My 11-Point Blogging Game Plan for 2020

Ushering in the year 2020

Podcast version:

It’s time to put down the chocolates, turn off the Christmas movies, toss the Christmas tree into the chipper, pay off the dreaded credit cards and get back to work.  I love vacations but equally enjoy getting back to growing my online publishing business.

While I managed to almost entirely avoid work from Dec. 24/19 to Jan. 2/20, I did set out some revenue goals for each niche site while my kids enjoyed one of many Christmas movies.  It’s one of those fun tasks I started in 2019.  I’m an optimist at heart so my goals are almost beyond the realm of possibility.  If I hit them next year, it’ll almost qualify as a Christmas miracle.

Please note: this post refers to various niche sites I own by numbers (Sites 1 to 7).  These are consistently featured in my income reports. You can learn about each niche site here.

My 2020 Revenue Goals

I like setting LOFTY goals where I need to hit on all cylinders in order to reach them.  Here’s what I think is possible with my niche sites toward the end of 2020 (a good month such as November).

  • Site 1: $65,000/mo.
  • Site 2:  $8,000/mo.
  • Site 3: $6,000/mo.
  • Site 4:  $10,000/mo.
  • Site 5:  $150/mo.
  • Site 6:  $3,000/mo.
  • Site 7:  $100/mo.


Please note that the above goals are lofty.  Possible? Yes, but still a stretch.

Here’s my game plan for hitting the above goals:

1. Diversification is the name of the game (I hope)

After my biggest niche site (Site 1) suffered a 15%+/- traffic haircut in November 2019 I resolved to diversify which means investing more time and money in a few other niche sites I own.

I’m not bailing on Site 1.  I believe the traffic loss can be overcome in the long run.  It’s not a penalty but instead was on the wrong end of a Google algo update.  All sites a susceptible to this.  If you stick around long enough, you’ll enjoy being on the wrong end of an algo update at some point.

However, it did force me to realize that perhaps putting the lion’s share of my resources and time in one site may not be the most prudent business strategy.  In fact, investing more in my other niche sites may be my best opportunity for 2020.

My niche sites 3, 4 and 6 are particularly primed to grow and I have game plans for all 3. If one of those sites takes off over the course of the year, I’ll be happy (it’s a numbers game). If I were a betting man, I think site 4 is going to be the champ.

PLEASE NOTE, I don’t recommend adding more sites until you have a site that earns enough where you can comfortably outsource much of the work.  Stretching yourself too thin is a recipe for getting nowhere. You’re better off having one site earning $4K per month than 5 sites earning $200 each per month.  As for when you should add another site, that depends on many factors, but at the very least you should have the first site operating smoothly without requiring too much of your time.

2. Launch podcasts for my niche sites

I recently launched a podcast for niche site 1 and it’s slowly building steam. It still has a minuscule audience, but I think there’s significant audience growth along with very good potential for sponsored advertising revenue. I don’t expect to be in a position to sell sponsored ads for at least one to two years, but I think it’s worth the upfront expense and effort. Fortunately, I’m able to outsource this for $50 per episode (short 15-minute episodes). I’m publishing about one episode per day.

If sites 4 & 6 grow, I’ll hire podcasters for them as well since both are in niches where I think podcasts is a good medium.

As an aside, podcasts are ridiculously easy and relatively inexpensive to produce. I learned this launching the Fatstacks podcast. I realize my episodes aren’t all that polished and could use editing, but that’ll come. I’m a big believer in just getting stuff out there and if it works, then make it better. This will be my MO for any niche site podcasts I launch.

3. Delegate more

Because I wish to diversify, I’m focusing on delegating more work across all sites. I’m going to focus on tasks/content/traffic that can be more easily delegated.   I’ll still oversee every site weekly, but I want to minimize how much time each site requires of my time. This is the only way to expand.

4. Invest in fewer, but better articles

Generally, my better quality content ranks best.  Yes, there are definitely many exceptions to this rule, but my longest ranking, higher traffic articles are higher quality.

