March 2020

Masks

It’s hard to imagine that only a few months ago, the world was completely different. Back in November, I was travelling in Thailand: staying at hostels and mingling with locals at crowded street markets. I even attended an 800+ person SEO conference in Chiang Mai.

These kinds of activities seem unimaginable today (and are increasingly illegal). Countries around the world have gone (or are going) into complete lockdown. To state the obvious: life as we know it will be very different for a few months, and perhaps even a few years.

Anyways, I know you’re definitely not here to read more about the coronavirus (and I am also nowhere near qualified to talk about this; personally I watch Dr. John Campbell and Peak Prosperity on YouTube for independent coverage of this pandemic).

However, I foresee that the current crisis will dramatically alter human behavior and accelerate the ongoing shift towards the “digitalization of everything”.

As literally billions of people are quarantined at home, I think we’re going to see a whole new wave of innovation, entrepreneurs, and business models. Simply put, almost all goods and services must now be delivered digitally and remotely to ensure our survival.

This represents a massive opportunity for a myriad of industries, from e-learning platforms for stuck-at-home students to telecommuting software like Slack. At the same time, it’s a huge blow for traditional sectors like manufacturing, retail, and natural resources, as workers stay home and factories sit idle.

For my own business, I see it as both a challenge and an opportunity. Naturally, as consumer confidence declines (due to layoffs, weak economy, stock market crash), I expect fewer visitors to end up making purchases and hence lower earnings.

But on the other hand, it’s possible that earnings might increase as well as people sit at home and browse the Internet more, in the process driving up e-commerce sales.

In terms of the opportunities (& risk mitigation plans), here are some of my ideas:

  • I can position my content to focus more on low-cost and value-oriented products as consumers become more price-conscious during a recession / lockdown
  • I can create new content that is more relevant for consumers during a pandemic, but within the confines of my niche (for example, the “best hand creams after washing your hands”, not the “101 emergency items for a pandemic”)
  • I can create a new website (or other digital asset) in an industry / subcategory that will benefit from the current trends. For me, I’m looking for a sector with strong long-term tailwinds, not just a short-term spike in interest due to COVID-19

Anyways, I’ll bring you the latest updates next month as I flesh out some of these ideas. Now, let’s turn to the business results for March 2020.

Key Metrics

  • Revenue: $629.99 (-0.5% MoM)
  • Sessions: 9,520 (-6% MoM)
  • Revenue per Thousand Sessions: $66.17 (+6% MoM)

Overall, revenue and traffic were down modestly in March. I don’t think there were any major developments, as my top performing pages mainly held onto their ranking positions.

Revenue this month included some new international earnings from Amazon Associates in Australia, France, Italy, and Japan. More notably, earnings from my ShareASale merchant declined dramatically this month (I’m guessing this is because it’s a higher priced product which, during this crisis, is not going to do particularly well as consumers trim discretionary spending).

At the start of the month, I completed my migration to SiteGround. Initially, there were some issues (as to be expected) but after some adjustments, including a design refresh using GeneratePress Premium instead of Elementor for the header, footer, and post layout, the website load time became blazing fast (under 2.0s on desktop, under 3.0s on mobile).

Click-Through Rates

In terms of new projects, I am currently revamping my existing content to improve the user experience and increase click-through rates (a.k.a. conversion rates). At first, I was a bit worried that I was spending too much time agonizing over content quality, including details such as product selection, product research, medical research, and copywriting.

However, I’ve been calculating click-through rates since the start of this year (using Google Tag Manager to collect the data) and the performance has been encouraging so far.

Below is a graph of the CTR for a top performing post in January, February, and March (forgive the laziness as I did not add labels). This post reached #1 for its target keyword around the beginning of January so the SEO part was pretty much done.

April 2020 CTR

In March, I completely upgraded this post, including everything from the product selection to post layout to copy & images. It did take a while to complete, but now I’m seeing the results:

  • Clicks (conversions) almost doubled MoM (from 540 in Feb. to 1,072 in Mar.)
  • Traffic (unique pageviews) increased 45% (from 1,163 in Feb. to 1,692 in Mar.)
  • CTR increased 36% on a percentage basis (from 46% in Feb. to 63% in Mar.)

Last month, I mused that a well-optimized page for a “best” type keyword should be able to obtain roughly 40-50% CTRs, based on a historical analysis of my top pages. Now, I see that the benchmark can be even higher than 50% (although I’m basing this of off only 1 month of data).

Next Steps

As the global crisis continues, I expect a softer next few months on the revenue side. However, I’ll be doing my best to increase earnings by publishing more optimized content, improving existing content, and adding more backlinks (likely via agencies again).

In the medium to long-term, I want to focus more on developing a new business model, perhaps something that will help make people’s lives a little easier during this time. After all, it’s really the small things like washing our hands and keeping our distance that will delay the spread of this pandemic.

As Gandalf said, “I have found it is also the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that buys time for the world to keep the disease at bay.”

Masks

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