Scale Down in Order to Scale Up: 2020 Business Performance and Personal Review

I just lately reported on my earnings and progress for Own The Yard.

However, that area of interest web site is admittedly not a really huge a part of my enterprise by way of each money and time.

As a end result, I believed it might be good to do one thing I haven’t executed in a couple of years:  Reflect on my total enterprise for 2020 and share my imaginative and prescient going ahead.

Today I’ll be sharing the progress I’ve made in my total enterprise; together with and

In this report you’ll discover:

the significance of balancing expectations vs actuality
a private recap of 2020
the books I learn final 12 months
All the companies I’m concerned with
Link Whisper Progress
Niche Pursuits Progress and Vision
Goals for 2021

Expectations vs. Reality

Tempering expectations is usually a tough idea to grapple with as a enterprise proprietor.  At the start of the 12 months you set objectives, however you then replicate on these objectives a 12 months later and half of them might not even matter at that time.

Sure, 2020 was a 12 months that nobody anticipated.  I didn’t anticipate my youngsters to nonetheless be doing “digital studying” at dwelling ad infinitum.  I didn’t anticipate half of the world to start out working from dwelling in 2020.

But such is actuality.

However, I need to dive deeper than the plain pandemic that impacted everybody.  This is only one instance of a “Black Swan” occasion that nobody may predict.

These forms of occasions to a smaller diploma occur each single 12 months that change the trajectory of your online business. 

For instance, I had a aim at the start of 2020 to create a brand new software program software.  However, as my enterprise progressed that turned out to be a extremely dangerous thought and I’m glad I didn’t fulfill that aim.

Doing so would have taken my focus away from present initiatives which have tons of potential.

So, I'll merely say that I'm a BIG believer in settings objectives based mostly on the expectations that you just presently have.  However, generally actuality units in, and the most effective plan of action is to desert your unique aim and to pursue one thing fully completely different.

This might come within the type of a greater enterprise alternative, a greater work-life stability alternative, or one thing else fully unexpected.

For instance, I had a aim in 2020 to run my quickest marathon ever and qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I had a aim of three:05 (my earlier finest is three:09:40 run on the finish of 2019).

I used to be in the most effective form of my life and I used to be scheduled to run a marathon on April 4th.  Well, that marathon (together with all others) obtained shut down 2 weeks earlier than it was scheduled to occur.  Many many months of laborious coaching had been for not.

What on this planet simply occurred?!

Here’s an image taken a pair weeks earlier than I knew my marathon was going to be canceled. I had simply gone working on a comparatively cloud-free day after which out of nowhere, about three miles into my run it began pouring rain after which hailing.  

I simply took the image to kinda say, “What on this planet occurred!?”

Sometimes issues look nice, then it begins hailing on you and you're three miles from dwelling with no cellphone, and the one method house is on a dust path.  We’ve all been there, proper? 🙂

Personal Happenings in 2020

Overall, 2020 was truly a incredible 12 months each personally and professionally.  I needed to replicate a bit on the constructive and maybe get a bit extra private than I've in a very long time.

My spouse goes to hate that I’m sharing footage of her and our children.  But she by no means reads this weblog, so she is going to by no means know! (<—- True assertion, by the best way).

As I began to take a look at a couple of images, I believed I’d share a couple of highlights.

In January of 2020 my household made a visit to Arizona to go to my mother and father.  My son and I, together with a few my brothers and their youngsters, hiked to the highest of Flat Iron (Superstition Mountains). Yes, my son is taller than me.
My son and I on the prime of Flat Iron in ArizonaI began doing extra Youtube movies and thought I ought to take odd thumbnail footage of myself.  By the tip of the 12 months, I’ve killed off that concept.  But this can be a shot of me a bit extra reflective on what the longer term will convey.  
Looking to the futureWith youngsters being quarantined and unable to go to high school in individual, we determined as a household to attempt to get out every single day and go climbing.  My spouse and I liked it…and somedays our children loved it too.  Below is McBee mountain path.

Here we're close to the highest of Candy Mountain. We ended up discovering tons of native trails that we didn’t learn about.  Some of them we'll go to once more, and a few we will certainly by no means go to once more.

