Welcome to another edition of the My Money Design monthly niche website update.
For the last 2 years now I’ve been working very hard to develop a collection of sites that will serve as a stream of sustainable income. I’m doing so by treating this blogging effort like a business rather than a hobby; meaning every month I come up with goals and new strategies to try that I anticipate will make next month better than the last.
I feel so fortunate to have discovered the concept of passive income and invested energy into it. All the money I’m making is money that I make OUTSIDE my job. That’s income that I control, not my employer.
2014 capped off as the biggest year for me yet! Together we made more money on the side than I ever have before. Looking back through my updates quite a few of them were over $1,000. That’s pretty incredible!
My biggest hope for 2015 is that I can continue to build on this awesome upward path of prosperity and see revenues of $2,000 or even $3,000 per month.
So before we move on to 2015, let’s take a look back at the last month of 2014.
Niche Website Income Report – December 2014:
Here is my income and expense report for the month:
Notice something? ALL 4 of my niche websites are now in the green – meaning I made back all my expenses and then some profit on top of it!
If you had any doubts or worries about starting your own site and whether you’d just be throwing your money away, let this be an example that within a year you CAN come out ahead (sometimes by a lot!)
Here’s a closer look at my income sources for the month:
- Amazon = $493.85
- Clickbank = $330.94
- Google Adsense = $352.05
- iPage = $0.00
- Personal Capital = $400.00. (If you’d like to make money yourself by being an affiliate, you can sign up here).
- Private Advertising = $0.00
One thing I’d like to point out: This was another month without any income from private advertising.
While I certainly welcome this form of income, I recognized last year that far too much of my income was dependent on it. Therefore, as part of my business strategy, I decided to do something about it and diversify by getting revenue from a number of other places. Now I’m very happy to see a couple hundred dollars coming from 3-4 different places, and this only encourages me to see where I can go with things next.
The takeaway: If you’re disappointed every time you check your email because you were waiting for some faceless advertiser to contact you with a $100 post deal, don’t be. Take control and diversify your blogging income in other ways that fit your site. Though it may take some more effort or even trying things differently, you may find the payout in the end was well worth it!
Amazon is Up, Adsense is Down:
Isn’t it funny how one month things work out one way and then the next month they work out the other?
That’s exactly what we experienced between November and December.
Amazon Earnings Skyrocket!
Back in November I was hoping that later in the month Christmas shopping would take off and I would see the Amazon earnings from my niche site 4 (NS4) pump up significantly. Honestly for me that was what I wanted for Christmas – to finally see some HUGE returns from my Amazon Associates account.
Well … unfortunately I must have been on the naughty list because I was met with some big disappointment. My Amazon earnings were only about $25 for November.
When that happened I decided towards the end of Update 24 that I was ready to focus all my attention on NS1 in an effort to build up my Google Adsense revenue as well as a few other income sources.
As irony would have it, things worked out much differently in December.
Thankfully my Amazon earnings DID in fact finally take off! Like I originally thought, the Christmas present season was huge and people bought a ton of things on Amazon after they visited NS4.
(A funny side story: Amazon’s commission payout is based on a tiered system, meaning if you sell 7 items you get 4%, if you sell 30 items you get 6%, and so on. As luck would have it, I ended December only being 2 items away from making it to the 7% commission tier. Darn!)
Though I realize a lot of other bloggers regularly pull in 4 and 5 figure months with their Amazon accounts (check out these awesome results), I’m pretty proud to have made the couple hundred dollars I made.
Now the ironic part … My Google Adsense earnings tanked!
Why? Well … I’m not quite sure it was anything I did.
Notice below that between November and December I made quite a bit less RPM on my Adsense clicks (especially with NS1).
Perhaps beyond my knowing Google decided to discount advertising during the holiday season, and that resulted in less commissions for me. It’s hard to say because Google works in secret and the affiliates really don’t have any knowledge of what’s going on. Let’s just hope that things go back to normal and we start seeing some +$500 months from this source.
