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Anyone with a year or more of revenue under their belt from either display ads or affiliate commissions knows that the fourth quarter is when advertisers empty their pockets and spend big.
At the same time, anyone who’s been doing online publishing for a while knows that you can be thrown a curveball at any given time, and that curveball in this case came from Google in the form of an algorithm update (talk about terrible timing).
November has come and gone, and luckily for us, the sky-high RPMs outweighed the impact of the Google algorithm update (more on that later).
Our total revenue for November came in at $48,452.59, which was easily our highest month ever. For reference, we made $41,228.82 in October, which was our previous high.
Believe it or not, we hit this total while also seeing a decent decline in traffic, from a combination of seasonality and the impact of the update mentioned above.
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 November
Unlike the previous couple of months, we didn’t stray far from our game plan in November. With that being said, we do have a few big updates to share.
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Dropped Ezoic on Site #5
Back in October, I mentioned that we decided to add site #5 to Ezoic to get a small revenue stream going for that site. After all, every bit of income helps, and seeing some dollars come in for a newish site makes it easier to keep pushing forward.
Unfortunately, the Ezoic experiment didn’t last long and turned out to be a disaster. Shortly after integrating our site with Ezoic, we started seeing errors pop up in Google Search Console (although we didn’t notice this right away).
First, the errors were related to the sitemap not being accessible, even though it wasn’t being blocked and could easily be accessed. Later on, we started seeing some errors related to specific posts being indexed “without content.”
Since these issues came about slowly, and we weren’t really paying much attention to our search presence to begin with, we didn’t really notice what was going on until our traffic started to plummet.
After our traffic had just about dropped in half on a daily basis, I decided to randomly search for a few of our articles in Google Search. What I ended up seeing wasn’t good – search results with no descriptions, and titles that were simply replaced with a relevant tag (with the link pointed to the article, not a tag archive).
As you can imagine, this lead to significantly lower clickthrough and rankings, which was enough for us to pull the plug and switch back to not running ads.
I do want to point out that the Ezoic platform integrates and runs smoothly for plenty of websites out there, and I don’t believe the issue was with the Ezoic platform itself. Instead, I think the issue was tied to a newly released workaround to allow publishers (like us) using Rocket.net for hosting to integrate with Ezoic, which was not possible up until the end of September.
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At the same time that we integrated site #5 with Ezoic, we did the same thing with passiveincomeunlocked.com. We saw the exact same issues on that site, so again, the issue seems to be tied to the integration.
As soon as we reverted the integration, our pages started indexing correctly again, and after about 3-4 days, pretty much all of our posts had been crawled and indexed as they were prior to the issues.
All of this was a pretty big set back for site #5, which was climbing nicely month to month. Thankfully, it does seem to be back on the right trajectory again and had its biggest traffic days ever during the last three days of November.
Hit By the Google Algorithm Update
As I mentioned right at the beginning of this post, Google released a core algorithm update during the month of November, and we were definitely impacted by it.
Due to the seasonal decline on three of our sites, as well as the weird traffic fluctuations around Thanksgiving, it’s really difficult to tell exactly how bad we were hit. Our best guess at this point in time is that only two of our sites were hit, one declining by roughly 10% and another declining by roughly 20%.
Obviously, no one likes to see their traffic take a sharp and immediate dip during one of Google’s updates, but it does happen, and there’s not much you can really do about it.
We will continue to build our sites and make them as strong as possible through adding solid content and strengthening our topical relevance, as we feel that’s the best way to protect against these updates.
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Added the First Batch of Posts to Site #6
I mentioned last month that we decided to launch a new site as a case study. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call this site site #6.
We will be putting out regular video updates on our YouTube channel for this site as part of the case study, so I won’t go into too much detail here. What I will say is that we added roughly 40 posts in the month of November.
We’ve also been adding a ton of relevant internal links to these posts as we publish them, as that is a big part of the strategy of this case study. So far, we’re really happy with how the site is shaping up, and we’re looking forward watching it grow over the next several months.
Next, let’s jump into the numbers.
Sites and Posts
We once again spent quite a bit on outsourced content in the month of November, as you’ll see in the expenses section further down below.
