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2016 Annual Report and What You Can Expect in 2017

2016 was a tough year for me with Income Bully and related projects. It was so bad, I nearly gave up on the blog because of my struggles with commitment and dedication to consistent publishing.

Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that just because it is a new year, that things can change without much effort. It will take a lot of effort, time involvement, commitment and dedication to be able to get things back on track the way I want.

I spent the majority of December planning for 2017, and over the last few days while working on this annual report, I’ve come up with a few more ideas I want to implement.

Plans for 2017

Earlier in December, I sent out an email asking for advice, asking the readers and subscribers of this blog what they want to see.

I asked about different media formats, traffic ideas, content ideas, whatever people would offer.

The overwhelming reaction was that they wanted more content. People weren’t shy about the type of content they would like, different content ideas, etc.

Here are a few of the plans I have for 2017:

The Why It’s Ranking Series 

This is something I tried out a few times when I first started the blog. I assumed because there weren’t as many comments on these posts that people didn’t like it, and I stopped doing it. Based on your comments via email, this is something a lot of you enjoyed or would like to see again.

So once a month, I will be breaking down a certain SERP with why the sites/listings are ranking where they are.

Here are a few of these posts from the past:

Why It’s Ranking Issue 1
Why It’s Ranking Issue 2
Why It’s Ranking Issue 3

Estimated time of arrival: This month

Bringing Webinars Back!

One of the ways the blog was able to receive its’ first growth spurt was with a Friday night webinar series. It’s been over a year since I’ve done a webinar, but it was always a lot of fun, despite the amount of preparation it took.

I’m wanting to use different media types to deliver content, and webinars are a perfect way to do that. It’s engaging, I get to meet a lot of you in a different format, and can repurpose the content in replays.

One of the most popular webinars I did was on Local SEO, and will be the topic of the first webinar in 2017. Since the first one is still applicable, but it was done in 2015, I think it’s time for an update and time to discuss a few changes along with more complex topics.

Take a look at the monstrous Local SEO Webinar I did in the past.

The one thing I haven’t decided is which night I want to have it on each month. Do I want it to be on Fridays again? Or switch to a different night? Like Tuesdays or Thursdays? Or would during the day be better?

Estimated Time of Arrival – February/March

Blackboard Video Series

Pretty much everyone that is interested in SEO has seen the Moz Whiteboard Friday videos. I really want to bring video in as a content format, and want to use a spin on that concept. Instead of whiteboard, they will be blackboard videos.

I want to accomplish something similar to what Khan Academy does with their videos. Blackboard style, achieved with some sort of video editing tool and a bamboo writing tablet.

I think this would be useful explaining different concepts of SEO, and more complex areas of SEO.

Estimated Time of Arrival – May/June

Unfortunately, this will take me some time to prepare for, I will need a better laptop for video editing and processing, as well as a writing tablet and time to learn how to do it. For those in the Income Bully skype group, you already know how indecisive I am about laptops.

The Amazon Affiliate Challenge

One thing I wanted to do when starting this blog, was to try out new things and show progress on how to make a passive income online. I’ve failed at doing that throughout the existence of the blog, with the exception of product income which has nearly dwindled down to nothing because of some weird stuff on the warrior forum.

So what I want to do this year, is to start building some affiliate sites. I want to build 1 affiliate website each month this year.

It’ll be interesting doing the niche research as well as the SEO on these affiliate sites.

My goal is to pick a product type, that will allow for a micro niche of products to be sold on the site with relatively low competition. I want enough search traffic to where the sites can make at least a small amount of money within a month or two of launching.

So low competition, decent enough search traffic, keyword domain and it should be a passive income generating property. The ones that don’t perform well, I will sell on Flippa.com and replace with a new one.

Estimate Time of Arrival – This Month

Will Create Landing Pages for Products

Since WarriorForum is dying, and is the primary source of where my sales for my Ultimate Agency Blueprint come from, it’s time to move away and self host the sales page.

I should have been doing this a long time ago. I’m kicking myself for it now, after seeing the large drop off in product sales towards the end of December. I seriously doubt I will even hit $200 in product sales this month, and will need to adjust very quickly.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, that I should have already prepared for. When you’re depending on another site, service, tool, or even a traffic/sales source, it’s only a matter of time until you’re screwed. Eliminate as many middlemen as possible, depend on yourself, build a list, and always have back up plans.

I’m also going to lump the coaching page in with this, even though that’s different. On my income reports, I’ve been saying “Coaching page coming soon” for the past 6 months or so. Heck, probably longer than that.

Estimated Time of Arrival – January/February

Other Plans

There’s a lot of other plans I have, some that aren’t as notable so I’m lumping them in here, and others that I’m unsure of but might implement.

