Starting From Scratch – One Year Update

This post may contain affiliate links so I earn a commission. Please read my disclosure for more info.

This is part of the ongoing case study called “Starting From Scratch: Going from $0 – $2,000 per month. You can catch up from the beginning right here. My buddy, Jim, started his online journey in February, 2016, about a year ago, and this is the one year check point.
Jim talks about:
  • Three main things that he’s focusing on
  • What worked well
  • What didn’t work
  • His FBA business

He has seen growth in the last three months—more traffic and more revenue. We actually had a working session at the coffee shop last week and I gave him some advice about adding a call-to-action (CTA) to his affiliate articles earlier (i.e. Tell the user to check out the product on Amazon). Little tweaks like that can make a BIG difference and only takes two minutes to do.

Check out my new Facebook Group called Niche Framework. (opens in FB) It’s free to join! The focus is Amazon Affiliate Sites, Internet and Affiliate Marketing, and SEO.

Over to Jim…

One Year in Internet Marketing and Niche Sites

So, one year on and where am I?

Let’s look at the revenue for 2017:

And the traffic from Google Analytics and the WP Jetpack Plugin through the first week of April.

The traffic continues to rise and April was the highest traffic month so far.

I’m still out there writing, doing outreach, hiring writers, editing, and doing all the stuff that we all know that comes with running your own site— I’m just doing it smarter than when I first started.

When I first got in this whole world it was on the verge of being overwhelming, but really it all boils down to three things.

If you do these things then you can and will build a site that’s earning you an income.  It’s not complicated, it’s not scary, it’s just work.

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard to listen to my own advice, I fall short of doing them as often or as consistently as I should but the roadmap is right there and the more you work at them the better off you’ll be.

My site has been seeing a lot more traffic as I’ve reached the 1-year mark.  The site is aging out, I’ve gotten more content posted and ranking, and I’m seeing a good conversion rate and all this adds up to what I’m hoping will be a great summer season.


The one lesson that I’ve really learned about picking a niche is either find one with no seasonality or choose one that you can incorporate some aspects during the whole year.  After realizing that I was going to suffer from low traffic during the off months I realigned, repositioned my site to take on a broader scope and now my site is ready for every month of the year.

Ok, so I won’t drag out the three things anymore (I hate when articles do that, it’s like “JUST TELL ME ALREADY!)

Sure, these three things can be broken up into smaller pieces and we could sit here all day doing deep dive after deep dive looking at the finer points of these things but at the end of the day they’re not hard and can make all the difference for the future of your site.

  1. The Keyword Golden Ratio
  2. The Art of Outreach
  3. The Hustle

The Keyword Golden Ratio

So you think you’ve got a good niche? Great, how many good keywords that fit into the KGR category?

Seriously, this is really big asset to have in your back pocket.  After a year I know how to find good keywords and quickly (even if the G word is doing everything they can to hinder our research).

I’ve currently got around 350 longtail keywords that I can grab when I need. If you don’t have good, competitive content then you don’t have a successful site, period.

I will admit that one of my most frequently visited posts supposedly has 0 LMS (reported by a keyword plugin), and there’s only so much you can do to find good data but there are options out there and you’ve got to be working towards building an arsenal of keywords.

The Art of Outreach

So you might have great keywords and who knows, you might even be able to rank them with very little link building.

Let’s be honest though are you just going sit back and say “Welp, I guess I’m done here!”?

No, you’re going to want to exhaust all possible avenues of growing your site so it becomes a massive success.

If you’ve read any of Doug’s posts you know that’s he’s all about breaking down these massive goals into digestible pieces, like the post where he’s gotten 45 guest posts for Project Go White Hat.

Do 5 blog comments a day for 30 days, it’s that easy and at the month’s end you’ve got 150 blog comments out there and possible relationships for guest posts that you can use to grow your site.

Here are the results of the ongoing effort.

Anchor Text Ratio from Majestic


The Link Types & Breakdown from Majesticblank

The Summary from Ahrefsblank

The Referring Domains from Ahrefs


The Hustle

Plain and simple.  Your site is a direct reflection of the work you put into it.

Doug said it really well to me once:

“If you want site to be doing what it did last year then you don’t have to do anything.”

(Forgive me Doug, I know I paraphrased that a bit.) But the idea remains the same, build on a strong foundation and you’re going to set yourself up for a strong future.

If you just sit on what you’ve accomplished then that’s where you’re going to stay.

It’s all work but when you check your affiliate account in the morning and see sales that rolled in when you were out playing it’s a pretty great feeling.

