Welcome to the third update of the Authority Internet Business Traffic and Income Report.
It’s been about 15 months since I started this case study. The idea behind it is to show how to build an authority business from the ground up with a brand new site (DevelopGoodHabits.com).
With each post, I talk about the techniques that actually work for creating reliable, long-term Internet income.
To illustrate what’s possible, I provide a quarterly breakdown of the traffic and income the business has generated. If you haven’t read the last two updates, here they are:
- Authority Traffic and Income Report #1 [Apr. through Sep. 2013]
- Authority Traffic and Income Report #2 [Oct. through Dec. 2013]
Today’s post will cover six primary topics:
- Successes of Develop Good Habits
- Failures of Develop Good Habits
- Traffic Results
- Income Results
- Total Expenditures
- Future Strategies
Like you, I’m a big fan of the sites that detail the results of their businesses—warts and all. It’s my hope that you’ll take the lessons from each of these updates and use them to grow your business and learn where to focus your attention.
Similar to the last update, a lot has happened in the first quarter of 2014. The income has been fairly consistent in this time, and I’ve reinvested it into a few strategies that I hope will grow the business. So let’s get started by talking about went right.
In the spirit of masterminding and learning from one another, let me start with a few things that are working well for DGH.
#1: Added Two More Kindle Books
Like last time, my most successful strategy was to simply write more Kindle books. To be honest, from a writing standpoint, I wasn’t as productive as I have been in the past. But during the first quarter, I did manage to publish two new books (S.M.A.R.T. Goals Made Simple & Declutter Your Inbox).
Overall, this is a slower publishing pace than what I’ve done in the past. I think that’s because a large bulk of my time was consumed with a few side projects that I’m looking to complete before the start of the summer. That said, I’ve already published one book in the 2nd quarter (Habit Stacking) and should have two more out before July. So that’ll put me back on pace for what has made the business successful so far.
#2: Built a Team Around Kindle Books
One of my major side projects has been to build a team around my online business—especially the Kindle books. It’s been my experience that the best way to “spend” newly acquired income is to reinvest it back into what’s currently working. Specifically, I’m starting to pay for the following:
- A full-time virtual assistant (hired through Virtual Staff Finder) who handles a number of repetitive tasks, creates SlideShare presentations, turns SlideShare presentations into YouTube videos & Pinterest slides, researches specific Kindle topics and creates “show notes” for my audio books.
- Audio and print versions of my books (I work with the wonderfully talented Rob & Matt of Archangel Ink.). Basically, all I do is send them a file of my book and an e-cover, and they handle the rest of the process.
- Two editors. The first goes over the rough draft versions of my content and turns them into polished products. The second acts as the final proofreader/editor of my Kindle books.
- Various writers to create content for my blog, guest posts and small sections of my Kindle books. This is a work in progress, but it’s my ultimate goal to turn Develop Good Habits into a multi-author blog where I’m not responsible for posting regular articles (more on this later).
Building a team hasn’t been easy. I’ve definitely made a ton of mistakes during the last few months, but I feel a team is well worth it because I’ll eventually get back more time I can use to focus my energy on high-level tactics. If you want to know more about what I’m specifically doing, then check out this recent post where I go over 7 Steps for Building a Team.
#3. Built Another Source of Traffic
Throughout the Authority Internet Business Case Study, I’ve emphasized the importance of growing an email list. It’s been my experience that having an engaged list full of active subscribers is the secret to building a long-term asset. I feel that the biggest mistake online entrepreneurs make is not spending the time and money necessary to grow their lists. My best piece of advice is to always be on the lookout for new list building strategies.
Here’s an example. In the last T&I report, I had the idea of taking existing content and turning them into new formats that leverage existing platforms—like SlideShare.net. But it wasn’t until I hired my VA that I found the time to pursue this idea. Now, I have someone who can take pieces of content (like old blog posts and Kindle books) and turn them into presentations.
The great thing about SlideShare (here’s my account) is you can create visually pleasing presentations that pre-sell your content and drive traffic directly to your list-building squeeze page.
Here’s a process flow of how this works:
Kindle Book Chapter (or Blog Post) –> Turns into Short Bullet Points –> VA Turns Bullet Points into SlideShare Presentation –> Call-to-Action at the End Goes to Squeeze Page
So far, this strategy has worked like gangbusters. For the first quarter of 2014, I’ve added 518 subscribers and I’m confident this number will triple by the end of Q2 2014.
