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Anyone that’s been at this for a while probably wishes every month could be as good as November or December, and we’re definitely no exception. 2021 has finally come to an end, and that means we’re now into the worst two months of the year.
January of 2021 saw our revenue drop to roughly $17,000 from roughly $35,000 in December 2020. With that being said, we were expecting to see about the same 50% drop going into 2022, and that’s exactly what we got.
In January of 2022, we ended up with a total revenue of $26,333.36. For reference, we made $49,382.21 in December of 2021, which was our biggest month ever.
While a close to 50% drop is pretty massive, when you’re expecting it, it’s easier to stomach. We hope to push closer to the $30k mark in February, a bit higher in March and April, then hopefully much higher when late spring and early summer arrive.
Now before I jump into the details, here are my usual disclaimers:
- First, I’m not a one-man show. I work as part of a small, four-person team.
- Second, all of the revenue and traffic figures below exclude anything tied to passiveincomeunlocked.com and the Passive Income Unlocked YouTube channel. I keep these separate, as I don’t want the totals to artificially inflate what we’ve built with our niche sites from the ground up.
Changes and Updates in January
January was another quiet month for us, but that’s not to say we sat around doing nothing. Most of our focus has been on growing sites #5 and #6, along with adding a ton of internal links to our other sites.
As you’ll see down below, site #5 has definitely turned a corner and is looking like another clear winner. In January, it brought it 45,000 pageviews and has been climbing rapidly for the past few months.
We think we’re about a month away from hitting the elusive 50,000 sessions mark that we need to get to to apply for Mediavine ads. Hitting that magical number will be a huge sigh of relief for us, as this site definitely had a much slower growth trajectory than our last couple of sites.
Site #6 has gotten off to a nice start, at least when comparing it to our previous sites. It’s pulling double-digit sessions pretty much every day at less than three months in.
However, the vast majority of that traffic is coming from non-Google search engines, like Bing and Yahoo. This is to be expected, as Google is quite a bit more cautious when ranking new sites.
We do have some slight concerns with indexing on this site, but I’ll leave the details for the case study update, which should be posted (both in video and written formats) in the next week or so.
Lastly, toward the end of December and in early January, we have made internal linking a big focus for our sites. I’m handling all of the internal linking myself on site #6, but another one of our team members is slowly working through the clusters on sites 1-5.
We’ve really neglected internal linking in the past, so the vast majority of our posts are orphaned posts. We’re going to make it a point to change that this year and add as many links as we can across our sites, but only where it makes sense to do so.
Site #5 had almost zero internal links as of three months ago. As of today, 70% of the posts on that site have at least one inbound and one outbound link. We think this likely accounts for some of the rapid growth that we’ve seen on that site.
For our whole portfolio, we’re nearing the 30% mark for posts that have at least one inbound and one outbound external link. Our first swipe at this project is to add at least one link in each direction to as many posts as possible. Round two will be to go back and add additional links to those same articles, where there are good linking opportunities.
Next, let’s jump into the numbers.
Sites and Posts
January was another strong month for us in regards to publishing, with another 180 articles hitting our sites.
Our strategy has not changed with our four oldest sites, which is to publish 4 posts/week/site, and we expect to continue this through all of 2022. For sites #5 and #6, we’re publishing closer to 50 posts/month for now.
Here is a breakdown of the numbers for all of these sites:
Last month, I mentioned how our oldest site (site #1 in the screenshots) really takes off in the winter months, then starts dropping off in January. While it still pulled in a significant amount of traffic, it dip drop from roughly 656,000 pageviews in December to 498,000 pageviews in January.
Thankfully, as soon as the new year hits, our seasonal sites that do better in the warmer months (sites 2, 3, and 4) start to rise. They helped to offset the drop from site #1 and should really start to take off between April and June.
What I’m most excited about is the growth that we’re seeing on site #5. While the traffic levels are still significantly lower than our other sites, it has taken off like a rocket ship over the past few months.
Here’s what the growth looks like for site #5:
With the growth that we’re seeing and the number of articles that we’re pumping into this site, I think it’s reasonably likely that we will clear the 50,000 sessions/month mark in roughly 30 days, which will allow us to apply for Mediavine.
Here’s a breakdown of the total pageviews for January of 2022, which was roughly 30% higher than January of 2021:
As I mentioned up above, we made a total of $26,333.36 in January. This was about a 50% drop from December’s numbers, but that’s what we’ve come to expect when a new year begins.
The average session RPMs (for display ads) across our four sites ranged from $23 – 27, which is really not that bad for what should easily be the worst month of the year.
