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September 2015 Income Report


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September was a super busy month for us as we travelled Europe, battled travel exhaustion and returned to our home in Penang.

I was initially worried about our income in September as our main source, Amazon, performed very badly in the first half of the month. Analysis showed that there is just less people searching for our main keywords across all our sites. It’s disappointing but it will pick up again and it is good to know that our rankings still keep going up. By the end of the month, we were still less than last month but not by much.

Thankfully, I went up in many other areas. I am making more from advertisements that ever before, more from hotel commissions, more from basically everything else. This lead to hitting my next income goal this month – keep reading to see what it is!

You can read last month’s income report here.

TBEX Asia!

I have managed to switch to TBEX Asia (travel blogging conference) instead of North America and I will be speaking at Bangkok next week!

I was very stressed about getting all the way to Fort Lauderdale – the flights were 30+ hours each way. That’s just far too far to travel for four days. I am so happy that I am speaking in Bangkok now.

My talk is basically about making money with affiliate marketing by using SEO – basically how I make most of the money in this income report. I am excited to share my knowledge and bust some of the silly myths about SEO I see in Facebook travel blogging groups.

If you will be there, make sure you come and say hello! And listen to me speak 🙂

New Niche Sites

I mentioned last month that I have been working on some new niche sites using the link building strategy in Cloud 1K – an ebook which follows some of my strategies to make niche sites.

I bought some links to two niche sites I had already built but I wasn’t using yet. The rankings have dropped a lot, but they are still not making money. I plan to buy some more links this month and see how they go. Fingers crossed I at least make the money back I have spent.

Travel/Life Update

Walking the walls in Dubrovnik's gorgeous Old Town

Walking the walls in Dubrovnik’s gorgeous Old Town

We started the month in Venice and finished back in Penang! We spent the majority of it in Europe, mostly in Slovenia and Croatia. We had stops in Oslo and Bangkok on the way home.

We are so happy to be back! Seeing Europe was great but being away for 4 months was too long. It is bloody hard to be full time travelling + full time working + full time parent. I don’t plan on ever doing that again!

You can read more about how we are all going in our 9 month update on Where’s Sharon.

Where’s Sharon

I kept working hard on this site in September adding content from Europe. I now have a crazy amount of European content. Crazy mainly because I probably put far too much time into it in the last few months when I could have been doing smarter (ie more financially successful) things. I just can’t help but want to share amazing places!

On the upside, I am completely up to date on this site so I will have lots of time while we are in Penang to do other business tasks rather than get bogged down in writing.

EasyAzon problems

My problems with the EasyAzon plugin continue. The support has basically stopped helping me and it’s still not working on this site. I still recommend it as there is no real competitor and it works fine on my other sites – and even without localisation (which is what isn’t working), it is still worthwhile.

J is going to look at this plugin and if he can’t figure it out, I’ll probably look at paying someone. I added some UK amazon links to just a few of my articles at the end of last month and managed to make an extra $62 so imagine what I could make if the localisation worked on all of them.

(Localisation is where the plugin changes the Amazon link depending on where the reader is coming from to be their local Amazon site.)

Still saying no to marketing requests

I am still saying no to every request I get for sponsored reviews, mentions, advertising, links, whatever. In some ways this is hard as I am getting a crazy amount of requests lately and many seem like they would pay well. Another blogger told me this would happen after being listed in the top 50 travel blogs based on traffic and it has.

I think I could easily be making a couple of extra thousand this way without too much effort. However, it is not the path I want to take. At the end of the day, it’s putting stuff on my site that I don’t 100% want there and it’s taking up my time which could obviously be put to better tasks. It is far better in the long run for me to double my affiliate income.

Advertising with The Blogger Network

I made the switch in early September from AdSense to The Blogger Network after other bloggers recommended it.

I was a bit hesitant as usually when I looked at the sites of the people recommending it the ads were everywhere and looked horrible. I made sure that I was strict with them about what I would do and I implemented the changes myself (very straight forward) so that it was how I wanted.

So far it is a success financially. I made about 1/3 more money this month from advertisements on this site. They say to expect it to be lower at the beginning too so fingers crossed that it goes up.

On the downside, they don’t fill ad spaces all the time. About 15% of the time, no ad is being displayed.

Bigger downsides are that they take much longer to pay than AdSense. Some of the money from September I won’t see until Christmas time!! They also have basically no reporting so I can’t see how individual ads are going or anything to help me optimise it.

They were very supportive and responsive when signing me up and getting me going, but now I can’t get a reply for requests for help to see more detailed reporting of anything. If this doesn’t change, I may go back to AdSense anyway. I would like to try out some of the things I have learned from experimenting on another site with AdSense (more about that below).

Hotel Commissions

I am happy that I have been able to diversify this income stream some more this month. I am slowly experimenting with changing some links to booking.com. I don’t want to stay in the position that I was in in April when CJ dumped me with no warning and I was suddenly making nothing from hotel commissions.

FYI, they brought me back on suddenly the next month but it did make me realise yet again the extreme importance of diversifying.

I also had something unexpected happen this month with Airbnb – they cut back my commission. Given you only make a one off commission with Airbnb that only happens when someone signs up with your link and then makes a booking which they then use, it may be better going with a different affiliate for holiday rentals.

Sponsored Travel

It's a hard life

It’s a hard life

We had major travel burnout in Europe last month, so I ended up arranging two sponsored stays in great resorts and it worked out very well, especially as one was seriously the best hotel I have ever seen for families and the other was in one of my new favourite places in Europe.

