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January 2016 Working Online Update

Last month I published my last detailed income report, at least for now. Since then, I have been trying to work out a way I could keep publishing monthly updates that would still offer value to you without sharing detailed income information. I liked the idea of sharing percentage increases and decreases (suggested by one of you), so I thought I would give it a go. I’d love to hear what you think about the article and if it is helpful in the comments.

All dollar amounts are still in AUD.

Travel/Life Update

Exploring Legoland Malaysia with my kids

Exploring Legoland Malaysia with my kids

January was such a huge month. We travelled around Indonesia, Singapore and Johor Bahru, Kuching and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia!

We then returned to Melbourne after nearly 13 months away.

It’s been weird being back, but I have loved it. I am super busy sorting everything out, but I am very happy to be here. We have been lucky in that J got a job immediately and we found a house fast as well. The kids are settling into school and kinder well.

I am also feeling better than I was, pregnancy wise. I have lots of aches and pains but I have become less tired as the month went on and I am not sick anymore.

You can read more about our January travel adventures and our thoughts about returning home here.

Where’s Sharon

I had mixed success with this site this month. On the up side, my traffic went up substantially – by about 40%! Unfortunately my income did not go up in the same manner.

Challenges

I had two challenges this month which I wasn’t expecting. The first one some of you would know about.

GetResponse

I have been a big advocate of this email marketing service as it has done everything I have wanted and been easy to use. I have an extensive autoresponder series set up for my travel blog, a smaller one for another site and I send out my monthly newsletter from this site using it. It stores all my subscribers for three sites.

I woke up one morning early in January to the news that my account had been shut down. No reason. I had problems finding a way to contact their live support as I could no longer log in. I contacted their Facebook page which were helpful and soon got into live chat.

The Facebook page support told me that I would have to wait two days to get assistance as the team that decides account closures (based on high unsubscribes, suspicion of people not signing up legitimately, high spam rates, etc) had just finished for the day and the next day was a public holiday. Being in a different time zone can be frustrating.

The live chat person was not helpful at all and quite rude. He said the problem with my account had been investigated fully and it was unlikely it would ever be reinstated. I also had big problems getting any type of back up of my account as they needed the last 4 digits of my credit card to do so. I had left my credit card behind at a hotel and they were sending it back to Australia. I didn’t have it and banks won’t give that information on the phone!

To say I was a mess is an understatement. To lose all my lists, a year worth of autoresponders and everything else. While talking about the issues and trying to get reinstated, we also just about missed a flight.

Thankfully, it all ended well in the end. I found the four digits and got a backup – although only of the email lists and the emails in the auto responders without all the information – no subject lines, no day in the series, no images.  I would never have been able to put everyone back in the series in the right spot.

The far better news was when I woke up two days later to everything reinstated and a million apologies. It had been some rare system glitch which had been resolved and it shouldn’t happen again.

I thought a lot about changing providers. But honestly, I do still think GetResponse offers the best service for me.

My biggest issue is the same one I have found with many companies this past year, like when Commission Junction booted me temporarily as well. This shut-accounts-and-ask-questions-later mentality is so frustrating and upsetting. There are so many better ways to handle a problem than just shutting off access to your whole account especially when obviously no one is 100% sure anything is actually wrong.

I have taken my own better backups – screen shots of all my autoresponder details and I have emailed all my autoresponder emails to myself and saved them in a folder. I also want to move some of my lists out so I don’t have all my eggs in one basket.

The Blogger Network

I moved my ads on Where’s Sharon from Google AdSense to The Blogger Network in September. I signed up for four ads. I didn’t want my site littered with them like other blogs I saw that used them, so I never gave them control of my site (like they ask) and added the ads myself.

The income increases weren’t huge, especially as their reporting did not allow me to see details like how much each ad unit made individually so I could play with placement. My income did go up though – I found I earned the same number amount but it was in USD instead of AUD.

I realised on my return to Australia that I had a massive, ugly video ad at the end of every post! I thought my site had been hacked, and in a way, it had. J worked out it was coming from The Blogger Network! They were somehow inserting the big video ad in a different spot to where I had my other ads and they did this without my permission.