Furthermore, it’s not too hard to further leverage this strategy to get even more subscribers. You could easily take these slides and create a YouTube video that also drives traffic to a squeeze page. Then you turn the presentations into individual slides that drive traffic from Pinterest and Twitter to your SlideShare presentation.
Overall, I feel that it doesn’t matter what type of authority business is being built—your #1 goal is to grow your email list. So as we move forward with this case study, I’m going to be on a constant lookout for different ways to add more subscribers. For more on this, I recommend reading this post: Traffic Hacking – How to Find and Focus on Your Top Sources of Traffic.
Building an authority business is not all sunshine and rainbows. Odds are you’ll regularly encounter obstacles that could potentially derail your success. The trick is to be honest with yourself about what’s going wrong and learn from each experience.
Let me start with what frustrates me the most. When I first started this case study, I knew that being 100 percent transparent about my books would lead to copycats and potentially people who would attack my books.
What I didn’t anticipate was the severity of this problem. Now it seems like almost every day I’m finding a new Kindle book that is a cheap imitation of things I’ve written in the past. It’s annoying to say the least.
For instance, back in November I published a book detailing how to take the problem of procrastination and develop specific habits that can counteract it (called “23 Anti-Procrastination Habits”). At the time, this book was the only one had the words “procrastination” and “habit” in the title. Now there are dozens that are obvious imitators of my book.
I’m not saying that everyone is a rip-off. However, but I do notice that many books have titles and content that’s extremely similar to mine. At the end of the day, I still believe in the model of continuously striving to publish good content and build an audience. I try to keep things in perspective and simply let imitators bury themselves, but sometimes it’s annoying to see people ripping off ideas/content without adding any value to the readers
#2: Lukewarm Reviews
A long time ago, I took a hard stance on the practice of review swapping. This is where authors join Facebook groups and/or special websites for the sole practice of exchanging reviews. Again, I feel that the best long-term strategy is to write good content and build an audience.
The downside to this viewpoint is my overall book rating is not artificially inflated like some authors who can get 30 reviews on the day they launch simply because they have no problem with gaming Amazon’s system.
The reviews I get run the gamut from the good to the ugly. It’s perfectly normal to get bad reviews. What frustrates me is I don’t have dozens of “sock puppets” (like certain authors) who write glowing five-star reviews in exchange for mutual reviews on their books. The end result? My overall ratings (on some books) are lower than others in the market.
Sidebar: After re-reading the previous two points, I realize my comments could be construed as “sour grapes,” so let me clarify something. I understand that some people won’t like my books and there’s nothing wrong with leaving a negative review. In fact, I gain a lot of insight from these reviews.
The point behind mentioning these two things is that building a business off of someone else’s platform isn’t always easy. Some people will attack your content. Some people will rip you off. And some people will use any dodgy tactic they can to get an edge. This is universal truth, no matter where you build a platform. It’s important to recognize this fact, keep things in perspective and not let it get you down. The best “antidote” is to focus on activities that grow your business.
Okay, let’s move on to the final challenge.
#3: Lack of Blog Content
The blogging aspect of DevelopGoodHabits.com was a disaster for Q1 2014. As I mentioned before, it’s my goal to turn this into a multi-author site, so I’ve started to work with different authors who can provide their own unique perspective when it comes to habit development.
The problem is I’ve been completely lazy when it comes to mapping out a “unifying theme” behind the site. I only have myself to blame for this one. Honestly, I’ve procrastinated on mapping out a content strategy for the blog. (I recognize the irony since I literally wrote a book on how to overcome procrastination.) I have a lot of great posts about habit development on my hard drive, plus there are a number of articles I’d like to write (or source to someone else).
Really, it all comes down to me taking the time to simply implement these ideas. Until then, the blog is an accumulation of articles that are okay, but not extraordinary.
