Mortgage Crushing Challenge Update #2 – Validation with Paid Traffic Testing

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mortgage crushing challenge update 2Welcome to my latest update for the 2017 Mortgage Crushing Challenge! In this update, I’ll be covering everything that happened throughout February, March and April pertaining to this particular niche website. Much progress was made. A test (of sorts) was completed which further validated my niche. My optimism and excitement remain, as I’m still expecting massive success with this website.

What is the Mortgage Crushing Challenge? It is a goal that I set for myself at the beginning of this year and the following statement explains it perfectly…


I am going to create one (brand new) passive income producing website that will cover my mortgage by December 2017!


Previous Posts for The Mortgage Crushing Challenge

Progress Update

As mentioned above – I feel like I’ve accomplished kind of a lot for this site. There is plenty of work left to do – but, man… February, March and April flew right by. Here is my progress report laid out by month.

February

Much of February was spent on site layout and design and getting my content plan in place. I knew from the very beginning that I would be using the Ultimate Azon WordPress Theme for this site. My main monetization method is Amazon Associates and this particular theme has incredible built-in functionality that caters specifically to this type of product review and comparison website. The features I like specifically include: the comparison table with custom options, the product sliders and the unique drag-and-drop comparison tool.

My VA happens to have a gift and a knack for graphic design – so I had him create a header for the website. I chose a full-width layout (no sidebar) for this site. This seems more modern and also allows additional room to include more options in the comparison table without everything getting all scrunched together. Note: The Ultimate Azon Theme did not have a built-in option (at the time) to remove the sidebar – so I had to add some custom code to do that.

adding ssl certificatesI also new from the very beginning that I wanted this website to be secure (https). Adding SSL certificates creates benefits like: added security, better SEO, more buyer confidence and others. Doing so was extremely easy and has no added cost within my good hosting account at WP Engine. This was a no-brainer, as more and more sites these days are moving to secure servers and even Google is admitting that website security will have an affect on search rankings.

WP Engine - See Pricing Plans

Next – I created a content plan for the site. I took my massive list of keywords and put them in a new spreadsheet which my VA’s and my writer have access to. I then formulated a content plan with those awesome keywords and sent instructions to my writer to get started on the product reviews. Luckily (for me), I’ve been working with this same writer for several years now and we’ve refined our processes for different article types over the years. She does an insanely great job on product reviews and informational articles per my instructions.


Want to Learn My Unique Keyword Research Process?

 Step-by-Step Instructions for My Unique Keyword Research Process


By the end of February, I had my first few product reviews published! And by “I” – I mean my writer did all of the research and writing and my VA’s did all of the editing and publishing. I just paid them! 🙂 And that is exactly how I like to produce and publish content for my niche sites these days.

March

Full steam ahead into March and most of the main content for the site is completed and published by the middle of the month.

I’m keeping it simple for this particular product review site and I’m only including 10 main products. So, that’s 10 review posts that were published. I then had a massive home-page article written – cashing in at over 4,000 words. I also published a really nice and helpful ‘buyers guide’ page. My VA created a couple of really nice infographics to include on both of those pages. In addition to those two main content pages – we also published 9 more articles that are both keyword-focused and also extremely helpful for readers (potential buyers).

So, by mid-March – most of the main content for the site is published and in place. I still plan to keep publishing more bloggy-type posts at a rate of maybe one or two per month – just to keep fresh content being continually published on the site.

After getting most of the content published – I got anxious and couldn’t sit around and wait for search rankings to increase. I decided to try sending paid traffic to the site using Google Adwords advertising. This turned out to be quite the fun and interesting experiment! More on that below…

I also started some basic and lackluster link-building efforts for the site. I hate link building! I’ve said that many times before on this site… but I MUST struggle through and bite the bullet and get it done for this site. Failing to hit my goal of $2,100 per month is NOT an option – and the only way this site is going to rank in Google and earn is if I build links. More on that below as well…

April

I really didn’t do very much with the site in April. You could say that most of April was a wasted month.