I could see no way to easily remove it other than removing all my ads so that’s what I did. I have since returned to Google AdSense and having the same earning experience – the same number value but in AUD instead of USD. Since currently AUD$1 = USD0.71, this is obviously a drop but it is better than having that happen again.

The worst part is that these ads only show up in some countries so it could have been there awhile as I couldn’t see them when I was in Asia. I also found them on a blogger friend’s website too who wasn’t seeing them at all as she was in a country where they don’t show up. It’s scary!

The Blogger Network said that they had sent out emails about these ads and I was meant to opt out. The reality is that they send a ton of emails so it’s easy for things to get lost. I also didn’t think I needed to opt out. Since I had never given access to my site, I didn’t think they could add them. It didn’t occur to me they would somehow use the script for the existing ads to do whatever they liked.

On the upside, they waived the fee for leaving their network without giving notice as they did seem to understand why I was upset. Hopefully they change such practices. I don’t think it made me any more money either. My advertising income had been going up but only in line with my traffic increases.

If you decide to use The Blogger Network, be very very wary.

Traffic

Page Views: 163,439 (up from 117,859)

You can read my secret to hitting 100,000 page views here.

Costs

HootSuite – $12
I use this for twitter scheduling

Writing – $120
Articles written by my brother.

Kraken Image Optimizer – $6
This tool optimises all the images I upload to my sites. You can read more about it here.

Tailwind – $20
Pinterest scheduling

RamNode Hosting – $12
Our new hosting service

OptinMonster – $136
The fabulous service I use to collect as many email addresses as possible from people who come to my sites. This is an annual fee. Read more about it here.

Total Costs: $296

Payoneer, the account I use to collect my Amazon US money, also has a 1% charge of money I receive from Amazon.

Income

Amazon was great. It went up across all my sites like I predicted. Google Trends had showed me awhile ago that most searches for my main buying keywords across my sites occur in the first half of the year and I was happy to find that I did have an increase to my more Amazon affiliate focused posts and an increase in purchases. My income from this source on this site went up by about 10% which is extra good as no doubt my figures were inflated last month because of Christmas.

HotelsCombined also performed well and I saw a big increase of 26%. However, these rises were cancelled out by Agoda which halved. Interestingly, it had about the same number of bookings, but they were for lower amounts.

I saw a slight income decrease in advertising after my move to Google AdSense.

Income from Where's Sharon: Down 9%

Digital Nomad Wannabe

Page Views: 12,857 (up from 10,374)

Unfortunately, I also had an income drop in January on this site.

Costs

eJunkie – $7
Service I use to sell my presentation product.

Total Costs: $7

Income

I was happy to find that my product, How to Gain Readers and Make Money: The Power of SEO Presentation, sold as well as last month. I am glad that so many people are hopefully using my advice to improve their site’s earning potential.

I also made affiliate commissions from:

MassPlanner – This tool is fabulous for many social media actions across social media networks including follow/unfollow and scheduling.

GetResponse – Our email marketing service.

Long Tail Pro – Essential keyword research tool that I use just about every day.

OptinMonster – Easy to use tool to maximise email subscriptions on your websites.

Tailwind – Awesome Pinterest scheduling tool. Read my Pinterest strategy here.

The problem was that I did not make as many sales as usual, particularly with Long Tail Pro which had great months in November and December. GetResponse also dropped which is not surprising.

Income for Digital Nomad Wannabe: Down 30%

Niche sites

Site 1 Page Views: 13.381 (up from 10.290)
Site 2 Page Views: 20,781 (up from 12,290)
Site 3 Page Views: 24,868 (up from 15,746)

I have decided to remove my Work / Home / Life site from having it’s own section in this report and have instead included it here as site 3. It is a niche site, just one I built differently to the others, using guest posting instead of PBNs for links. It also only earns money from Google AdSense and not Amazon like the other sites. It has an Australian focus instead of an American one.

This site just has so much potential. It is getting a lot of traffic and email sign ups despite the fact I never update it, but I don’t have the time to grow it further. I am actually considering selling it. More below!

I was relieved to find a great increase in traffic across my niche sites this month. I had expected this because of the data from Google Trends about the number of searches across my main buying keywords and how these have always sharply increased in January, but I never really believe something until it happens.

