Building From Scratch – April 18 Update

17 · by Dennis Moons · Updated on 10 May 2018

April was the 8th month for Apes in Space, my online store that sells space posters.

After a huge month of February, results came down hard in March.

I put in a ton of effort in April to improve things, so in the rest of this article, you’ll discover what I did, and what I results I got from those efforts.

As always this article is split into a couple of areas: Marketing, Financials, Merchandise, Effort & Psychology.

📈 Marketing


Total number of sessions: 1,193 (+121% compared to March)

The number of sessions doubled compared to March:


You can clearly see two peaks in the chart above, those are two events that brought in most of the visitors.

Next, let’s look at the quality of these visitors: Pages/Session, Avg. Session Duration & Bounce rate.

Apes In Space April visitor quality

Again some steady improvements. This month we didn’t invest anything in (Facebook) ads, and that shows in the visitor quality. I especially like the 55% bump in session duration.

Next let’s look at where the visitors in April came from:


Direct and Reddit traffic top the chart. This is the big spike in traffic that we saw earlier in the graph.

I mention these two traffic sources together because a lot of the traffic that comes from Reddit is being counted as direct. This happens because people when people click through from an app (like Reddit’s), the referral information is lost. There is very little you can do about it, apart from taking it into account when you’re looking at attribution.

Next there is the organic traffic with 219 visitors. That’s almost the same as the month before, but I do love that the average session duration has more than doubled from 53s to 2m12s!

A new referral is Starter Story. This explains the first bump in traffic. It’s a great site that documents the origin stories of ecommerce businesses. Apes In Space was featured. And that led to a lot of curious people coming over to have a look 👀

The other links are pretty straight forward, this very site linking to the shop, a couple of referrals from things I posted on Facebook and a handful of visits from Product Hunt. This last one is related to the second peak in the visitors charts.


Starting out my core traffic strategy was:

  1. Limited ads for short term gains (improve website, create email funnel, make some sales)
  2. Organic search in the long term

After going overboard with ad spend, #1 has been pretty much on hold.

Organic search had been growing steadily, powered by the products and blog content.

But this was the first flat month. After that huge spike in February, organic Google traffic is almost the same between March and April:

Since SEO traffic takes a while to build, this flatlining is probably a result of not putting in much effort into content during January, February and March.

I really put in the effort during April, so it’s frustrating to not see any results from that yet. But what is comforting, is the number of impressions in Search Console trending up:

I put out 4 blog posts. This is a lot less than the 11 that I had planned. But I put in a lot of work on the Hubble Space Telescope article.

To coincide with the 28th birthday of the Hubble Space Telescope launch, I wanted to release a bunch of new posters. So that’s why I focused my efforts there. I also did create some extra content to promote these new posters, read on to learn about that.

In the last update, I mentioned I was going to put more effort into building links to Apes In Space.

It’s easy to get a bunch of shitty links, Fiverr works wonders for that.

But getting quality links that will actually move the needle takes time. So it’s still too early to see any real results from the efforts I’m investing here.

Number of referring domains: 16 (+6 compared to March).

Email marketing

I sent out my first newsletter in April!

Klaivyo dashboard of my first newsletter
Klaviyo dashboard of my first newsletter

It went out to 68 people, got 22 opens and 2 clicks. Very average results.

It took me 30 minutes to put this together, which might be a bit too much for the impact it will have with this low amount of subscribers.

Here is what it looked like:

The very first Apes In Space newsletter

Looking at the screenshot above I realize that I forgot to include the store logo or name 😰

To capture new email addresses, I’m still using a Privy popup.

Here are the popup stats for April:

  • 12 signups
  • 1.1% conversion rate

Google Adwords

My Google Adwords campaigns are still running. In April I’ve optimized the campaigns and adjusted the CPCs. I had set the bids to what I think a visitor will be worth.

But these bids are below the minimum that Adwords wants me to pay. So that has resulted in exactly 1 click 🙂

My plan was to launch Google Shopping campaigns to hopefully get cheaper clicks. But I still need to work on my product feed to get those up and running.