We additionally made a visit to Falls Creek Falls close to Portland, OR

My brother and I took most of our children + an additional nephew on an epic backpacking journey to Swamp Lake close to Mt. Rainier.  Don’t let the identify idiot you, this was a fully attractive wilderness.  This hike pushed our children to their limits as we did roughly 12 miles in lower than 24 hours.

Here’s a couple of extra footage from the epic in a single day backpacking journey to Swamp Lake and Cougar Lake.
Very secluded lake: Cougar Lake
My youngest son graduated from Kindergarten.  Because no huge commencement ceremonies had been allowed, the trainer had small teams of her college students go to her home and stroll throughout her porch one after the other to get their “commencement certificates”.  All the youngsters had been excited.  But not my son…after all.  He all of the sudden obtained chilly ft and didn’t need to stroll throughout that porch.  I got here as much as attempt to save the day to stroll throughout with him.  This image captures that second.  Spoiler alert, he didn’t ever make it throughout the porch.  But they let him graduate anyway :). 
Trying to graduate from KindergartenI voted.  And carved pumpkins on the identical night time.

I ate a dozen donuts in a day.  This is one thing I’ve executed every year for a number of years.  The “dozen donut problem” is tough to elucidate the origins and why I nonetheless do it.  But the concept is to “reset” when you find yourself feeling depressing and off form.  Eat 12 donuts in 12 hours. Hit all-time low. Feel motivated to get in form and by no means really feel like that once more.  (PS – My spouse hates it each time I do it, however at this level, it has kinda grow to be a Spencer factor, so I hold doing it).
Excited for the Dozen Donut Challenge

(I made it simpler on myself this 12 months and went with Krispy Kreme, that are solely about half the scale of a standard donut that I often do).

Finally, my spouse created a Zombie manufacturing of kinds for her mom. (Her mother LOVES zombies).  So, I obtained forged as an harmless bystander that obtained attacked by my zombie youngsters.  I do know, it’s laborious to elucidate and I don’t totally perceive it both.  When your spouse needs you to get attacked by zombies and put on a wig you do it!!
My youngsters are zombies!

Overall, 2020 was fairly epic on a private degree with my household.  We explored a ton of recent locations and even managed a few different holidays that I didn’t point out right here.

Family is all the time my number one precedence and enterprise is additional down the listing. 

But since this can be a enterprise weblog, I’ll transfer on from this transient private replace.  Thanks for indulging me by studying to date.

Books Read in 2020

I take pleasure in studying and was capable of make it by way of a number of books.  I did a poor job of documenting all of the books I learn, however right here’s a possible incomplete listing of the books I learn in 2020.  I’ve merely bolded those that I loved essentially the most.

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company – Bob Iger
Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors – Wade Nicholas
Sam Walton: Made In America – Sam Walton
The Boys within the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold on the 1936 Berlin Olympics – Daniel James Brown (Got bored and didn’t end)
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus – Charles Mann
Lake of the Ozarks: My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America – Bill Geist (Got bored and didn’t end studying)
The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire (Got bored didn’t end studying)
Call Me Ted – Ted Turner
The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel – Heather Morris
Tiny Hot Dogs: A Memoir in Small Bites – Mary Giuliani
A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution – Jennifer Doudna
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business – Gino Wickman
Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control – Stuart Russel
Life Being Human within the Age of Artificial Intelligence – Max Tegmark

Here’s a couple of books I’ve already bought which can be on my “To-read” listing:

The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry – Bryan Sykes (I’m presently studying this and having fun with it).
Friday Night Lights, 25th Anniversary Edition: A Town, a Team, and a Dream – HG Bissinger (I completed a part of this already, however will choose it again up quickly).
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined – Steven Pinker
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created – Charles Mann
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – David Grann

I’m pretty sure I learn a pair extra final 12 months, however that is most of them.  If you've good guide suggestions, let me know!

Business Portfolio Overview

One of the themes that I began to use on the finish of 2020 and hope to use much more in 2021 is to scale down to be able to scale up.

What I imply by that is that I have to scale down the variety of initiatives I’m engaged on to be able to have the time and focus essential to scale up the most important initiatives with essentially the most potential.

