content site case study update month 12

AdSense/Content Site Case Study Month 12 Update

Hey peeps, hope everyone had an awesome holiday period and New Year!

This case study wraps up a year in the life of my case study site. It’s been a good year, and honestly, personally I chalk this case study up as a success.

I set out to prove to a lot of new bloggers that you can create a new site, and without any backlinks or expenses, you can build a passive income asset within a shortish timeframe.

Sure, I’m not getting rich over here. But, for those looking for a low risk, low investment option, I really hope my explaining my methods helps you achieve something similar – or better.

To prove a point, I didn’t post anything in December. I didn’t touch the site, I haven’t even updated the plugins, done the latest WP update, nothing.

With no time spent; the site made $1,263.37 in December, and traffic even went up a little. Here’s all the screenshots and stats in more detail:

First of all, if you’re landing here and wondering how I built this site to this point; you can find previous updates here:


Traffic and Earnings Stats for Jan-Dec 2020

Month# of articlesPageviewsEzoic earnings ($)AdSense earnings ($)Affiliate earnings ($)Total ($)

Ezoic Earnings for December

December 2020 Ezoic Earnings
December 2020 Ezoic Earnings EPMV

I’m a big fan of Ezoic. I know they have their haters, but they keep paying me $1k+ a month for doing very little. This is where most of my income is coming from, this month I made $1,044.26 with Ezoic.

If you’re not yet using Ezoic you should sign up and at least give them a try. I’d appreciate it if you used my affiliate link here – let me know if you do and I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.

Amazon Earnings for December

December 2020 Amazon Affiliate Earnings

It’s not a niche that has any festive appeal at all, so I didn’t expect to see an increase in Amazon sales in December. $24.06 for the month is very similar to last month’s $21.60.

Third-Party Affiliate Earnings for December

December 2020 Third Party Affiliate Earnings

This was a nice surprise, after 3 months with not a single sale, I had 4 sales towards the end of the month totaling $50.71.

The reporting is bugged out and isn’t showing the clicks in the above screenshot, but the sales have gone through OK.

Traffic Stats for December

Analytics for December 2020 Case Site Study
Webmaster Data for December 2020 Case Site Study

I was expecting traffic to continue to trend down as this niche trends down over the winter months. So, it was a nice surprise to see pageviews go up a little.

Looking through the analytics I can see some of the evergreen posts I wrote are now getting more clicks than the popular summer posts. A deliberate effort to ride out the seasonal drop, and it’s paying off.

How Profitable Was the Site Over the Entire Year?

I see a lot of income reports where costs are completely ignored. What really matters is how much a site actually makes in profit, right?

Not necessarily to-date, I understand websites are long-term assets. But, if you’re building a site, it still makes sense to make sure you’re going to achieve a positive return on your investment – whether that’s time or money.

The best part of this site is that I kept costs to a minimum by writing all the content myself.

Here’s how an operating profit and loss plus a valuation looks for the site to-date:

Total Earnings to Date8,625.40
Domain Purchase (1 yr)(11.00)
Hositng (1 yr)(50.00)
Ezoic Premium (9 mths)(324.69)
Total Costs(385.69)
Operating Profit8,239.71
Site Value (35 multiple)44,218.06
Potential Profit inc. Valuation52,457.77

I didn’t track how many hours I spent working on the site, but I’d say there is no way it was more than 800 hours. So, using that 800 hours as a ballpark figure, the ROI on my time spent is:

$52,457.77 / 800 = $65.57 per hour.

Obviously, I’m using some approx numbers here, but I think it gives me a clear indication of how much my time is was worth working on the site.

What’s Next?

First of all, I think I will switch to quarterly updates now. The honeymoon phase is over and there isn’t as much to report each month. I still intend to carry on doing exactly what I’ve done to this point though, just targeting low competition keywords that I think I can rank for.

I’m not far from Mediavine’s requirements, so I really should do a content push and see if I can get accepted onto Mediavine. Maybe I will be able to report in March that has happened. 🙂

As always, happy to answer any questions and help anyone out any way I can.

