Imagine a world where you wake up every morning to find a magical fairy has left HALF A DOLLAR on your pillow. What would you do?

You'd probably count your teeth is what you'd probably do. You'd probably freak out and start turning your mirrors to face the wall at night. You'd probably be a gibbering, rocking-chaired wreck within 3 weeks.

But not me. No siree-bob! Coz I earned that damn fiddy cent and I got what's coming to me.

"But Girardin, how? How'd you do it?"

Here's how: I wrote a doggone BLOG POST goshtarnit.


CAE Exam Tips - The Background

Let's go back in time a bit, because I haven't really explained the background to this website yet. It's called CAE Exam Tips and it gives advice for students who are learning English and want to pass a Cambridge exam. The certificate helps them go to university or get a job.

I've been teaching the exam for years so most of the content is just what I tell my students in class. I added some fancy graphics, got some audio recorded on Fiverr, and put up some YouTube videos. Over time I expanded it, adding related blog posts and more videos.

Based on what is some frankly exceptional content, traffic rose pretty continuously.

Traffic

What that shows is pretty good growth with spikes of traffic before major exam dates (when lots of students panic and search for help).

Maybe the growth will be clearer if I show the stats by month.

Pretty successful, I'm sure you'll agree. That's with no link-building except asking to be added to a couple of relevant directories.

Just One Problem

Just one problem - there was no money. I had adsense bringing in a few pence. I had a page recommending coursebooks - I got a few dollars here and there via Amazon sales. But the break even point for the hosting costs was with 20,000 visitors a month!

Underwhelming.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I'd tried adding links to a couple of affiliate programs from people selling online English courses. There was zero interest from my visitors and I didn't really get a good vibe from the courses anyway.

There was one affiliate program that seemed like a good fit. It's called Grammarly - essentially a word processor that spellchecks your work but also tries to find grammar problems. I tried it myself and wasn't impressed but popped a couple of adverts on the exam site because why the hell not.

With zilch results.

Divine Intervention

Eventually I took off the ads because they were just slowing the site down and messing up its elegant simplicity. That was last year, but a couple of months ago I was in an email exchange with a student who had written in and he mentioned he used Grammarly. 

I wrote back asking why he used it and what the benefit was, and he told me. It was pretty clear to me that I'd been harsh in my assessment of it. It didn't help me, but obviously it DID solve a problem for this one student.

I decided to write a blog post about Grammarly, and it became a little sales page that I could link to from other parts of the site.

Outsourcing the Work

Then I had the genius idea of getting THE STUDENT to write the blog post because 1) I'm lazy and 2) He's the one who knows and uses the product. 

I bribed him with the offer of some free writing correction, which is quite valuable in preparing for the exam. (Basically I offered him 15 minutes of my time.)

He agreed, and a week later my free sales page landed in my inbox! I tidied it up a bit, and wrote an intro. I started laying out the graphics and posted it.

A few days later the student wrote again with more content - every week Grammarly sends a whole bunch of statistics showing how many mistakes you made compared to the previous week, how your writing compares to other students around the world, and all sorts of other handy info. It looks really awesome. I gleefully added all those graphics to the end of what I'd written.

I've never written sales copy but I knew I was onto something before it even went live on the site. My intro, the students' recommendation, plus all these stats... THIS WAS SALES GOLD.

The Offer

The deal is that if my visitors sign up to the free trial of Grammarly I get twenty cents. If anyone upgrades to the premium plan I get twenty bucks. I doubted many students would upgrade, so I was focused on those 20 cents. How many could I get?

The Results

Referrals per day in the first week: 1, 1, 1, 9, 8, 5, 2.

27 in the first week. 5 dollars 40 cents. On track for 20 a month. Pretty modest, but also very, very satisfying. This was the first time where I felt like I'd 'understood' something about online marketing. The conversion rates from my sales page are incredible.

And against my expectations, some of the students do upgrade to the premium plan. Look:

Thanks, Money Fairy!

Next Steps

I recently added another sales page for a different affiliate program that I have high hopes for. I went through a similar process, hoping to replicate this. I may make a decent income from this site after all!


Takeaways

  • Talk to your readers if possible. None of this would have happened if I hadn't a) been in touch with that student and b) been in a position to get him to write the review.
  • There's probably a way to monetise your traffic. Keep looking!
  • Adverts convert much better if there's some text supporting it. Just slapping an ad on a site is unlikely to lead to sales.

One Year Update

I just had a look and that page made me 750 dollars in the past year. I didn't spend much time looking for more suitable products to promote - the one I mentioned in this article turned out fine (it's bringing in about 50 dollars a month) and a third one should have been a huge hit but it hasn't worked out.

The real thing to do with this site would be to make my own product, and even though it'd probably be the optimal use of my time, I just don't have it in me to work more in this niche. It's all I can do to make a new video once a month.

Anyway, point is, those twenty cents add up fast and I learned some good lessons from this little project.