Recovery Month

May 8, 2019

6 minute read

One-Line Summary

How I doubled revenues by doing absolutely nothing.

Highlights

  • Is It Keto’s revenue doubled to $82.44 with zero effort on my part.
  • My task journaling app is almost ready for publication.
  • I’ve begun setting up meetings with potential customers about my next project ideas.

Goal Grades

At the start of the month, I gave up on Is It Keto and set goals to help me pursue other projects. Here’s how I did against those goals.

Learn Vue.js

  • Result: Went through the Vue guide and used Vue to implement a basic site.
  • Grade: A

I’m not fluent in Vue, but I’m “conversational.” I can create a website with the features that I want without getting tripped up by the language itself, which is more than I could say about Angular after 6 months banging my head against the wall trying to use it.

Explore ideas for a new project

  • Result: Reached out to a few different potential customers to schedule meetings
  • Grade: B-

I reached out to eight publishers and writers. Most ignored me but some of those cold emails turned into meetings scheduled for May. I also called several local stone quarries who have no idea what I’m talking about when I say I want to write custom software for them, so I need to find another angle to pitch to them.

Get back to posting full-length blog articles

  • Result: I published a new blog post about end-to-end testing.
  • Grade: A

I generally try to publish a new blog post each month, but I hadn’t published anything since February because I got busy preparing talks for software conferences. My new blog post described a testing technique that works with almost any web app. It reached ~14,000 readers in its first two days, which is on the medium-high side for me.

Is It Keto Stats

Now that Is It Keto is on the backburner, I’m not going to dive as deeply into its metrics, but here’s a summary of the most interesting ones:

Amazon Earnings - April 2019
Amazon affiliate earnings - April 2019
Google Analytics screenshot
User sessions - May 2018 through April 2019
Metric March 2019 April 2019 Change
Total Earnings $40.84 $82.44 +$41.60 (+102%)
Unique Visitors 4,001 7,262 +3,261 (+82%)
Total Pageviews 11,431 19,732 +8,301 (+73%)
Domain Authority (Moz) 9 9 0
Ranking Keywords (Moz) 448 548 +100 (+22%)

Money for nothing

The nice thing about Is It Keto is that it grows on its own. It’s all just content, so I don’t have to perform any maintenance tasks to keep it running, and server costs are negligible ($1.48 for April).

How is this happening? Organic search drives the site’s growth, but search engines only put Is It Keto in the top spot for a small number of queries. In January, 25% of the site’s total traffic came from just three pages: Propel, Pure Via Stevia, and Greek Yogurt. For whatever reason, Google ranked Is It Keto in top spots for queries related to those pages even though I had ~60 other pages at the time that rarely came up in search results.

Now, Is It Keto has 174 food articles, but only 25 of them receive >= 500 search impressions per month. Fortunately, that number keeps growing. Last month, it was only 18. Back in February, only two of my articles appeared 500 times or more in search results. As Google decides that more pages on Is It Keto are relevant for its search queries, site traffic grows even though I’m not doing anything.

It would be great if this growth keeps up. If revenue reaches $500/mo, I can hire back my writer and continue adding content instead of relying on my fixed corpus of articles to grow more popular.

Simplifying the editing workflow

I worked with freelance writers to create several articles for Is It Keto, but we always had a clunky process for drafts -> feedback -> revisions. We used Google Docs and margin comments, but Docs doesn’t do a great job of highlighting what changed between drafts or keeping context of what comment led to which edit.

If you’re a professional developer, you’re probably familiar with code review tools like Github reviews, Reviewable, or Phabricator. I suspect that content writers could benefit from similar tools, so I’ve been reaching out to writers and editors to ask them what kind of tool I could create for them to solve this problem.

Screenshot of a code review on Reviewable.io
I want to make this but for content instead of code

I started by emailing software publications because I thought they’d have financial incentive to smooth out this process, and they’d be familiar with code review tools. None of them were interested, so I started reaching out to individual writers. They seem much more excited, so I have meetings lined up for May.

If you know a writer or copy editor who might be interested, please ask them to email me. I’d love to speak with them.

An app for rocks

One idea I liked from the book Start Small, Stay Small was the “market-first approach.” Instead of picking a product and trying to sell it to a particular market, you pick an underserved market, find out what they need, then build that.

I live in Western Massachusetts, so I’ve been thinking about businesses that are exclusive to this area. One such business is quarries that mine Goshen stone, a popular stone for home landscaping. These businesses have millions in revenue but seem to do most of their business through paper orders and phone calls, so I suspect there’s opportunity for automation.

Photo by Mariana Proença on Unsplash
Maybe what this quarry really needs is a good SaaS app

The challenge is getting quarry owners to talk to me. They’re used to their current way of doing business, so they’re reluctant to talk to some guy who seems like he’s trying to sell something they’re not familiar with. But I don’t know what value I can offer them until they agree to talk to me and tell me about their business. I placed calls in April and got some “We’re not sure” responses, so I’ll continue trying to set up discussions with them in May.

If you know a stone quarry operator, please email me because I’d love an introduction.

The What Got Done app

I have a ritual to end each week where I write down short-form notes on everything I accomplished. For the past year, I did this in a giant Google Doc, but I always wished that I had a tool that was more purpose-built for the task and more easily shareable.

My April goal was to learn Vue.js, and there’s no better way to learn a new technology than to build a real product with it. So, I did! It’s called What Got Done:

What Got Done screenshot
A first look at my new task journaling app, What Got Done

Here’s my entry for last week:

User registration isn’t ready yet, but keep an eye out for a Twitter announcement in the next couple weeks about a working minimum viable product.

If you’d like to be a beta tester for What Got Done, email me.

Wrap Up

What Got Done?

Lessons Learned

  • Vue.js is a better match for me than Angular
    • Angular has complex features that probably benefit large development teams but which impede solo developers and small teams.
  • If your project relies on traffic from organic search, it takes months/years for search engines to bubble up your pages to their appropriate place in search results.
  • Even if you’re offering someone a no-risk custom solution for their business, you still need to sell them on it.
    • Business owners are busy and don’t have time to take pitches from anyone who wants to sell them something, even if you promise something tailor-made for that business. You still need to give them a compelling reason to take a 30-minute meeting with you.

Goals for May

  • Publish a minimum viable product version of What Got Done and see if anyone wants to buy premium features.
  • Meet with 10 potential customers for my next product.
  • Publish a new blog post.

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