Outdoor Site Case Study #3 (June 2020)

mushfiq sarker

This is the June 2020 update for my Outdoor site. Make sure to check out the May 2020 update here, and past updates here.

📊 Traffic Stats for June 2020

Here are the traffic stats for June 2020:

Google Analytics (June vs May comparison):

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  • Organic Search: 6.36% increase (34,362 in June 2020 vs 32,308 in May 2020)
  • Social: 66% increase (3,486 visitors in June vs 2,100 in May 2020)
  • Referral: 34.92 % increase (962 visitors in June vs 713 in May 2020)

The traffic has been rising. Is this a recovery of the Google Core Update in May 2020? Maybe but not completely because of that. The new content that I invested in Month 1 and 2 is now ranking slowly.

I use SerpRobot to keep track of a large number of keywords. The snapshot below shows the daily average positions in Google for all keywords I targetted in May 2020. As you can see in the blue line, the daily average keyword position in Google is rising. It will take a few more months to settle.

After that, I can start doing on-page content optimization using tools like SurferSEO.

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Social Traffic

The niche that I am in has some competitors that get a large amount of traffic from social. Here is a breakdown of traffic by source:

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Visitors by source:

  • Facebook: 2,132
  • Twitter: 1
  • Pinterest: 1,299
  • Reddit: 12

For Facebook, I manage this myself using Buffer.com. I schedule posts a month in advance. I schedule two posts a day which are articles from the site. This generates 2,000 visitors a month. It needs to be more since my following on Facebook is 180,000.

For Pinterest, I’ve hired a VA that manages my profile as I do not know this space. More details on Pinterest strategy a few sections down.

💰 P&L in June

  • Revenue: $3,858.34
    • Comparable to ~$3,666 in May 2020
  • Costs: $1,828.3 (compared to $3,404.54 in May 2020)
  • Profit: $2,029.96 (compared to $262 in May 2020)

For the costs, I spent $806 on content, $180 on my VA fees, $125 on social media VA fees, $145 on buying actual products to hands-on review, and the rest on miscellaneous items I will discuss below.

Revenue Breakdown

Here is the %-based revenue breakdown for the site so far. I restructured the pie-chart and bundled everything into major categories so it’s easy to compare month to month.

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  • Sponsored Product Reviews: brands reach out to me for product reviews. I charge anywhere from $400 to $1,000 for a product review, article posted on site, and social media shoutouts. Depends on the package they buy and their budget. This month the come was $508 from such reviews.
  • Amazon Associates: this includes revenue from the US, CA, and the UK.
  • Other Affiliates – On-Site: This is a bundle of all earnings from ALL non-Amazon affiliates. I am promoting 7 affiliate networks. The revenue from all of these networks equaled to $1,593.
  • Email – My Emails: This is the income generated from my email list (will get to details below) form emails I send to them. I also give options to brands to sponsors emails (i.e., send a dedicated email to my list).
  • Direct Ads: I am not a big fan of using EZOIC on this site since it slows it down for “peanut” earnings. I have been working directly with brands so they can purchase banner ad slots throughout the site. This is a hit and miss most months. The earnings this month was $150 from an ad on an inner page of the site.

The reason I bundled into these 5 major categories is that they act as different high-level sources. I track Other Affiliates together so I may compare it to my Amazon Associates at a glance.

In June 2020, my Other Affiliate revenue was 40% compared to Amazon Associates which was 31.5%. That’s a big deal for me! With time, I believe Amazon Associates will keep reducing their commissions rate. It’s in my best interest to diversify monetization.

Tip: As an active website investor (and broker), I will always value websites that have multiple revenue streams higher than a single revenue source site (i.e., most niche sites that are Amazon focused).

June 2020 Improvements

1. 📤 Email Marketing Strategy

I’ve always heard marketers say “build your email list”. I never did. Big mistake.

Why Collect Emails?

With how the search engine world keeps changing, I wanted to build up an authority site that has a large “moat” around it. Email marketing is the answer.

