Welcome to kuaby’s monthly report for May 2017.
For first timers, these reports is a way for me to share my progress of building kuaby from scratch. Inside them, you will the things I did, the results I got, as well as the lessons I learned along the way.
I started documenting my progress since August 2016 just to show that everybody starts from somewhere. I don’t know if this travel website will ever become successful. But if it does, people will read all these monthly reports.
Without further ado, let me share with you the numbers and what happened in May.
In a nutshell, May has been another good month that extended kuaby’s growth in April, in terms of unique visitor count and revenue.
- 1 What Happened in May?
- 2 Upcoming Highlights for June
- 3 Profit and Loss Statement
- 4 Traffic Update
- 5 Revenue per 1,000 Impressions (RPM)
- 6 Community Update
- 7 Less Traveling, More Content
What Happened in May?
May’s unique visitor count and revenue broke the all-time record! Woohoo!
Aside from the increase in search volume for many keywords that kuaby’s content are ranking for thanks to the mid-year school holiday in Malaysia, there were a lot of actions going on behind the scenes that contributed to the growth too.
Using Instagram Stories and Videos to Document My Journey
I mentioned in last month’s report that I am playing around with documenting my journey of growing kuaby in Mandarin.
It’s still happening, and I’m enjoying it more than earlier experiments. I introduced a small change on how I document my work, though.
Instead of posting a daily photo of me working, I now take photos and videos of me going through my day using Instagram Stories. At the end of the day, I will stitch everything together into a video using iMovie, before sharing it on my personal Facebook page and Instagram profile.
Here’s how one of the videos look like:
I’ve been enjoying the process a lot. If you want to see how these Stories look like, follow me on Instagram.
Update on kuaby’s First Ever Digital Product
In my last report, I was sharing my plan to create a digital product, which will be an ebook about Kuala Lumpur. I wanted to sell it to my readers who are planning a trip to the capital of Malaysia.
After some contemplation, I decided against doing it. The reason behind that might sound like an excuse, but it dawned on me that kuaby will lose big time if I bet on making money through paid travel content.
These are the things that went through my head.
Content is quickly becoming a commodity, if it is not already one. Not only we have an abundance of content on the Internet, many individuals and businesses are also pushing themselves to create more high quality content. Even corporations with millions in marketing budget are creating top-notch content for free in the name of content marketing.
The commoditization of travel content happens even more rapidly . On the demand side, travelers don’t need 10 guides about an attraction to find out how to get to somewhere, and they definitely don’t have to read through 10 articles to justify things like PETRONAS Twin Towers, Jalan Alor or Petaling Street are places to stop by when you are in Kuala Lumpur.
On top of that, having a unique experience or discovering a place so offbeat that it hasn’t been talked about rarely happens. Even if it does, blogs, viral news sites and social media will quickly turn the new discovery into a trending content piece that everybody will then be sharing.
I’m not saying that it is impossible to stand out in the travel space. In a way, kuaby’s travel guides are unique because of its comprehensiveness and the fact that I actually visited all these places myself. However, I just think it will be very hard to compel travelers to pay for a travel guide, especially when your content is just slightly better than those offered by the competition for free.
Will I still create the PDF guides that I mentioned earlier? Yes, of course!
Many travelers still travel without data or Internet connection, and they will want to have a guide that is usable offline. Besides, some of us still prefer to use a printed guide instead of always looking down at the tiny phone screen while exploring a new place.
How will kuaby make money then? Well, I need to start brainstorming again. More about that later.
Where Did the Sidebar Go?
If you are reading this monthly report on your laptop or desktop, you will realize that the sidebar is gone.
I removed it.
I always like the single-column article interface that publications like The Outline, Medium and QUARTZ have. The layout is clean, free of clutter and it helps readers to focus on the single most important element of every publication – content.
Also, I realized that since July last year, more visitors are coming to kuaby with their mobile devices than on their desktop. This trend is not surprising considering how much we rely on our phone these days when we travel.
On mobile devices, sidebars are useless because they get pushed all the way down to the bottom. In fact, having them there actually increases page load time, which is not good at all for user experience.
