The Sugarrae / PushFire 2013 Year in Review & What’s Coming Next

2013 was a weird year for me. It was a good year overall – I’m not complaining, LOL. But a lot happened – both personally and professionally for me. If you read me straight up for the wham bam thank you ma’am info, you probably won’t be interested in this post. If you read Sugarrae, in part, to keep up with me as well, then read on.

On a personal level

At the beginning of 2013, I was still getting used to the loss of my son CJ. For 15 years he had been one of the primary driving forces behind everything I did. Suddenly having such a large force in my life removed left me in a state that I can only describe as “what now?”.

It took a while to understand that his passing was merely a new chapter in his being a driving force in my life. He’s still a big part of what drives me – sharing his life, sharing his impact and increasing the success he spurred me into achieving. In 2013, I began speaking about what I’d learned from him to help continue his ripple effect.

This year was the first time I’d ever spoken publicly about CJ (as in speaking on a stage about him) – and I was honored to give that first speech to a group of foster kids who had beat the odds and graduated high school. Having been in the foster care system myself, it was an awesome experience to tell them they were one step ahead of me with those diplomas (I have my GED), that nothing in their lives was predetermined and to hopefully instill in them that where they end up in life is their choice.

This also led to me keynoting Affiliate Summit East on the topic and being interviewed on the Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields (part one | part 2). I am very thankful to know that CJ continues to inspire the world around him despite not being with us anymore.

In June of 2013, my husband and I found out that my youngest son (who had just turned 2 at the time) has Autism. It was definitely unexpected and caused some changes in my life (including some that threw a wrench into some of my plans business wise). But he’s a happy kid, super smart, therapy is going well and he can thank his big brother for teaching me to not dwell on the negatives in that situation and instead focus on what can be done moving forward.

On the continuing road of taking my life back, I’ve continued to make changes – both business and personal – to get me to the core of where I want to be. Patience is not one of my virtues, but I’ve accepted the fact that some changes require a series of small steps that take time to execute (whether I like it or not, LOL). But I’m closer to my end goals now than I’ve ever been and they become closer to reality every day.

Sugarrae

This was a year of consolidation for Sugarrae, Inc. What most probably didn’t notice in 2013 was that my publishing company, MFE Interactive, ceased to exist.

My partner in MFE had long ago (and very successfully) moved out of the Internet world. My passion for the niches MFE was in was gone. My goals had changed, my partner’s goals had changed. We’d both been more than compensated for the time we’d put into it. I floated the idea to him of us selling off our sites in late 2012. In 2013, we slowly sold all of MFE’s properties to multiple buyers and after selling the last site we officially shut the company down.

Truth be told, I wanted some new niches to play in affiliate wise – new mountains to climb from the bottom up – and Google had raised the bar regarding what it takes to continue to successfully rank affiliate sites. Consolidation was needed to do things right and that consolidation didn’t stop with closing down MFE.

I sat down and realistically looked at how many projects I could simultaneously juggle taking my time spent on PushFire into account. I hire out a lot of tasks relating to my affiliate sites, but the strategy is solely on me (as are some other tasks I’m too much of a control freak to give up, LOL).

I decided that number was between 3 and 4. I then went through the painstaking task of deciding what sites would get the axe and what sites wouldn’t – knowing that 1 of those 3 or 4 would be a brand new venture I was beginning to work on.

It was way more difficult to do than it sounds. I didn’t realize how attached I was to some of them, LOL – or maybe more so the milestones or memories they represented to me. I sold some. I shut down some. Others I decided to simply leave earning, but with no further attention or care given to them from this point forward.

SITE 1 – 3

As I mentioned above, I was already in the middle of creating a new site I was (and still am) really excited about – so that automatically made the list. The second site to make the cut was a site I’ve owned for years which is centered around a topic I know well, that I still find interesting, is a good earner and has a lot of untapped potential (because I haven’t been able to really focus on it in years). I decided to leave a slot open in case an idea hits me that I feel compelled to go after – mainly because I know it will happen haha. ;-)

SITE 4

Oddly enough, to the outside world, it likely appears Sugarrae has always been a top priority site for me. The “brand” is, for sure. But in reality, “the site” was always at the lower end of my todo list (as evidenced by the frequency of my blogging over the years, LOL). But it was a clear choice in regards to “making the cut” and making it onto the new consolidated priority list (though it likely still won’t be at the top of that consolidated list).

But what you will see (and soon) is a brand new design here at Sugarrae (which will finally make it mobile responsive as well). You’ll also see some structure and focus changes as well (you’ll have to wait and see!). You may even see a mini eBook or two (key word there being “may” LOL). And if you’re not on my mailing list, you may wanna consider subscribing. :-)

PushFire

I announced the launch of PushFire in May of 2012. I realized last week that aside from announcing the company and explaining why we got rid of the PushFire blog, I’ve yet to really update you guys on it.

The company has exceeded my expectations – on both a success level (revenue is up year over year and trending to do the same in 2014) and a personal fulfillment level. I get to satisfy my “oh look, a squirrel!” need to always be working on new things even though Google has made the need to consolidate the number of personal sites I own necessary.

While my business partner in PushFire (Sean Dolan) is also my husband, I’d want him to be my business partner even if we weren’t married. His skill set is the perfect match to (and opposite of) mine.

NEW DIGS

In October of this year, PushFire moved into new (and larger and more gorgeous) office space in an area as close to a “downtown” as it gets here in Katy, Texas. ;-)

New PushFire offices

Our online home – the PushFire website – is about to begin the process of being redesigned as well – complete with expanded service (and knowledge) offerings. We’ll have the new site launched sometime before our second birthday this May.

