It was bound to happen sooner or later.
The business was really growing well and humming along — but I've known for a while that it was only a matter of time until a big Google algorithm update knocked me down a peg or two.
I just had to hope it wasn't as bad as what happened in November 2019, when I last half my business over night.
2020 was quiet on the Google front, but sure enough in early December, there was a big shakeup.
Overall I have to say I was fairly lucky this time around. Sure, some people get a big boost when Google releases a core update, but I was happy to just survive this time around.
My biggest site (fitness) went down about 20% in traffic and my parenting site held steady (maybe down about 5% or so).
I sure wish it didn't happen, or that I could have been lucky enough to be a big winner in the update, but I'll take what I can get. December 2020 was still a good month so let's take a look at how it played out.
If you don't know about me and my publishing my business, here's the scoop:
I run a couple of niche blogs or websites where I publish (what I think is) really good content. Most of it is discovered by people searching on Google. I monetize that traffic primarily with ads, so the more traffic I get, the more money I make – although I also recommend products here and there and earn affiliate commissions for those sales.
(The split on most of my sites is somewhere around 60% ads and 40% affiliate, with the ad share growing over time.)
I started my first site in April of 2017 and went full-time running it in February of 2018 – way too soon! It was making a little money but not much. I hustled my ass off and picked up freelance work for a while until I could scale the business up.
Here's where it all stands in monthly revenue as of December 2020:
- Site 1 - $7,359.64
- Site 2 - $4,342.16
- Site 3 - $64.21
- Amazon Int'l (all sites combined) - $443.10
- Total - $12,209.11 (November $12,480.80, October $11,800.08)
I have to say I'm really happy to still do over $12k in revenue despite taking a negative hit SEO-wise.
Also – the business in total brought in just over $110,000 in revenue in 2020 (and that includes a decent amount of freelance writing of my own not connected to these blogs). Wow! It's really exciting to be able to say I run a "6 figure business" – of course not all of that goes in my pocket.
How much does it cost to run my blogging business every month? I won't bore you with a ton of line items, but basically (outside of what I pay myself):
- Recurring expenses (tools, hosting, etc) $500
- Content (articles & video) $2300
- Total - Around $2800
Here's a recap of what I'm working on, plus some wins and losses from this month.
Site 1 - Fitness & Health
Live articles - 341 (+13)
Total pageviews- 128,807 (-17.3%)
Total revenue - $7,359.64 (November, $7,632.08, October $7,164.37 )
YouTube Views - 585 (November 329), +9 subscribers
What happened & what I'm working on:
Not a lot.
I will touch on this below in the Odds & Ends section, but I have had literally no time to work through November and December.
I've been home with a newborn and my 5 year old has been off of school for a big chunk of the winter. My wife's job is very demanding so I've been in dad mode most days – I've been lucky to snag an hour per day to get things done.
That means basically all I've been able to do is send out briefs and get content done, nothing really extra.
Most of the time, fortunately, that's enough!
The good news is that this site is surging right now (end of December and January) for the New Year.
Ad RPMs plummet at the beginning of the year (down to $15-19 instead of 25-35) but traffic is really strong despite the Google setback, so January should be solid even if it's not as amazing as I'd originally hoped.
I also like what I'm seeing on YouTube. Numbers are creeping up and I'm starting to get a nice library of content out there, plus I'm learning (a little) about what works best for me – though I would say I'm still mostly experimenting.
*I usually don't include articles that haven't been live for at least a full month in this count, but it was getting annoying to figure that out so this is just the total number of articles on the site as of the end of December!
Site 2 - Parenting & Family
Live articles - 205 (+8)
Total pageviews - 123,870 (+2.09%)
Total revenue - $4342.16 (November $4,212.66, October $4,106.50)
What happened & what I'm working on:
This site is still performing well.
It initially took a small hit from the algorithm update but seems to have bounced back well now that we're through the holidays — there was a big uptick right after a Christmas lull.
I'd like to get back on my HARO game here when I get more time in the office.
I was having exceptional success landing good links via HARO throughout 2020, but when I was only working about an hour a day unfortunately I had to cut that out of my daily routine.
In 2021 I'll be replying to HARO queries daily and hopefully boosting this domain's clout even more.
Up next for this site (and the fitness site) is a huge batch of keyword research since I'm scraping the bottom of my content ideas barrel at this point.
Site 3 - Obscure Hobby
Live articles - 30 (+0)
Total pageviews - 5,146 (-5.25%)
Total revenue - $64.21, (November $111.53, October $86.19,)
YouTube views - 192, +5 subscribers
What happened & what I'm working on:
I got essentially nothing done on this site in December.
I was able to publish 2 solid videos on YouTube, but wasn't able to continue pumping out the shorts that helped me grab easy views and subscribers.
From a written content perspective, I think this niche and blog might be a dud.
Yes, I could probably use more data before throwing in the towel on it — ie, by publishing a lot more content — but the return so far is dreadful and I think it's video or bust for this niche.
I will likely continue trying to grow the YouTube channel and if I can't make that work, I could just let it sit and earn a pittance for a while before selling it off.
Odds & Ends
I'm really excited writing this right now – it's my first day at home, working a full day, with the kid and baby back in school and daycare respectively.
I can't tell you how difficult and frustrating it has been to be so detached from work and my business.
Yes, the time with my children was really special (well, maybe not all of it!) and it's amazing that I had the flexibility to make things work while we all hunkered down during COVID and the holidays.
But I've been dying to get back to work and it's finally time to dive in.
My new CFO (my accountant) wants me to build up about 3 months of salary and expenses in my business accounts before I make any big changes to how much I spend or pay myself — I'm pretty close, hopefully I can achieve that in the next 1-3 months.
It's a good idea, I think, with the insane volatility of this industry.
From there, hopefully now that I'm back on my feet I'll be able to really ramp up content production to new heights.
It kind of sucks to take an algorithm hit right before what should be my biggest traffic month of the year.
But I've taken worse before and I'm happy to survive this one in good shape.
January will be a solid month, enough to keep the wheels of the business turning, and that's good enough for me right now.
With more time on my hands, I'm excited about what I can get done in 2021.