Growth Trifecta Case Study (March 2022)

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I’m not sure how Q1 is already over, but it is! Though I’m still not seeing the earnings I’d hoped for (especially from Amazon), this month did tick up enough to lift my spirits.

Not only did ad revenue show a marked improvement over January and February, we completed a quarterly promotion for my online course — a strategy that helped boost revenue for the first quarter.

Read on to learn how I’m working through my 2022 Growth Trifecta Plan. It combines a big content sprint, improving existing articles, and boosting revenue from my own products.

Let’s get into it!

The Site in a Nutshell

Whether you’ve been following along since the beginning, or are new to this case study, here are some key stats for my site.

march earnings update

Earnings

  • This Month: $5,766.10
  • This Year: $15,073.65
  • Lifetime: $138,375.07

Traffic

  • This Month: 102,868
  • This Year: 306,947
  • Lifetime: 2,430,409

Expenses

  • This Month: $6,647.49
  • This Year: $11,517.06
  • Lifetime: $48,271.06

March Updates

Where did I spend my time (and money) for March? Let’s take a look.

(Ongoing) Affiliate Programs & Ads

In addition to the three-phase growth plan activities, I keep a close eye on affiliate and ad earnings, my primary income drivers.

January and February saw lower earnings across Amazon and ad income streams, but I was hopeful that March would rebound. Typically, March is the best month of Q1 for ads (per Mediavine’s guide below).

mediavine

Though both Amazon and ad revenue were up from last month ($765 total increase), the combo was still down more than $800 from March one year ago.

Ad revenue was equal to this time last year, which meant all $800 of the year-over-year loss was in Amazon earnings. After achieving my goal of doubling overall site revenue in 2021, I’m baffled why Amazon is down 26%. It’s the first time I’ve seen a loss in that income stream year-over-year. Stagnant ad income year-over-year for March is concerning too.

Focus Area: New Content

The main growth strategy for this year is new content generation (i.e. publishing new articles). My original 2022 goal was to tackle the following:

  • 400 new articles published by the end of June (48 published so far)
  • 25 guest posts published this year (2 published so far)
  • 50 new articles published for Q3 holiday sprint

If things continue at the current pace, we’ll publish 168 new articles by the end of June — 42% of what I’d planned.

In order to complete 400 articles by the end of June, we would have to publish 117 posts per month going forward. That seems highly unlikely at this point. If we continue at the same pace of 50 posts/month, we’d finish 400 new articles in October.

I’m not sure whether to change my quantity goal — or my timing goal — but something’s got to give. I plan to chat about that with Doug during our monthly coaching call.

Publishing content faster gives articles longer to “bake” on Google and still make an impact during 2022. Then again, if we can’t find enough writers to hit that goal (or if it would make life miserable to try), perhaps it’s not worth dying on that hill.

One other option is to aim for 350 new posts + 50 Q3 holiday sprint posts for a total of 400 this year (vs. 450). What do you think I should do? Comment below!

Content Manager Update

Thought traffic and earnings are still giving me heartburn (and don’t get me started on expenses!), one thing that’s going super smoothly is my Content Manager. You guys, I love her.

It brings me so much comfort knowing projects are progressing without me, especially during weeks when my other job or travel ramp up.

She’s hired 10 writers so far, handles all the outlines, does a first pass at reviewing content, sources imagery, and (thankfully) manages ME! I don’t have to worry about holding up the process because she tells me exactly when I need to hop in and pay writers or get drafts reviewed and published.

efficiency

Growth requires NOT doing everything yourself. (Source: Canva)

Plus, she says this work is way more fun than her full-time job! When I feel anxiety rising about how drastically I underestimated the number of hours/budget this role would require, I still feel good about putting money in the pocket of a hardworking woman and providing professional fulfillment.

Speaking of underestimating time, she’s already worked 80 hours ($4,000) across February and March. I only estimated needing 100…total.

