September 2021

By: 
Tom Qiao
 | 
Updated: 
October 1, 2021
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Welcome back to Flexibility Is Freedom!

This year, it feels like winter is coming so much faster than before. I'm already wearing layers of clothing and bundling up the blankets at night. #ImissThailand 😥

September 2021 was another excellent month for both my business and personal goals.

Revenue and traffic for TheDermDetective.com remained stable compared to August 2021, which is very encouraging given the strong recent performance.

In this month's income report, I'll give an update on the latest business developments!

Key Metrics

  • Revenue: $1,444 (-6% MoM, +102% YoY)
  • Sessions: 13,431 (-1% MoM)
  • RPM: $107 (-5% MoM)
  • Amazon Risk: 36% (unchanged from last month)

Overall, this month's performance was similar to last month. Profitability continues to remain high thanks to my private affiliate programs with select merchants.

Amazon risk is within an acceptable range of 30-40%, however, I still need to diversify myself within the non-Amazon merchants to create a more resilient income stream.

Content & Management

Last month, I mentioned that I finished a hiring process for a content writer.

This month, I selected the final candidate and started working with her to produce new articles.

As part of this process, I've created documentation (SOPs) for writers to follow such as a standard template and writing guidelines.

In addition, I've been documenting my internal processes, including product research, selection, and creating SEO-optimized content briefs.

In fact, I spent most of my time on selecting products and creating content briefs this month, and then letting my writer "put the pieces together", so to speak.

This has been tremendously helpful and more efficient, as I personally tend to spend too much time perfecting content, which is best reserved for existing content.

In any case, it's been a great experience working with this writer so far and I plan to launch a search process again closer to November to find another 1-2 writers to scale up the team.

Finally, I decided to part ways with a virtual assistant this month, who contacted me after we worked together at TaskBullet. Unfortunately, there were a number of issues and I felt that it would be better to run a wider search process for this role.

I plan to use onlinejobs.ph and I'll be posting ads for 3 types of roles:

  1. General VA: web research, data entry, etc.
  2. SEO/Wordpress VA: can work in Wordpress, upload content, manage administrative tasks
  3. Graphic Designer VA: find and format images, create custom featured images

Replacing Media.net with Adsense!

This month, I also (finally) earned $100 with Media.net and replaced it with Adsense to compare the profitability of the two ad networks.

And so far, it's just been KILLER! For whatever reason, Adsense just produces higher and more stable earnings since I implemented it via the Ad Inserter plugin.

Just this month, I already earnings $25+ from Adsense (not a full month of data, either) while Media.net struggled to earn just $10 a month.

Encouraged by this performance, I used Ad Inserter to place Adsense units across multiple locations on my website with specific ad sizes for both desktop and mobile devices.

I intend to collect more data and test Adsense further to see how much $ I can squeeze out of it, without overly intruding on the user experience (because no one likes ads, obviously).

While I was slightly bearish on display ads before, I think it's a decent way to at least cover some of my operating expenses like hosting and CDN fees (about $32 per month).

Design Improvements

Finally, I spent a lot of time conducting research on my competitor's website design, including layout, content elements, font/colors, social media icons, and ad placements.

This was an extremely valuable undertaking that helped me gain more perspective on the industry's web design choices in relation to other factors like user experience, conversion rates, and page speed.

This exercise also revealed interesting parent company relationships between the largest publishers in the health and beauty space (Hearst Digital Media owns a ton of them!!!)

Overall, I found that most of my competitors (e.g. high authority magazines like Harper's Bazaar) offer a relatively ad-heavy experience where the actual content is fairly light in substance.

In addition, due to the number of design elements on the page, site speed is usually not great but TTFB is lightning fast thanks to high-end servers and they manage to pass Core Web Vitals as well by trimming or removing featuring images altogether (usually the bottleneck to loading a page).

In contrast, I plan to offer a slightly less ad-intrusive experience with more focus on the content and converting users into customers with intelligent placement of conversion points like links/buttons and perhaps pop-ups and banner ads, where appropriate, and with special consideration for mobile users.

Based on my findings, I made several tweaks to my website, including the aforementioned implementation of Google Adsense, updating the homepage, and adding an author page.

Personal Developments

With my online business ramping up in Q3, thanks largely to the July 2021 Core Update, I have turned my attention to another aspect of passive income: real estate.

As I mentioned in last month's post, I've discovered that obtaining a mortgage is much more difficult for a self-employed entrepreneur and so I've decided to seek full-time employment to help make the financing process happen.

I applied to many job postings this month for related industries like SEO and digital marketing, and after a few interviews, received an offer for a digital marketing agency as an SEO specialist.

As a result, I'll start working full-time for this company but continue to grow the website and manage my small team during the residual hours of the week.

I believe this is more manageable now that I have found my first writer and I'll be adding VAs to help with other business processes as well.

Now, the only question is, whether I can find a property in the GTA Southern Ontario that fits my budget? To Be Continued...

To Flexibility and Freedom,

Tom

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