Costs

Hosting – $3
PBN hosting costs

Total Costs: $3

Payoneer, the account I use to collect my Amazon US money, has a 1% charge of money I receive from Amazon.

Income

For Site 3, my AdSense site, my income increased by over 60%. Most of this was from a rise in advertising revenue. The only thing that seemed to change is that more people were searching for this information. I also added another income source with just one affiliate link which is working out well for me. It was only on the site for about half the month and made about $100 for me. This site is a great little passive income earner.

For my Amazon sites, I had an increase of 6%. This isn’t as high as you might think it should be given the boost in traffic. However, December was Christmas and I had very high conversions on Amazon because of this. I am very happy with a 6% rise.

Income from niche sites: Up by 13%

Earnings Total: Down by 4%

I am happy about my earnings total in January. Obviously, it would have been nice to see another increase and no one enjoys a decrease, but when I consider the effort I put into working (not much), I am very happy. It is still above 5 figures, an amount which personally amazes me when I look back a year.

I was happy to have my best Amazon month ever – beating the Christmas period. This month is going even better so far!

I can’t complain about the income drop on this site because I did nothing to grow it and this site doesn’t get much Google traffic like my other sites. I have never come up with a marketing plan except for delivering honest and useful content, so any money feels like a win.

I was most disappointed to see the income drop on Where’s Sharon because it does receive the majority of my time and energy and because the traffic increase was fantastic – over 45,000 page views!

It was good to see all my sites have an increase in traffic too – after they all had a drop in December. This also gives me the chance to illustrate something I say over and over again in blogging groups of Facebook where too many people spout myths – it’s not about the amount of traffic to a site when it comes to income, it’s about having the right traffic. I had less traffic in December, but I made more money. I would obviously prefer that traffic!

Plans Going Forward

My biggest challenge for my business at the moment is sorting out my plans for moving forward. For that, I need solid goals and I am struggling with making them.

My brain is mush when it comes to my online business since returning to Australia. I have barely done any work. I just don’t have the head space for it with sorting out a home, J a job and the kids starting school and kinder. Life is far too busy and a bit of a blur at the moment. I have been surprised what a learning curve there has been for me with S starting school. It is not just the kids that need to adapt!

We move into our new house next weekend. Once that has all settled down, I hope I will be able to focus again and work out my goals for the future.

Before arriving back in Australia, I wanted to cut down all my activities, whether that was by selling sites and/or finally hiring a VA and other help, so that I could focus on building products for this site.

I enjoy working on this site and the passive income I receive for my presentation product is really the best type as it’s immediate and I don’t have any issues with waiting for people to pay, chasing up payment, etc. Online courses and eBooks have always felt like a good path for me with my teaching background. However, given my severe lack of time and less than 4 months before I take maternity leave, this is probably a crazy thought and maybe I should just stick with what’s working and what I know.

I am seriously thinking of selling some sites, especially one of my Amazon niche sites, and my Google AdSense site. I have thought about it before but gave up on the idea as the payment amounts did not seem high enough to justify it. However, I have since been reading about a lot of people having success with Empire Flippers. They sell sites for about 20 times their monthly income. For that sort of price, it seems worth it. In fact, it had me day dreaming about just selling it all! (FYI not going to happen!)

Even though I do not spend much time at all on my niche sites, it all adds up and I want things simpler. There is always something wrong with something. Managing my PBN is also painful so I would consider selling the sites that link to the niche site I want to sell as a package. Of course, the money would have to be enough to make that worthwhile.

My AdSense site also comes with other assets, like social media accounts and an email list, and it has so much potential that I think it would be a great site for someone that had more time.

I’m finding it hard to make a decision on this though. I need to have time to really set my goals for this year to work out the best course of action.

Regardless of the answers, I hope you will all continue to follow me so we can learn together.

You can read how much my travel blog made in 2016 in a detailed income report here.

 I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips or advice. Did you find my new format for these reports valuable?

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! I appreciate it 😀

About the Author

Sharon Gourlay is passionate about working online and helping others to follow in her footsteps. She left Australia with her young family at the end of 2014 determined to grow an online business. She succeeded and now supports her family of 5 to live their dream lifestyle.

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