One difficulty I face writing these monthly reports is trying to recall what the heck I did and what happened the previous month.
I should get into the habit to make some notes during the month.
August is a blur already, but I’ll do my best to unravel it.
At least there are the numbers, as in revenue and expense numbers. Those are crystal clear.
I do maintain a changelog where I note any changes I make to my sites that might impact SEO. My changelog is my first clue to what happened the previous month.
Second Month with Passion Posts
In July I placed my first sizeable content order with Passion Posts (save 10% with coupon BWMZ0ZXDWK). The returned content was very good but it currently takes about 6 weeks for content orders to be completed. In other words, the turnaround time is pretty long. In addition to being good content the cost also very good. I double-downed on PP in August with a $18,412 order feeding content for all my sites. I understand this order won’t be completed until at least 6 weeks. I’m planning accordingly.
I also continue ordering some content from WriterAccess but it’s much less. There is some content they do best. Since I had funds still on deposit, I didn’t have to top up the account so from a spend-perspective, I didn’t spend any money with WA in August (which was refreshing).
Widescale content updating and improvement project
Now I remember. I started systematically updating and improving older content on my two largest niche sites (sites 1 and 9). This was not an easy task.
I hired another writer for it and have three other writers willing to do this work as well. None of them work at it full time hours but it comes to about 20 to 30 hours per week per writer.
The process took me about a week to implement.
First I updated about 15 articles myself to get a sense of what’s involved and how best to go about it. Basically, I learned there’s no cookie-cutter solution. I would have to defer to the writers and let them do their job.
Second, I created a series of 8 training videos for the team. I probably confused them more than anything but after plenty of back and forth and refining the process, everyone has the hang of it. Each has their own style so I have to let go to an extent and let the writers do their thing.
However, and this is where content optimizers come in really handy for ensuring some level of quality and thoroughness, I have all writers run all the articles they work on through MarketMuse. The aim is to far exceed the suggested target goal and word count. If this is achieved, typically that’s very decent improvement. It’s the best quality control measure I have in place short of updating it all myself. Besides, I’ve checked their work and they do a better job than me. They’re writers after all.
Which articles am I updating?
I cherry-picked articles on the two sites with the following criteria:
- Rank somewhere in position 4 to 15 on Google according to Ahrefs; and
- Main keyword has a reported 500 or more monthly searches.
Why those metrics?
I chose the position 4 to 15 metric because that’s low-hanging fruit. Google likes the content but not quite enough to bestow top rankings. Which means, in theory, with a little TLC, those articles can or should slide into positions 1 to 3. Only time will tell how many of the articles will actually improve their rankings.
I chose a minimum search volume of 500 because if I’m going through the expense and time, there might as well be a decent payoff.
There are no shortage of articles that meet the two criteria so we’ll all be busy updating content for many months and perhaps years. We’ll no sooner get through the list and have to start over.
That’s about it for August other than the usual keyword research, order content, publish content routine.
Cut out two big expenses saving me $3,000 per month
July was the last month of my 5-month, five-campaign outreach link-building campaign with Niche Website Builders that was costing me $2K per month. They did a great job. I wrote about it here. I stopped because I think 5 is enough at this point. Diminishing returns and all that.
I also didn’t renew my MarketMuse contract for September which was costing me $1,000 per month. Now that I’m not using WriterAccess for all my content, I don’t need such a big account. The lifetime version I purchased when it was available on AppSumo is doing the job. Besides, now MM offers some very reasonable plans… finally their pricing is realistic.
I didn’t get to put that $3K into my pocket. I hired another writer to help with updating content.
August wasn’t any better than July. Summer doldrums I guess plus a little shellacking from Google’s June and July updates. Not the best revenue-wise but the silver lining is we had great weather.
Not that I’m complaining. My sites, especially site 1, are going amazingly well overall. Site 1 is a real locomotive for me. Anne from Yeys.com (a must-read blog about niche site portfolios) coined “locomotive” and I love it. A locomotive is a site that earns plenty of profits that not only pay the bills but finances newer sites still in the red. Site 1 is my locomotive. In a few years, it might graduate from Amtrak to bullet train. That would be something.
As usual, this income report is a snapshot of some of my sites and does not include Fat Stacks. These reports are merely to illustrate that niche sites and online publishing can be a decent business. Nobody would care about Fat Stacks or take it seriously if I didn’t establish some street cred by revealing some niche site numbers… so here they are.
- Rev = Gross revenue
- Articles = total articles published. *denotes articles I’ve published. I bought site 3 years ago with tons of content but it doesn’t haul in much traffic at all.
- PV/Art = Average page views per article per month.
- Rev/Art = Average revenue per article per month (important metric). You could adjust to any measurement such as per million words, per 1,000 words, etc.
- AT RPS = Revenue per 1,000 sessions earned with AdThrive.
Missing sites below were sold. All figures are in USD.
- Niche Site 1: $80,530
- Niche Site 3: $705
- Niche Site 6: $101
- Niche Site 8 (Cyclebaron.com): $122
- Niche Site 9 : $4,716
- Niche Site 10: $616
- Niche Site 11: $193
Total Revenue from 7 featured sites: $86,983
You can read about all niche sites here.
The lion’s share of revenue is from display ads.
- Rocket.net hosting (not to be confused with WP Rocket caching plugin): $1,414
- Bluehost hosting (for cyclebaron.com): $5
- VAs: $5,850
- Loom: $10
- Zamzar: $9
- Ahrefs: $179
- Shutterstock photos: $600
- Quickbooks: $10
- Jotform: $40
- MarketMuse: $1,000
- Tailwind: $120
- MeetEdgar: $50
- Grammarly: $45
- Canva: $48
- Buzzsprout: $12 (this is the podcast hosting platform I use for niche site 1 podcast).
- Adobe Spark: $20
- ConvertKit: $219
- ShortlyAI: $39.99
Total expenses for niche sites: $9,671
Net Income: $77,312
Content Investment: $30,478
Content sources broken down as follows:
- Passion Posts: $18,412 (Save 10% with coupon BWMZ0ZXDWK at checkout)
- WriterAccess: $0
- In-House Writers: $5,159
- Fiverr: $1,790
- Portfolio Manager (In-House): $4,020
- Products for reviews: $1,097
Content is distributed across several niche sites.
Net income after content investment: $46,834
Portfolio performance over time
Here’s a table illustrating revenue, expenses, content investment and other key metrics for my niche portfolio over time. Again, it does NOT include Fat Stacks.
Net income column is revenue less expenses less content.
*Assumes 42x net monthly income multiplier and does not deduct content investment from gross revenue.
Key charts from the above numbers
Most revenue is from AdThrive which I use on all 7 sites in this report.
Site 8 (Cyclebaron.com0
Site 11 (Aged domain site – acquired domain from Odys)
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.