In my monthly income reports, I will take you behind the scenes of my online businesses and show you how much I made last month, as well as how I focused my time and what I worked on in growing my blogs.
There is a growing number of bloggers doing monthly posts dedicated to showing how much money they are making through their blogs. The trend was started by Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com in order to provide his audience with transparency and to show his readers how much potential there is in running a blog.
I’ve decided to do the same thing.
The difference with my income reports, though, is that, unlike some of the more popular income reports out there, my reports, unfortunately, won’t start from the very beginning.
It’s not exactly the ideal way to go about an income report—because we all like to see the climb—but I figure there can still be some value taken out of my income reports.
In this first monthly income report I will try to catch you up with what I have done to get to the point I am at now.
And, while there are many phenomenal bloggers putting out excellent monthly income reports, I haven’t seen a ton of bloggers who are doing so and who also use a similar monetization and content strategy on their blogs as I do.
What I am hoping is that my income reports provide a few things:
- Give you a glimpse of the unique way my blogs make me money
- Prove to you that you can make money blogging
- And, inspire you to either start your own blog, or to improve your existing blog
If these reports can help just one person start a new profitable blog, or help an established blogger make a little more money, then it will all have been worth it.
With that being said, let me give you a quick recap of how I got to where I am now…
The Journey to Where I Am Now
I’ve highlighted my path to where I am now in a couple of different posts on this site (namely this one here), but let me give you a quick recap to bring you up to speed.
I started my first blog in 2011. It was supposed to be a kind of self-help, personal development, motivational blog. The problem was that at the time I was living in my mom’s basement, I was broke, and I wasn’t very confident…
Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly someone who should be giving out life advice!
On top of that, I had no monetization or content strategy for my site. Like so many others, I approached blogging like a journal where I could just write random stuff.
I also expected immediate results and when nobody would read my new posts, I would get discouraged.
So, for those reasons (and a few others) I ended up abandoning the idea of building a profitable blog.
A year later, in the summer of 2012, a friend of mine introduced me to Ed Dale’s 30-Day challenge.
*NOTE: The Challenge seemed to go away for a little bit, but now appears to be back, although with a somewhat different focus. Probably still worth checking out, though.
Essentially, it was a free course that took you from start to finish on setting up a blog. It covered choosing a topic/niche, doing keyword research, checking out the competition, setting up your blog, creating content, and getting some backlinks.
Despite the fact that, up until that point, I had never really committed fully to anything in my life (at least career-wise), through that course I discovered a topic that I really liked, and I set out to create a blog around it.
In fact, as I’ve mentioned quite a few times in some of the posts I’ve written on Income Addon, I literally told myself and others that, it didn’t matter if I was a 90-year old man still trying to make my website work, it was going to work, or I was going to die trying.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait until I was 90 to see my blog become successful. It wasn’t but a few months after starting my new website that I had made my first buck. And, it was only a few more months after that (early in 2013) that I was making enough money (~$3,000 per month) to quit my part-time job.
In 2015, I started consistently making over $20,000 per month and I ended up finishing the year earning approximately $250,000 in net revenue.
This year has been a little down from last year as some of my traffic numbers have dipped and one of my main sites took a big income loss thanks to a reduction in commission. (I’ll get to that more in a just a bit.)
But, fortunately, over the past couple of months I have clawed my way back to a $20,000/month income. And, I have started to pursue more income streams and put more efforts into expanding my existing money-making blogs.
Of course, I can throw out numbers all day… but what you probably really want to know is how I am actually making money with my blogs…
My Strategy: Making Money Through the Amazon Associates Program
I earn money through my blogs in a couple of different ways. The vast majority of my income, though, comes directly through the commission I get paid to promote products on Amazon.
Most successful bloggers monetize through a variety of different ways and, really, it’s going to come down to your own personal preference.
For now, though, the Associates program is my biggest focus and, as such, will be what my income reports mostly focus around. (Until I find new strategies to tell you about!)
Of course, that doesn’t mean that building your online business solely around the Associates program is the way to go.
