November was a mixed month with resounding successes, some failures, but was an overall stable month. I said several times over the last few months that we'd focus more on consistency and systems for the latter part of the year, and that's mostly what we've done.
As always, systems never seem to get themselves in place as smoothly as we'd hope, but the best thing about a system is that once it finally does start working, it generally makes life easier. It's worth going through the bumps and struggles to get it there for sure. The only frustrating part is not knowing whether you're struggling with the right thing. I guess that speaks for most things we do online though, from SEO, to CRO.
Before we crunch the numbers, let's take a look at the successes and failures for the month.
I decided right at the end of October to try and sell custom-sites on the Source Market marketplace. I'd seen a surprising rise in “Done for you Adsense sites” doing well here, and given that I knew most of them were low quality BS, I figured that people would be willing to pay for quality Amazon sites as well.
I made sure to make it clear what we were offering and to not guarantee any success, because I didn't want to just chase money and sell false promises.
I also made sure to put a few links to Humanproofdesigns in the gig listing so that people might come here to check out more and buy some of the ready-made sites or subscribe to our list.
For the first week, anyone who asked to buy a site from me via HPD, I sent them to the source market listing to make their purchase. This resulted in my gig being the number 2 best seller on the whole marketplace for the first week, which in turn resulted in about $2,000 in fresh sales from the marketplace.
Additionally, we got a much bigger boost in daily subscriptions, and we even sold a few of the ready-made sites to people who had come over from SM.
Pretty good success I'd say!
Of course, as I'll talk about in the failures, I haven't yet come up with a good way of maintaining this success, as you need to constantly drive traffic and sales to your gig in order to stay top of the marketplace listing.
Implementing And Fixing Systems
We also finally managed to get our order tracking working, and fixed a bug with our “order limit” extension (the thing which stops people buying multiple versions of the same site). These things had been plaguing us for a few weeks, and having to go back and forth with developers and VA's can sometimes make it take longer than necessary to fix.
As far as I can tell right now, everything is working as intended. Was that the sound of something breaking in the distance?
Hiring A Writer
For the longest time, I've been neglecting the blog here at HPD. It's not that I'd run out of things to write about, but more that I couldn't find the time.
I also wanted to remove myself from the blog slightly so that it would be more scalable in future. I prefer the idea of HPD revolving around a team and not just being a one-man show, so I felt it was important to have a content team in place.
I tested Nick with a few posts, and he's been doing a great job, so he's now going to continue writing regular blog posts. These won't be the only posts we have, there will still be guest posts, case study reports, income reports, and other posts written by myself and others, but the main thing is that we're getting a regular stream of fresh content again.
This is important for maintaining our rankings, boosting the rankings of some of our other posts through internal linking, and getting fresh visitors to the site.
We still only get about 12,000 visitors a month, and I feel that at this stage, we should be doing much better.
Nick will also start doing guest posts for other sites in the future, (and I'll try do some too), so that's even better. One thing I found that was largely responsible for our growth in 2015, was the guest posting I did in late 2014 and early 2015.
Get in touch if you want me to guest post for you.
Some of our successes were also our failures. Funny that!
While I was able to make some good money and drive some new visitors to HPD from our source market listing, it was short lived. What's more, there are now dozens and dozens of fly-by-night copycats on the SM platform, raking in money with their promises of insta-wealth via Adsense sites. Some of them are legit site builders like us, so there's no reason why they aren't allowed in the marketplace though!
In future, I'll have to think of ways of promoting our listing on a Monday so that we have a good chance of being a best-seller every week. Perhaps a discount or link bonus?
We do still get a fair amount of custom-site requests every week, so it shouldn't be hard to give people an incentive to buy via Source Market instead.
One thing I haven't yet managed to do is make handing the “Welcome packs” to customers automated. currently, we deliver the site, and I have to then manually send them all their documents and keywords. It takes time to prepare them so that's why we're still doing it manually.
