July was a nice “reset” month for me.
I took some time away from my business to “stop and smell the roses”.
I enjoyed the lovely weather in Toronto, caught up with old friends, tried new things like ultimate frisbee and sailing, and went to my first music concert!
I also spent a long time reflecting on my first year as an online entrepreneur. You can find my full review post here – the journey, challenges, milestones, positives/negatives, and surprises.
In addition, I continued to work on link building and started tinkering with more on-page SEO.
Finally, I created my strategy and next steps for the remainder of 2019.
Key Metrics (July 2019)
- Revenue: $189 (+18% MoM)
- Traffic: 7,574 (+25% MoM)
- RPM: $25.08
I’ve simplified the key metrics that I’ll report each month:
- Revenue – total revenue, including international income, in USD
- Traffic – 30 day unique page visits (Google Analytics)
- Revenue per Thousand (RPM) – a simple measure of overall profitability
Revenue increased slightly over June 2019, with international contributions from Amazon Canada and Amazon UK, as well as a non-Amazon program on ShareASale.
Traffic increased in the latter half of the month, although the average ranking of my target keywords declined according to AccuRanker.
RPM remained relatively stable ($25.08 vs. $26.59 last month).
As I explained in my next steps post, RPM is the combination of 4 key factors:
- Click Through Rate (CTR)
- Conversion Rate
- Average Item Value
- Average Commission Rate
Site Design Overhaul: Will It Increase CTR?
This month, I did a complete site design overhaul – making my older posts look consistent with my brand guidelines – colors, heading sizes, padding/margins, CTA button layouts, etc.
Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass but a necessary step to upgrade the overall quality of my site.
Better site design has several benefits:
- Longer Time on Page: users spend more time on sites that appear high quality
- Higher Click Through Rates: if users trust a site, they’ll feel more comfortably clicking on external links
It’ll be interesting to see where CTR lands in the next few months as I continue to upgrade my site through content optimizations, CTA & layout improvements, and custom visual assets.
Spray & Pray Shotgun Skyscraper: Results?
Here are the results from my most recent “shotgun” email campaign. To be frank, it wasn’t all that impressive as I had a total of 2 conversions out of over 2K emails sent.
But… (and this is a big but):
- A lot of emails were probably sent to irrelevant prospects – I need to keep refining my scraping and filtering techniques to narrow down relevant prospects.
- Open rates were pretty low and declined over time as I believe my emails were getting caught in the spam folder. I ramped up sending volume over time as recommended and max’d out at 200-250 emails per day. I think it might be because my emails were templated and super similar to each other, which may have triggered red flags for email servers.
- I didn’t send any automated follow-up’s after the initial email (Hunter didn’t have this functionality at the time). I did, however, follow up at least 3x with prospects who replied.
On the positive side, I did these things well:
- Researching the prospect after the initial reply and finding an “angle” – why are you contacting them and what can you help them with / how can you provide value?
- Following up with prospects if I haven’t heard back from them in a few days.
- Testing different subject lines to see what gets the highest open rates / reply rates.
Overall, it definitely feels discouraging to do all this work and only build 2 links to show for it.
Longer term, I think shotgun skyscraper make sense as it’s scalable and can eventually be outsourced to a small team. And as I improve my process, the incremental gains should add up over time until this becomes a link-generating machine.
In contrast, guest posting (another link building technique) requires new content each time so it’s not very scalable. However, it’s easier to pitch a guest post than a one-way link as you’re providing something of value to the other person. I wrote a guest post back in May and I’m waiting to get another one published in August on a high DR site.
For now, I think doing a bit of both strategies makes sense at this stage. Shotgun skyscraper because I need to develop the processes/skills for long-term link building. Guest posting because I need some “quick wins” to boost my rankings and traffic today, not next year.
On-Page SEO: Tools & Tests
On-page SEO is the art and science of nailing down the relevancy of an article for its target keyword. Fortunately, there are several tools that can help us do this.
I’ve mentioned PageOptimizer Pro in the past, a great tool by Kyle Roof, that provides a technical blueprint for on-page SEO (word count, keyword, variations, LSI / NLP / TF-IDF). It’s also reasonably priced at $2 a run (but this can add up as you’ll want to re-run the same article several times as you implement the recommendations).
I’ve also bought an AppSumo lifetime deal for Copywritely, an interesting combination of Grammarly and PageOptimizer Pro. It can analyze competitors’ meta titles, meta descriptions, H1’s, and keyword phrases to produce recommendations on improving your article.
What’s interesting, though, is that you can upload an article and the software will provide on-page suggestions directly in the editor. This means you can get your writers to follow best practices for on-page SEO when they create your content.
Last of all, I replaced my SEO plugin (SEOPress) with Rank Math. Typically, you want an SEO plugin to do just the basics, such as creating an XML sitemap for Googlebots to crawl.
Rank Math, however, is full of useful features beyond the basics. I went through the entire plugin and was amazed by its powerful functionality.
For instance, it can add nofollow tags to external links based on what domain the link points to (e.g. Amazon and other ecommerce stores). It can also add the “open in new tab” attribute to links across an entire site – something that I was (foolishly) doing by hand until now.
Rank Math also does a basic on-page analysis of all your posts and provides a score out of 100. This is a nice visual way to see what posts may need more attention.
Next Steps: Plan For Rest of 2019
I’ve published a post on my next steps for 2019.
My primary objective is to increase revenue to $1,000 per month.
I think this is a realistic (but audacious) goal. I plan to achieve it through 5 key workstreams:
- SEO (but of course): improve my rankings for target keywords through on-page and off-page optimization as well as additional factors like internal linking and site speed
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): improve click through rates to Amazon and other ecommerce stores through better site/CTA design, custom visual assets, copywriting best practices, and focusing on the mobile user experience
- Analytics: obtain more insight into what happens on my site by collecting more user data and finding opportunities to improve the user experience
- Technology & Automation: proactively look for technology solutions (I love browsing AppSumo for lifetime tech deals), dig deeper into my existing tech stack (how things work, plugin features), identify repetitive & manual tasks that can be automated/outsourced
- Self-Development: invest in myself and identify areas of core competency (which I would not outsource such as SEO), build a development list of blogs, articles, podcasts, courses, etc. that I should check out and commit to a regular schedule to “sharpen the saw”
I’m excited to bring this plan to life in the coming months and I’ll see you next month!