Dealing With A Traffic Drop – Business Report

Summertime in London. People are sitting outside the cafes and pubs enjoying the sun and watching the world go by. And me, I’m sitting inside writing a quarterly report with a cloud over my head because my traffic’s halved in the last three months. Well, not exactly – but I had you fooled! :)

traffic drop

As you can see from the above image (the orange line is the stats from the same time last year), my organic Google traffic this quarter has been reducing quite considerably. There is a more dramatic drop on May 22nd – the date of the Google Penuin 2.0 penalty.

Why has this happened?

Good question! I’m afraid I’m not completely sure. Google penalties in general and Penguin in particular are aimed at weeding out “webspam”. I’ve never purchased any links nor engaged in any “black hat” or even “gray hat” SEO tactics that Google is trying to penalise.

cats

I’m currently, with the aid of some advice from an SEO expert, disavowing a few links. But, to be honest, there are only a handful of “dodgy” links compared with tens of thousands of good quality natural links – so I’m really not sure if that will do any good.

If you have a look around the blogosphere, you’ll find that most bloggers who’ve been around for a few years have been hit by some sort of Google penalty this year.

If, as a blogger, you’ve been writing decent content, it’s likely to have been scraped and will end up on low quality websites with links pointing to you. Google’s algorithm will deem this to be “spammy”. Unfortunately, this means that some of the tar from the low quality sites will brush off on your, otherwise whiter-than-white, reputation.

So, in my eyes at least, a Google penalty is more like a badge of honor for an independent blogger.

What does a traffic drop mean for my business?

Well, I’m delighted to say, not a great deal. As you’ll see below, my passive income hasn’t suffered. Neither has my active income because I get most of my work through regular clients.

The reason I have been able to weather this downturn in organic Google traffic has been because of the durability and resilience of my online brand.

When I started blogging in 2006, you pretty much only had to bother about your blog, online optimization and relationships (and therefore links to your site). Now you have to be everywhere.

That means developing a presence on social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, as well as developing your brand on platforms that suit you, for me this is YouTube and Udemy. This could also extend to Quora, Kindle books and podcasts, etc.

For those just starting out, this will seem like a hell of a lot of work but, for me, it’s been a natural development of online publishing.

The important point is this: if you have an engaged presence on the main social networks, as well as a constantly updated blog and relationships with others in your niche, you will survive any penalty that Google throws at you.

Read on: I can prove this.

My passive income

I have been criticised for publishing my passive income figures. Some people have called me out for showing off. Also, I attended a mastermind session not so long ago with ten great bloggers and business people where Chris Ducker and others questioned the wisdom of showing my exact passive revenues.

chris-ducker-mastermind-day-two-aloft-hotel

From left to right: Nick Ellison, Steven Aitchison, Steve Wyman, yours truly, John Colley at the whiteboard, Chris Ducker (back to camera).

Some people think I’m saying “look at me, aren’t I brilliant?”; whereas others are thinking I’m needlessly advertising my failures. This has given me pause for thought.

So, I’m asking my visitors now, should I carry on with these passive income reports or not? I would love to hear your opinions on this.

So, my target for this quarter was $3,000 again – let’s see…

Sales of my e-books

I have two e-books for sale:

Here are the sales from these books from the last four quarters:

My product2012 Q32012 Q42013 Q12013 Q2
Running a Web Design Business$570.59$375.24$511.21$470.14
How To Get Clients$238.16$232.09$26.47$110.38
Total:$808.75$607.33$537.62$580.52

So, interestingly, no drop in sales despite drop in traffic! :)

My Udemy products!

I’m a huge fan of the video learning website Udemy. I released a course called Creating a Business Website with a Responsive Design just after Easter and then another one, Blogging, SEO, Social & Relationships: Total Web Marketing.

These are early days but so far I’ve made $2,001.75 on the first one and $135.75 on the second.

Affiliate sales

You can earn money from your website by promoting a product with a special affiliate link. If your visitor clicks an affiliate link and makes a purchase, you will receive a commission. For example, I promote Genesis – a WordPress theme and WPML – a WordPress plugin. Here are my earnings from affiliate commissions in the last four quarters.

