Our Monthly Report – September and October 2013
Welcome to our Monthly Business Report for September & October, 2013!
We love hearing about how much these reports inspire and encourage you to continue to build and grow your own online empire. That’s part of the reason we openly share this information with you, but there’s also value for us in the introspection that comes with writing these reports.
Having to take an open and honest look at our strengths, weaknesses, and growth opportunities (along with the feedback you deliver) provides us insights into our business we wouldn’t have otherwise. It gives us an opportunity to look at our business from the outside in and leads us to make better-informed decisions about the direction our company should take.
To be clear:
Most of this revenue comes from you.
Whether you’re a long-standing outsourcing client of ours, purchased one of our products/services, or you happened to use one of our affiliate links to buy a piece of software, we wanted to thank you for your continued support as we continue to expand our online empire.
What We’re Working On
September and October were both pretty slow months for us in terms of producing content and driving the company forward. Joe and I took off 3 and 5 weeks respectively to do some traveling around SEAsia and the Philippines and to recharge while we prepare for the push into 2014. That being said, there are a couple initiatives we’ve worked on:
OfficeAutoPilot (OAP) Integration – While we’ve fully converted our email list into OAP, we still haven’t added the functionalities that will make this a valuable tool for our business.
We’ve been working on integrating OAP with Ultracart, our new shopping cart for Products & Services and Marketplace purchases. This will allow us to assign values to each contact and better assess our most profitable marketing methods.
We’re also realizing that the one-size-fits-all approach to our email list and autoresponder sequences no longer works. While some new subscribers may be interested in getting information on how to get started building niche sites, others are more interested in how to manage their portfolio of sites, how to build outsourced or distributed teams, etc.
We’re adding email sequences that will be more of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” path so that we can deliver the most relevant content to the right audience. Big thanks to the Linchpin team on this – something we should have rolled out in December.
Staffing Up – We’d struggled for a while to find the right staff here in Davao, especially when it comes to our Content Managers. We’d gone as far as looking for talent in Manila and Cebu, but it looks like we’re starting to get some applicants that are a good fit for our company and have been hiring the last couple of months to prepare as we head into 2014.
One of the benefits of running a team-based company in the Philippines is that your employee costs are relatively low. This allows us to be a bit more flexible with payroll and gives us much wiggle-room to staff up as we prepare for growth.
When Joe and I first started hiring here in the Philippines we interviewed each and every applicant we were considering hiring. Now that we have a stronger middle-management team, we can rely on them to make the hiring decisions and to find the right people to fit into our business and company culture.
Networking – While most of our travel in Sep/Oct was vacation, we did get a chance to stop in Bangkok to spend a week hanging out with quite a few entrepreneurs at DCBKK. We were invited to speak on the Podcasting Panel and had a great time getting into it with Dan Andrews, Chris Ducker, James Schramko, Terry Lin, and Tim Conley.
There’s something special about being around another crowd of motivated, talented, and sharp entrepreneurs building cool shit. I’m not really much of a conference guy (the large crowds get me a little freaked out,) but I love breaking off into smaller groups and riffing on business ideas, strategies, tactics, etc.
We were able to meet up with dozens of readers/listeners and we sucked up all the valuable feedback about our content and business as we could. The plan was to sit down for a strategy session in November and use the feedback received to significantly improve our podcast, blog, etc.
Traffic dropped significantly from an average of 21,502 visits per month on the previous report to 16,157 visits per month:
This is directly related to the lack of content on the site. During those two months we only published one blog post (ouch) and skipped a couple of podcasts.
This is probably the worst two month period we’ve had in terms of published content since we started. The traveling was a part of it but, if I’m being honest with myself, I just didn’t feel inspired to write much. I’d done a few articles and pieces for guest posts, books, etc. talking about our business, but didn’t feel I had anything worth publishing here that would help our audience.
Here’s a look at our most popular content:
And our top referrals:
Our content publishing has significantly improved in November with the arrival of our new apprentice at the beginning of the month. His fresh perspective has been inspiring. Pair that with the conference in Bangkok, our masterminds, strategy sessions, and a new content schedule and I think you’re going to see quite a bit more from us in the next couple of months.
Podcast & Email Audience
It looks like our podcast bump in July/August was temporary and we’re back down in Sept/Oct with 46,172 total downloads. (30,888 in Sep, 15,284 in Oct) It probably doesn’t help that we skipped the podcast a few weeks during this period. No matter! We’re back up and running and will finish out the year strong.