Thus, kuaby now uses this single-column layout across all the travel guides on the site. The decision came abruptly, and I didn’t have a proper plan for actions I needed to take. I took one Saturday out to hack my way to get this layout that I wanted, both on both desktop and mobile devices.
It’s always tedious when you are a noob with CSS. I had to hit “Refresh” every time I make a small tweak to the code, just to see if it works. At times, I even need to refresh just to look at the results of a minor change that I just made.
But that’s the fun I enjoy when I work on tasks like this. Of course, seeing the end result I wanted is always very satisfying.
Promoting My Personal Facebook Page with Ads
Another experiment I tried in May is to promote the daily videos I upload onto my personal Facebook page with ads.
Unlike on Instagram where you can still get organic attention by following people who might be interested in your content, Facebook doesn’t have a way for you to build a following organically.
I don’t have a huge friend list. Even after I turned all my friends into fans using Facebook’s tool to create a page based on my profile, I only have around 350 fans. Out of these 350, only a tiny fragment of them will be the target audience of my personal brand. Since the content on the page is in Mandarin, I will need to get the attention of Facebook users who understand the language and have interests in business, blogging or entrepreneurship.
The only way for me to reach these people is to run Facebook ads.
At first, I use all of my RM5 daily budget to promote my posts to people whom I think fall under my target audience using the Broad Targeting section of Facebook Power Editor.
Even though I was just going after post engagement, something seemed wrong. There are many people who liked my content that don’t look like they speak Mandarin. I can just tell by looking at what they shared on their profile.
To address this, I then started to promote all my posts, including the videos that I did using Instagram Stories to document my days, to two segments of people:
- Fans of my page who speaks Mandarin.
- Friends of my fans who speaks Mandarin and interested in business.
Targeting the first segment allows me to make sure my latest content gets pushed to people who have already given their consent for me to reach out to them. When they engage with my posts, there is a very slight chance of their friends seeing the engagement. Their friends might then end up engaging with my content if they like it.
On the other hand, targeting the second group of audience allows me to reach only genuine Facebook profiles who are friends of my existing fans that also happen to understand Mandarin, and they are interested in business or entrepreneur.
Since I don’t add people as friends on Facebook if I don’t know them in real life, I can be certain that my initial follower base only consists of genuine profiles. Also, since most Facebook users don’t add strangers as friends these days, I can be quite certain that friends of my friends consist of mostly genuine profiles that I am more than happy to reach with ads.
As of now, I only promote my daily videos for engagement. The whole idea is to slowly build up an engaging fan base that will provide me with the accountability I need to build kuaby.
I have no plans to optimize or to create fancier content for my personal Facebook page simply because the time could be better spent creating content for the site.
Upcoming Highlights for June
As you are reading this report, we are coming to the end of June 2017. I know, a monthly report shouldn’t come out this late, but you’ll find out why in a moment.
I am Working from Barcelona
This monthly report was drafted in Barcelona, Spain. Even though I am in this beautiful city mostly for work, I will also have plenty of time to travel around.
Unlike the trips I did before, traveling to Barcelona involved zero planning. I was really excited when I booked my flight tickets because this is my first time traveling out of Asia. And of course, it has been an eye-opening experience on so many levels.
While it is good that I get to live in Barcelona, I have to admit that my productivity when it comes to kuaby-related tasks suffered. The fact that this monthly report is coming out so much later than usual proved it.
Before the trip, I was meeting up with friends and family, knowing that I will be away for close to a month. After arriving here, I was adapting to a very different lifestyle, and it took me awhile to get used to things.
I’m back on track now, but the funny thing is – I’m heading back to Kuala Lumpur soon.
Just like the traveling to Taiwan before, this trip again allowed me to discover insights around balancing work, travel and personal life while traveling. Here’s biggest takeaway I had so far:
By slowing down and be willing to see less, especially when I need to allocate time to kuaby, I will end up seeing so much more.
A Thought on kuaby’s Monetization
Another area that I have been trying to figure out is how kuaby can start generating more money.
In May, I tried out Media.net, an ad network that pays a better rate according to many members of a Facebook Group for niche website owners that I am part of.
During the onboarding process, I needed to set up the ads in a way that will bring in the most revenue according to my account manager. While doing that, it didn’t feel right.