I want to reach out to other bloggers that have different specialties who would be open to guest posting. That way it is new content being created on the blog, while also providing additional depth to the content I already have and will produce in the future. Having different specialties is important because it will add variety to the content and perhaps bring and retain a new audience.

I would like to work out some sort of guest columnist deal, where I have someone contributing content semi-regularly. This would be different than the guest posts. Guest posts are usually a one time thing, or just every once and a while. A guest columnist would be someone that would create new content on a semi-regular schedule, like once a month.

There’s also different content types I would like to implement. I know many of you are well versed in many different areas, whether it’s SEO, project management, hosting, etc. However, I do want to do more How-To style articles/posts that cover step by step different instructions on how to do things many of you already know.

For example, a how-to on setting up demo sites for clients, then transferring to the main cPanel account for the client. Or, setting up a GMB listing, with screenshots or even a video tutorial.

Some of that seems a bit dull, but there are people that read this blog and are at different levels of knowledge and execution in their business. Some might know practically everything, whereas, someone brand new just decided to research and get into this line of work and doesn’t even know how cPanel works.

This will help with bringing in a new audience, and retaining my existing audience. It will also help with search traffic, as How-To style posts usually bring in a solid amount of organic traffic.

Another type of content I will be implementing much more often is review style posts. Reviewing sites, tools, software, services, etc. Great form of organic traffic, and also will provide an opportunity for affiliate income. Whether the review is positive or negative, I might as well put in some affiliate links to generate income from it. If I don’t particularly like a product or service, but someone chooses to try it out anyway, I might as well take advantage of that!

I also will finally make the transition from aWeber to another email platform THIS MONTH. I will need to change all my forms, thank you pages, landing pages, etc. It’ll be a pain in the ass, but I’ve waited long enough, it’s time to finally do it.

There are many other ideas I have as well, but I don’t want to make this even longer than it has to be!

These are the gist of my plans, however, that doesn’t mean they are my goals. I have very specific goals I want to meet in 2017 that I will discuss later.

For now, lets take a look at 2016.

2016 By The Numbers

Lets start with traffic.

Total Unique Visitors – 58,287

Average Bounce Rate – 72.87%

Pages Per Visit – 1.67

Average Time on Site – 2:07

First of all, unique visitors increased by about 12,000 compared to 2015. Bounce rate remained about the same, pages per visit slightly lower, but average time on site was over 20 seconds more compared to 2015. That is probably related to the longer style posts I’ve been publishing in 2016 compared to 2015.

Breaking Down The Traffic

Organic Traffic – 25,796 / 44.3%

Direct Traffic – 14,542 / 24.9%

Social – 9,203 / 15.8%

Referral – 5,259 / 9%

Email – 3,157 / 5.4%

Thoughts and notes on traffic – It wasn’t until the last few months of 2016 that I started changing my links in emails to track the source. Previously, it would report as direct traffic instead of sorting into a category I created called “email”. My direct traffic is down compared to 2015, probably because of that change, otherwise, it would have been up by about 1,000.

Another important note is that organic traffic is roughly the same proportion as it was in 2015, but about 6 or 7,000 more in total.

Referral traffic took a dip, probably because warrior forum used to be a big source of referrals until they switched their layout to no longer display signature links. The most notable increase was in Social traffic, mostly because of my friend Andrea sharing blog posts in different facebook groups.

The percentages don’t add up perfectly because of a failed campaign tracking link I used on quora, that got reported as “other” traffic, along with a few other links I botched up.

Conversion Rates by Source

Organic – 1.27%

Referral – 2.81%

Direct – 1.51%

Social – 2.97%

While organic is certainly the best performing in terms of volume, it is actually the worst when it comes to conversions. Surprisingly, though maybe not surprising to some, is that social traffic was the best. In my experience, referral traffic has always performed better than social, at least when it comes to engagement and on site metrics (and still is the best for on site metrics), so I was surprised to see social outperform referral traffic.

Top 5 Referrers in 2016

1.) WarriorForum.com 

2.) MatthewWoodward.co.uk

3.) Cashflowdiaries.com

4.) AuthorityHacker.com

5.) Buildfire.com

Out of the referrers, WarriorForum performed the best with on page metrics as well as a conversion rate at 3.57%

Lets break down social traffic.

Top 3 Social Sources

1.) Facebook

2.) Twitter

3.) Google+

Honorable mentions include LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, and Quora.

Facebook received a massive 87.5% of the social traffic share.

Conversion Rate by Source

Facebook – 3.26%

Twitter – .81%

Google+ – 5.17%

Twitter is probably the easiest to scale and automate, so while the traffic is lower, and conversions are pretty awful, it still makes sense for me to utilize and get back on track with building up followers and using the network.

I really hate facebook, but have recently created a new account for blog purposes, and will try to scale up the facebook traffic even more since it provides pretty solid conversions.