Several times I forgot to attach it, and did so when customers asked where the keyword pack was. This isn't really an ideal situation for anyone, so I need to think of an efficient pay of having the team prepare the pack, and us then deliver it to the customer. It's not exactly a difficult process, there are just three or four different ways to do it, and I'm doing some silly jumping through hoops over implementing it.
Definitely need to remedy this in future.
I also haven't yet fully removed myself from the fulfilment side of things. I'll always be involved with emailing customers and giving support, but there's no real need for it to be me who acknowledges a sale and delivers a site. Unless I'm specifically adding value, my time is better spent elsewhere.
I've gone from doing everything pretty much 100% myself, to only about 10% involvement in a year, so it's not exactly a failure that I've not done it yet, I just need to remind myself to keep improving.
It could be very easy for us to get comfortable and just maintain what we've got, but I feel a good business should always be trying to improve and offer more to their customers.
I want 2016 to be a lot less “messy” in some regards, so November and December are key to this.
Why No Black Friday Promotions?
This is neither a failure or a success, but something worth talking about. Many people may be wondering why we didn't run any Black Friday promotions. I made my mind up several months ago that I definitely didn't want to run any affiliate promotions during this weekend (despite how much we could have earned from it), and later on, I decided I didn't want to run any promotions on our own services either.
I can't precisely articulate WHY I felt this way, I just knew that I didn't want HPD to be involved. I felt that there is so much noise, hype, and promoting going on, that we'd just have a nice weekend off and glide under the radar.
Sure, it probably cost us some money, but I like to think (perhaps naively) that we came out of it with some integrity.
We had a fantastic first 10 months of the year, so it was time to take a breather. We only did 1 launch of ready-made sites in the whole month too.
Maybe in 2016 we'll do a promotion, I'm not ruling it out, I just didn't want one this year.
Let's Talk Numbers – November Income
Alright, for those of you who skipped out all the stuff above and just scrolled down to this point, welcome! Thanks for coming.
I honestly haven't calculated anything yet at the time of writing, so I have no idea whether the fact we did just one launch, and didn't get involved with Black Friday harmed our total income or not. It felt like a pretty solid month, so let's have a look.
Affiliate Sites Commissions
Six-Figure Site: $100
Yeah, I decided to start including income from that site in these reports. I'll do an annual update on the six-figure site later on.
Still, very happy to pass $1,000 in Amazon commissions. A lot of the stuff purchased hadn't shipped yet either, which means it will carry forward into December and make this month amazing.
Affiliate Sites Total: $1,345
Human Proof Designs Services
This is the bulk of our business and takes up more than the bulk of my time. As always, for the individual services, we're listing the net profit for each one. That is, the price we receive for the service, minus the expenses. There were OTHER general expenses involved, such as paying my team's hourly rates and management fees, and they're listed below.
Source Market Custom Sites: $2,010
Article Packs: $1,250
(This is only something we offer on the back-end to our existing customers)
Keyword Packs: $175
We recently started doing the fulfilment for another done-for-you service which white-labels our services. For obvious reasons we won't mention who it is.
Services Total: $13,864
Human Proof Designs Affiliate Commissions
As well as earning via the services we do, the blog and its recommendations also does ok out of affiliate commissions.
Long-Tail Pro: $45
Thrive Themes: $98
The Hoth: $445
Wealthy Affiliate: $2,239
Even though I didn't send a single BF promotion, some of my WA referrals took up the offer anyway, and thus I did earn some BF commissions.
HPD Commissions Total: $4,079
All Income Total: $19,288
Pretty happy with that considering we only did one round of launching the done-for-you sites!
Expenses and Affiliate Commissions: $3866
The expenses were higher than usual this month, because I paid my 3 main employees a Christmas bonus. I figured I'd do it on December 1st instead of January 1st, so that they could spend the money in advance (Christmas gifts etc). This accounts for about one third of the month's expenses.
Grand Total Profit For November: $15,422
Wow, passed another major threshold. What a marvellous achievement!