From $300/Month To $1500/Month: How Building A Sales Funnel Quintupled Revenue In One Of The Most Unprofitable Niches On The Internet

By Chris Lee 46 comments

As some of you know, I build a lot of blogs outside of RankXL. It’s how I got started online – building and growing sites in various niches.

Until I started RankXL, I’ve been monetizing everything I built strictly with Adsense only. I didn’t collect emails, I did no email marketing, and I never even considered the idea of building and selling my own products.

But in the last few years, I’ve been moving more and more into list building and creating products, especially for niches where Adsense wasn’t the most profitable option. And it’s been working very well.

In this article, I’m going to share with you on how I increased monthly revenue to one of my blogs (not RankXL) by 5x by experimenting with different email marketing and product creation strategies.

This in itself isn’t anything special, though. The past few months I’ve seen blogs really take off in earnings by implementing list building and launching products. The real noteworthy part is that this particular site is in the most unprofitable niche I’ve ever entered.

If you’ve contemplated getting into list building and creating your own products, it’s (hopefully) going to open your eyes to how big of an impact it can make to your business.

Let’s dive in…

Before the changes

Let’s talk about the site before I made any changes to it.

This site was one of the worst sites I owned. The reason is, it’s in one of the most unprofitable niches I’ve ever worked in.

There’s little competition so it’s easy to rank and drive traffic, but it’s completely un-monetizable.

It was the easiest blog I’ve worked on growing to 100,000 visitors per month. This is the traffic stats from about 2 years ago.

But in the end, it was only making $300/month with Adsense.

If you do the math, you’ll realize that that’s pretty terrible. That’s about a 1% CTR with $0.20 CPC.

You might be thinking that optimizing CTR would easily double or even triple that number, but believe me I’ve tried. I’ve tested everything, and optimized the heck out of the site and unfortunately that’s about as high as it’ll go.

However, as much as I contemplated just selling it and forgetting about it, I opted to keep it. It’s a wonderful site to own because it’s completely passive income.

Competition is extremely low, it’s easy to pull in a lot of traffic from search. And it requires nearly zero maintenance throughout the year.

And so I left it alone and let it sit. Working on growing the traffic to it didn’t really make sense anymore. My time was better spent elsewhere where the RPM was higher.

A year went by… and I’m still dominating the search results

About a year went by since growing it to 100,000 visitors/month and $300/month in revenue.

And apart from a few hours testing out site organization, re-design, and optimization, I barely touched the site at all.

However, my rankings, traffic, and earnings didn’t drop at all. On top of that, my main competitors’ sites pretty much remained the same.

Nobody was really working on growing their sites, and there weren’t any new competitors worth worrying about.

This got me (re)interested in this site again.

This told me that I could probably dominate this niche forever (or at least for a very long time) without needing to work on growing it out, worrying about competition, or maintaining anything.

That’s seriously awesome!

Unless several major players entered the space and knocked me out of the rankings for my big keywords, I was safe. I would continue to dominate the niche as the strongest in links built and content written.

And because this niche was so unprofitable (and so difficult to monetize), I didn’t really see a flood of new competitors entering it as a high possibility.

Now, it became worth my time to focus on growing this site. It could never reach 6-figures in revenue, but I figured I could at least triple the earnings to $1000/month with some more work.

More traffic?

I had to figure out how I was going to 3x the revenue from $300 to $1000 per month, my new target revenue goal.

What I didn’t want to do was grow traffic. It just wasn’t worth it, and not the best move.

If everything else remained constant, to 3x my revenue meant I would have to pretty much 3x my traffic. And that’s not something I was interested in doing. That’s a ton of work (and money invested) for something that just isn’t a big enough payoff.

What would make more sense is changing monetization.

It’s already getting a lot of traffic. I just needed to find something else that worked better than what Adsense was bringing in.

First, I looked into affiliate products and Amazon.

They didn’t look very promising.

