Outdoor Site Case Study #2 (May 2020) – Intro

mushfiq sarker

This is the May 2020 update for my Outdoor site. Check the past updates here.

I paid 76x multiple for this site. It was making $300/mo average. Within 1-month, I increased earnings to more than $3,000 in April 2020. The goal is to grow this to $10,000/mo within 3-6 months.

Before getting into May 2020, let’s recap details about the site.

📊 Metrics When Purchased (March 2020)

  • Acquired website for $23,000 at the end of March 2020
  • Site was earning about $300/month average for the last 12 months when I acquired it. I paid 76 times average earnings 🙂
  • Monetization: Amazon Associates only
  • Domain aged since 2010 (10 years old). The seller was the original owner who is a “die-hard expert” of the niche. All of the articles are written by industry experts, enthusiasts, and are hands-on with quality pictures.
  • Domain metrics from AHREFs:
image 202
  • Backlinks are in place from Wikipedia, TheGuardian, Flipboard, TheWireCutter, and many niche relevant domains with high authority
  • Number of Articles prior to purchase: ~500
  • Facebook Following: 181,000
  • Email List: 3,400 subscribers

Why Did I Buy This Site?

  • I saw the immediate potential to 10x revenue (which I did in April 2020)
  • The site is already an authority in the niche. However, the previous owners were not “marketers”, just “hobbyists”. They were not targeting commercial intent keywords, e.g., Best X of Y, X vs Y, X Review.
  • Revenue per visitor is MUCH more in this niche than other niches
  • Extremely strong backlinks. This will ensure that I do not need to focus on off-page SEO for a while
  • A hot topic even during pandemics, and recessions.
  • Product-focused. Many big brands, small startups involved in this space.

Month 2: May 2020

💰 P&L in May

  • Revenue: $3,666.03
    • Comparable to ~$3,594 in April 2020 (pre-Amazon change)
  • Costs: $3,404.54
  • Profit: $262

For the costs, I spent $1,365 on content, $1,041 on different yearly subscriptions and software, $500 on VA fees to get a lot of old posts properly formatted, and the rest on miscellaneous items. This is normal for a new site for the first few months after acquisition.

Think of this as the renovation phase on a real-estate property to get it rent-ready for a tenant. You have to get your site “rent-ready” (per-se) to attract the most rent (revenue).

Revenue Breakdown

Here is the %-based revenue breakdown for the site so far.

image 194

Some takeaways:

  • Hands-on Gear Reviews + Free Gear: We work directly with product manufacturers to provide a package for them to reach a bigger audience. In May 2020, we received $1,000 to do a hands-on product review posted on the site, email shoutout, and social shoutout. This is easy money but not always repeatable every month. I pay $30 to my expert writer who takes quality pictures and does a review writeup.
  • Banner Ads: I get advertising offers from different companies regularly. Some agree to do banner ads. This is ONE major reason I have not implemented EZOIC on the site. It’s because direct banner ads do not slow down the site and let me control how much I want to charge. I sold one banner ad on the sidebar in May 2020 for $500 for a 30 day trial. Again not easily repeated but more revenue for sure this way.

Diversification is very important to me. I am willing to sacrifice a bit of money from a network if it means that I can add a new revenue source.

📉 Google Core Update

This was the second full month of ownership. May 2020 was a roller coaster with the May Google Core and Amazon Associates update impacting the site. See traffic screenshot below:

image 195

Amazon Commission Cut 🤧

The Amazon commission cut also impacted the site immensely. In April 2020, the site made $2,334 from Amazon and after the commission cut, in May 2020, the site made $1,136.38

That’s a 51% decrease in commission.

✏️ Content, Content, Content (and then some more Content)

In the previous case study, I discussed hiring a team of writers. I currently have 3 active writers that are writing anywhere from 2-3 articles per week of 1,000-2,500 words per article. I pay the writers an average of $30 per article.

I utilize Trello to manage the writers with Paypal as the payment method.

I found two writers on Upwork. The other one came with the site when I purchased it.

I added 46 articles that are mostly focused on “Best X” type of articles. Here is what I do to find keywords and then optimize articles:

  • Find keywords using AHREFS with a KD score of 0-5
  • Seed keyword in AHREFS is “Best XXX”
  • Once a keyword is found, I analyze the top 3 results and create an outline for my writers

The outlines are usually as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Best X: Top Picks
  • FAQs
  • Verdict

Also, before assigning the articles, I ask all my writers for who has experience with this topic, and if they own any of the products. If yes, they get the article and they are required to provide their personal thoughts, images, etc of the products. This separates my content from the thousand of others in Google.