Speaking of last year I guess I’m shy of where I wanted to be monetarily but I’m where I should be for my effort thus far.  I really thought going into this that it would take some time but nothing can really prepare you for the journey of starting this kind of thing.

I thought it would take a year to get to $2,000 a month, it’s looking like it’ll be closer to 1.5 years.  I’m seeing the fruits of my labor pay off (and some site age helps too).

April has been good so far with yesterday being the highest traffic to the site yet and also the best day of the month in terms of sales.

Ok, enough of me on a soapbox.

Where’s my site at and how’s it doing?

March saw the most traffic yet at just shy of 4k visitors and I’m coming into the strong season in a couple months so this summer should see a big boost in traffic.

What I really need to focus on is getting more content up.  I’ve been running pretty low bids through Upwork and just the other day I decided to up my budget to try and capture some better writers and really ramp up content production.

Aside from more content I need to be better at doing my guest post outreach, like content it’s not sexy and it feels like work… ugh.

What Went Well

Early work pays off, constant work pays dividends.

I try to set aside some time every day for simple tasks like blog commenting, keyword research and others and by doing so the cumulative effect of the work really adds up.

Guest post outreach was slower than it should have been but I’ve seen good response rates on the outreach that has happened.

I’ve gotten a couple author accounts and that’s always a win in my book.

The second site I launched I’ve largely ignored (ok, completely) but it’s still making sales and doing okay in the rankings.

What Didn’t Go Well

Winter was hard just because traffic went way down and I had to readjust on the fly.  My effort started to wane as I started down the road of FBA and got wrapped up in that for a bit.

Really I can’t be too disappointed with how things have gone.  Outcome is a measure of effort and I feel that my site is reflecting my effort pretty accurately.

Aside from February being a little wild with big sales April is on track to be my best month yet.

Future Goals

My goal is to get 3-4 dialed in writers who can start providing content and then start building out the rest of my team.

If you saw Doug’s recent post regarding Agile methodology then you can see how this can really optimize and streamline your business helping you reduce inefficiencies.

Really my goal for the next three months would be those three magic things up above:

  1. Content
  2. Guest posts
  3. Hustle to build out a kickass team

For more concrete figures I’d like to have 30-40 pieces of content written and published (I’ve got the keywords I just to get them written), I would really like to have 20 guest posts up (that’s a lot and it scares the hell out of me), and I would like to have a team of around 6 individuals who can help me tackle these goals.

My second site is still sitting on the back burner.  I’m seeing too much progress and potential out of the first site to spread myself too thin again.

I don’t have an exact moment of saying “Okay, now it’s time to work on the other site and let my first site rest.” but it’s not soon.  Perhaps this fall will give me a chance to crank out some more content for that see where it goes.


As I mentioned, I started down the road of FBA in early January with a friend and now business partner.  Things are progressing nicely and we’ve seen some great traction.

Really we could dedicate a whole other post for my musing and ramblings but here’s a 10,000 foot flyby.

January was slow, but we were just starting.  We started with 2 products and we were just learning the game.

Through February and March we’ve added another 6 products but we’re getting ready to divest ourselves of the first two. Just too much competition and our money and effort is going to be better spent elsewhere.

March was great in terms of sales volume but we financed a lot of it with PPC and other ad spend.

We sold just over $18k but really didn’t make much.

Luckily my partner is quite savvy with the numbers and our other products are much more profitable so know it’s just down to finding more products and keep ‘em launching.

And Get to Work

That’s really all for now.  I know what I need to do, just need to keep grinding and do what needs getting done.

Now I just need to HUSTLE!

Thanks, Jim!

It’s Doug again. It good to hear the one year update, and it is a roller coaster.

Jim has learned a TON in the last year, and he’s really an expert in SEO at this point. He could technically have clients and help them with their SEO. He could build websites for small businesses. He could be a social media manager, and so on…and that’s one of the great things about niche sites.

You learn skills that you can use elsewhere. Highly marketable skills.

I’ll say straight up that FOCUS is key. And I believe that if Jim & his partner didn’t get into the FBA business, that Jim would be at $2,000 per month right now. Case in point: my friend and student Dave Fox. Dave focused solely on one site for 12+ months and was able to hit $2,000 a month in a similar time frame of one year.

Is that easy? No way! Dave busted his butt on his site, but I don’t think he worked harder than Jim by any means. It’s just a matter of focused effort over time. That’s the hardest part, and I struggle with it every day, too.

What do you think?

Leave a comment and tell us:

  1. What do you think of Jim’s accomplishments at the ONE Year mark?
  2. What advice do you have?

About the Author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

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This makes their service perfect for both beginners wondering where to start, through to experienced portfolio owners looking to scale their operations

They also offer ‘done for you’ site builds and link building services.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thanks for the update, keeps the people who signed up for Dougs class motivated. With the new articles with better writers how many words are you looking to have them at?

