Q4 Content Sites Status Report (Inc. Traffic And Revenue)

Hey, it’s 2020! With 2019 over, it’s time for one last quarterly revenue and traffic report for my sites.

It’s going to be the last one because moving forward, I plan on publishing these every month. Consider it my New Year’s resolution for 2020.

If you’re new to my blog, here’s a quick recap about these reports. I have a portfolio of content/niche sites/blogs, some of which were launched in 2018 and some in 2019. This blog – Yeys.com – is where I document my progress in detailed traffic and revenue reports. I started doing this in 2019. You can find the previous reports here –

Note: I have another large site that isn’t covered in these reports because it’s a community (forum) site. I try to keep Yeys.com dedicated to my niche/content sites venture. f you’re a newbie reading this, please keep in mind that I am an experienced web publisher and have a constant stream of revenue which allows me to invest in new websites. This isn’t something I would recommend for others to do, especially if they’re new to blogging.

My web publishing strategy and our team

My strategy is simple –

  1. Find underserved queries on the internet.
  2. Publish the best possible answer to the query.
  3. Monetize.

Multiply this by dozens of posts a month, across several niches, scaling up by outsourcing. I currently employ four full-time VA’s, a part-time editor and an awesome server admin/Wordpress wizard on a monthly retainer (if you’re looking for one, let me know – he’s looking for more work). That’s the core of my team.

My husband also helps around, especially with strategy and analysis (that’s on top of his day job). That’s why you’ll see me using “I” and “we” interchangeably. 

In addition to that, I work with around 20-30 freelancers that write a total of 150+ posts per month. (If you’re curious about how I manage post creation, you can read here about my workflow).

How many sites do we have

The number of sites in our portfolio is something that’s constantly on my mind. If you read my post here, you’ll see what I consider the pros and cons of adding new sites. We’ve been working with six sites up until quarter 2 but that is now changing.

Our current strategy goes like this – Add one content site to the mix every quarter with 100-200 posts. Then let it brew for an additional half a year, to see how the niche feels. If it’s going well, keep pushing content and making it into a large authority site. If it doesn’t – no harm done, we have a smallish site in the portfolio that will pay for itself within a couple of years.

We can always sell these smaller sites as time moves on. So, at this point, we’re staying away from small niches. We’re looking into topics that have the potential to grow into 500-5000 posts in the future. So, this is where we stand now –

(Potentially) Large niches sites

  • Travel
  • Automotive
  • Home Improvement
  • Gardening
  • Finance
  • Style and fashion

Small niche sites

These were “carried over” from previous years before we devised the current strategy.

  • Pet Accessories blog (a specific type of accessories)
  • Pets blog (specific small pet)

An overview of Q4

Let me say it right away – 

Q4 was disappointing. Things went so well up to October. Then it became more challenging. Traffic and revenue went down in some of the sites. The other sites kept growing but it wasn’t enough to offset the traffic loss because they’re still too young. 

At the same time, our investment in content skyrocketed in October. Working so hard and investing so much money in content – only to see the traffic chart going down… that was tough. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a long-term game plan and that these setbacks happen from time to time. 

Why traffic (and revenue) went down

The Almighty (aka Google) hit us with several algorithm changes and tweaks that hurt at least a couple of our sites (it’s hard to tell with the ones that are in the sandbox anyway). 

In addition to that, our two main mature sites are seasonal, so traffic slowed down significantly after Labor Day for that reason as well.

We’ve seen constant linear growth in the first three quarters of the year. I was hoping for continued growth to offset the seasonality. Perhaps it did, to some extent, but the numbers still went down significantly.

Why costs went up

That was partly by choice and partly due to poor management on my part. 

We had planned on creating 150 posts per month in Q4. That in itself meant investing more money in content than we had been doing earlier in the year. Which was fine – we were ready for that.

In preparation for the increase, we added more writers to the team. The way my workflow works is that I create writing tasks and place them in a Clickup space where writers can see them and assign them to themselves (I explain my workflow in more detail here). 

By October, we had a group of eager talented writers, who picked up the topics as fast as I was placing them into the system. Seeing that the queue was empty, I kept adding more topics. 

We ended up publishing 258 posts in October, instead of 150. 

