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Year 2007 Stats and Year 2008 Goals

2007 was my first full year running Bingo Card Creator, and I had impressive growth over last year (about a factor of four on both profits and sales, looking at my last tax return).  I hit my major goal for the year, $10,000 in sales, and see bright things in my future.

 Obligatory disclaimer: Don’t audit these numbers too seriously.  I haven’t given them the full once-over to make sure nothing is double-counted, etc.  (Although I do expect my Schedule C to resemble the following to a major degree.)

Sales: 406, including 116 CDs

Gross Income: $10,375 + ~$200 in various currencies = ~$10,500

Expenses:  $4,280

AdWords: $1,724

Freelancers for Daily Bingo Cards: $570

Hosting & Domains: $600  (Largely because I prepaid about a year at Slicehost, and use one server more than necessary there for putzing about with.  Cheap at twice the price and service is fantastic.)

SwiftCD: $550

The rest: CrazyEgg, e-junkie (best $55 spent for the second year in a row — they gave me a month free to apologize for some issues one week), one-time software purchases, and the like.  I don’t count Internet connection, laptop, or anything as I would be purchasing it anyhow.

Profit: ~$6,200

Rough estimate of wage per hour worked: ~$60  (beats my day job — substantially)

OK, enough about the money.  How about the website stats:

Bingo Card Creator

Visits : 140,488

Unique Visitors: 123,167

Page Views: 311,184

(Both of the following are from Google Analytics, which typically only counts about 60% of my sales conversions, so don’t trust them as gospel.)

Trial Downloads: 17,831

Confirmed Downloads: 5,846

 Daily Bingo Cards (keep in mind, only open 3 months):

Visits: 6,828

Unique Visitors: 6,022

Pageviews: 17,326

Bingo Card Files Downloaded (a precise count – yay Rails): 2,859

Big Wins for this year:

1)  Continuous improvement at very boring things, like web page design and on-page SEO.

2)  Continuing to provide great customer service

3)  Launching Daily Bingo Cards.  I think it will double my sales, eventually.

4)  Conversion Optimizer, which has made my AdWords campaigns much more effective than my manual tweaking ever did, while decreasing greatly the time I spent fooling with them when I could be doing stuff that mattered.  I was so successful with this that Google decided to write me up.  More on that later.

5)  Blogging.  At least when I manage to do it.  Besides the fact that it opens up great opportunities for me, like the above Google case study and (at last count) eight job offers, it is one of the reasons I’m able to collect legitimate links in a field where most of the customers do not possess the web savvy to link by themselves.

Goals for 2008:

$20,000 in sales (might have to revise that to $25,000 later — I want it to be a challenge)

Seeing Daily Bingo Cards be as successful as I know it can be

Releasing a new product

Restructuring my net-presence so that there is a dedicated Bingo Card Creator blog, at least

Because You Can't Quite Get Enough Transparency…

I really wanted to post how Daily Bingo Cards was doing statswise today, but probably will not have the time.  (The short version: the snowflake queries are loving me and owning a top 10 spot on every possible variation of “thanksgiving bingo cards” is worth 1.5X owning the 11th spot on [thanksgiving bingo cards] itself.  Don’t ask me how you can rank for a phrase that competitive in less than 2 months of work.)  While I know the analysis is the really interesting bit, for the stats geeks in the audience I decided to make my website stats public in real time.  Enter a Rails plugin named Sitealizer, about five minutes of work, and powie, stats for anyone.

Want to take a gander?  Daily Bingo Cards stats.  At the moment it should be showing search queries, referrers, and the like for about the last 24 hours.  You’ll note that it is hardly as tricked out as Google Analytics (one nice feature Analytics lacks: it tells you what crawlers are hitting your site and at what rates), but it is good enough to keep me more or less honest when discussing traffic numbers.

September 2007 Stats, Or, You Make $1k a Month on WHAT!?