So, as I share my general portfolio, I’ll additionally merely share whether or not it’s a venture I’m planning to exit in 2021 or a venture I plan to scale up. I plan to proceed specializing in and rising this enterprise. After launching in mid-2019, this enterprise has grown a lot larger than I initially anticipated.  I nonetheless see TONS of development potential, so I plan to maintain focusing right here. I simply printed an annual evaluation right here.  I plan to place little or no of my very own time right here.  I may positively see myself promoting this web site within the subsequent 12 months, however who is aware of.
Other area of interest websites.  I've a couple of different area of interest websites that I’m nonetheless engaged on.  I’d actually prefer to promote all of those websites in 2021 to be able to unencumber “thoughts” house and just a little little bit of time. The SaaS enterprise is one which underperformed based mostly on my expectations. I’d prefer to promote this enterprise within the subsequent 12 months.  Contact me if concerned about shopping for. – This is a enterprise the place I'm a minority associate.  I put little or no of my very own time into the enterprise.  I plan to stay round as a result of I imagine there's development potential and its solely a really minor time dedication. – I’m additionally a really minority associate right here.  I don’t put any actual time into this enterprise both.  We will see what occurs with this one over the following 12 months.

As you'll be able to see, I've 7 whole companies that get a few of my time, even when it’s a little or no period of time.

I’d like to solely have 2 companies to deal with, however I’m undecided I can scale down that far in 2021.

In addition to maybe promoting a few of my websites or exiting different companies, I've a aim set in stone that I'll NOT begin any NEW web sites or companies in 2021.

I need to scale up what I have already got.

The 2 companies that I shall be specializing in for 2021 is and  And the good half is that each of those companies are very interconnected.  So, my time spent on both one is admittedly spent serving to each.

Link Whisper Progress

When I initially created Link Whisper, I used to be planning to create three or four completely different little WordPress plugins that may add as much as a pleasant little software program portfolio.

However, once I launched Link Whisper nearly 18 months in the past, the demand was MUCH bigger than I anticipated.  I gained’t go into the numbers that I used to be anticipating; nevertheless, I’ll simply say this was one other time the place expectations didn't meet actuality…in a great way.

As a results of what I’ve seen over the past 18 months of working the enterprise, I plan to focus closely on rising the Link Whisper enterprise and gained’t be pursuing another software program instruments right now.

I actually by no means thought I might have one other software as profitable as Long Tail Pro (which I exited 5 years in the past).  Link Whisper remains to be not as huge as Long Tail Pro, however once I evaluate the trajectory of Link Whisper to Long Tail Pro after the primary 18 months, Link Whisper is certainly forward.

Product Hunt

In May of this 12 months, I used to be capable of do a promotion on Product Hunt.  Link Whisper ended up being the #1 product of the day and obtained listed within the Product Hunt e-mail.

This led to some good publicity and fairly a couple of gross sales.

New Features

During the 12 months, we launched so many new options that I gained’t listing all of them.  I now have a devoted full-time developer engaged on the venture, so we're making a lot of updates on a regular basis.

Recently we launched:

Ability so as to add your individual goal key phrases to get higher hyperlink ideas.  This consists of integrating with Yoast website positioning or Rank Math to drag in any goal key phrases you’ve already added.
Ability to attach with Google Search Console.  This means that you can see the goal key phrases you're already rating for, so Link Whisper can counsel higher inner hyperlinks.  Google Search Console additionally offers search information that's available so that you can view straight within the plugin.
Supported extra languages and extra themes/wordpress editors.
Added extra filters, search features, and extra to make it quicker and simpler to seek out and add inner hyperlinks based mostly in your private standards.

Coming quickly, we shall be including the flexibility to interlink a number of websites that you just personal.  If you personal each web site A and B, you'll quickly be capable to see hyperlink ideas between these websites in case you so select.

Link Whisper Performance

I’m just a little hesitant to share the precise income of Link Whisper.  However, here's a graph under of the month-to-month income for the reason that product was launched 18 months in the past.  

