Need some help with my first take on the authority website

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Hello to all!

This is my first try at building an authority website and I’m quite determined to make it right the first time. By “make it right” I mean $10k monthly profit and $500k total profit (income+valuation) by April 2024.

Here’s what I’ve done so far.

I got the idea for a niche in September 2021 and immediately bought a domain. It is basically my hobby/side job closely related to my IRL job. Spent a few months playing with VPS, WordPress, and Elementor Pro. I’ve published just a few articles written by Fiverr writers. I quickly learned that my niche is too specific and there are basically no writers who can write the article unless I told them exactly what to write.

At that point, I got back to the drawing board and decided that I need to write articles myself. The "Fiverr" articles brought in about a few page views here and there. I deleted all of them.

And then the struggle got real. So real that I spent two months to write a single article! In retrospect, I think I tried too much.

But my determination was so tough that I even tried to meditate before writing a post. BTW, it helps.

Then, one day (April 1), I just wrote what I had done that day and how I solved the specific problem. I wrote the 1k words post in less than two hours. I’ve kept the momentum and wrote one or two articles each day. They were far from good, but they solved a problem for a reader, and all of them started to rank pretty quickly.

(KW volume from 10 to 140, but mostly on the low side)

April traffic (first month):

Rpc9Xi7.png



Although my plan for May was to publish 30 new posts, I’ve rather spent a big chunk of available time on editing articles published in April. The reason is I got a few comments from the readers asking to clarify some steps.

Besides the edits, I’ve published ten new posts in May.

And here’s the result:
PdEGpD5.png



And here’s comes June.

I’ve returned to my overanalyzing habit and published just one post. Besides this post, I’ve spent too many hours trying to fix my core web vitals and site speed. I had a few WordPress websites in the past and they were all blazingly fast. But this time I believe the problem is on the server side.

Before I’ve always used shared hosting, mostly SiteGround, and for this project, I opted for VPS by Intersever with just one slice for $6 monthly. The rationale was when the site gets bigger I’ll just buy more slices. And it is dirt cheap.

To prove my point, I bought one more domain and the cheapest hosting for $2.50 monthly, also at Interserver. Installed the same theme with the same setup and the site was 10x faster than the main site. So, the next step will be to upgrade to at least 2 slices and see what happens.


But I digress.

Here’s how the site stands today (last 30 days):
Ox8hdGN.png



And here’s where I need help.

When I started the project I planned to monetize it with ads. But now I’m not so sure anymore.
rK0ZcfD.png

At only 34% of US traffic, I think this site will not be accepted with premium ad networks, like MediaVine or AdThive. Of course, this can change with the site growth, in both ways.

The domain is brandable, and there is a lot of room in vertical, so I think I could tackle this problem with more broad topics specific to the US. The problem is that right now I can’t rank for these kinds of keywords. Or at least I think so.


Affiliate Monetization​

This may seem simple to some of you, but it's something I've never done before. There's also another issue with my niche.

I write a lot of guides that involve the use of some kind of tool. Most of these tools aren't available through Amazon or other well-known affiliate networks. Because these are highly specialized tools, only a few small businesses sell them. The software makes up about half of the tools, while hardware makes up the other half.

My plan is to try to work out a deal with these companies, but I'm not sure how to go about it, as they don’t have any system in place.

So, if you have any experience or suggestions…


Merch Monetization​

This is something I have done before and have some limited experience with. Basically, I could place ads through the entire site and send the traffic to one of the pod sites, like Redbubble. But the commissions are so thin ($1-4). On the more profitable side, I could also opt for Printful, Teelaunch, or Printify to get some chunkier commissions (about $10/sale), but this involves more work I’m not willing to take on me atm.

If I decide to go this route, I’ll just place ads pointing to Redbubble across the side and see if it works.

The problem I see here is the CTA cannibalization.


The Right Monetization Mix​

So, the main struggle right now is deciding on which monetizing direction to go. I really like the idea of display ads monetization, as it leaves me much more time to focus on content creation. I know that with the current traffic level I can't expect anything, but I just want to be prepared for when the time comes.