The content part is easy once you have a system in place. I determine the keyword, title and outline, then I assign it to my writers. My writers provide a Word doc with the content, which I then send over to my VA to format and save as Draft. I then finalize the article and get it scheduled for posting.

SERP Rankings for All May 2020 articles

Here are the daily average SERP rankings for 51 targetted keywords for May 2020. This screenshot was obtained on June 21st. I use SerpRobot to track my rankings.

Note: I track each keyword in the month it was written. SerpRobot keeps track of SERP changes every 6 hours giving me plenty of data.

image 196

We can see from the screenshot that my articles are moving up in the SERPS rather quickly. From my experience, it usually takes 2-3 months for articles to settle down in their best positions in the search engines.

🆕 Diversification Of Traffic Sources

The Google update was a wake-up call to diversify the traffic sources on the site. The niche is very social-friendly and has a ton going for it. Here is how I know that:

  • Facebook: The Facebook page has 181,000 followers. Posting to it regularly will bring back traffic to the site
  • Pinterest: Site has 500+ pages that have NEVER been submitted to Pinterest. Pinterest loves fresh content. Putting together a Pinterest strategy will really help here.
  • Email List: the email list is untapped with over 3,400 subscribers. Many of my top competitors are very active on email.
  • RSS Subscribers: there is a TON of traffic common in as “direct” traffic on Google Analytics which is mostly RSS subscribers. See the screenshot below showing about 6K visitors from RSS. This traffic pours in when I publish new articles almost consistently

In May 2020, the focus was on Facebook traffic and Email list traffic. Let’s discuss the email list and what I did there.

📤 Email List

Many of my competitors are very active on the email list. I always wanted to get into email campaigns because it is not tied to any organic or social algorithm updates. You control the list. It’s a huge asset that is undervalued.

Doing this for the first time, I made a ton of mistakes so let’s discuss.

The Bad Way

  • Elementor was used to create Opt-In Forms
  • Opt-in Forms were added to the bottom of posts (inline content) and as popups
  • Nothing free was given away (no ebook, no checklists, etc)
  • Emails were going directly to Aweber email service
  • No follow-up campaign was being sent. I was sending manual broadcasts.

Why is this a bad setup? First, Elementor is not an opt-in email service. They do not have the technology for exit intent on Mobile. They do not have eye-catching opt-in forms. You have to design everything from scratch. Second, I was not giving away anything for free. Why would someone sign up to my email list without a “hook”. Three, I had no proper followup to engage the users.

The “Good” Way

Of course, I am still testing but this setup works great for me now:

  • Purchased Opt-In Monster for forms: these guys know what they are doing. They have amazing opt-in forms that can be customized for mobile and desktop traffic. They have excellent features to grab the attention of visitors. Highly recommended!
  • Setup a free “hook”: I know give away a set of checklists people can use in the niche. This is immediately sent to them once they sign-up and is downloadable.
  • A Follow-up Campaign: setup in Aweber to educate the customer more about the niche. More on this later.

Here is an example of my new opt-in form with Opt-in Monster:

image 197

This worked much better and the data proved it. The goal is to get visitors that come to site either organically, social, or RSS, to convert into email subscribers so I can remarket to them forever.

Here is the overall data from 05/19, when it was activated, to 05/31:

image 198

So 249 subscribers in 12 or so days. Not bad. Now let’s look at the different placements I had for opt-in forms and their conversions:

  • Bottom of all pages (after content): 0.78%
  • Sidebar Widget: 0.08%
  • Desktop Popup: 1.41%
  • Mobile Popup: 1.33%

I immediately got rid of the sidebar widget. At 0.08%, it makes no sense to keep that as it’s just wasting valuable space on the site.

There is a lot of room for improvement here and will be working on getting that conversion rate higher over time. Here is one theory on how I can do this:

  • Specialized opt-in forms for specific pages: currently showing the same form with the same free “hook” on all pages. Creating specialized hooks and forms will really get that conversion rate higher.

To test this theory, I took one of my pages and created a specialized hook. This resulted in a 41.77% conversion. That’s crazy! So it works to do customization. It also take a ton of time so it will be something I work on for the next few months!

What Does My Follow-Up Campaign Look Like?

