Niche Site Growth Challenge Update – Month 1
In my last post, I discussed a new challenge I had set for myself, which was to take an existing niche site that was earning around $1k /month and build it to a steady $3k /month within 90-days.
In today's update, I will reveal:
- 2 Epic Failures in March
- How my income on this site grew…or not!
- What I actually achieved in March
- My Plans for April
- My new website investments
What Went Wrong in March?
To kick things off, we'll start with the bad. I don't know about you, but I hate those blogs where everything is rosy and they hit their goals month-on-month without fail. Well, I call BS on all of them.
This business is volatile, to say the least, and there is NO WAY these guys have 1) next to zero expenses and 2) a nice little trendline of ever increasing income.
I won't name names as these people know who they are, and they have to live with the bullshit they spout. For me…well I'm wired differently.
One Big F-Up
I made reference to the site design in my latest update on the niche site in question. I thought the design was poor and lacked the authority look I was going for.
I jumped on 48HourLogos.com and had a cool logo designed. I then set my developer a bunch of tasks and example site designs, and he was off styling my theme how I wanted it.
Of course, I used a staging environment for all of this development work and made sure not to index the site on the staging URL, to avoid duplicate content etc. (I think you can see where this is going).
Skip forward a week and the site design is completed and I decided to jump right in and migrate the new theme files over to the live site…what I actually did in my haste was replace the entire WP-Content folder of WordPress.
After editing the wp-config file to point at my live database, some quick “is the site working” checks were made and I was happy. I let the site do its thing for a week whilst I went into full on plan mode.
Essentially I mapped out how the next 90-days were going to go, with workload, tasks, expenditure and potential income from the site.
At the end of week 2, I decided to check in on the site to see how it was doing…WTF…? The earnings were way down…So was the traffic…what was going on?
After some deep investigation…ok it took me 2 mins to find the issue, but I had inadvertently left the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” option checked. (You can find this in Settings –> Reading inside of your wp-admin dashboard).
The reason this was checked, if you remember above I had to No-Index the staging site in order to avoid duplicate content etc. Well, after migrating the test site over to the live environment I forgot to ‘uncheck' that box.
This resulted in around 15-days worth of reduced traffic due to Google dropping many of my pages from the SERPS. The traffic is not at zero because some pages didn't move much if at all…so they either didn't get around to recrawling those pages, OR it just goes to show the power of keyword research and choosing low competition search terms. Google literally had nothing better to show the searcher!
You can see that huge dip in traffic starting on the 10th March and getting back to the norm by the end of the month.
My Second Failure of the month
So I told you there were two F-up's this month. The first was completely my fault, whilst the 2nd was more 50/50.
Basically, I had lost my main converting offer due to it being removed from the market. So I have spent the month testing various related offers for the same/similar product just under a different name.
I have gone through 4 different networks to try and find a good converting offer for my traffic…and it seems that no matter which I try, they all come up short…WAY SHORT.
What I Worked on in March
Along with the 2 failures above, I did work on the site for around 10-hours or so in March. This is not nearly enough to get the site to that $3k /month target so I will be ramping up those efforts in April.
That said, I did manage to get a few things done:
- Installed new theme & logo
- Removed unused plugins
- Worked on site speed optimization
- Hired CSS/Wordpress Dev
- Ordered 2x 1,200-word supporting articles
- Created custom FB audience & added tracking pixel
- Keyword research for new content/ideas
- Created better sidebar and footer opt-in forms
- Created Welcome page for opt-ins
That actually seems like a lot when you look at it. However, there is still so much more to do. At the end of the article, I will detail my plans for April.
How The Niche Site Performed
We've already spoken about the dip in traffic (-17% across the month). Apart from that March is a bit of an anomaly and there's not much more to talk about. I think had the “No-Index” issue not happened, traffic would have been up slightly.
With a 17% drop in traffic, I expected a heavy hit to the site earnings too, and we did see a hit, albeit lower than anticipated.
The site earned a total of $849.41 in March, which is down $91.12 or 9.68% on the previous month. So overall not as bad I expected and proves that the site would have actually increased in earnings should traffic have remained the same and I hadn't f'ed-up the indexation.
2 New Website Investments
Whilst planning a trip for later in 2016, I was taken aback at what it would cost for a short 4-day trip. So I started to think outside the box and I remembered a quote I heard on the Freedom Fastlane Podcast by Ryan Daniel Moran. Essentially it was about investing and how the rich have money work FOR them.