I do know the graph doesn’t give a ton of knowledge.  However, once I evaluate the identical month of 2019 vs. 2020, it’s fairly straightforward to see the superior development.  Most of the spikes that you just see are once I did some form of promotion.

For instance, the large spike in July 2019 is once I launched the software to my e-mail listing.  Then Nov. and Dec. of each years are Black Friday and Cyber Monday spikes.  And May 2020 was my Product Hunt launch.

I’m excited to see the place this enterprise goes.

Niche Pursuits Progress and Vision

I plan to place a whole lot of my time into rising Niche Pursuits each as a neighborhood and as an earnings stream.

I’ll be trustworthy that 2020 was a VERY tough 12 months for site visitors to Niche Pursuits.  The web site obtained hit laborious with the May Google replace.  Niche Pursuits has prevented each single different replace Google has ever thrown out since 2010.

I’ve by no means executed any “hyperlink constructing”, so I’ve by no means fearful about unfavourable impacts from Google.  However, for no matter motive, Google determined to put down the hammer.

Here’s what the carnage appeared like:

That’s not the type of graph you need to see.  Early within the 12 months I had misplaced the rankings of a few my huge key phrases, however this solely impacted a few articles. 

However, in May the drop was actually throughout your entire web site after the core replace.

I want I may say I knew the rationale my web site obtained hit with the replace, however I don’t know for positive.  However, in the course of the second half of the 12 months, I spent a whole lot of time auditing and cleansing up Niche Pursuits in hopes that Google would as soon as once more smile on my web site.

The work seems to have paid off when the December core replace got here out.

Here’s the remainder of what 2020 appeared like in Google Search Console (and starting of 2021):

As you'll be able to see with the purple line I added, my Organic site visitors is VERY near getting proper again to the place it was earlier than the May replace.  And the pattern that I’m seeing with elevated site visitors proper now leads me to imagine that in one other month or two I may positively exceed the place I as soon as was at the start of 2020.

Here’s a couple of issues I did that I imagine helped me “get well” from the Google core replace in May.  (I additionally deep down imagine that Google made a mistake penalizing my web site, and possibly they had been simply “fixing” that mistake in December):

I've TONS of outdated, private, or in any other case non-keyword centered content material that was getting no site visitors.  I eliminated roughly 250 articles that had been mainly by no means concentrating on a key phrase or had been in any other case not price repurposing.  This took many many hours of my very own time.
I’ve spent a whole lot of time optimizing the interior hyperlinks with Link Whisper.  In many circumstances this concerned truly eradicating hyperlinks.  For instance, I might need anchor textual content of “Amazon Affiliate Website” resulting in article A after which the identical anchor textual content “Amazon affiliate web site” resulting in article B in one other location.  I imagine this actually confuses Google and each article A and B find yourself performing poorly.  Fortunately, Link Whisper made it a lot quicker and simpler to audit and replace all my inner hyperlinks.
I did an entire technical Audit utilizing each Google Search Console and Ahrefs to repair errors on my web site.  This was additionally a time-consuming venture.
I’ve additionally been updating my top-performing content material and utilizing Market Muse to do these updates.  I’ve seen will increase in rank and site visitors in virtually each single one of many articles that I replace.  This is an ongoing activity that can possible go all all through 2021 and maybe perpetually.  I presently have 2 authors helping with these updates.

Niche Pursuits Traffic and Monetization

When I have a look at the overall site visitors (not simply search site visitors) for Niche Pursuits Year Over Year, I can see that site visitors was solely down 10.66%.  Now, I hate a decline of any variety, however with all that went on with the May core replace, and so forth, I’ll dwell with it.

However, regardless of a 10% decline in site visitors to Niche Pursuits, the precise earnings INCREASED by 97.85%. That’s proper I virtually doubled the earnings of Niche Pursuits in 2020 in comparison with 2019.

How did I practically double the earnings with declining site visitors?

Well, a part of it was positively optimizing posts for monetization.  Some articles weren't monetized very effectively prior to now and so I fastened that. 
Another half was that I had began producing extra “cash” kind articles in 2019 that began performing higher in early 2020. 
Perhaps the biggest contribution to elevated income in 2020 was because of using my e-mail listing higher. I developed a greater system for writing content material, discovering provides, and monetizing my e-mail listing.