That meant more than just paying writers more than we had originally planned for (we have the resources, so that wasn’t too hard). The problem was that increasing production to these levels meant –

  • We had to hire a temporary second part-time editor.
  • Two more VA’s were needed to handle the additional load.
  • I had to work more hours per week, to keep feeding the machine and managing the output. 

Early on in October, we were thrilled with the growth and figured it wasn’t too bad. Hiring more people wasn’t a problem. What made us pause was the realization that the whole operation was taking up too much of my own time and energy. 

This is probably a good time to mention that I have another website that provides us with a separate stream of revenue and also needs my attention. There’s also family (two boys), our friends and a ginger cat. The bottom line is that  I don’t really want to work long hours on this project.

So, by November, we decided to dial back again to the 150 posts per month level. And we sustained that throughout the rest of the quarter. I now add new topics to the system twice a week, at the rate at which I want the specific sites to grow that month – no more.

Ok, time to take a closer look at what happened in Q4 with each of these sites. And since we’re wrapping up an entire year, I’ll add the totals up as well in this report.

1. The Travel Blog

The number of posts added in Q4: 54

The total number of posts by the end of 2019: 216

This site was established in June 2016. It started out as a personal travel blog but I have since pruned some of the earlier content. I still try to keep a personal tone in this blog, so while outsourcing the bulk of the writing, it’s still me who writes the outlines, intros, and summaries for most of the posts. This slows down production, as I don’t have the time to deal with too many posts to that extent.

As for monetization, about 75% of revenue comes from display ads, managed via Ezoic. The rest is a combination of Amazon and Booking.com affiliation fees.

Q4 Figures for this blog

Blog 1

The “Posts#” column shows the number of posts added per month. I grayed out the previous months of the year but still left them in the table.

Traffic dropped significantly during the quarter, as did revenue. This was expected, as travel is a very seasonal niche and when we look at the stats per post, it’s clear that “summer destinations” took the hardest hit. Other posts are doing ok and some are even increasing in traffic, so I know Google isn’t mad at us or anything.

Execution vs planning

In the Q1 report, I said that the plan for this blog was to keep growing it at a rate of 100 posts per year, or about 25 per quarter. We managed to meet the annual target and exceed it.

Goals for Q1 2020

We’re in the process of shifting the balance by covering more winter destinations in this blog. If that works, maybe in 2020 we won’t go through a very noticeable winter slump. In fact, we decided to invest in a “business” travel trip to Florida this year, to help with content creation. We’ve never been to Florida and in my experience, actually visiting the destination makes a lot of difference. 

As for post numbers, I hope to keep this blog going at 100+ posts a year by adding a similar number of posts in 2020. Realistically, there will be some delay in March, when we’ll be traveling, so I’ve put it down for a total of 3o posts in Q1 of 2020.

2. Automotive Niche Blog

The number of posts added in Q4: 202 (!)

The total number of posts by the end of 2019: 536

We started this blog in April 2018. The niche is vehicles of various classes and types. The content is mostly informational with a few “best X of Y” product lists.

The site makes about 75% of its revenue from display ads and 25% from Amazon affiliate links.

2019 Stats for this blog

blog 2

As you can see, the site didn’t do extremely well in Q4. Or rather, it had its best month ever in October, and then went down in traffic, and subsequently in revenue.

When we analyzed the stats, the pattern was pretty clear. The earliest type of vehicle that we focused on was extremely seasonal. Think something like paragliders or boats. People kept using it until Labor Day, and then still had to deal with storage issues, etc. But the trend was clear, otherwise.

I actually had realized that we were heading this way. To offset things, we tried to add more content that should be relevant year-round, and as you can see, we had a major content push in Q4. Most of these posts aren’t ranking yet, so we’re still under the spell of that winter slump. 

Execution vs planning

In the previous quarterly report, I set the goal for Q4 at 60 posts per month for this blog. We exceeded the total of 180 per the entire quarter.

Goals for Q1 2020

We invested a lot of resources into this site in the past few months, pouring around $16,000 into it in content. I fully admit that it was very hard to keep doing that while looking at the traffic and revenue stats in the last two months. The entire experience drove me to write this post about the Leap of Faith in web publishing.

