Barbehow Case Study 1, Year 2, Quarterly Update 2: Boosting Earnings & CRO
My efforts to boost the site’s affiliate earnings have been paying off! In Q1 of 2023, the site made 1.35 times more from affiliate programs than display ads.
And the trend of affiliate earnings is precisely where I want it to be: the site’s revenue from affiliate links has been increasing MoM since January.
All of this comes from only 16 best-X-for-Y posts and 1 product review. I plan to publish a dozen more commercial posts, then sit back and observe how the site will do this summer — its second BBQ season.
Ready for the numbers, wins, and breakdown? Read on!
Win #1: Redesigning the Site to Boost Earnings
In the final days of March, I redesigned the site from this:
Notice that it’s still using the same theme, a heavily modified version of WordPress’ default Twenty Twenty-One theme.
As far as Google’s web crawler is concerned, the CSS style sheet has changed, but the underlying HTML markup (and, therefore, the site’s DOM structure) hasn’t changed all that much. (They say you shouldn’t fix what ain’t broken.)
What has changed are:
- The logo
- White spaces between elements
- Category names in the navigation menu
- Sidebar content
It sounds minor, but here’s why this can make more of a difference than some of you may think:
The articles on the site are now easier to read. The new design uses a sans-serif font family. Sans-serif fonts are generally more legible than serif fonts on high-resolution screens, which everybody has these days.
The site’s UX elements have been tightened up, meaning there’s less white space between the titles, excerpts, featured images, content, and comments.
This makes it easier for your eyes to quickly absorb the information on larger screens, and you won’t have to do as much scrolling to read the text on smaller screens.
These two tweaks can and probably will lead to improved engagement signals for users browsing the web, which can contribute to the site’s SEO success.
How to Quickly Redesign Your Site Like an Expert
I’m no UX designer, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with many outstanding UX designers over the years, it’s that you need matching and contrasting colors for a design to work.
I use a free tool called Coolors to generate color palettes (a.k.a. color schemes) for my websites.
The site’s new color palette consists of a light pink background, bright-red links, and product boxes with bright-red buttons and dark-blue borders.
The background has the color of pink butcher paper — the type you wrap smoked meats with — by all means, a nice Easter egg and credibility booster for readers who know. But it’s there for a reason, and that reason is called CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization).
See, the pink background makes the Affiliatable plugin’s product boxes stand out on all devices, so the product boxes are easy to spot for all readers, especially those who scroll and skim:
Notice the presence of red, bolded links every 1-2 paragraphs under each product box:
It’s not the color that matters here; I’ll be testing out different colors to see which one works best in the coming months.
It’s the fact that the links stick out.
On average, I know that 25% of the clicks on affiliate links on my sites come from these in-content links.
In other words, if you’re not doing this in your product roundups, you’re missing out on ¼ of potential traffic to retailers and partners!
You can thank me later. ?
I’ve simplified the site’s navigation menu to two self-descriptive categories: “Articles” and “Buying Guides.”
There used to be a third category called “Local,” but it only has five or six posts, and I haven’t gotten around to growing it just yet, so I kept it but removed it from the navigation menu. I moved the “Glossary” page, which provides dictionary-like definitions of BBQ terms with lots of internal links, to the footer menu.
The posts are sized to a maximum width of 728 px, the same as the widest horizontal ad banner I use for in-content placements (728 x 90 px). Additionally, the sidebar has a width of 328 px and an unlimited height, which can fit the widest sidebar ad banner at 336 x 280 px.
Design-wise, I have now optimized the site’s earning potential with enhanced usability, conversion rate optimization (CRO) for affiliate links, and strategically-sized ad placements.
No, this won’t be a game-changer. But these tweaks and improvements add up over time.
Win #2: ChatGPT Helped Me Get 76% More Clicks in Google
In March, I did a little experiment.
I asked ChatGPT to help me come up with click-worthy titles for 10 of my site’s aged and underperforming posts to improve their CTR (Click-Through Rate) in Google’s SERPs.
I used the following prompt:
I am a BBQ blogger. Help me improve my articles’ CTR in Google’s SERPs. I’ll give you the titles of the articles with the lowest CTR, and you’ll generate 5 click-worthy title ideas for each. Can you do that for me?
I gave it the titles of my posts one by one, and, as instructed, it gave me back five variants for each.
After a bit of editing, I ended up with this:
The results speak for themselves:
- 28% more impressions
- 76% more clicks
- 0.16% higher average CTR
- +4.87 points higher position
In the previous 14 days and with the original titles, these posts had 41 clicks, 9.42k impressions, an average CTR of 0.44%, and an average position of 29.86 in Google’s SERPs.
In the first 14 days with the new titles, they had 72 clicks, 12.1k impressions, an average CTR of 0.6%, and an average position of 24.98.
… All of this because I changed the posts’ titles!
Yes, there’s more work to be done to bring the average position of these posts down to a level lower than 10.
Nevertheless, the fact that I got pretty significant gains with ChatGPT’s help shows the immense value of using generative AI tools as a sparring partner for your sites’ SEO.
I’ll update another 15 posts in April, then 20 or 30 more in May, and tell you how it goes in next quarter’s case study update.
Metrics over Time
Ezoic Big Data Analytics
The site had 43,048 visits and 48,499 page views in Q1 2023.
The site had 31k clicks and 1.29M impressions in Google’s SERPs in Q1 2023 with an average CTR of 2.4% and average position of 18.
|Month||Clicks||Impressions||Average CTR||Average Position|
From January through March, the site made a total of $930.96, of which $402.89 (43%) from display ads and $528.07 (57%) from affiliate programs.
Although the product boxes have buttons to other retailers or D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) brands, once again Amazon Associates was the highest-converting affiliate program.
Other Affiliate Programs
Who I Am
My name’s Dim.
Thanks for reading (or skimming) this far.
I started my first site in 2007 after I stumbled upon a blog about making money online. I’ve been buying, growing, and selling sites ever since.
These days, I own an indie media company and run an email newsletter for online publishers called “Publetise.”
Don’t be a stranger: Subscribe to my newsletter at Publetise.com and get my best strategies and tactics delivered to your inbox once a week.