Despite the lack of effort on the blogging front, the traffic to Develop Good Habits more than doubled in the last quarter. This growth comes mostly from a few specific strategies I implemented:
- Sending all new subscribers to a “success page” on the blog
- Additional traffic from SlideShare and guest posts
- Increased presence on StumbleUpon (but I consider this to be “junk traffic”)
- Testing paid advertising on Facebook (so far, I’m not impressed with the results)
These are just a few new things I did in the last quarter, but what has actually worked for my business has been a few sources of traffic:
- Kindle books
- Guest posts
- Organic search traffic
Here are the stats showing how they compare to the totals from the last T&I Report:
- 28,725 visitors compared to 13,384 visitors (an increase of 15,341 visitors)
- 02:14 average visitor duration (a decrease of 0:24)
- 70.62 percent bounce rate, up from a 60 percent bounce rate (an increase of 9.73 percent)
When looking at these numbers, you’ll see the average traffic has once again doubled, but my overall engagement has decreased. I feel this is a combination of junky StumbleUpon traffic and not providing blog content that focuses on building an audience. Now, let’s break down the traffic into specific sources:
- 24,188 Direct
- 5,784 StumbleUpon
- 5,479 Facebook
- 3,967 Search Engine
- 1,139 Pinterest
- 793 Amazon (browsers, not book buyers)
- 416 Twitter
Once again, there are a large number of direct traffic visitors. These are people who buy/download a book, view content on SlideShare or read a guest post. I feel this is a good thing because my business is not built on the whims of Google and other search engines.
Now, a metric that’s more important (in my opinion) is the number of email subscribers. As I mentioned in the post about monetization, the Most Wanted Response (MWR) for DGH is to build an email list. How many subscribers did I generate in this three-month span? Here they are (broken down by their subscription path):
- Kindle books: 2,543 subscribers
- SlideShare: 518 subscribers
- PopUp Domination: 244 subscribers
- Sidebar widget: 366 subscribers
- Mobile apps: 111 subscribers
- Guest posts: 98 subscribers
- Splash page: 1 subscriber
- Other: 114 subscribers
- Total for 1st Quarter 2014: 3995 subscribers
- Previous total: 1789 subscribers
- Grand total (up to April 1st): 5785 subscribers
Overall, I’m really happy with the email numbers. I feel this will pay huge dividends as the audience grows. And the traffic numbers are decent, considering my lack of presence on the blog. I hope that once I map out an effective content strategy, both will increase.
As always, income is where the rubber meets the road. While it’s nice to talk about successes, failures and traffic, most people want to know one thing—how much money have you made? My income comes from five places:
- Habit Kindle Books: 70 Healthy Habits, Wake Up Successful, Writing Habit Mastery, 10,000 Steps Blueprint, 23 Anti-Procrastination Habits, Resolutions That Stick!, Declutter Your Inbox and S.M.A.R.T. Goals Made Simple.
- Amazon Associates (physical product and book recommendations on DGH).
- RevMob (an advertisement platform for the app Trigger Monitor).
- Audible.com (audio book versions of my books published through the ACX.com program).
- CreateSpace.com (print book versions of my Kindle books).
In the last report, I mentioned that the business generated total revenue of $25,842.81 in the preceding three months. Here’s what happened during the first three months of 2014:
- Amazon Kindle: $18,846.55
- Amazon Associates: $162.75
- RevMob $4.42
- Audible: $129.84
- SUBTOTAL: $19,143.56
- Amazon Kindle: $12,979.24
- Amazon Associates: $366.48
- RevMob $3.51
- Audible: $644.54
- CreateSpace: $152.60
- SUBTOTAL: $14,146.37
- Amazon Kindle: $14,823.14
- Amazon Associates: $276.06
- RevMob $2.58
- Audible: $1,164.40
- CreateSpace: $359.48
- SUBTOTAL: $16,625.66
Income 1st Quarter 2014 (January through March): $49,915.59
Previous Income: $25,842.81
GRAND TOTAL: $75,758.40
While I sometimes dwell on the negative (see points #1 & #2 of the “failures” section), overall, business is a boomin’. I’ll admit that I’m still waaaaay too dependent on Amazon’s platform, but I still feel I can maximize revenue by keeping books in their KDP Select program and using borrows/Countdown Deals to maintain a high level of exposure.
Audible is a nice supplement to the income. I’ve done a few things to encourage subscribers to buy audio versions, which I hope will translate into “bounties” for the second quarter of 2014. A bounty is a $25 or $50 bonus that’s generated if you get someone to buy your book as one of their first three Audible transactions.
CreateSpace has been a disappointment. I know some authors get a huge ratio of print vs. e-book sales, but mine are pretty dreadful. Perhaps it’s the market? Maybe it’s the size of the books? Or perhaps it’s the lack of promotion on my part? All I know is I’m barely breaking even on print copies of my book. Overall though, I’m extremely happy with these numbers. The best part is they have been fairly consistent from December through March.
