August was an eventful month.
I was on the road with my family for two weeks visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee / North Carolina.
It was a peaceful place that I'd describe as Niagara Falls meets Yellowstone (minus the geysers).
Now, let's jump right to the results for August.
Traffic and revenue were flat month-over-month. This made sense as I made no major changes to content or backlinks in the prior period (except for site design which does not impact rankings).
Going forward, I plan to continue executing my next steps plan to increase my site's visibility. In particular, I've started to systemically implement on-page optimizations across my site.
For on-page SEO, I've selected PageOptimizer Pro as my weapon of choice. At $39 a month for unlimited runs, it's an affordable option for doing high quality on-page analysis.
I also considered SurferSEO but ultimately passed due to higher pricing, a complicated UI, and its reliance on correlational analysis (vs. single-variable testing like PageOptimizer Pro).
For more details, Search Engine Journal has a great piece that explains the most popular on-page SEO tools like Cora, POP, SurferSEO, and Website Auditor.
In August, I researched all the major affiliate networks to try to find better affiliate programs and diversify away from Amazon.
In total, there were only a dozen or so worthwhile programs (which was unfortunate). Having said that, there could be additional opportunities that are not on affiliate networks (as when the merchant operates their affiliate program directly).
Overall, here are the affiliate networks that I liked the most from a merchant selection, network data, and user interface perspective:
Other affiliate networks like CJ Conversant, Pepperjam, AWIN, etc. didn't have enough merchants in my niche to make them worth considering.
In August, I optimized my site speed (again) using the same speed guide by Daan van den Bergh.
This time, I meticulously measured site performance using GTMetrix, Pingdom, PageSpeed Insights, and WebPageTest after making every single change.
The final result was 1.5s load time and 91 (mobile) and 99 (desktop) on PageSpeed Insights.
Now, onto a special section for this month: Cross-Border
Shopping Banking for Canadians
In this section, I want to share my thoughts on US cross-banking banking for any fellow Canadians in the same situation.
Like most bloggers/site owners, I receive the bulk of my income in USD from affiliate networks like Amazon Associates, ShareASale, etc.
However, I live in Canada and need to repatriate some of my earnings to CAD. I also have many business expenses that are denominated in USD (such as software).
Initially, I was using TransferWise to receive my affiliate payments. However, I soon discovered that sending USD back to Canada (even to a USD account) would be quite expensive.
TransferWise charges a hefty fee as it has to use the more expensive SWIFT network.
According to its support team, this costs $3.20 extra on top of the standard fixed and variable fees. The cheaper option is to do a USD/CAD transfer to a Canadian bank.
In addition, TransferWise cannot be used to make credit card payments.
In my opinion, this makes TransferWise a poor place to park my hard-earned USD. They don't pay any interest and it's expensive to send money back home (at least for Canadians).
But I do appreciate their transparent fee structure and ease of holding multiple currencies.
After doing some research on USD accounts for Canadians, I settled on using RBC Bank:
Overall, RBC Bank offers excellent value on its USD credit card and chequing account.
The Visa Signature Black yields 1% and eliminates the FX fees that I was previously paying for USD transactions. It has no annual fee and no conditions, unlike BMO (waives $35 fee with $1,000 spend per year) or TD (waives $39 fee if you hold a USD chequing account with them).
Although RBC Bank's Direct Chequing Account has a monthly fee, it's cheaper than using TransferWise to send monthly payments back home and can transfer USD funds between US and Canada to pay my personal and business expenses. It's also free for the first year!
For the rest of September, I plan to:
To Flexibility and Freedom,