This is the most important part. Getting someone on your email list is the first challenge. What next? It’s time to send them excellent content to get subscribers warmed up.

Here is what my campaign looks like:

  1. Thank you for subscribing + free hook download
    • Sent immediately
    • Open rate: 74%
    • CTR: 62%
  2. Information Email #1
    • Sent 2 days after, M-F at 11AM CST
    • Open rate: 46%
    • CTR: 16%
  3. Information Email #2
    • Sent 2 days after, M-F at 11AM CST
    • Open rate: 42%
    • CTR: 16%
  4. Information Email #3
    • Sent 2 days after, M-F at 11AM CST
    • Open rate: 30%
    • CTR: 11%

Fairly simple! Here are some things I’ve learned to ensure a high-open rate:

  • No HTML emails with pretty graphics. Stick to a simple HTML email with plain text. Minimal formatting. Get to the point.
  • No emoticons in subject lines or in the email itself (gimmicky)
  • Keep the same email signature through all emails
  • Start off with intros like “Hey”. The first name is not needed.
  • No images

In May 2020, I set this follow-up email structure up and will be testing it going forward to see what works.

Facebook Page Traffic

To automate Facebook posts, I use Buffer. Buffer connects directly to the Facebook page and you can schedule out social posts into the future. I posted 3 times a day (morning, noon, and evening).

This result in the traffic below to the site:

image 199

Receiving 1,488 visitors on auto-pilot is great however nothing to significantly move the needed.

It also takes time to find the right content, and schedule it with the right images. I may stop focusing on Facebook for a bit to focus on Pinterest and other sources. I may need to hire a VA here to just take care of the page.

Takeaway: I am putting Facebook on the back burner to focus on other traffic sources.

Revenue Diversification

Amazon really hurt my revenues.

I immediately joined AvantLink, ShareASale, ClickBank, and other more private niche-specific networks to promote their products. The goal was to test their programs in tandem with Amazon.

How was I going to test? It’s a real pain to change over all the links on a page without guarantees that it will help revenue. However, it is much simpler to control the comparison tables (which generate the highest CTR anyways).

Creating a Custom HTML+CSS Table

Creating a custom table allows you to control how many buttons you will be adding to the form, where the image will link, etc. Using a plugin like AAWP to create tables is great only for Amazon. This is the table I created:

Desktop View

image 200

Mobile View

image 201

Under or on top of the Amazon button I could add as many buttons to different affiliate programs.

My process is as follows:

  • Create these tables for different pages with high-traffic
  • Utilize AAWP Shortcodes (not their built-in templates as I created my own) to get Amazon links, images, etc.
  • Add in CTA for other affiliate programs
  • Test to see what works best: Amazon or other programs

After this is done, I can make a decision whether to keep Amazon only, keep the other affiliate programs, or keep all of them as options. It all depends on the revenue generated by the page.

Note: Amazon does not provide you with an easy way to create tracking. I had to create tracking IDs for each page that I am testing. I currently have 50 tracking IDs for this site specifically. This will give me exactly the data I need to make decisions.

Plans for June 2020

This is what I will focus on in June 2020:

  • Content Audit —> Pruning: The site has over 450+ articles. Many articles receive no traffic and nor have any backlinks. They waste our site’s Google crawl budget. We will be utilizing AHREFs Content Audit template found here (it’s free).
  • Continue with content creation: I have a ton of keywords to target in this niche from informative guides to buying guides. My writers are eager to write since for most of them this may their source of income due to COVID.
  • Email List Optimization: I have plans to “finalize” my follow up campaign, test email blasts with various offers to see if my list can earn money, and figure out a better technology to use as Aweber is expensive.
  • Add EAT signals: I have real expert writers. However, I do not showcase their information via author bios, or author pages. I will be adding such features to the site. The goal is to build an authority moat around the site.
  • Test Different Affiliates: I will have more data on which networks/programs work in ShareASale and AvantLink compare to Amazon.
  • Pinterest: I will be hiring a VA to take over Pinterest. My competitors in this space generate 30% or more traffic via Pinterest. I need to tap into this.
  • Continue Optimizing Pages with offers: There are many pages on the site that receive traffic but are not fully optimized with proper offers. This is a long-term task to optimize each page.
  • Try PPC campaigns: I see some potential to target low CPC keywords but big affiliate payouts. If I have time, I will try a campaign in Google Ads.

Wrap Up

That wraps up May 2020. Let me know if any questions via comments! Please share the newsletter if you found this helpful.

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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