Affiliate product2012 Q32012 Q42013 Q12013 Q2
Genesis WordPress theme$493.45$778.79$76.940
WPML WordPress Multi-Lingual plugin$229$315$397$509
VPS.net VPS hosting$85$85$3400
A2 VPS hosting--$170$170
Bluehost shared hosting$715$130--
GoDaddy domain name registration$5.69$17.43$31.66$35.43
E-Junkie shopping cart system$7.20$7.20$10.80$3.60
Aweber email marketing and delivery$36.30$29.40$37.20$38.00
iContact email marketing and delivery$163.80$355.99$137.97$442.00
Tara’s logo course--$199.50$33
Others$66.71$117.59$98.260
Total:$1802.15$2003.70$1499.33$1231.03

So, despite the drop in traffic in the last quarter, they are holding up nicely!

Totals

So, if you add my income from sales of my e-books this quarter, $580.52, plus the income from the Udemy courses, $2137.50, together with income from affiliate sales, $1231.03, you get a total of $3,949.05. This is well over my target of $3,000 and only a few dollars short of $4,000!

What I’m learning is that Google traffic isn’t that important!

I still get nice emails from visitors thanking me for my content and saying that they’re setting up businesses because of my blog. This is more important to me than pounds, shillings and pence and it seems I can do this without Google’s help.

Business report

Specific business targets

Here are my specific targets that I set three months ago and more targets for three months’ time.

TargetQ2 2013 targetQ2 2013 actualQ3 2013 target
Passive Income$3,000$3,949.05$4,000
Monthly unique visitors40,00022,50030,000

I’ve set an ambitious target for $4,000 for the next quarter. And you can see a quite dramatic drop in monthly traffic figures. However, this has taught me that traffic figures only tell half the story and it’s the quality of traffic that counts.

General business targets

OK. This is the bit where I make some targets that I have to keep to because I’ve put them here! Here we go. During the next quarter I will:

  • Create another paid-for Udemy course
  • Write and publish a Kindle book

Phew! That’s quite a lot! The Kindle book is maybe 60% finished. And I haven’t started on the Udemy course yet.

Indicators

Here’s the silly bit. My follower numbers …

Indicator30th Sept 201231st Dec 201231st Mar 201330th Jun 2013
My Twitter followers18911884(!)2,0932,353
My YouTube Channel, subscribers212280409599
My YouTube Channel, video views106,729143,049183,271231,097
Facebook page Likes/Fans291339406491
Subscribers to RobCubbon.com5,0315,4885,9496,130

You can see how the traffic drop has effected the email subscriber numbers but nothing else.

Personal goals

One of the things I really love doing is helping people with their own businesses. I got an amazing feeling of liberation from setting up my own business and I’d love to help people realise this dream as well.

For this reason I have started a Meetup group in London called the London Entrepreneur Support group. We are meeting on the second Tuesday of the month in a nice pub in Victoria, London.

The group offers help with aims, strategy, marketing and entrepreneurial loneliness. The group is for those thinking of starting a business as well as for those who are already running small businesses.

If you want to come, please register on the site so I have ideas of numbers. I’m really looking forward to meeting some of you and having a chat. :)

What do you think?

Do you want me to keep on writing these business reports with specific passive income details? Please leave your opinion in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    “So, I’m asking my visitors now, should I carry on with these passive income reports or not? I would love to hear your opinions on this.”

    Without a Doubt ABSOLUTELY !!
    It gives people a sense of REAL-WORLD ballpark of progress/stats. I think soo many
    people are tricked by other people advertising false hopes – “Work 2 minutes a week and become rich with passive income strategies!!”. Ok maybe I am exaggerating a little for effect. But seriously, please please continue your reports.

    • says

      Thank you, Eric, for your comment. Absolutely no doubt which side of the fence you’re on. Yes, “Become a Millionaire With Only 7 Mouse-Clicks” and the rest are really annoying and do trick some poor souls!

  2. Steve Wyman says

    Hi Rob

    I think the issue was/is did/does showing failures as well as success hurt the brand. For some of the people in the room that day. I believe showing weakness is something they are not prepared to do publicly.

    I think (now) that your brand is around you personally and your personality. I suggest you keep doing YOU and if that doesnot mesh with some folks… “walk on by” I have/do/will :-)

    What i’d like to see is you monetize that you tube traffic! 80K -> 80,000 people watch your videos on average (ok its not 1million but you forgot the trick of cats/kitchens/children)

    see you tonight (as its tuesday already !)

    • says

      Yes, I’ll have to do a video of a cat, drunk, falling over in the kitchen, with children laughing. But until I do, the monetization of the YouTube videos would only bring in $50-100 a month. Not worth it.

