Based on the publication date of the first post published on this website, it’s exactly 3 years since I started with this website.
This last year has been the hardest by far, while at the same time marking a turning point in my career. That’s because I expect the revenue of this endeavor to surpass the one of my other company.
Coming full circle
My partner and co-founder of 12 years decided to quit the company, which makes me the single full-time employee of 2 business ventures.
Although I did mention in an earlier post that I wanted to reach out and see if I can actually hook up with other people for brainstorming and partnerships, it seems that for the first time in my professional career I’m actually all on my own now.
A feeling of deja vu
The similarities between the start up of this company (restoration.bike) and the other one are striking.
- Both took me almost 3 years to get up and running before having a workflow that made money
- Both initial 3-year periods would bring me to the brink of depression, bringing with it a crushing feeling of simply wanting to give up.
- Both times I didn’t and the result was a dramatic reversal of fortune, from bad to good, where I can only imagine what would have been had I indeed decided to give up.
Bowing to the Google God
If the above sounds dramatic, here’s a visual representation that accurately describes my mental state going back and forth between hope and fear.
You’re looking at a snapshot of last year’s traffic to my site, with not one, not two, but three protracted periods of 65 percent drops in traffic.
The first drop actually saw my site going from 1542 organic clicks to 10 in about a week’s time. The other two reduced the traffic to a fraction of what it was in 2 days. My site literally fell off a cliff trafficwise.
Never in my life have I felt such a feeling of being helpless, out of control, and sheer desperation while I was experiencing week after week after week of throttled traffic.
The feeling was exacerbated because the financial implications were huge; there’s a one-on-one relationship between traffic and income. I had no idea what could have caused this. I have no idea what solved it. And an entire community of search experts couldn’t help me as well.
I won’t go into the details of what I did that might have gotten me out of the situation. It’s a lot, and represents months of totally redesigning my content creation workflow and quality. And yes, I did add alt tags to my images.
When things returned to normal, my site would immediately set record after record in terms of traffic, sales, and affiliate income.
An incredible feat I found very hard to celebrate. At one time I misread my analytics data, thinking a fourth de-indexation was on the horizon, immediately causing heart palpitations. I think I was basically having a panic attack.
This experience changed me. Between the pandemic, rising prices, war in Europe, deciding to turn around my career, and the huge effort needed to make that turnaround I had become weary and wary.
I came out of this on top… again. So the notion of putting your nose to the grindstone and working your ass off to get results paid off for me for the umpteenth time in my life. But I also found myself wishing things were easier.
I guess that’s just not life. As Jim Rohn said: “don’t wish things were easier, wish you were better.”
Last year I already focused almost all my attention on the restoration.bike label. This year was the same, and now I no longer have any distractions to contend with.
No clients, no people, no colleagues, no nothing, just me and my online marketing skills. I guess that for now, that’s a great position to be in and I’m planning to do that some more.
So for some raw data
You can see I basically stopped with YouTube. The reason is simple. I make about 20 times as much doing affiliate marketing as I do with YouTube and Adsense.
I also have had a lower output, but that’s because I got side-tracked for about 5 months with the hassle of taking over the company, migrating it to a new server platform and troubleshooting the traffic issues.
The benefits of focussing on copywriting is that of streamlining the workflow, which I have. The obvious downside is the dependency on Google as a single point of failure for marketing.
It’s extremely hard to make money with content creation. You’re selling information and have to be an excellent marketeer (getting eyeballs), and sales person (convincing those eyeballs to do something, in my case buying bicycle products).
It means I can’t “simply” invent another way of making money doing this. Another site, another social media channel. Whatever.
Because of the slim margins and complexity of the subject matter, it’s also nigh impossible to outsource this. I heard in a podcast from the founder of bikerumor.com he pays 25 USD for a single post. That’s ridiculously low.
It’s also simply not something I can do and expect a quality post of a comparison review between complex bike products. At least not if you aren’t happy with crap on your site that doesn’t convert. At least that’s what I believe.
For now I’m comfortable where I’m at. I’ve been through an incredibly rough period and came out of it knowing what I need to do to make money. So you’ll be seeing me for just that for the rest of the year.
For the long-term I want to get rid of my dependance on Google. It has proven too big a risk for my income, and health and everything that comes after those two, like being there for your family and partner. Because in the end, those are most important.
Johan van Seijen
Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His passion for cycling in general, and restoring older bikes turned into a website to share his knowledge with a broader audience. Starting out on his father’s road bike and riding classics as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege he has shifted his attention to trail, XC, and gravel riding since. No matter how much he loves writing about everything related to cycling, nothing beats actually using his ever-expanding bicycle collection.