February 2014 Traffic and Income Report

february 2014 income reportHey there readers! Welcome to our first-ever income report. I have to be honest, it’s a little scary pushing “publish” on a post like this. Income can be a taboo subject for some.

If you’re not familiar with my story you can read the “About” page, but earlier this year my wife Abby asked me to manage the business side of her blog. That title includes all the technical aspects, financial progress, and even some overall big-picture strategy. I gladly accepted and in the process decided to start this site in order to track our progress.

Why An Income Report?

A monthly income report is not a novel idea. In fact, some of the format you’re about to see is based off of reports by Jeff and Mandy Rose, Bjork and Lindsay, and of course Pat Flynn. The format may be similar but the income certainly is not! But I think it’s important for you to understand what motivated Abby and I to start these reports.

1. Accountability. Knowing we have to publish our numbers every month is a great way to light a fire under us. It also gives you, the readers, the chance to hold us accountable to our goals and raise any issues you might see in our businesses. Abby and I are pretty good at holding each other accountable but these income reports take that to a whole new (and potentially embarrassing) level!

2. Reflect, Learn, and Pivot. It’s one thing to have ideas in my head about how the business is going, but one of the best ways for me to learn is collect the data and present it to my readers. By paying attention to different metrics including web traffic and income, I’ll start to get a sense for what works and what doesn’t. This learning experience is important because it will provide an opportunity for me to make changes and adjustments to improve the business moving forward.

3. Teach. My hope is that you can take something away from these reports. While we have a long way to go in order to do this online thing full time, it might be encouraging for someone a few steps behind us in the process to see that it is possible to earn actual dollars online. Even more than encouragement, I hope these income reports teach you something you can immediately apply to your business. Without transparency in our business these teaching moments would diminish.

Unlike other some other income reports your see online, we don’t make a ton of money yet. Abby just started in January 2013 so we’re giving you the opportunity to follow our journey from “nothing” to a full-time, self-sustaining business. Get in on the ground floor and join us in our journey. These early stages of our business are critical and the mistakes and lessons will be many! Don’t make the same early mistakes we do.

(*asterisk denotes affiliate link)

Goals

As stated loudly in the “About” page, our goal is to earn $10,000/month by April of 2015 through Just A Girl and Her Blog and DonnieLaw.com. It’s difficult to even write that number because we are so far off! I just re-read that number and it made me laugh and become panic-stricken at the same time! Maybe it would’ve been smarter to create a shorter-term goal; I’m not sure. But as it stands, that’s our goal.

While the money is important, we also want to build something we can be proud of. Neither Abby or I want anything to do with the many sleazy online businesses that are out there. We are looking for a creative outlet, doing something that we love, that actively helps people. We think it’s important not to just help people as a by-product of what we do. Everyone makes plans and comes up with strategies to earn money. It’s just as important to make plans and come up with strategies to help people. It still amazes me how many people send Abby personal emails thanking her for some type of encouragement they received from on of her blog posts. Or when she helps a brand new blogger who’s a few steps behind her in the process.

I do want to give a quick shoutout to Fizzle.co* training. At least for me, the three C’s have shaped how I view online business. You see, I’m new to this, but for the longest time I had some negative stereotypes in my mind about the type of people that make money online. Fizzle is responsibly in part for re-shaping some of these thoughts. Their tagline is even Honest Online Biz Training. This really resonates with me.

February Recap

Before I get to the numbers, let me tell you about our insane month of February….

Hosting Provider Switch. In February the MoneySavingMom shared a link to one of Abby’s posts, and her traffic for the day shot up to over 17,000 page views (that’s a lot for us). I already felt like her site was slow on our $17/month Media Temple* hosting but this surge in traffic really seemed to slow things down. There were a number of very temporary (a few minutes) downtimes and I kept getting alerts about exceeding bandwidth limits, although when I replied I never received a satisfactory explanation. Overall I love Media Temple* and their customer service has always been top notch, but it was time for me to start comparing hosting plans.