      I saw the point of what they were saying in the mastermind group and I thought they were right at the time. Now I’m not so sure. And I’ve got to listen to what the visitors here say.

      See you this evening. Looking forward to it – my first Meetup. It’s a Master-Mind Group of sorts!

  3. says

    Should I carry on with these passive income reports or not?

    Yes, please. You were were the first blogger I saw doing this. I’ve seen many since, but still feel there something more genuine about yours.

    Google who needs them.

    • says

      You see, that’s a good point right there. You were unaware of Pat Flynn doing income reports, nor anyone else, so you must have associated transparency with this blog even though I was copying someone else. And, even though you realise now that I wasn’t nearly the first to do this, you still associate me with transparency. Which is good. I didn’t explain that very well.

      I’ll see you this evening as well. God, time for bed!

      • says

        There will be some truth in that Rob, but it could just be that you are more genuine. I think I probably pick up on the maturity with you.

        Pat Flynn is, of course, fantastic, but I wince when he talks about the merits of article spinning.

        • says

          Haha, yes, I’m certainly “mature” compared to some bloggers! Yes, and it’s interesting that Pat Flynn recommended article spinning and paying for blog network links in his first niche site duel. And, it worked for him. I tried the same techniques (not on this site) and they didn’t work for me! He’s since gone back and edited the article about getting links to be more “post-Penguin”. So, I’ve got a lot of respect for him, of course, but there was a potential there to mess up quite badly. Anyway, the trials and tribulations of being transparent!

  4. says

    I love your transparency–I think these kinds of reports are not only interesting, but really useful for those of us trying to make a living online. My passive income is almost non-existent, so you’ve given me some great ideas! Thank you!

    • says

      Thank you, Erin, and thanks for all your support on Twitter recently. My experience with passive income has definitely been a “slowly, slowly” thing. But worth it. Great that you’ve got a few ideas from this. I’m stoked about that! :)

  5. says

    Hi Rob,

    Why would Google penalize those who (are low quality sites) linking to your website? You are not linking with them, it’s THEM who are linking to you and you have NO CONTROL of that. I just don’t understand this. This is unfair.

    YES!!! Absolutely. Keep us up-to-date with these passive income. I’m glad that I didn’t have to rely on Google traffic to make an income. I don’t like the SEO anyway…I’d rather have referral traffic, they’re one of the BEST.

    Angela

    • says

      Hi Angela, well, I can’t be sure this is why I’ve been penalized. But, it’s the best guess I have. Yes, it’s unfair. However, it’s happened to so many great bloggers that at least I’m in good company! :)

      OK, another vote for me to keep doing the income reports.

      Yes, SEO is, basically, incredibly boring. I don’t like it much either. Referral traffic from Twitter and Facebook can be much more powerful (in terms of pages per visit and time on site) than organic traffic from Google. However, Google is big daddy and you can really ignore him, as much as I would like to.

      Hope you’re well.

  6. says

    Should I carry on with these passive income reports or not?

    YES. You got a great thing going here, and do truly inspire others like me. If you weren’t transparent I wouldn’t have been here
    PS
    I am a SEO and our world is quite rough at this stage but hopefully sorted out our problems. Good luck with your’s ;)

    • says

      Hello Victor, thanks for your input. Great to think that I’ve been inspiring people. (I get some really nice emails saying this occasionally).

      And thanks for your input on SEO. Yes, it’s difficult, sometimes!

  7. says

    A definite yes from me. I think it shows how hard it is to make money online and your blog is a great antidote to the get rich quick brigade through your honesty and transparency. You continue to inspire me that’s for sure
    Best regards. John

  8. says

    Great post. I think your reports always give me a realistic look at making money online. It is very useful. Also, it’s great to have someone to root for! Please keep it up.

  9. says

    I personally have no need to see what your income is, but if, as a point of counsel to your audience you want to make your income known, that’s alright, too. I appreciate the practical advice about running an online business, etc. that you provide in your emails. I. too, find having multiple avenues of income to be beneficial. I will continue to read your emails, and follow the links to your site and products, and will likely buy and read some of your books in the future. Thanks for the advice!

    • says

      Thanks, Valerie, it’s good to know you’re getting something from the emails. And, there will be more practical advice on running an online business to come. It’s very good of you to say that you’re considering buying a book or something, of course, you don’t have to but I appreciate the thought!