There are some downsides of Amazon’s affiliate program… First, there are affiliate programs out there that pay way more than what Amazon pays. And second, it takes some time to build up a new blog to the point to where it is earning a steady monthly income.
On the flip side, though, there are also a couple of positives that come from utilizing the Amazon Associates program.
For starters, Amazon literally carries every kind of product imaginable.
And, that means that there really aren’t too many limitations on the types of topics and niches that work well with the Associates program.
And, the startup costs to building a niche site that focuses on promoting Amazon products are extremely low.
I mean, all you really need is a domain, website hosting, and WordPress installed. (All of which can be setup in under 10 minutes, for less than ~$20 per month.)
The main reason why the Associates program is the core of my online business, though, is the fact that I have built a proven system around promoting Amazon products.
The best part is that my system is really simple. It looks something like this:
- Find a niche or topic that I like and that has potential (based on a set of criteria I have created, which can be found in this post.)
- Setup a WordPress website
- Produce buyer’s guides and reviews for the products in that niche
- Promote the buyer’s guides until they rank well in Google
- Repeat with new buyer’s guides on that site, or with a new niche and new site entirely
Of course, there are some specific strategies I use to help me with each of those steps, but that is the basic rundown of how my online business works.
It’s straightforward. It’s proven. It doesn’t cost a lot to do. It’s scalable. And, it’s how I have been able to make over six-figures each of the last two years.
But, it did take some time to get to the level where I am at now. And, there were quite a few bumps in the road to getting here…
Monthly Income Prior to July
Since I started my website I have sold over $10,000,000 in products for Amazon. (Which is a more current number than what is reported in this post.)
And, as I mentioned above, last year I averaged $20,000 per month and made approximately $250,000 in 2015.
However, in September of last year, Amazon notified me that they were dropping the commission level on the main category I sell in from 4% to 2.5%.
That’s nearly a 40% decrease in income.
Not to mention, earlier this year, I saw a small dip in traffic to my main website.
And, because of those two factors I went from making between $20-25k per month to between $12-16k per month.
However, because the holiday season and tax season (tax returns) are big times of the year for me, it kind of stabilized my earnings for the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. And, that gave me a small window of opportunity to put in some real work and get my income back on track.
To immediately attack my dropped traffic and to try and mitigate the loss in commission, I focused on two things…
- Updating some outdated guides on my main site
- Putting a lot of effort into one of my other websites (one that had products that offered a much higher commission level)
The results were that, while I had a few down months in the beginning of this year, the work I put in on updating some buyer’s guides on my main site, as well as the extra attention I gave to a secondary site, enabled me to get my traffic back to where it was before and take my secondary site to a much higher level.
Here’s a look at my income between March of last year and July of this year.
After the adjustments I made to my main site and the work I put in on one of my secondary sites, I saw my monthly income get back to ~$18,000 in June. Now I have two really solid earning websites that are making up the majority of my income.
I do also make ~$1,000-$2,000 dollars per month from selling on foreign Amazon sites (like Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, etc.) thanks to the EasyAzon plugin—which sends any of the visitors who click on my links to the Amazon website that corresponds with their location.
So, for instance, if a visitor from London comes to my site and clicks on a link, the EasyAzon plugin will send the visitor to Amazon.uk, instead of Amazon.com. (Because, some in London is not likely to buy a product from Amazon.com due to shipping fees.)
And, another small portion of my income comes from a private label item I sell through Amazon’s FBA program.
But ultimately, up until this point, the majority of my monthly income has come from the Associates program.
Setting Up the Results I Got in July
July was a really big month for me in more ways than one…
First off, making over $20,000 in a month from some blogs I run is still a pretty amazing concept to me. And, so whenever I have been able to hit that number in a month (or get anywhere near it), it has really been something I’ve been proud of.
But, this month is particularly special to me, because it was the result of me getting back to where I was before Amazon dropped the commission on the main category I sold in.
When that happened in September of last year, it was kind of like a punch to the gut. And, really, if I’m being completely honest, it points to the fact that there are no guarantees in this business—especially when you are an affiliate marketer.
However, the majority of my big successes online have come at some point after I met with some kind of setback.
Every setback I have ran into with my blogs has been an opportunity to take a step back and make some necessary adjustments to improve my model.
