Income Report – April 2012
Another month has gone by and it’s been a rough one for many of us in the Internet Marketing space. Between having AdSense accounts banned and being forced to look at AdSense alternatives and Google’s Penguin update that has upended many of the search results, there have been a ton of things to look out for and be worried about. It has many asking, “Are niche sites dead?” and we’ve had plenty of questions come in via email, Twitter, etc. wondering how our business is doing. We’ll be covering these topics and more in this month’s income report. To cut to the chase, we brought in $18,552.43 for the month of April, 2012. For those looking for more detail…read on below!
Disabled AdSense Accounts
Some well-known bloggers ended up having their AdSense accounts disabled this last month and it has been a hot topic in many public and private forums. Was it because they blogged about their income? Was it because Google hates niches sites now? Was it because they were using Webmaster tools? Google Analytics? Multiple AdSense accounts?
Plenty of people have speculated as to the reason for accounts being disabled in blog comments and forum posts, but we’ll really never know for sure and anyone who tells you they’re certain is most likely lying to you or just parroting what they’ve heard elsewhere. Google is awfully vague when it comes to the reasons they’ve disabled your account so the best you can do is guess and most don’t have enough information to even do that properly. We’ve speculated about it as well, but we want to be excrutiatingly clear…we really don’t (and can’t) know for sure.
One of the best write-ups on the subject we’d seen pointed to Google’s own annual income report for 2011. If you haven’t seen this before you should really take a look…we found the information in it fascinating. They’ve mentioned potentially earning less from AdSense publishers as they cut more out due to quality issues and as more competition to AdSense continues to grow.
On April 24th, Google rolled out what’s being called the “Penguin Update”. (If you noticed or were affected by changes on April 19th, that was most likely related to an update regarding parked pages. Google admitted to mistakenly targeting some non-parked pages and worked to correct the issue.) While this update only impacted 3% of overall searches, our guess would be that it had a much heavier effect on sites owned by Internet Marketers and there’s been a ton of discussion about it. I won’t rehash some of the great write-ups on Penguin (Please check here, here and here for more information about what it is, who was effected, etc.) but I will say the intent was to target spun or crappy content. Both quality niche and authority sites were caught in the middle and (in many cases) severely impacted.
What did Penguin do to our business? It’s a little early to say, but we definitely saw some erratic changes in both our rankings and our earnings. Our income seemed have some odd metrics and less of a growth curve in the week following Panda and, in checking our daily ranking updates with Woosh Traffic, we’ve noticed some major drops AND gains on our niche sites. I spent several hours pouring through our data but, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find anything I could point to that was statistically significant.
I know that’s not as helpful as I’d like to be here…all I can say is that sometimes the reasons readily present themselves and sometimes they don’t. I figured it would be better to let you know that we’re not sure what we’re doing right or wrong right now, rather than pointing to what we “think” are positive or negative signs.
When Spencer’s AdSense account was disabled, most of the comments were extremely supportive and many of them pointed to the fact that he should have better diversified his business. I remember thinking that was odd and that they’ve missed the point…he IS somewhat diversified. He went on to write a post about that a few days later, but it got me thinking…we still have quite a bit further to go if we want to consider ourselves diversified on the AdSense Flippers side of things! Spencer has established himself with LongTailPro and his other products, but we’re definitely working to catch up.
Even with the other tools, products, and services we’re working on…it still wouldn’t be terribly diversified. They are all still closely related to or tied into monetizing websites and taking advantage of organic traffic! And there’s the rub…
It’s easiest (and most logical) to monetize around that which you know the best and have the greatest reach, but the problem is that there is a relationship between the two and if your core business takes a hit, so might your additional revenue streams. For example, if Corbett Barr from ThinkTraffic.net stopped blogging, it’s likely some of his products targeted towards bloggers might be less effective or not sell as well. If Spencer stopped creating niche websites, it’s possible that his LongTailPro business would suffer. (Either through quality of the product because he’s not using it as much or through association.)
The alternative is to diversify in areas that have no relationship to your core business. We have a bit of that with our outsourcing company TryBPO, but should we expand that even further to include additional revenue streams? It becomes difficult if you try to get started or involved in areas you’re completely unfamiliar with (i.e. Joe and I getting involved in a franchised restaurant opportunity!) but maybe you can still get started on things that require your current skillsets but are not as tied or related to your core business? I really don’t have an answer to this and my concern would be that if you diversify too far you miss opportunities in your core business, can’t provide enough time to each of your revenue streams to fully flesh them out, etc. If you have any thing to add to diversification, we’d be interested to hear your comments below!
