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How To Build A Successful Blog From Scratch: FINAL UPDATE!


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If you read my first update, you’ll know I’ve started a new authority site case study with both a site that I am building and one that my student is building. In my last update, I talked about how the sites were performing nine months in.

This update is very different.

Not only will I share how both sites are performing both twelve months in and, in the case of my site, how it is performing today at 18 months old.

I am also going to show you how my site has performed over the 18 months so you can see what progress is normal.

I’m also sharing what my plans are for my lifestyle blog, whether I think this authority site case study has been a success and why I am moving on to Authority Site Case Study II!

I also want to remind you that this case study isn’t just about how to build a successful blog from scratch but also to show that you don’t need much time. Neither of us are working on our blogs anywhere close to full time. You don’t have to work a zillion hours to grow a profitable blog as long as you can be patient!

Ready?

If you haven’t read my last update, make sure you read it now here before continuing.

Want to start your own  site? Click here to download my New Blog Checklist. It tells you what to concentrate on in the beginning to set you up for SEO success so you don’t need to spend all your time online.

You will learn...

  1. Why this is my final update
  2. Where this authority site case study has failed
  3. What you can expect in Authority Site Case Study II
  4. Site 1’s progress at 12 months
  5. Site 1’s progress at 18 months
  6. Some important thoughts on the differences between my 12 and 18 month updates (MUST READ!)
  7. Site 2’s progress at 12 months
  8. Exactly how to have the same success

Why this is my final update

I feel that there is not much else to share about my lifestyle blog at this point.

I started this case study to show how to build a successful blog in not much time and that the strategies I teach work.

 

I have done that.

I also don’t have anything else to share. My future plans for the site are below and basically the only thing changing is that I’ll work on it even less as I start approaching the second anniversary as I want to be in a good position to be able to sell it at the three year mark (more about this below).

I am happy with how this site has progressed. It was a risk when I started it as there wasn’t really a site like this in the Australian market. The keywords I targetted were very competitive but with the majority of sites being American or British content, I just hoped I could beat them by being more relevant.

It worked.

The bigger risk was that I was relying on a monetisation method that didn’t exist when I started this site – Amazon Australia. There aren’t really any other good affiliate options here so I was somewhat stuck until that opened and started an affiliate program.

I also know there can be benefits for getting in first and I figured that the risk was worth the potential reward.

What I didn’t foresee was that when Amazon AU finally opened that it would be such a soft opening and that it’s still not popular now, 15 months after it opened. My conversion rates are s l o w l y increasing, but it’s still so far off the returns I have got in the US, Canada or the UK.

I am patient though and I still have faith that it will get there.

Where this Authority Case Study has failed

My strategy for this blog (and what I recommend others do) is to get your blog earning enough money that it is worth your time before building it into something special – or an authority site.

So I get a site getting enough traffic from search and making enough affiliate income that it makes money before I put more effort in beyond that.

What I’ve realised with this lifestyle site is that I have zero interest in writing for it or building it into an authority site. I don’t care about the topics it discusses and I don’t want to spend time on it.

It’s not like this blog where I could talk about SEO and online business all day and love being seen as an authority.

This means I am not going to implement any other monetisation methods or do anything else to build it up…

Authority Site Case Study II

My next case study is going to be different because it’s about an area that I feel passionate about and I am determined to get creative and build a long-term sustainable business from. I want my brand to be seen as THE authority in its area.

It’s going to be much more than SEO + affiliate marketing. 

 

Although this is what I am working on at the moment so I know it is worth my time before I really sink energy into it – just like in this case study.

I already have plans to release a product this year. I’ve created a Facebook group.

There is so much I am excited to learn and share to help all of you as well.

This site is already five months old and starting to exit the Google sandbox and get traffic. I’m going to be sharing what I am doing and my successes and failures in real time. I am doing a lot more experimenting with this site than I usually do.

And most of all, I am going to show you, again, that you can build a successful blog part-time. Here’s a hint about what the site is about…

But it’s not a travel blog. I am still done with travel!

(Although part of me would love to have a case study starting from scratch with family travel to show all the family travel bloggers in my Facebook groups that think it’s too competitive that nothing has changed and you just need to find your angle!)

But before we dive into that, below I share details of my lifestyle blog at 12 and 18 months old and my plans for the future as well as update you on Leanna’s blog.

Site 1: One year in

In my previous updates, I covered:

  • The monetisation strategy behind my new blog
  • Buying my domain name and creating my blog
  • Getting “starter content” up on my blog
  • Reserving my social media channels
  • Getting the site looking ok
  • Link building
  • Email list building
  • Starting to publish buying guides and making keyword plans
  • Outsourcing and publishing more buying guides and adding more easy content
  • Adding and improving Google AdSense
  • Adding eBay affiliate links
  • Adding Amazon AU links

Want to see all these steps so you can follow them yourself?

Click here to download my FREE New Blog Checklist.

My strategy

Between the nine and twelve month updates, I:

  • Added Amazon AU links – this affiliate program finally opened!
  • Added more content
  • Grew more links (ALWAYS!)

I kept outsourcing content that I knew would work with affiliate marketing.

I slowly added more Amazon affiliate links as more became available.

I watched my income go up although my traffic actually decreased a little towards the 12 month anniversary.

You can watch the following video to show exactly how my site was going at 12 months old:

My next steps were:

  • Adding more content
  • Adding more links (ALWAYS!)

