We Built & Sold A Website For Over $690,000 in Under 2 Years. Ask Us Anything!

stackcash

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Way back in December of 2014, @ddasilva was buying content from WordAgents for his various niche sites. We ended up chatting a lot and decided it’d be great to partner up on a new niche site venture.

Fast forward to Fall 2016, and we successfully generated over $690,000 from both affiliate revenue and the sale of the site itself.

This AMA is being held in tandem with a ~7,000+ word case study which you can find by clicking here.


There are certain things that we can’t mention, due to our sales agreement, but we will do our best to answer any and all questions as comprehensively (and transparently) as possible.

Just want to give a big shout out to some key players that helped us out, including (but not limited to): @Ryuzaki @CCarter @Steve Brownlie @Thomas Smale @HiGHPeR and anyone else I've frantically hit up on Skype at 3:56am because I thought the sky was falling.

Anyway, let's get to it.

Fire Away!
 

Jared

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Reading your case study, it seems like you didn't use any sort of traffic leaking strategy in growing your site.

Is there a reason for this?

Do you think you could have grown bigger and/or faster if you had, or was time better spent elsewhere?

Thanks.
 
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As far as contributing content went, what were your primary focuses when working on the project?

What do you feel makes content great?
 
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When choosing a niche is it enough to just be interested in it, or do you go for topics you're already very knowledgeable in?
 

stackcash

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Reading your case study, it seems like you didn't use any sort of traffic leaking strategy in growing your site.

Is there a reason for this?

Do you think you could have grown bigger and/or faster if you had, or was time better spent elsewhere?

Thanks.

The case study is just a broad overview of the steps we took to get to our goal. It would take forever if I wanted to cover every little thing that we did to the site.

But, yes, we did plenty of traffic leaking; reddit, blog comments for traffic, and web forums were where I spent most of my time in that regard.

It helped us understand what an average user did when he landed on our site, thereby allowing us to make changes and run tests.

As far as contributing content went, what were your primary focuses when working on the project?

What do you feel makes content great?

We simply want to have the most complete content on a topic. In our minds, there should be zero reason for a visitor to go to any other website other than ours for answers on our niche topic.

What makes content great is subjective and depends on the context. But, we typically make sure that our content:
  • Comprehensives answers the topic
  • Offers actionable advice
  • Uses the proper keyword groups for the topic
  • Reads easily
  • Offers great UX with various media
  • Empathizes with the readers
  • Is up to date
  • Compels readers to take action
When choosing a niche is it enough to just be interested in it, or do you go for topics you're already very knowledgeable in?

Just be interested in it. We're more worried about if a niche is profitable or not.

If you had a small budget, what would you focus on?

I'd put my money into content and site development. I'd spend my free time on reddit, social media, forums, and niche blogs. This actually how Google wants you to do it.

Nicely done chaps!

What kind of return did you get on this venture when you consider all the operating costs and your actual personal effort/time in building this site up?

All of our work was front loaded... meaning that once the site and links were built...there wasn't really much else for us to do other than build more links and add more content to keep the site fresh.

I'd say between Dec '14 and Feb '15 we spent a few hours a day building the site. After that, it worked it's way down to an hour or two per week.

I can't reveal our profit margin for the sale, but I can say it was healthy.
 
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I like your black hat to white hat strategy.

When did you guys start weaning off the PBN's and start going towards a white hat approach? Was the site already making money at this point?

Did you eventually remove all the previously built PBN links?
 

stackcash

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I like your black hat to white hat strategy.

When did you guys start weaning off the PBN's and start going towards a white hat approach? Was the site already making money at this point?

Did you eventually remove all the previously built PBN links?

Thanks @mymondo!

I'm sure Dan can answer this better than I can. Our PBN was a very small portion of our overall link profile. Maybe 15%.

Once we had a good system for outreach in place, we stopped focusing on PBNs and moved towards building higher quality links.
 
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I like your black hat to white hat strategy.

When did you guys start weaning off the PBN's and start going towards a white hat approach? Was the site already making money at this point?

Did you eventually remove all the previously built PBN links?

We stopped using PBNs for the most part once we got to the bottom of page 1 and top of page 2 for a lot of our main keywords. From previous experience, we knew that we needed more Trusted links to take it the rest of the way, which is when we started buying some of the higher-end editorial links from various providers and a few other methods. From that point, we shot up to Top 5 for a lot of keywords and just kept climbing to #1-3 for most eventually.

In real competitive markets, PBNs can only get you so far IMO. You reach a point to where you start to plateau and see diminishing returns. That's when it was time to switch gears. We already had the power, we just didn't have the trust, so that's what we focused on the remainder of the time.
 