There were few physical products that sold well in this industry, and everything was very cheap at under $20. So my projected earnings with commissions wouldn’t be much more than what I was already making with Adsense.

Plus, it just wasn’t a very good niche to be pushing physical products.

It would also mean that I would have to create more content around the affiliate products I was promoting. Again, not something I wanted to do. In my mind, this site did not deserve more content published.

There were also a few digital products being sold on Clickbank that I could have become an affiliate for, but in all honestly, they were complete garbage.

They were outdated, had ugly, sleazy sales pages, and were not something I wanted to associate my site with.

After looking into a bunch of different options, nothing really stood out as a good potential candidate to 3x my revenue.

Moving on…

Deciding to build my own digital product instead.

I figured the best way would be for me to just create my own info product and sell it on the site.

Let me first say that this niche is terrible for products, so it wasn’t going to be an easy task.

I don’t want to give away the niche, but the nature of the topics/keywords in this niche was “visit once, consume content quickly, and leave.”

It wasn’t a topic where people wanted more information. People didn’t want “premium” content.

To give you an idea, something similar would be like the site you land on when you Google “how to take a screenshot” which I think most of us have done at least once.

You don’t stick around that site after getting the info, and it’s certainly not the kind you buy an info product from!

But… it was still worth a try. I’ve been seeing amazing results with launching products on other blogs, so I figured even a small number of sales would be a big improvement over the $300/month it was making then.

Since I was already getting a ton of traffic, I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to at least double my monthly revenue with a product that’s $30 to $50.

10 sales per month = An extra $300 to $500 per month.

Building the product

It took me 2 weeks to put together a 120 page ebook and build the sales page.

I priced the product at $39.

The problem was, I didn’t have an email list for this blog… purposely.

I decided against collecting emails for this blog because, again, the nature of the niche is to just quickly visit, get info, then leave. It wasn’t the type of site you “follow” and become a fan of.

On top of that, I published so infrequently, and I barely touched the site.

Collecting emails would immediately put my site in the red. Because the site gets so much traffic, the list would grow very quickly. The monthly plan to host such a large email list would be above the $300/month it was making.

And if selling a product doubled revenue, even that would cancel out. I would use all of it back for paying for an email service provider.

So, because of this, I didn’t use email marketing, and I decided to just place links to my product throughout my site, and create some banner ads for the sidebar.

Doing this did generate consistent sales every month.

As expected, site revenue doubled – so around $300 from Adsense, and $300 in product sales.

Conversion rates were terrible, but it was still a nice boost in total monthly revenue for this site.

It was a good outcome, but I wasn’t satisfied. I felt it could be a lot better considering the amount of traffic I was getting.

If I could get ~10 sales purely from website click-throughs, an email funnel could drastically increase sales.

Finally deciding to build an email list

After a few months, I decided to finally just experiment with building an email list.

I wouldn’t be sending out updates or doing anything to build an audience through email. It was strictly going to be for building out an evergreen sales funnel that would improve my conversion rates.

What’s an evergreen sales funnel?

Basically, it’s a way to run launches to everyone who joins your email list individually. It’s completely scheduled uniquely to each visitor.

In a regular product launch, you’re manually sending out launch emails and selling your product. Everyone gets the emails at the same time.

In an evergreen sales funnel, it’s all automated so that I don’t have to run the actual launches myself. I write the emails, set up the sequence and automation rules, and that’s it. From there, everyone who subscribes will get a series of emails starting with value-based education emails (no selling), and then be moved into the product launch sequence.

If built correctly, it can work just as well (or even better) than regular launches because everyone gets the sales pitch at just the right time – after they’re fresh out of the education sequence and at their peak interest for the topic of your funnel.

And that’s exactly what I did for this blog. I mentioned earlier that I didn’t want to collect emails on this site because I never worked on it, and it wouldn’t be profitable for me. But if an evergreen sales funnel really boosted sales, it could very well make it worth it.

