It's been a while since I've done an update on The Cosmo Project site. The last one was in my 2016 Year in Review article. So I figured I'd give you all an update on what's been going on with the site so far in 2017.
The site has seen a lot of great growth, pretty much all organically.
Outside of a guest post I reached out to get, pretty much all the growth has come from my on-page SEO efforts.
I'll dive a little bit into what I've been doing specifically, give you some traffic and income numbers, and talk about some of the plans I have for the site for the rest of this year.
This post is a little text heavy towards the end, but I promise it's well worth the read.
First, here's a look at the traffic over the past three months.
January's traffic is kind of shorted because my site was down on for part of the day on January 11th, and possibly even the 12th because of some domain name issues. But none the less, it was a solid month.
Despite being a shorter month, February still had good traffic. If I would've had an extra three days during the month, I would've had over 20K sessions again.
March was my best month to date. One thing that you'll see is weird is the bounce rate. Notice how it dropped dramatically. It's because I mistakenly put two Google Analytics codes on the site. The real number is somewhere in the 80's. That also screwed up my pageviews data, but everything else is correct.
How I Grew the Traffic
Traffic is up 147% YOY compared to Q1 2016. And like I said, it's pretty much all been thanks to content and on-page SEO. I've added a decent amount of new content to the site after doing some keyword research (check out this article to learn more about my process). And it has paid off.
Here's a look at how many pages were driving traffic to my site over the past three months:
- January: 146
- February: 157
- March: 176
So as you can see, as the new content starts to rank, they're bringing in more traffic. My focus has been heavily on long-tail keywords. The niche that the Cosmo Project is in is very competitive. I'm usually competing with Wikipedia and extremely popular media sites. So I'm not too worried about a lot of the short-tail phrases since my site won't be able to outrank the big guys quite yet.
This is a very effective strategy I recommend for anyone just starting a site, or if you're in a competitive niche. Start by building your foundation on long-tail keywords. It'll build the overall relevancy of your site in your niche, and over time you'll be able to start capturing some of those larger keywords too.
Another big help has been getting the featured snippets (aka position 0) for some of my articles.
It's amazing how much of a boost in traffic you get when you show up for answer boxes. Here's an article from Moz with some theories on how to get to position 0.
Now, let's take a look at how the income is going.
As some of you know, I initially started by monetizing with Google Adsense and Amazon. But I eventually switched over completely to Amazon because I feel like Adsense is too reliant on having a bunch of traffic. Whereas with Amazon, it's more about how well you're able to convert the traffic you do get, regardless of how many visitors it is.
To give you all some background, here's a look at the Amazon income from all of 2016.
Keep in mind the income in December was boosted because of the holidays.
Now here's a look at the income month by month so far this quarter.
For those of you keeping tally, something probably doesn't add up here. Despite the fact that the shipped item revenue in March is over $1,000 more than it was February, I made less money. What gives?
Well, in March Amazon changed their commission structure for affiliates. Originally, commissions were based on the volume. The more items you were able to get people to order, the higher your commission percentage overall.
With this model, I was averaging between 7-8% commissions. With the change, the commission percentage is based on the categories the purchased items fall under.
Under the new model, I'm earning 4-5% commissions. So that kind of sucks because I would've been over $250 for March under the old model, which would've made it the highest earning month to date for the Cosmo Project.
While my intentions weren't to fully monetize with just Amazon, this should be a reminder to all of you not to rely on a single source of income for your site. I was planning on getting new income streams for the site prior to the Amazon change. But this is just speeding up the process.
The change doesn't bother me too much since I don't rely on affiliate marketing to eat and pay rent. But I know a lot of marketers who's primary income is from Amazon, and they're taking a big hit. So I can't stress it enough, don't put all your eggs in one basket.
I'm still going to monetize with Amazon because it's a great platform. In March, my click through rate from my site to Amazon (text links only) was 39.39%, with a 14.39% conversion rate.
I'm not going to give that up just because I'm getting a lower commission.
So that's where the site currently stands. But what next?
I have a long list of topics/keywords to produce content for. A majority of the content on the site was written by freelancers because I don't have the bandwidth to write all the content I need. While I didn't create a "set budget" for this, I'm trying to keep my expenses reasonable. I spent a lot on content between the end of last year through now. But I kind of want to cut that down a bit.
That means I'll either have to publish less content or write more content myself. It'll probably be a combination of the two.
Another important change to the content I'm making is targeting more commercial/buyer keywords. Commercial keywords are ones with a purchase intent. When someone is searching for these types of keywords, they're more likely to make a purchase. Think of articles like "Best Desks for College Students" or product reviews.
I have articles like this on the site right now and they're driving a majority of the revenue. So I need to make more of them.
Like I mentioned, I want to diversify income streams for the site. One of the greatest insights I've gotten from Amazon is that the people visiting my site (primarily women between 18-35) are buyers. When the click through rate is nearly 40% and conversions above 13%, that's a good sign that I can get my traffic to convert.
So I have two main additions I want to make to the way I monetize. One of them is going to take a while, but the other is quicker to implement.
1. Use different affiliate programs
I want to diversify the affiliate platforms I use. As great as Amazon is, it's not the only game in town. The two specific platforms I'm going to start using are Shareasale and Clickbank.
The brands on Shareasale I want to work with offer higher commissions, and I can build content to promote them.
Clickbank will allow me to focus on higher ticket items. Right now, a lot of the products I recommend from Amazon are $20 or less. When you combine that with the new lower commission rate, I'm not making much on each item. There are a lot of digital products on Clickbank I've found that will give me more bang for my buck.
2. Physical Products
This is the one that's going to take a bit longer. I have two specific products I want to start selling.
The first is something that I'll have to work with a designer on and get manufactured. I've already started working on it, but it's going to take a while to finish since it's something I've never done before. It's nothing too crazy though. I'm selling toys, food, electronics or anything like that.
The second is something that doesn't require nearly as much of an investment and I'll likely be able to start selling in a few months. So that should be good.
In order to get into this space, I'm going to need to build up the site's social presence. Which brings me to the next point.
Branding & Social Media
The Cosmo Project site is essentially an "authority niche site". Meaning it's not one of those thin affiliate niche sites that's forced to rely only on search traffic. You know, the ones with zero social presence or a generic domain.
It has a branded name, social media profiles and is setup like a media site. So I want to work on building out the brand a little bit. I've already gotten linked to and mentioned in some big sites, including making a few lists of the best sites in my niche. So it's on the right path.
Like I mentioned, I need to start by building the site's social presence. Right now I have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Medium. Because of the products I'm trying to create and sell, I'm going to put a lot my focus on Instagram and Facebook (mainly Instagram).
My initial strategy is basically to flood the market with content. I've been making graphics, and even some animated videos with Animaker. I'm using Medium as another platform to share more written content just to see if it does anything.
I've had the Instagram page up for a while, but have just started publishing new stuff over the past couple months. I'm at about 97 followers just by using hashtags and engaging a bit.
I'm publishing 2-4 times per day.
This is just a learning stage. I need to see what type of content people in this niche respond to best, then I can start to get more strategic and build the page out.
Once I start to get into a groove with it and see results, I'll try to make some posts with tips. But it's too early in the game for now.
Iv'e also experimented with some Facebook Ads. I'm definitely going to be using FB Ads to promote the physical products, so I wanted to run a few test campaigns to a couple of articles. The ads helped me get a better picture of who to target, which will be really helpful once it's time to run ads for real.
That's what's been going on with the Cosmo Project. Hope you enjoyed the update and I'm really excited about the potential the site has. If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below.
Other Posts in This Series