So, we’re mid-leap here and not looking down. Our plan for Q1 in 2020 out with an average of 45 posts per month for this blog, while diversifying in topics.

3. The Home Improvement Blog

The number of posts added in Q4: 194

The total number of posts by the end of 2019 is 372.

This site was launched in early 2019. The posts are a mix of informational and “how-to” posts, with inspirational picture posts and a few “X of Y” shopping guides.

Q4 Stats for this blog

blog 3

The site is on a steady growth curve, still making its way out of the sandbox. With a mature site, I would expect at least 100,000 monthly pageviews from this number of posts (and hope for 300-400K pageviews). The revenue figures are nice. Ezoic’s CPM for this site is in the $25+ range and it’s also converting nicely on Amazon.

Execution vs planning

Our writers seem to really enjoy this niche, so they take up these topics really fast. We had planned on 25 posts per month for this blog and ended up publishing a total of 194 instead of 75!

Goals for Q1 2020

Based on a recent analysis, we’re going to focus more on “response type” posts in Q1 of 2020, producing 30-40 posts per month. I really wish we had more data to analyze for this site. Longtail response posts seem to be doing well while other types of posts not so much. But I have to wonder if this is still related to the sandbox or not. Only time will tell.

4. The Gardening Blog

The number of posts added in Q4: 45

The total number of posts by the end of 2019 is 257.

This site was technically launched in September 2018 as a micro-niche site but was moved to a new domain in April 2019 when we decided to cast a wider net and turn it into an authority site. The content so far has been a mix of response posts, addressing specific gardening questions, gardening guides for specific plants, inspirational photo posts, and some (Best X for Y) product posts.

The site is monetized 

Q4 Stats for this blog

blog 4

We’re still struggling with this one. My theories so far –

  • Seasonality is preventing the site from taking off.
  • The domain change slowed things down.
  • Too much competition.

Possibly a combination of all the above.  

Execution vs planning

The goal for Q4 was to lower the production rate to about 10 posts per month. We exceeded that every month, with a total of 45 posts instead of 30. Why did we want to slow down? Because the site just wasn’t giving back enough data for us to analyze. It was hard to tell what works and what doesn’t work, so we decided to play it safe by slowing down the publication of new content.

Goals for Q1 2020

We’re really hoping for seasonality to kick in soon. I also consulted with a professional in the field who pointed me in the direction of some promising topics to cover. 

With that in mind, we’re shooting for a total of 80 posts for this site in Q1 of 2020. 

5. The Finance Blog

The number of posts added in Q4: 54

The total number of posts by the end of 2019 is 257.

Launched in August, this is an experiment in the YMYL field.  The idea is to gradually build this site up to 100 response posts and then let it stew for a bit and see how it goes. 

blog 5

The blog is way too young to be monetized. In fact, I still don’t know how exactly this will be done. I’ve read that pay-per-lead is the best monetization system for this niche, so down the road that will be something to look into. Assuming the blog takes off and gets to the 10K pageviews a month at some point (I don’t really worry about monetization until then anyway).

Traffic-wise, I’m pleasantly surprised so far. Almost all of the traffic is coming from Google and that’s not a bad number of monthly views for a site that’s so new (with no link building!).

Goals for Q1 2020

We’ll keep doing the same in Q1, adding ~50 more posts to the site. Once it reaches the 100 posts phase, this one is going to be placed on the back burner for a while. Unless it really takes off right away (which is unlikely).

6. Style and fashion blog

The number of posts added in Q4: 47

The total number of posts by the end of 2019 is 62.

This was meant to be our new blog for Q4 2019, but we actually started publishing content in mid-September. The content is a mix of response posts, guides, and lists of inspirational images. 

Q4 Stats for this blog

blog 6

The site is too young to be monetized, so we’re focused solely on content creation, along with some Pinterest promotion. 

Goals for Q1 2020

As per our current strategy, we’re going to produce an additional 39 posts in Q1, and then let the site sit for a while. 

7. Pet Accessories Blog

Moving on to the two smaller sites. By smaller, I mean that the niche is smaller, so growth potential is limited. There was no investment in new content for these sites. 