  10. says

    And yet another resounding “yes” from me Rob. I always come away with new ideas when reading this type of article.

    Now if you’ll excuse me: I really do have to get started on that passive income … ;-)

  11. says

    Hi again Rob. Its been good good to read this article, and to see what your passive earnings were — way higher than mine!

    I’ve been noticing a drop in organic traffic on all my sites. I have the Alexa traffic bar installed in FireFox, and I’ve also noticed ALL design sites I read show a downward spiral in traffic. I think Google only *wants* really long posts now, so this is something I’m looking into.

    Keep up the good work. Heck, it’s even hot up here in Yorkshire!

    • says

      Hello again, AK, I feel like it’s been ages! But I know that’s my fault :)

      Yes! An amazing amount of sites have suffered a similar fate. I’ve read a lot about it. I have heard that long posts are important (we’re talking 1500-2000 words, apparently). But, more than that, they’re favoring large authority sites over smaller authority blogs – like ours. I think this is a bad idea and the search results have suffered in quality as a result.

      But hey, let’s enjoy the summer. Glad you’re getting some good weather there as well. :)

  12. says

    Hi Rob,

    I have been an ardent reader of your blog for up to 10 months now. All this while, have been quiet without commenting… But I want to break the silence now

    You have kept on publishing quality posts through which I have made successful attempts to diversify my income. More encouraging are those reports and goals which have confirmed your good reputation, transparency and down-to-earth nature. Such qualities are rare in today’s professional world.

    PLEASE KEEP SHARING YOUR THOSE REPORTS. Your audience are learning from you and you are positively affecting them. I am one of your email subcribers and would always want your success just as you want others succeed.

    • says

      Hello Adeniyi, I was just scrolling down the comments here and I was shock to see I didn’t respond to yours. I don’t know why that was – I apologise – as I remember the comment!

      Yes, I will continue. I’m just about to do Q3 now!

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m delighted to think that people are learning from me.

  13. says

    I think Google Traffic is important though! but traffic is not created equally. targeting long tail keywords with buying in mind is more crucial than targeting freebies seekers.

    for example targeting visitors interested in business responsive webdesign with an opt-in will increase your income dramatically.

    As an SEO professional i would like to say that disavowing links won’t have a noticeable impact especially if they’re natural links. by disavowing links you’re telling Google: “here are a few links I’m ashamed of.”

    Keep up the awesomeness by sharing your income reports. I like to see where people spend their money.
    Thanks Rob.

    • says

      I haven’t really bothered targeting keywords recently as I find it counter-productive. I find that I stumble across longtail keywords that do well for me naturally if I keep blogging. I don’t know what you mean by “targeting visitors interested in business responsive webdesign with an opt-in” – one thing I’ve never done is have multiple lists on this site. Just one main one.

      Thank you for your input on disavowing links and the income reports.

  14. says

    Rob,
    I think that you should definitely keep posting your reports. The transparency is awesome. I have been working on rebuilding my own brand and am planning on a blog site as well, along with some niches, and it is great to see what other people are doing and what is working for you. I follow Pat Flynn and one thing I don’t like is how out of reach Pat seams to be, his income reports are crazy huge, it seams unreachable by people starting out. Not to say that your numbers are anything to laugh at but you seam to have more real world issues and real obtainable goals for people starting out with blogging. I look to Pat for ideas and I look to you for real solutions and personal advice. Thanks again Rob.

    • says

      Jason, thank you for your comment. It’s great to be compared favorably to Pat Flynn. His income reports have always been crazy huge, as I remember, even the first month was a good few thousand.

      My numbers are really modest. They’re moving in the right direction but slowly.

      But then again I like to be encouraging real people. Because I often get the impression from people like Pat Flynn and a few others that they would have been successful doing anything they put their minds to. (OK I know we all can).

      I often like to say that only a few years ago I was bored out of my mind in an office doing horrendously repetitive work. And, now at least I’m enjoying my work a lot more. So, in that way, I hope I can inspire more people that Pat Flynn and others leave behind.

      Anyway, thank you, Jason.

  15. says

    Hey Rob,

    I’m very pleased to see your multi-channel revenue stream doing so well for you mate! For what it’s worth, I appreciate the transparency you provide in your reports, and for me it definitely doesn’t come off as bragging… some marketers do sound like they’re bragging with their stats, but definitely not you.