Capsule: I made it past the $1,000 mark in sales, finally.  Net profit was significantly below that due to heavy experimentation with AdWords.  It should hopefully be healthier this month.

Income:

Sales: 41 (1 refund due to customer error, 12 CDs)

Gross Income: $983 + $25 in Canadian + 26 pounds = ~ $1,061

Income Net Paypal: ~$1,039 

Expenses:

GoDaddy: $7

CrazyEgg: $9

e-junkie: $5

SwiftCD: $71

AdCenter: $18

AdWords: $325  (Yowch!)

Total Expenses: $435

Total Profit: $604

Commentary: Yes, as you can see I lost an awful lot of money figuring out what worked and what didn’t with AdWords.  Not all of that is “lost” so much as it is temporarily negative cashflow — there are literally thousands of my trial versions now installed as a result of that expenditure, and some portion of them are going to convert in the future.  I learned a few lessons: #1 you have to watch the content network like a hawk but #2 if you do, especially using their new Conversion Optimizer, it can be amazing.  (I am paying something like 24 cents a free trial now for the last week.  That implies a cost of less than $12 per additional $24 profit sale.  Do a little dance, make a lot of money, get down tonight.)

It seems like it has been a while since I posted updated Analytics stats, so here we go.  Note that the free trials is slightly borked at the moment (it conflicts with Website Optimizer, for some reason — was someone not paying attention to their own product line at Google?):

Visits: 16,000

Trial Downloads: 2,000 + download sites (conversion is about 12.5%, lower than the 20% I was getting last year due to both large numbers of uninterested prospects from the Google search “bingo cards” and also because I am much stricter in counting “conversions” now)

Known Good Trial Installs: 615 (6.5% of them bought, although this is slightly skewed by the fact that the easiest route for buying will automatically flag their trial as a known good install)

Biggest Source of Traffic: The Big G, with 46% of my traffic

Head of the Line or Long Tail?: Long Tail!   Google keywords averaged three hits apiece.  The top 10 keywords counted for only 40% of the total and it falls very, very rapidly from there.

What are the top few?  Same as usual.  Bingo cards, dolch sight word list (#2, first time ever I think), printable bingo cards, bingo card maker, bingo card creator. 

How is the blog doing?  That Free Bingo Card post gets about 1.5k hits a month now, translating into 500 clickthroughs to my site, and about 50 trials or ~ $35 a month in revenue.  ($50 this month, actually.)  Not bad for one single post, and I will finally get off my duff and launch the Bingo Card Creator blog this weekend.

Biggest Vexation?  Google only finds about 60% of my sales, and I remain clueless as to what percentage of AdWords referrals actually go on to buy.  I have a good lower bound for it (which makes my campaign borderline unprofitable) but have no clue what the actual number is — could be double, could be better.  Anecdotally, I definately see the sales numbers go up when I increase AdWords spending, but I’m not sure if the increase is .9x or 1.5x since the data is too darn noisy and limited to boot. 

Best Single Day Ever, Plus August 2007 Stats

Hideho everybody.  I made some changes to my AdWords campaign right before leaving America, and lo-and-behold they increased the amount of clicks I was getting from about 10 a day to 60 a day, which contributed to me having my highest legitimate hits day ever (>500 visits, ~100 trial downloads).  Some of that is probably due to the end of August being the start of the term, but after looking at the numbers it appears to be mostly AdWords.  (100 trial downloads implies 2.5 sales implies about $70 in revenue, and believe me, if I could sustain that I would be sitting pretty.)

