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My 2018 Year in Review (Successes and Failures) + My Plans for 2019

And just like that, another year has gone by. And lucky for me, 2018 was quite a good year business-wise.

The December festive season is always a good time to reflect on the previous 12 months and to look ahead and start planning for the next 12 months.

And that’s what I am doing in this personal 2018 year in review. I am sharing my wins AND fails, and I will also be revealing my plans for the coming year.

 
 

My 2018 Successes

So let’s start with the positives. Here’s a list of things that worked out really well for me in 2018.

I Switched Two Websites over to Mediavine

If you’re not familiar with Mediavine, they are a full service ad management company who take care of programmatic display advertising on people’s websites and blogs.

They do this exclusively, which means you can’t have other ads, such as Google AdSense, on your site.

After constantly hearing people raving about Mediavine and how much money they were making with their ads, I decided to take the plunge and switch one website over from AdSense to Mediavine.

I was actually quite reluctant to do this because I had spent a good amount of time optimizing Google AdSense for my sites. My AdSense income was actually really good.

Mediavine Publisher Network

But I made the switch anyway and now I’m glad I did. Advertising income tripled and I didn’t find the ads too obtrusive. Based on that positive experience I decided to onboard a second website to Mediavine. Advertising income for that second site doubled.

So overall, joining Mediavine was one of the best business decisions last year. You can read my Mediavine review here if you’d like to know more details.

I may try out AdThrive, Mediavine’s biggest competitor, this year, just so that I can compare. We’ll see.

I Almost Doubled Traffic to My Sites

Overall traffic to all my websites combined grew with almost 100%. Win! Traffic to each website, except one (see further below), increased in 2018.

Apart from my ongoing SEO work and publishing new content, I didn’t do anything special to these sites to make them grow. To be perfectly honest though, I would have liked to see that growth higher than it actually is.

But hey, growth is growth, so let’s be happy about this.

My Amazon Affiliate Income Has Gone up Thanks to AAWP

Last year I bought an AAWP license. The Amazon Affiliate WordPress Plugin is a tool designed to increase the CTR on your Amazon affiliate website with nice looking tables, widgets and other funky stuff.

AAWP affiliate marketing plugin

Using AAWP has had a very positive impact on my Amazon income. I could see the CTR and income grow instantly immediately after setting up the plugin on my affiliate sites.

So if you have a site where you promote Amazon products, I strong recommend you have a look at this plugin. You can read my comprehensive AAWP review here.

 
Use coupon code SAVE10 to get a 10% discount on any AAWP license.
 

I Bought Tailwind and Upped My Pinterest Game

The Mediavine Facebook group (exclusively for Mediavine publishers) is heavily populated with Food bloggers. And food bloggers typically rely on Pinterest as their main traffic source.

One of my Mediavine sites lives in the nutrition niche. Not really a food blog, but kind of similar. Seeing the crazy amounts of traffic these food bloggers were getting from Pinterest, I got a bit excited. I wanted in on that!

So I bought a Tailwind subscription, read a lot of how-to-grow-Pinterest-traffic articles, and I started creating and scheduling pins. It took a few months to see some results, but I am happy to say that almost 50% of all traffic to this site is coming from Pinterest. Yay!

Do you have an active Pinterest account but not using a scheduler? Try Tailwind for free, it will make a huge difference if used the right way.

I Bought Thrive Leads and Loving It

I’m the kind of guy who really needs to be convinced to buy a tool. I don’t usually buy things on an impulse. But some tools are a no-brainer and Thrive Leads is one of those tools.

We have all heard the phrase “the money is in the list” before. And for certain types of websites or blogs this is very true. With an engaged email list, you can create and grow an audience and ultimately increase your income significantly.

Thrive Leads

This is where Thrive Leads comes in. With this plugin you can easily create awesome looking popups, widgets, sliders and so much more, geared towards growing your email list quickly.

You can have a closer look at Thrive Leads here. It’s not at all expensive, and it’s simply the best list building plugin out there. Conversation rate of the sites I’m using Thrive Leads on has pretty much doubled. It really is that good.

I Diversified My Income Streams

When I first started out with this whole online business thing, Amazon Associates was the way to go. Just like so many other newbie Internet marketers, I started developing Amazon affiliates sites, with mixed results.

