This is my 8th income report and the 4th income report for 2021. If you missed my previous ones, just click here to check them out.
I publish these quarterly.
So this is for the 4th quarter of 2021; Oct-Dec. But I also do a year-end wrap-up at the bottom.
Let’s get into the details.
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GROSS REVENUE – $88,284 (was $78,844 for Q3)
Generally speaking, my income does go up from month to month, but I won’t lie. 2021 was an inconsistent year for both traffic and income. My 3 of my 4 main sites struggles in the 4th quarter for traffic, and my kitchen site (1 of those 4) has struggled all year.
But that site and my hot tub site saw a lot of my articles that had been ranking #1 move to #2, and that had an impact on traffic and monetization.
December was surprisingly low for income as that’s usually the best month of the year. Nov and Oct were both better.
My 4 main sites have ads from AdThrive.
I moved from Mediavine to AdThrive at the end of September 2021. As I mentioned last time, they promised me a 20% increase to switch, but so far that dollar increase is only 7.8% and since that is using Q4 numbers which are always higher, the actual increase is probably half that. But it is higher which is why I’m staying.
But are my RPMs at least 20% higher? We’ll look at that below.
I also added Ezoic ads to 3 of my newer sites. They claim to be able to compete with Mediavine and AdThrive on ad revenue but so far that hasn’t happened yet and my site speed is worse on those sites (and everything else (hosting, theme, and plugins) is the same.
So I may move them to Mediavine or AdThrive once they get to a higher level of traffic.
I have still not been doing new videos on my Hot Tub YouTube channel I started in April of 2020. But I plan to resume those later this month.
Now, let’s break that down by month, category of income, and then by the website (remember, I have 7 websites, and a YouTube channel all earning).
Gross income was $30,018
Gross income was $30,538
Gross income was $27,728
Overall I’m still happy with those numbers. But I do plan to get the income consistently above $35k/month by the end of Q1 and then well over $40k/month by the end of 2022.
Blogging Income by Category for Q4 2021
Ads on my websites – $57,962 (was $45,103 for Q3)
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s an increase in ad revenue of 28.5%! But I did put ads on 3 more sites beginning in November. But those are only earning about $500/month combined right now. So most of that increase was indeed AdThrive.
Here’s what I did in Q4 for each site in terms of RPM:
Again, RPM is the number of dollars for every 1,000 visitors to my sites. Anything over $20 is considered great, and Q4 is always considered the best quarter of the year due to the amount of shopping that takes place in Nov & Dec.
The increase is mostly comparing AdThrive (used in all of Q4 on the 1st 4 sites here) to Mediavine (used for all but 1 week of Q3 on those same 4 sites).
Middle Class Dad – $38.58 (was 29.99) – 28.6% increase
Kitchen Appliance HQ – $50.23 (was $32.63) – Almost 54% increase
The Grocery Store Guy – $42.20 (was $34.49) – 22% increase
Hot Tub Owner HQ– $56.19 (was $38.82) – 44.74% increase
So as you see, AdThrive did make good on their promise to increase RPMs by 20% or more.
But how much of that would have happened anyway in Q4 with Mediavine just because of holiday traffic? We’ll have to wait and see Jan, Feb, and March to know for sure.
Now let’s look at RMP on my sites I added Ezoic ads to in November:
RV Parenting – $35.66
Dojo Life HQ – $14.77
Music Nerds HQ – $11.38
Not surprisingly, the RV site is the highest as the advertisers know that anyone who owns an RV or is thinking of buying one is on the wealthier side. But I do need to find ways to get the RPMs up on the other sites.
Ads breakdown by website
Middle Class Dad – $8,971 (was $7,870) – 14% increase
Kitchen Appliance HQ – $9,777 (was $7,003) – 39.6% increase
The Grocery Store Guy – $25,577 (was $18,434) – 38.75% increase
Hot Tub Owner HQ – $12,383 (was $11,794) – 5% increase
So the big takeaway here is that since AdThrive RMPs are far greater than 20% better than Mediavine, but the dollars are far less consistent, my traffic dips are the biggest thing for me to focus on in 2022.
Now let’s look at the rest of my channels
Hot Tub Owner YouTube – $1,572. (was 2,097) – down 25%, partially seasonal but probably a lot because I paused doing videos as of May 2021.
RV Parenting – $668.15
Dojo Life HQ – $179.16
Music Nerds HQ – $407.88 (growing much faster than the other 2 despite being the newest of the 3)
Amazon Associates Affiliate Income – $6,103 (was $6,275)
Basically flat and Q4 should have been higher since it’s a big shopping season. But if we dive in deeper below, you’ll see my hot tub YouTube revenue dip due to a traffic dip is the biggest culprit.