This will cost more per article so I’ll probably publish fewer articles in 2020 than I did in 2019.

Currently, I have two in-house writers, one of whom is local so I can get products in his hands for penning the reviews etc.  I’m also ordering most content these days from WriterAccess (paying $.06 USD per word).

Over the last few months, I’ve discovered many new article concepts to deploy across my niche sites based on what’s working for my sites as well as others in the verticals.  I’m spending more per word for better research and more engaging writing.

5. Invest in some buyer intent content

No, I’m not bailing on my crank n’ bank strategy.  Instead, I’m complementing it with what I hope will be more lucrative buyer intent content.  I want to leverage existing site authority to rank for affiliate content on two niche sites.

For example, recently I hired a local in-house writer for a niche site. I’m handing him products for niche site 6 that he’ll use, test, review and compare. This is a big gamble because it’s a very competitive niche but if I can gain a foothold, it could be a big success. I give this effort a 50/50 chance. The key is the comparison articles (i.e. vs.) since they are lower competition. I’m not yet sure whether affiliate or ads will be the better monetization strategy (I don’t have enough traffic yet to determine this).

As an aside, I hired him from Craigslist. I had many good applicants. This guy used to be the editor of a small-town newspaper. He knows writing and publishing. He’s also an aspiring photographer so I’ll get very good photos for the reviews as well. If you publish product reviews, consider hiring locally.

6. Target low competition keywords (aka publish lots of content)

I’ve been doing this effectively for years and plan to continue with this strategy. I love this strategy.  it’s what I call my Crank n’ Bank content strategy.

While I’m investing in hopefully more lucrative buyer intent content, I’m continuing to publish plenty of content that targets low competition keywords for fast rankings and revenue.

The more I do this work, the more keywords I discover… a never-ending number of options which is great.

That said, I do expect to publish fewer articles in 2020 than I did in 2019 focusing on quality over quantity.  I’ll probably end up spending more on content in 2020 than I did in 2019.  I’d rather profits go into my business than pay taxes on them.

7. 2020 Traffic focus

I’ll be focusing on attracting organic search traffic for all niche sites by mostly targeting low competition keywords (the same thing I’ve done for a few years).  I’ll attempt to bolster revenue with some buyer intent content but this won’t be a huge focus.

Similarly, I have no plans to intensify SEO efforts other than to improve content.  In other words, I don’t plan to start aggressive link building or any of that.  I’m staying the course by focusing on solid, evergreen content.

I don’t anticipate social media traffic to improve over 2019, which was pretty low compared to search.  Accordingly, my social media efforts will be minimal. I’ll rely on automating it as much as possible with MeetEdgar and Tailwind.

That said, I’m investing in some op-ed style content in an effort to grow a direct audience for niche site 1.  While I believe there’s merit to this, I doubt it’ll come anywhere close to the traffic generated by search engines.

8. Monetization in 2020

Display ad revenue gets better and better each year.  Ad networks come out with better ads.  Companies invest more and more into online advertising.  Ad rates, at least in my experience, continue to improve.

However, we’ve been in a spectacular bull stock market for several years, thanks in part to ridiculously low interest rates.   Corporate profits are high.  Borrowing is at astronomical levels by households and corporations, which funds advertising and of course consumer spending.

These good times could slow if the debt problem implodes in 2020.  It’s possible inflation gets out of control which would put the brakes on borrowing which would reduce corporate profits which would reduce advertising.

Okay, enough of the economics talks. It’s starting to sound like a doomsayer finance blog around here.  My point is that display ad rates have been fantastic the last few years but it’s probably due in part to many economic factors that could change at any time.

At the end of the day, I expect that the lion’s share of my online publishing revenue will be from display ads.  While I’m investing in buyer intent content with anticipation that affiliate revenue will grow, I suspect my ad revenue will grow faster and form the bulk of my revenue.  I’m okay with that.  My diversification plan revolves around growing more sites, and is less focused on diversifying monetization streams.

