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Our revenue goal for the past few months has been to hover around the $40,000 mark. The reason being that as the year comes to a close, our traffic starts to dip, but the display ad RPMs start to rise.
In October, we hit our highest total yet (barely), coming in at $41,228.82. For reference, we made $41,123.96 in September.
This is pretty much where we were hoping to end up, as our traffic did decline a bit, as expected. Going into the last two months of the quarter though, our hope is to be closer to $50,000.
We’ve never been in this position before, so we really don’t know what’s realistic. However, in each of the past two years, we saw a sharp increase in revenue in the last two months of the year, as that’s when ad RPMs are at their highest.
Now before I jump into the numbers, 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 October
Just like the past few months, October was a busy month, and we once again changed course and worked on things that weren’t even on our radar.
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Switched to a New Theme
As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, we use Mediavine for our display ads. Recently, Mediavine released their own WordPress theme, so we decided to test it.
Our thought process was that if our ad network releases their own theme, it’s likely to be extremely optimized to run their ads. After some testing, this proved to be true.
One by one, we switched our sites over to the month-to-month plan for Trellis, which is the name of the theme. We actually started this in September, but we didn’t have enough data to share anything in last month’s income report.
As we tested each site, we were looking to see if the RPMs would change in relation to the other sites. For example, if site #1 is typically $5-10 less in RPMs than the other sites, did it stay within that range after switching to Trellis?
What we consistently found is that as we tested each site, we saw an immediate $5 or more increase in RPMs. This is obviously pretty significant.
By the time we tested three sites, we decided to move forward with an annual five-site license to switch all of our sites over to Trellis at a discounted rate.
I will say that Trellis isn’t the best-looking theme out there, and it definitely doesn’t provide a ton of functionality or customization options through the GUI. However, for a content site, we can live with that, especially if it increases the site speed (which it did) and RPMs.
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Trellis is pretty expensive and requires an annual license. It’s also in beta. I wouldn’t recommend making the switch unless you’re already using Mediavine as your ad network.
Added Ezoic Ads to Site #5
Something else we ended up doing in October was to sign up for Ezoic for site #5. In reality, we signed up for Ezoic to put ads on passiveincomeunlocked.com, but figured if we’re going through the effort, we might as well add ads to site #5 as well.
Ironically, passiveincomeunlocked.com was denied by Google during the Ezoic integration step (not sure why at this moment), but site #5 was accepted right away.
Although we’ve only had site #5 with Ezoic for about a week, we’ve already come close to $20 RPMs. While our long-term goal is to move this site over to Mediavine, it is nice to see a bit of revenue being generated by the site.
Launched a New Site
Lastly, we ended up launching a new site that will serve as a case study. While we’re following many of the same strategies for this new site, we are also testing a couple of major things that we’ve never done in the past.
I’ll dive into the overall strategy of this new site in an upcoming YouTube video on our channel, so keep an eye out for that.
I should mention that while we did purchase the domain and hosting in late October, as well as set up the basic structure of the site (pages, categories, etc.), we haven’t published any articles yet.
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We placed an order for 50 articles right at the end of October, so we should start seeing those come in sometime in early November. Our goal is to publish roughly 150 posts within the first few months, then let the site sit to see what happens.
On a related note, this site is not the site that I’ve discussed in previous videos that we intended to release in the near future. We do have quite a few keywords ready to go for that site as well, but decided to push it back behind the one mentioned above. We’ll likely launch that site in early 2022.
Next, let’s jump into the numbers.
Sites and Posts
For our four main sites, we stuck to our typical posting schedule of 4 posts/week/site in October. For site #5, we ramped up production, as mentioned last month.
Originally, our goal was to publish 2 posts/day on site #5 for 30 days, then scale back to 1 post/day for a month or two. In reality, we ended up posting 2 posts/day for about 15 days, then scaled back to 1 post/day.
The change in frequency was due to simply not having enough articles back from our writing services. This was a result of not accurately accounting for the turn-around times of each service.
Speaking of site #5, it grew another 20% and had close to 17,000 pageviews in October. While this isn’t bad, it’s not where we were hoping it would be.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, we experimented with this site and went very broad from the beginning, posting on any random topic within the broad niche. We’re pretty sure this is the main reason for the somewhat slow growth, but we still expect the site to do well as it ages.
