6 Diversification Strategies for Reducing Risk to My Web Publishing Business

The month of March 2020 was supposed to be dedicated to our family trip to Florida. I just checked our itinerary and today we were supposed to visit Blue Springs State Park. Fortunately, we decided to cancel that trip in time. This is not a good time for traveling.

But there is a silver lining. In preparation for this trip, I worked hard throughout January and February, creating enough writing tasks for my team. Which means I have more time to write and publish here.

One thing that’s been on my mind lately is the need for diversifying various aspects of my business. My goal is to avoid relying on any single provider for core functions – especially revenue generation. I think this is more important now than ever, considering unstable the business environment is.

First, my COVID-19 update

On a personal level, our family has been in near-isolation for a week and a half now. We’re ahead of the local instructions here but they’re catching up, faster than I had anticipated. My kids are teenagers and homeschooled, so we’re used to staying at home. My husband now works in the evening, when no one is around in their office. He may have to stop doing that soon as well.

I find it much harder to concentrate on work. Things around us keep changing so far, the news is simply riveting. Fortunately, the people who work with me and for me, all keep on working. That’s one of the perks of outsourcing. I only need to spend 1-2 hours a day to keep things moving along smoothly.

At this point, we’re moving ahead with content production as planned, despite a marked drop in traffic and revenue. As I explained in my post about the effects of COVID-19 on blogging and web publishing, I believe that once the initial shock and panic subside, the market will bounce back. With more people sitting at home than ever before, it may actually do better (depending on your niche, of course).

If you’re reading this, leave me a comment to let me know how you’re doing. I’m curious to hear more about the overall corona vibe in other countries, and especially to hear about the effects web publishers are seeing.

And now, on to the issue at hand – diversifying various aspects of the business.

One thing that I’ve been doing lately – before corona landed on us like a ton of contaminated bricks – was to diversify revenue sources. With everything that’s been going around, I think that’s a good direction to take, now more than ever.

Here’s why (And also the ways in which I’ve been doing that).

Never keep all your eggs in one basket

We all know it’s a good idea not to keep all of your eggs in one basket. Should anything happen to your proverbial basket, you’re going to lose all of your precious eggs.

For my business, I try to create as many “baskets” as possible. This includes –

  1. Having multiple websites in a variety of niches.
  2. Using two separate servers (two hosting companies).
  3. Creating a team of two editors, several VA’s and multiple writers.
  4. Monetizing via different types of revenue generation.
  5. Working with four display ad networks and several affiliate networks.
  6. Using several payment methods.

I think the last three are the most important. It’s crucial not to rely on a single revenue stream – especially in a time like this.

Why diversifying is crucial during the corona crisis

I’ve been a web publisher for over 20 years now. Yes, my business is as old as Google!

I’ve lost count of the number of online services that came and went during that time. Some closes, others merged, most just became obsolete over time, taken down by new and vibrant competition.

Usually, you’re going to get some kind of warning when a company or service begins to decline, but not always. Sometimes they just go belly up one day. And if your business is too tightly dependent on them, you’re going to be in deep trouble.

Since we’re at the beginning of what could be one of the worst recessions the world has ever seen, the risk is greater than ever.

Even robust companies will have to adapt very quickly. If they know how to get their workers to work remotely right away, they may very well survive this and even thrive – at least as long as their clients stay in business. Any company that’s already facing difficulties is at risk.

As a customer, you’re unlikely to be aware of their current difficulties. Your host, your content provider and yes, even your favorite affiliate or ad display network – no one is safe. What happens if they get shut down next week? Do you have an alternative? Do you have an ongoing revenue stream that will keep you going until you find one?

The downside of diversifying

The more you diversify, the more complex your business becomes. You have to put more resources into managing everything and keeping all those balls in the air.

I’m not an organized person by nature. I use Clickup religiously these days to manage my business. I keep my passwords organized in Keepass. Checking my revenue once every few days, I have to go through 7-8 sites. Once a month, we do a deep dive revenue check, looking into the more obscure networks too. It can be a lot of work, for sure.

So, here’s how I’m currently diversifying my business.

1. Having multiple websites in a variety of niches

Ten years ago, I was so busy raising my then young kids, I had to take time off. At least to some extent. I switched from having multiple small websites (more than 100 at some point) and focused on a single large site. Three years ago, looking for more stability and having more time on my hands, I went back to creating several websites.

My portfolio currently has 8-10 separate websites (depending on how you count them) in various niches. You can read more about them in my traffic and revenue reports.

