Sarah’s Corner – September 2011 in Review

Sarah’s Corner – September 2011 in Review

Welcome back to the second installment of my “Sarah Shoots the Shit” monthly wrap up post series (better name still pending…)!

I have a couple of exciting things to report this month, but first, let’s recap the seven posts that went live this month. If you missed any of them, be sure to go back and check them out when you have a second!

How to Analyze Your Web Competition
How to Pay Taxes as an Internet Business Owner
Choosing the Right Internet Business Model for You
Finding Your Passion: Getting Started with Internet Business
Links Galore! Go Read These Awesome Posts 🙂
Succeeding in a Post Google Panda World
5 Things You Need to Know About Personalized Search

So now… announcements!

Up first – I’m officially relabeling September as “Traffic-splosion” month. Here’s why…

These are my Google Analytics stats from August 2011. And it’s not that 2,000+ monthly visitors is anything to frown at for a baby blog like mine, but check out September’s results:

Notice anything different? 🙂

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the first article on Common Sense Marketing to go viral – 15 Ways to Get Paid to Write.

Of the visits listed above, 14,064 (roughly 77% of the total visits) came from Stumbleupon, where my article was picked up and shared without me even knowing about it. On September 9th, my traffic spiked to 1,272 visits – a number I’d never come close to reaching before. On the 26th, it hit 4,105 visits and I damn near peed my pants. But two days later, on the 28th, I hit the biggest traffic spike yet with 6,167 visits. Pretty crazy, right?!

Now, it’s not all good news. These influxes of traffic have blown out my bandwidth twice, and the visitors I’m getting from this source don’t seem to be converting well (the bounce rate for Stumbleupon traffic on my site is 92.37%). I’ve added a special opt-in form to the article to see if I could capture any new subscribers that way, but the results are inconclusive so far.

However, at this point in my site’s journey, I’m thrilled for the additional exposure I’m getting as a result. Even if these traffic spikes do nothing more than get my name and the Common Sense Marketing name out there, I’ll count that as a win – especially as it’s not requiring any extra time or money on my part to generate this additional traffic.

The goofy thing is that I wrote this post specifically for this purpose – as linkbait content that people would be interested in sharing (not that I actually expected it to work, as I’ve never had a post go viral like this before). Here’s what I did:

Used the list post format – Apparently people are attracted to the list post (ie – “15 Ways”, “32 Things”, “7 Easy Tips” and so on) structure – probably for some psychological reason I’m not aware of – which is why I chose it for this piece.

Wrote on a topic that hits a pain point – I know a lot of people who struggle to make money with writing, which is why I chose to address ways that will actually get you paid. Back when I was a beginning writer, I know this topic would have interested me.

Shared good information – Aside from using conventional linkbait techniques, I made sure to fill the article with good information and action steps. Hopefully, people found it useful (at least, I assume they did since the article was shared so much).

If you’re looking to boost traffic to your site really quickly, I definitely recommend linkbait articles as a strategy. To learn more about this technique, check out the following articles on the subject:

Linkbait Content: What it is and How to Use it to Your Advantage
How to Create Link Bait Content
Linkbait Generator

My next big announcement is that I’m going to be launching another case study starting in October!

I do these case studies as a way to give you an inside look at what life as an internet marketer is really like. I think that there are way too many misconceptions about how much work it actually takes to run a successful website (typically propagated by sales pages selling the dream of sitting by the beach while you’re sites make money), and one of my goals is bring a little more realism to the industry.

For this reason, October’s case study is going to revolve around a minisite I recently picked up on Flippa. It’s not performing as well as I think it could, so I’m going to show you – week by week – the changes I’m making to the site in order to get it making more money.

Specifically, I’m going to be looking at:

  • Adding traffic sources
  • Building out a blog to generate additional ranking content
  • Split-testing elements of the sales page
  • Optimizing the email autoresponder

Each week of the case study, I’ll be posting the changes I’ve made to the site, as well as content on the theory behind what I’m doing. I’m really looking forward to this one, so be sure to check back next Tuesday for the first installment of this project!

Finally, I’m also using these monthly recap posts to keep you updated on my progress towards being self-employed, so here’s where I’m at…

As I discussed last month, the biggest obstacle holding me back from self-employment is the credit card debt that my husband and I incurred being much younger and much stupider. After last month’s payment, we started the month with about $11,300 in credit card debt, and I’m pleased to announce that I was able to pay off another $3,500 in September, leaving us at around $7,800!

Not only are we pretty excited to finally be back in the single digits, this also puts us pretty close to halfway point in paying off our credit card debt, which topped out around $15,000 at one point (crazy, I know!!!). If we can continue to average around $2,000/month in debt payoff, we’ll come pretty close to having this thing knocked out by the end of the year. And since our last car payment is next month, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be starting 2012 in the best financial shape of our lives. 🙂

Of course, paying off debt isn’t the only thing I’m doing to get ready for self-employment – I’m also preparing for things like taxes, insurance, social networks, and so on.

This month, I started to research all of the different types of insurance we’ll want to have when I strike out on my own. I’m planning to meet with an insurance agent in the area next month to get better quotes, but here are all the types of insurance I’ll be looking into:

Health Insurance – Obviously, this one’s the big one. Right now, we don’t know if my husband will have access to health insurance or if staying on my company’s COBRA plan will be an option, but I’m definitely going to be getting some quotes on this one – both from local health insurance companies and nationwide plans. The biggest concern is looking for a plan that provides immediate maternity coverage, as we’re thinking about starting a family next summer.