Here’s the Amazon breakdown by website:
Middle Class Dad – $460 (was $432) – 6.4% up
Kitchen Appliance HQ – $626 (was $534) – 17% up
The Grocery Store Guy – $8.64 (this site is currently almost exclusively monetized with ads and Instacart affiliate – (was $34) – 75% down
Hot Tub Owner HQ – $2,933 (was $2,927 ) – basically flat
Hot Tub Owner YouTube – $1,843 (was $2,183) – down 15.5%
RV Parenting – $101 (previously $65.90) – up 53.6%
Dojo Life HQ – Pretty much nothing, but I don’t link to Amazon much on most of the posts
Music Nerds HQ – Pretty much nothing, but I don’t link to Amazon much on most of the posts
Rattlesnake HQ – $126 (a new site I started with my brother (a rattlesnake expert) that so far hasn’t done much)
Other Affiliate Income – $4,786 (was $6,567) – 27% down
As traffic on a site grows, it’s natural that the revenue grows also. And unfortunately, the reverse is true also.
I still publish 2 posts per day at least 5 days a week across all my sites. But the vast majority of those lately have been on my 4 newer sites which aren’t earning anything yet.
But theoretically, each post is worth somewhere between $20-30 per month to me just from ad revenue. And then when you combine affiliate revenue that jumps to between $30-60 per blog post per month.
So again, theoretically, if I publish 10 blog posts a week, I should be growing my income by about $1,000-$2,000 per month. But again, right now, my focus is on my 4 new sites which aren’t earning anything yet.
The biggest reason for the dip here is BetterHelp which is an online therapy affiliate program.
I was doing an average of $1,125 a month with them, but that dropped 50% in September for no clear reason. I did move some of my links over to the Marriage Helper affiliate program upon seeing that drop. but so far they have not done anything and even the 1 sale I generated of $400 didn’t produce a commission (and so far they haven’t given me a reason).
I’ll be moving my links back to BetterHelp in a week if they don’t start doing better.
Then if BetterHelp doesn’t improve I may try a different marriage-related counseling or improvement affiliate program.
A couple of the individual brands that have affiliate programs that I use:
- GQueues – A desktop/app task organizer program that I literally couldn’t live without
- Project24 – The only blogging course I’ve ever purchased, and one I highly recommend in this article
- Acabado WordPress Theme – The WordPress theme you’re seeing now. I love it and use it on all my sites
- Name Cheap Domain registration & Hosting – Very inexpensive way to get started blogging!
- RankIQ – A new program I bought in December. I need to do a whole article on it, but I get into some good detail below.
Click on any of those affiliate links to check them out.
Of course, as with all affiliate links, the cost doesn’t increase to the purchaser. The product creator pays me a commission from their revenue when someone buys through my link.
So affiliate links are a great way to say thank you to whoever referred you.
Sponsored Posts – $17,180 (was $18,000) – 4.5% down
I recapped sponsored posts in my previous income reports, but I’ll restate it again, here.
What is a sponsored post?
A sponsored post is basically a guest post that you get paid to publish.
In 99% of cases, the article isn’t optimized for SEO and will never generate traffic. They are short, sometimes poorly written, with bad grammar, and only designed to get the product or site owner a backlink.
They junk up your site, so for that reason, I backdate them a year so they don’t show up on my homepage. Basically, it was my sole method for generating revenue when I didn’t know any better.
While the money is good, I wish I never started doing them, and I only do them on this site and not any of my others.
It’s also not very passive since I have to physically paste their article in, do some minor editing & formatting, add an image, publish it, and then send them payment info in Paypal.
I look forward to my overall income being high enough to where I can stop doing these. And again, I only do them on this site and not my other sites. My goal is to stop doing them when my other income hits $35,000/month.
I have raised my rates and negotiate less, so the number I publish has gone down. The income hasn’t dipped by a lot though, but I spend less time on it. I also farmed out a lot of the email back and forth to my virtual assistant.
Consulting – $1,200 (was $750)
I started doing a little bit of consulting from my grocery website during Q3 last year. After all, I worked for Whole Foods Market for almost 25 years, so it’s something I have a lot of experience in.
It’s not something I really push or advertise extensively. But I do have a Calendly form embedded on the site so it’s easy enough to find for someone that really wants to book a Zoom, Skype, or phone call with me to discuss their project.