And, while I’ve only returned to a monthly income I was previously at, just to get back to the level I was at before feels like a big accomplishment.
But I’m not going to stop there.
Clawing my way back to $20k per month has given me some insight into how I need to proceed moving forward.
I think last year I became a bit complacent and stopped really focusing on expanding my business. My wife had just had our first child and so spending time with my family was very important.
I was also coordinating with an illustrator to finish up a children’s book we were working on—which by the way was an incredibly fun experience.
And, even though there’s a lot I’d do different if I were to write another children’s book (which I might!), just to say I’ve created something like that is, for me, pretty cool.
If you’d like to check out the book, you can get Kip the Adventure Cat on Amazon.
But back to the point I was making…
There were quite a few distractions that took me away from my business. And, perhaps the biggest distraction of all was my $20k/month income.
To tell you the truth, up until I started my business, I had probably never made more than $3,000 in an entire month. So, needless to say, getting $20,000 deposited into my account every month had me feeling pretty comfortable.
The problem is that, getting comfortable with your earnings and your business can be dangerous to its growth. And, if you get too comfortable, it can even come back to bite you in the butt—which is exactly what happened to me…
And, I know what you’re probably thinking… “Oh boo hoo, you went from making over $20k to only $15k… I feel so bad for you.”
I totally understand that sentiment. But the purpose of me telling you about these trials are A) to prepare you for the setbacks that will eventually come when trying to build your blog, and B) that it doesn’t matter how much money you’re making, if you lose focus, it can all be taken away pretty quickly.
The good news is, though, that the decrease in commission and the drop in traffic spurned me into action. It’s also helped me reassess my business and come up with a better long-term and more aggressive strategy.
I’ll dive into some of that strategy in just a moment, but first I want to go over my income report for July…
My July 2016 Income Report
Okay, so now that you’re all caught up to speed, let’s dive into what went down in July.
First, as I’ve mentioned above, Amazon delays payments to their associates by two months. So, for instance, I won’t get paid what I made in July until the end of September.
And, because of that, what I actually got paid at the end of July, was the result of what I made in May.
So, to keep things simple and to kind of avoid the whole two month delay thing, my income reports will reflect what I earned in July and not what I was actually paid.
Here’s a look at my July earnings through the Amazon Associates program:
- Amazon.uk: £880.45
- Amazon.de: €350.56
- Amazon.fr: €63.92
- Amazon.it: €179.55
- Amazon.es: €65.10
- Total foreign: ~$1,896.43 (really depends on current exchange rates)
*NOTE: It wouldn’t be possible for me to make commission from foreign Amazon sites without a plugin like EasyAzon. I paid ~$49 for the plugin, and, as you can see, I have easily made the back and a lot more. I definitely recommend EasyAzon if you are running an Amazon-affiliate-based site.
- Amazon Private Label Products: $1,353.10
- Amazon Associates: $21,680.37
Total Net Profit: $24,929.90
Tools & Services I Rely On
The above represents all the money that I earned. However, I don’t get to just take every dime of that number and ride off into the sunset.
Whereas a new website doesn’t cost a lot to start, as you grow your website, you’ll find yourself needing/wanting new tools and services to help your blog(s) run and function better.
For instance, as your site grows you’ll want to move to a better hosting company that can accommodate your traffic increase and limit the amount of downtime you’ll receive.
Also, if you rely on social media, it makes sense to get a social media management tool to help you schedule content across multiple platforms and across multiple accounts.
Of course these are just a few examples of some tools and services I use.
Here is a little bit more in-depth look at some of the tools I use and why I use them…
NOTE: I have linked to some of these products with an affiliate link, which means that, if you click the link and purchase the product or service, I will get a commission at no extra cost to you. I’d love to get a commission, of course, but it’s important that if you are just starting out, that you are looking at these tools and services as ways to make doing certain tasks easier, rather than as tools that will make you money.
Synthesis Hosting ($105): If you’re just starting out, I recommend going with an affordable hosting plan through BlueHost.com, as a dedicated server through a service like Copyblogger’s Synthesis hosting isn’t really necessary when you aren’t getting a significant amount of traffic. However, I can’t say enough how great Synthesis hosting is and I doubt I’ll ever move from them.
