Holding Steady Going Into the Holidays
After several months of rollercoaster traffic, earnings, and (admittedly self-imposed) stress, it seems my affiliate site is finally behaving again. There were no big surprises in October, and I’m grateful! While that also meant no big jump in earnings either, I’m happy to coast through the end of 2021.
I also decided to get more granular about my 2x earnings goal tracking. Below is a table of calculations showing the percentage increase in revenue from 2020 to 2021.
Shifting my goal achievement mindset from a binary YES/NO to percentages was helpful. Even during the months when I didn’t double my income, there was still an average 77% increase this year. That’s pretty darn good!
Am I changing my overall goal? Nope. I still want to aim high.
2021 Goal: Double niche site income within 12 months.
If this trend holds through November and December, I might be able to earn $15K+ income in the next 60 days. (Knock on all the wood everywhere!)
Before we dig into this month’s activity in detail, check out my lifetime earnings chart.
This Month in a Nutshell
My affiliate site had its three-year anniversary this month! It’s hard to believe I built something from scratch that has gone on to generate $100K in such a short time. I hope this inspires you to keep going!
October was a normal 31-day month, so I was fairly confident I would cross $6,000 in earnings again. Traffic was fairly consistent, and Amazon and ad income was respectable. Plus, I had an uptick in earnings for my own products thanks to a couple beta users signing up to test my course.
Amazon earnings held steady from September, which was a big relief. If Amazon hadn’t slashed commission rates in April 2021, I would have already exceeded my goals every single month. Ugh.
As I chatted about with Doug on our September vlog update, my expectations keep increasing along with my earnings and traffic. It’s easy to find yourself feeling disappointed (like not having 12 months straight of revenue growth) even though your overall performance is 75% – 224% better than a year ago.
That’s why these reports are so important. Any time I start feeling low, I’m able to look back and realize just how amazing the journey has been!
This Month: $6,322.99
Though October earnings didn’t blow September out of the water, by any means, the consistency was comforting. It seems like we’re finally through the major ups and downs of summer and evening back out.
October was my third highest earning month of 2021.
If we zoom in on October revenue, you’ll see that Mediavine ads averaged $102/day. Though that’s down from $109/day in September, I remember the joy of hitting my first $100/day in ad earnings. Being about to achieve that every day, all month long, has proven the value of ads as a revenue stream.
Amazon earnings were within $10 of September’s figures, so I’m happy with that. I’m still hoping holiday spending will spike in November and December, though who knows with all the supply chain disruptions still happening.
In order to meet my 2x income goal, I need the site to consistently earn $250/day. In October, I averaged $204/day—down from $206/day in September.
(Fun Fact: This month, the site’s entire earnings went into a bucket for my big fun purchase—see September’s update for details about that. When all my “must pay” expenses are met, I feel less guilty doing something nice for myself!)
This Month: 117,747
Traffic is such a baffling statistic for me. After this summer’s reporting debacle, I feel like I can’t really trust any of the numbers I see in Google Analytics. I’m sure that’s an overreaction, but I’ve definitely put less weight into tracking visitors than I used to.
As long as earnings are solid, I’m trying not to sweat traffic fluctuations.
I’d love to see another traffic spike that sustains, as I have at other points in the site’s history. But, right now things seem to have plateaued.
When I look back on the site’s lifetime traffic, things are still clearly moving in the right direction.
Remember: May and June traffic was underreported due to a Google Analytics error.
This Month: $1,872.86
For October, I invested the most in content for my “holiday sprint” and prepaying another block of development time. A few systems and plugin renewals also came through this month.
I’ve currently put $20,577 into the site during 2021. That’s more than $5K more than I wanted to spend.
That said, I’m trying to reframe how I think about it. If I handed someone $20K—and they handed me $70K in return—I’d be thrilled. That’s what my site has done this year.
Here’s where my funds went in October:
- $36.07 | Wireless iPhone mic for video
- $120 | Flywheel monthly hosting
- $25 | Nonprofit donations for our diversity program
- $50 | Gift card for a friend who wrote a product review
- $119 | Teachable Pro subscription
- $82.50 | Admin support
- $60 | Calconic annual renewal
- $228 | Opinion Stage annual renewal
- $222.29 | Bluehost email hosting annual renewal
- $500 | Prepaid 5 developer hours
- $430 | Holiday sprint article copywriting
Since I started my site in October, that’s when a lot of my annual systems renewals come through. That accounted for $500 of spend this month.