Around this time I received a Valentine’s Day email from Synthesis Web Hosting about a limited time deal. I could sign up for Synthesis Web Hosting and get their Professional Plan with a lifetime locked in price of $67/month. It’s usually $97/month. I looked into a higher end Media Temple plan, WP Engine, and A Small Orange, but ultimately I couldn’t beat the price or features of the Synthesis Hosting.

On top of great hosting, Synthesis is owned by StudioPress*, the creators of the Genesis* WordPress theme framework which Abby and I both use for our sites. Supposedly Synthesis is optimized to work well with Genesis.

I have to say that I am thrilled we made the switch. I paid a company called Fantasktic $99 to migrate Abby’s site from Media Temple to Synthesis so they took care of everything. They specialize in Synthesis and WP Engine migrations. No downtime at all! I later migrated this site to Synthesis all by myself. It really wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be!

I noticed an immediate improvement on speed (and verified with tests!) as soon as we switched to Synthesis. Also, it just gives me so much peace of mind. They take care of absolutely everything for you, even things like permanent 301 re-directs. They don’t expect you to do that yourself. You just send them a support request and they do it all for you. It’s amazing! Full review coming soon…

Blog Post on Going Paperless. In February I also wrote a guest post for my wife’s blog on how I went paperless. You can read the post here and see my recap of what I learned here. The results weren’t immediate but as the month wore on, the affiliate income for Evernote Essentials* started to pick up steam…

evernote-essentials-affiliate-income-rolls-in

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but as I realized we were earning some commission dollars I left the affiliate page open on my browser and would just hit re-fresh every 10 minutes or so. Not the most productive way to spend your time, but I was just too excited!

Puerto Rico. In February we took a family vacation to Puerto Rico. It was a much needed break from our freezing winter in Pittsburgh, and my in-laws and sister-in-law were able to go too. Check out Abby’s recap. The entire thing was funded through hotel points and airline miles. If you’re interested you can read how I did it here.

dad connor and caleb in puerto rico

abby and caleb in puerto rico Enough chit chat. Let’s look at the numbers for February…

Income

  • Google AdSense – $645
  • Evernote Essentials* Affiliate – $1,088
  • Amazon Associates – $671
  • Craftsy Affiliate – $42

Total Income: $2,446

Expenses

  • Fantasktic Site Migration – $99
  • Synthesis Hosting – $0 (first month was free, then $67/month)
  • Moo* Business Cards – $69
  • Fizzle.co* Training Membership – $35
  • Mailchimp* – $30 (it’s not this cheap anymore!)
  • Media Temple* Hosting – $17
  • Viral Tag – $12
  • Adobe Creative Cloud – $10

Total Expenses: $272

Net Profit: $2,174

The income above is for money earned during the month of February but not necessarily paid out during the month of February. I went back and forth on how I should report that but for now I think this method works.

For anyone who’s interested, I use Wave to track income and expenses. Other good options are Xero and Freshbooks*. In my opinion all three of those web-based options are much better than the much-too-complicated Quickbooks.

Income Analysis

This has been by far our biggest income producing month ever for Just A Girl and Her Blog! And to be honest, this income was a catalyst for me starting this project. I want to be able and review and reflect on how Abby’s blog is doing and I want others’ input as well.

The affiliate income from Evernote Essentials was the largest earner (by far) and it really was our first successful use of affiliate links. I’m a huge Brett Kelly fan so I had no problem recommending his book*. After all, it was the catalyst for me going paperless two years ago.  I encourage you to check out my detailed breakdown of why our post was successful here.

Evernote Essentials Affiliate Income… evernote essentials february affiliate income

What surprised me in February was how quickly the Amazon Associates income added up. Looking into the account I can see that 41 people purchased scanners through our links! That’s crazy to me! These are expensive items that cost from $250 to $420, so obviously we made a larger commission than we would from a less expensive item.

february amazon associates affiliate commissions The best part is all the other random items people purchase while shopping on Amazon after clicking one of our links. For example someone purchased a “Native American Princess Costume.” We certainly didn’t link to that!