The takeaway: This just goes to show the beauty in relying on several different income sources as opposed to one. Had I only been dependent on just Google Adsense I’d be having a terrible month. But because I’ve got a number of different methods I’m using to make money, things worked out okay and my overall income remained consistent.
Next Steps for NS4:
Before I celebrate too loudly about the progress of NS4 and go pouring more resources into the niche site, I’ve got to remember that the spike in revenue was mostly attributed to seasonal demand and will probably go down next month.
However, that’s not to say that things aren’t going well for NS4. Take a look at how many keywords we’re ranking for now using SEMRush:
So on one hand we know our progress was seasonal, but on the other hand we know the site is improving in all the ways you’d want a website to improve.
So what do we do next? Nothing. For at least the next 2 months I don’t have any plans to do anything new with the site and just see how it handles. If it continues to earn well, then perhaps more energy will be validated. If it goes back on only making a few bucks, then putting our effort in other places will be the smarter move.
Other Next Steps – NS1:
Like last month, I still want to continue to push forward on developing NS1 into a full-fledge authority site.
Why NS1? Notice that despite the decrease in Adsense earnings we also happened to pull in an additional $400 from Personal Capital (and all from one post I might add). If I can continue to build up traffic and boost not only my Adsense but also my Personal Capital earnings as well, then I believe we’ll have a hit!
Things I’m Going to Work On:
Improving old posts. Last month one thing I got an idea to do was to go back to older posts that weren’t getting any traffic (less than 5 views per month) and seeing if I could make them better by updating and improving the quality of the content.
I tried it out on at least 3 posts. Did the technique work?
The results are mixed. From a Google search results standpoint, my updates didn’t seem to have any effect on making them increase in the Google ranks.
But from a readability perspective I feel like the posts are FAR better and contain more valuable information than they used to. Honestly – reading back through some of those old posts, it was easy to see why no one ever read them and why Google ignored them.
I’m not going to say that the writing was bad, but it wasn’t particularly good either. There wasn’t a lot of stand-out quality to the content. I’ve been on a kick lately where I want EVERYTHING I post to be epic. No fluff. I truly feel like the new changes I made and research I put into revising and improving these posts has made them 10x better to read than they were before. So for me, this technique is a win.
Write awesome new posts. Along the same lines of keeping the level of quality up, I’m going to continue to research new low competition keywords using Long Tail Pro and write completely unique material.
I’m not opposed to using hired writers. But for now I’d like to make certain that the new process and structure I’m using for producing content is having the positive results that I’m after.
I Haven’t Forgotten About You – NS2:
With all this attention for the last few months on NS4 and NS1, you probably thought I had completely forgotten about NS2.
To some degree I have shelved any new developments with this niche site. I only added one new post and I’ve got some plans to make minor changes to the website theme. But other than that there really hasn’t been a lot of new things happening.
Expect that to change. Once I get a rhythm down with the content creation for NS1 that I’m certain is working, I plan to simulate a lot of those techniques on NS2. Similar to NS1, I’ve got a few affiliate products I’d like to spend more time on promoting and building up. So things like improving the old content and writing new articles will certainly be things I’ll be trying. BUT I want to make sure that in the new environment of Google that my strategies are truly producing results.
So for now we’ll wait on this one.
Readers – How did your year end as far as blogging revenue and improvements? Does anyone have any new niche website ambitions they plan to act on in 2015?
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Congrats on pulling the Amazon income. That is hard to do!! That is weird about the Adsense though. December was my best Adsense month I’ve ever had. However, I did notice that my Adsense earnings were awesome the first two weeks of December and then dropped substantially the second two weeks.
I was surprised. I’ve had plenty of $25 to $50 days with Adsense. But lately $10 to $20 per day seems to be as good as it gets. Let’s hope I don’t have some kind of silent penalty going on with my sites that’s affecting the revenue.