Activities & Accomplishments
I always like to begin this section with a recap of my plans for 2021. The grand plan went off the rails this summer when I had all my technical issues (and expenses), so there’s no way I’ll regain that ground now.
Instead, I’m focusing on the “must have” items for this year. I can create a new plan for 2022 with anything I wasn’t able to get to.
So, what did I end up focusing on most in October?
Focus Area: Holiday Content Sprint
Thanks to using one of my long-term writers, the holiday content sprint has been going very smoothly. We were able to knock out eight articles this month, and I’m hoping Google will like them!
The holiday sprint includes 25 articles focused on buyer’s intent that *should* be able to rank in time for the 2021 retail season.
We’re on track to complete the list in early November. Though that’s a month behind schedule, I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about it. Better late than never.
Focus Area: Online Course Prep
In October, we finished prep work for the first online course launch. We also rethought the price point and decided to do $99 for a two-week launch special before raising it to $149.
We had three beta testers follow through, so now we have glowing reviews for the sales page!
The second course is also underway, but (surprise) delayed. We were supposed to film a dozen video clips in October, but the author’s child got sick. Those things happen, but it’s turned out to be one delay after another whenever I’ve tried to get a subject matter expert to create course content. Lesson learned!
Focus Area: First Physical Product
One of my writers was able to knock out some additional copy for this project, and the illustrator is now working on the final designs. Progress is slow, but at least there’s forward movement.
The next step will be researching manufacturers and quoting production costs.
I have no idea if this will end up being a good idea or a total waste of time and money. But, the people I’ve talked to about it in my niche love the concept. Hopefully folks will end up buying it!
Focus Area: National Brand Collaboration
As I mentioned in September, a national clothing brand reached out about collaborating. Conversations evolved to the point where I landed a side project doing some copywriting for them. I worked really hard on it and finally turned in my world at the end of October.
Good news: They loved it! In fact, they asked if I’m interested in helping do marketing for two of their sisters brands.
Meanwhile, I have a batch of clothes to review on my site—and more on the way. Win-win!
- Holiday Sprint: We’re fast approaching 470 articles on the site, thanks to the recent holiday sprint and outreach efforts. I’m glad I put so much effort into finding good writers and developing those relationships early. This whole process is easy to manage and pleasant to run.
- Course Beta Testing: We were able to get three influencers to try the course at 50% off, and they all provided great testimonials we can use going forward. I was surprised we didn’t get more of the folks we asked, but several said they didn’t want to spend money (but would have reviewed it for free access). Others simply didn’t have time.
- Email List Building: My Mailerlite list is now above 3,700 subscribers, and I’m hoping that leads to a strong course launch. Email will be the primary sales strategy, and we have a drip campaign ready to go on November 8.
- Outreach: I love how much engagement we get from manual outreach, specifically for our inclusivity program. We receive new articles and photos every month, and the site visually reflects the diversity of our audience now.
- Opinion Stage: This is a platform that lets you create online polls and quizzes, then embed them on your site. I made 7-10 quizzes in the past, then promptly stopped thinking about them. Only when my account came up for renewal did I bother looking at my stats in the tool. My top performing quiz has had more than 3,000 entries! So I decided to add the tool’s lead gathering feature to get email addresses for my list before serving up the results.
What’s Not Working
- Knowledge Directory: No surprise…still not working. I only made $2.20 from this source in October. Ugh.
- 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.
- Home Page Ads: I *thought* I turned on home page ads at the start of October, but something was broken and none of the ads tracked in Mediavine. They found some hidden code they had to remove (???), and it’s fixed now. Still, it’s a bummer to have missed a full month of impressions from that page when I thought it was working.
On the Horizon
By the time you read my next update, I’ll know how our first course launch went. At this point, I don’t even have an educated guess on the number of sales or revenue—but I’d be happy if the launch covers the money I’ve put into the course so far.
I’m also planning to finish the video and written content for our second course in November.
Here’s what else I plan to focus on next month:
- Launching our first course!
- Getting 10-20 affiliates for our first course
- Prepping quarterly course promotion sprints
- Finishing the holiday content sprint (25 articles)
- Wrapping up content for our second course
- Completing copy and core illustrations for our physical product
If historic trends continue, I should see an uptick in revenue in November—then a more sizable bump in December. I’m trying to keep expectations low, in case supply chains wreck havoc on online sales. Next month should give me a good idea of how the holidays will perform though.
I’ve really enjoyed sharing my journey with you this year, and I hope you’ve found it useful!
Now, I’m off to do my holiday revenue dance…
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