Why am I putting efforts into making it easier for readers to leave my site by clicking on banner ads? I immediately reverted everything back to Google AdSense the moment the question popped up.
I don’t see ads, or at least banner ads, becoming a sustainable source of revenue for kuaby. As mentioned earlier, I am not keen about selling information products too. These leave me with only three ways to make money:
- Sell physical products.
- Provide a service.
- Affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is the obvious choice.
At this time, I don’t have the capital to sell physical products or to take the risk of testing which product appeals to kuaby’s readers. For services, I thought about providing trip planning services for travelers visiting Kuala Lumpur or marketing services for travel-related businesses, but I simply don’t have the time, considering kuaby is just a side hustle.
Doesn’t it feel like I mentioned affiliate marketing as the way to go as a monetization strategy before? It’s because I did, on not just one, but two separate monthly reports:
Well, I’m committing to produce content that will help kuaby to generate affiliate revenue again. This time round, though, I want to lean in further by giving this effort at least a 12-month lifespan, so you can expect to see me producing more content related to hotels, tours and travel gear in the coming months.
In fact, I started rolling things out. If you go to my latest guide, you will see affiliate links pointing to Agoda and Booking.com.
Meanwhile, I will continue to explore other monetization opportunities that kuaby can take on. If you have ideas, I’d love to hear them. You know how to reach me.
Profit and Loss Statement
kuaby made a loss of $90.47 in May.
kuaby generated $16.47 in May, an increase of 27% from April.
- Google AdSense: $13.04 (+1%)
- Agoda Affiliate Program: $3.23
- Grammarly Affiliate Program: $0.20
TOTAL REVENUE: $16.47 (+27%)
It’s nice to see non-advertising revenue trickling in a little just when I am about to go all out into producing commercial content that will generate revenue for kuaby.
I expect this number to drop in June.
Google AdSense wasn’t running on kuaby for a few days in June when I was testing out Media.net. Ads served by Media.net generated zero revenue in those days. Not their fault, though. You can’t expect an ad network to perform if you only have their code on your site for a few days. They need time to optimize.
Since I don’t see kuaby relying on display advertising revenue, I will be more strict with the ad networks that I choose to test moving forward.
Here are the expenditures of the site in May:
- Digital Ocean: $12.00
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $9.99
- Grammarly: $6.25
- Google Apps: $5.00
- ActiveCampaign: $9.00
- Developer (my brother): $46.70
- Facebook Ads: $18
TOTAL EXPENSES: $106.94 (+21%)
The increase in expenses is mostly due to my spending on Facebook Ads to push my daily videos to people who are interested in blogging, running a website, or entrepreneurship in general.
Last month, 6,071 unique visitors came to kuaby, an increase of 12% from April.
Here are the top traffic sources for kuaby in May:
The new item that wasn’t here in previous months is facebook / cpm. These are people who came through the ads promoting my daily videos. As you can see in the video post below, I always have links to the drafts I am working on, so it is not surprising that people will want to know more context about the updates I give in my videos.
These are the most visited content on the site:
Click on the links below if you want to check out the top 5 travel guides:
- KTM ETS Train in Malaysia: The Ultimate Guide
- KL Sentral
- Sungai Chiling Fish Sanctuary
- KLCC to Bukit Bintang Pedestrian Walkway
- KL Bird Park
Revenue per 1,000 Impressions (RPM)
Revenue per 1,000 pageviews or RPM is a metric to measure a website’s efficiency in monetizing its page views.
kuaby’s RPM for May is $1.84, up by 17% month-on-month.
I do not know what the industry average is for this metric, and it is also not a metric that I am focusing on right now. Please share your RPM of your site with me if you are tracking this metric.
- Email Subscribers: 66 (+14%)
Less Traveling, More Content
That’s all for May’s update.
With this refreshed focus on monetization, I don’t see myself traveling more after I get home from Barcelona. What I will do instead is to double down on the writing and whatever it takes to produce content that will generate revenue for kuaby.
Even though I only have one more week left for June, which I will probably spend on exploring Barcelona, I am pushing myself to carry this focus all the way through the 12 months ahead.
I am super excited for the months ahead, and I hope you are inspired by this report.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions for me about this monthly report.
Until the next monthly report, thanks for reading!