9. Pay more attention to website security

Recently a niche site of mine was infiltrated where a spam admin user was created that was used to insert spam outbound links in multiple articles.  This sucks.  After discussing the matter with Kinsta (my hosting platform), it was likely a result of me not updating WordPress and plugins as quickly as I should have.  I’ve been rather lax about security over the years, which is something I need to change.

I’m looking into security plugins and perhaps hiring a service to do all updates as needed.  When you publish multiple sites, updating them all is a real drag.

10. Expand my ecommerce venture

In 2019 I teamed up with a partner to launch a white label product we sell on Amazon.  It’s up and running slowly gaining steam.  It’s a highly niche product so the potential for this one product is limited, but we have plans to launch a full suite of similar products.

My involvement is promotion leveraging my niche site traffic to generate sales, which in turn help boost performance on Amazon.  I’m not big on partnerships, but this is proving to be one of those real win/win situations where we each bring something unique to the table that will contribute to it being a success.  I’ll leave it at that for now cause it’s still early days, but if this is a hit, I’ll blog more about white labeling products and selling them on Amazon.

11. Be prepared to pivot

The above 10 game plan points are well and good, but one thing I always keep in mind is that online publishing evolves quickly.  Things change all the time and so it’s important to be prepared to adjust strategies if necessary.  For example, maybe some new awesome social media channel explodes that offers good traffic opportunities similar to Facebook pages circa. 2013.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?  I’ll be keeping my eye out for sure but am not expecting such a windfall.  Hope for the best, expect the worst.  How’s that for optimism?

Did I create a detailed business plan?

No. I’m not much of planner.  The most planning I do is setting out article topics into clusters, order them, publish them and interlink them.  I do have spreadsheets for each site tracking content and financials, but that’s about it.  I don’t like wasting too much time on planning. I prefer to get stuff done.  I’m also a bit of a gut instinct operator instead of adhering to some detailed blueprint.

What about Fat Stacks?

I don’t discuss Fat Stacks as a business much.  I publish Fat Stacks as a business blog providing insights into online publishing focusing on my niche sites.

However, in case you’re wondering, I plan to launch more deep dive courses, participate daily on the Fat Stacks private forum, podcast frequently and publish blog posts weekly (at a minimum).  Basically, it’s going to be about the same around here in 2020 as it was in 2019 except for more podcasts.

What about videos?  I’m on the fence about video.  I don’t like making them.  They’re a ton of work.  I can do three podcasts in the time it takes to make a video and it seems the podcast is a lot more popular than vids.  Moreover, podcast ads earn far more per 1,000 listeners than vids.  Maybe this is shortsighted.  I may have a change of heart, but at the end of the day, I prefer doing what I like around here than what I should.


1 thought on “My 11-Point Blogging Game Plan for 2020”

  1. Hi Jon,

    Thanks for the article. Your site suffered 15%. My site suffered at least 40%. It’s especially frustrating when I see big sites (some of them offer worse quality than my site) that buy links. At first, it looked like they were rewarding big sites. But when I looked at my other sites (much younger and smaller) their rankings didn’t change at all. I always played by the rules and was always rewarded, but this time was different.

    The lower number of visits is not all there is. If a website drop in ranking also the EPMV on Ezoic drops because advertisers look at these sites differently (at least Ezoic guys told me that). I bought the Ezoic premium elite account for the full year just before the drop. Fortunately, the payment adjusts to the earnings.

    You wrote about hiring a service to make all security updates.
    I have my site on VPS, and I run this code on my Linux console, for each website:

    cd /dir/tomysite/
    sudo wp plugin update –allow-root –all
    sudo wp core update –allow-root
    sudo wp theme update –allow-root –all
    sudo wp core language update –allow-root

    Additionally, you can set CRON in Linux to do it automatically. Maybe you can have some savings here.

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