Dating/Relationship Site Case Study (May 2020) – Intro

mushfiq sarker

This is the May 2020 update for the dating/relationship site. Check out the archive of all updates here. Before I get to the May update though, I am going to highlight the major things that were done with this site for the last 12-mo.

My current relationship with the site: I sold off 75% ownership of this site in February 2020 to a website investor (he was part of my deal flow list and is reading this I bet 😀). We now manage the site together; I retained equity and get paid a management fee. I do the day-to-day and he provides overall growth strategy. It is a win-win partnership.

📊 Metrics When Purchased (April 2019)

When I purchased the site, these were the metrics:

  • Acquired website for $37,000 on 04/30/2019
  • Site was earning about $800-$1,000 per month average for last 12 months when acquired
  • Monetization: affiliate offers
  • Domain age: since 2005 (14 years old). The seller picked up the domain which was let go by original owners. Original creators built the site based on sharing information, not really to make a profit. Seller recreated the website and grew the traffic with targeted keywords
  • Domain metrics from AHREFs (when purchased)
    • Domain Rating: 50
    • Total Backlinks: 6,900
    • Total Referring Domains: 556
    • Organic Keywords: 5,900
    • Organic Traffic: 10,900 views/mo
  • Backlinks were in place from articles from CNN, Huffington Post, Forbes, US Embassy, NY Times, FEMA, AARP, Trip Advisor,, …
  • Number of Articles (April 2019): 421

Improvements Over the Last 12-Mo

🆕 New content: The website over the past 12-mo increased in traffic from approximately 10,900 in April 2019 to 60,000 pageviews in April 2020. About 150 articles were added to the site. Keywords were researched using AHREFs with a KD of 0-5, no minimum traffic requirements, and with seed keyword of “best [keyword]”. This gave me plenty to work with for 12-mo.

🔳 Added Call To Action buttons and more affiliate links: This is the easiest one. Adding call-to-action buttons that stick out are key.

📋 Added Comparison Tables using Ninja Tables: putting tables above the fold yields more earnings. I added comparison tables of services after the first paragraph before the reviews took place.

✏️ Writers: I hired a team of writers and covered the detailed process of hiring here. I pay writers $30 average per article. If curious, this is a screenshot of my Trello board for managing the writers:

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💸 Revenue Negotiations #1: The largest offer that was being promoted on the site was via MaxBounty (MB) with a cost per lead (CPL) of $45. I immediately reached out directly (since MB is a middleman) and negotiated a $60 payout with the actual company. Make sure to negotiate your rates either privately or through your network!

💸 Revenue Negotiations #2: In March 2020, I went directly to another supplier again and negotiated from $145 to $160 on a single offer. That was something that took an hour max but will reap benefits continuously.

💸 Added new revenue streams: Diversification is really key. I do not want any of my sites to be stuck on one revenue stream (e.g., most Amazon associate sites, unfortunately). I added many unrelated streams from different affiliate networks over the course of 12-mo. I cover that below in the May 2020 update.

👨‍💻 Website tech update: I improved the tech on the site with better plugins, caching, CDN, etc. This decreased page speed from 5 seconds or more to what it is now at sub-3 seconds.

In June 2020, I will be doing another major revamp of the site with a new theme, and design. Stay tuned!

✅ Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaigns

Could a affiliate-based site venture into the world of paid ads to generate revenue?

The answer is it depends. If the payout is high enough, and the conversion rate is high enough, and the cost per click (CPC) from ads is low enough, then yes you can make it work. Lots of ifs though….

Since my site was already getting conversions I had a ton of data to work off of. I knew the Click Through Rate (CTR) on a long-form article was 25% on average, and the conversion rate was 3-6%. Using that info along with the payout per sale (PPS), plus cost per click (CPC) data from AHREFs, I was able to get a ballpark understanding of profitability. I then put everything into motion and the first month, August 2019, I generated ~$1,500 in profit just from PPC ads.

Over time though, the ads did not perform as well but always hovered at the break-even or $200-$300 profitability range.

There is ALOT of potential here and I will be exploring this further in June 2020 onwards. Stay tuned!

⏱️ Time: Websites need time to rank (we all know this). Time, proper optimization, and new content have allowed the site to reach the traffic amount it is at today.

May 2020 Update

Let’s get to the May update. May Google core update screwed up many sites; this site was no different… We lost 49% of traffic and had a 29% decrease in revenue 🤮.

Let’s review the data.

📉 Site Traffic

  • May 2020 Pageviews: 40,316
  • April 2020 Pageviews: 80,595

May 2020

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April 2020 (for comparison with May 2020)

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Last 12-mo (May 2019 ➡️ May 2020)

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Traffic Notes

The site was actually on a small growth trend in April 2020 so we were expecting higher traffic in May 2020.

The domain is extremely powerful and aged since 2005 with backlinks from NY Times, CNN, Huffington Post, CNBC, Forbes, US Gov, and various other EDU, and government sites. Very powerful for sure!

It was never impacted by any past Google core updates in 2019, nor any small algorithmic updates. The growth has always been consistent.

To say the least, this was shocking. What am I going to do about it? I will improve the things that I can control. See the end of the article for improvements that I will do.