My income was way high in Q4 as I had 1 client that paid for $1,000 in sessions.
I’ve recently added a form for internet marketing consulting too as it’s obviously working for me too.
While I do recommend (and use) the Project 24 blogging & Youtube course, I do feel like I have insights unique to my journey that can help others too.
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Blogging Expenses by Category for Q4 2021 – $7,698 (was $7,172)
Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling – $104.88 (but paid annually at $419.52)
I only do Pinterest currently with this site and not my other 6. With a full-time job and a wife and 3 kids, I don’t have time for more Pinterest.
On my newer sites, I just focus on Organic Google traffic.
But this site was created when I didn’t know as much and a lot of my articles were done with either poor search analysis or poor competition analysis.
So being on Pinterest allows me to get a lot of traffic to this site I wouldn’t otherwise get.
And Tailwind is essential if you want to be on Pinterest! It’s a little slow, and occasionally buggy. And like Pinterest itself, not 100% accurate on the analytics.
But you can’t really do a serious business with Pinterest without it. I will say, however, that over the past 6 months, I’ve gotten more serious about organic Google traffic and for the past few months, Organic Google traffic has reached about 65% of the total which is must better than it was a year ago.
CLICK HERE to check out Tailwind with my affiliate link
Big Scoots Website Hosting – $356.55 (was $326.70)
Big Scoots is still fairly new for me. I switched right at the end of Q1. And you can pay an extra $10/month for additional sites beyond the 10 the plan allows for, so it’s jumped up a little from when I first switched to them.
However, they have had a lot of outages in Q4 so I’m considering switching to Agathon.
Like BigScoots, they are a premium host at a premium price. But with the number of sites I have and total traffic approaching 500,000 monthly page views, I need a premium host.
I used Siteground for years on all my sites, and I still think they are decent, especially when you’re starting and don’t have much money to spend. You can get started with Siteground for under $5.00/month.
Want to get started with them? CLICK HERE to check out Siteground with my affiliate link
If you can, pay for 3 years up front as when they renew, the price goes up a lot, and if you only pay for 1 year, your price might double at the start of year 2 and you may not be making that much yet.
But if you have more than 1 site and decent traffic (over 50k monthly page views), I would highly recommend Big Scoots.
CLICK HERE to check out Big Scoots with my affiliate link
ConvertKit email service provider – $110.25 (billed annually at $441)
Honestly, email is pretty frustrating. It certainly doesn’t pay for itself. In a way, I wish I’d never started a list (one of a few things I did because Pat Flynn said to do it that hasn’t panned out for me).
ConvertKit is the best of the 4 companies I’ve used (MailChimp, Mailerlite, Constant Contact). But they are also the most expensive, by far.
If you want to build a personal brand or offer a membership site or a course, ConvertKit is a great way to build that list and create drip campaigns.
It can also work really well if you’re doing affiliate marketing and using Facebook ads to drive traffic to landing page opt-in pages (which you can create in ConvertKit) and then drip them emails once they opt-in pushing them to a product or service.
I do not do list building on my other 3 sites and am not sure I ever will due to the expense and time involved in setting everything up initially.
CLICK HERE to check out ConvertKit with my affiliate link
Hired Writers & editor – $6,935 (was $6,631)
These days I have 5 writers (I lost 3 but am hiring at least 3 more). I also use a company called Get It Done For Me Virtual Services for all my virtual assistant needs.
That includes editing the articles the writers submit, checking for plagiarism (it does happen occasionally) and grammar and adding all but the main featured image into every article, and getting it ready to publish.
They use VAs based in the Philippians, and while I could hire one or more of them directly on the website Onlinejobs.ph for probably half of what I currently pay (about $100/week), I like having someone who understands the needs of a blogger I can give feedback to directly and don’t really have to train in any serious way.
And if they switch who they have working on my site, it’s on them to train the new people and make sure the editing schedule gets adhered to.
I will say though, that I had an issue with spam links being added to my site and it appears to have come from one of their VAs.
I say appears as I can check the revision history in WordPress and all the links I’ve found so far (about 53) were added in a revision under their login.
Now whether the VA was unscrupulous and being paid by someone else to do that, whether their email or computer got hacked, or whether my computer got hacked remains to be seen. I wouldn’t want to make accusations without more proof.
Thankfully, they took the issue seriously and one of their techs is scanning all my sites for spam links.
I removed the ones I found (Viagra-type links), but there could be more. But the 2 sites I have that I don’t use them for didn’t have any, so I suspect it’s not my computer.
