April 2019

By: 
Tom Qiao
 | 
Updated: 
May 1, 2019

April showers bring May flowers.

April Showers May Flowers

Despite the cold and gloomy weather, I've been feeling a sense of renewed energy!

Spring is the season of growth and that's the key theme of this month's review.

When I first started this business, I described passive income as "planting trees" in an apple orchard. It's the idea that hard work today will bear "fruit" (income) for many years to come.

This month, I've been following an SEO strategy of "planting" lots of new seeds (writing content) and letting them grow in the "rain" (ranking in Google's algorithm).

But first, let's jump straight to the results.

This Month's Results

Sheldon Results Day GIF

Key Metrics

  • Affiliate Revenue: $69
  • 30-Day Unique Page Views: 3,425
  • # of Articles (Live): 45
  • # of Links (Live): 2

Highlights

I completed several projects this month:

  • Hired a graphic designer who provided custom images for my guide on acne scars
  • Completed my 3rd link building campaign (small scale) and built 1 link
  • Optimized 5 articles to improve conversion rates to Amazon
  • Completed 10 new articles using a standardized template approach

Commentary

Revenue was generated more or less by the same pages than began ranking back in February. These pages were optimized and will continue to be tested to improve conversion rates.

In addition to affiliate income from Amazon Associates, I also earned commissions on a third-party product managed by ShareASale.

On-Page SEO

Bulls Eye

The most important thing I learned this month was on-page SEO.

I heard about it during an AuthorityHacker podcast featuring Kyle Roof, an SEO expert who is widely known for his scientific tests on Google's algorithm.

In fact, one of his "claim to fame" stories is how he ranked a page #1 using "Lorem ipsum" (dummy text) for a competitive keyword for an SEO Signals Facebook Group challenge.

Funny enough, after this story was published by major SEO news outlets, Google manually de-indexed this site and several of Kyle's other testing sites.

In short, Kyle's science-driven approach to SEO can be summarized as:

  • Don't blindly trust SEO theories, experts, or even Google - run the tests!
  • Anything in Google's algorithm can be tested
  • The "secret" to ranking is hiding in plain sight (on Page 1)

Essentially, Kyle uses "fake keywords" to run controlled tests on Google's algorithm. I won't get into the details here but you can learn more at Internet Marketing Gold.

Okay, so here are my key take-aways from Kyle Roof:

  • Most "SEO advice" is either wrong or misleading. It starts off as rumors and speculations, turns into debates by so-called experts, and then declared as "fact" in the SEO world.
  • For example, based on Kyle's famous "Lorem ipsum" test example, we may conclude that Google is not quite as smart as most SEOs proclaim. Despite a terrible user experience, poor content quality (dummy text), high bounce rates, etc., this page still ranked #1 for weeks.
  • As another example, after the "Medic" update last summer that impacted many health & wellness sites, the SEO community proposed E.A.T. guidelines as the solution (Expertise, Authority, and Trust). In other words, you needed medical professionals to write or edit the articles. However, none of this was tested in the first place and Kyle has an entirely different view on the nature of this Google update.
  • Finally, for low competition keywords, I believe that on-page SEO is most of the battle. I've heard again and again from "SEO experts" that content quality is king, however, quality is both subjective and difficult for an algorithm to evaluate. On-page factors, like the meta title, H1, and keyword variations, are used by Google to determine relevancy, which I think is the most important part. As keyword difficulty increases, then I'd agree that factors like links, user engagement, etc. become more important for ranking well.

The bottom-line for on-page SEO:

Even small sites (with low domain authority like mine) can do really well if you master on-page SEO and create a perfectly optimized page for Google's algorithm.

Kyle has a tool called PageOptimizer Pro that helps run the numbers for this analysis.

Content "Production" Process

Production Process

I've written before about upgrading content over time as it ranks better in Google.

This actually makes even more sense when you factor in on-page SEO.

Essentially, I'm planting a whole bunch of "seeds" (content) based on my keyword research.

Then I let the "environment" (Google's algorithm) determine the winners.

I use Accuranker to monitor how well my initial content ranks for its target keyword.

Once that ranking reaches a certain threshold (top 20-30 position), I'll upgrade the content with additional research & analysis, as well as implement on-page SEO using PageOptimizer Pro.

Then I monitor the rankings over a set period of time to evaluate how well the optimizations worked (ideally, the ranking has improved!).

I rinse and repeat this process until the article reaches #1 for its target keyword. In some cases, on-page SEO might not be enough on its own (may require internal or external links).

In other words, rather than a "one-shot" approach to content, I'm a big believer that continuous content improvement and testing yields the best results (ideally to a #1 position).

The entire content process looks like this:

  1. Keyword Research
  2. Content Planning & Standardization (Template)
  3. Content Research & Writing
  4. Content Publication (Submit to Google for indexing)
  5. Track Rankings in Google (I use Accuranker)
  6. Content Upgrade & On-Page Optimization
  7. Repeat until Content ranks #1 for target keyword

Link Building Campaign #3 (Small-Scale)

Chain and Key

This month, I completed yet-another-link-building-campaign.

This time, I deliberately chose to run a manual (no email tools like MailShake) and small-scale campaign to see how effective it might be. Here's why:

  • My previous two campaigns relied on the "shotgun skyscraper" technique taught in the beginner course The Authority Site System. The core premise is that you make up in sheer volume what your emails lack in quality. In other words, it's a "spray and pray" process similar to sending your resume to a hundred employers using the same template.
  • Unfortunately, this technique only works if you can easily (or cheaply) gather hundreds, if not thousands, of emails for link propsects. As a 1-man shop, this is simply not feasible for me. In fact, because I've put so much time into my supporting content (guide on acne scars), I'd rather do my best to get as many links as possible.

So in this month's small-scale campaign, I contacted 14 carefully vetted link prospects:

  • I built 1 link
  • I'm following up on a guest post opportunity
  • I'm following up on one last lead

Overall, not bad! Comparable results to my earlier campaigns with 50-100+ prospects.

I'm going to keep running with this type of customized campaign. It's more time intensive but I don't mind as long as it delivers good results.

Roadmap for Rest of 2019

Overall, this last month has been very encouraging.

I believe I have a good strategy right now (focusing on low volume, low competition keywords, and using on-page SEO to boost rankings). I'll keep growing traffic and improving profitability by continuously testing pages to boost conversion rates.

I have two months left before my 1 year mark, at which point I will completely re-evaluate this business model and its future prospects.

So far, I've already met the traffic goal (750+ per month), am close to meeting the content goal (50+), but nowhere near the link goal (50+).

Based on this month's progress, my next major goal is $1,000 per month by the end of 2019.

To Flexibility and Freedom,

Tom

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