When you've an e-mail listing that you just’ve constructed over 10 years that you just haven’t totally monetized, there's a whole lot of “meat” on the bone so to talk.

Now, I've been very cautious about making an attempt to not simply ship out provide after provide with none actual content material.  I now have gotten right into a rhythm of making an attempt to offer three or four tales, articles, interviews, or different nice items of content material in my emails.  Then I've one “By the best way, this service is x% off right this moment” kind of provide.  

As a end result, the suggestions I’ve gotten is that individuals are nonetheless excited to open my emails and skim as a result of they get these motivational or strategic tales that I share or the entrepreneurial interviews that I do.  And they don’t thoughts seeing a small paragraph which may point out a particular provide that I make an affiliate fee on.

Now, if all I used to be doing was making the particular provides 100% of my emails, this could backfire fairly rapidly. 

You must hold sending nice content material that your e-mail subscribers need to learn after which they don’t thoughts a brief “industrial break” midway by way of.

This course of has been working so effectively that I’ve employed a full-time COO to assist me develop the enterprise aspect of Niche Pursuits.  Eric Burns began in late September and has been an amazing addition to my staff.

Niche Pursuits Income

I gained’t be sharing the precise income numbers, as I’d prefer to proceed to maintain that non-public, however is an effective enterprise.

As you'll be able to see from the graph above, the earnings has been steadily growing over the past couple of years.

I observe the “passive earnings” and the “lively earnings” on the location.  The passive earnings is solely the articles which can be rating in Google and make gross sales with out my involvement.  Basically, every part taking place straight on

The different earnings is issues that occur off Niche Pursuits, like e-mail promotions or different one-time funds that I'd get, like podcast sponsorships, and so forth.

As you'll be able to see, 2 years in the past, I mainly had no sponsorships or “lively” earnings taking place with my e-mail listing, and so forth (at the very least not very incessantly).  Now you'll be able to see that this has grow to be a much bigger a part of my enterprise and I imagine there's tons of development potential right here.

I’m placing increasingly effort into rising my e-mail listing and I virtually deal with my e-mail listing like its personal enterprise separate from the passive earnings that's taking place on  They positively feed off one another, however they have to be operated in another way.

Link Whisper vs.

Again, I’ve edited out the precise earnings numbers, however I believed it might be attention-grabbing to check the month over month income of Niche Pursuits vs. Link Whisper.

As you'll be able to see my 18 month outdated enterprise of Link Whisper is already performing on the identical degree of my 10-year-old enterprise,

Link Whisper truly edged out Niche Pursuits general for your entire 12 months for income.  However, the bills are positively increased for Link Whisper with a full-time developer, paid advert campaigns, and assist employees.

(It’s nonetheless very worthwhile although).

Goals for 2021

Overall, I’m pleased with the efficiency of each companies throughout 2020, however I've objectives to make them even higher.

I all the time set objectives in each my private and enterprise life. Here’s my enterprise objectives for 2021:

Update and Optimize 125 posts on
Grow Niche Pursuits site visitors to 10,000 classes a day (300,000 classes a month)
Write 1500 phrases per weekday (5 instances per week)
Grow Niche Pursuits income by 50%
Grow Link Whisper income by 50%
Read 2 books per 30 days
Don’t begin any new enterprise ventures in 2021

I gained’t bore you with all the non-public and household objectives that I've for the 12 months, however simply know that I've these as effectively.

I’m off to an amazing begin with my writing 1500 phrases a day aim!  I believe having this devoted “deep work” time goes to hone my expertise as a blogger and I’m discovering it fairly fulfilling.  Here’s a fast have a look at my day by day aim tracker for writing (home-made spreadsheet):

Overall, I hope you’ve gotten some worth out of studying my 2020 12 months in evaluation publish.  I imagine that 2021 goes to be a incredible 12 months for on-line entrepreneurs basically and I sit up for sharing my progress alongside the best way.

If you’d like to remain knowledgeable with what I’m as much as, what’s taking place on Niche Pursuits, and another enterprise methods that I've to share, I like to recommend that you just be part of my e-mail publication proper right here.

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