Every online business requires a financial investment. The trick is to know what’s worth buying and what can be skipped, so another point of this case study is to provide a financial breakdown of what I spend on DGH. There are five categories of expenditures for Develop Good Habits:
- Content: Blog posts, guest posts, editing, Web articles, lead magnet creation, autoresponders, and a few e-book sections.
- Graphics: Stock photography, logo design and e-book covers.
- Audio and Print: Turning Kindle books into different formats (here’s the service I use).
- Marketing and Development: Press releases, Web design tweaks, Fiverr gigs, paid advertising, hosting, domain registration and various experiments.
- Virtual Assistant: Seventy-five percent of my VA’s pay is related to DGH activities. She spends the rest of her time on other activities not related to DGH.
Here is the financial breakdown during the three-month span:
- Content: $3,642.75
- Graphics: $700.00
- Audio and Print Versions: $2,395.00
- Marketing and Development: $441.99
- Virtual Assistant (from February to March): $1,128.00
Expenditures 4th Quarter 2013 (October through December: $8,307.74
Previous expenditures: $7,163.08
GRAND TOTAL OF EXPENDITURES: $15,470.82
Now compare my expenditures to my overall gross income and you’ll get the net income for Develop Good Habits:
Gross Income: $75,758.40 – Total Expenditures: $15,470.82 =
Net Income: +$60,287.58
I started monetizing DevelopGoodHabits.com back in May 2013. Since then, the site has turned a profit of a little over $60K. Not bad at all for a brand-new business. So even though I’ve made a number of mistakes along the way, I feel like I’ve “proven” that you can generate a substantial income by focusing on a single authority business. But I feel like it’s equally important to expect the unexpected.
There’s no guarantee this income will last. That’s why I like to closely examine the business every quarter and look for ways to improve on what’s working. Here’s what I’d like to do for the second quarter of 2014.
There are two areas I’d like to improve in the next three months.
#1: Create Compelling Content
When looking at my business, I feel like a lot of obstacles (low number of book reviews and traffic) stem from one major issue: not having a great connection with my audience. I can truthfully say this because I get emails and questions all the time from my “Steve Scott Site” audience, but not that often from my “Develop Good Habits” audience.The truth is I’m not getting messages because readers simply aren’t engaged with the content I’m providing on my blog and email list.
So for the next few months, I’d like to do the following:
- Revamp my autoresponder sequence to focus on building a relationship with readers.
- Create a core set of principles behind DGH that make it different from other blogs.
- Pick one or two writers that I’ve worked with in the past to become regular contributors to the blog and make sure each piece of content matches the core principles.
- Increase the number of guest posts to build up the blogging audience.
I’ll be the first to admit it’s easy to lose that “connection” with readers when you run a multi-author blog. But if I take the time to create a set of values and make sure the content is aligned with them, then I feel like I could build a solid relationship with subscribers and readers.
#2: Leverage Existing Content
SlideShare is definitely working. It only makes sense to create more presentations, including some that promote specific Kindle books. What I like about this strategy is now that I have a “system” in place with my VA, all I need to do is identify the topic, provide the content that will be repurposed and review the finished product. This only takes about 30 minutes of my personal time.
Furthermore, it’s not too hard for my VA turn these presentations into YouTube videos and images for Pinterest. I’m not 100 percent sure these strategies will translate into email subscribers, but they’re worth exploring. For Q2 2014, not only will I focus on these three sites (SlideShare, YouTube and Pinterest), I’ll also look for opportunities to grow the DGH brand, without taking up too much of my personal time. The lesson here is to look closely at the assets you currently possess.
Odds are you probably have a lot of content that can be reused on different platforms. All you have to do is create a simple system for repurposing it and then pass it on to a VA or freelancer.
That’s it for the third edition of the Authority Internet Business Traffic and Income Report. I’ve learned a lot in the last three months, which I hope will translate into a stronger brand as we move into the middle part of 2014.
Now I’d like to hear from you. I just wrote more than 3,500 words on my personal experiences with a single site, but the secret ingredient to this case study is your comments and questions. So I’d love to hear your feedback. Please take a few minutes and post your comments in the section below.
Have a question? Disagree/agree with something I said? Don’t like how I complain about minor setbacks?
If any of these things apply to you, then let me know your thoughts.Take Action. Get Results.