Testing out scarcity elements

The reason product launches work so well is because of the scarcity element.

And there are many different ways you can add scarcity.

You can do an open/close cart where the course is only open for a limited period of time. Or you can do things like offer a discount or limited time bonuses that expire after a certain period of time.

I didn’t want to do an open/close cart because I was already making a fair bit of sales every month from cold traffic. An open/close cart would mean that the course would not be offered unless someone joined the email list.

AND… the product was low-priced, and really more of an impulse buy, so it wasn’t the best fit for an open/close launch.

And I also didn’t really want to offer a discount. I didn’t want to lower the price even more and reduce my earnings per sale.

Because the price is already so low at $39, it would have to be a really big discount to be considered attractive – 15% of $39 is still $33 = Not much of an added incentive to buy.

Creating a second product tier

So I decided to go a different route.

Instead of offering a discount for the $39 product, I would create a higher priced package and offer a discount for only the higher priced package.

That way, the earnings per sale would stay the same (or increase depending on the offer), and I would still be able to have an attractive scarcity element.

I decided to create a second, higher priced package for the same product priced at $99.

This is a strategy that I love using, and one I’m doing for almost every blog I run today. It’s one of the easiest ways to get started in creating and selling products while maximizing your revenue.

I even did this for a while on RankXL and it looked like this:

You can’t sell a book for $99. But if it’s packaged as a Complete Package with attractive bonuses added to it, then it becomes a lot more reasonable.

And that’s exactly what I created.

The ebook itself was sold for $39. The Complete Package was priced at $99 and contained the book plus 5 bonuses consisting of several shorter advanced learning guides.

Deciding on the scarcity element

Remember, I created the higher priced tier specifically for the scarcity element in the sales funnel.

Creating a higher tier alone without a sales funnel wasn’t going to increase revenue for this product by a lot. Not in this niche. A $99 product wasn’t going to sell well on its own.

Having this new tier would allow me to experiment with a lot of different scarcity elements during the evergreen launches.

Here are the options I considered:

1. Offering a $30 discount to the Complete Package – which would lower it to $69 dollars.

2. Offering the Complete Package as the same price as the Basic Package.

3. Not having a Complete Package at all, but putting all bonuses into the Basic Package, increasing the base price to $69, and offering a 40-50% discount during the launch.

4. Not having a Complete Package, but offering 5 bonuses if you purchase during the sales window.

After a little bit of experimenting, it was clear that #2 was the highest converting, and the most profitable.

During the evergreen launch period, the Complete Package would be offered for the same price as the Basic Package. So basically, they had 48 hours to grab the Complete Package at $39 instead of $99.

Now it became a really big incentive to pick it up before the deal expired.

The results after the change

The result?

A 5x increase in my monthly revenue.

First, here’s the first few months after implementing the funnel

This is when I first implemented the sales funnel, and the highest point in sales after it. The site had the highest month ever. $2700 in product sales, and roughly $300 in Adsense.

And this is the graph showing sales from all time (or at least to when this blog post was written).

Sales dipped some months when I played around with some pricing and scarcity experiments. But today monthly revenue is roughly around $1500 per month now on average.

Now, as planned, I can just leave the site alone. Although it’s a terribly unprofitable niche, I’m happy that I was able to maximize as much out of it as I could.

Traffic still hovers around 100,000 visits per month.

The funnel will continue to make sales on autopilot without me having to run launches myself throughout the year. And I (hopefully) won’t have to worry about maintaining or growing out this site to keep up with competitors.

Conclusion

Building an email list and launching products have been working amazing for me the last few months.

If it can increase revenue by 5x in a super unprofitable niche like this, it should tell you that it can produce some powerful results for better niches.

If it’s something that you’re interested in learning, including the evergreen sales funnels I use for my blogs, then sign up to the waitlist for my Blog Accelerator course.

Launching October 2017.

Click here to join the waitlist.