EVOLVING ROLES

As I’m typing this, my longest running employee (it’ll be seven years in April), Joe, is in the process of moving to Texas to manage some aspects of PushFire (he and his wife packed up their moving truck yesterday). This allows (and means) some changes for my and Sean’s roles at PushFire as well.

As of January 1st, 2014, Sean’s title will change to President & COO at PushFire. With Joe taking over some internal management aspects, this frees Sean up to do what he does best – lead PPC strategy, oversee business operations and handle the more formal and “corporate” business aspects of running PushFire that I formerly handled (that Sean is frankly now the better person – both personality wise and skill set wise – to be handling).

I will remain PushFire’s CEO, but Sean’s new role will allow me to focus on what I do best – leading the company’s vision, SEO strategies and overall business strategy, growth and business development. In short, I’ll be spending my time more focused on my strengths in running the company.

I’m super excited with PushFire’s plans and direction for the new year (and we’ll be getting more social!). January will be a month filled with transition, but the end result will be worth it.

All in all, it’s been a hell of a year on multiple levels. Bring on 2014.

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Sugarrae runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

If you’re someone who doesn’t understand a lot of PHP, Genesis will give a ton of functionality that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise with a simple control panel instead of having to alter code. For the advanced, Genesis has incredible customization possibilities via Genesis hooks.

The theme is not only highly customizable, but it has allowed me to run Sugarrae more professionally, with a much more targeted focus on monetization than it ever has been able to achieve before.

You can find out more about Genesis below:

Comments

  1. Great stuff, Rae… I’m raising a big glass of sweet tea in your direction.

    To 2014 and beyond… :)

  2. This post also makes me think that some of my decisions to stop many of my side consulting projects was a good idea. Far too many of my sites I launched 2-3 years ago on the hope it would rank due to content and EMD has fallen flat and sucked up valuable time I could have spent on improving my fitness and spending time with friends and family.

    I started too many crappy affiliate sites that in the end I’ve given up on and started shutting down down but thinking my learnings might make for a better blog post so I’ll leave the rest till then.

    But always love reading these personal posts as they help both inspire and encourage many marketers and I trust 2014 will be a brilliant year for PushFire and best wishes to the team!

    • Thanks David!

      Affiliate always has been (and I think always will be) my first love – I’m far from moving away from it. I’ve been building branded affiliate sites for a long time now – but I still had an arsenal of “legacy sites” that were built with less thought behind them. ;-) And Google keeps raising the bar on what signals a site needs to provide and there’s only so many sites you can personally manage (with long term goals in mind) with that being the case.

      I wanted to really focus on the ones I could see myself committing to for the long haul. I’d rather do 3-4 sites with excellence then do 20 half-assed with their future being dependent on Google’s whims. ;-)

      • The problem I’m not facing is do I stick with the sites that are making money still that aren’t really brilliant and have the potential for maybe making the most with a little focus/attention or instead focus on a handful of sites that have a decent social audience and potential to be a brand but will take 1-2 years to bear fruit?

        I spent last night looking at Google Analytics data over the past 18 months and even some of the excellent sites just show a free fall due to EMD & Panda and I don’t see the revenue that would cover the cost of refreshing the content. Maybe just list them for sale and let someone else develop them out?

        As I experiment more I find more and more problems with affiliate tracking failing and revenue lost, so thinking of swapping from affiliate links to partnerships in 2014 that offers more support and higher margins and someone else to work with on development/marketing.

        I’m sure more affiliates are thinking the same looking at how many domains are not being renewed and just left to drop.

        But again keep writing these posts as they are always great because they are inspiring!

        • Just to be clear re my affiliate consolidation – the time I’m spending on my affiliate ventures will remain the same, they’ll just be more focused. I’ve long been focused on affiliate branding, but I still owned a slew of sites built “pre” that direction – and because they all still made money I maintained them.

          But, as the need for social, brand mentions, authority links, etc rises – it just becomes too hard to do that across the wide range of sites I was maintaining – so I am narrowing focus (and not moving away from affiliate) to achieve the same monetary results, but with fewer sites. :)

          Re the problem you’re facing – that’s a decision only you can make. What I can say is ranking an affiliate site will become much harder in the coming time unless if truly deserves to rank (and has a following).

  3. I love the way you and Sean work together and sort of reflect each other, you bring out the best in each other :)

  4. Rae, you are seriously one of the most inspiring people I follow online! Not just from a business and marketing perspective, but how you approach life in general. I hope you have a fantastic 2014!

  5. Great post Rae

    We seem to be on similar paths when it comes to consolidating affiliate sites that either lost their passion or will be too much time in the future to maintain.

    Challenging year to say the least for you and I am glad we were along for the ride. Your post are very inspiring.

  6. Stewart Kelly says:

    Wow, what a year you just had Rae. I’m sure a lessor person would have folded. It will be great to see what changes and opportunities this new year brings. I hope you will be more inclined to blog and keep us informed. I know we all would appreciate it. Best wishes on all your new endeavors…and best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

  7. Andre L. Vaughn says:

    This is a really great blog post! Sounds like you are doing great things with affiliate marketing and I wish you continuous great things in 2014! Happy New Year!

  8. Curious to know more about how you sold your sites? Did you just list them publicly on a site like Flippa? Or did you reach out to potential buyers privately? If so, how did you find those buyers? (BTW if you have others you want to sell, we are interested in buying established sites).

    • Kevin – it was in both ways. Some were folks that had reached out to us in the past regarding buying the specific sites and we rung them up once we were ready to sell. One was sold publicly. A few were sold to private buyers who had given me a standing “if you ever want to sell a site, let us know” offer, LOL. One I even bought back from MFE personally (AKA, bought my partner out of it). Currently, I’m pretty good to go in regards to everything I no longer want or need being off my plate. But, I’ll keep you in mind the next time I decide to do a niche switch and sell a current site. :)

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