    How many total articles do you have on the site right now.

    Thanks Jared

    • Jim

      Hey Jared-
      I pay $18/1,200 words with an additional $3 for every 500 words they go over that limit, seems to work out well. I was paying less but the quality just wasn’t there.
      So far on the site I’ve 77 articles posted.

      • Jim that’s not a bad price for a little
        Bit higher quality. I’m paying between $11-$12 per 1000 words. 2 are really good 1 is ok, but not bad. Hopefully I hit around 50 articles and Dougs class can help me with the traffic!!!

        • Brian

          Wow. That is cheap. Ive had impossible time to get writers to pick up my job on textbroker…which is $25 per 1000words and I have excellent job posting description but noone takes it.. I stayed away from upwork because of the hassle of weeding thru bad writers.

    • Thanks for checking it out! cheers

  • I have been wondering if having like 500 blog comments can harm a site’s ranking now that Jim uses it to boost sales.

    • I’m not sure what you mean exactly…do you mean just having a lot of blog comments? Or can you explain you concern more?

  • Buddy

    I continue to read & try to practice the keyword golden ratio. I’d like to get some more insight or see what may be missing in this process.

    1. Searching allintitle operator: Do you have a tool that will accurately bulk check allintitle search terms? Or are you searching these terms one by one?
    2. How long does it take for you to get a decent number of KGR words when performing this process for a site?
    3. Accurate search volumes: When keyword research is done, I’ve noticed huge variances of search volume results between various tools. Specifically search volumes between SEMRUSH data & Keywords Everywhere data. Is there a baseline set of tools use you use calculate this KGR?
    a. Also, what do you do if there’s these large variances in search volume result data between tools? How can you trust the numbers?
    4. Finding Enough KGR words: I hear you continue to say, once you get the hang of it, you’ll find lots of KGR words. What’s the key part of the process that helps you “get the hang of it”? It just seems like it literally takes forever.
    a. The problem I find is: A competitors keyword with search volume under 250 within a niche, most likely will not be KGR compliant – especially a 2 or 3 word phrase keyword – given multiple competitors within the same niche as one factor.
    b. Are you adding something to your original keyword or choosing the AutoSuggested keyword “After” your base original selection?
    5. Groupings: Do you select a group of related KGR keywords for one page? Or is it just 1 KGR keyword for the page for creating & optimizing the page?

    • Buddy, that’s quite a set of questions!

      1. I search one by one. I don’t know of a current tool that does it in bulk and that’s part of why it works. It’s hard.

      2. I found about 50 new KWs in about 2 hrs the other day. Your mileage may vary.

      3. I used keyword keg and keywords everywhere a lot and SEM rush in this last week. So I use either of those tools, and the point is it gives you a good idea of the volume even if it varies. The tool isn’t really your limiting factor.

      3a. I just don’t worry about the variance. I know what you’re getting at, and I hate the answer I’m about to give you… the results pan out for me in the form of rankings and revenue.

      4. Getting the hang of it is probably a function of spending time searching and finding them. Hmm…that’s not a super helpful answer. Look at the Google related searches on the SERPS those are a good place to start.

      4a. Looks for search phrases that are 4-5+words long…I never target anything with 2-3 words. Maybe that’s your issue.

      4b. It depends, and I probably do add words here and there, but I don’t have specific rules for that.

      5. One KGR per page.

      • Dean

        Hi Doug,
        If I understand you rightly…you can easily bulk check allintitle search terms with Scrapebox. I export keyword prospects from Semrush then run them through Scrapebox using the free Google Competition Finder plugin.

        • Hey Dean,
          ah, good call Dean. I didn’t think about that and I’m not a Scrapebox user.
          In reality, finding KGR keywords isn’t the limiting factor for me…it’s the content and building the team.

  • Lahcen

    Thanks for sharing this experience. Would like you simply the language 😉

    • Thanks for checking it out. I’m not sure what you’re asking there- simplify the language?

  • Hi Doug,

    I like what you said about focus at the end. I got into FBA and it can be very distracting and draining mentally. Definitely money to be made but it has limited my sites growth.

  • andhy

    Hi Jim, really love your journey.
    you must have worked really hard.
    I think, with 77 articles (1200 words or more each), your visitors are quite low.
    IMO, you have to focus on SEO for now. Getting content is quite easy, you can do it later. Maybe spend some of your content budget for more SEO ?

    Just imo btw… you have done great. I believe you will reach your goal soon.