Here’s a breakdown of the revenue totals by month (just January so far):
If 2022 is anything like 2021, we should see a slight increase in February, followed by a big jump in March. This is due to both the RPMs being higher and our seasonal sites starting to pick up for the spring.
We should see another jump in May, as that’s when our seasonal sites will be at or near their peak traffic levels. We’re hoping to be closer to the $50k/month mark by summer, but with three of our sites being hit by algorithm updates last year, it’s hard to predict where our overall traffic levels will be at that time.
Here is a breakdown of our ad revenue from Mediavine in January. NOTE: the “Launch Date” represents the date that each site was launched with Mediavine ads, not the date it was created:
Just like December, you can see in the screenshot above that site #1 pulled most of the weight. This will change over the next several months, and by the time we hit summer, all four sites should be around the same monthly revenue mark.
After display ad revenue, our next largest revenue source is from Amazon Associates. In January, we made $1,162.93 from our US account, and a small amount of revenue from the UK and Canada ($112.96).
Here is a graph showing our Amazon Associates revenue from the United States:
Other Revenue Sources
We also made a small amount of money from the following:
- Print on demand: $39.55
- Other affiliate programs: $73.61
Our expenses for January were similar to December, coming in at a total of $9,954.54. As usual, the bulk of our expenses can be attributed to outsourced content.
As you’ll see below, we were finally able to place another order with Content Pit. Content Pit has quickly become our preferred writing service, but their turnaround times are not the greatest.
I’ve discussed this via email with them, and they are actively adding more writers. However, they seem to have a pretty strict hiring process to keep the level of quality high, so this will likely take some time.
Nonetheless, the wait is well worth it, as we have not received a subpar batch of articles from them yet, and that’s after two 100,000 word orders. They are as consistent as they come in regards to both quality and formatting.
One change you’ll see below is a switch from iStock to Shutterstock. Our 12-month iStock agreement ran out, so we decided to test the waters.
We ended up going with a smaller monthly package from Shutterstock for about the same cost as a much larger package from iStock. This might seem like an odd move, but we weren’t using half of the images that came with our iStock subscription anyways.
On top of that, Shutterstock seems to have a significantly better selection of images for some of the more niche topics on our newer sites, so the move just made sense.
Here’s a breakdown of our expenses for January:
- Rocket (hosting): $100.00
- Keywords Everywhere (keyword research tool): $10.60
- Shutterstock (stock images): $135.00
- Upwork (writing service): $80.34
- Textun (writing service): $4,102.00
- Passion Posts (writing service) – use LAKPFDZ2J0 for 10% off your first order: $2,000.00
- Content Pit (writing service) – use PIU10 for 10% off your first order: $3,499.00
- Google Workspace (business email): $27.60
Total Expenses = $9,954.54
If you take our total revenue of $26,333.36 and subtract out our expenses of $9,954.54, we’re left with a net profit of $16,378.82 for the month of January.
Future Plans & Goals
A month into 2022, our overall goal is pretty simple, and that is to focus on growing large, authority sites. In the recent past, we’d discussed the possibility of adding several new smaller sites, but the more we’ve thought about it, the more we’ve realized that it makes much more sense to double down on our existing sites (and maybe eventually add 1-2 more).
With that being said, we’re taking a look at our portfolio of sites to see where we can improve. As I mentioned above, we’re making internal links a major focus across all of our sites.
We’re also looking at our existing content to see what content gaps we have. If we’ve posted five articles on a topic, are there 10 more that would make sense to support those existing posts?
Along the same lines, we’re starting to target higher-competition keywords, ones that we wouldn’t have touched in the past. These keywords typically come with higher volumes, so if we can land a few of them, they can give our sites a significant boost.
We’re also experimenting with more of a topical approach to keyword research. Instead of targeting a single keyword, we’re sometimes targeting 5-10 keywords with a single article.
We’re doing all of these things in an effort to strengthen our existing portfolio of sites. While there’s value in having several smaller sites, we feel that the upside to fewer, but larger, authority sites is much greater.
For now, our plan is to keep growing the six sites that we have, with one more planned for some point in the future (possibly in 2022). We want to grow each of these sites to well over 1,000 posts each, with no plans to scale back anytime soon.
January came with a significant drop in revenue, but that was to be expected. February should bring a small climb, but we’re not likely to see any big numbers until spring arrives.
With that being said, to be hitting these kind of numbers in the worst month of the year is still hard for us to believe. It was only a few years ago that I questioned whether or not you could legitimately make money online.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should start a site yourself, there’s never been a better time than now. The ceiling is high, and the startup costs are low.
I hope that these income reports help to give you that extra push to get started, as it was reports like this that put me on this journey just a few short years ago.