Later ($29): Later allows me to schedule Instagram posts from my desktop, which makes it incredibly easy to schedule content for Instagram, since without a service like Later you can only post content to Instagram from your phone.
Buffer ($50): Buffer is a social media management tool that allows me to schedule social media content for all of my sites across Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. It really makes organizing my social media content and strategy much more simple as it brings everything (except Instagram) under one roof.
Aweber ($238): Aweber is an email marketing software that allows you to accumulate email subscribers and run a newsletter. I’m not the best at utilizing an email list, but my main site has a subscriber base of nearly 20,000 people. Aweber isn’t the only email marketing software out there, though, but I use it and have no problems with it.
Cloudflare ($25): Cloudflare is a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that helps my sites run faster and load more quickly. Since Google has made page speed, load time, and user experience an important ranking factor, it’s important to ensure that your website loads and responds quickly. Cloudflare helps my sites do that.
SEMRush ($69): There are a ton of amazing SEO and backlink analysis tools and keyword research tools out there, and for awhile I was hesitant to pay the high monthly price associated with them… but lately I’ve been relying on these tools a lot more in order to find new opportunities for creating content. And, for the strategy I use SEMRush fits my needs the best as it allows me to see all of the keywords my competitors are ranking for. You can sign-up for a free trial right now and test it out.
EasyAzon ($67): For the system I use on my blogs, EasyAzon is perhaps the most important tool I have. EasyAzon allows me to easily pull products from Amazon into my posts directly through the WordPress editor, rather than having to copy and paste links from Amazon. It also allows me to capitalize on the traffic I get from outside of the United States by redirecting foreign visitors to the Amazon website that fits their geographic location. I made a one-time payment of $67 for this plugin and it has paid me back well over 100x that amount through the international redirect feature alone.
You don’t have to have any of these tools. None of them are necessary. In fact, when I first started out, I didn’t use any of them. And, really, if you’re just starting out, it might be a better idea to learn the ins and outs without these tools—just so you have an idea of how it all works in its natural state.
The only tool I would recommend for everyone starting out is an email marketing service, because you should definitely be building a newsletter from day one. Aweber is cheap if you are just starting out, but MailChimp has a free option for anyone who has below 1,000 subscribers.
I’ve used MailChimp sparingly, but I know it works, and if you want to keep your costs down, that’s probably the way to go.
And, of course, that’s not to say that you can’t use these tools when you are starting out. But, in my opinion, it’s probably best if you focused on creating content, before you start paying a bunch of money for tools you that you may not be ready to use.
A Look at August and the Things to Come
While I am extremely excited about the return to a ~$20,000 per month income in July, I am placing a lot of focus on moving my business forward. I have seen firsthand what can happen if you get complacent and I don’t want that to happen again.
The good news is that I have a ton of things I’m currently working on and a bunch of ideas that I want to explore. Here’s a bit of a rundown of what I’m planning for the coming months…
1. Creating A Web App for One of my Niche Sites
On my main niche site, I’m working with a developer to come up with a web app that will help my audience understand the product better and give them more confidence in buying that product.
Essentially, the niche calls for some technical know-how prior to purchasing and a lot of prospective buyers are a little hesitant to fully commit to the product(s). So, the web app my developer and I are working on will seek to give them that technical know-how and show them that it isn’t as intimidating as it is made out to be.
2. Committing to Social Media
I’ve always had plans of content I want to post regularly on social media, but because I am pretty much a one-man team, I always end up abandoning ship—not because my social media strategy isn’t working, but because I get distracted and forget to post content for a long stretch.
Now I’m working on creating a ton of bite-sized pieces of quality content so that I can schedule it so that it’s being posted automatically for months in advance. I’ve sat down and come up with a couple of weeks of content and have scheduled it using Buffer.com and Later.com.
For right now, I’m mainly focusing on Income Addon’s social media strategies, but I will eventually sit down and create (or get it outsourced) a bunch of content for my niche sites as well.
