Like all online marketers, I post my monthly income so you can see my Methodā„¢ is working.

I started doing income reports in early 2016 with the goal of keeping track of my progress and forcing myself to spend an hour or two a month thinking about what I'd done and what I should do next. I found it useful.

But this December, income from the websites I bought or created went stratospheric and the amounts involved are so crazy that it's probably not a good idea to put the numbers out into the wild. (I'm mostly concerned about hackers, copycats, and the taxman.)

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I'd still like to do these income reports but instead of publishing the raw data I'll give each site a performance grade. So think of them as report cards rather than true income reports.

I split these report cards according to sites 1) I bought 2) I made 3) I made with a partner.

Bought: Tech Site (A)

This was the first site I bought (for 5k) - I've barely touched it in the last 6 months and it still came through with strong Christmas income of 600 dollars. That's a 10% return on investment in just one month.

Bought: Lead Generation Site (F)

Zero income - I made yet more tweaks and we'll see if they have any impact. I'm not holding my breath.

Bought: Garden Site (B)

It's on track, doing what it should. I'm starting to think about offloading it just because I have too many sites to look after.

Bought: Home Site (C)

I finally finished the structural changes and Google is slowly responding to what I did. I deleted a cool plugin that was slowing the site down and after Christmas there was an uptick in search traffic. I really want to double the site's income in 2018.

The first few days of January have been very very good but December was a bit underwhelming.

Built: Review Site 1 (B+)

No complaints here. It's a review site built on Squarespace (which almost no-one else uses to build review sites). I got an email from them saying that some people had been banned from the Amazon affiliates program because the Squarespace Amazon plugin was giving the wrong price data. So I had to go through every page of this site (and all my other Squarespace ones) and remove the prices.

Pain in the ass.

But while I did that I tidied up some old articles that had multiple H1 tags and things like that. So... silver linings.

And taking the prices off doesn't seem to have affected sales at all. Good to know.

Built: Review Site 2 (A)

This one is killing it financially even though it's the bottom of page 1 for most of the important search terms. I spent some time redoing the graphics and now most or all of the images on the site have a kind of premium feel to them that really elevates the site. A few more months of good sales and I'll start to think about selling it.

Built: Education Sites (D)

Exam season is over so traffic collapsed. Whatevs.

Built: Others (C)

A couple of these sites are starting to make some money. Promising signs.

With one site I had a problem I've never encountered before - a writer sending me articles just copy/pasted from rival sites. Their early work was really good so I stopped running the text through Copyscape (which checks if it is plagiarised or not). Fixing the mess was more time wasted.

All these tiny demands on my time really add up, which is why I don't recommend having so many sites. Have 2 or 3 that you can really focus on.

Joint Venture: Authority Site (A++)

This site went bananas. Money was pouring out of it like the cash machine in Superman 3.

I didn't really realise how Christmassy a lot of the products we review are. I see now that they are great Christmas gifts but we certain didn't write those articles with Christmas in mind. Lucky punch.

It was great watching the sales rack up, but weirdly stressful too. Basically now I have an asset that has to be protected. I can't take risks with it any more because there's something to lose. And being shut down by Amazon would cause actual emotional and spiritual harm at this point.

Joint Venture: John Shea

I didn't think this niche was particularly seasonal but traffic was down in December - one of the few sites I run where that happened. It makes sense that people have other things on their mind I guess.

John asked me to work with him on another site that he can reference in one of the courses he sells. I stumbled across a great niche so we're working on that.

One thing's for sure, the new niche is FAR less crowded so we should make some money from that one.

Mentoring

Belgian: We got our first payout! Nice to have some money in our pockets, and the sales from December were not bad at all (Amazon pays two months later so we'll see that money at the end of Feb). We're taking steps to expand the site into its second silo. This could be a very decent niche site when we're done with it!

Swiss:  Things are moving in the right direction. The site is looking good and it's growing.

Girlfriend: The only time she mentioned her site this month was when she said 'Hmm I actually don't like the domain name I chose.' I can't imagine her site will have more than 5 pages by the end of this year.

Last Month's Goals

  • Don't change the sites too much: Well, I had to take the prices off loads of pages because Squarespace screwed up. But I didn't do anything that lost any rankings so that counts as a tick.
  • Update sites for New Year: All done (95% anyway). Got shoulder pain from doing it though - note to self, never work 5 hours straight.
  • Canadian payments: Payoneer have that in beta, so I'm waiting to get in on that.
  • Don't start new sites: Fail here, because of the project with John Shea. I can't imagine it growing to more than 30 pages so it shouldn't be much of a time commitment.
  • Enjoy Christmas: No, it was mostly shit and I was sick. The best thing about it was playing Horizon: Zero Dawn which was really awesome.

This Month's Goals

  • Move some websites into the company we set up. Keep proper records for all transactions, sort out bank accounts, create spreadsheets, change WhoIs data, set up new Google Webmasters and Analytics accounts. All that fun stuff.
  • Work out how much I owe my girlfriend (or vice versa) so we start 2018 all square and not in a financial chaos.
  • Have a mostly fleshed-out site for John Shea's project.

Last Words

On Christmas Day a bunch of affiliate websites got slapped by Google for having shitty fake scholarship programs. These programs are basically a way to cheat to get valuable .edu backlinks and Google were handing out manual penalties left right and centre.

This spread terror in the hearts of the SEO community, especially as the reason wasn't known at first. A website that had just sold for 600,000 dollars was one that was hit - imagine how the new owners must have felt. Their whole investment down the toilet a few days after buying it!

Fortunately the previous owner was able to identify the bad links and get them disavowed, and Google let the site return to the search results about 5 days later (which seems to be quite fast by their standards). 

Also in December there was a huge attack on Wordpress sites. And some absolute fuckwits have been buying old Wordpress plugins and changing the code to give them backlinks. That's a dick move, but could be even worse - in theory they could change all the affiliate tags on a site or delete all the content or all kinds of nasty things.

It just goes to show that no matter how well a website is doing, it's always one Google penalty, an Amazon ban, or a hack away from being worthless. So while I'd love to mentally spend my Christmas bonus, I need these sites to keep performing for another year before I can really relax and think I've done well.

 The Sword of Damocles hangs over all our heads

The Sword of Damocles hangs over all our heads

By the way, this is the first day when everyone else is back to work, so it's the first day I really feel 'retired'. I have a mere handful of appointments in my diary for January. Heaven!