These are my pros:

  • I can remarket different affiliate products (or my products in the future) to the same audience
  • Guaranteed traffic whenever emails are sent
  • If my traffic goes to 0, my email list is still available

These are my cons:

  • Need to send them unique emails with new offers —> unlike SEO where you can write one article that gets continuously visited by new “eyes”. Emails are sent to the same audience and if you keep sending the same email, they will opt-out. Creativity is key and it’s hard to keep up
  • High spam rates can get your domain banned from Internet Service Providers (ISP)
  • CAN-SPAM Rules: this is an email spam law. Due to massive spam in the past with emails, you have to be careful not to overdo it
  • Expensive managing a large email list (e.g., Aweber costs $150 per month when you have a list between 10K-25K). I will explain my workaround below.

This is what I did to collect over 15,000 emails:

  • The site came with pre-existing 3,400 subscribers,
  • A business in the space reached out to me and after talking for a while, they wanted to do an “email swap”. I obtained an additional 12,000 email subscribers this way to my list!
  • I’ve placed email opt-in forms through the website

Free Email Giveaway

To entice users to opt-in, I created free checklists. I give away a set of checklists in PDF format that are downloadable once the user opts-in to my list.

I paid my graphic designer $5 to create a few graphics to show off the checklists so that I can place the images on my opt-in forms to entice users.

You need to give the visitors something in return for their email. Why else would they join?

Email Opt-ins Setup

I have several opt-in forms on the site:

  • Exit intent form that shows on desktop and mobile once someone tries to leave the page —> conversion rate of 1.5%
  • Inline form at the very bottom of the articles —> conversion rate of 0.8%

Here is an example of my inline form:

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I invested in a proper email opt-in form software called Optin Monster. I’ve tried to use different plugins like Popup Maker, Aweber forms, etc. None even come close to Optin Monster.

These are the features I use in Optin Monster:

  • Exit intent
  • Show form after X seconds
  • Mobile optimized forms, desktop optimized forms
  • Forms that show on specific pages showing specific content
  • A/B split testing to see which form works best
  • Premade forms that are plug and play

Here are the stats for June 2020 from Optin Monster’s dashboard:

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I collected 1,015 emails in June 2020 with a 1.2% conversion rate.

I will work on improving the conversion rate over time but for now this is good enough.

Email Marketing Strategy

My email marketing strategy is two-pronged:

  1. Auto campaign (drip campaign)
  2. One-off broadcasts

Whenever a new user registers for the email list, they automatically start the campaign. The email campaign is currently 9 emails sent every 2 days.

After the email campaign is complete, the email then becomes part of my email broadcast list. In this list, I perform tests on different emails to see which ones convert best. I like to send email broadcasts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week.

My goal long term is to figure out which emails convert the best for my affiliate offers and then add them to my email campaign.

Campaign Structure

The campaign gives away information at the beginning for free (with subtle offers placed at the bottom of the email). My email series is as follows:

  1. Welcome email with free checklist download
  2. Informational email #1
  3. Informational email #2
  4. Informational email #3
  5. Informational email #4 (w/ an affiliate offer at the bottom))
  6. Promotional email #2 (w/ info blended in)
  7. Informational email #6 (w/ one free checklist)
  8. Informational email #7 (w/ an affiliate offer at the bottom)
  9. Informational email #8 (w/ an affiliate offer at the bottom)

As you can see, the goal is to give them a ton of free information at the beginning to lure them in. Every email links back to my site to drive traffic to relevant articles.

The informational emails with an affiliate offer first lead with information about the problem and then give a solution to solve it, which is my affiliate offer.

After this campaign is done, they are now part of the “one-off broadcasts”.

Email Software

Optin Monster is just a service to collect emails. You still need an email sending/marketing software to store the emails, send emails, drip campaigns, and more.

Due to having 15,000 subscribers, I did not want to pay Aweber $150 per month. What’s the alternative? It’s a self-hosted email service.

I am using a self-hosted email platform that uses Amazon’s Simple Email Service (SES). It’s called Sendy.

Sendy charges $59 for a one-time license fee for their software. You are not charged for each email you have on your list, which Aweber charges for. You are only charged by Amazon for emails sent. The cost is $0.10 for every 1,000 emails you send. It’s extremely cheap!

My process is as follows:

  1. My opt-in forms add email subscribers to Aweber. The campaign starts.
  2. After the campaign is complete for the user, I move the subscriber over to Sendy
  3. Sendy is used to send broadcasts to test different offers
  4. Once an offer is successful, I add it to the campaign

The goal is to have a huge auto-campaign so I can earn money automatically from each user over a long time period.