I also hope that once the site gains some authority, I could go with some bigger keywords, but for now, this seems far away.
Atm, Semrush says 10 and Ahrefs 0 authority score with 95 referring domains and 175 backlinks (maybe 10% are real links from forums and Reddit).

Deep inside I’m perfectly aware that the best thing to do right now is just to create and publish as much as possible. The problem is I put too much on myself and here comes the burn. Then I go to my “creative” mode and just do everything else under the sun so I don’t need to create the content.

Well, this is a prime example of the importance of writing. Obviously, when you write about the things you’re involved in, it sorts out the thoughts. Just by writing this thread I’ve given myself many answers I didn’t have at the beginning.


I would appreciate any help and further discussion.

Thanks for reading!
 
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Seems like you're focusing on all the wrong things. If I were you, I'd focus on streamlining a content plan so you can churn out content faster (as it's going to be the soul fo your site)
 

Ryuzaki

お前はもう死んでいる
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Good job on the work you've done. The first serious go around is hard and can get in your head, making you over-emphasize the importance of every tiny thing. It's a fear thing for sure, we've all done it. Being "too precious" about every little thing.

And then the struggle got real. So real that I spent two months to write a single article! In retrospect, I think I tried too much.
Yeah, that's not going to fly at all if your hope is to monetize with display ads. With ads, more traffic equals more money, and more content equals more traffic. The reason it sounds like I'm emphasizing organic SEO traffic is because I am. It will have the built in "hotness" needed for the users, otherwise your bounce rate and dwell time will be trash (like with social media traffic).

(KW volume from 10 to 140, but mostly on the low side)
That's fine for posts where you're delivering real world solutions to real world problems. You're ranking for them, I presume, because they're also low competition. This is a good place to hang out at at the start until you have more content and links. Why write content that can't rank, you know? But keep an eye out for when you can "level up" and go for higher volume and higher competition keywords. You'll get more mileage for your efforts that way.

Besides this post, I’ve spent too many hours trying to fix my core web vitals and site speed.
One of your problems may be Elementor, which is notoriously slow, bloated on the back and front-end, loads a lot of extra CSS and JS files, etc. I'd ditch that while it's early and just use the Wordpress Gutenberg editor. If you're just pounding out content that doesn't require a ton of custom blocks, then no need to bloat yourself out. And even then, the last way I'd do it is Elementor. There's ways to make custom, fast blocks where you don't install entire libraries or extra files each time that block is used.

But that might be past your dev skill levels (maybe not, I don't mean to assume too much about your skills). The trap though is if you don't have the skills, you end up leaning on plugins and those developers don't care about speed. They care about features, mainly ones you don't need but get you to buy.

At only 34% of US traffic, I think this site will not be accepted with premium ad networks, like MediaVine or AdThive. Of course, this can change with the site growth, in both ways.
That will likely change as you begin to rank for bigger and better keywords and higher up the rankings too. But don't think it's just USA traffic that matters. It's USA, EU, UK, AUS, CA, etc. It's all of those together, and maybe more that slip my mind.

I write a lot of guides that involve the use of some kind of tool. Most of these tools aren't available through Amazon or other well-known affiliate networks.
I'm not saying to abandon ship. I just want to emphasize the golden advice from @ddasilva which is to always start at the conversion. That means you choose your product or whatever makes you money first, and you make sure it's viable, before you even set up a website or buy a domain.

In this case, you're having trouble finding a way to get paid for pushing those products. And now you have a whole big hurdle to overcome of creating your own affiliate network and tracking system. Probably not worth doing. Maybe you develop your own software, which can work if this is "THE" business for you.

If your goal is display ads then the validation needs to become "is there enough traffic in the right regions of the world to get me good RPMs and enough RPMs".