39 thoughts on “AdSense/Content Site Case Study Month 12 Update”

  1. Hell of a year man! Congrats, we’ll see how mine is doing next year, following your strategy from A to Z 🙂


    1. Thanks Guilhem, yeah it was a crazy year for sure. It feels like just yesterday that I started the site sometimes, but looking back, I put a lot of hard work in.

  2. Hey Phil!
    Big Congrats! Well done! Quite a feat and a great way to do a proof of concept.

    Quick question: I see you calculated the hours at 800, does that include research time for your posts? Just curious as to how much time you spend researching your posts, where you generally get your information, etc.

    I find difficult to write or posts I don’t have a lot of personal knowledge or experience in take some time. Though I feel, the more you write in a niche, the more passive background knowledge you seem to gain in a particular area, so that’s encouraging. What do you think?

    Anyway, well done once again.

    You truly are an inspiration, especially to those of us who write all their own content. Other have very similar approaches to yours, but I’ve found none that actually write ALL their own content.

    Thanks for the case study!

    Happy New Year and a great 2021!

    1. Hi Dave
      – Yeah, that is the total time I spent on the site including research, formatting etc. When I research a post I tend to look up a source for the answer, then just write my own spin on the answer. So, it’s not that research-intensive, which works for this niche better than some.
      – It gets so much easier over time, that’s for sure. I get pretty invested in what I write about, so I’m always reading stuff in my spare time and taking note of what’s going on in my niche. I can hold my own in a conversation about my niches with anyone. 🙂
      – Thanks man, I feel fortunate to make a living this way and love nothing more than helping others – I look forward to hearing about your progress this year!

  3. Hi Phil,

    Wow- crazy how fast a year seems looking back!

    Awesome results not only for December, but for this entire year. This case study really is proof that a profitable website can be built over the course of a year by simply targeting good keywords and putting in work.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this website ends up in 2021. At the end of the day, even if things remain the same regarding traffic, etc. you can sell it for a decent amount of money!

    Not sure if you remember me- I’m the guy that published 150 blog posts to my brand new website in September, October, and November. In December, I published 10 posts to my website, and I intend on doing so until March. Then, starting in March, I’ll publish 4 posts each month until the end of July. At this point, I’ll have 200 total posts at the 11-month mark- hopefully things turn out!

    My website was affected mildly by the Google update in early December. I didn’t really lose much traffic- only about 5% to 8% or so. What mostly upsets me is that the growth flatlined for the entire month. I think without the update, I could’ve broken 500 organic clicks this month- oh well!

    1. Hi Daniel, yeah I’m sure I remember you mentioning that content plan before.

      Sucks you took a little hit in December. Still, it’s early in the life of your site even being on track for 500 this month is solid. Traffic can just as easily go up during an update, it’s crazy really. Just never stop, my friend, it will work out.

  4. Good effort son.

    (Commenting on a blog post feels like it’s 2013 and I’m fishing for a link. You bet I’m still gonna include my link haha). Blog comments FTW.

  5. Hi Phil.

    You have been a great inspiration many thanks.
    Hope you had a great time off and was able to spend quaility time with your loved once.

    Lets have a great 2021.

    Kind regards.


  6. Hey Phil,
    Awesome work man! I am very happy for your success, I’ve been following your work here as well as your engagement on reddit, you seem like a very nice guy who is willing to help other people every time. My respect sir!

    I am about to start my blog and I want to try myself in animal niche, with very similar topic approach as yours in keyword research article. Undeserved low comp informational articles.

    My question is can i start with bunch of different animals all at once? Or I should have at least X amount of articles for specific animal and then move to another? My worry is if i spread around with too many different species google might not recognize me as topical relevant for any.

    Keep great work and take care!
    Thanks, Alex

    1. Thanks Alex,
      I do try! 🙂
      You can start a site with categories for different animals, for sure yes. I see it a lot, it’s hard to say how many articles you will need per category, it will take a little longer than a narrow site, but it’s fine, I’m sure you’ve seen loads of sites doing what you want to do.
      I’d start with 3 pets, and spread articles amongst those 3, then start to focus more on the one that takes off. Honestly, it’s even hard to tell which articles will perform the best, have to find out through trying.

