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When I first got back into building niche sites about 4 years ago, I had a goal of hitting $10,000/month in my head, which I considered to be quite ambitious at the time. In fact, I didn’t even share my goal with anyone, because I knew that they’d look at me like I was crazy.
Fast forward to today, and my new goal is to reach over $100,000/month by the end of 2022. While this is a big number, it’s completely realistic with the growth trajectory of our sites and our plans to scale the business.
In this first monthly edition of our income report, I’m going to break down the numbers for you, as well as what goes into those numbers to generate such a big return from building simple niche websites.
My hope is that these income reports will show you what’s possible and motivate you to keep pushing forward with your site, especially in those moments when you’re doubting yourself and questioning whether or not to keep going. For me, seeing income reports like this in the past has always fueled my fire to push harder to hit my goals.
Before I go any further, I want to point out that none of these figures you see on this income report, or any future income report, include any traffic or revenue totals from passiveincomeunlocked.com. All the numbers below relate solely to our niche sites.
Before I jump into the numbers, I want to mention that I’m not a one-man show by any means. My wife and I got back into building niche sites about 4 years ago, but as we scaled, we brought on two other team members.
While you can definitely build niche sites completely by yourself, having a team has a ton of benefits. For example, each of us are able to focus on specific tasks and get really good at those tasks, instead of trying to handle every part of the business ourselves.
Really though, the biggest benefit of having a team is being able to bounce ideas off of each other. We do this regularly, and it has really helped us scale the business in many ways.
While I’m not going to provide the specific domains or niches, at least not at this point in time, I will tell you that all of our sites are what I would call hobby sites. Think of things like golfing, fishing, etc.
I will also tell you that every one of our sites is very broad. That’s one aspect of our system that I believe has really helped us grow to such large numbers. Because we go so broad with our sites, we always have plenty of topics to cover and plenty of room for growth.
We currently have 5 sites, 4 of which are generating all of the income. We started the fifth site in October of 2020 and have been seeing a nice upward trend with the traffic. We hope to have that site monetized by the end of this year.
In May, we published (in actuality, scheduled to go live in the future) roughly 4 posts/week to each of our sites. Most, but not all, of these posts were outsourced.
In May of 2021, we saw our traffic levels jump to the highest level yet. As you can see in the graph below, we topped 1.25 million pageviews across our five sites.
This wasn’t entirely surprising to us, because not only have we consistently been publishing about 4 posts/week/site for the past several months, but a couple of our sites are in niches that perform better during the warmer months (which is just starting up right now in the United States).
Speaking of the US, that’s where the vast majority of our traffic comes from. It’s one of the reasons that we get such a good return from the ads we run across our sites.
Another point about our traffic is that almost all of it comes from organic Google Search. We do have a couple of sites that brought in a combined 83,000 pageviews from social media sources (mostly Pinterest), but for the most part, we focus all of our efforts on targeting keywords and topics that will bring in organic search traffic.
The traffic in May wasn’t the only thing that was a new high for us, we also had our best revenue month yet, coming in at a total of $37,091.08. We actually made over $35,000 back in December of 2020, but after the holiday high, we’ve had to slowly work our way up from about $17,000 in January (which is to be expected).
As you can see in the screenshot above, the vast majority of our revenue came from ads. We use Mediavine for the ads on our four income-generating sites. While you can’t apply for Mediavine until you hit 50,000 sessions on your site, I can assure you that it’s well worth the wait.
The next largest income source on our sites comes from Amazon affiliate links. As you can see in the screenshot below, we really haven’t prioritized our affiliate placements.
We really focus on informational posts, so we only add links when it makes sense. We have very few posts across our sites with buyer intent. In fact, I don’t think we have any buyer-intent posts on sites 3, 4, and 5.
We feel that this is a safer long term strategy, as we heavily target Google Search traffic, and we simply don’t want to do anything that Google may not like. In the past, it’s been thought that Google doesn’t really like sites with a lot of affiliate links, regardless of what they state publicly.
