By Jill Loeffler, sftourismtips.com
This month, I hit a huge milestone in my online business. I’m excited to report that I’ve reached the $5k+ sales mark already for December. For me, it’s a sign of great things to come. All of my current income is from affiliates and AdSense. I will expand into my own products in 2015.
I’ll be honest though, it hasn’t been easy. I started my San Francisco site in the summer of 2009. At the time, I was working full time for a large company and had very few hours and energy to devote to my site. I had little direction on where I wanted to take it. I was also too excited to get started to fully read the SBI! Action Guide.
As with many others, I was hit hard with both Panda and Penguin in 2011/2012. I was devastated, but determined to move forward. In the summer of 2012, I completely revamped the site, rewrote ALL the pages, and was excited to have a clean slate. In October of 2013, I implemented a site redesign.
When I first registered my site, I had a URL with lots of dashes (san-francisco-tourism-tips.com). This was the recommendation in 2009, but as the engines became more sophisticated, this recommendation changed. In January 2014, I used MoveIt! (one of SBI!’s many tools) to transfer my site to a new domain, sftourismtips.com. In February 2014, I lost almost all of my traffic and made around $150 in income!
I continued to stick it out though and fought hard to regain my traffic. I knew I might take a hit with a domain change, but it was the only option to me as branding was really difficult with my other URL. Plus, I knew I needed to get rid of the dashes at some point.
Now that you know a little about my story, I wanted to give you some ideas on what I did to get this far and where I’m headed in the next year.
My keys to success in 2014
- Built a Solid Business Plan: I’ve done this in previous years, but I became very serious about it in 2014. It keeps me focused on the highly profitable activities and allows me to say no as less important opportunities arise.
- Used Reporting: I use Google Analytics and the Click Through Reporting within SBI!’s Traffic Center to see what’s working and what’s not working. It provides me with the direction on what I need to change to build a stronger site. I use Google Analytics for overall page performance and to work on bounce rate issues. I use SBI!’s Click Through Reporting to see what sales links interest my visitors. The low performing links are removed or replaced.
- Listened to My Visitors: This is a great source of new content for me. If my visitors are asking the question, then it means there is an interest in that topic. I incorporate their ideas into my master page list. I also make adjustments based on their feedback.
- Increased Activity on Social Media: This is an area I was failing in prior to 2014. I was inconsistent and didn’t spend much time thinking through my posts. I now have a master spreadsheet where I create and track my posts. I also schedule my posts (using a variety of tools), so I don’t eat up too much time posting each day. I follow up with answers to questions frequently and work toward getting people to interact with my posts. I’ve also done quite a bit of reading to learn what’s working for others. I focus on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest. I keep experimenting with new ideas and also test out a new social media outlet once a quarter to see if I can leverage something new. Some of them work great (Trover, StumbleUpon), others haven’t worked well for me at all (We Heart It, Bubblews).
- Talked to Other Website Owners: This is the first year that I’ve talked to a few other website owners. It’s been fun talking to other owners of travel sites to learn more about what’s working for them. I received some great ideas through these discussions. I hope they benefited too!
- Kept My Content Fresh: With my travel site, I provide very specific and timely information. This means that I’m constantly monitoring and updating certain pages. Although this takes away from new page creation, I think it’s critical in the travel world. So many sites offer generic information and travelers want specifics. They want to know the specific dates a festival is occurring, not just a rough idea and/or the month that it typically occurs. I spend three to four full days at the end of the month preparing details for the upcoming month(s).
Where I’m headed in 2015
- Create My Own Products: This is an important growth area for me. I plan to create ebooks as well as a few other products.
- Network with Local Businesses: I will continue to meet with and network with local businesses. This provides me more insider knowledge of what they are doing, so I can share it with my visitors. This also gives my site exposure, resulting in additional visits and sales.
- Build More Content: My site is just under 500 pages right now. My plan is to continue to add more pages this year to expand my site. I spend quite a bit of time on each page, so I tend to not add as many pages as I’d like. However, I’ve learned my lesson that building pages quickly is not necessarily the key to success.
- Test New Marketing Ideas: I have a list of new marketing ideas I want to try this year. Some are more traditional and a few are non-traditional. Stay tuned for details as I test each one!
- Continue to Have Fun: As I write this, I know my sales will decrease in January and February. It’s the slow time of the year for me. However, if I keep working hard and stay focused, I know my site will continue to build throughout 2015 and beyond.
Even though it can be a rocky road having an online business, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I know my success is due to the wonderful education and support from SBI! and everyone in the forums! I look forward to the year ahead. I wish great success to all of you too and hope this post includes a few nuggets that will help you with your own business.
One final note… I ended up generating $6,600 by the end of the month (December 2014)!
To build a profitable online business with SBI! like Jill did, all you need is an idea, persistence and a positive can-do attitude. Everything else (process, tools, guidance and support) you get with SBI!.