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Welcome to my latest update for the 2017 Mortgage Crushing Challenge! In this update, I’ll be covering everything that happened throughout May and June pertaining to this particular niche website. I am greatly encouraged by the progress that the site has made – especially the June income numbers! I wasn’t able to personally work on the site during these 2 months as much as I would have liked. Moving into our new home throughout June put a bit of a damper on that. But my team continued to produce and publish content and I continued some paid traffic testing and the site broke the $1,000 income threshold for the month of June! Not bad for a site that didn’t even exist at the beginning of this year.
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
- Financial Freedom: Creating a Passive Income Website to Pay for My Mortgage
- Mortgage Crushing Challenge Update #1 – Choosing a Niche (My $9,300 Mistake)
- Mortgage Crushing Challenge Update #2 – Validation with Paid Traffic Testing
Finally Moving In To Our New Home
As mentioned in the intro to this post – my family and I have finally moved into our brand new home! We’re very excited and happy to be living in the house we designed and had built. We actually had quite a lot of fun throughout the entire construction process – and it was fun and exciting for our kids as well.
Living in my in-laws basement for 10 months wasn’t so much fun. That’s how long it took from the time we had to be out of our old house until the time that our new house was complete. But honestly, it wasn’t that bad living in their basement. My in-laws are great and they were easy to get along with. Our living arrangements were just a bit cramped and we are ecstatic to finally be living in our new home, which is about twice as big as our old home was.
Turns out – the mortgage is about twice as big (as our old mortgage was) too – which is partly why I decided to take on this Mortgage Crushing Challenge for 2017. Although the bank approved us for the mortgage based solely off my day job income – the truth is, I know I couldn’t afford this house with only my paychecks from my trucking job. My side hustle internet income is absolutely the key factor that enabled us to build this awesome new home – and this challenge couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
Now that we are actually living IN our new home – the motivational factor is that much greater. Our new full mortgage payments of (around) $2,100 per month will begin in December (we’re still on an interest-only construction loan until then), which means that I only have a few months left to get this site earning at least that amount.
As you can imagine, my offline distractions during this time period are my main excuse for not doing as much with the site as I would have liked. But as it turns out, this led to a pleasantly encouraging discovery that paid traffic for my niche might be an overall long-term strategy that is actually viable. That’s right – I may have uncovered the holy grail of internet marketing – a profitable paid traffic strategy and campaign!
Most of my main content was already published and in place before May – but I knew I wanted to keep adding content in order to make the site larger and more authoritative. I also wanted to keep publishing content on a regular basis to keep the site fresh. My writer is writing (usually) three new articles per week, but I am having my VA schedule the posts to publish only once per week so that we have several weeks worth of posts scheduled to be published well into the future.
If my main content is complete – what kind of new content am I publishing?
I’ve had my team working on publishing 3 different types of content…
- More product reviews – I think I mentioned in the past that my site is featuring only the 10 best (top rated and best selling) of the particular products that it promotes. But hundreds and hundreds of people search Google specifically for some of the inferior brands/products – so I figured I better give the people what they want! I had review posts written for some of the other products – but not quite as detailed as my main product reviews. Then I included comparison tables for my main products at the end of these new review posts with a subheading that says something like, Compare to These Top Rated… or Compare to These Best Selling…
- One skyscraper article for link building – While researching my competitors (using SEMRush), I noticed that one site got some really good links pointing to one of their posts with a title – something like, 50 Reasons to get…, and then it had blurbs and links to 50 ‘official’ studies around the topic. I thought, hmmmm… I can do that, but even better! So I had my writer produce a post with a title – something like (cause I’m not going to give it away exactly), 99 Benefits of [product name] that Might Surprise You… That post rang in at over 10,000 words and it took my VA 3 weeks to format the post and add custom images to every single study that we mentioned and linked to!
- More informational content – After publishing much of the main content based on basic keyword research using Long Tail Pro – I decided to go after some of the keywords that my main competitors are already ranking for. After all – one of the reasons I chose this niche is because several other niche sites were already ranking in Google for the top keywords in this niche. I might as well go after more of the exact same keywords that they are already ranking for!