I tweaked a few things with the layout and fixed some bugs on the site. I monitored, edited and maintained a few of my lackluster (automated) link building efforts. I also checked and monitored my backlink profiles and my Google search rankings for some of the keywords that I’m targeting. Considering that I haven’t really put a focused effort on link building yet – I’m quite happy and impressed with the results I’m seeing so far! Here is a screenshot of my rankings (for some of my main keywords) as of May 7th, 2017.


Website Rankings 07May2017


Not bad! Four months into a brand new website on a brand new domain – and I’ve already got 9 of my target keywords ranking in the top 100 in Google! This is a great sign and a good start. I think it’s safe to say that this site is definitely not in any kind of Google sandbox.

Okay… time to cover my paid traffic experiment and niche validation as a result…

Niche Validation with Google Adwords Paid Traffic

After publishing most of the main content – I just had to see how this site would convert. I didn’t want to wait around for organic Google search rankings. So I decided to run some Google Adwords advertising targeting some of the main keywords that my site is built around.

In all honesty – I was actually hoping that my earnings would outpace my ad spending. But as it turns out – CPC values are a little bit high in this niche due to the higher priced products my site is targeting. I ended up spending WAY more than I earned. But I got some really valuable data as a result of this test.

Google Adwords – March 1 thru March 31, 2017

Google Adwords Stats Mar01 thru Mar31 2017

My first ever full month of sending paid traffic with Adwords to one of my sites. I spent $496.55 during the entire month of March. My ad impressions showed up in Google search results 65,410 times (usually near the top of the page!). 723 people clicked on my ads during that month for a click-through-rate (CTR) of 1.11% making my average cost-per-click (CPC) $0.69.

Okay. Let’s see how the actual traffic on my site compares to these numbers.

Google Analytics – March 1 thru March 31, 2017

Google Analytics Stats Mar01 thru Mar31 2017

Interesting! 735 total visitors (Users) for the month compared to the 723 paid visitors I sent over through advertising. This means there were only 12 organic visitors to this site during the entire month of March.

You can see in the image above, I was sending a little bit of traffic at the very beginning of the month. This is because I got really anxious and couldn’t wait until the content was finished – so I experimented with sending some traffic to the specific review posts that were already published even though the home page article wasn’t even published yet! That was kind of dumb (my middle name) and I realized it right away and paused my ads until I got the content completely finished.

March 16th – the content is completely published and I turn the ads back on and create some new ads to send traffic to various pages on the site targeting lots of different keywords.

Hint: I used Long Tail Pro to find very specific (long tail) keywords to target in my Adwords campaign. Most people only think of Long Tail Pro as a keyword research tool to use for SEO. But as it turns out – it is fantastic for finding keywords to target in an ad campaign!

Long Tail Pro - Learn More Here

Of my 735 unique visitors, 22.4% of them returned to my site at some point giving me 938 total visits for the month. At an average of 2.06 pages per visit – I had a total of 1,929 page views.

Amazon Earnings – March 1 thru March 31, 2017

Amazon Earnings Mar01 thru Mar31 2017

Amazon Associates is the ONLY monetization method I have on this site currently – so this screenshot of my Amazon earnings represents ALL earnings for the month of March. This screenshot does NOT include earnings for any of my other sites.

During the month of March, my website sent 294 clicks over to Amazon. That’s right on target, considering I had only 735 unique visitors. That means that exactly 40% of my visitors clicked over to Amazon.

12 of those 294 Amazon visitors ordered something for an okay 4.08% conversion rate.

Total earnings of $126.83 resulted from just one of the products that I promote being purchased and 11 random items that I don’t promote on that site.

Revenue per 1,000 Page Views (RPM)

One metric that is commonly measured for website revenue is how much a site earns per 1,000 page views – referred to as RPM.

This is really easy to calculate. Simply divide your total revenue by the total number of page views (for the specific time period) then multiply that by 1,000.

RPM = revenue/page views x 1,000

RPM for my new niche site for the month of March 2017… $126.83/1,929 x 1,000 = $65.75

This is the validation I was looking for! An RPM of $65.75 is fantastic! Compare that to the measly $3.05 RPM I got from my entire Adsense account for that exact same time period. Another comparison – my overall RPM for another one of my large sites is only $12.36.

Niche Validation

I did not have a positive ROI in terms of revenue created from the paid traffic that I sent to my site during March. But I DID validate the niche and the conversion rates for the site the way I have it set up right now.