  7. Hi Phil, someone suggested your website on Reddit last night and I have been hooked on your site since. Thank you for being so transparent. Right now I’m debating whether I want to create a website with the knowledge you’ve shared here.

    But anyway, I have a few questions, if you don’t mind answering 🙂

    * What is the goal with this website? Turn it into a passive income generator for, idk a few years? Or do you plan to sell it at some point?

    * How much effort do you put into the design side of things? How does your website look? How much does design matter for the topics you write on?

    * Do you collect email subscribers? Why yes or no? If yes, then what do you do with your subscribers?

    * Wanting to escape the tyranny of 50 hours of work weeks lead me to affiliate marketing. Following many failures I tasted a bit of success last year. That too because of a kind friend who mentored me. Right now, I’m working on creating more affiliate websites. I know you are not as thrilled about affiliate sites as I am, still I’m wondering if you’d ever consider writing articles on affiliate marketing?

    * Final question: what do you do in your free time? 🙂

    1. Hey, Wasp – thanks for dropping by.

      – I’m not sure right now about the plans, I enjoy growing and improving sites, so that’s the vague goal. I don’t see myself selling it anytime soon as I don’t need the money. But there is always a risk in SEO, I’m thinking about selling some of my smaller sites that I’m neglecting actually.

      – I put no effort into the design at all, it’s just not something I’m good at. Most of my other sites look the same as this one! Same theme, not tweaks, just a list of blog posts.

      – No I don’t collect email subscribers anywhere other than on this site. I don’t want to manage that side of the business, honestly, I like to double down on what I can do best and what’s working, and that’s ranking content for ad money.

      – Good to hear you have goals to better your situation, and that you’ve had some success. I’d only write articles on affiliate marketing here (if that’s what you mean) if I actually did some affiliate stuff that worked and I could share that. I don’t intend to do much on the affiliate sales side on my sites at the moment.

      – Depends what you call free time! I have a 4-year old and I’m a big kid myself, I love hanging out and playing with him. I’m also an obsessive (I obsess over everything I’m interested in) MMA and True Crime fan, so I watch a lot of that. Life was a little different before the pandemic though, right? I used to meet friends a lot at pubs late at night and attend entrepreneur meetups and all sorts like that.

      Interesting questions, do keep in touch and good luck!

      1. Thanks for the reply Phil.

        I too obsess over everything I’m interested in. At some point I become sick on it and then I have to take a break, lol.

        Will keep in touch!

  8. Thanks a lot Phil for this awesome update again.

    8k plus is really good for a new site in its first year.

    You wanted to know about my site update..

    so here it goes…

    Currently I have about 70 articles on my site out of which 48 were published in last 3 months.. so many are still in their infancy stage..

    In December, this site earned about $300 bucks from Ads and Amazon.. and traffic reached from 4k in Sept 2020 to about 10k in Dec 2020..

    I have written a little update about my 90 day Niche Site challenge.. you can check it out if you want..

    Thanks again for your posts.. they are really motivating and helped me to put more efforts in my site too.

  9. Hi Phil,
    Congrats on an extraordinary year with your site!!! You are truly an inspiration on what is possible with hard work and commitment with building a site. I have been hooked to your content ever since September last year when Shaun Marrs on YouTube mentioned you on a video last year on keyword research, advice to new bloggers and linked your blog. Thank you for the transparency and explaining your journey and methods so well. Got many Aha moments and connected the dots on how to just start!

    Am a new blogger and my goal is to learn from the internet on how to do it with the information around. I have gained a lot from you and the I started in December and working my way up to create passive income. Impressions have started showing up on google search console and though still small like 94 impressions, there is signs of life! and possibility of growth! I was surprised how soon I saw this. Anyway, I just have to keep up with the content which am now at 1 blog a day which was previously 3 days to write a blog.

    I had some questions:
    1. When I want to get in to Ezoic later when my site has grown abit using your link, is the threshold to get in still 10,000 pageviews or less/by how much?
    2. If my target keyword research is targeted at USA market, do I still have to have the GDPR policy on my site which is for Europe, despite getting traffic from Europe and around the world?

    Thanks and looking forward to see how your site continues to grow!.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Priscah, appreciate that. I’m trying to help share what I do, so I’m always glad to hear from people that have found some value here.

