I’ve decided to merge my case study report for my photography site for January and February for a couple of reasons: First, the site went through a rebirth of sorts, transferring from an old subdomain (reviews.davidleetong.com) to a new, more “brandable” and easier to remember domain (www.iphotocourse.com).
The whole new URL, new design, logo, content arrangement, and 301 redirect process knocked my traffic down for much of January so there’s really not much to report as I didn’t make much sales (the site was live for approximately 10 combined days only), in fact, I even incurred negative income for the site because a $2,000 item purchased in December was returned in early January.
In any case, February was pretty much this site’s ‘first month’ of normalized traffic so it’s best to go from there.
As always, if you’re new to the site and landed on this post, you can backtrack using the main case study post.
Main Changes to Photo Blog
As mentioned, the new site has a new look and new domain.
The decision to move the site to a new domain is purely for branding. The old domain was tied to my name and being a sub-domain, there are some limitations in SEO purposes as well as applying to certain affiliate program and such, not to mention the old URL doesn’t make much sense.
Originally, the site was meant to be a photography gear review site, but as time progressed, I have more and more tutorials and informational posts in the site and limiting it to “reviews” in the domain just doesn’t fit the bill.
I opted for a more brandable domain and I was trying to get a domain that circulates under ‘photography course’ keyword or something related, but I couldn’t find one so I just added a prefix instead.
As much as I like my old site’s look, it just wasn’t that scalable for my new site format and purpose. I ended up with the Genesis Framework using the News child theme for iPhotoCourse by StudioPress.
I liked how the front page lays out the multitude of categories and content that I want to have on the site as well as the support forum StudioPress has.
Part of my decision to use a popular and well-optimized theme is the community and support available around the clock for Genesis. Instead of trying to find solutions on free themes around the web, having an experienced group of support staff is invaluable to a non-coder like myself.
Overall, I love the way the site looks and functions.
Unfortunately, the new domain means I need to 301 Redirect all my site information from the old site to the new domain so that Google and other search engines can re-index my new domain with my old content.
Naturally, my traffic went haywire, going from about 1200-1500 unique visitors to about 400 in January as the site gets picked up, and what made things worse was my knuclehead approach of trying to do things myself.
I screwed up my WordPress database (good thing I backed up my files!) for two days and both new and old site were unavailable for over 48 hours!
I emailed the guys at Hostgator support and they were able to fix everything in an hour or two.
Moral lesson here boys and girls, if you’re not sure of what you’re doing, have the support team do it for you.
By the end of January, my site traffic starts to trickle back in, but overall, my January stats averaged less than 200 unique visitors a day.
Amazon Commission Earnings
With the site down about 80% of the time, my January earnings as an Amazon affiliate was close to none, and it gets worse too, a visitor who purchased a $1,600 camera returned so 4% of that is about $64 was taken off my January earnings.
In January, I was able to ship out 18 items in total, but with one major return.
For February, sales climbed a bit higher, shipping out a total of 21 items through direct links.
Around early February, I put up an Amazon Fresh Store Builder store link on my site via the navigation bar and some buttons within review posts. At the end of the month, I was able to get one order via FSB. As you can see, the recorded clicks amounted to 32 total, meaning, 32 visitors actually ended up in Amazon’s checkout page.
With Fresh Store Builder stores, conversion will be a bit tougher for certain niches such as digital cameras. It still looks good and ads credibility to the site, overall.
Adsense Earnings Breakthrough
Like Amazon earnings, since much of January didn’t generate a lot of traffic to the site, the earnings fell but not by much compared to December before the site move.
Overall, a 25% drop in Adsense earnings for the photography site, and considering the site lost about 70% traffic, I’m fine with that. Note that each horizontal line you see in the graph indicates $1.00 cut-off.
On February, a new Panda 3.3 update occurred and threw my organic traffic down the drain. With many reporting CPC values of their Adsense accounts fluctuating in big variances and a large amount of clicks deemed invalid, Adsense tracking was difficult and all over the place.
I took this opportunity to take down all Adsense units on my site between February 1st to 12th and studied the most of the Official Adsense Blog content in terms of optimization and ad positioning.
I followed three major changes to the site in terms of Adsense optimization implemented them one-by-one around February 15th, and on the 22nd, I saw my hard work pay off.
A huge spike in CTR occurred and gradually, the CPC value of each ad unit starts to improve as well. I went from wishing for two bucks a day to suddenly around $30-50 a day. Each of the horizontal line above indicates a $10 cut-off.
If you want to know what I did specifically to optimize the ad units, then subscribe and stay-tuned to a future post.
Note that traffic has stabilized to around 1500 page views a day around mid-February, typical variance of 700-1500 per day.
Down Season and Summary
One key takeaway is, niche promotion and selection is very critical.
After all the hoopla and excitement of Black Friday and Christmas holiday sales, January will typically be a bad month of non-essential niches like digital gadgets.
People have bought and probably overspent their way to end the year and will be very frugal in January and February.
Luckily, many gadget and consumer electronic makers are stirring up new products and teasers in February so niche sites can have the chance to make some advertising money when the physical product sales are slow.
Goes to show that in many sites, having diversified income channels will be critical as advertiser spending and customer buying patterns are rather cyclical.
January was exciting but was also a huge scare as an online entrepreneur. It’s like moving your previously decent store to another block hoping that your existing customers will still find you and new customers will find your new store enticing.
It’s a gamble that I took as I was looking for more long-term gains and was willing to lose 2-3 months worth of income to get there, luckily, it didn’t take that long and both my Adsense and Amazon affiliate earnings are picking up once again.