The click-through rates and conversion rates are right on target and seem to line up perfectly compared to stats I’ve seen for typical Amazon affiliate sites. This paid traffic test confirmed these rates for me – even thought I didn’t exactly sell as much product as I’d hoped during the short 2 weeks that the ads were running in full effect.

Traffic and Revenue Goals & Estimates

Playing with numbers a little bit – using my early $65.75 RPM… say I get the site to 300 visitors per day. That would be 9,000 monthly visitors which would equate approximately $591.75 in revenue. My ambitions are much higher than that though – and I honestly think that my RPM will increase by quite a bit once I start ranking naturally on the first page of Google for my keywords and I start selling more of the expensive products that I promote on the site.

Assuming I can double my RPM (which I think will easily happen) to $130 – I only need to change the equation slightly to reverse engineer it to find out how much traffic I need to hit my goal of $2,100 per month. I’ll show you what this equation looks like…

revenue goal/RPM x 1,000 = visitors needed

In my case – this is a monthly goal ($2,100) and an estimated RPM ($130) which means the calculation results in the number of monthly visitors I need on my website. $2,100/$130 x 1,000 = 16,154. If I divide that number by 30, that means I need to average about 538 daily visitors to my site in order to hit my goal (using that estimated RPM). If my RPM doesn’t double and remains around $65 – then I need to double that traffic figure to over 1,000 daily visits.

Using these numbers and calculations – I can clearly see that I need to generate traffic to my website in the 500 to 1000 daily visitors range if I want to hit my goal of $2,100 per month with this site.

If I’m going to get that kind of traffic for free from Google – I’m going to have to build some links to my site…

I Hate Link Building

Building links manually is tedious and hard. Buying links from reputable services is insanely expensive. Figuring out where and how to build links can be quite tricky. I don’t enjoy any part of this process at all. But I know it’s going to be necessary – especially since my paid traffic experiment did not provide a positive monetary ROI.

Failure is not an option with this niche website - so link building is absolutely mandatory.Click To Tweet

As part of this project – I’m using tools I haven’t used before to uncover back linking opportunities. I’m going back to some gray hat strategies/services that I’ve used in the past (while being careful to not do anything that will trigger a Google penalty). And I’m planning on using some white hat tactics – both manually and with paid services.

I won’t cover everything in complete detail in this post. A ‘link building’ update for The Mortgage Crushing Challenge is going to deserve it’s own highly detailed post. For now though – I can quickly list out some of the tools/services that I’ve been using. But first – I think it’s relevant to show you my rankings screenshot one more time. Again – I’ve achieved these early rankings with very little effort by me to build links. Here are my rankings…

Website Rankings 07May2017

And here is a screenshot from Ahrefs.com showing how many links are currently pointing to my site (199) and from how many referring domains (22)…

Ahrefs stats for Mortgage Crushing Challenge site - 10May2017

And here is one more screenshot from Ahrefs.com with charts showing my number of referring domains and referring pages…

Referring domains - Referring pages - MCC site 10May2017

It’s obvious that links started getting pointed to my site in the very middle of March, 2017. This was exactly when I finished the main content for the site then started some automated link building campaigns and also the paid traffic with Adwords campaigns. Listed below are some of the tools and services I’ve been using to get these kind of early results with very little effort…

Backlink Checking/Monitoring Tools

  • SEMRush – I have a paid account and I use this to monitor stats for my site and to spy on my competitors. For example, I found all of the backlinks pointing to my top competitor and I’m using that report to copy (steal) those backlinks and/or create my own that are similar or better. After I finish copying my top competitors backlinks – I plan to run the same report on my other competitors to steal their backlinks too! Go ahead and try SEMRush FOR FREE  – CLICK HERE to try the Backlink Checker tool or simply enter a domain, keyword or URL in the widget below…


  • Ahrefs – I use a free account to run limited reports for my site and for my competitors sites. Ahrefs seems to update more often than SEMRush and provides a more accurate count of current backlinks. But Ahrefs is extremely expensive and I chose to purchase a subscription at SEMRush instead for their competitor analysis tools
  • Majestic SEO – I use a free account to run limited reports for my site and for my competitors sites. Again, this gives me another perspective on backlink data and provides Trust Flow and Citation Flow metrics that I can compare with my competitors.