Anyhow, lets talk August numbers:

Sales: 33 (2 refunds, 9 CDs)

Income net of refunds: $813.45

Expenses:

Godaddy: $7

e-junkie: $5

CrazyEgg: $9

AdWords: $60.17

AdCenter: $11.28

SwiftCD: ~$65 (waiting on invoice)

Net Expenses: $157

Profit: $656

Lets see, what is of note this month:

#1 — Someone had shipping issues with their CD, and was a little miffed after it didn’t arrive, figuring it was my fault.  It wasn’t, of course (I trust the SwiftCD sent it when their records says it did, which leaves it about 50-50 that it was customer error or the USPS up to its usual tricks), but of course I didn’t tell them that.  What I did tell them was that I would UPS one out immediately (cost to me: probably close to $15), and I would have overnighted it if they had been any more upset.  Yeah, that eats most of the profit from the sale, but they’re now very pleased with my responsiveness rather than thinking I’m a shiftless shipment-forgetting Internet conman.

#2 — I also sent someone a free CD rather than taking their school’s purchase order (PO).  For those of you who have not sold to institutions, a PO is essentially a “Send us this stuff and then we’ll send you the exact amount of money on this document” transactional instrument.  Dealing with them is a pain in the hindquarters — Quill had a whole DEPARTMENT of people whose only job it was to read school POs over the summer (one of them being me), and then there is another department for collecting payments on the ones that have been satisfied.  I have only ever had one customer want to pay with one, and rather than spending hours of my life getting that mailed to me, then dealing with the school’s payment clerks to actually get my $29.95, I just sent them a free CD with my compliments.  Now I’ve got a team full of teachers who love me and are hopefully plugging my software to parents, friends, and colleagues… who pay with credit cards, like normal people.  :)

(P.S. If you’re in the position where you NEED to take POs, signing up with eSellerate or one of the other major shareware processors will work for you.  Its one of the only times they earn their keep.  However, since getting POs is as much a hassle for them as it is for you, be prepared to pay through the nose for it.  eSellerate charged, if I recall correctly, $20 a month just to flag your account for accepting POs!  I am skeptical that you can make the numbers work out very well on a $25 item.  If you’ve got a $X00 item, though, get it done.)

June 2007 Stats

Capsule Review: Easily my best month ever, and its summer vacation.  I’m really looking forward to the start of the term in August.

Sales: 36 (1 refund, customer was unhappy with font sizing)

Gross Income (less refund): 918.25

Expenses:

SwiftCD $54

AdWords $49.27

GoDaddy $7

e-junkie $5

AdCenter $19.59

CrazyEgg $9

Paypal: $18.04

Total Expenses: $161.90

Net Profit: $756.35

Selected Web Stats:

Visitors: 8,400

Visits: 9,200

Free Trials Downloaded: 1,017 from my site, several hundred from other sites.

Known-good Free Trial Installs (clicked a tagged link from within program): 354

Trial to Purchase Conversion: ~2.5%

Visits to my Purchasing Page: 402

Percent of folks who purchased after reaching purchasing page: 9%

Biggest Coup This Month: Snowflake queries.  I rewrote one page of mine, which had previously been very underused, to snap up more of them.  Handily, that rewrite was completed on May 30th.  During June, that page saw 5,600 page views (or about 27% of my total).  During May, that was 2,700 page views, or 12% of my total.  The “extra” 3,000 page views were a major part of the reason that, despite the fact traffic on my major teacher-related search terms declined since teachers are out of school, my overall traffic stayed mostly flat while my sales increased markedly.  I can’t wait to get some time to write some more content and catch myself some more snowflakes. 

Stats in Pretty Pictures

Images may be truncated by WordPress.  Feel free to click them to see the whole thing.

I had been planning to post these on my first year anniversary but somebody asked for them early so here they are.  Same disclaimers as normally: these were prepared for a blog post, not the IRS, and I did not exactly go to the extra mile to ensure their accuracy.  (They understate my July to December expenses as reported to the IRS by about $80, which I think is an artifact of cash accounting for the IRS and accrual accounting for the blog posts I grabbed most of this info from.  For example, when I pay for 12 months of service in advance to the IRS that all gets expensed in that tax year but in my blog posts I break it out on a per-month basis.) 

Keep in mind that the Google tracking, despite being mechanized, still depends on me not borking the tracking code, which I used to do on a semi-regular basis.  That is the main reason I’m not showing conversions on the graphs here. 

