January 5, 2019

IsItKeto Month 4: My First Dollar of Revenue

Is It Keto is a website that gives simple, straightforward answers about whether a particular food is keto.

I started the site after noticing how frequently people post on keto social media groups asking whether a particular food is compatible with the keto diet. When you google "is [food] keto?" most of the results are long-winded blog posts that never answer the question clearly. Or you find heated discussion posts with conflicting information.

Previous Updates

Note: I'm saying "Month 4" because it's the fourth month that I focused on the site. It's been live for 12 months, but I shelved it for most of that time to focus on other projects.


December marked my first dollar of revenue for KetoHub! I clocked in at a cool $1.20 from Amazon Affiliate links.


Whenever a product is keto, I include affiliate links if Amazon carries it (e.g. "dark chocolate is keto, here are some keto-friendly chocolate bars on Amazon").

I added my first affiliate link on Nov. 31st, so December was my first month monetizing it. $1.20 is obviously very small, but I hope that as I drive more traffic and add more content, that number will grow.


Traffic increased in December to a record high of 1,100 unique visitors (a 40% increase over November).

Google Analytics for December: https://imgur.com/NnonCBt

Unique Visitors for 2018: https://imgur.com/gU7Fagp

Hiring Content Writers

December was the first month I tried outsourcing the writing. It was harder than I expected. People are always talking about how there are so many talented freelance writers, hungry to work. It turns out those masses of writers are hungry to work because they're... bad at writing.

Most employers on Upwork seem to be hiring freelancers who can write English just well enough to trick SEO bots. It's technically English, but it's not anything a literate human would enjoy reading.

Here was my experience:

  • Upwork post: 28 applications, hired 4 on a trial basis, let 3 of them go, 1 is still under evaluation.

  • Blog post: 5 applications, hired 0.

Of the four writers I hired, here were the results:

  • Writer A: Produced 0 articles for $50 ($10/hr) - this was a scam, got a refund

  • Writer B: Produced 3 articles for $117 ($35/hr) - let go: writing quality was too low

  • Writer C: Produced 5 articles for $250 ($40/hr) - let go: writing quality was low, kept making the same mistakes

  • Writer D: Produced 3 articles for $120 ($65/hr) - still evaluating

Costs are much higher than I expected, but ramping people up is the costliest part. Much of the costs are from revisions on the work and time they're spending to understand what I want. I'm hoping to eventually get costs to <$10 per article, on average.

My biggest mistake was that I hired people with the expectation that they could write at higher quality than their writing submissions. I made excuses like, "Oh, I bet this article they wrote before feels sloppy and rushed because their client didn't value quality." After I hired them and told them I'd give them more time for quality, they weren't able to improve.

I'm still looking for writers. I'm going to try /r/HireaWriter. If I don't find anyone I like by February, I live near several well-regarded liberal arts schools, so I might put up flyers around the campuses.

SEO Progress

In my last update, I talked about how I was unexpectedly getting traffic from search engines. That traffic didn't change much, but Google is now indexing more of my pages:

  • 2018-12:01: 3 valid, 50 excluded

  • 2018-12-31: 14 valid, 58 excluded


My impressions and clicks from SEO trended upwards in December, but the change is small enough that it may be just normal variance.


According to Moz, my domain authority crept up from a 7 to a 9 in December. Full stats: https://imgur.com/EbDLOHL

Searching for New Customer Channels

I spent some time looking for new user channels. My ideal sources are social media groups where members are allowed to ask basic questions about keto.

Discord didn't work well. After joining three different keto Discord channels, I wasn't able to find anyone asking whether or not a food is keto. The pace is just too fast. People probably do ask those questions on occasion, but there are too many people ready to give instant answers. I'd have to sit in chat rooms 24/7 to catch the questions in time.

Twitter has potential, but it requires automation. I feel like I should be able to write a Twitter bot that looks for tweets of the form "Is [food] keto?" but I'm not totally sure that's possible. And even if it is, it's unclear if it's worth the investment at this point.

What Got Done?

  • Wrote a style guide to instruct writers how to write for me (side benefit: forced me to formalize my own process)

  • Added support in the backend for Markdown, so now it's easy for me to cross-link between pages

  • Added tools for me to add food images through an admin interface (was previously doing a lot of manual work)

Lessons Learned

  • It's hard to find good content writers.

  • Detailed instructions + style guides are tremendously valuable for hiring content writers. Prevents duplication of effort in explaining the same thing to multiple people.

  • Don't hire content writers expecting them to outperform their writing samples.

Goals for January

  • Hire a reliable content writer

  • Double food database (to 150 foods)

  • Achieve $50 in revenue

  1. 1

    Hi Michael, awesome job so far on your site. I've been following you since you wrote the article about leaving Google. Anyway, I've taken the plunge myself in Indie Hacking, and while I build up my own project, I'm looking to take on additional work including writing. Are you still looking for content writers?

    1. 1

      Yep, I am. Shoot me an email. I'm michael@mtlynch.io.