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In last month’s income report, I mentioned that if we could stay close to the $40,000 level in September and October, we’d consider it a success.
Although our traffic took another seasonal dive, we ended up having our strongest month yet, finishing at $41,123.96 for the month of September. For reference, we made $39,565.95 in August.
As I already mentioned, this increase wasn’t due to a traffic increase. Instead, it was due to a nice rise in our ad RPMs.
Display ad RPMs, which are measured as revenue per 1,000 sessions, have some seasonality to them. While most people know that they are the highest during the 4th quarter, not many people realize that they increase from month-to-month within each quarter as well.
This means that your RPMs for a given quarter will likely be the highest in the 3rd month of that quarter, and that is all that’s responsible for our revenue increase last month.
Despite what I just said, because we’re now shifting into the 4th quarter, we might end up seeing higher RPMs in October. Whatever happens, November and December are the months that we are really excited for.
Now before I jump into the numbers, let me quickly go over 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 want to keep those separate, as I don’t want those totals to artificially inflate what we’ve built with our niche sites from the ground up.
Changes and Updates in September
August was a busy month for us, and the same can be said for September. We decided to expand further on our content outsourcing, while also attacking internal linking and keyword research.
Let’s start with internal linking. As many of you know, there are a ton of benefits to adding internal links to your content. Some of those benefits are more pageviews, a lower bounce rate, more topical authority (in Google’s eyes), and better indexing (due to Google being able to find your content easier).
With those goals in mind, we decided to attack a few of our sites to add as many internal links as possible, as quickly as possible. For this project, we decided to only attack sites that had well-defined topic clusters.
While we used to do this manually in the past, we decided to use a paid WordPress plugin called Link Whisper this time. We actually purchased this plugin many months ago, but didn’t find it useful at the time.
What made it so useful this time, was that we only targeted topic clusters, which you can basically think of as a collection of closely related posts within a site.
Because we use tags in WordPress to identify these topic clusters, we were able to set the Link Whisper plugin to only show us related links within a given tag. This was the missing key that kept us from finding success with Link Whisper in the past.
By limiting internal link suggestions to specific tags, we were able to add 500 internal links to three of our sites (roughly 300 on one and 100 each on the others), all in under a week.
I can’t begin to tell you what a huge time saver this was for us. I’d love to give you an estimate as to how long this would have taken manually, but to be honest, we simply never would have done it.
If you’re not familiar with the Link Whisper plugin, I highly suggest checking it out. Just make sure to tag your posts, as like I said, that is what really helps the plugin to produce the most relevant suggestions.
In last month’s income report, I mentioned that we decided to test a new outsourcing service called Passion Posts. This was mainly due to a slow and steady decline in content quality from Textun, who we have been using for the past year or so.
We’ve now received our first bulk order back from Passion Posts, and just like our test order, the content quality was excellent. It’s clear that the writers are familiar with the topics, and as a result, the articles are definitely a big step up from the articles that we were getting in the past.
What I didn’t mention last month was that at the same time that we reached out to Passion Posts, we also reached out to a writing service called Content Pit. At the time, the owner emailed me and said that they were backed up and couldn’t take my order, because they simply wouldn’t be able to fulfill it in a reasonable amount of time.
He also asked if he could reach out in September, once they were caught up. I actually felt really good about this response, because instead of taking our money and sitting on the order, they were honest with us and politely turned us away.
Well, September rolled around, and I got an email from them saying that they were caught up and could meet the timelines listed on their site. They also said that they were currently expanding their writing team, but that it would take some time, as they are very selective with their hiring.
Although we were already really happy with the articles we had received from Passion Posts, we figured we should at least put through a test order with Content Pit to make sure we weren’t missing out on another great service.
We got our test order of 10,000 words back about a week or so later, and I was extremely impressed. Not only was the quality level excellent, but the formatting matched my instructions perfectly.
Formatting is a big one for us, because we want our articles to be formatted consistently, no matter where we get them from. We typically spend a good chunk of time reformatting all the articles that we get back each month, but with Content Pit, we could just about copy and paste them into WordPress, as is.
After that test order, we decided to go all in and place a 100,000 word order. This order will take about two months to get back to us, but as long as we know that up front, that’s not a problem.
We’re going to use all these extra articles to ramp up our production on site #5. That site is now at the one year mark, and we’d like to get it up and running with Mediavine as soon as possible.
Our current thought is to post 1-2 posts/day on that site for 2-3 months. We will then shift those extra articles to a new site, which we haven’t launched yet.
If you’d like to test Passion Posts or Content Pit, make sure to use the discount codes below, which will give you 10% off your first order:
Last month, we tested a keyword tool called Keyword Chef. At the time, I mentioned that while we liked the tool and could see us using it as occasionally as a supplement, I didn’t see us using it too often.