We also worked with a tourism board at the end which was less successful. They were great to work with but our flight there was cancelled and we ended up with less than 24 hours in the city in between two long travel days. If it hadn’t been sponsored, we would have just relaxed and not put ourselves through the stress of seeing enough to write about it.

So my love/hate relationship with sponsored travel continues!

Traffic

Page Views: 112,468 (up from 107,126)

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

Costs

HootSuite – $12
I use this for twitter scheduling

Writing – $100
Articles written by my brother.

GetResponse email service for managing my subscribers and autoresponders – $34
You can read more about the different email subscription services here.

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

Payoneer – $14
This is a debit MasterCard that I use to access Amazon money immediately. There is a 1% charge on Amazon deposits.

Instagram Scheduling – $20

RamNode Hosting – $12
Our new hosting service

MassPlanner – $14
Absolutely awesome tool for automating social media and growing accounts.

Total Costs: $232 (down from $246)

Income

Advertising – $440 (up from $327)

Direct advertising – $28 (constant)

Google AdSense – $27 (down from $299)
I only had AdSense ads up on the site for the first couple of days of September

Blogger Network – $385

Affiliates – $2,968 (up from $2,791)

I made $1,377 from Amazon US (down from $1,569) and $62 from Amazon UK. I also made $93 (up from $27) from an Australian affiliate and $98 from Klook (tickets for attractions).

I made $999 from hotel commissions (up from $915) from Commission Junction, $51 from HotelsCombined directly and $190 from Bookings.com. I also made $98 from Airbnb. All these commissions are higher than last month.

Income from Where's Sharon: $3,408 - $232= $3,176 (up from $2,872)

RPM:  $27 (stayed constant again - yay!)

RPM is an indication of how much money each 1,000 page views is worth to my site.

Digital Nomad Wannabe

Page Views: 6,504  (down from 7,773 )

I am not surprised to see this go down as I only published one article other than my income report and it was on the last day of the month. It is definitely worth reading though if you want to increase the number of hits to your website very easily with a little SEO trick. You can read about it here.

I also published an article a couple of days ago about how to find the best keywords. Again, essential reading if you want to improve your page views

I was happy to have another good month, earnings wise on this site. I am looking forward to seeing if I can improve this after speaking at TBEX this month.

Costs

None

Income

These are all affiliate commissions.

MassPlanner – $49
This tool is fabulous for many social media actions across social media networks including follow/unfollow and scheduling.

GetResponse – $236
Our favourite email marketing service.

Long Tail Pro – $62
Essential keyword research tool that I use just about every day

Cloud 1K – $89
eBook about how to build niche sites and start making $1000 per month online

Thrive Themes – $69
Fabulous themes and plugins. You are looking at their Performag theme!

Tailwind – $36
Awesome Pinterest scheduling tool. Read my Pinterest strategy here.

NameSilo – $1
Cheapest domain costs and renewals that I am aware of. Use code: DNW1OFF to get $1 off your own domains.

Income for Digital Nomad Wannabe: $542 (up from $424)
RPM: $83 (up from $55)

Niche sites

Site 1 Page Views: 10,474 (down from 15,962)
Site 2 Page Views: 18,880 (down from 23,513)

It was disappointing to see the downward turn in these sites. On one level, I am not surprised. Google trends showed me that searches on the keywords used in these sites are at their best at the start of the year and trend down from mid year.

I analysed my rankings, impressions in search results, clicks to Amazon and conversion rates. What I found backed up the Google trends data. I rank better across the board for my keywords than a few months ago, but my impressions in search results are down backing up that there just aren’t as many people searching for these terms.

My conversion rate stayed static but I ended up making a decent amount of money still as people spent more money on average. Overall, my earnings were basically the same as last month which is a relief. Unfortunately, I expect it to go down next month.

Costs

Writing – $100

Hosting – $17
PBN hosting costs

Payoneer – $36

Total Costs: $153 (down from $200)

Income

Site 1: $1,094 (up from $831)

Site 2: $2,522 (down from $2,810)

I made $3,616 (down from $3,664) across my niche sites.

Income from niche sites: $3,616 - $153 = $3,463 (down from $3,464)
RPM: $119 (up from $76)

Work / Home / Life

Page Views: 11,407 (up from 9,278)

This site has become a nice little passive money earner for me since discovering in August that I could make income from it using AdSense. I played around with it a bit this month to optimise earnings and am happy with the increase. It really shows the importance of targeting keywords that AdWords keywords planner lists as having high competition – meaning a lot of people want to advertise on these keywords.

I experimented with using a link list for the first time – a type of AdSense ad that basically lists search results. A user has to click on the ad which takes them to a page of search results. They then need to click on something on this page for me to earn money. It works surprisingly well and has become my top earner on that site. I’d recommend trying them out on your own.

Income from Work / Home / Life: $204 (up from $95)
RPM: $18

Earnings Total: AUD$7,181 (USD$5,130)

Up from USD$4,772 in August.

Average passive income per day for September = $239 (up from $221)

(I have decided to remove the passive income section now that all my income is included in this)

I am ecstatic about this total – I finally hit US$5000. And I did it while travelling Europe!

Plans for the Next Month

We are back in Penang which is a relief. It’s good to be home! It’s also good to have some dedicated time to work. I am also working hard on the life balance thing and taking more time off so I am trying hard not to get too involved in other projects.

I am still helping my brother with his site, but that has slowed down. I will also decide whether to persist with my new niche sites or not this month, not that they take much time.

I would love to get the free SEO course for this site and write an eBook on the topic, but I am not sure it is worth working my ass off. I need to be realistic whether it is worth the effort it would take – basically I need to make thousands from it for it to be worthwhile.

You can now read our update for October 2015 and more posts on blogging and income reports here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips or advice.

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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