2013 was a year where I felt like I was treading water, with no clear direction. Unlike 2012 (A Year of Failures), this year was more good than bad. But, that is mostly because I lowered my expectations. Here’s a summary of what happened this year in my business:
1. Website Development – I have had very little success in the past 6 or 7 years with creating websites, so starting in 2013 I completely stopped making new sites. In the past, sometimes I would buy a great domain (like Weights.com) and put articles on it, other times I would do something truly unique like BigCelebrities.com where I ranked over 15,000 celebrities based on the Internet popularity. Thousands of the celeb profiles were custom written, which Google should have loved, and it even had a facial recognition feature that showed photos of other people that looked like each celeb, but none of that resulted in more than 5-10 visitors a day. Once in awhile I would build a site that did well, like NurseryRhymes.com and Metaphors.com, but I also spent money to buy each of those domains, so it will take me 5-10 years with those just to break even. More importantly, if you add in the cost of all the domains I bought to develop that did not do well, domain development was a clear loss.
2. For the reasons listed in my blog posting at http://www.impulsecorp.com/10-reasons-why-i-am-eager-to-sell-my-domains (mainly due to the new domain extensions, the rise of mobile devices, and the popularity of social media), I sold as many of my unused domains as I could, at liquidation level prices. I still think getting a premium .com domain is well worth the price for a business that needs it, but for purely speculative purposes it was just not worth it anymore for me to hold so many domains. After 19 years as a domainer, it was time for me to focus more on other parts of my Internet business. I still have over 500 .com domains between my real sites and my remaining parked domains, so if domains keep going up in value, I will do well.
3. I shut down all of my minisite/article type sites (weights.com, pastries.com, ailments.com, etc.), since none of them made more money than having the domains parked. I realized I was much better off trying to sell the domains instead.
4. The mobile apps I have launched have done better than I expected, but the results don’t show any clear path on how to make money from app development. I spent a good deal of time creating some apps that I thought would make a lot of money, but all of those hardly get any downloads. A few other much less complicated apps I created make enough to pay back the development costs, so I am happy with that. Then there is one app that accounts for around 90% of the total app income, which is the iPhone/iPad version of my Old Time Radio website. I put a lot of effort into creating the site over the years, but making the app was easy since it just repackages what is already on the site.
5. 98% of my ad income is from AdSense, and I constantly worry about my account being banned (this happens all the time to webmasters without any warning from Google). If I lose my AdSense account, I will only make around 10% as much by running ads from another ad network. I recently had a site banned from AdSense because it was hacked and I did not notice it, and the hackers wrote some obscene stuff on it. Another one of my sites was banned due to improper link promotion, although I am not sure why exactly. So, to reduce the risk of future problems like this, instead of running AdSense on all 300 of my sites, I now run it only on my top 20 or so sites. When I added it up, the 280 other sites were making less than $100/month from AdSense combined, so it is well worth it for me to give up that $100/month to lower my risk.
6. I have never done anything to optimize the site design and ad placements on my websites. Many look exactly the same as when I created them 10 or 15 years ago. While I have not found that making the site look nicer helps get more traffic, changing the site design to allow for better ad placements seems to be an easy way to increase income.
I also have had success with optimizing some of my sites for mobile browsing, so as to make more money from the ads.
7. I still have had no luck with social media marketing (promoting sites on Facebook, Twitter, etc.). It certainly does not hurt to do that, and sometimes traffic does spike because of it, but overall it has not contributed significantly to my traffic. For example, on some of my sites I use a WordPress plugin to automatically post the new postings to Facebook and Twitter, and sometimes this script stops working for weeks or months, yet I have never seen any decrease in traffic during those times.
8. I have been adding content as much as possible to my existing sites, but the results are not clear. I have rarely seen that adding new content increases my traffic. I have sites I have never updated that rank at the top of Google, and I have sites that I update almost daily that get no traffic.
9. Hosting – I have written several times about my web hosting problems, but in the past year everything has been running great with my Cartika.com cloud servers. I am very happy with everything they offer. Also, much like in the olden days when I consolidated from 50 dedicated Linux servers to 4 to save money, I reconfigured my servers this year to go from $2000/month for hosting to $1000/month. One way I did this was by moving all my WordPress sites to wpengine.com, which is hosting service just for WordPress sites. This allowed me to greatly reduce the RAM/CPU usage on my Cartika servers. I also setup Varnish to cache content on my sites, saving bandwidth and server resources. To anyone that isn’t a tech wiz the process of selecting a suitable web hosting provider can be rather arduous and confusing. Research will be critical if you intend to avoid the pitfalls that come with poor web hosting.
10. Even though I have stopped creating new sites, I still am working on improvements to my existing sites. For example, soon I will be accepting Bitcoins as a payment method on my CheapFlowers.com site. I will hopefully be the first online florist to offer this. Also, I am working on setting up a free online backtesting system at PickStocks.com so day traders can test various strategies using historical stock data. And, I have lots of fun new content still under development for my largest site, which is Dumb.com.
Most importantly for 2013, I still have not figured out any new ways to make money. Developing new sites has not worked, buying sites did not go too well, buying high priced domains did not make a profit, and creating mobile apps has had mixed results. There are still, of course, hundreds of other ways to make money online, so I plan to keep trying as much as possible in 2014.
When I think about making money, I think about the different avenues that I can try, such as websites and apps. But I think it’s time that I think outside of the box. Surely, there are many ways in which you can make money online? Maybe I should do some in-depth thinking about what my friend told me the other day, in that I should have a look at places like Lifepoints. This is a research company that helps businesses to gain feedback about certain products and services that they are offering, and in return, the customers who have completed the survey will get some extra cash. This could work wonders for people who are looking to make more income to put into their savings, or to treat themselves with. And all from simply filling in a survey. So, maybe it’s time that I dived deeper into this idea.