Leave a Reply

46 Comments

  • Reply Masood Rayan September 11, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Just got email from you about this article and finished the reading. I am excited! A great landing page with sales funnel always work.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Cool, thanks for checking it out 🙂

  • Reply Javier September 11, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Hey Chris.
    Nice post. Thank you!!!
    What tools did you use to build te funnel?

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:40 am

      It was all through ConvertKit sequences and tagging and re-directs.

  • Reply Mike September 11, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Chris

    Thanks for sharing this. Extremely useful info for me, as I’m building a site that’s monetized in a similar fashion.

    Curious…how did you get around the cost of hosting the email list? Did create an automation to purge the names from the list if no action was taken by the person?

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Cheers

    Mike
    Portland, Oregon

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Thanks Mike.

      I’m considering my options right now.

      On the one hand, I can keep them all and pay for the cost even if that lowers my profits. If I decide to sell the site, a massive email list can really increase the value of the site, especially to the right buyer.

      On the other hand, I guess I could delete subscribers. But I will likely be testing an on-going sales sequence, where if they didn’t buy, they’ll be sent through a similar automated launch sequence every 4 months and see how that goes.

  • Reply Phil September 11, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Very cool Chris that you could find other ways to get the sales up 5x. Love your blog so inspiring!

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Thank you Phil! Happy to hear that 🙂

  • Reply George S. September 11, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    But how did you write the ebook and the bonuses? Did you actually devote 2 weeks of your time to write it? Or did you hire someone to do it for you and what cost?

    But the real mystery is: how can you write 120-pages on a subject that people don’t really care to read after they found what they were looking for?

    I’m asking because I have a site with more than a million unique visitors per month, that has the exact same pattern: Visitors come, get quickly what they came for, and disappear. Adsense earnings are not that bad, because it’s a lot of traffic, but if I could double it -or more- then it’s worth it, but I really have no idea what guide to offer them for my specific niche, and none of my competitors offers anything similar.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Nope, I didn’t outsource the book writing. It wasn’t too difficult to create. Although the final product ended up to be 120 pages long, it wasn’t a traditional 120 page long book. Large text, lots of images, lots of pages with just a few sentences and bullet points, etc.

      You just create it as if you’re writing a long blog post or an ultimate guide and package it into an ebook format.

      The topic ended up being something related to my niche – teaching a skill that I thought people who came to my site would also be interested in learning. The screenshot example was a little extreme. Something like that would be nearly impossible to sell an info product on. But an example for that site would be creating something like “99 Keyboard Shortcuts And Productivity Hacks For Power Mac Users”.

  • Reply Faraz September 11, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    Man I get envious reading this stuff!

    How do you have the energy to keep on hitting niches that you aren’t really that into?

    Also is it me or Adsense earnings decreasing in general?

    Faraz

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:22 am

      It’s really fun to get into products and start making sales 🙂 I wouldn’t say it’s decreasing, but I would say there are a lot of opportunities to experiment with other things.

  • Reply Arina Nikitina September 11, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Hi Chris! Thanks for being an inspiration! Your case study just got me back my motivation. 🙂 I’ve been trying to replicate your traffic strategy by creating pillar content and getting links to it, but I’ve made a mistake by over-complicating things. I’m revisiting my strategy and getting back to work! Looking forward to your new course!

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:23 am

      Cool! Thanks for reading Arina 🙂

  • Reply jerrick September 11, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    interesting. may i know which is the dashboard you used to monitor the sales? looks very good…

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:23 am

      That was from Easy Digital Downloads.

  • Reply Karen September 11, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Truly relevant information once again Chris, I often wondered about sales funnels and I know so many marketers use these so I really enjoyed the simplicity of your explanation to a process that I’m sure has its complexities. I can follow the way you’ve written it out and I’ll definitely look into this in the near future. I like the options you explained as well. I’m actively working through your adsense course right now where I can actually see there is room for this strategy as I work through the process. Loving the course btw. Fantastic useful information once again Chris.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:24 am

      Thank you for the kind words, Karen 🙂

  • Reply Tung September 11, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Are you using DeadlineFunnel?