By the way, the graph below shows our US revenue. We also brought in $107.05 from our international Amazon Associates accounts.
Aside from the income from Mediavine ads and Amazon Associates, we also made a small amount of income from the following sources:
- Other Affiliate Networks: $109.22
- Digital Product Sales: $8.85
- Print on Demand Sales: $68.60
Now on to the fun part. How much of that revenue was eaten up by our expenses? Not as much as you might think.
We try to keep our expenses minimal, while spending on items that either improve the quality of our sites or help us to scale.
Here’s a quick breakdown of our expenses:
- Hosting (Kinsta): $600.00
- Images (iStock): $116.61
- Outsourced Content: $4,677.51
- Legal Filings: $25.00
- Keywords Everywhere: $10.60
- Cloudflare: $25.00
- Google Workspace: $27.60
- SendOwl: $15.00
Total Expenses = $5,497.32
If you take our total revenue of $37,091.08 and subtract out our expenses of $5,497.32, we’re left with a net profit of $31,593.76. Even with a four person team, this is a huge amount of money for each of us.
We’ve recently started to collect email addresses on three of our sites. Some would say we should have started a long time ago, but in reality, we have gone down this path before and actually abandoned ship when we couldn’t come up with good ways to monetize our lists.
Some niches are much better than others when it comes to monetizing a mailing list. In our case, we don’t feel like it will be easy to monetize our lists, but even a small amount of extra money combined with the direct traffic that we can gain over time was enough to convince us to try this once again.
Here’s a breakdown of the number of subscribers we currently have on each site:
- Site #1: 330
- Site #2: 466
- Site #3: 0
- Site #4: 134
- Site #5: 0
Future Plans & Goals
We’ve made some changes to our strategy over the last few months, and our plan is to keep moving forward with the decisions that we’ve made.
Abandon Pinterest Efforts
One of those decisions was to abandon all Pinterest efforts. All four of the Pinterest accounts for our income-earning sites lost a significant amount of traffic in 2020 and early 2021. A quick search online will show you that this is being experienced by a lot of others as well.
As far as we can tell, Pinterest as a traffic source is going down the same path as Facebook, where you need to pay and run ads on their platform to get visitors over to your site. That’s just not something we’re not willing to do, so we’ve instead shifted our focus over to other targets.
Grow Our Mailing Lists
One of those targets is to grow our mailing lists on 3 of the 4 sites. This is something we’ve put off for a long time, simply because we didn’t have a clear path to monetizing those email lists.
However, Mediavine recently released a feature that displays an opt-in form as you scroll down a post, and it works unbelievably well. So well in fact, that we had to reevaluate our strategy to figure out ways to take advantage of growing mailing lists on our sites.
We don’t quite have the details ironed out yet, but for now, we are just sending weekly post recaps out to all subscribers that show a summary of the posts that were published that week. We’re also sending out monthly emails that are more information in nature.
Down the road, we hope to promote digital products via our email lists. We also might promote various affiliate offers that align with our niches.
Grow Our YouTube Presence
Lastly, we have YouTube channels for 3 of our sites, and we’ve been actively posting weekly videos on one of them for the past year. That channel is starting to gain some good traction, so we are going to take a similar approach on one or two of our other sites.
Stay the Course
Aside from the changes above, our plan is to simply stay the course. We will likely continue posting 4 posts/site/week for the remainder of the year. At that point in time, we may scale back so we don’t burn through all of our topics too quickly.
I mentioned above that we started a fifth site back in October. We hope to have that site monetized by the end of the year. If all goes well, we do have an idea for a sixth site, although we are in no hurry to launch it.
If you’re thinking about starting a niche site, there’s no better time to start than today. It takes a lot of time and a good amount of work early on, but if you stick with it, it can be very rewarding.
If you’re looking for more tips to get started or to grow your existing site, check out the posts on this site. I also share quite a bit of info over on our YouTube channel.
Let me know about your goals and progress in the comments below.