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Did you use an expired domain?

How long did it take until the site was earning around $100/month?

Roughly how many strong links were you building per month (say; guest posts, editorials, pbn's etc)?

Great job guys and congratulations on the sale!
 

stackcash

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Did you use an expired domain?

How long did it take until the site was earning around $100/month?

Roughly how many strong links were you building per month (say; guest posts, editorials, pbn's etc)?

Great job guys and congratulations on the sale!

hey bud.

Freshly registered domain. Hit $100 / mo within 7-8 months, but it started growing substantially after that. I think we were averaging low-mid $xx,xxx by 12 months.

Dan can give you the exact number of strong links. We were really just reinvesting everything into content and links, so the number of links didn't really increase gradually each month. If I had to guesstimate, we were getting 5 - 10 high end, powerful links per month and a number of less powerful links for diversification purposes.
 

Steve Brownlie

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Freshly registered domain. Hit $100 / mo within 7-8 months, but it started growing substantially after that. I think we were averaging low-mid $xx,xxx by 12 months.

I think this is the quote for everyone who's new to this. Be patient. There's a tipping point in online marketing when you go from 'some exposure' to 'enough exposure'. Persevering vs giving up too soon is the difference between this case study and 'some old site that still makes me $100/mo'.
 

Ryuzaki

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It helped us understand what an average user did when he landed on our site, thereby allowing us to make changes and run tests.

Nice. Getting the split tests in early.

Q: How large of changes did you make? Was it changing call-to-action placement, colors, etc., or full blown redesigns? Did you have any fear that this early traffic would behave differently than the eager high-buying-intent organic traffic? Did you continue to split test once you were banking? Also, what software did you use to perform these tests?

Just be interested in it. We're more worried about if a niche is profitable or not.

To me, it depends on if you can "front load" the launch as @stackcash was saying. If you're bootstrapping then you need to care or you'll peter out with no motivation. If you can afford to outsource nearly everything, then all you need to care about is management and cashflow.

Q: Can you give us any insight into how much content you published ultimately? For freshness and internal link juice sake, I'm constantly publishing. I think it builds trust as well for the search engines and gives you more leeway in terms of link building. It's the difference between a thin-content penalty and a thriving authority site. Was there some threshold you felt you needed to impress the Google and the potential buyers during the liquidation phase?

We already had the power, we just didn't have the trust, so that's what we focused on the remainder of the time.

This is huge in my experience too. I built lots of "easy win" and brand-based links, like profiles, comments, forum posts, open-reg editorials, etc. All white hat but low value. This definitely got the ball rolling to the $100 a month stage as mentioned below. But it was when I started marketing cleverly, getting mass exposure, and gaining killer high trust & relevance links and social signals that things really started hockey sticking up on the growth curve.

Q: Did you feel any existential threat of an impending doom related to an algorithm change or a possible penalty at any time? Did moving into the "trust gaining" stage of link building help reduce the feeling if it was there?

Hit $100 / mo within 7-8 months, but it started growing substantially after that. I think we were averaging low-mid $xx,xxx by 12 months.

It's insane how fast things explode if you can wait out the beginning stages of getting coverage for the hot keywords. This is exactly how my own currently-main site was. It's not low-mid 5 figures yet but it's a guarantee it will be in 2017, especially due to the "trust" factor @ddasilva mentioned.

Q: Do you have any advice for bootstrappers in terms of when to start enjoying profits and how much of it to enjoy versus rolling the income back in as an expense for scaling?
 
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This is huge in my experience too. I built lots of "easy win" and brand-based links, like profiles, comments, forum posts, open-reg editorials, etc. All white hat but low value. This definitely got the ball rolling to the $100 a month stage as mentioned below. But it was when I started marketing cleverly, getting mass exposure, and gaining killer high trust & relevance links and social signals that things really started hockey sticking up on the growth curve.

Q: Did you feel any existential threat of an impending doom related to an algorithm change or a possible penalty at any time? Did moving into the "trust gaining" stage of link building help reduce the feeling if it was there?

Upfront, we didn't worry too much about an impending algorithm update. We weren't making any money at the time, so it wasn't a huge loss if something bad happened. We did however get a little more nervous when it came time to sell the site. We had a dilemma: To accept a low-ball offer and cash-out before the shit hit the fan, or to hold out for a better offer. It was a good thing we decided to wait instead of taking the guaranteed cash, because the revenue of the site about doubled over the next several months, which added another six figures at least to the bottom line, in addition to the monthly revenue we collected during those additional months.