    I just started using it to create automated launch funnel and it’s working pretty well so far.

    Good case study. It seems like we’re moving into the same direction.

    Building an email list and launching products.

    That’s the only way to build a sustainable predictable business going forward.

    Adsense or affiliate marketing are just too low leveraged. And it’s not very dependable.

    It takes just one change and our biz is going down.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:26 am

      Hey Tung! I actually haven’t tried Deadline Funnel yet. I know a lot of people are using it, so I’ll have to check it out.

  • Reply anand September 12, 2017 at 1:38 am

    This is the master piece of info article
    thanks …

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:26 am

      🙂

  • Reply AJ September 12, 2017 at 1:52 am

    Great write-up Chris. It’s funny, one of my sites is very similar to the one you describe here, it’s pulling in around 50-70k organic visitors on average per month and makes about 300-400 in adsense. Not much at all, but it’s very passive. I could literally leave the site as is, do nothing with it for a year, and traffic plus income would stay the same. Or perhaps even grow, because the site keeps getting natural backlinks. I’ve considered creating and selling products, but sadly the niche the site is in doesn’t lend itself very well for digital products, so I need to think of a different way to further monetize it.

    It surprises me that it only took you two weeks to create a 120 page e-book, it would probably take me forever lol. I like it how you started selling your product with just links and banners and then decided to scale it with an email list and sales funnel. This is definitely something I need to dive into further. One question if you don’t mind, what’s the percentage of refund requests? And how do you normally deal with that? Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Thanks AJ. Yeah, I’m sure there are a lot of people with sites in niches like this. Hopefully this gave you some ideas.

      It shouldn’t take you forever. An ebook, especially your first ebook, shouldn’t be approached like a traditional book. Your goal isn’t to write a NYT best seller or anything like that. You just write it as if you’re writing a long blog post.

      Refund rates across all niches usually are around 5 to 10%. I offer a 30-day policy for them, and just refund them no questions asked.

  • Reply David T September 12, 2017 at 3:31 am

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the interesting article and case study. Just to confirm, the offer that worked best for you – number 2 – was that the complete package (book plus 5 bonuses) that was normally $99 and was made available for $39 for the next 48 hours for scarcity? Was that only through email marketing with a different lead magnet on your site or was it also advetised on your site?
    Thanks for your assistance.
    David.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Hey David. This was only advertised through email once they made it to the sales sequence.

  • Reply Matt September 12, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Chris,

    Thanks for the awesome post:)

    I was just curious – the new course going to be an A-Z strategy for tackling a niche, building out a blog and getting traffic as well or will it mainly be about using email and infoproduct creation to monetize an existing site with traffic?

    Also, would this approach be applicable for a larger, more general site with specific categories within a niche? So, for example, a health blog that talks about nutrition, workouts, equipment, etc…then implementing the strategy in the workout category?

    Looking forward to it.

    Matt

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks Matt. It will. At first I considered only teaching the email marketing and product launch aspects. However, building a blog based on this kind of business model is a lot different so I included everything from start to finish, including niches, content, and marketing.

      If it’s a general site, you’ll want to take a look at your analytics and see what topics are performing best. Create an email funnel only for this topic, and collect emails only on appropriate pages. You can do this for multiple topics by targeting each category separately.

      However, for a site like yours, it’s all pretty much related already. Workouts, equipment, nutrition – someone interested in one will likely be interested in the others. So it may be possible to just promote it site wide.

  • Reply Jose September 13, 2017 at 11:14 am

    OMG! I know the website!! the prices of the info products match haha

    I’ve always been interested in that niche, and I found your portal recently. But calm, I will not say which is to nobody haha.

    I’m a rebel… hahaha

    One love bro, this post is awesome.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      🙂 Haha, thanks Jose.