Paid Services I’ve Used to get Links

  • SocialADR – Automated social bookmarking links – I used this service extensively in the past and I had a bunch of credits still sitting in my account so I decided to fire it back up for this site. I’m seeing lots of links created from this service showing up in my backlinks reports. This is a major factor as to how I’ve gotten 199 links pointing to my site already!
  • The HOTH Original – I purchased a Platinum package from The HOTH in late March and received my report in early April which showed all of the sites that they built for me with links pointing to my site per my instructions. Again – I’m seeing a bunch of these links in my backlinks reports.
  • The HOTH Press Release – This is something I’ve never tried for any site before and I really didn’t know much about press releases. I was quite impressed with what they delivered! The HOTH wrote up an awesome press release and I’m seeing it showing up in lots of different news publications all over the internet!

The rest of my link building strategies and tactics are going to have to wait until the next Mortgage Crushing Challenge update post. Now, onto my budget update before I end this really long post…

Stated Goal and Budget Update


I am going to create one (brand new) passive income producing website that will cover my mortgage by December 2017!


Goal Parameters

  • Create brand new website (starting January 2017) that earns at least $2,100/month by the end of December 2017
  • Spend no more than $500/month to create this site and get it earning – total budget of $6,000

Expenditures to Date

  • January Expenses – $137.87
    • Domain registration from namecheap.com (1-year with privacy protection) – $10.87
    • Hosting – using one of my existing hosting accounts at WPEngine – $0
    • Keyword Research – purchased a keyword research package from Niche Wolf – $127
  • February Expenses – $488.10
    • Private writer for website content/articles – $270
    • VA for editing and publishing content and other website related tasks (estimated) – $120
    • Google Adwords – testing paid traffic sources – $98.10
  • March Expenses – $1325.55
    • Private writer for website content/articles – $385
    • VA for editing and publishing content and other website related tasks (estimated) – $194
    • Google Adwords – testing paid traffic sources – $496.55
    • Link building package from The HOTH (Original – Platinum) – $250
  • April Expenses – $337.40
    • Private writer for website content/articles – $163
    • VA for editing and publishing content and other website related tasks (estimated) – $46
    • Link building package from The HOTH (Press Release plus Boost) – $128.40

Income to Date

  • January 2017 – $0
  • February 2017 – $0
  • March 2017 – $126.83
    • Amazon Affiliate – $126.83
  • April 2017 – (-$10.24)
    • Amazon Affiliate – (-$10.24) – must have been a return

Total Budget

  • Project Beginning – $6,000
  • Expenses to Date – $2,288.92
  • Remaining Budget – $3711.08

Image “Dark Sky Neon” from Flickr

  • Avi Lang

    Great article. Question what site/software are you using to track your keywords? Also I see your spending a lot of money whats your budget and what would I do differently with a lot less money?

    • Hi Avi! I’m using ProRankTracker to track my keyword rankings. If you have Long Tail Pro – it has a really nice built-in keyword tracking feature that is almost as good as most of the other paid keyword rank tracking services.

      I cover all of my budget details at the very end of the post. The only thing that I’ve spent money on that you couldn’t duplicate yourself, for free, is the paid traffic experiment. You could write you own content, edit and post your own articles, build your own web 2.0-style websites for backlinks, create your own press releases, send a bunch of bookmarking links pointing to your site. That can all be done for free – but you need to have the knowledge and time to do all of that. I prefer to outsource most of it.

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  • Matt nice read…..great to know how well your site converts before you dump a ton of money into it….nice test!

    • Thanks Scott. Actually, I’ve already dumped a bunch of money into this site! Lol. The test just further validated and confirmed that I should continue with link building.

  • Vinny Borg

    Hi Matt, good to see things are progressing. I like to see your stats as it it gives me something to compare my site to. Where do you get your VA from? and maybe a better question would be when do you consider it a good time to get a VA? I have a relatively new site (had it since July but working on it properly as from January of this year). To be honest I wouldn’t even know where to start in terms of getting a VA and what roles to give her/him to help me!