Month 12 Traffic And Earnings

Traffic: 14,821 users (down from 16,431)

Earnings : AUD$622 ($357.29 Amazon AU, $131.83 AdSense, $132.53 eBay – up from $621.65)

Costs: AUD$373 (down from $663)

(I outsourced two articles in month 12 – you could do easily by working the 9.5 hours that I paid for)

Site 1: 18 months in

I have always shared my updates for this case study six months after when they took place. Today, I am also sharing exactly where the site is NOW.

My strategy

Between the twelve and eighteen month updates, I:

  • Added more Amazon AU links
  • Added more content
  • Grew more links (ALWAYS!)
  • Changed the home page (it’s still not great though!)

I also performed an annual update in November last year. I do this every year for every site I own.

As part of this, every article getting more than a few hundred page views a month from Google is updated.

This involves updating with keywords (exactly how is here), making sure everything is up-to-date, all links work, any mention of 2018 is changed to 2019 and making sure at least 10% of the content is updated.

This is quite an involved process and me and my team had three weeks just on this in November.

It makes such a huge positive difference.

You will see below my traffic since I started this blog and this is exactly when my traffic increased again after a long plateau. If you saw a weekly view, it happened the same week as we started updating. It’s also shot up again with the recent Google update.

I teach my students to perform this as well as giving them the checklist my team uses. Unfortunately, I think many people ignore me – maybe not anymore after they see the following 😉

Note that I took this screenshot in the morning of the 26th of March so March is not over yet

You can watch the following video to show you exactly how my site is performing today at 18 months old:

Month 18 Traffic And Earnings

Traffic: 32,048 users (up from 14,821)

Earnings : AUD$2,663 ($2140,97 Amazon AU, $378.32 AdSense, $144.15 eBay – up from $622)

Costs: AUD$242 (down from $373)

(I outsourced one articles in month 18 – you could do easily by working the 6.5 hours that I paid for)

MUST READ – Some important thoughts on the differences between my 12 and 18 month updates!

I really hope some of you who aren’t getting the results that you want right now with your blog look at the differences between my 12 and 18 month traffic and earnings.

At the 12 month mark, it was tending downwards and I could have easily got frustrated that the work I was putting in had made no difference in months and decided SEO doesn’t work and quit.

But then look what I would have missed out on.

The “secret” of success is to use a proven strategy and push onwards even when you don’t feel like it’s working. 

 

Be consistent.

I also want to show you my site’s growth over the whole 18 months. You can see the traffic above. Here are some reports for income.

Amazon AU:

Amazon only allows me to show one year at a time and choses itself whether to group by month or not. I am sure you will still get the picture though!

2018:

Amazon earnings 2018

2019:

Amazon earnings 2019

December was huge thanks to Christmas and the fact that just after Christmas is the biggest sales period of the year in Australia. The best part is that the sales have continued since then at a similar rate.

AdSense:

AdSense earnings since I installed it

Next steps for my lifestyle blog

My ultimate goal for my lifestyle blog is to sell it for 6-figures.

In the following audio, I talk about what I plan to do for this blog to hit this goal.

If you want to learn more about what’s working on new sites right now, watch this mini-lesson.

Site 2: One year in

Site 2 is being built by DNW community member, Leanna. This site will remain as part of my case study updates.

She has two big goals for her site:

  1. To become THE authority site on her region of the US
  2. To make a full time income from her blog starting with affiliate marketing

Leanna is still focused on two things:

  1. Building links
  2. Writing articles to keywords. Some of these are based on ones that will convert well as affiliate articles and some are based on building her site up to be the authority on her region.

She has also started doing freelance writing work using everything she has learned during our time working together to help others produce articles that will lead to search traffic and affiliate income. You can find information about this here.

She has done a great job on keeping focused on SEO and affiliate marketing and not getting swept up by all the blogging distractions that exist out there (although she admits that building links has stopped recently and she needs to get back to it!). She has 50 keyword researched posts where this means she has at least thought about the main keywords.

However, only 18 of these are product focused and 10 written to attract high affiliate conversions by focusing on reader intent (more about what this means here). Leanna is working on upping the amount of really affiliate focused content after we realised we had a misunderstanding about how to best do this in the 9 month update.

To give you an idea how much time this is taking, she is currently working about 5-8 hours a week on her blog.

Leanna also recently wrote a post for this site about her progress over the last year. You can find this here.

Some great things have happened in the last month for Leanna’s blog.

Firstly, Leanna had a meme go viral from her Facebook page and has grown her likes to 1237 accidentally!

Secondly, Leanna has had a post go viral thanks to writing a really timely post on the recent massive flooding problems in Nebraska.

Both these things are helping Leanna establish her site as the authority on Nebraska and she is getting great engagement through her blog.

She is also getting more and more sponsored travel opportunities.

Thanks to this huge surge in traffic, Leanna is applying to Mediavine. She wishes she had already set up AdSense so she could have taken better advantage of this viral traffic.

Month 12 Traffic And Earnings

Traffic: 39,273 users (up from 1,758)

Earnings:  US$641 ($61 from Amazon, $580 from freelancing, up from $202)

Costs: $12

(KeySearch subscription – keyword research tool)

Looking for a list of exactly what to do for blogging success?

Join Build Blog Freedom Fast Track, my new ten-week program. This will step you through everything you need to do to make SEO and affiliate marketing work on your blog using the exact process Leanna and I are using.

Click here to get started!

I hope this update has inspired you and shown you what is possible. I hope you have enjoyed my lifestyle blog updates and are ready for something new that we can all get excited about.

I also hope it helps you understand what solid steps you can take with a new blog to start growing it in the least time possible.

You can have blogging success.

I’ll show you 🙂

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I’d love to know your thoughts on this case study in the comments below or let me know in the DNW Facebook group!

Find more posts on my case studies and niche sites here.

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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