      1. I would appreciate you using my referral, of course, thanks. Honestly, I’ve referred people lower than 10k pageviews, but it doesn’t seem to be consistent. I’ve seen people be told they needed 3k/mo, and 5k/mo. Personally, I’d wait until 5k/mo, just because the earnings will be low before then anyway and you want to get in first time if possible.

      2. Yeah, you need the GDPR policy for visitors coming to your site from Europe, which will happen. Just use the cookie plugin I have on this site, I used it on my other sites when I applied for AdSense and it was fine with Google.

  10. Hey, Phil

    Just wanted to know your opinion, I have read from other bloggers that they suggest writing up to 100 articles or so, and waiting for them to rank within 8 months to a year then writing more content on the areas of the posts that gained traffic afterward. While seeing your blog series, you continued to post content. As my concern is that what if you picked a niche where there is no reliable traffic, or if the great google overload dislikes your site and your traffic plummets cause of an update, or none of your articles continue to rank. Simply put, would it be wise to continually post articles and pour your time to one site or post around 100 articles on one site and start another site and revisit the original in a year’s time. I think I read your comment either on this site or in the subreddits that you are hoping that a google update crush your site after adding nearly 300 posts. I’m much more risk-averse than risk-tolerant but wanted to hear your thoughts on this. Cus you never know what might happen in the SERPs nowadays.

    Also, do you also have an issue with the WMS extension, it is not showing the second box with the option to click through for more keywords, its just showing one box now.

    1. Hi Geoff!

      First of all, you’re right! Just checked WMS and I don’t have the box I use for all my keywords! I need that, hope it resolves in the near future.

      Regarding building a site and how much effort to put in, this is how I see it;

      A lot of SEO is out of our control, you’re right.

      I always recommend having more than one site – if it doesn’t stress you out too much – for that very reason. Anyone can get hit with a traffic drop.

      That said, I’ve built a few sites, and none have failed to grow at a steady pace using the low-comp KW strat – so I’m 100% confident I can grow a site and have no problem throwing everything into it.

      It’s just a matter of how fast it will grow, and whether or not it takes some SEO bumps along the way. I can’t imagine having a complete disaster though. But again, you never know.

      I always adapt as I go along, too. When I see certain topics performing well, I always post more content around those topics. That’s part of the SEO of a site, going with the flow and doubling down on what’s working.

  11. Your pageviews struggling to rise after May even after you published more content?
    What’s wrong? The post should be aged you should see some new traffic.

    Keep going!

    1. Yeah, it’s seasonal in part, plus I don’t get a lot of growth over time from posts as I rank them quickly. Going to be interesting to see how it goes from here!

  12. Awesome stuff Phil… I found you less than 2 months ago through a YouTube comment you left on Chris/Niche Safari’s channel… which took me to go and find you on Reddit… which finally brought me back to your site here.

    What you’re doing has inspired me to finally get off my butt and start writing following this zero to low competition keyword strategy. For the longest time, I’ve always thought to myself that it is something that could work really well but I’ve been too stupidly concerned to try it for fear of wasting my time on something that might not work instead of just taking action and finding out.

    Seeing your results come in a matter of 4 months (which to me astronomical from a traffic point of view) has really validated what has always just been a theory in my mind. You’ve given me the spark and kick in the rear that I needed to finally get going with something I’ve been procrastinating for over a year now.

    If I’m being completely honest though, part of it too has been me avoiding having to take on the work involved of actually doing the writing… but seeing your results far outweighs any doubts or aversion to putting in the work that I ever had.

    I’ll be taking off starting February 1st and trying to put up as much content as I possibly can… and probably will try to document it in an effort to keep myself accountable and possibly inspire others to do same as you have inspired me… Thanks.

    Two questions if I may:
    1) What is the name of the plugin you used to make the table where you put your traffic and earnings stats, as well as your potential profit valuation?
    2) What is the name of the GDPR policy cookie plugin you use on this site that you reference in response to one of the questions asked above?

    P.S. While my primary monetization source will be Clickbank, if I ever get to the point of qualifying for Ezoic (10K+ visitors/month), I promise I will come back to find you on this site to use your Ezoic affiliate link… thanks again.