“Building A Niche Site Empire”
We finally finished and released our niche site guide and have had some fantastic feedback from you! We definitely spread the word…we first released in a free webinar, wrote a post releasing the guide, sent a download link to our email list, and created a WSO! We’ve had a total of 4,790+ downloads so far. Here’s the breakdown:
- Webinar – 801
- Dynamite Circle – 134
- AdSenseFlippers blog post – 2,231
- Our WSO – 625
- Email to our list – 956
- NicheSiteGold 28
- Others – 15
- Mirror Sites – Unknown (There are a TON of sites that wait for WSO’s to come out, download them, and then put them up for free through their own sites. This didn’t bother us as ours was free, obviously, but how irritating for those that offer paid products…)
Our goal with the guide was to help expand our brand and I think we did do that, but many of the downloads were from our own readers/listeners and I worry that it was a bit of “preaching to the choir”, so to speak. I’d say that it’s only our WSO and a small percentage of those on the webinar and our blog post that were newcomers to our brand.
If we did it over again would we do it differently? Would we have had BETTER distribution if we charged for it? In retrospect, I’m thinking that might have been a better idea. If we were charging (for example) $47 for the guide and gave away 80% to affiliates they would have had the opportunity to promote to their audience to earn a full $37.60 per purchase! That would have given a pretty decent incentive to promote and would have helped us expand our brand to (potentially) new audiences that have never come across us before. Additionally, it would have allowed us to build up a network of affiliates for any future products or releases that would have been quite helpful.
We’re big fans of free, but definitely not against charging for it either, especially if it’s condensed, well-packaged, and truly useful. Since the goal, ultimately, was to get the most distribution as possible and price/cost was a secondary concern, I really do wonder if selling it would have helped us to reach a larger audience. We’ll never know in this particular case, but I’m interested in your thoughts: Do you think we would have got more or less distribution if we charged for it and why?
Niche Site Gold
We get quite a few questions about the exact process we use to determine whether a keyword is worth it or not. We’ve devoted a webinar to the subject which you can check out here, but we thought it might be helpful to offer a weekly newsletter that breaks down keywords that meet our criteria and would be considered worthwhile.
NicheSiteGold.com allows readers to sign-up for free to get on a weekly newsletter that breaks down several keywords and shows you why we would or would not have targeted that keyword. We won’t be building out those particular sites and will instead be offering the exact match domains up for sale to anyone who’d like to purchase.
Additionally, we tend to come across some pretty amazing domains that are available but just don’t quite fit the criteria for our mini-niche sites, but might be great for authority sites. Our idea is that we can now purchase those domains and either build them out ourselves or offer them for sale through the NicheSiteGold newsletter to anyone interested.
If you haven’t yet, we would encourage you to click here to check it out and get on the list!
Traffic To AdSenseFlippers
We’ve had another month of growth, largely due to the increased amount of content we’ve put out in April, receiving 24,956 visits during the month. (That’s 21% more traffic than we received in March…sweet!) We’ve again had our best day of traffic on April 16th, pulling in 2,636 visits in a single day!
Our top 3 referrals for the month were Twitter, Facebook, and the Warrior Forum…but coming in 5th was Reddit.com. there were a couple AMA’s (Ask Me Anything threads here and here) regarding niche sites and AdSense that mentioned us and brought us over 500 visits total.
We’ve had another great month with the podcast, although our downloads are down just a bit from March. We’re up to 71 iTunes reviews the US and have had around 13,000 downloads in April. (It says 16,100, but around 3,000 of those are from the niche site guide)
The podcast has grown a bit more popular in both Australia and the UK as well and we’ve been getting great reviews there in the last couple of months, which is fantastic. We put out (what I think is our BEST to date) a podcast episode about Skill Transfer Mastery this month. If you’re at all involved in training virtual assistants or in-house staff, I’d highly recommend this episode.
There wasn’t much change in our AdSense earnings overall, bringing in $2,856.32 for the month of April 2012. Our best day was on April 14th at $124.91 and our worst day was April 27th at $70.65. We did have quite a few site sales in April, but I still would have expected more growth across the sales that we had and the linkbuilding we’ve done to get caught up.