    • Hi Vinny! Glad to give you some comparison figures!

      All of my VA’s I’ve ever hired have been on UpWork (formerly oDesk). A good time to hire a VA would be when you are frustrated with your time management and are unable to accomplish everything that you want to accomplish on a daily/weekly basis. Also – when you feel like you are ‘wasting time’ performing mundane tasks that can easily be taught to somebody else.

      The first thing I taught my VA was how to edit/publish content on WordPress with proper on-page SEO – plus adding images, links, etc. It took some time to perfect, but we nailed it over time. That task alone usually took me 45 minutes minimum per article (usually more). Having VA’s do simple web research projects is another easy task. Like have them search for blogs in your niche with specific stats that you can use for outreach or networking purposes.

      • Mark

        That’s good advice about hiring VAs. I have one question. You mentioned that your VAs from UpWork edit and publish your posts on your websites. That means they must have access to your websites and know sensitive details like passwords. Did you give your VAs access right away or you first made sure you could trust them with access to your accounts? What would you recommend someone to do in this situation?

        • Good question Mark. No – I don’t give any of my VA’s MY passwords. Instead, I create WordPress Usernames just for them and they set their own passwords. There are different levels of access for WordPress Users. Admin access gives them full access to everything. Editor access allows them to edit and publish ALL Posts and Pages. Author access only allows them to edit their own posts (they can’t touch Posts created by others). And I think there are one or two more levels of access.

          New VA’s start out with either Author or Editor access. Editor can be risky if you really think they can’t be trusted. But I don’t worry about that at all. Partly because my sites are backed up daily (automatically) through my good WP Engine hosting account and I can easily revert my site back to exactly how it was on a certain date with one click of a button.

          My top VA… I give him Admin access to all of my sites. He is completely trusted and he now manages any other VA’s that come in and do any work. He has been with me for over 3 years now!

          • Mark

            That’s good to know! Can you do similar thing with Clickbank or Jvzoo if you hire someone to setup a product for you on those websites?

          • I don’t know. I typically find all of my affiliate products and setup the links myself using Pretty Link. My VA can then post the links anywhere on my sites using the Pretty Link URL’s.

          • Mark

            Thanks for sharing this. Do you have to state in each post that the links are
            affiliate links? Can you do it at the end of the post and not next to the link
            in the post?

          • I’m not sure if it’s a ‘rule’ that you must identify affiliate links as such. A lot of people do so as a common courtesy. It can be at the end of the post rather than right next to the link. Or a general disclaimer in the footer of the site is fine too. For this site – you’ll notice that I have a link to my Disclaimer page in the footer. For many of my other sites that promote Amazon products – I put the full Amazon disclaimer in the footer.

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  • Awesome work Matt! Sometimes the hardest thing is finding a niche that will take off and it sounds like you hit a home run with that! I’ve been thinking lately of paid advertising for targeted traffic. Very curious to know how you did it and how it’s working out. Looking forward to the next update! Cheers… Todd

    • I could probably write an entire post on how I used Adwords to get targeted traffic. It’s not hard to figure out. I simply used Long Tail Pro to find target keywords. I started a new campaign for each specific product name then found all of the long tail (obscure) searches pertaining to each product. I targeted those in separate campaigns (ad units) and also targeted some of the main keywords in the niche. Like, ‘best [product name]’ and ‘[product name] reviews’.

      Like I stated – the monetary ROI was negative. So I couldn’t keep the campaigns running. But it did validate click through rates and conversion rates for me. I’m currently experimenting with just $5/day ads to VERY specific product-related terms. Never know. I might attract a buyer that way!

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  • Hey Matthew!

    Why do you say that Ahrefs is extremely expensive compared to Semrush?

    • Hey Nick… I didn’t really say it that way. They actually are both really expensive. Of the two – I decided to pay for SEMRush and don’t want to pay for both at this point. Ahrefs would also be a great tool to pay for. I just like the dashboard and overall look, feel and functionality of SEMRush better. Just a personal preference.

  • Always fun to revisit and see what you have going on! Hope this one pays off big for you Matt!

    • What’s up Mike?! Great to hear from you again… This one IS going to pay off big! I can smell it… 🙂

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