2. Using two separate servers

My largest site is hosted on one server. The other sites are on a different server with a different host. Should I have major server issues – I won’t be losing all my revenue for that day.

More importantly, I use two separate backup services. Just in case.

3. Splitting the work across a large team

My team isn’t huge but I try to make sure that every role has more than one person filling it.

For example, instead of having a single editor working 20 hours a week, I have two editors working 10 hours a week each. Should one of them become unavailable for some reason, the other one is still there – possibly taking on more tasks until we find a replacement.

The same goes for VA’s. With three VA’s (other than my Chief VA), if any single one leaves, we’re not left without any workforce.

Finally, writers. Instead of working with 1-2 very prolific writers, I created a team of 10+ writers. Most of them are happy to take on more work, but I don’t want to become reliant on any specific writer. I prefer for each one to take on just 4-5 tasks a week, instead of 20. Should one of them leave, then others can step up their game and take on more assignments.

4. Using several payment methods

Moving on to the fiscal end of the business. I currently use Paypal to pay writers, but I also have a working Payoneer account where I pay my VA’s.

Should Payoneer collapse, I can switch to Paypal payments. And in the unlikely event that Paypal will collapse – or just decide for some reason that they don’t want to work with me – I’ve set up an alternative payment method via our bank.

5. Monetizing via different types of revenue generation

One of the most important things for any business is having multiple solid revenue streams that aren’t dependent on one another.

This is where I’m not doing as well as I could be. My sites rely on ad display and affiliate commissions. These are separate revenue streams but they are too related to one another. In an ideal world, I should be adding a separate revenue stream, such as eCommerce. I may still do that one of these days, once I feel that the current income sources are stable enough.

6. Working with more than one ad network

If 90% of your revenue comes from Amazon Affiliates, what’s going to happen should they suspend your account?

And if all of your display ads revenue is coming from a single network, what happens if they go belly up next week? Possibly without paying you what you’re owed.

Will your business survive the crisis?

To mitigate the risk, I’ve decided to branch out. We currently work with four ad networks: Ezoic, Mediavine, Monumetric and Google Adsense. The latter is a backup service, basically. For most intents and purposes, sites are monetized via one of the first three.

If one of these networks bails out on us, and even if they collapse and can no longer pay publishers, we’ll be taking a hit. But we’ll still have revenue coming in from the other networks.

The same goes for affiliate networks. Or at least, that’s my goal. Most of my affiliate income comes from Amazon. While I don’t see Amazon shutting down any time soon, they have been known to kick affiliates off their network – sometimes without a clear reason.

While doing my best to comply with Amazon’s TOS, I’m also looking into increasing affiliate revenue from other sources. I recently joined several affiliate programs, most via Shareasale and I’m looking into increasing revenue from those channels.

This just in – 

While I was editing this post, Amazon announced that they’ll be limiting the shipping of some types of merchandise. That would be a blow for any site that focused on affiliate marketing of any of these products, whatever they may be.

Nurturing all those eggs

The challenge now is not only to monitor everything. It’s also in finding the time – and the attention span – to grow the new channels. Time will tell if I overdid things to the point of losing focus. It is a real risk.

To try and avoid it, I started by launching small campaigns for the various new affiliate networks. Without sending any single program a ton of traffic, it’s going to take time to see what works and what doesn’t. I’m hopeful – and I’ll be happy with any increase on the non-Amazon affiliate revenue front.

Overall, knowing that the business doesn’t rely on any single person or organization is good. It helps me sleep better at night. To me, that’s worth the extra effort of managing it all.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Shawna

    I’ve been surprised by the companies who have closed their affiliate programs indefinitely. I got an email from a fourth company doing this just today. So, while I am well-diversified from Amazon, it’s not really saving my bottom line. And it’s definitely not something that I saw coming!

    Like you, I have a portfolio of sites in a variety of niches, so while some are down in traffic/income there are others that are up.

    1. Anne

      Wow, that was faster than I had anticipated! Can you share which companies shut down? I don’t think I heard from anyone just yet.

      1. Shawna

        Travel and retail stores mostly.

  2. Morten Storgaard

    Great read Anne!
    I see a lot of big aff. programs over at cj.com shutting down over the last week. Primarily in travel niches.
    I’m starting a new site to diversify even more and I’m also going to youtube to diversify further…

  3. Charlice

    Sorry, but your email notification service isn’t working. I subscribed a while ago but wasn’t updated with new content.

    1. Anne

      Thanks for letting me know, Charlice! I’ll go check out Mailchimp to see what’s going on there.

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