The two biggest indicators that let us know how we’re doing are:
- Site Sale Multiples – The monthly multiple at which we’re able to sell niche sites to buyers.
- Average Income Per Site – The monthly average of earnings for the sites we create.
As our site sale multiple has remained consistent both here and on Flippa, the biggest difference we’ve noticed is a decline in the amount our average site will make per month.
When we began this process, we could expect $9-$10 per month on each site we create and this was fairly consistent. Over time, we’ve changed our process to where tracking those earnings has become much more difficult. Ultimately, though, we are confident our average site is earning less revenue per month. This is speculation and an educated guess on our part, but here are our thoughts:
- Selling Sites Too Early – In the past, we would wait 5-8 months before selling a site but more recently we’ve put together packages of sites for sale that are earlier in the process. Our thought here is that we’re selling off sites that haven’t fully developed, selling ourselves short. Less
- Effective Linkbuilding – Linkbuilding has changed dramatically in the 17 short months that we’ve been doing this. What was working when we started wouldn’t work now, and we’re currently fumbling through our methodology for linkbuilding. We don’t want to spend time, effort, and energy on something that would potentially even HURT our sites, thinking that less is more until things settle down.
- Higher Quality Sites – There’s a vast improvement in the quality of content put on our sites now as compared to when we started. I’d gather that even though this is what Google ultimately wants, there’s a downside: People that are more interested in reading/using your content are less likely to click the ads, possibly?
- SmartPriced – I’m less confident with this one than the others, but we have a contact that used to work for the AdSense team. He’s told us that your account will have a “Publisher Score” and if that score has been lowered your clicks will be discounted across the board for your advertisers. It’s possible this has had an effect, but really difficult to verify…
I was dorking out looking at these numbers in late April and early May. There was a bit of a role reversal when Joe pointed out that we’re bringing in more than we’re spending and maybe we should just be happy with that. Funny enough, it was a post from Derek Sivers he pointed me towards, reminding me that I should probably be happy with what we’ve got! :-)
We didn’t offer any sites up for sale on Flippa in April and we’re not currently planning on any auctions in May. With the recent search engine changes, we thought it would be best to review the fallout in May and plan on putting more sites up for sale in June once Google has finished tweaking the latest Penguin update and rankings have stabilized.
That’s fine for us overall as we have a ton of work to do in May and setting up Flippa auctions can be a bit time intensive, but we will be missing out in May on the additional traffic and readers the Flippa auctions send us. If you’re looking to purchase sites in May, make sure to follow us on Twitter as we’ll be highlighting some of the auctions available on sites that are quite similar to ours!
April was a good month for us as we were able to sell a total of $13,761.80 worth of sites through our BuyOurSites page. For the most part, we’ll be holding off on private site sales in May. We’re continuing to expand our BuyOurSites page to include packages, much like the packages of sites we currently offer for sale on Flippa. This should be up and running in June and we’re planning to launch a bunch of new site sales then.
We had a really strong month with affiliate sales pulling in $1,934.32 for the month. Much of the strength of our affiliate sales this month came through a deal with Spencer where we were able to work out a discount on Long Tail Pro of $20.00 for AdSense Flippers readers and listeners only! This includes a 60 day, money-back guarantee and helped to bring in a total of $1,311.23 from LongTailPro in April.
It’s been another strong month for us in April, but we’re expecting our income report for May to be less as we regroup and prepare for heavier site sales in June to give us a strong Q2 finish. We’re continuing to build out more sites, expand our brand, and build tools that will help us and others continue to grow.
Sites Created: 56 (149 last month)
AdSense Earnings: $2,856.31 ($2,750.33 last month)
Flippa Sales: $0.00 ($2,320.00 last month)
Private Sales: $13,761.80 ($9,419.60 last month)
Total Affiliate Sales: $1,934.32 ($1,221.72 last month)
- LongTailPro: $1,311.23
- HostGator: $150.00
- Market Samurai: $46.56
- SubmitYourArticle: $58.21
- CTR Theme: $30.49
- 100K AdSense Blueprint: $46.44
- GoDaddy: $110.92
- oDesk: $50.00
- SECockpit: $55.47
- SEOMoz: $75.00
Total Income: $18,552.43 ($15,711.65 last month)
Thank you for checking out our latest income report. How did your April shape up? Let us know along with your thoughts and comments below!