Did you eventually remove all the previously built PBN links?

Definitely not. The site was getting better and better each month, so it didn't make sense to go back and pull some of the links that got us there in the first place. Especially as we're getting ready to sell the site. The last thing a buyer wants to see is wild fluctuations in traffic or revenue, so we weren't planning on making any drastic changes to the site. PBNs got us there, and quality links kept us there IMO.
 

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Congrats! Always knew you would do it. Good content is hard to find.
 

built

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hey bud.

Freshly registered domain. Hit $100 / mo within 7-8 months, but it started growing substantially after that.

Makes me realize how I should have held on longer to the sites I sold.

I wonder how much it could have grown
 

stackcash

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Nice. Getting the split tests in early.

Q: How large of changes did you make? Was it changing call-to-action placement, colors, etc., or full blown redesigns? Did you have any fear that this early traffic would behave differently than the eager high-buying-intent organic traffic? Did you continue to split test once you were banking? Also, what software did you use to perform these tests?

We used CrazyEgg somewhere around late '15 / early '16 to determine where the hot spots were on each review page. From there, we placed big CTAs in those hot spots.

Regarding the traffic, this was a concern for me, but Dan assured me that we should wait until we're ranking top 5 before worring about how the traffic was converting. He was right.


To me, it depends on if you can "front load" the launch as @stackcash was saying. If you're bootstrapping then you need to care or you'll peter out with no motivation. If you can afford to outsource nearly everything, then all you need to care about is management and cashflow.

Q: Can you give us any insight into how much content you published ultimately? For freshness and internal link juice sake, I'm constantly publishing. I think it builds trust as well for the search engines and gives you more leeway in terms of link building. It's the difference between a thin-content penalty and a thriving authority site. Was there some threshold you felt you needed to impress the Google and the potential buyers during the liquidation phase?

I believe the site had about 75 pages on it when we sold it. So, that's anywhere between 75,000 and 150,000 words.

We shot for a new article a week after all of the core content was up. We didn't always stick to that, but we did our best.

This is huge in my experience too. I built lots of "easy win" and brand-based links, like profiles, comments, forum posts, open-reg editorials, etc. All white hat but low value. This definitely got the ball rolling to the $100 a month stage as mentioned below. But it was when I started marketing cleverly, getting mass exposure, and gaining killer high trust & relevance links and social signals that things really started hockey sticking up on the growth curve.

Q: Did you feel any existential threat of an impending doom related to an algorithm change or a possible penalty at any time? Did moving into the "trust gaining" stage of link building help reduce the feeling if it was there?

I did. Dan had to slap me hard and often to get me to calm the hell down about it. It was unnecessary fear.



It's insane how fast things explode if you can wait out the beginning stages of getting coverage for the hot keywords. This is exactly how my own currently-main site was. It's not low-mid 5 figures yet but it's a guarantee it will be in 2017, especially due to the "trust" factor @ddasilva mentioned.

Q: Do you have any advice for bootstrappers in terms of when to start enjoying profits and how much of it to enjoy versus rolling the income back in as an expense for scaling?

I typically like the idea of reinvesting 70% and keeping 30% once the site has started earning revenue and is still growing. Once it hits it's stride and is in maintanence mode, you can increase your profit taking.
 
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Content and hosting aside, how much did you spend on marketing etc? Also no social whatsoever?
 

stackcash

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Thx for this AMA.

By which criteria or factors did you select your niche?

This is outlined in depth in the "how to pick a niche" section of the case study.

$690k
75 pages
= $9,200 average per page in gross revenue.

Quality over Quantity. Well done, sir. :wink:

Thanks. Believe it or not, we only had 3 - 5 pages with actual affiliate links on them. The rest of the site's content was there to funnel people to those "money pages" and / or to increase the relevancy of the site compared to the topic.

Did you guys find any use in any of the offers in the BuSo Marketplace? If so, which did you use?

We used these services with great success:



Content and hosting aside, how much did you spend on marketing etc? Also no social whatsoever?

I don't have this exact breakdown, as we have content and link building under one expense. In 2015, we spent around $5,000, and in 2016 we spent just under $2,000. The highest cost we paid was time.

For social we had an IFTTT syndication network setup and that was about it. We had nice profiles set up on about 20-30 major social platforms, but didn't do anything but autopost our content to them.
 
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Believe it or not, we only had 3 - 5 pages with actual affiliate links on them. The rest of the site's content was there to funnel people to those "money pages" and / or to increase the relevancy of the site compared to the topic

UWOTM8!?!?
[gif went down]
 
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