Finding the Keywords My Competition is Already Ranking For
SEMRush is such an awesome tool for doing this type of research. I’ve only had a paid account with them for a few months now – and it’s not cheap. So, I’m making sure I utilize the tool the way it was meant to be utilized in order to get maximum traffic to my website and to maximize earnings.
I used the ‘Organic – Positions’ checker within SEMRush to look up the keywords that my top competitor is already ranking for. Here is a screenshot of the results showing that my main competitor is ranking for 5,361 keywords. It then goes on to list out every single keyword they are ranking for (100 at a time) and it also gives you the option to sort by columns and/or export the results so that you can insert them into a spreadsheet to work with.
The cool thing about SEMRush is that they let you try the tool for FREE (you’ll only see limited results) – go ahead and CLICK HERE to try the SEMRush Organic Positions checker – you can see what your own site is already ranking for or you can use it to spy on your top competitors! Or simply enter a domain, keyword or URL in the widget below…
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I found some great keywords and new topics to target using this tool! I even took it one step further and uploaded the entire list of keywords into Long Tail Pro just to be able to check the KC Scores for all of the keywords. I was delighted to find some REALLY low competition keywords.
One other thing I did in May – I restarted some of my Google Adwords campaigns. While waiting for SEO to kick in, I figured why not mess around with paid traffic a little more and send some highly targeted traffic to some of my review posts. I set my limit within Adwords to only $5 per day.
I also used a really nifty tool called Promo (by Slide.ly) to easily create a short video ad to use with Facebook ads solely to re-target people who have already visited my site. More on my paid traffic strategies (and income as a result) below…
Most of the planning that I was responsible for took place in May and much of June I was kind of in cruise mode. My team continued to work on the website and I continued to work on moving all of our stuff into our new home.
As you’ll see in the Paid Traffic Report below – I began to see some success with my paid traffic campaigns in May – so I increased spending in June and I was blown away at the results! I actually broke the $1,000/month barrier for the first time ever with my Amazon Associates account! In fact, my total earnings from Amazon for the month cashed in at $1,288 – with over $1k of that coming from this brand new niche website that I just started this year for the Mortgage Crushing Challenge!
As of the end of June, most of the traffic coming to the site was paid traffic – and I seem to be on to something. I was actually earning more than I was spending in ads. A profitable paid traffic campaign! This is awesome. It’s like feeding a dog quarters and watching it poop dollars. Who wouldn’t do this all day every day?
Paid Traffic and Income Results
May 2017 – Ad Spend and Amazon Income
- Google Adwords – $92.28 spent to get 167 link clicks
- Facebook Ads – $6.25 spent to get 3 link clicks
- Total Traffic – 314 Visitors (Users)
- 170 visitors from paid traffic campaigns
- 144 visitors from organic search, direct traffic and social sharing
- Amazon Associates – $312.34 in earnings from 7 shipped items
June 2017 – Ad Spend and Amazon Income
- Google Adwords – $358.73 spent to get 339 link clicks
- Facebook Ads – $128.04 spent to get 99 link clicks
- Total Traffic – 633 Visitors (Users)
- 438 visitors from paid traffic campaigns
- 195 visitors from organic search, direct traffic and social sharing
- Amazon Associates – $1060.65 in earnings from 14 shipped items
Profitable Paid Traffic Campaigns
Mastering paid traffic truly is the holy grail of internet marketing. I can’t say that I’ve mastered it yet – but I’ve accomplished two straight months of positive ROI. Despite this exciting fact, I still consider myself a beginner and I’m in the learning phase. It’s just one strategy that I’m using to get traffic to this site – along with my SEO efforts.
Paid traffic is all about testing and adjusting. Then testing and adjusting. And once you think you have it figured out – you need to keep testing and adjusting. It’s entirely different than plain old SEO. With SEO, you try to rank for as many keywords as possible and get as much traffic as possible then hope that it converts. With paid traffic – you target VERY specific audiences and send them to targeted pages on your site based on who they are and what they are searching for.
