June 2021

Happy Canada Day 🇨🇦 and welcome back to Flexibility Is Freedom!

Believe it or not, but it’s been 3 years since I began my journey to build passive income businesses!

Honestly, it feels more like 5 years (or forever), especially with the last 1.5 years of COVID-19, but hey, we don’t get to choose the time we live in, only how we live with the time we’re given.

I’ve done a lot of reflection about my journey, on both a personal and professional level, and while there’s certainly been up’s and down’s along the way, I’m extremely glad that I made the difficult decision to pursue this opportunity & lifestyle.

When I’m feeling lost (which happens from time-to-time) or without a sense of purpose, I always re-read my original post on Medium, 5 Reasons I Quit My Job to Build Passive Income Businesses, and periodically review my income reports on Flexibility Is Freedom as well to remind myself of both how far I’ve come and the inspirations that I’ve found along the way.

In a few days, I’ll be releasing a full blog post and YouTube video as well about my 3-year progress! I’ll include the key points like business results and activities, what’s worked / what hasn’t worked, and share my personal experience with running my own online business and the type of lifestyle that it permits.

For now, though, sit back and enjoy my June 2021 income report! April and May were both short & sweet, so I definitely owe you guys a longer income report this month to wrap up Q2 2021.

Key Metrics

  • Revenue: $706 (+281% MoM, +2% YoY)
  • Sessions: 3,636 (+70% MoM)
  • RPM: $194 (+124% MoM)
  • Amazon Risk: 25% (down from 41% last month)

This month, revenue and sessions jumped up for the first time since the December 2020 Core Update.

The main reason it took 6+ months to bounce back is because I consciously took time away from managing TheDermDetective.com to explore new business opportunities and joint ventures during Q1 2021, as part of my longer-term strategy to diversify my portfolio.

Ultimately, I decided in early April that I needed to focus my efforts on rebuilding this website back – stronger, faster, and better than before – and I’ve spent most of Q2 2021 on such efforts, including a complete tech stack overhaul, content optimizations, and a much improved keyword & content tracking system.

So with that in mind, I’m pretty happy with these early results, hopefully a sign of further things to come as I continue to create and optimize content, with minimal backlink additions (which will be part of my Q3 2021 roadmap).

Overall, while traffic (sessions) increased significantly by 70% MoM, it was the jump in profitability (RPM) to $194 per 1000 sessions that really drove the revenue gains.

To this, I owe much credit to my non-Amazon affiliate partners with incredible EPC potential. Part of the process is figuring out which affiliate partners have the most profitable products based on EPC and it’s a source of competitive advantage as most affiliates simply don’t have the data (or can’t be bothered to test it).

Content

In Q2 2021, I mainly worked on improving my existing content plus a few new articles. In the past, I always talked about content optimization and improving content quality but never really outlined a full, concrete, and objective process.

This was definitely a problem with my previous content strategy and writing style – I created awesome content (most of the time) but it may not have been what Google wanted to show on page 1.

Now, my process uses objective scores from 3 primary sources:

  1. Surfer SEO: I use the Audit feature and I mainly look at Prominent Terms/Phrases
  2. MarketMuse: I use the Optimize module
  3. Frase: I use the Topic Score

This allows me to grade a piece of content using different methodologies and provide a score along with recommendations to improve (such as word count, contextual terms – this is the most important, and additional internal links or backlinks).

In addition to an objective on-page SEO scoring system, I’m also looking into an objective content silo / cluster system called Content Planner in Surfer SEO. Essentially, this feature “maps out” the relevant topics to a head topic, under the premise that by covering all the relevant topics with individual posts, you will build relevancy (via internal links) to the head topic and rank more easily without as many backlinks.

Finally, the last major change I made in Q2 2021 is tracking my target keyword / content more carefully using a dashboard that includes:

  • Keyword Search Volume: Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, Actual (based on GSC)
  • Competition: Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty, Adwords CPC, Keyword Golden Ratio (allintitle)
  • Time to Rank: current rank, exact match rank, estimated/actual time to rank
  • Optimization: content scores from Surfer, MarketMuse, and Frase
  • Backlinks: URLs and anchor texts of any backlinks to the target article

This dashboard combines 2-3 separate spreadsheets and makes it easier for me to track my progress towards ranking for a target keyword and keep notes on a piece of content, such as changes I made or SERP changes.

I’ve also created Google Data Studio reports that automatically pull data from Search Console and Analytics to quickly evaluate the performance of a particular URL, which has been extremely valuable, as I can track how content changes impact KPIs like conversions, time on page, clicks/impressions in Search Console, etc.

Backlinks

In terms of backlinks, I haven’t return to manual link building just yet. I bought 1 guest post from LinkGraph to test their service but decided not to commit to a link building retainer with them due to the quality of the first link.

In the short term, I plan to buy additional guest posts from agencies like SEOButler (like before), with a roughly 50/50 split between the homepage and target articles. These purchases will be sized based on monthly revenue so that I’m recycling cash flow back into the website (building domain authority to grow traffic).

Tech Stack

Aside from content, I spent the most amount of time redesigning my website using a leaner and cheaper infrastructure, including:

  • Oxygen: I made the switch to Oxygen to save money on recurring annual costs for GeneratePress & Stackable, as well as greater control of design elements and faster load time thanks to lightweight HTML files (unlike Elementor).
  • Plugins: I completely reviewed my plugin list, ditching unnecessary or speed-dragging ones, while being as pragmatic as possible as well. Currently, the most speed-sensitive plugin is Advanced Ads because it loads Media.net and Google ad network Javascripts which hurts speed test scores on Pingdom/GTMetrix but is supposed to load asynchronously (i.e. it should not affect page load time).
  • Content Templates: using Oxygen, I’ve designed my own set of Gutenberg blocks to replace elements that I previously used plugins like AAWP, Lasso, or Stackable for, such as product boxes and comparison tables. This is so helpful for customizing a block to do exactly what you want, instead of working within the confines of a general solution.
  • Admin: it’s a small item but I cancelled GSuite (C$7.80/month) in favor of Namecheap Private Email (US$11.88/year) to save a few bucks on administration costs. I also transferred my domains to Cloudflare Registrar ($8.03/year) for the cheapest domain name renewal fees.

When I look back at my expense profile, the bulk of my costs are either guest posts (links) or software/technology.

Thankfully, I’ve invested in lifetime software (AppSumo) where possible and trimmed most of my recurring software costs to the point where my only monthly costs are hosting (Cloudways) and on-page SEO (Surfer – can be cancelled at some point, but I get a lot of value from the service right now).

Overall, I’ve gone through many iterations of technical solutions and I think I’ve gotten to 80-90% of what I’ll most likely use for the next 5 years (at least). I’ve spent a good chunk of change at AppSumo buying software products that can build a solid foundation for many, many more websites in the future.

Next Steps

Thanks for reading my June 2021 income report! As I mentioned, I’ll have more details to share in my upcoming 3-year progress report where I plan to walk through my business results, activities, personal experience, and perhaps outline some next steps as well.

To your Flexibility and Freedom,

Tom

June 2021
1 Share
Share via
Copy link