Over the years, I’ve been able to increase that income significantly, but I’m glad that income from display advertising (thanks Mediavine!) has now become a lot more important. This motivates me to publish content geared towards increasing that advertising income stream.

Diversifying income streams

In addition to that, I’ve been able to increase income in the travel niche, promoting destinations, hotels, tours, etc. And with Blog Pioneer, I am increasing income through promoting the products I use, such as DreamHost, Thrive and Semrush.

Income diversification is very important, so make sure you don’t do the eggs in one basket thing.

I Successfully Created and Executed a Facebook Strategy

I am not at all a Facebook person, but one of my sites has quite an active Facebook page. But up until the beginning of last year, it was always a bit of a challenge to find stuff to share and when.

Managing that Facebook page became a bit of a roadblock. It was costing me too much time with very little return. That had to change, I told myself at the start of 2018.

So I decided to plan the whole year ahead. I worked out which days and timeslots resulted in the most engagement, and based on that I created a calendar. Three times a week at a certain time I would share something specific on that Facebook page.

This was a huge timesaver for me. I didn’t have to think about what and when to post next. Everything was documented for the year. All I had to do was spend an hour scheduling a number of posts weeks in advance and that was it.

Not only did it save me a lot of time, it also made the Facebook page a lot more popular with great engagement numbers and new followers.

 
 

My 2018 Failures

The word failures sounds really negative, but failing can also be a good thing. When we fail, we learn. It’s that simple.

With that in mind, here are some of my failures in 2018.

I Didn’t Build a New Affiliate Site

I love building and growing affiliate sites. It’s a bit of an obsession.

When I sold one of my niche websites at the beginning of 2018, I was determined to build a new one. But for some reason, that never happened. And I am actually very frustrated with myself because of that.

Frustration

To be perfectly honest, one of the reasons for this failure is that I was simply too lazy in 2018 to start a new site. I wasn’t determined enough. Yeah sure, I was busy in 2018, but that’s no excuse.

I know how to build affiliate sites. I know how to grow them into profitable assets. And I know how to do all this with the minimal amount of time and effort.

But, I didn’t do it. And that’s a failure.

I Didn’t Manage to Find Good Writers

I’ve tried, I really have. Maybe it’s just me but I find it extremely challenging to find writers that can write acceptable content.

Upwork, Fiverr, I’ve tried a lot of writers on different platforms, but most of the time the quality is far below expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to pay reasonable money, but somehow I just can’t find the right person to do the job for me. Maybe I’m just too picky? I don’t know.

I do consider this a failure because, in general, if you want to scale, you need to outsource, it’s that simple. And for me, I should really outsource some of the writing so that I can focus on other, more strategical, things.

So if you can recommend a good writer, please let me know!

I Didn’t Publish Enough New Content

While traffic to my sites has grown significantly, I am not happy with the amount of content I managed to publish in 2018.

I’m not going to give you numbers – kind of irrelevant – but I really should have been able to publish a lot more content than I did in the last year.

When I read stories of other bloggers, how they have a bunch of kids jumping around all day, and still manage to grow a blog and make good money, then I feel somewhat guilty.

Blogging boredom

I really need to work more efficiently and use my time wisely. The thing is, this full-time online business thing is awesome, but it also means you need to keep pushing yourself because no one else will.

It’s very easy to get distracted and not do any work. I’ve touched on this and other challenges in this article, it’s an interesting read.

The Medic Update Punched Me in the Face

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Google “Medic” update that happened in August 2018?

It’s not the official name of the algorithm update, but the name has been widely adopted in the world of SEO, because a lot of medical and health related websites were hit hard. Dr. Axe for example lost tons of organic traffic.

I personally don’t like the name “Medic” because the update affected more niches/industries than just the medical/health niche.

Anyway, let’s not go into that, as there is tons of info out there already about the Medic update. Some of that info you have to take with a grain of salt though, just saying.

But let’s get to the point. One of my sites was also hit by the Medic update and lost about 50% of its organic traffic. I wasn’t particularly happy with that of course, but at the same time, it didn’t bother me too much either.

Why? Because the update wasn’t targeting dodgy sites or bad SEO practices at all. The algorithm update was about other things, things that shouldn’t have affected my site.

In my opinion, Google stuffed up. Lots of awesome, legit websites lost traffic due to that algorithm update, things simply didn’t make much sense. It’s no coincidence that Google released several more big updates in the following months, and these updates appeared to be correcting the errors in that first update in August.