Here’s the nutshell version of the strategies that have and have not worked for me with this site…
Google Adwords Advertising
When I first tried paid traffic campaigns using Google Adwords, when the site was still really young (back in March and April) – I was targeting very general keywords, like best [product name] and [product name] reviews. You know – two of the main types of keywords that we SEO’s tend to target for review sites like these. I was getting a TON of traffic for fairly cheap while targeting those keywords – but it wasn’t converting into buyers.
Towards the beginning and middle of May – I adjusted my campaign settings and restarted them and subsequently ran them for the entire month of June. Instead of targeting general terms, I targeted very specific terms related to the products that I have reviews written for and I sent the traffic directly to the review page on the site. I targeted keywords like, [product brand] [product name] [product model #] [product color], etc.
For example… let’s say my niche was pressure washers (it isn’t – this is just an example). Instead of targeting keywords like: best pressure washer or pressure washer reviews – I targeted keywords like: Simpson PowerShot 3200 PSI 2.8 GPM Honda GX200 Powered Gas Pressure Washer or Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 PSI 1.76 GPM Electric Pressure Cleaner. I also used Long Tail Pro to analyze these very specific keywords and find similar related keywords that people are searching for. Essentially, I have separate campaigns setup in my Adwords account to run ads to several of the very specific product models that I have reviews written for.
I’m not over-complicating my Facebook advertising campaigns at all. I’m not very experienced at using proper strategies and I really don’t have time to research and figure it all out. I have been learning a lot though by listening to Rick Mulready’s “The Art of Paid Traffic” podcast. Great podcast with tons of great information.
I have just two simple ads that are constantly running on Facebook. I started off spending only $5 per day and I am currently running at $10 per day. One of my ads is a short video ad that I easily created with this really cool tool from Slide.ly called Promo. I wish I could show you the video… but that would totally give away my niche and that wouldn’t be wise for me at this point. That ad leads to a strategic page on the site that explains, ‘Why [product name] Is Worth It.’ The other ad I’m currently running on Facebook is just a basic image ad that leads to my main ‘buyers guide’ post.
Who am I targeting with my Facebook ads? I am currently ONLY showing the ads to people who have previously visited the niche site. In other words, these are what we call ‘warm’ leads (or potential buyers) – meaning we know they already have interest in the products I am promoting because they’ve already landed on my site somehow. Probably either through organic search or from clicking on one of my Google Adwords ads (which are set to display only in search results). So… these people have already searched for information on my products and now I am hitting them with enticing ads right in their Facebook feed!
How am I targeting these specific people? It’s called the Facebook Pixel and it is a very powerful thing. Every Facebook advertising account has it’s own unique Facebook pixel code. You just place the code on the back end of your site then Facebook is able to track every single visitor that comes to your site and you can then set your Audience within Facebook advertising based on very specific actions that those visitors take! For example – I can show ads ONLY to people who visited a specific page on the blog. It sounds complicated – but it’s actually really easy to figure out within the Facebook advertising platform.
Note: I place my Facebook pixel on ALL of my sites from the very beginning – whether I plan on advertising or not. You just never know when you might want to start running some ads and the pixel has to be in place to be able to track the visitors and their actions.
The Strategy: Attract leads to my niche site through paid traffic with Google Adwords then hit those warm leads with enticing ads directly in their Facebook feed!
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 listed out month-by-month, since the site started earning:
- March 2017… $126.83/1,929 x 1,000 = $65.75
- April 2017… -$10.24/400 x 1,000 = -$25.60
- May 2017… $312.34/788 x 1,000 = $396.37
- June 2017… $1,060.65/1347 x 1,000 = $787.42
Holy crap!!! RPM of $787 is absolutely huge!! I thought I was doing well with my original paid traffic tests that resulted in a $65 RPM (back in March) – but now these numbers are just blowing my mind. I can hardly believe it.
Note: This is just the Revenue per 1,000 page views. Not the profit. If I subtract out my advertising costs, these numbers wouldn’t be so large. But this particular metric isn’t measuring profit – it just measures revenue per 1,000 visitors. As you can clearly see – my new (more specific) ad targeting strategy seems to be working quite well! When I started sending targeted traffic to specific pages on my site – the RPM went through the roof!