John @ Frugal Rules says
Nice work MMD! I could not agree more on your takeaway with relation to diversification. Not only is it going to be better (assuming you work it right) in the long run for you and your site but when it applies to the reader it can be much more helpful to them. I ended the year fairly well and had my best month on Amazon too – though nowhere near you. This year I’m continuing to focus on building up the different streams and hopefully get another site off the ground.
I’ll be anxious to hear how you plan to develop those extra streams of income. Let me know when that post is ready to read.
I don’t know how you’ll find time to work on yet another successful website. Your two other ones already seem to be doing so well with their stats.
Hey MMD – Great income there! It’s pretty amazing what the retail season can do for Amazon earnings.
Thanks for the shout out. Cheers!
Thanks Doug! Income reports like yours give me hope that five-figure months are possible.
Awesome work! Always love to hear about your niche site updates… the Amazon site is really great, it seems like the potential for sites like Amazon can be a lot higher than Adsense as long as the items convert well. Seems like you are well on your way!
Thanks for checking in on my updates. I’ll keep them coming!
Up until now I was really skeptical about if Amazon commissions could ever beat out Adsense. But now I see that its a matter of “the right tool for the job”. The way NS4 is structured is perfect for Amazon placements, and I’m sure Adsense would be a total distraction for that site. Likewise I know that Amazon would not necessarily work well on the first two niche sites. I must say that this whole process has been a huge lesson that it really pays to plan out the monetization strategy before you even name the site.
Very well done–thank you for periodically publishing these actual figures. Have you noticed a strong differential in the success of your ads between in-content and sidebar locations? Just wondering. Thanks!
Hi Eric – Welcome to the site! Yes, I’ve found in-content works exceedingly better in almost all areas. Though the sidebar can bring in a few bucks, the better conversions seem to be when you describe something of value in the text and then add in a link or photo that will grab the attention of the audience.
Ree Klein says
Hi MMD ~
I’m so impressed. I know that it’s hard work just to keep one site running and ranking well, much less four! My blog has never really generated much in the way of income. In 2014 I started selling on Amazon and I’m finding some success there. I first tried retail arbitrage, which is where you buy inventory by going to retailers and buying deeply discounted sales. In a word, that sucked.
But that process did lead me to developing my own products and selling those on Amazon. Now that was a differentiator. My December sales topped $10,000 for the month. That’s a seasonal anomaly, I’m sure. But, it proved the viability of my products and now I’m going to invest in more stock and create an eCommerce site to protect against Amazon hurting my business in some way.
I plan to document what I’m learning/doing on my blog, but I’m way behind on getting those posts done! Thanks for sharing your success and providing encouragement for others.
Be happy, healthy and wealthy ~
Ree – Those are some completely awesome sales figures! You should feel very proud. Definitely let me know when those posts are ready to be read. I’ll be very interested to hear what kind of products you’re creating and how you market them.
I have a side project of my own to create something I can sell on Amazon – an eBook. I’m pretty early in the process but very enthusiastic about launching this some time in 2015.
That’s awesome about the Amazon income. I think I’ve made $3 from them. I think if you figure out the formula, it’s a great passive stream of income.
I feel your pain. Until a few months ago I believe it took me about 3-6 months to earn enough to break the Amazon minimum threshold ($10). My Money Design has never scored well with Amazon commissions. The thing I’ve learned from working on NS4 is that in order to make Amazon really convert the posts (if not the entire site) have to be 100% devoted to proving the value of the product to the reader. Hopefully there isn’t much of a decrease and I can continue to earn over $100 with Amazon from this point forward.
Grayson @ Debt Roundup says
Google Adsense is a fickle beast for sure. I moved up one banner and it completely changed the game for me. I started earning much more per day than I ever have before. It was eye opening to say the least! Keep up the good work on building out these sites. I have one for reviews that I plan on developing more this year.
It is pretty interesting how much ad placement and size can influence your earnings per day. In fact: One thing I’ve wanted to try but am too scared to do is see if only having 2 ads actually produces more revenue in a month than 3. Some bloggers speculate that less ads on a page commands higher EPC. Plus it looks less cluttered to readers.