Estimated cost: $0-$700/month

Life & Disability Insurance – These fun little policies ensure that if I’m unable to work or die unexpectedly, my family will be covered. Right now, my employer pays for these coverages, but I’ll need to look for them separately when I’m self-employed. Fortunately, because my husband and I are both young and relatively healthy, it shouldn’t be too expensive to buy these policies on my own.

Estimated cost: $50-100/month

Business Liability Insurance – This one, I’m not so sure about. Since I’ll be operating my business out of my home and have relatively low equipment investments, I’m not sure that I’ll need much in the way of liability insurance. I suppose there’s always an outside chance that someone could sue me based on content I’ve written or text on my sites, which is why I’m planning to meet with an insurance agent to discuss my needs.

Estimated cost: ???

Aside from financial planning, I’m also working on getting my home office set up. I recently added a new laptop to the Russell family – the HP dm1z for you computer nerds out there. 🙂 It provides a nice portable complement to my mega 17” widescreen Dell laptop, and with a 21” widescreen monitor, it functions pretty much like a desktop. Next up in the home office prep is having a ceiling light installed and painting over the hideous yellow/burgundy wall colors you might have seen in some of my videos!

Last up, I made the decision to switch from my sole proprietorship business structure to an LLC, although for tax reporting purposes, I’m going to be making the switch at the end of the year. On December 31st, I’ll shut down the New Arbor Enterprise sole proprietorship and on January 1st, I’ll reopen as an LLC – a structure that will give me more protection as a self-employed worker. Since I’ve formed LLCs before, I’ll be doing the paperwork myself, but I do have references to business lawyers in the area if I need help.

That’s it for now – I hope you’ll all join me next month for my minisite case study! As always, if you have questions, please leave them in the comments below.

Image: redstamp.com

16 Responses to Sarah’s Corner – September 2011 in Review

  1. Jeff says:

    I had the same thing happen with my smoothie site a month or so ago. Cople of the recipes got caught up in stumble upon and I was seeing upwards of 1.5k visits a day. But like you conversion was not that great and now I’m back to normal.

    Great post and wish you luck going self employed, best thing that has happened to me 🙂 so far

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks so much – glad to hear self-employment is working out for you 🙂

      And yeah, I’m kind of just waiting out the Stumbleupon traffic, although I just checked and I was able to pull some new subscribers from it, so I guess it’s not a total waste!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. Mike says:

    Great to hear about all the good coming your way, Sarah.

    Before launching into the next case study could you give us a little update on case study 2? I found this one to be really informative, and unlike most sites, very realistic. Building mini sites is something that most can do, but the case study has shown that it does not mean instant riches.

    I am curious on how your site is faring. I would love to hear from others that participated too.

    All my best!

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Mike – Thanks for the great idea! I had been meaning to do an update post like that, but it’s amazing how quickly time gets away from you 🙂

      As for my site, I haven’t done much with it besides switch to a new theme a month or two ago, but it’s slowly picking up in terms of Adsense and Amazon revenue. Not sure about the other guys who participated (as I know at least two of them are involved in pretty big, unrelated projects right now), but I’ll see what I can get out of them.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Kalen says:

    I will have to use Stumbleupon much more now. I can’t believe you got that kind of traffic from it! I need to create something that truly goes viral now. Congrats.

    • Sarah says:

      Dude – The Stumbleupon traffic continues unabated. According to the floating Digg Digg bar on the page, it’s been shared 32,000+ times – unreal!!!

  4. Andrew says:

    Blimey!! Congrats on the stumbleupon traffic, very impressive. Hope you have a grand October.

  5. Wow! I know you said traffic was up, but that’s amazing! Perhaps the traffic wasn’t the best, but it’s encouraging that you’re capable of this! I’m excited to read the case study soon, too.

    • Sarah says:

      Tossing up the opt-in form on the page is helping convert some of the traffic, so it’s not a total wash. Pretty crazy to see, though! 🙂

  6. Julz says:

    Hi Sarah, congratulations on your traffic results and also your guest post at passive panda! I’m just new to blogging, haven’t really got started but I’m in thevMDBP! Looking forward to seeing your growth! Good luck x jiulz

  7. Pawel Reszka says:

    Nice job on the viral content. You just need more backlinks and your blog could blow up. You got the content to backup your linking campaign.

  8. Ryan Cumley says:

    Hi Sarah!

    Strong work on the debt reduction! You’re tackling it at a fantastic pace, most folks can’t maintain that kind of discipline.

    No debt, pile of cash, low burn rate = much more time to succeed. That’s the formula I use for my own entrepreneurship.

    I’d recommend against the business liability insurance. If you have few assets, clean accounting books, and good fiscal separation between your personal and business finances, then the risk is really quite low for services delivered over the internet. Damages would be hard to prove, and even harder to collect.

    Personally, I’d just set aside the same amount of money to a “legal fund” for six months instead.

    Looking forward to your newsletter!

    -Ryan

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Ryan – Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate the advice on business liability insurance. I was kind of thinking the same thing (that it’d be tough to get into too much trouble as a contract worker online), but I like the idea of setting aside some “just in case” money.

      I’ll keep you posted on the debt pay-off 🙂

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