I Still Hate Link Building
I completely understand the importance of link building for SEO, yet I failed to accomplish nearly as much as I should have during the entire months of May and June as far as getting any new links. There were only two things I DID do towards link building in May and June:
- I ordered a 5-site Done-For-You PBN package from Lightning Rank. Although I don’t trust buying links from other peoples “private” blog networks (Lightning Rank offers that too) – the Done-For-You PBN’s that Lightning Rank offers are different. These sites are 100% yours and only yours.
- They find the expired domains and build the sites for you – then they give you access so you can make changes however you see fit!
- I’ve built my own PBN sites in the past and I can tell you that it is NOT easy. Jon and his team over at Lightning Rank are pro’s when it comes to building PBN sites and the price they do it for is a bargain (if you ask me), considering all that goes into it.
- Want a discount on any of the services that Lightning Rank offers? It’s not much – but enter coupon code – mattallen – at checkout and you’ll get 5% off your initial purchase. You’re welcome!
- I also had my writer complete the monster skyscraper-style post and my VA took 3 weeks to format it and add over 100 custom images. The entire purpose of this particular post is to promote it to other webmasters to get quality links. But, I’ve been procrastinating on the outreach aspect and I haven’t sent out a single outreach email yet.
After I publish this update post – my entire focus for the rest of July and all of August is going to be on email outreach to get super high-quality links pointing back to my niche site.
Again – I am going to analyze the sites that are already linking to my top competitors – then email them and show them my site (and how much better it is) and strategically ask them to link to my site.
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…
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- Ahrefs – I previously used 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 and up-to-date count of current backlinks. But Ahrefs is extremely expensive and I chose to purchase a subscription at SEMRush instead for their competitor analysis tools. Note: I no longer use Ahrefs at all because they recently changed their requirements to access free accounts. Now you have to sign up for the 14-day free trial and insert your payment method, then if you forget to cancel after 14 days you get charged. No Thanks!
- 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!
- Lightning Rank – Done-For-You PBN – I purchased a 5-site Done-For-You PBN in mid May. In fact, it was May 13th when I placed my order and my 5 sites were completely built and login credentials were sent to me by May 24th! I logged in to each site and placed links back to my money site exactly how I wanted them. I control the links and the anchor text this way! These sites are 100% mine and they are not used to build links to anybody else’s sites. In other words, this is truly a “private” blog network that nobody else has access to. 100% safe to use for link building.
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!
- 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 (avg) to create this site and get it earning – total budget of $6,000
Expenditures to Date
- January Expenses – $137.87
- 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 – $1,325.55
- 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
- May Expenses – $1,313.89
- Private writer for website content/articles – $376
- VA for editing and publishing content and other website related tasks (estimated) – $287.90
- 5 Site Done-For-You PBN from Lightning Rank – initial build cost – $649.99
- June Expenses – $660.36
- Private writer for website content/articles – $409
- VA for editing and publishing content and other website related tasks (estimated) – $201.41
- 5 Site Done-For-You PBN from Lightning Rank – ongoing monthly maintenance cost – $49.95
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
- May 2017 – $312.34
- Amazon Affiliate – $312.34
- June 2017 – $1,060.65
- Amazon Affiliate – $1,060.65
- Project Beginning – $6,000
- Expenses to Date – $4,263.17
- Remaining Budget – $1,736.83
Note: It’s mid July as I write and publish this post and I can clearly see that my $6,000 budget is starting to run low. The content is pretty much complete for the site. The remaining budget amount for the rest of the year will go towards the ongoing monthly cost to maintain my PBN ($49.95/month) and to pay my VA to help with outreach tasks for link building.
Hope you enjoyed this update! Would love to hear about any takeaways you got from it in the comments section below. I know I covered a lot of different topics here. Also – feel free to hit me up with any questions in the comments section and I’ll answer as soon as I can.
Image Credit: Cliff Auerswald via Flickr
Matthew Allen is a full-time trucker, part-time blogger, and imaginary entrepreneur. He is the only known trucker who is blogging about creating passive income online. He is also the co-founder and co-creator of the most popular WordPress plugin for Amazon affiliates – AmaLinks Pro.