For our four main sites, we stuck with a posting schedule of 4 posts/week/site. For site #5, we’ve been posting closer to 1 post/day. Lastly, on site #6, we’re outsourcing roughly 40-50 posts/month and posting in bulk as we get the articles.
Here is a breakdown of the numbers for all of these sites:
Our traffic in November took another small hit, but it wasn’t as bad as it could be. Site #1 always increases in traffic during the cooler months, and as you can see in the graph below, it mostly made up for the decreases in traffic across our others sites.
Here’s a breakdown of the total pageviews for November:
As I mentioned up above, we made a total of $48,452.59 in November. This was a significant increase from October, even though our traffic declined.
This is the beauty of Q4 and why so many online publishers can’t wait to get to the end of the year. Advertisers spend big during these months, and some of that extra money flows through to us publishers.
The average RPMs across our four sites ranged from $40 – $51 in the month of November. This was up from an average of $37 – $43 in October. On Black Friday, we had $66 and $67 RPMs on two of our sites, which is just incredible.
Here’s a breakdown of the revenue totals by month:
Here is a breakdown of our ad revenue from Mediavine in November. NOTE: the “Launch Date” represents the date that each site was launched with Mediavine ads, not the day it was created:
After display ad revenue, our next largest revenue source is from Amazon Associates. In November, we made $1,775.59 from our US account, and a small amount of revenue from the UK and Canada ($147.67).
Here is a graph showing our Amazon Associates revenue from the United States:
Aside from the income from Mediavine display ads and Amazon Associates, we also made a relatively small amount of income from the following sources:
- Ezoic: ??? (since disabling the integration, we seem to have lost access to the dashboard)
- Print on Demand Sales: $109.33
Our expenses for November were similar to the past couple of months, coming in at a total of $9,919.28. Like the past couple of months, the bulk of our expenses can be attributed to outsourced content.
Once again, you’ll see ContentPit listed below at $0, and again, this is simply due to the turnaround time of the last order that we placed, which was 100,000 words in roughly two months.
It’s unfortunate that ContentPit’s turnaround time is so long, because we’ve found that they are our favorite service. The writing style is great, the writers stay on point throughout each article (this is huge), and the formatting is as consistent as any service that we’ve used.
We will place another large order with them as soon as the last one is fulfilled, but until then, we’ll just keep increasing our orders with Passion Posts and Textun. If you’d like to give ContentPit a try, there is a discount code below for your first order.
Here’s a breakdown of our expenses for November:
- Rocket (hosting): $100.00
- iStock (stock images): $116.61
- Upwork (writing service): $101.97
- Textun (writing service): $6,562.50
- Passion Posts – use LAKPFDZ2J0 for 10% off your first order (writing service): $3,000.00
- Content Pit – use PIU10 for 10% off your first order (writing service): $0.00
- Keywords Everywhere (keyword research tool): $10.60
- Google Workspace (business email): $27.60
Total Expenses = $9,919.28
If you take our total revenue of $48,452.59 and subtract out our expenses of $9,919.28, we’re left with a net profit of $38,533.31 for the month of November.
Future Plans & Goals
Our plans to close out 2021 are to keep pumping content into our existing sites, while working on building out site #6.
We’ve also decided to shift the strategy for site #5 a bit by targeting a couple of topic clusters, rather than posting on any random topic within the niche. As a reminder, site #5 was an experiment where we chose a really broad niche and have been posting on random topics within that broad niche since day 1.
On our four “seasoned” sites, we’re also going to make it a point to start targeting some larger, more-competitive keywords. We’ve found that as our sites have aged, we’ve been able to rank for more and more of these out-of-reach keywords, so we think it makes sense to start targeting them more frequently to see what happens.
Back at the beginning of 2021, our goal was to hit $50,000 in a single month by the end of the year. We knew that if that were to happen, it would likely be in either November or December.
November fell slightly short of that goal, but based on what we saw last year in Q4, we think we have a good shot of clearing it in December. Regardless, we have nothing to complain about and are more than happy with how we’re closing out the year.