Of course, things change, and we ended up not only using it again in September, but we doubled down and purchased $500 worth of credits, all of which we’ve already burned through.
Nothing’s changing as far as our keyword research method, but since we decided to ramp up our output on site #5 and are prepping a huge keyword list for a future site, we decided to run every subtopic we could find through Keyword Chef, just to make sure we weren’t missing any great opportunities.
Our goal with this exercise is to come up with as many keywords as possible to allow us to post at a higher frequency without worrying about running out of keywords anytime soon.
Next, let’s jump into the numbers.
Sites and Posts
As I’ve mentioned in the past, we currently have five sites, all four years old or less. All of them are monetized, with the exception of the fifth site.
Site #5 will be our focus until we get it to over 50,000 sessions/month, so we can monetize it through Mediavine’s ad network. The site is currently around 15,000 pageviews/month.
We’ve been posting at a consistent rate of 4 posts/site/week across all of our sites, but we’ve decided to change that for site #5, starting in late September.
For site #5, we are going to post 1-2 posts/day for roughly 2-3 months in hopes of growing the traffic more quickly. We likely won’t see a result from this increase for several months, but we feel like it’s a good move, nonetheless.
Once we’ve pushed this burst of articles through for 2-3 months, our plan is to do the same with a new site, which we haven’t launched yet. We are currently working on building a large keyword list for that site, with hopes of having plenty of topics to target around the beginning of 2022.
Here is a breakdown of the numbers for our existing sites (including scheduled posts and outsourced posts that haven’t been received yet):
What goes up, must come down. At least that’s what you’d expect with seasonal traffic.
Our traffic took another decent hit in September, but this was to be expected. We have two outdoor sites, as well as another that has a decent amount of outdoor content on it.
We’ll likely see this dip down further over the next few months, but we do have one site that always does better during the fall and winter, so we’ll have to wait to see which way the traffic swings overall.
Here’s a breakdown of the total pageviews for September:
As I mentioned up above, we made a total of $41,123.96 in September.
Here’s a breakdown of the revenue totals by month:
It’s kind of odd seeing our revenue climb to its highest level yet, while also seeing our traffic decline two months in a row. That just goes to show you how big of an impact RPMs have.
According to Mediavine, RPMs will actually be a bit higher in October, then much higher in November and December. We’ll have to wait to see if the RPM increase can more than offset the seasonal traffic drop.
Our hope is to stay around $40,000 or higher in October, then climb toward $50,000 in November and December. If we’re in the ballpark of those numbers, we’ll consider it a very successful year.
Here is a breakdown of our ad revenue from Mediavine in September. 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 September, we made $1,214.12 from our US account, and a small amount of revenue from the UK and Canada ($98.48).
Here is a graph showing our Amazon Associates revenue from the United States:
Aside from the income from Mediavine 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: $28.47
Our expenses increased significantly in September, mostly due to substantially increasing our outsourced content orders. With our revenue levels being around $40,000, we felt like it was a great time to reinvest. Hopefully, the higher expenses now will lead to higher revenue in the future.
Here’s a quick breakdown of our expenses for September:
- Rocket (hosting): $100.00
- Bluehost (domain renewals): $65.98
- iStock (stock images): $116.61
- Keyword Chef (keyword research): $500.00
- Upwork (writing service): $121.54
- Textun (writing service): $2,009.00
- Passion Posts – use LAKPFDZ2J0 for 10% off your first order (writing service): $3,307.50
- Content Pit – use PIU10 for 10% off your first order (writing service): $3,898.00
- Google Workspace (business email): $27.60
- SendOwl (digital sales platform): $15.00
- Mediavine Trellis (theme): $44.85
- USPS (P.O. Box): $53.00
Total Expenses = $10,259.08
If you take our total revenue of $41,123.96 and subtract out our expenses of $10,259.08, we’re left with a net profit of $30,864.88 for the month of September.
As I 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: 1,095
- Site #2: 1,393
- Site #3: 0
- My Backyard Life (on hold): 271
- Site #5: 0
Future Plans & Goals
For the rest of the year, our main focus is going to be to build our keyword lists for site #5 and a future site. Along the same lines, we’ll continue to pump out content at a higher rate for site #5, with the goal of switching that increased rate over to the new site in 2022.
This shouldn’t impact anything we’re doing with our other four sites. We will likely continue to post 4 articles/week/site for the remainder of the year.
As far as content providers, we’re extremely happy with the two new ones that we’ve added, so I don’t see us testing the waters with any others anytime soon.
The first three quarters of the year have been great for us, and we can’t wait to see what the fourth quarter brings. Our hope is that the higher RPMs will offset the potential seasonal traffic drop, but only time will tell.
Regardless, we are excited to finally be in the most lucrative stretch of the year and are looking forward to finishing out 2021 on a high note.