    1. Hi Christian

      Thanks for taking the time to leave those comments, and such kind words.

      You know, it’s crazy really, I’ve worked with a few bloggers/marketers this year to help them grow their sites, and it almost always comes down to motivation. Everyone I worked with either knew what to do or I showed them, then it was just a case of getting stuck in – as you said you’re now doing.

      Put all/any doubts aside. Sure, every post will not be a home run, and there are ups and downs in SEO, but if you want it to work, you have to expect to work hard at it. The most important thing behind starting and doing, is to always keep trying to improve.

      If you do those things, it will always work. Trust me.

      You will hit 10k/mo, for sure, it’s just a matter of how long – no one can really tell. But it’s related to how hard you work.

      I’d appreciate you using my link, of course. Nice of you to say that.

      To answer your questions;

      1. The table plugin I use is called TablePress
      2. The GDPR plugin is called GDPR Cookie Consent

      I linked to both so there is no confusion.

      Cheers, feel free to keep me posted, accountability is a huge motivator, too, you’re right. Good luck.

      1. Thanks a bunch Phil for linking to those plugins to make sure there’s no confusion.
        And yesss… accountability is huge so I’ll drop in to let you know how I’m faring. I’ll start off by coming back here at the end of February with an update which hopefully includes a respectable number of posts under my belt.

  13. Hey Phil,

    Kind of miss your updates. Although your case study has finished with awesome results and with great detail, I feel you have so much to offer those who are into niche website publishing, it would be great to read your perspectives on things in general. But I’m sure you’re quite busy with your own projects, so I appreciate all that you’ve done already.

    Quick question: If you find a longtail keyword and the top result basically answers the query, but is not targeting the exact query, neither in the snippet(not all the words are in the snippet) or in the title of the post, would you still go for it?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hey Dave! Thanks for dropping by.

      I’ve missed talking about this stuff with guys, too, heh. I will post an update for Jan-Feb next month for the site, things are going pretty well.

      I do still go for those keywords where the top result is not targeting the exact query if I think there is plenty of opportunities to land on page one, yes. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but it’s always worth a shot is how I see it.

  14. Hey man! I miss your updates!

    This question is kinda dumb but I can’t find the answer anywhere. If I made a table in one blog post can I repeatedly use it in different blog posts? Would that cause plagiarism of some kind?

    1. Thanks Rei, appreciate that.

      I somehow missed this comment for a while, sorry about that.

      You can use the same table multiple times for sure, yes. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve watched a video with a Google developer saying small amounts of dup content like that are fine.

      I’m going to publish an update next month for Jan-Mar. 🙂

  15. Hey Phil,
    Haven’t seen you around Reddit lately. I’m sure you’re busy typing away)

    Question: Do you find that since you target low volume, low competition keywords writing lots and lots of content, that you basically can weather the storms of Google’s algorithm updates and the competition?

    I’ve been working on a site that I had started over 2 years ago with only 5 articles and left it. It’s not the most exciting niche, but I started it when I was trying to break into freelance writing and wanted experience writing in this niche.

    Anyway, traffic was always a trickle here or there 5 visits, 2 visits, 7 visits, 9 visits etc.

    Anyway, In December, I decided to go all in with the low competition keyword approach and writing approach that you have so excellently described in your case study.

    Here are my monthly user traffic numbers November 34 users, December 77 users, January 411 users and February 828 users.

    Not stellar, but I’ve been working on getting my content up. Since December I was only able to get 60 additional posts up, but now I’m hitting 2 posts a day.

    Not in your league yet, but i’m working it. My average post is about 1200 words, sometimes a little less but usually more. I hope to hit 60 posts published for December.

    My goal is doing this full time and hitting 3 posts a day. But I still have some work to do.
    I had also started a fresh site in November and put up like 40 posts, but traffic is barely hitting a 100 per month, so I’m just going to sit on that one for a while and see where it’s at in a few months.

    In the end, I guess either site age does matter, even with only 5 posts sitting on it for a couple of years, before I started pouring some content gas on it. Or maybe it’s the niche. We’ll see.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. But I figured one of the reasons you started this blog was to build a kind of community of like minded niche website publishers like yourself. You’ve been so generous with your contributions, I thought I’d give you a little feedback on how your approach has been working for me.)