Roughly 150 posts on the site are less than six months old, so that’s likely another factor for the slowish growth.
Here is a breakdown of the numbers for our existing sites:
Our traffic in October 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 October:
As I mentioned up above, we made a total of $41,228.82 in October.
Here’s a breakdown of the revenue totals by month:
While you typically see an RPM drop in the first month of each quarter, the fourth quarter can be an exception. On top of that, as mentioned above, we saw a nice RPM increase from switching themes to Trellis.
As the end of the day, we saw a slightly higher RPM in October, along with slightly lower traffic levels. This resulted in our revenue numbers staying flat from September to October.
Here is a breakdown of our ad revenue from Mediavine in October. NOTE: the “Launch Date” represents the date that each site was launched with Mediavine ads, not the day it was created:
We also made $65.00 on site #5 from Ezoic, which isn’t pictured above. This was for roughly one week with Ezoic, so November should increase significantly.
After display ad revenue, our next largest revenue source is from Amazon Associates. In October, we made $1,143.31 from our US account, and a small amount of revenue from the UK and Canada ($161.28).
Here is a graph showing our Amazon Associates revenue from the United States:
Aside from the income from display ads and Amazon Associates, we also made a relatively small amount of income from the following sources:
- Other Affiliate Networks: $0.00
- Digital Product Sales: $0.00
- Print on Demand Sales: $85.83
We’ve mostly given up on non-Amazon affiliate sources, so that will likely be zero for most months going forward. As far as digital sales, we will only see sales in the warmer months, as the digital products are tied to a seasonal site.
Our expenses for October stayed around the same amount as September, coming in at a total of $9,947.42. Unlike September, the increased expenses were attributed to outsourced content for a newly launched site, as mentioned above.
You’ll see ContentPit listed below at $0. We haven’t decided to stop using this service by any means. This is simply due to the turnaround time of the last order that we placed, which was 100,000 words in roughly two months. We will place another large order with them as soon as the last one is fulfilled.
Here’s a breakdown of our expenses for October:
- Rocket (hosting): $100.00
- Bluehost (domain and related domain for site #6): $49.74
- iStock (stock images): $116.61
- Upwork (writing service): $154.50
- Textun (writing service): $5,068.00
- Passion Posts – use LAKPFDZ2J0 for 10% off your first order (writing service): $4,068.78
- Content Pit – use PIU10 for 10% off your first order (writing service): $0.00
- Google Workspace (business email): $27.60
- Mediavine Trellis (theme): $362.19
Total Expenses = $9,947.42
If you take our total revenue of $41,228.82 and subtract out our expenses of $9,947.42, we’re left with a net profit of $31,281.40 for the month of October.
As I’ve mentioned in previous income reports, we’re currently using Mediavine’s built-in opt-in tool to collect email addresses. It works extremely well and is non-intrusive.
However, we still haven’t put together a plan for using these email addresses. For now, we’re just collecting them and sending out an automated recap of our posts from the previous month using MailPoet.
Here’s a breakdown of the current subscribers per site:
- Site #1: 1,334
- Site #2: 1,552
- Site #3: 0
- My Backyard Life (on hold): 271
- Site #5: 0
Future Plans & Goals
Our plan for the rest of the year is pretty simple: keep adding content to our sites. For our four sites with Mediavine, this should end up being 4 posts/site/week. For site #5, this will likely end up being 1 post/day.
For the newly launched site, we are going to likely post in bulk as we get the content back. We hope to order roughly 50 posts/month, with a goal of putting the site on pause after publishing 150 articles.
Again, this is a case study, so if you’re wondering why we’re only going to publish 150 posts, I will go over the details in a future YouTube video.
October ended up being our biggest revenue month yet, which we’re obviously happy about. Nonetheless, we hope to see some significant growth in November and December to close out 2021.
Our goal at the very beginning of this year was to hit $50,000 in a single month by the end of this year, and at this point, we feel like it’s a real possibility. Regardless of where we end up, Q4 is the most exciting time of the year for online publishers, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the next two months have to offer.