What is interesting, is the difference between G+ and FB. I will attempt to scale my efforts on G+ but unfortunately I’m not sure it would be a good time investment. The conversions are much higher on G+, but I fear the ability to scale will prove to be difficult. I’m not sure there is anything I can do to bring the traffic even at 10% of what Facebook is.

Most Popular Posts of 2016

1.) The Ultimate Guide for Parasite SEO

2.) Transitioning From Client SEO to Affiliate SEO by Matt Diggity

3.) The TRUTH About Exact Match Domains in Local SEO

4.) The Local SEO “Experts” Have Lied To You Over and Over Again

5.) 6 Best Kept Local SEO Secrets To Dominate Any Niche

Income Breakdown of 2016

I really didn’t want to go through each month and look at the total income. I also didn’t want to enter everything into Wave accounting which I use to keep track of everything, but I did.

Self Created Product Income – $19,246
*Not breaking it down by product, however, Ice Cold Email Gold accounted for roughly 40% of the overall sales, while the Agency Blueprint had around 60%

Coaching Income – $6,325

Consulting Income – $15,000
**From this blog

Affiliate Income – $5,236.84

Total Income – 45,807.84

The total income beats 2015’s total which was at 37,537 despite product income declining by nearly 10 grand. I probably spent a lot less time overall on the blog in 2016, but still was able to see an increase in income, so I can’t complain too much about that.

Let’s break down the affiliate sales by product.

Mobile Renegade – $2,505.02

Long Tail Pro – $637

NameHero – $1,550

Social Pilot – $31

Teamwork – $54

Clicks PLR – $202.26

Clicks Infographic PLR – $28.76

Mythemeshop – $106.80

Bluehost – $130

Thoughts on Income – Overall I have to be happy with the time invested with the return I’ve been able to get. I estimate less than 100 hours dedicated to the blog over the past year, which probably results in a little over $400/hr. However, I think I’d be in a much different spot here if I invested much more time, even if it means my time would be less valuable.

Going forward, I have major concerns about the income being sustainable.

There’s 3 major issues I have.

1.) Product Income Falling Fast 

With WarriorForum traffic becoming decimated, I will start seeing very low income generated from products. Since I have both of my guides listed as WSOs and drive traffic via forum signature with over 6,000 posts, and those signature links are for the most part useless, I’m going to lose out on almost all the sales I normally would get. Instead of $1,000-2,000/mo in income generated from these products, I will likely be down to $100-200/mo.

That poses the greatest threat to my income generated from this blog and products. I need to make adjustments in order to replace some of that income. That means creating product landing pages, and driving a lot more traffic to those products.

Even then, I question whether I will be able to replace the income without creating new products.

2.) Mobile Renegade Sales Have Tanked

What is clearly my best performing affiliate product over the past 2 years, is about to be dead. The software is still alive and well, but the problem is it has rebranded from Mobile Renegade to Profit Renegade. After that happened, they relaunched the product, and while people can still buy from my links, sales haven’t been the same. What has been a steady $150-300/mo, is now maybe $20/mo if I’m lucky.

3.) I Need a Third Product

Actually, what I need to prioritize is a small update to both my Agency Blueprint and my Ice Cold Email Gold guides. However, after that is finished, I should probably be working on another product.

I know many of you are wanting the SEO guide I’ve been talking about and working on for the last 6 months. I have made a decision about that guide, and decided what I had, is not what I want to promote or sell.

What I was working on, is almost an encyclopedia on Local SEO. The information inside is certainly more complete and thorough than anything that can be found online, paid or free.

The problem is, the content isn’t actionable. It’s like a very long text book that isn’t going to be very beneficial for someone wanting to get moving right now.

Now, that doesn’t mean what I have is useless. I will repurpose it into a certification program on a domain I own, LocalSEOUniversity.com. At least, I think that’s the domain I have. Anyway, instead of a long program like that, I want to put out a smaller but very actionable guide. Something that doesn’t need to have every base covered, or chapter long explanations on certain things. Something a regular business owner could buy, and be able to rank his or her own business in a matter of a couple months. Something that a “consultant” can use, and feel confident ranking their clients with. Maybe some sort of blueprint style program with a day by day break down and checklist of what should be done.

I could then start working on the LocalSEOUniversity program and will have an existing buyer list to promote to when it launches.

This should solve the problem of needing a 3rd product, while also boosting course sales and allowing me to cross promote products.

IncomeBully Goals for 2017

I’m not 100% certain, but I really don’t think I met any of the goals I set for 2016. I don’t think I even set very clear goals for myself.

2017 will be different though. One commenter on a recent income report told me that I should have more specific goals and she was right. So here are a few of my goals.