Basically, I could place ads through the entire site and send the traffic to one of the pod sites, like Redbubble. But the commissions are so thin ($1-4). On the more profitable side, I could also opt for Printful, Teelaunch, or Printify to get some chunkier commissions (about $10/sale), but this involves more work I’m not willing to take on me atm.
I have never once in my life seen this work. I've seen people try to print T-shirts and stickers and mugs and all that. Sounds easy and safe since it's commission based and there's no upfront cost for you (or one that's not too high). Fails to convert for micro-brands at any meaningful amount.

I've seen people spend six figures and more creating their own ecommerce store and a line of their own mugs and all that crap, they ship out themselves, or send to Fulfillment by Amazon. Complete bust every time. Even on Etsy.

The problem being, who the hell really wants to buy "Joe's Lawn & Garden" t-shirts and all that? Maybe if you got away from the micro-brand and had "Dad by Weekday, Lawn Master by Weekend" or whatever, like people do on Amazon's T-shirt printing operation. It's gotta be generalizable like that (my example was really bad), to have a chance, I think.

Of course you can argue that guys like Linus Tech Tips or whoever manage to make some money doing this. It can work, but they're big brands at this point.

I know that with the current traffic level I can't expect anything, but I just want to be prepared for when the time comes.
2,800 sessions per month isn't a lot, but I wouldn't waste that traffic either. If my goal was to monetize by ads I'd go ahead and start bringing in some revenue. It'll be poor with Adsense or Ezoic, but those are your starting points. $10 RPMs, maybe $15 RPMs. But making even $30-$45 a month would put you in probably the top 25% of internet marketers or SEO's, who usually fail to make any revenue and especially not any profit.

With better networks, you can expect like $25 - $50 RPMs, with the upper range if you do it right. I've got a site that'll dance between $40 and $75 RPMs depending on the quarter and holidays. My point being that, let's round your sessions to 3k, if you had access to that you'd be getting $120 to $225 a month already with your traffic levels.

And your traffic levels will increase. But in the meantime if you wait to hit 50k sessions to get into Mediavine, how many sessions did you let go to waste by not monetizing yet? Let's say it's 300k sessions over all the months of build up to the 50k threshold in one month. 300 RPMs times $30 per RPM would be $9,000 pissed down the toilet by waiting. Let's cut it in half to $15 since you'd be in Ezoic or something. That's $4,500, which would have paid for a good chunk of content.

Anyways, I think you're obviously a thinker and mature and navigating this better than most. I'd question myself if this is really the project to throw everything at, if I can't even get a commission on the main tools needed for the users. Is that hurdle really worth overcoming, when there's a million other niches out there?

It may be if there's enough keywords with enough volume and you can build up enough link authority to compete, and you use display ads. Just depends on the niche. In my head I'm picturing some weird obscure niche, but that may not be the case. I'm just saying to really take inventory and ask "am I going to pour my blood, sweat, and tears into something with a low ceiling?". I may be off the mark here, in which case, carry on!
 
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Seems like you're focusing on all the wrong things. If I were you, I'd focus on streamlining a content plan so you can churn out content faster (as it's going to be the soul fo your site)
Thank you for making the suggestion. I wish above everything that I could do what I believe I should. That is, producing the content. However, this isn't always the case. And it’s different for anyone. As I said, I’m new to this and I set some crazy goals.

I've resolved several issues that had been holding me back, and I'm now ready to resume content production.

Thanks again.

Good job on the work you've done. The first serious go around is hard and can get in your head, making you over-emphasize the importance of every tiny thing. It's a fear thing for sure, we've all done it. Being "too precious" about every little thing.
Thank you so much for your invaluable help!

The first thing I did was submit an application to Ezoic. From the beginning, my plan was to wait until I had 50k sessions before applying to Mediavine. I believe there was some sort of fog in my brain that made it impossible for me to see the pure logic.

Google approved the domain the same day, and now waiting for Ezoic’s review. Should take about 10 days.

And there’s another thing that happened unplanned. I’ve tried to fix the CWV one more time. After disabling Elementor and playing with plugins I did get some improvement, but still in the red.