Actual totals:

Sales: $6,333

Expenses: $1,720

Profits: $4,613

Visits: 63,429

OK, pretty picture time:

 Bingo Card Creator Year One Profits

 Visitors:

Visitor timeline for Bingo Card Creator

Both Slashdot and the Joel on Software mentions were of my blog, not of my product site, but they resulted in a few clickthroughs to the main site.  (Incidentally: the blog gets about twice as many hits as the product site.)  You’ll note that the dog that didn’t bark is “Why is Patrick not seeing a trough of visitors (and sales!) now that school is out for summer, much like he saw troughs at Christmas, Easter, and every single US public holiday?”  Thats a good question, and I’m mulling some potential answers, but we’ll know more about them in about 2 weeks.

Notes on December: I don’t have a blog post for stats in December so I guesstimated my expenses by hand with a cursory glance at my credit card statement and Paypal account.  The sales stats are accurate — thanks, e-junkie.  Again, you’re not the IRS, so please don’t audit me.  It is in the right ballpark if I take the number claimed on my schedule C and subtract out the months I do have exact numbers for, remembering that my quixotic accounting standard screws up that comparison a bit.

Notes on June: Its the 14th of June as I posted this, and I did the uberscientific “multiply sales and expenses by two” to estimate income for the month.  That was probably overly aggressive for both numbers.  Ask me in two weeks.

May 2007 Stats

Capsule summary: treading water with the end of the school year, but see my next post about how summer is being much better to me than I expected.  (I was expecting sales for June to be barely enough to cover my AdWords campaign.  They are already over half of May’s.  Traffic has gone up.  The explanation is probably going to be of interest to you… but my hands are aching so it won’t be given today.)

Sales: 22 (with 10 CDs — note that that e-junkie cart change made ALL the difference!)

Gross sales: ~$600

Expenses:

Paypal: ~$10

GoDaddy: $7

e-junkie: $0 (usually $5, but they tossed me the month free when a system glitch caused me to have to manually process 3 orders.) 

AdWords: $52

AdCenter: $11

CrazyEgg: $9

SwiftCD: $49

Total Expenses: $138

Total Profit: ~$452

 I’ll talk traffic trends next time.

May 2007 Mid-Month Stats

Capsule summary: Sales have been nicely juiced by my crusade against usability bugs these last two weeks.  In particular, higher CD sales will likely lead to higher absolute sales numbers and slightly lower profits since I subsidize every one by about fifty cents relative to downloads.

 Through the 15th:

Sales: 10 downloads, 5 CDs (1 download refunded when they decided they wanted a CD instead)

Gross Sales: 399.25 USD

Expenses:

GoDaddy: $7

e-junkie: $5

CrazyEgg: $9

AdWords: ~$50 through end of month

AdCenter: ~$10 through end of month

CDs: ~$27 so far

Paypal: ~$7.15

Expenses: ~$88

Profit: ~$312

Visitor stats and all that jazz: they’re borked due to my website redesign, since I changed exactly how conversions are being counted. 

AdWords: twenty-two cents a trial download these days.  Twenty.  Two.  Cents.   (My ideal price target was 30 cents.)  I’m trying to tweak the campaign to increase number of clicks now because at $.22 it costs me about $7.30 to buy a $24.95 sale.  As you might expect, I’m happy to do that all day long.

April Stats

(Images in this post may be truncated by Wordpress.  Click to see in a new window.) 

Oh, yeah, April happened.  The capsule summary: week-long holidays like Easter hurt like crazy — I had exactly one sale during Holy Week.  We’re also fast approaching the end of the school year and I can feel orders slowing down quite a bit from their usual clip in May, so I wouldn’t expect awesome times ahead.  On the plus side, I’m guaranteed to continue covering costs and will probably eek out enough profits to continue bankrolling Kalzumeus.

