progress on things like the holiday sprint as I’d hoped.
But, thanks to the nature of how these sites work, it continued to earn whether I was spending time on it or not.
That’s true freedom.
And, at the end of November, the site had raked in an all-time high of $9,145.80. Suddenly, my big goal feels reachable.
2021 Goal: Double niche site income within 12 months.
In a month focused on gratitude, I admit to feeling a bit emotional about the journey I’ve been on. When I was making $14 per month, then $17, the results I’m seeing now felt completely unrealistic. But, I built a foundation—and invested a lot of time and money—to create a site capable of scaling. That work is paying off now, big time.
Before we dig into this month’s activity in detail, check out my lifetime earnings chart.
This Month in a Nutshell
Full transparency, I had no idea what to expect in November. Not only would most of my holiday content sprint articles be live, my first course was set to launch. I couldn’t even make an educated guess at revenue for the month.
On one hand, Black Friday and Cyber Monday both land in November. Historically, that’s made this month the second highest (surpassed only by December) for my site. On the other hand, it’s a 30-day month in which most people spend portions traveling and with family instead of shopping online.
My first course (((finally))) launched, and 12 people bought it at the introductory rate of $99. Though not a wildly overwhelming response, that did send $1,200 directly to the bottom line.
This Month: $9,145.80
In November of 2020, my site earned $3,800. At the time, that seemed like a huge win. In fact, until February of this year, that was consistently my monthly revenue. Reaching $9,000 in a single month a year later wasn’t even on my radar.
November was my highest earning month of all time—up 138% year over year.
If we zoom in on November revenue, Mediavine ads and Amazon Affiliate earnings were virtually equal. My Etsy affiliate income saw a huge comparative jump from $38.10 to $231.68—a result I attribute largely to several gift-related articles from our holiday content sprint that highlighted Etsy products.
The other number that clearly stands out is earnings from my own products. This is due to a two-week promotional email and social sprint for the course launch.
In order to meet my 2x income goal, I need the site to consistently earn $250/day. In October, I averaged $303/day—up from $204/day in October.
(Fun Fact: This month, the site’s entire earnings went into a bucket for my anticipated 2022 content sprint. Plus, I used earnings from October to make my big fun purchase!)
This Month: 116,514
A lot of affiliate marketers watch traffic daily, if not hourly or minute-by-minute. I’m not one of those people. If you’ve been following along with my journey this year, you know I never check earnings until halfway through each month. I allow myself to spot-check traffic before that, if I get curious, but that’s usually just a few times per week.
There are better places for my time than anxiously refreshing Google Analytics traffic reports.
As you can see from the chart below, traffic was fairly steady throughout November. I get a bit nervous when it dips below 4,000 visitors per day, but those valleys were offset by a handful of days that topped 5,000 visitors.
When I look back on the site’s lifetime traffic, it seems to have plateaued in the last half of 2021—but quite a bit higher than years past.
Remember: May and June traffic was underreported due to a Google Analytics error.
This Month: $716
I invested the most in content for my “holiday sprint” admin support like inputting new WordPress blogs. Monthly systems expenses feel fairly high these days due to my upgraded Flywheel hosting and Teachable subscription.
Currently, I’ve put $20,977.40 into the site during 2021. That’s nearly $6K more than I originally wanted to spend.
Here’s where my funds went in November:
- $120 | Flywheel monthly hosting
- $119 | Teachable Pro subscription
- $250 | Holiday sprint article copywriting
- $125 | Admin support
- $77 | LinkWhisper annual renewal
Activities & Accomplishments
I always like to begin this section with a recap of my plans for 2021. Though I wasn’t able to get to everything on my list, I’m not beating myself up about it. Things happen (like technical issues), and you have to be flexible.
I had to refocus on the “must have” items for the Fall/Winter. That meant the Holiday Content Sprint and launching one course.
So, what did I end up focusing on most in November?
Focus Area: Holiday Content Sprint
All but two of my holiday sprint articles are complete and published. The goal was to focus on SEO-driven keywords that will be relatively quick to rank for on Google.
The holiday sprint includes 25 articles on topics with buyer’s intent.
As mentioned earlier, I’m already seeing traction on our new Etsy-focused gift posts. With any luck, this batch of content will help drive a big boost in December revenue compared to last year.
Focus Area: Online Course Launch
After months of delays, I finally launched my first online course. In consultation with my team, we decided to offer a two-week introductory price of $99 during the last half of November. On December 1, the cost increases to $149.
This month, we had 12 course sales for a total of $1,188.
Looking at the numbers, I invested $2,764 to create the course (e.g. content, admin, systems). After our 12 launch sales and 3 Beta tester purchases, I need to sell an additional $1,341 (~9 sales) to break even.
Note: Teachable charges me $119/month just to keep the course live. So that’s 1 additional sale per month needed to cover that expense.
- Holiday Sprint: There are now 475 articles on the site, including posts from our Holiday Sprint. Given the revenue spike across all income channels this month, I feel confident saying my SEO and content strategy is working.
- Course Launch: While I don’t have a concrete definition of success for the course launch, I would say an extra $1,000+ in revenue has to go in the “win” column. Our plan is to do a variety of evergreen promotions each month, as well as a dedicated quarterly promotion and price special.
- Affiliate Income Model: During a busy month in my personal and professional pursuits, I’m once again reminded how important the “passive income” model is to my life. Getting to this point was anything but passive. Now that I’m here, though, the site continues to work for me—whether I’m spending much time on it or not.
What’s Not Working
- Knowledge Directory: I’m leaving this one on the “not working” list until I figure out what (if anything) to do with it. This month saw slightly higher sales from this source ($19.30), but not enough for me to call it a victory.
- Paid Guides: These still aren’t big money makers, and I haven’t sold any of the newest guide I put together. I might try swapping out the site-wide ad to showcase a guide and see if that picks sales up.
- Expanded Table of Contents: For longer articles, I often include a table of contents. Previously, the panel was expanded by default. After chatting with my ad platform support team, I changed the default position to condensed. They said readers were likely taking shortcuts versus scrolling through more of the article. That decreased impressions and ad revenue. Now that’s fixed!
On the Horizon
In December, I’ll finish up the last couple articles in our Holiday Content Sprint and pivot to 2022 planning.
Here’s what else I plan to focus on next month:
- Prepare our second course for a January launch.
- Create video clips for our second course.
- Get 10-20 affiliates for our first course.
- Prep Q1 course promotion sprint.
- Wrap up holiday content sprint (3 articles).
Adjusting for fewer anticipated course sales, historical data suggests that December revenue *might* top $10,000. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure what will happen. Even if the site doesn’t hit that milestone, I’m heading into 2022 with renewed gratitude, hope, and excitement!