Publish New Content Once a Week

For anyone that has been following, you know that consistent posting and content creation has been a big struggle for me in 2016. Actually, it always has been a consistent struggle. My goal for this year is to conquer this struggle and publish at least one new post each week. Considering I did the 30 days of blogging challenge, I think I can also meet this challenge.

Once a week isn’t enough to get burned out. Sitting here, typing all of this, I think that I should probably have a tougher goal. I think I can achieve an even more consistent and regular content schedule than once a week, but let’s keep it at once a week. I’m sure towards the middle of the year it will be a struggle as it is!

Review More Products and Tools

I’m not sure this really counts as a goal since I already have a goal to publish content once a week. However, I think it’s important to separate this, because I can get carried away with one specific type of content, without seeing any kind of revenue benefit.

Reviewing more products and tools, will allow for more search traffic, and potentially affiliate sales/commissions.

My goal will be to review at least one new product a month, whether positive, or negative.

Conquer My Email

Look, if you’ve sent me an email 3 months ago and I never responded, I’m sorry. My email is a total disaster and I need to figure out an efficient way to maintain it.

Emails go without a response. Sometimes I never read them, other times I skim through it and think I will respond later. I also save emails I think will be important at another time, but then never delete them so cleaning my inbox becomes a huge chore.

This year, I want to keep my email clean, organized, and develop a system to maintain it.

Double My Traffic

This is a goal that I almost didn’t set for myself because I don’t know how attainable it is. That is the same reason I decided to keep this as a goal for the blog.

I project that I will average less traffic or roughly the same as 2016 numbers until April or May, but I should see exponential growth after that. If I get lucky and match the same traffic numbers for the first half of the year, the second half will prove to be a great opportunity to make up some ground and possibly double my traffic.

This will put me at over 100k uniques in a year. There are other blogs in the same industry that are able to get that in a month, so I should be able to meet this goal as long as I stay consistent and treat this blog as a priority like I’ve been wanting to.

In a blog post later this month, I will outline my plan to double my traffic.

Increase My Subscriber List By 300%

The money is in the list, the money is in the list, we’ve heard it a million times from a million different sources it seems.

On the surface it seems like a boring and somewhat cliche goal but the way I see it, is that subscribers are the key to growth. As I get new subscribers, traffic will go up, and so will revenue.

According to aweber I have about 2,600 subscribers. Unfortunately, one of the reasons I’m moving away from aweber is because they count a subscriber each time they subscribe to a list, or a different opt in. If you have bought Ice Cold Email Gold, The Agency Blueprint, opted in for the top 64 niche download, wanted reminders for Friday night webinars when they were running, well, you are counted as 4 subscribers.

Once I fully migrate my autoresponder, and subscriber list, I will probably be around 1,000-1,100 subscribers. We’ll see. Either way, I want to triple my subscriber list.

I’m working on a free 7 day boot camp course that will be used as a lead magnet, with FB ads driving traffic to the landing page which will ultimate upsell the Agency Blueprint. I’m hoping this strategy will allow me to accomplish the goal of tripling my subscriber list, while also providing a boost to product sales.

Be Better Organized

This sort of can be lumped in with conquering my email, but I really need to be better organized beyond email. My desk, my files, images, different information, I just need to be better organized in general.

Being better organized will save me a lot of time, allow me to be more productive and help me achieve all of my other goals as well.

I missed out on a few different round up opportunities that could have driven a lot of traffic and subscribers, because I was so unorganized I missed the due date for my contribution.

Better organization will also allow me to better allocate time for certain marketing activities, as well as building relationships with other bloggers and influencers.

For each of these goals I have, there’s a plan to accomplish them. For this one, I’m not sure how to achieve it. I will probably use evernote a lot more, and look into using other tools. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please share!

Make The Blog Better Every Single Day

I would like to set up a goal for a certain amount of time dedication but that could end up being useless tasks that don’t end up bettering the blog in the end.

Instead, I’m making a goal so that every day this year, I will do something that makes the blog better. Maybe that is publishing new content or working on content ahead of time. Maybe it is republishing the content to medium, or scheduling tweets for Twitter. Maybe it’s working on a few design changes or landing pages.

All I know, is that each day, I need to do SOMETHING that will make the blog better.

Final Thoughts on 2016

To be honest, I’m so glad 2016 is over. That being said, I know that just because it is a new year, it doesn’t mean that change is automatic. I have to work very hard for the changes I want to see with the blog, and in my personal life.

I have a lot of plans, and goals for 2017. Plans and goals are useless without the will to execute them.

In order to achieve my goals, and execute my plans, I’m going to need to dedicate more time than I ever have given on the blog, even if that means my time will have a lower value. I need to treat the blog, like I would any other business.

Hopefully this time next year, I will see it paying dividends, or at the very least, know that I accomplished everything I wanted to do in 2017.

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