I need to do more research to determine how Amazon Associates payout percentages work but we shipped enough items (119) to qualify for a slightly higher payout of 7% on some items. Under normal circumstances I don’t view Amazon Associates affiliate income as a foundation to our business. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time with a very popular post (going paperless) that linked to expensive items (scanners) on Amazon.

scanners we sold

Abby has written posts in the past and linked to various DIY items like painter’s tape and that type of thing. We always make some sales but it never adds up to more than $50 or $60. $671 is an extreme abnormality for us and I don’t think we’ll repeat it anytime soon.

The Google Adsense revenue in February was the highest to date but it’s still not nearly what it should be for the level of traffic we are receiving. Maybe I’m wrong on this. This is an area I need to continue learning about. I also have plans to apply for some premium ad networks and let them compete against with each other through google DFP. Stay tuned for numerous blog posts on the subject.

Unfortunately google discourages screenshots and too much disclosure of data from Adsense accounts. Sorry, no screenshot!

I didn’t include DonnieLaw.com income on this report is because, well, DonnieLaw.com has never made a dime! This is the third post! I’m just getting the ball rolling here and so far it’s been a fun creative outlet for me. Once I make my first dime I’ll be sure to include it in the income report.

Traffic Report

  • 91,332 Unique Visitors
  • 113,256 Visits
  • 231,802 Page Views
  • 77.4% New Visitors

Since this is the first traffic report I’m not going to provide much analysis here. In the future I’ll be able to compare with previous months and provide some insight. It does surprise me that 77.4% of the visitors are new! That seems like an incredible opportunity. Those are new people exposed to her blog who we need to make feel at home so they turn into regular visitors.

Email Subscriber Statistics

  • 2,061 New Subscribers
  • 571 Existing Subscribers
  • 2,632 Total Subscribers

Near the beginning of January we made email subscribers a priority. It’s been pounded in my head over the past year that email subscribers are infinitely (slight exaggeration) more important that any type of social statistics like Twitter followers or Facebook fans. Since Abby started her blog in January of 2013 she has been collecting RSS subscribers through Jetpack for WordPress with a very basic sidebar opt-in form:

just a girl email opt in

Abby’s RSS Subscriber Opt-In Form

Finally, in December we decided it was a good idea to collect email addresses in MailChimp* for more of a newsletter.  At first we used a “subscribe to newsletter” form near the header of her site but offered no incentive to signup. With this strategy we only gained 1-2 subscribers per day. Not so great…

Near the end of January Abby created a PDF tutorial teaching her readers how to create organizational printables. She made this freely available to all new newsletter subscribers through a signup box and a text link. Here’s why these simple changes resulted in in 2,061 new subscribers in February:

  1. Offered something of value in exchange for an email address. People don’t just give up their email addresses for fun. You have to give them an immediate and compelling reason to do so. Abby offered to teach her secrets on creating printables in Microsoft Word.
  2. Simple text link at the bottom of most posts. You can see in the picture below that her text link at the end of posts seems very conversational and natural. After you’re done reading the post it’s the logical next step.
  3. Signup form after post content. Fortunately Abby’s child theme* already had a built in “after post content” widget area which allowed me to drop in the code for a signup box after the post but before the comments. This seems to convert much better than a sidebar signup box.

Take a look at screenshots for these two new opt-in options… text link opt in after post content opt in She went from gaining 1 or 2 new subscribers per day to gaining 30-60 new subscribers per day, sometimes many more! This was exactly how she gained 2,061 new email subscribers in February. We were thrilled with the results but I think we can do even better.

RPM

RPM is a metric to track revenue per thousand pageviews. I first learned about this tracking metric from Bjork at Food Blogger Pro. In this post he explains:

RPM shows you how much you make from every 1,000 page views on your blog. It’s commonly used to measure the performance of your ads, but I like to use it to measure the overall effectiveness of a site’s income generation.