Does this save me money? Yes! At any given time, I have less than 500 subscribers in Aweber so that’s only $20 per month max. This is because once I move users over to Sendy, I delete them from Aweber thus keeping my list at a minimal.

Email Wrap Up

In June, $473 was earned from my email list. However, I see an extreme opportunity to have my earnings dominated via my email list.

I will also be exploring ways to rent out my email list to other marketers. This should add a passive revenue stream.

June was getting things streamlined and set up for my email list strategy. Make sure to check out Optin MonsterSendy, and Aweber. Highly recommended tools!

2. Content Audit

I performed a content audit on this site using the AHREFS template found here. If an article has less than 1 backlink and less than 100 visitors annually, it gets flagged to be deleted.

I flagged 120 articles through my audit.

Note: If you purchase a site from a “hobbyist” (i.e., someone who created the site as a hobby rather than SEOers like us), you will find MANY articles that do not rank, or have no purpose. This is because such hobbyists right articles for the fun of it with no intention to rank. However, for SEOers like us, removing these articles will help Google’s crawlers to focus on pages that we want to rank.

Many of the audited articles were saved as Drafts in WordPress so that I could check them out in the future if I wanted to repurpose and reuse any of the content for other purposes.

Some of the audited articles were marked as “Redirect” through the template. These are articles that have backlinks but no traffic. These articles have SEO value and thus should be redirected to new pages on the site. I had a handful of these articles which I redirected, or am now rewriting a more SEO-optimized article that would be the new page where these old pages would redirect to.

The content audit process is extremely important for an aged site. I usually do this later on in the lifecycle after an investment, however, I will be doing this within the first month of any purchases going forward.

3. Pinterest Strategy

I know the real goldmine for this site for social is Pinterest. I have a VA managing my profile. My VA is actively designing pins in Canva, and posting using TailWind subscription with TailWind tribes.

Here are the June 2020 stats for Pinterest from my profile:

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My Pinterest profile has 195,000 monthly viewers after 2 months. My biggest competitor has a Pinterest profile with 8.7 million viewers.

My strategy for Pinterest is long-term. I pay my VA $125 per month. He and I have a spoken agreement that if he can bring significant traffic to my site, I will be increasing his pay.

Tip: not all content for social will rank in the search engines. I develop listicle type content for Pinterest (i.e., Top 45 XXXX…..). I noindex these articles using Yoast plugin so Google does not crawl them. I also remove them from search and archives on the site.

4. ✏️ Content

In June, I added 34 articles. To ensure diversification, 20 of the articles were info articles and the rest commercial buying guide articles.

5. Private Partnership with Brands on Amazon

Amazon has one of the highest conversion rates of any brands online. That’s why even with commission drop, it makes sense to send people to Amazon. Most people buy multiple products thus increasing the commissions earned.

To ensure I continue sending people to Amazon, I put together a unique partnership with a brand’s product that I promote on one of my articles.

The partnership is as follows:

  1. I promote their product throughout my site (where relevant) with a unique affiliate tag from Amazon Associates
  2. End of each month I generate a report for the affiliate tag
  3. I receive an additional 20% commissions for any sales generated for their product
  4. The additional commissions are paid out via Paypal

This has major benefits. The main one being that I still send people to Amazon thus obtaining the high conversion rate benefits, but also receive a high payout if the product sells. All in all, I receive a 23% commission for selling their product (3% from Amazon, and 20% from them).

It’s a win-win because they get to secure top positions within my content, and they get a boost in the Amazon algorithm for their product.

This partnership was set up at the end of June. We will see if this is successful in the July update.

Note: make sure to read the detailed guide on how to setup private Amazon brand partnerships.

Plans for July 2020

  1. Content: the plan is to publish an additional 30-50 articles in July.
  2. Email Marketing: keep testing different affiliate offers and email angles with the strategy outlined above
  3. Try to diversify revenue with Direct Ads
  4. Optimize the top 20 pages for earnings: many of the previous articles are starting to rank and bringing in traffic. I need to optimize these pages for earnings (i.e., CRO).
  5. Setup more Amazon brand partnerships: I will analyze the last 3 month’s of orders in Amazon Associations, pick the top promoted products, reach out to the companies, and ask for higher commissions.

That wraps up June 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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