That’ll be another item to discuss during my coaching call with Doug. That money has to come from somewhere, so either I need to increase my overall investment (which is hard to justify with lower earnings) or cut back on the number of new articles.

Content Quality Update

If you’ve followed my journey for the past few years, it won’t surprise you that I’m struggling a bit with outsourced content quality. Most of it has been very good, so that’s a blessing!

Sometimes when I go to review and publish a new article, though, I wish it was… better. 

worried

When you have to force yourself not to rewrite everything… (Source: Canva)

Doug’s voice is in my head telling me that “done is better than perfect,” so I’m trying not to let it bug me. When you give up control over the writing, and you don’t have an endless budget, you have to accept that content quality may not be as high.

The flip side is knowing I’d never have been able to get 50 new articles done already if I was doing them all myself.

My Content Manager has also recommended boosting two of our best writers from $50 to $60/article. I want to reward good work, and retain good writers, so that’s a budget tradeoff I’m willing to make.

kudos

Writer feedback – warm fuzzy alert!

Focus Area: Existing Content

After your site has been around a few years, you’ll probably find yourself in my position — lots of content, but most of your revenue and traffic is generated by a small subset.

That’s why one of my growth tactics for 2022 is improving existing content.

My goal is to put 100 existing articles through a consistent improvement process this year. 

As a reminder, my approach will look something like this:

  1. Add 3-5 new FAQs to each post (source from “People Also Ask” in Google).
  2. Refresh (or tighten up) the article introduction and/or product review content.
  3. Add more images to boost overall ad revenue and keep people on each page longer.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to get to this at all in March. Hosting family for two weeks put a seriously damper on my productivity, and I have to accept that I won’t always be able to get deep work done. This was one of those times.

hosting

Human and canine houseguests make it hard to work…

Focus Area: Selling Products

My first course launched in Q4, and there were 12 sales ($1,200).

For our Q1 promotion this year, we made 6 sales ($600). 

That certainly helped bulk up earnings for March, until I remember that I’m paying $120/month just to keep Teachable running. So the first 15 sales each year go to pay for the course platform 🙁

I’m going to look at the Teachable plans again and see if we can downgrade. Paying this much for our current sales simply isn’t smart.

I’m also promoting one of my digital guides on a side-wide ad, and there were 7 sales in March. We’ve also added several emails to our drip sequence.

The email list grew by 240 people in March, bringing the total to 4,465 subscribers.

At this rate, we could cross 5,000 subscribers in May. Growing the list is critical if I want to meet my goal of 10% revenue generation from my own products this year. Currently, I’m at 4.8% for 2022.

Other Activities

What else was I up to this month?

  • Acquisition Site Content Transition: We finished cleaning up the 65 priority articles, and a team member is inputting them into WordPress this month. For the other 100 articles, I asked my developer to find a way to mass-export/import the content and create redirects for each post. Unfortunately, he said since I manually added some of them already he can’t do it “the easy way” on the other 100. I don’t know what that means yet…
  • Other Income Streams: In February, I chatted with Doug about putting together a little media kit for sponsored site ads, emails, and posts. This is something I started outlining in March and hope to finish in the next couple weeks (between other projects). I’m also considering offering Knowledge Directory creators an inexpensive paid email option to promote their courses and share more about themselves with our audience.

Parting Thoughts

Heading into Q2, I’m honestly not sure what to expect. The numbers aren’t making much sense to me, especially after all the revenue growth I saw in 2021. Maybe that progress was washed away by a Google update, lost rankings on a couple articles, or seasonality.

Whatever the reason, I saw expenses outweigh earnings this month — and it gives me pause.

Without a jump in traffic from new content *soon,* I’ll need to rethinking whether pouring money into the site at this level makes good financial sense or not. On the upside, I love my Content Manager, the new content creation process is working well, and I’m trying to remember this is the exact type of work that got me where I am today!

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