And guess what? A lot of these awesome websites recovered. And while traffic to my site didn’t really recover, traffic did actually stabilize at some point. That’s when I knew that I would eventually be able to bring traffic numbers back up to what it was pre-medic.

So while this loss in traffic was certainly disappointing, it was also not much more than a bump in the road. As we say in Australia, no worries.

 
 

My Plans for 2019

Believe it or not, but I actually don’t do a lot of planning. I don’t really need it. I usually know what I want to achieve and how, and I find a detailed plan often distracting.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have plans at all. I certainly do, I just don’t feel the need to write them down. Weird? Maybe, but that’s just how I work.

So here we go, here are some of my plans for 2019.

I Shall Build a New Affiliate Site

I need to redeem myself, right? I failed to do this in 2018, so let’s get it done, let’s build that brand new affiliate site in 2019 and turn it into a little money making machine.

Interestingly though, I haven’t decided on the niche yet, so I better get to work soon if I want to make this affiliate site a success this year.

I’m also thinking to turn this into a real-life case study, so everyone can follow along and witness the progress. Let’s see.

Less Consulting, More Core Business

As you may know, I offer freelance services, mainly for fellow bloggers. I do SEO, I fix WordPress issues, I do content audits, etc.

This is fun and rewarding work, but it’s not my core business. My own websites are what brings in most of my income and that’s what I want to focus on in the coming year.

Not only is that type of income ongoing and semi-passive, the sites that generate this income also grow into valuable and sell-able assets. In other words, in the long term this is much more lucrative than freelancing.

Create a Course?

I’m keen to create a course and sell it via Blog Pioneer. Most of the issues fellow bloggers deal with and ask me about are similar in nature.

A lot of it is around SEO, growing traffic, site speed, WordPress issues. So why not create a course, or e-book, that answers and resolves these common questions and issues?

I haven’t decided on this yet, but at this stage I am quite motivated to create and sell a digital product that is valuable to other bloggers. Again, let’s see.

 
 

Final Thoughts

There you have it, my 2018 year in review, and my plans for the coming year.

I always enjoy reading other people’s year reviews as I can often relate and I can also learn a thing or two.

So on that note, I hope you find my article useful too. Here’s to an awesome 2019!

AJ Mens
 

I have been running an online business since 2015 and am using Blog Pioneer to help you achieve financial success online.

Comments 3 comments
Dan - January 8, 2019

I’m starting my new site (and my first) in 2019, Mediavine is a concern down the road how I structure and build my affiliate amazon website.

I see more and more famous affiliate gurus deriding and complain about page builders and how they slow down page speed. Some are constructing their blog posts and maybe landing pages with Gutenberg (aka new version of WordPress).

Seen complaints around problems with Mediavine ads not showing with page builders like Thrive. Mediavine support claims to have a work-around with manually inserting ad placement coding.

I like the guidance of Thrive Membership package (aka Thrive University) with all the bells and whistles but don’t want to sacrifice ad network revenue down the road. Confused on this issue as I am a rookie here.

Reply
    AJ Mens - January 8, 2019

    Hey Dan, good questions.

    The issue with page builders (not just Architect) is that they create messy HTML code with lots of custom styling. That’s simply an unavoidable aspect of working with a page builder. Mediavine’s ad script struggles with that HTML mess, which is understandable.

    I personally never use page builders for blog posts. I only use Architect (and loving it) for specific landing pages, where ads are not important. For blog posts I always use the WordPress editor. I prefer to keep things simple and well-structured, and I don’t need the fancy bells and whistles that page builders offer in my blog posts.

    What Mediavine are saying is true, you can manually insert ad hints into your blog posts or pages. But doing that in blog posts built with page builders is super tedious and can become a maintenance nightmare. I actually do use these ad hints in my blog posts, simply because I want to have control over where the ads pop up in my content. And I find that with the normal WordPress editor this is very manageable.

    So in short, I recommend you use a page builder only for landing pages, and use the WordPress editor (either Gutenberg or classic) for your blog posts.

    Hope this helps and good luck with your new site.

    Reply
      Dan - January 9, 2019

      Thank you AJ to clarify exactly the strategy used in constructing blog posts vs landing pages and how ads play into the picture. Your answer is perfect and now I understand when to use a page builder vs when to use the WordPress editor. Thanx a bunch!

      Reply
 
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