    As for your traffic drop, beyond just the few suspect links you disavowed, have done any further digging into the cause of this? I honestly don’t think it is caused by those few links, so I’d be interested if you are able to uncover the issue at some point. But I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it, because you’re growing a strong brand and following anyway, and maybe the next update will set everything straight again…

    Keep up the hard work!

    • says

      Hello Brendon, how are you? So nice to see you here again. Thanks for your opinion on my income reports. I guess I’m going to continue on with them for the time being.

      As for the Google traffic drop, I really haven’t got a clue other than those few dodgy links. I’m in communication with a few “SEO experts” on this but I’m not paying them so I can’t really delve too deep. The problem with “SEO experts” is they all seem to think they’re right and yet they all have different answers! One of them said my link profile was “too good”. Go figure!

  16. says

    I’m well thanks… sorry bud, I’ve had to buckle down and rebuild my money site from the ground up this year (new site and rebranded), so I’ve had to put all my content websites and mingling online on hold for now… but I’m glad I picked this article up, and managed to catch up with you briefly.

    I hear you regarding the “SEO Experts”… I wouldn’t even know who to hire these days, because so many “experts” still seem to wandering in the dark ages… at least in my neck of the woods… I kid you not, I had an SEO guy criticize me for not defining the keyword meta tag on my site. I almost feel like it’s safer to hire a nobody and tell them exactly what they need to do, than pay big bucks, and not know whether they might be doing something that will get you burned…

    Well, I recon, just carry on doing what you’re doing and providing good value to your readers.

    • Steve Wyman says

      Thread hijack alert!

      Hey Brendon. Good to see your still out there. Enjoying the waves i hope.

      Your right. SEO’s dont move on. Many of the old tricks still work BUT i have moved away as they are just not reliable. Im into pure content plays now. we’ll see

      regards

    • says

      Honestly, Brendon, one of my clients employed an SEO company and they got them to do meta keywords on every page! This is like only a few months ago. “Just carry on doing what you’re doing providing good value to your readers” awesome advice, buddy!

  17. says

    Steve, how are you mate? I see you’re still hijacking threads wherever you roam… or maybe that was my fault again… we’re bad news the two of us… ;-)

    I never thought I’d hear the words “pure content plays” from you… good on ye! I know a lot of the older tricks still work, but as you say, playing nice with the SE’s is just safer and more sustainable. And the bonus is you end up with a stronger more trustworthy brand… ie: authority…

  18. Jemma Gibson says

    Yes please Rob. I have been following you for a while and you are a stand-out performer in the transparency stakes. So refreshing to get some real information. Keep it up please.

  19. says

    Fascinating stuff, Rob! I too have seen a traffic drop, but quite gradual. (Actually what’s been more dramatic is the slide in Alexa rank, but at least that’s rather irrelevant!) I assumed my slide was from reduced interest in Facebook Timeline, as people have gotten more accustomed to it – since those keywords are my big traffic generators. I’ll have to see if May 22 marks something – other than summertime, which is always slower for me.

    Thanks for always sharing great info!

    • says

      Hey Louise, it’s funny you have a more dramatic slide in Alexa than real traffic. I usually find it’s the other way round. Anyway, I know which I’d rather have. Either way, I’m finding that it really pays to promote your content through all the social sites and in other ways as Google traffic can be very “unsticky” so that it’s not the end of the world if you see it dropping off. And, you’re right about the summer as well. Hope you have a great summer! :)

  20. says

    It’s only a select few who are criticising. Ignore them, they’re jealous.

    These reports are one of the things I look forward to in my RSS feed. I’m sure that it motivates other designers to try and experiment with passive income.

    Keep up the good work and congratulations on meeting your target figures.

  21. says

    You are the man, Rob! I enjoy these posts as it gives me something to compare my own stuff with and try to stay on track – also I have noticed the epic loss of traffic on a lot of sites as well (including my own) but like you said, we will weather the storm! haha Keep up the good work!

    • says

      No, you’re the man, Andy. ;) I’m sure we’ll weather the storm. Google isn’t the only game in town as you well know. I’m delighted you’re finding these posts useful and I will surely continue to do them.

  22. says

    Would you like me to answer the million dollar question on why SEO doesen’t work as it used to? Well, you see, one day Google realized it is more lucrative to have all of us pay for the traffic instead of receieving it for FREE! :-)

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