I started this site in March 2018 as an experiment. It focuses on a certain line of products (imagine something like dog crates or cat collars). The content is a mix of

  • high-quality thorough guides relating to aspects of the topic (how to choose, how often to clean etc). I wrote most of them myself and I do know a lot about the topic.
  • Medium quality “Best X for Y” lists. I try to provide some added value to these by including tips for choosing the right one etc.

This blog is monetized mostly via Amazon (80%) with some display ads (20%). 

Q4 Stats for this blog

The number of posts added in Q4: 0

The total number of posts by the end of Q3 remained 78.

blog 7

Ouch. The site was doing so well in Q3 of 2019. Then it was hit in the October and November Google updates. Surprisingly, the black Friday sales in November brought up revenue a little bit but December was painful, with almost half the revenue that we had in the previous month. I guess people don’t buy pet products as Christmas gifts. 

Execution vs planning

There were no publishing goals for Q4 and indeed, nothing was published, so we’re good on that front. I did try to play around with some of the content that lost ranking, updating it and improving it in various ways. I’m almost afraid to jinx it, so only whispering this: these pages seem to be doing better in January, and there’s also a general upward movement in overall site traffic.

Goals for Q1 2020

No plans to publish anything new. I should probably keep on improving on old content, but in all honestly, I won’t have the time. I’m sort of an expert on the topic, so outsourcing content improvement doesn’t make sense to me at this point. Maybe further down the road (aka Q2!).

8. Pet niche blog

The number of posts added in Q4: 0

The total number of posts by the end of 2019 is 100.

This site focuses on a specific type of small pet. The site was launched in  October 2018 and we built it up to exactly 100 posts (with the last posts added in April 2019). As for the type of content, it’s mostly response posts but there are some tip lists and “best X of Y” posts.

Q4 Stats for this blog

blog 8

Traffic kept increasing in Q4. Nothing dramatic, just a nice steady increase from month to month, with a bit of a slowdown in December (which made me wonder if the little critters were hibernating *wink*)

The site is monetized via Amazon and Ezoic. You may notice a jump in CPM rates in December. That’s all Ezoic’s doing. Sometime in early December, I had a talk with my account rep. She suggested tweaking the ads, and I told her to do as she pleases with the site. The result was that our CPM (aka EPMV in Ezoic) almost doubled.

We stayed at zero new posts – as planned. We may change that down the road at some point. 

Goals for Q1 2020

No new posts to be added here. It should be interesting to see at what point traffic will plateau. We will re-assess for Q2/Q3 and see if maybe this site can get an additional 30-40 posts to boost up traffic more. 

(The main reason for not adding content is that we’re sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel with topics – but maybe I just need to dig deeper into the alphabet soup).

Overall revenue in Q4

The revenue from all blogs for Q4 was $16,835. Revenue in Q3 was $14,531. That’s an increase but not a very significant one, considering the amount of investment in content. In fact, revenue went down in November, and still hasn’t fully recovered in December. 

Revenue by month

How much did we spend in Q4

I don’t have specific numbers here because frankly, I don’t take the time to follow expenses that closely. I believe I do have a fairly good estimate though.

In terms of expenses, here’s an estimate for Q4 (three months) –

$750 – hosting expenses

$600 – plugins

$1,000 – SEO tools etc. 

$900 – Stock photos

$6,000 VA fees (Two VA’s until November and then four VA’s – everyone received a bonus for the holidays too) 

$3,000 Editor fees

$27,360 – writers (I keep track of the number of words published and pay 3 cents per word, so this should be an accurate estimate).

That comes to a quarterly total of $36,610.

So, the “profit” is -$19,775 and yes, it’s in the red. 

If you read the Q3 report, you’ll see that we almost doubled our “losses” in the fourth quarter. 

Sounds bad? It’s not that bad, really, if you consider the cost of content production as an investment rather than a cost. We could stop investing in content tomorrow. The sites would still go on making money, and probably growing too. The only cost would be $250 a month for hosting, and maybe a bit more for paid plugins, domains etc. 

We would be making around $5K in profit right away. 

Instead, we choose to invest that money – and then some – back into content. And yes, it’s scary. 

What’s 2020 going to look like?

Full steam ahead.

We plan on keeping on investing in 150-200 posts content items per month. That should put us in the expenses/investment range of $13-14K per month. 