    Thanks again!

    1. Hey Dave, good to hear from you.

      I haven’t been on Reddit much, no. Haven’t seen any of the kind of detailed step-by-step case studies I like of late over there.

      I haven’t been negatively impacted by any of the Google updates over the last couple of years, no. It’s likey to do with the low comp KWs, yeah, even if they do shuffle the rankings around, there is a smaller pool of sites to overtake me using this technique, right?

      That’s good to hear about that site you picked back up. I’ve done that before, too. I’ve worked with a few people over the last year, when you know how to rank low comp stuff, it just works, doesn’t it? You rank well, and the clicks come. 🙂

      It sounds like you’re doing everything right – you just have to ride out the most painful part, grinding out the content and waiting for it to all fall into place.

      I do love this community, you’re right. Appreciate you dropping by, and I love your dedication to making your sites work, it’s the same attitude I have.

      Like I said, it sounds like you have everything in place and it’s just a matter of working hard and continually improving from this point.

      But, if you think I can offer any additional value by talking 1-on-1 or anything, you’re welcome to Skype me some time.

  16. Hi Phil,
    Question: There’s no doubt that your Ezoic earnings are very impressive, especially given the traffic numbers. How were you able to continue to consistently increase your EPMV month after month?

    Also, with Ezoic Premium, if you subtract the fee from your earnings, does it still come out to more than if you would have stayed with their basic plan?

    I’m with Monumetric now, but thinking of trying out Ezoic for the site I’m building out now.

    Traffic has been steadily increasing i.e. the “Hockey stick” curve that is so often talked about. This is in no small part thanks to you. Your keyword and content strategy is spot on. The hardest part is keeping my head down, doing the research and cranking out the content. I’ve been hitting 2-3 posts a day. But it can be a slog. Also, I have to constantly remind myself to stay focussed in answering the “answer target” and ancillary questions and not go to far off track with 2k-3k posts when 1k would do. Tough for me since I was so use to writing “Skyscraper” style posts.

    Anyway back to Ezoic. In this niche there are quite a few affiliate programs that pay out really good commissions, so I’m debating if putting Ezoic on this site when it reaches 10k a month is worth it. Also, pointing my URL to Ezoic’s nameservers along with having to pay for their premium version up front, doesn’t sit well.

    Thanks again! Miss reading your Reddit comments….

    Looking forward to your next post)

  17. Phil, I’ve been following your journey and have made the following observations:

    1. As of now, your site seems to be in the point of diminishing returns.

    Meaning, the content that you produce makes a smaller impact than it used to do.

    This led me to an interesting strategy:

    Why don’t you create a new website on the exact same topic?

    Or in other words, why don’t you copy cat your own website and do the experiment this year just like you did before.

    Same niche, similar domain name, same content process?

    Whatever niche you are in, chances are that people are starting websites in it all the time.

    So, why don’t you do it yourself?

    What is your opinion about this idea?

  18. Hi Phil,

    How are you doing? I just found out about your blog yesterday and read through it all. Can’t wait for your next update and try out your keyword research and content writing strategy for my blog as well.

    I have a few questions though.

    1. Do you create different categories on your blog or post all articles in the same category?
    2. Do you focus on creating content clusters for a single category and moving on to the next one or do you post in random manner on each category?


  19. Hi Phil,

    Just came across your case study. It’s really impressive. Thanks for sharing this publicly.

    I started a website 3 years ago and it deals with a seasonal product (search goes up in winter). In peak season, it draws up to 10,000 GSC clicks per month. Off-season, which is most of the year, it draws approximately 4000 CGS clicks.

    Ezoic EPMV is about $5 and in peak season I end up earning $80 per month.

    The site has 110 informational posts. Wrote 40 last year and the rest this year.

    It’s my first niche site and it’s hard to find motivation for a seasonal site with low EPMV.

    Is there a brighter future for this site? If not then, I think I would move on to other projects. Or should I publish 90 more articles and make it 200 articles, let it sit and see?

    What do you think?

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