We’ve struggled to quantify the financial value of the podcast. We feel it’s valuable based on the engagement and connections we’ve made, but I couldn’t put that into a spreadsheet and map it out. I definitely wouldn’t track this as a separate, stand-alone revenue stream.
We’ve talked to quite a few new podcasters looking to turn their podcast into a business and think that might not be the best strategy. One better way to look at it would be to have the podcast as a marketing/authority arm of your “real” business.
We use the podcast as part of an engagement funnel that builds a deeper connection with our customers and prospects. The authority can act as a differentiator, allowing you to sell with greater ease and put a premium on your brand.
Our email list continues to grow and we’re up to 12,269 Contact Records and 9,312 subscribed to our email list.
I’m definitely happy with the growth, especially considering the lack of additional content, decreased traffic, etc.
Something I’m not so happy about is the fact that we have the same email funnel for every single subscriber to our brand. I was lucky enough to snag a call with Neil Patel from QuickSprout and I laid out our current email funnel. I asked him if I could possibly separate the entrance funnels and then (eventually) funnel them all into the same long-term nurturing email sequence. His answer?
“That’s a really bad idea.”
Damn. He continued by asking me why I would take highly-engaged subscribers receiving the specific information they signed up for and throw them into a more general, all-encompassing email sequence or auto-responder. I really didn’t have a good answer to that and, after the call, a lightbulb went off.
Wouldn’t it be better to have different topics you could opt into Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style?
We’re in the process of completely revamping our email sequences. Everyone will sign up using regular Opt-In forms but will then be forwarded to a LeadPages landing page where they can choose from the following topics:
- Building Sites – Including content on KW research, site setup, content, etc. Everything you need to know to build out your own sites from scratch.
- Buying Sites – Including content on due diligence, how to diversify your portfolio, the advantages/disadvantages to different types of sites, etc.
- Selling Sites – How to charge a premium for your sites, quick wins on improving built/purchased sites, etc.
- Entrepreneurship – Hiring VA’s, building distributed teams, adding process to your business, etc.
You’ll be able to choose any/all of the topics you’re interested in and you can always opt out/in of particular sequences as you need the information. I’m really excited about this and we should be up and rolling with this in December!
Not all that much has changed with our AdSense earnings per month:
This brought in a total of $2,215.61 for both months. Our worst day was Sept. 13th at $23.74 and our best day was Oct 30th at $51.21. Not much has changed here and this continues to be a smaller portion of our overall business.
There are a ton of horror stories about Google as a partner when it comes to AdSense. From shutting down your AdSense account to no real viable AdSense alternatives, it can be a bit scary building out AdSense sites and there are definitely risks.
That being said we’ve never had any major problems and always get notified in our AdSense account when there are minor problems like questionable content for AdSense. (And we fix them right away)
In Bangkok, James Schramko (teasingly) beat us up a bit about our AdSense monetization. His point was that AdSense is typically a lower-value method of monetization. It’s true in some cases – you’ll never see us put AdSense on Empire Flippers – but it’s great for getting sites up and running and testing through the viability of the market.
Selling Our Sites
This one surprised me a bit, but I double checked the numbers and found that we sold $0.00 of our own sites through Sep/Oct We’re still testing through some different, leveled-up site creation strategies, but these sites won’t be ready for sale until 2014.
The process is showing promise, but we just don’t have enough data to ensure it’s worth rolling out full-scale. As soon as we do we’ll definitely be sharing our findings!
Products & Services
We brought in a total of $23,619.00 in Products & Services purchases. This includes some beta testing of the Niche Sites from Scratch offer we listed in November. Our top selling products are the Empire Starter Packs and the Empire Broker Packages.
Aside from a few duds, (that were recently removed) the response to our suite of products has been outstanding and this will definitely be something we continue to roll out and expand on next year. I loved that we’re able to help sitebuilders pick and choose the areas they need help with and provide a la carte support. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
We sold a total of $43,990.13 worth of brokered sites, bringing in a total of $7,905.43 worth of revenue for our business. I really see this as an area of growth for us in future months and will be a focus for us in 2014 for sure. Ultimately, we’d like to have a nice mix of sites monetized with AdSense, affiliate sales, and even eCommerce sites for sale ranging from $200 – $10,000 per month in revenue. The more sites we have available to sell the more options buyers have that meet the particular needs of their portfolio and interests.