We have our long-term predictions and so far, we’re on track in terms of revenue. If all goes according to plan, we should be getting out of the red zone by Q4 of 2020. That’s when we expect to start making $13-14K a month. 

Will be launching a new site every quarter?

I can tell you there’s no new launch planned for quarter 1. That’s because my main site went through a major overhaul and I’m busy working on the content there. For us, that’s the equivalent of launching a new content site. Add to that the fact that we’re taking March off to travel.

Fingers crossed, if all goes well, we will be launching a new site in Q2. Niches/topics are actually all laid out for that. 

Whew!

That was a long report!

I hope some readers made it all the way through. Moving forward, the plan is to publish monthly revenue reports instead of quarterly.

I’m going to play around with the format too, trying to get them to be shorter. I think 3000+ words may be too much, but you be the judge of that (and leave me a comment to let me know what you think).

Fingers crossed for a successful 2020 for all of us!

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. I’ve read it all 😀

    I’ve published last year around 500 articles across 4 websites but the quality is not that great. I used iWriter and HireWriters for that. I learned a lot so probably that is the greatest value I’ve got from it.

    This year I started a new website and I plan to publish just high-quality articles on it. I will use some writers from P24 forum and probably at some point I will use UpWork with the tips I’ve got from your articles.

    I wish you a successful 2020!

    1. Thanks, George! I hope 2020 is off to a great start for you so far.

  2. I read it all as well 😀 I love reading your thought process. While I have been producing 50 posts per month on average last year, I plan to scale to work my way up to 100 /month this year and reading through how you manage it all really helps give me inspiration and validation. I especially love how you show the stats for the whole year and have, in fact, used that same model for my own blog “income”/progress reports.

  3. I realize I had a question too. Do you only use Ezoic for your sites? Have you considered other ad providers like Mediavine or Adthrive as you hit required traffic levels?

    1. Hi April,
      I tried getting into Adthrive. They rejected my site and refused to say why. That site had 120K pageviews, most of it search traffic. Very clean, no issues, no link building, mostly response posts. Clearly, they have the right to refuse to work with any site and any publisher, but I didn’t appreciate the fact that they didn’t even say why. I have no plans to approach them anytime soon with that or any other site.
      I tried Monumetric for a while, as it came highly recommended by Jon from Fatstacksblog. They were nice to work with by I didn’t see a significant improvement in revenue. I also like Ezoic’s big data reports, so overall, I went back to Ezoic. I may try Mediavine in the future, but for now, I’m happy with Ezoic’s revenue rates and support, so see no reason to leave them.

  4. I read every word. It is one of my favorite topics. I read all of Pat Flyn’s income reports and John Dumas. I like to see different processes. Great way to look at your business and get the fact that you must invest.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Katerina! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  5. Super inspiring read! Can’t wait until the next update.

  6. Hi Anne!

    A great read, with the quantity of content being cranked out I’m sure you’ll have some very valuable assets develop in the next 12 months!

    A quick question regarding ezoic – what do you make of their premium ads and site accelerator tools? I note that it would be expected to increase revenue with the premium plans and I assume you’ve been invited to it and use it? What have you found the difference to be?
    With regards to the site accelerator app, have you tried it out – if so, what are your thoughts? Worth the investment?

    1. Hi Chaz, glad you liked the post!
      I’m using Ezoic premium and should mention that in the reports. I was invited a couple of years ago, rejected the invite back then and now decided to go for it. I started in late October and I’m on the monthly plan, paying $288 a month – their elite level. The additional revenue during these months was $410 in November and $358 in December. January will probably end up being around $350. Nothing to write home about, but should be mentioned because it skews the revenue number in the reports when you don’t take into account the payment for the premium level. It’s making it look like the sites are making a bit more than what they actually are.

      As for the accelerator, I don’t use it. I didn’t mind giving it a try but it made no difference in our case. That’s actually good news, in my book. Our sites are very well-optimized as it is. The accelerator can’t do much to make them any faster. Is it worth the investment? I’d say no. I think that instead of spending $20 a month on that app, people should just hire an expert to really optimize their sites (or do it themselves if they know how to). For web publishers who can’t manage site speed optimization or hire a qualified expert, then sure, the Ezoic app is a decent solution. It’s just expensive, IMHO.

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