Hustle + Save says
Nicely done! I’m hoping to start looking into niche sites this year. I’ve started minimal research in the past and got easily overwhelmed with all the details. Your success is definitely motivating 🙂
Thanks and welcome to the site. If you’d like to streamline your research, just read back through my past 24 updates. Pretty much every month I just collected new ideas from around the web, put them into action, and then reported on what worked and what didn’t. There’s plenty in there to get you started.
Mr. Captain Cash says
Wanted to stop in and say thanks for sharing. I do not have any ads on my site but I always find these posts very interesting as very few people share their results as openly as yourself.
Good luck throughout 2015,
Mr. Captain Cash
Thanks MCC. That’s exactly what these kinds of posts are all about – transparency. I want others to be able to streamline their fortune building just the way I’m trying to, so my hope is that people reading these updates will get something out of them that they can use.
Anne @ Money Propeller says
I also go into a huge depression in January when my Amazon earnings drop off the face of the planet. I have a niche site about gifts… so, um, YEAH! It makes something like 80% of its earnings in November and December.
This year’s plan includes trying to find more topics to help smooth it out a little bit… or at the very least increase revenues through the final two months.
Even with the spikes in November and December I’m still good with this strategy. The question is how high can we take our commissions next year? I’d love to report a five-figure Nov/Dec at the end of 2015!
No Nonsense Landlord says
Great job. Here in MN, Amazon doesn’t take affiliates… I like to see success stories like yourself. Keep going!!
Thanks NNL. As long as the income keeps rolling in, I’ll keep the reports coming.
That’s really too bad about not being able to be an affiliate for Amazon. I’m not quite sure why some states choose to outlaw our opportunities to make a little side income.
Congrats on your Amazon income.I’m hoping to start looking into niche sites this year. I should create something I can sell on Amazon – an eBook sometime in 2015.
An ebook wouldn’t be a bad thing to sell. In fact I plan to add that as an income stream in 2015.
That’s an incredible amount of passive income for the month! I’ll be happy to be making a third of that in one or two years with my own blog, but it’s a long road ahead and will take a LOT of work. While I don’t intend to copy you, I’m sort of using My Money Design and one or two other blogs as a bit of a template for how a blog is supposed to look and what it is supposed to contain (I had your About page up while writing my About page). I have a long way to go; I need to change my theme, get myself a logo, monetize the site (I haven’t even gotten a Google Adsense account), and develop a writing schedule. But hopefully, I will replicate some fraction of your success within the next year or so. If I could make a stead $500/month in passive income, I would have a smile on my face everyday!
Thanks again for your help, both in emailing me and in the content you’ve written! Your work is incredible and your success is well deserved. This blog is absolutely amazing and I hope that it and your niche sites continue to bring you greater success down the road.
And an ebook is a great idea. A friend and I plan to co-write an investment ebook together. As if the market isn’t already flooded with that.
I’m sure you’ll be making a lot more than one-third of this income after two years of blogging as long as you really take the advice of the bigger successful blogs (and follow some of my leads as well).
Thanks for all the great compliments! It’s flattering to hear you using MMD as an example for your own site. (Although you just reminded me that I really need to update my About page as well as the Start Here page. They are both long overdue for some fresh material.)
I can tell you that it is worth every penny to get a nice, professionally produced theme and logo. That was one expense I’ll never look back on. I like Studiopress for themes and Fiverr for logo art. Another thing that you’ll find helpful in the long run is to plan ahead for SEO success by picking strong keywords you’d like to rank for. It’s remarkable how many keywords some of the older financial blogs rank for and how well they seem to do with getting natural organic traffic.
Very nice work! That is an impressive haul without the use of sponsored posts!
A couple more months and you’ll be able to really consider this your primary job!
I wish! I think I’ve still got quite a long ways to go before I can match dollar for dollar my employment paycheck. But believe me – every time my blogging income creeps up, the very thought of the prospect is exciting!