Do you have a site you’d like to list with us? We’re actively looking for more sites to list on our marketplace. If your site is earning anywhere from $100/month to $10K/month, we’d love to look it over and see if there’s a fit! We really make this a no-hassle process for you and include everything from vetting buyers to handling the migration of your site.
If you’d like to see what we can do to help you sell your site, check out our brokering options here.
IntelliTheme continues to cruise along, bringing in a total of $1,066.98 for the two months. Joe has been playing with and tweaking the theme on one of the sites we’re testing that has a bit of traffic earnings and that’s showing a noticeable difference in the earnings on that site. It’s a great tool when it comes to optimizing niche sites and we continue to use on all the sites we’re building out.
Most of the criticism revolves around the “boring” look of the theme and the fact that it’s not responsive for mobile/tablet users. I think there’s something to that, but those additions have always remained lower down the priority list for us. I’d definitely like the theme to be responsive as well, but I think there are bigger problems we need to be solving.
WP Rank Tracker brought in only $242.00 in two months, much less than we’ve done previously. The problem is that Google has significantly cut back on reporting keywords. Without a high volume of keywords searched it will take longer to receive useful results. We’re looking for solutions to this problem but haven’t quite figured it out yet.
We brought in a total of $1,621.37 in affiliate revenue, with most of that coming from Long Tail Pro purchases. As we come across and test new tools I see quite a bit of opportunity here for some good affiliate sites but it’s still not something we’re focusing on with Empire Flippers.
There’s a pretty big hole out there for those that can really dig through and show the advantages/disadvantages to OAP as compared to other platforms. Most of the reviews and demos are using an empty trial account without any data – not very helpful. There’s a fair review between OAP and Infusionsoft here that has affiliate links for both, but I think someone could step into this and really crush it, honestly.
If you’re looking for a marketing automation tool, I’d consider talking to our friend Damian over at Linchpin.net. He’ll get on a free 30 minute call to find out more about your business and let you know which might have the best features for your business specifically.
This side of our business has remained pretty consistent, bringing in a total of $56,767.84. Although this represents a large part of our revenue, acquiring the right clients takes quite a bit of time (long sales cycle) and focus away from the rest of our business. Combine that with the fact that it’s not as scalable (for us,) and we’ve made the decision to no longer look for new outsourcing clients. We’ll continue to support and grow with current clients, but will no longer spend any effort looking for or accepting new offers.
That being said, we’ll continue to provide content around virtual assistants, building offshore teams, etc., as I think it’s an important aspect to building your online empire.
Joe took on a consulting email for $60.00. Definitely not a focus of ours.
Overall I’m a bit disappointed about the drop in traffic, podcast listens, etc., but that’s a direct result of publishing less content on the site. It is good to know that we’ve built a strong enough team to where Joe and I can walk away for a month and not have everything fall apart!
We’ll be strengthening that team further in the coming months and we’ve returned with a bang in November when it comes to content. We’ve had a bunch of ideas in recent months, but we’re going to need to consolidate those down so that we can focus on only a few of those ideas to knock them out of the park in 2014.
- Employees: 35
- Interns: 1
- Contractors: 1
- Contact Records: 11,979 (As of 10/1)
- Email Subscribers: 9,124 (As of 10/4)
- Site Visits: 17,371
- AdSense: $1,061.19
- Site Sales: $0.00
- Products/Services: $17,232.00
- Brokered Sites: $1,462.71 ($9,751.40 in vetted sites sold)
- IntelliTheme: $631.98
- WPRankTracker: $242.00
- Affiliate: $1,014.95
- Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $153.17
- Outsourcing: $27,216.37
- Consulting: $0.00
- Employees: 39
- Interns: 1
- Contractors: 1
- Contact Records: 12,269 (As of 11/1)
- Email Subscribers: 9,312 (As of 11/3)
- Site Visits: 14,943
- AdSense: $1,154.42
- Site Sales: $0.00
- Products/Services: $6,387.00
- Brokered Sites: $6,442.72 ($34,238.73 in vetted sites sold)
- IntelliTheme: $435.00
- WPRankTracker: $0.00
- Affiliate: $606.42
- Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $111.06
- Outsourcing: $29,551.47
- Consulting: $60.00
Check out what Justin and Joe learned in the past two months! @empireflippers – Tweet This!
Alright, talk to us! What are you experimenting with and learning about your own business? What are some things you’d like to see us offer? Leave us a comment or shoot us an email with your thoughts!