After trying a couple of times, I had my first success Reddit marketing. No sales, but a nice amount of targeted traffic.

My post on Reddit

Reddit is allergic to marketing. So if you’re running an ecommerce business, you can’t simply post your products and expect them to do well.

You need to get indirectly and promote something that these readers might find valuable.

I knew the 28th anniversary of the Hubble launch was coming up, so I wanted too create a collection with the most epic images from the Hubble Space telescope that can be used as a phone wallpaper. Here is what that looked like:

The collection of Hubble phone wallpapers I put together

It got 104 upvotes on r/space/, 809 views and that drove about 740 visits.

That said, this subreddit has 13 million subscribers. The best monthly posts get around +20K upvotes. So that means there is a lot of room for improvement if I can come up with something that REALLY hits home.

Social media follower counts

💰 Financials

Now that you know what was going on, you want to know about the sales.

Here is what the financials for April look like:

Yes, you can see that right, we finally got some profits 🤩

Detailed breakdown:

Revenue: $81.95

2 orders totalling $81.95

Expenses: $77.88

  • Printful: product, logistics and taxes: $44.71
  • Shopify basic plan: $29
  • Shopify transaction fees: $2.17
  • Stripe transaction fees: $2

Profit = Revenue – Cost = $4.07

It’s a profit, but a tiny one. If we keep the expenses in check, I hope we can scale these numbers.

 📦 Merchandise

I added 26 new posters to the store, total is now at 126 posters.

Most of these were posters of photos takes by the Hubble Space Telescope. These are pretty different from the other posters in the store. They look very abstract, but gorgeous nonetheless!

⏱ Effort

Here is how much time I spent running my online store in April:

During April, I spent 17 hours and 30 minutes on Apes In Space. That’s a lot more than I did during March (4h30m).

To get back into the groove, my goal was to spend around 30 minutes a day on the store. That works out to 15 hours, so I spent even more.

Again, the biggest chunk of that was spent on creating new content (blog & extras). Finding and adding new products also took me about 4 hours (I saw a lot of Hubble pictures!).

The Marketing section contains activities like putting together the newsletter, posting on social media and Reddit.

Website tweaks are changes to my Shopify store and theme.

Even though I only had 2 orders in April, I spent a lot of time on customer support. That’s because an existing customer had filed a chargeback. After getting in touch with them it turned out they had received the products, but didn’t recognize the name on their credit card statement. It was “Store Growers”, as that’s what my Stripe account is linked to.

I had to provide a lot of data to fight the dispute in Stripe:

Fighting my first chargeback in Stripe

I’ve heard form a lot of people that you will often lose, but let’s see what comes out of it. To avoid this in the future, I’ve set up a second Stripe account dedicated to Apes In Space.

😶 Psychology

Despite all the work, it was a very slow month. Two sales is not a whole lot to keep the momentum going. But all the traffic did provide some validation in the sense that people found what I create interesting.

Being profitable is also pretty nice. I’ll be bragging about my 2-figures in sales, 1-figure profit all throughout May 😛

One thing that I do want to touch on is what it takes to do proper content promotion. In the case of the Reddit post (and previously the Falcon Heavy promotion that I ran) it takes a ton of time to put together the asset(s) to promote. Then once you post it, you try to spread it in as much places as possible. Social media, submit it to aggregators, ask for upvotes, etc. Then starts the next wave: follow-up on comments, monitor results, adjust, tweak, etc.

This is fun, but also really consuming. During these promotions times I’m glued to Google Analytics Real time reports and it will be impossible to get any other work done. And if you’re running ads to promote this, it’s all the above on steroids.

My brain is totally fried after a day like that.

Let me know in the comments if you can relate to this!

That’s it! If you found this post valuable, please send it to someone else that could benefit from this. I really appreciate any help I can get!

Dennis Moons

Dennis Moons is the founder and lead instructor at Store Growers.

He's a Google Ads expert with over 12 years of experience in running Google Ads campaigns.

During this time he has managed more than $5 million in ad spend and worked with clients ranging from small businesses to global brands. His goal is to provide advice that allows you to compete effectively in Google Ads.

Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.


17 responses on "Building From Scratch – April 18 Update"

  1. Olivier Alcouffe says:

    what is your conversion rate so far?

    1. Dennis says:

      Hi Olivier,
      Thanks for stopping by!

      The overall conversion rate is pretty low:
      – For April it would be 0.17%.
      – Since launch: 47 orders / 11,395 sessions = 0.41%

      The amounts are so small that it doesn’t really make sense to calculate it. If I had 3 instead of 2 orders in April, the conversion rate would be at 0.26%.

      So once I hit some bigger numbers, those big swings will even out and I wil start to use it to base my analysis on.

  2. Nice, i am following u in detail … i also have a startup webshop with my own digital products, … it give me a good inside and ideas how to improve,

    keep posting,… december will be early this year 🙂

    1. Dennis says:

      Glad to know you’re following along Wouter!

  3. I’ve been following this series since you started, Dennis, and I’m glad to see that you finally made a profit, because it is a sign that you are onto the right track!

    I see that your overall conversion rate is very low – 0.41% since launching – and I know that the situation will get better once you start getting more traffic and your store starts growing. However, what are you using for customer support? Are you implementing live chat? Maybe that could help you to increase your conversion rate, even if your numbers are still low for the moment, because I get it, this store is just getting started.

    Nonetheless, I consider that it is vital to take into account the customer support element from the early stages of any shop, because it will play a decisive role in how well you convert your traffic to sales and how loyal your customers become.

    That’s it. I will keep following this series, because I want to see your store succeed, and I know you can do it! 😉

    1. Dennis says:

      Thanks for the encouragement James 🙂

      You’re right, live chat might allow me to discover more about why people aren’t buying or what doubts they have. I’m sure there are still things I’m missing.

      Solid suggestion 👍

      1. James Hendley says:

        You are welcome man, I will follow your progress closely! (Y) I hope things keep rocking for you 😉

  4. Hi Dennis,
    Quite an eye opener. I have learnt a lot just by reading the stages and challenges you’ve gone through to build your site. Well done.
    Most of your readers including myself are wondering what’s happened in recent months: May, June , July 2018. Please fill us in. It would be a great help to those of us who are still in ‘Discovery Mode’!

    1. Dennis says:

      Hi Catherine,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Good to know that those updates have helped you.
      Reason for the gap in updates is that a lot of them were starting to look very similar. But I’ll figure out a better format with an update about those missing months. Soon 😛


  5. William Sharlaag says:

    Hi Dennis

    Your Blog is very well managed. You lead the only blog I have found that matches the reality of an online shop.
    When will the next update come?
    I’m really excited about how it goes on with Apes in Space.


    1. Dennis says:

      Thanks for the kind words William.

      I hope to put together an update about Apes In Space in the coming month. Fingers crossed I find some time :p

  6. William says:

    Very interesting blog series, and very detailed and thought out articles and information. I’d be interested to see how things have been going in the few months since your last update.
    I know you acknowledge above the posts were starting to look the same – this is an important part to getting off the ground, the grind of just keeping on going.

  7. tanu says:


    Where is the next month Update?

    I found it really interesting to read your journey.


    1. Dennis says:

      Hi Tanu,
      Glad to hear you’re enjoying this series.
      The store is still running but the posts started looking very similar month to month. I found that they weren’t worth the effort I was putting into them anymore. Might release a bigger update soon.

  8. Peter says:

    Hi, very nice series.

    I was wondering, as I wanted to try a similar thing… since you’re using Printful service, that should establish your tax nexus in the US state of North Carolina according to [1] and [2]. Have you registered for a sales tax permit in NC or what is your view on this matter?

    Also, would love to hear about any updates from you.

    1 –
    2 –

  9. Michael says:

    Have you given up with it? There hasn’t been an update in a while

    1. Dennis says:

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks for checking in! The store is still running on autopilot. I’m basically breaking even on it.

      It needs a lot of work to take it to the next level, but the opportunity is too small to really justify spending time/money on it.
      Someday I might get back to this 🙂

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