I’m not 100% convinced how useful this will be but I decided to start tracking it anyways. It might be useful in ensuring that as traffic rises, our income rises with it. It will be interesting to see what this number does over the next few months.

RPM: $10.55

and to recap…

Net Profit: $2,174

We were super excited about having our best month ever in February, but we’re even more excited that this is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to see where the numbers go from here! Please let me know if you have any questions or words of wisdom in the comments below.

PS: Next week I’m going to start a series that addresses a major problem bloggers face when growing their business. Much of the content will come directly from newsletter reader questions. If you want to have some input on how I shape this bog series make sure you sign up for my newsletter here or in the sign-up form below.

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  • http://www.liveworktravelusa.com Daniel

    Thanks for sharing your numbers, Donnie and Abby. You are doing a great job as far as I can tell.
    Impressive traffic!

    May I ask at what point during your journey you decided to pay for training at Fizzle (I’m a loyal podcast listener, but no member yet)?
    Did you wait until you made some money before you spent any on making Abby’s blog better? Or did you first spend and then harvest the results aka more earnings?

    Thanks and I’m looking forward to the next report. Maybe include a chart of your daily traffic next time, so that we can see all the spikes compared to normal daily traffic.

    Daniel

    • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

      We started paying for Fizzle at the beginning of this year. To be honest I wish I would’ve started earlier with them. When I signed up for $1 I wasn’t sure if I would continue past the first month. There are just so many people in the forums who have started from almost nothing online and now have legitimate businesses. It gives you hope (and connections!)

      The courses are also really high quality. Even more than the nuts-and-bolts I think Fizzle has helped me with mindset. I makes a difference how I look at this stuff.

      About spending money before we made any… That was tough at first. I would say for the first 6 months we didn’t spend any many other than our Media Temple hosting. At that point we were making a few dollars (like $70/month on Adsense) and could justify a few other expenses like Abby’s $12/month Pinterest software thingy.

      I will say it was definitely a process, making sure we covered our expenses (except for hosting) as we went. I think doing it that way forces you to focus on what’s important (high quality and regular content). It’s too easy to start focusing on the tools.

      Oh I forgot, last summer we did invest in the Genesis Framework as well as a child theme. We are certainly not designers!

      Thanks for reading Daniel!

      • http://www.liveworktravelusa.com Daniel

        Thanks Donnie. I really appreciate you sharing all of this.

        Quick follow up AdSense question: I see that Abby places AdSense in different spots on her site (top, twice in sidebar and then one at the end of the post before comments). May I ask what placement has been generating the most income for you?

        • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

          It’s almost an even split 1/3 top banner, 1/3 sidebar above the fold, 1/3 after post before comments.

          I would say the box before the comments may have slight advantage.

          The boxes and wide sky-scraper below the fold on the sidebar do not perform nearly as well.

          In some niches this would be an over saturation of ads. But it seems like it’s quite normal for the mom and diy blogger niches.

          • http://www.liveworktravelusa.com Daniel

            Interesting. I experiment a lot on my site and I focus more on the posts with the most traffic. Not too successful yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure out the “secret combination” that works for my blog at some point. :)

  • jjeffrose

    Great job you two!

    • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

      Hey thanks Jeff! I wish I would’ve been into this “stuff” last year when I saw you at the zoo. I would’ve had quite a few questions…

  • Mike

    Always nice to see the little guys doing well online, much success. I’m about to read your take on earning miles and points, lets see what you add to the mix.

  • http://tangiblefreedom.com/ Ragnar

    I think 4% is standard for all electronics(no matter the quantity), while you earn higher commissions on other stuff depending on how many sales you get. At least I seem to remember someone telling me that! Some impressive results right there!

    • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

      Thanks Ragnar! March and April weren’t nearly as impressive (you will soon see). Thanks for reading.

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