But I’m glad they responded well and will do whatever is needed to fix it and will do that on their dime.
Logo expense – $100.
I pay $100 to a guy named Max for almost all my logos (MCD and Grocery are the exceptions). He’s great, quick, and for me, it’s well worth it for a professional logo. I hired him to do 1 for a Middle Class Dad spin-off site called Middle Class Dad Money.
I have a lot of personal finance posts but they weren’t doing much on my old site.
Part of that is because the topic is YMYL (Your Money and Your Life) which can be hard to rank for without some authority or credentials in that space.
But Google also rewards sites for what is called “topical authority”, and on my original Middle Class Dad site, I cover so many different unrelated topics, Google may find it hard to know what my site is about.
So this is an experiment, basically, to see if focusing those same (and new) articles on a site that only covers that topic makes any difference.
NameCheap Domain Hosting – $44.85 (but paid annually per site)
It occurred to me this month that I wasn’t listing this expense.
Many hosts offer free domain registration, but it’s generally safer to host the domain name elsewhere. That way if your host goes down, and you had backups of your site(s) it would be (relatively) easy to move them to a new host quickly.
I started using NameCheap at some point in 2021.
RankIQ – $49 (per month)
CLICK HERE to check out RankIQ before the price goes up to $99/month.
I only got this in December, but the normal price for 1 quarter will be $147. It remains to be seen if this program can do everything it promises, but it looks promising so far.
RankIQ offers supposedly proven longtail keyword phrases in a wide variety of niches and shows you supposed search volume (notoriously inaccurate for most tools).
But also tells you the suggested word count based on the competition, shows you what words appear the most in the top-ranking posts (and you can download that list), and then gives you post title suggestions.
It also tells you how fast you should be able to rank for that phrase.
Then you can paste your article into the program and it will give you a grade as well as what the suggested grade needs to be to beat the competition. It was created by renowned blogger and blogging podcaster Brandon Gaille who I have listened to for years.
You can even request niches if he doesn’t have yours already!
CLICK HERE to check out RankIQ before the price goes up to $99/month.
Bottom Line Net Profit Before Taxes – $80,584. (was $71,672)
That’s a monthly average net profit of $26,861. So that is up 12.5%.
And that’s an annualized net profit, again, before taxes get paid, of $322,336.
Speaking of taxes, I did make quarterly payments to the IRS in 2021 since I no longer have a day job to take out taxes. But apparently, I didn’t file correctly (I just made payments on their website but didn’t file the correct paperwork.)
So I may be owing as much as $20k by April 15th!
So once you get into this income range, make sure you find a good CPA or tax person who can guide you. I love my tax person, but she’s not local and there’s a 2 hour time difference. Plus she’s a talker and I’m an emailer, so we didn’t connect as much as should have this year.
Don’t be like me!
And just for fun, let’s recap the year briefly
TOTAL REVENUE 2021 -$322,051
TOTAL EXPENSES 2021 – $31,599
NET PROFIT 2021 – $290,452
NEED HELP WITH YOUR WEBSITE?
In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s my interview on Income School’s YouTube channel!
What’s the #1 way to get started on a blog, YouTube channel, or other forms of internet marketing?
Project 24 (click to watch their video with all the details) is the only internet marketing course I’ve ever purchased, and it will be the only one I ever purchase.
It’s from the people over at Income School, and while they have a ton of great videos on YouTube, it was joining Project 24 that really started moving the needle forward.
I joined in April 2019, and that month, my income was $2,308.56
Compare that to June 2020 (last month at the time of this writing), and my income was $10,463.80. While I can’t say all of that 353% increase was due to what I learned in Project 24, a lot of it certainly was.
CLICK HERE to check out Project 24 with my affiliate link.
What do you get in Project 24?
A TON of different video module courses, the hub of which is their 60 steps to building a website. But then they also have courses (multiple videos in each one) on YouTube, search analysis/keyword research, monetization, and so much more.
And they add new courses a few times throughout the year.
Plus you get their WordPress theme, Acabado, totally free for as many sites as you want to use it on. And then there is their own internal forum where people like you and me constantly chime in to ask or answer questions (along with the whole Income School team).
Did I mention they have a weekly podcast for members only?
CLICK HERE to check out Project 24 with my affiliate link.
Want more detail on how I do what I do?
Watch this video I made that walks you through my processes step-by-step. I put it out on my hot tub YouTube channel, but while I mention that at the beginning, it’s not related to hot tubs at all; just blogging.