If you don’t follow me on social media, you can do so on the following profiles:
3. Studying the Competition to Find Potential Keywords to Target
Another thing I’ve been focusing on, is finding some keywords I haven’t been targeting on my main niche site and creating content around them. I use SEMRush (they’re currently offering a free trial) to help me find new topics with good traffic potential and then I create content around those topics.
Essentially how it works is, I put in a competitor’s website in SEMRush and they give me a list of everything that website is ranking for. So, if they have any guides that are ranking well for a popular keyword that I haven’t targeted yet, I chalk that up as a topic I also need to write a guide on.
In fact, after sitting down and doing some thorough research on SEMRush, I was able to come up with 44-different medium and long-tail keywords that are generating at least 500 or more search results a month (according to SEMRush). All of these keywords can be targeted with buyer’s guides and my rough estimation/guesstimate is that, if I create all of these guides, there is enough potential there to double my current traffic.
Obviously, creating 44 different guides is going to be a lot of work (especially since I try and make my buyer’s guides at least a few thousand words long), but there is so much potential there, I am committed to the project. I’ve also decided to outsource some of the content creation, to take some load off of myself.
But, ultimately, the thought of targeting that many new keywords, and the potential for a big traffic increase (I would have to do a lot of content promotion to get them ranking), is enough to get me excited about the possibilities.
4. Working on a 3rd Niche Site
I’ve also started working on a third site that I’ve had for awhile, but that I haven’t really given a lot of attention to because I have been so busy trying to get my income back to where it was last year.
The only difference is that, while in the past I created every piece of content on my sites, with this new site, I’m looking to outsource the vast majority of the content.
As I’ve perfected my system, I’ve begun to realize that if I want to scale my model, there are only two ways to do so…
I can either build a team—which I have thought about doing—or I can pay someone else to write the buyer’s guides for me.
Building a team is something I want to do in the future, but for right now I’m going to stick to outsourcing the content, as I think that’s a valuable strategy to learn anyways.
So, I am going to test the outsourcing of content out on this 3rd niche site and if it works I will have more confidence working towards developing even more niche sites.
5. Creating A Course that Shows You My Step-By-Step Process for Building Amazon-Affiliate-Based Websites
My biggest and most pressing goal is to finish a course I’ve been working on for the readers here at Income Addon. The course will essentially take you through the step-by-step process I go through every time I build a new Amazon-affiliate-based niche site.
Or, in other words, I’m going to offer you my exact system—a system that earns me over 6-figures—and I’m going to give it to you for a ridiculously affordable price…
It will be absolutely free.
The course is going to be a six-module course, with roughly 25-30 lessons in it. And, I’m putting it all on the table. It won’t be some short low-quality course aimed at getting email subscribers (although I will ask you to subscribe!).
It will be a full-on, high-end course, that I could probably charge well over $100 for.
But I’m giving it away for free. And, I’m giving it away for free for a number of reasons…
First, to provide value to you. You deserve it.
Second, despite not charging anything for the course, I can make money from the course through optional affiliate products that I will recommend in the course (website hosting, keyword research tools, others tools I use, etc.)
So, I’m not quite a saint! But, none of the products will be required (except for hosting if you are starting a new site) and you definitely don’t have to use my affiliate link to get the products either.
And, third, because I’m not well-known in the internet marketing space, and so why should anyone trust me enough to pay me over $100 for a course by a guy who they don’t really know anything about?
Yes, unknown gurus have produced amazing courses that the world is now better off for having. However, I’m doing good as is, and I figure if I make some affiliate income off of the course for products you might have already purchased, why should I charge you an additional amount just to get access to the course?
As it stands right now, I’m hoping to have the course completed within the next couple of months. If you’re interested in being notified when the course goes live, you can sign up on the link below. Alternatively, you can follow us on social media where I will also announce when the course goes live.
In any case, I have a lot on my plate—which is a good thing—and I should have plenty of opportunities to grow my business in the months to come.
And, I think that by looking at outsourcing some of the content I have planned and scheduling all of my social media content in advanced, will help me make a ton of progress in a fraction of the time it would have taken me on my own.
Needless to say, I am excited for what is to come!