Sales: 26 (no refunds, 4 CDs — memo to self, find out why those aren’t selling well anymore)

Gross Income: $668.70

Expenses:

GoDaddy: $7

E-junkie: $5

CrazyEgg: $9  (technically only a sliver of that is in April but, eh, who’s counting)

Paypal: $12.50

SwiftCD: $30.56

AdWords: $61.01 

Total Expenses: $125

Total Profit: $544

Traffic-wise, things were all over the map.  My numbers on Holy Week declined almost as low as they did during the Christmas vacation.  I’ve been trying a few things with AdWords (you might notice from the higher expenditures), some of which worked and some of which did not.  (Advertising directly on a competing site did not.  Constant improvement on the main campaign did.  Content network did, to my surprise.)

Rather than spending time copying numbers by hand from Analytics I’m going to be lazy and just paste what it shows me for the month.  For those of you unfamiliar with the interface: G1, G2, and G3 refer to configurable goals and the percentage of visitors from a particular source who complete them.  In my case, G1 is purchasing something from me (note this understates my actual number of customers by 50%, due to some issues people seem to be having with reaching the page that tracks this), G2 is downloading my trial, and G3 is confirming the installation of the trial (by requesting an update for it). 

Conversion Rates by Source for Bingo Card Creator

I generally make most of my decisions based on the G2 column (i.e. free trials downloaded).  The reason for this is subtle: if a person comes to my site, downloads the trial, closes out of their browser, then runs the trial, and later conversions (such as a purchase or check for updates) typically get filed under “direct”.  They typically use the link in the application to arrive at my site, and from Analytic’s limited view of the world thats the same as typing www.bingocardcreator.com “direct”ly into your browser.

As you can see, my most promising prospects are the ones I get from AdWords.  Organic traffic from Google is the largest segment of my traffic, accounting for about half of it, but their conversion rates are pretty poor.  That is unsuprising if you look at what people are searching for when they get to me — typically I perform fairly poorly in terms of conversion rates on the high traffic queries like “bingo cards” and very well on long tail queries like, well, why don’t I show you some:

Popular Organic Search Terms for Bingo Card Creator

In a very Long Tail-esque moment, I get about 30% of my Google hits and trial downloads from the top 10 search terms.  Its 3:30 AM so I won’t do too much math on what the breakdown is for midlist search terms versus the Long Tail shown above, but my naiive guesstimate is that probably one third of my downloaders are from the top 10 search terms, one third are from less common but still fairly popular search terms, and one third are looking for a phrase that only exists for them.  I could show you pages and pages and pages that look like the above image.

Busiest Day For Customer Support Ever

I had not one but two issues that couldn’t be taken care of in a five minute email.  Oh no! 

a)  One customer still hadn’t received her Registration Key despite getting the automated email, emailing me about this yesterday, and getting a handwritten email from me yesterday.  Luckily, her signature included her voicemail number, so I left the voicemail.  Ahh, shades of my old job. 

b)  One customer hadn’t received their CD yet.  A quick check in SwiftCD showed that it was sent on March 29th.  Ahem, “oops”.  I mailed them to confirm their address (customer error in the input field is the #1 cause of non-delivery, by far, so any time you get a report of non-delivery you should suggest in a non-confrontational way “Could you just confirm your address for me so I can send this out?”) and will be FedExing them a new copy as soon as I receive it.  (Yes, at my expense.  Yes, that will eat up most if not all of the profit from this order.  Shipping bloopers fall into rounding errors in the greater scheme of things and you earn so much customer goodwill by addressing them promptly at cost.)

Speaking of which, I realize that I completely flew past my April 15th stats update.  Don’t shoot me, my birthday is April 16th, which after adjusting for timezone issues means that I was karaoke-ing until the break of dawn when I “should have” been telling you that sales for the first half of the month were crushed by Easter.  They’ve since picked up (not up enough to hit my $1,000 target, probably up enough to make a new record), and I’ll tell you the exact stats on the last day of the month.  Or thereabouts.

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