  • Reply Shafi Khan September 14, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Hi Chris,

    You nailed the strategy. I never considered creating my own products and selling and always relied on affiliate products. Also, I didn’t know we can create such funnel and boost our conversion with email marketing.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply Chris Lee September 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply Maxwell September 15, 2017 at 8:03 am

    Hey, Chri! Amazing post.
    I have my niche site (2 months old) in very similar niche like yours. It has very low competition but it really looks like un-monetizable niche cos there aren’t any physical products and even affiliate programs. So your post really inspired me to think outside of the box and try to figure out how can i build an email list and what product can i sell in my niche. Already got some ideas. Thanks.

    Also, I’d wondering did you saw a decrease in traffic after you stop public content or google don’t pay much attention to the frequency of site’s publications?

    • Reply Chris Lee September 17, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      Cool, that’s interesting. Nope, I didn’t see any decrease at all.

      There’s much more to just rankings when it comes to frequency. I wouldn’t say you lose traffic, but you miss out on a lot.

      As you publish more content, your site is crawled more often, and you have more opportunities to rank for more keywords. You have more opportunities for that content to be shared and linked to. And… you’re able to email your growing email list about new posts, which helps in driving returning traffic.

  • Reply Troy September 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Are you going to be mailing it out to your current list? Or do I need to join the waitlist?

    • Reply Chris Lee September 19, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Yup, I’ll let everyone know when it launches.

      Joining the wait list simply lets me know you’re interested, so you’ll get some additional info that I might not send to the entire list.

  • Reply Annie Lax September 19, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Chris,

    You had me at quadrupling revenue. 🙂 Thanks so much for providing these revelations — actionable methods we can use on our own blogs.

    Aside from providing the step-by-step sequence, I truly appreciate your taking the time to explain your rationale for each task you perform (and why you choose not to perform certain tasks).

    You decided to prioritize conversions over traffic, and realized that more products will lead to a higher number of converted sales. Well done!

    Chris, it appears that in this example, you’re not getting too much customer interaction. Are you concerned about providing a lot of support in a niche that may interfere with your workflow, especially if you’re really not that well-versed in a niche? (A large responsive list may entail a lot of hand-holding … but it’s a nice problem to encounter. 🙂

    • Reply Chris Lee September 19, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Thanks, Annie 🙂

      Do you mean support from people who buy my products? Support (answering questions, solving payment issues, etc) is not something that takes a lot of time when it comes to ebooks.

      For courses that are $500+ it becomes more of a mandatory offering, but for lower priced ebooks, it’s not much of an issue and customers don’t really expect much support either.

      • Reply Annie Lax September 19, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        Hi Chris,

        Thanks for your answer! Too many marketers ignore questions and concerns from their customers.

        Yes, you make an excellent distinction. The higher-priced courses would probably necessitate more support (and the expectation to do so).

        However, you’re the type of marketer to answer all queries, and I try to emulate that practice as well.

        • Reply Chris Lee September 19, 2017 at 6:09 pm

          😀

  • Reply Nathan September 25, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Hey Chris! Great article as always! I checked the toolbox and didn’t see anything listed for sales. What platform are you using to track your sales and handle the payments to this unprofitable niche?

    • Reply Chris Lee September 25, 2017 at 11:02 pm

      Thanks Nathan 🙂

      I’m using Easy Digital Downloads for that one.

      • Reply Nathan September 26, 2017 at 8:18 pm

        Thanks Chris! Are there other platforms that you recommend for different scenarios? It appears that you use different options based on what you are trying to accomplish.

        • Reply Chris Lee September 27, 2017 at 12:51 pm

          Yup, Gumroad is also good for selling ebooks, and Teachable is great for online courses.

  • Reply Mat Boehmichen October 3, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Hi Chris, well written post – as always. Looking forward to more insights on your email marketing.
    Cheers Mat

    • Reply Chris Lee October 3, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks, Mat 🙂