These are “improved” results with Elementor disabled:
217ZxI9.png


Then while going through the Ezoic setup process, Leap (their tool for improving site performance) discovered many problems with the site and offered a solution for each of them. The first was Elementor. I’ve gone through each of them and here’s the result. I’ve also installed the Ezoic Wordpress plugin, which made a huge difference.

The whole thing took me about an hour and a half:

LvMJla8.png


The most interesting thing is these results are with Elementor installed and activated. There are still 8 alerts from the Leap, with “Replace Elementor Now” being the most urgent.

I’ll leave it for now till I find a suitable alternative because I use it only for the home page.

That's fine for posts where you're delivering real world solutions to real world problems. You're ranking for them, I presume, because they're also low competition. This is a good place to hang out at at the start until you have more content and links. Why write content that can't rank, you know? But keep an eye out for when you can "level up" and go for higher volume and higher competition keywords. You'll get more mileage for your efforts that way.
I'm very sure I started writing about these topics by accident. Because I'm not very skilled at writing and English isn't my first language, I'm stuck with writing about what I know. You know, the plumber can write all day about plumbing.

It's obvious to me that in order to have a bigger impact, I'll need more kws with more searches.

If I got this right, I should aim for the keywords with search volume = my daily pageviews. If that’s true, I should aim for a search volume of about 200. When daily pageviews increase, I can level up.

The good news is that I'm finding that the more I write, the better it looks. It also becomes a little easier, also. So I suppose once I've written a hundred/few hundred articles, I'll be able to move on to something above my sub/sub/sub/sub-niche expertise.

Monetization Mess​

If your goal is display ads then the validation needs to become "is there enough traffic in the right regions of the world to get me good RPMs and enough RPMs".
At least I can see clearly now. Yes, display ads are my primary goal. That doesn’t mean I’ll abandon the affiliate ship completely. After some deep research (spying) of my competitors, I found guys that made their own affiliate network exactly for the problem I have. I would never go this route and I can see their content production suffers.

When you look at their sitemap.xml you can see how content production drastic drop exactly correlates with the launch of an affiliate network.

It may be if there's enough keywords with enough volume and you can build up enough link authority to compete, and you use display ads. Just depends on the niche. In my head I'm picturing some weird obscure niche, but that may not be the case. I'm just saying to really take inventory and ask "am I going to pour my blood, sweat, and tears into something with a low ceiling?". I may be off the mark here, in which case, carry on!
Yeah, I’ve articulated it completely wrong. Here’s what I mean. I’m having problems finding the writers and products I could push just because of the level I’m currently at. The niche is quite big, and I have more than 1k keywords already in my notebook. There are also a lot of products that could be sold via Amazon, but I just can’t rank for them atm.

Before I even started, I did my research and determined that this is a niche worth putting everything into.

Despite the fact that I have no prior experience with it, neither with display ads nor with affiliate marketing, I have always viewed affiliate as a way to increase my RPM and as a safety net. For instance, I'd want a $30 RPM, therefore I figured that if the RPM was $25, I could boost it with some affiliate pages. This is just a concept/fantasy that has been floating about in my head, and I'm going to leave it there until I get some more information.

I have never once in my life seen this work. I've seen people try to print T-shirts and stickers and mugs and all that. Sounds easy and safe since it's commission based and there's no upfront cost for you (or one that's not too high). Fails to convert for micro-brands at any meaningful amount.
Even if I decide to try it, it will take away too much time to get it right. Yep, I'll try to forget that I even thought about it.

Next Steps​

Now with the fast site and monetization almost in place, I can get back to content production mode. I plan to make more improvements on the site, both in design and code, but for now I'll leave it as it is. Knowing myself, this will happen after the burn caused by the next content push. Like this one, for example.

Today's analytics (last 30 days):
p0BnsiI.png


@Ryuzaki thank you once more for helping me get through these first bumps. It really means a lot.