Congrats on getting all that side income. It makes investing and saving so much easier. Does using long tail pro make creating your posts a simpler process or more difficult. I have plans to build a niche site as well, I am still debating the ideas in my head as to the direction of the site. How is your free time affected with 4 different sites to maintain? Good luck with passive income in 2015.
Good questions! Yes, LTP does make the process simpler. Here’s why: When I first started NS1, all I did was write what I thought would make good posts using keywords I found on Google Keyword Planner and hope they would rank. Guess what – they didn’t! The site had pretty much had 0 visitors and I was very frustrated. Then I learned from LTP that I was completely ignoring the competition evaluation of a keyword. I started using LTP and began picking keywords that I would have much better chances of ranking for. Little by little the posts picked up some momentum and I was starting to see traffic come in. Eventually the site had more traffic than MMD.
Now I find keyword research and LTP to be absolutely critical before I write any batch of new posts for any of my sites. When I started NS4, I did so by researching several generic and specific terms to get the right keywords for post topic ideas. Given the recent spike with NS4, I’d say its a strategy that is still working.
Honestly now that I’ve been doing the niche thing for a little over 2 years, I find it very easy to manage and not taxing at all on my free time. This is mostly because I try to only work and focus on 1-2 sites per month while the other ones just continue to sit. Once a week I’ll brainstorm what it is I want to do next and which site I should work on. That activity could last several weeks. For example: Back in Oct/Nov, I had one such session where I decided to double the size of NS4. That meant new keyword research, hiring a freelance writer to produce over 20 posts, and editing all the content as I received it. While I did that NS1 – NS3 didn’t really get a lot of attention. But that was okay because each of the sites still made some money even though there were no new posts or significant updates to them.
If you want my advice, try just working on making one site and making it really great. Once you figure out what works and can prove that formula over and over again, you’ll find it so much easier to start a second or third.
I never though you could earn that much from Amazon or Personal capital. I am going to sign up for an affiliate program too. Anyways congratulations!
I’m actually hoping we can do even bigger and better in 2015! Good luck with your efforts.
Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says
Great results man! At this rate you will be quitting the 9 to 5 in no time 😀
Ha – I wish! I think I’ve still got a ways to go.
Jon @ Money Smart Guides says
Awesome to hear!!
December was a good month for me with Adsense. I only had a small amount to make to hit my income target for the year and I did that within the first week.
I too am trying to diversify my income streams online as well. It’s great to log into affiliate accounts and see a sale for not really having done anything other than write some great content.
Lastly, I too am going back to old posts and revising them. As with you, my old posts aren’t “bad” they just weren’t as complete as they could be.
Christopher @ GunandCamera says
Love to hear stories like these! Great job! I had 4 sites myself that was making about $2000 a month then I got hit with a penalty. They still make money but not as much. So I’m trying new techniques to stay out of penalties going forward and looking for a great 2015. Good luck to you!
Mr Ikonz @ Project Ikonz says
Congrats on the income!
I’ve been struggling with looking for ways to monetize my blog since AdSense decided to ban me (I think someone thought it would be fun to keep clicking on ads…).
What sort of traffic do you think is required to start seeing income coming in from Amazon?
Jason B says
Congrats on a good December. I have been experimenting with some things. I hope my amazon affiliate sales can get that high.
Thank you for this awesome information. Congratulations to you! I am interested in becoming an Amazon affiliate. Please read the scenario and let me know if I understand how it works.
I have an image of a book on my site, the visitors clicks the image to purchases it on Amazon, along with $500 worth of other goods…does my site gets a percentage of the whole purchase? Also, may I use any product image from Amazon to post to my site?
I so appreciate what you are doing here. Super cool.
That’s entirely right Shana. If that book was $10 but they also bought a $500 iPad, you’d get a commission for that $510 purchase. That’s what makes the Christmas buying season so incredible for Amazon affiliates! The only tricks are that 1) the buyer has to have cookies enabled on their browser (which is how Amazon tracks them) and 2) they have to buy within 24 hours of clicking through your site. If they wait any longer then that you don’ get a cut.