💰 Revenue

The site’s revenue decreased from $10,956 to $7,797, a 29% decrease 😕

Last 12-mo P&L

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Revenue Breakdown (%)

As a high-level strategy, we put a large emphasis to diversify the different revenue streams. The pie chart below showcases our various revenue streams. This is something that I think we have achieved. We have 9 methods of earning revenue on the site.

This is not your typical niche site with just Amazon monetization. Nope, this one is diversified.

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Well that wraps up May 2020. We didn’t do that much since we were just waiting for the dust to settle with the Google update. Let’s see what can we do now to improve the site and get it back to it’s glory days.

What Can We Improve in June 2020?

We cannot control what Google does. We can however ensure our site’s on-page, off-page, and technicalities are all perfect.

We spent the second half of May (after recovering mentally from the traffic dips 😅) strategizing on what to improve and focus on for June 2020.

  1. Content Audit —> Pruning: The site has over 550+ articles. Many articles receive no traffic and nor have any backlinks. They are essentially worthless articles that provide no value to the reader. They waste our site’s Google crawl budget. We will be utilizing AHREFs Content Audit template found here (it’s free).
  2. Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness (EAT): The site has authority off-page via backlinks, but on-page we did not showcase any authority. We will be significantly adding many EAT signals such as author pages, bios, contact information with phone numbers, addresses, etc.
  3. Website Redesign: the site has a poor design. It’s set up on a backdated theme with no simple way to customize it. This most likely causes a lower clickthrough-rate (CTR) on our links and call-to-action (CTA) buttons. See the next section covering my ideal website setup.
  4. Improve CTAs and comparison tables: The CTAs do not stand out. The comparison tables are not that mobile responsive. These things need to be fixed to increase revenue with traffic we do have.The way I think about it: if the traffic won’t recover, at least let’s maximize what we do get.
  5. Add More Affiliate Links: We will add floating widgets on the sidebar with CTA boxes for Desktop users, and mobile floating boxes for Mobile users. That should increase revenue as well. I will cover exactly how this is done in the next update.
  6. Increase PPC Campaigns: This site generates an OK amount of revenue (~$300-$500 profit) via PPC campaigns from Google Ads and Bing Ads. PPC is something I can control, i.e., increase budget —> more traffic. I will be pushing hard on new campaigns to see if I can generate a high Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). This should be fun 🏦 and will keep you all posted on how I set up my campaigns.
  7. Update Robots.txt 🤖: many random parts of the site get crawled by Google bots like wp-admin, wp-include, etc. Those are unnecessary and we do not want Google to spend time there. I will share the exact Robots.txt file that I will use in the next case study once implemented.

The goal is to finish all of this in the first half of June and then monitor the benefits over the second half.

Why didn’t I do these fixes earlier? Well, things were working. The adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is true here. Now that things are “broke” (kind-of), it’s time to fix the site up and get it back to even higher growth. Fingers crossed!

Ideal Website Setup That I Will Use For Redesign

Some of the recommended products below are my affiliate links.

I have a way of putting together the different technologies for my sites. I use specific hosting, plugins, etc. to get the maximum technical SEO benefits. Here is my tech stack for ALL my sites which will be applied to this site in June 2020:

  • HostingDigital Ocean ($5) with ServerPilot ($10) for management, and CloudFlare ($0) for CDN. This setup is lighting fast. I host 5 or so sites on one server. I also optimize all images using ShortPixel (highly recommend this)!
  • Theme: I use GeneratePress Premium for ALL my sites. Extremely lightweight. Easy to use. Easy to customize. I do sometimes add in Elementor as a page builder if I need to create unique designs for pages, popups, etc.
  • Caching: I love WP Rocket. Easy to set up and use. Connects via an API to Cloudflare to configure optimal settings. It does both Desktop and Mobile caching for CSS, HTML, and javascript.
  • Comparison Tables: I am a fan of custom building my tables with HTML + CSS (will share my tables in a future email for you to use), but I also use Ninja Tables on many of my sites. I use the plugin until the site has enough traffic to warrant a custom table.
  • Security: I use the free Wordfence plugin to lockdown my site. Recommended!
  • Amazon Affiliate: I use AAWP for any and all Amazon links. There use of shortcodes is really easy, also you can create customized tables in HTML+CSS with their shortcodes as well. I’ve been a user for years now.
  • Extra functionality: I use Easy Table Of Contents to get a ToC on the page so Google can show my subheaders under the serp; works great! Yoast SEO (free version) for on-page SEO. Yet Another Related Post Plugin (YARPP) for related posts at the bottom of articles. WP AutoTerms for Privacy policies, TOS, etc.
  • WP Management: I use ManageWP (for 5 years now) to manage all my WP sites from one dashboard. I use it to keep track of all my sites, login from one universal place, and most importantly, off-site backups on a regular basis. Love it!

And after years of testing, trial, and error to find the right plugins, themes, hosting, here are the metrics for a few of my sites. The load times are amazing at less than 2 seconds!

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Wrap Up

Note: Since I am putting out this update in mid-June already, I can say we have done most of these and are now are monitoring to see if things are working. July case study update will be interesting so stay tuned.

That’s it for May 2020 update. Leave a comment or reply with any questions. Happy to help!

mushfiq sarker

Analyzed by Mushfiq Sarker

Mushfiq has been buying, growing, and selling website assets since 2008. His first exit was in 2010. Since then, he has done 218+ website flips with multiple 6-figure exits. He is the founder of The Website Flip. Check out all Mushfiq's articles, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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