So, I worked out how much the trip would cost if I were to pay a percentage each month leading up to the cost of the trip, and instead of paying the cash outright for the trip, I would purchase an income producing asset that would provide enough each month to cover the aforementioned monthly payments. E.g:
Trip Price: £1,600
Months to Trip: 8
Monthly Payment: £200 (£1,600 /8 months)
So I needed to purchase an income producing asset that was bringing in around £200 per month ($282 USD approx.)
I headed over to Flippa.com to see what was on offer. Now I have various searches saved that allow me to find profitable niches to enter, however, this time I was not going to be using Flippa to get ideas for niche sites, but actually, purchase one.
By setting my filters as such (below), I was able to limit some risk of ‘bad/poor' offers and focus my attention on the real auctions. I also wanted to limit my time spent…so I sent a 4-hour research window…which I don't advocate at all, however, I was very short on time and I didn't want to waste my time (money) on researching too much, which would end up costing more in the long run.
Flippa Filters Used
- I want only verified analytics – this is a big time saver and good for ‘proof’ that the site is at least somewhat legit
- I only want the top level domains (com, net, org and uk)
- I set my budget range
- I make sure the site is at least earning more than $10 /month net
- Listing format is “Auction”
- “Property Type” = Websites Only
- “Age” is at least 6 months old (preferably 12 months)
That gets rid of a lot of the dead wood and the next step I take is to eyeball the results in date order (ending soonest) and add to my watch list. I then go back and look at that shortlist and delete/investigate further from there.
So I made a shortlist and started some due diligence. Long story short, I narrowed it down to 2 sites, one of which was offering a package of 2 properties both earning an average combined total of $298 per month (based on the last 3 months).
Now, something to be wary of:
When buying in Q1 income numbers will, in most cases, be inflated due to the Christmas period.
So I knew what to look out for and was happy that the sites looked legit on the face of it. Now I needed to speak to the seller, suss him/her out and then negotiate if I was happy that everything was Kosher.
This turned out to be one of the easiest transactions I have ever done when it comes to buying/selling a web property. The seller was open and honest and allowed me to have a TeamViewer session, where I took control of his machine, affiliate account, and analytics and looked through the numbers in real time.
They all checked out and I quickly did some back of the napkin numbers based on the recent performance.
Section 1 – this shows the total combined earnings of the 2 sites over the last 4 months and the latest 3-month average. This is an industry standard way to value affiliate websites such as these. So a combined total of $968.81 over 4 months, with the last 3 months bringing in a combined average of $298.45.
Section 2 – Based on the Buy It Now price of $3,500 this presented an investment opportunity at an 11.7 multiple as shown just below the top table. The average in EmpireFlippers is around 20-22x and FEInternational 25-30x based on my understanding. So anything less than 20x represents an opportunity in my eyes.
Section 3 – With the understanding that in 9 months time, Site 1 would be out of date (due to the “2016” in the URL – this is explained more later) I multiplied the average 3 months earnings ($198.87) by 9 to give me a top figure I would pay for this site. I then did the same for Site 2 however. I used the sellers multiple of 11.7 since this site has no such limits.
This gave me a MAX I would be willing to pay of $2,957.61.
Section 4 – Using the Amazon reports, I pulled the last 7 days earnings from the site (as that's the only *new* data I had, on top of what was provided in the auction) and I calculated that the trend would continue for Site 2 however, Site 1 wasn't looking too promising. With just $10.70 made in the first week of the month, extrapolate that over the 30 days and you get just $45.86 for the month. Which gave me a max price I would pay of $412.71 for that site.
I hope you're still with me!
Doing the same for Site 2, we can see that the trend was much better and I actually valued the site much higher at $3,489.44. I achieved this number by taking the last 7 days, dividing that by 7 to get a daily figure and then multiplying by 30 to get my monthly forecasted income number of $289.24.
Then using the seller multiple of 11.7, this gave me my $3,489.44 valuation. So I concluded that around $300 per month across both websites was a very realistic number to expect and as such I decided to make an offer.
So I was happy with site 1, which left a descision to be made on Site 2. Now as this was a package deal with no chance of splitting up the sites, I looked at the products being promoted by Site 1 and as they were in the $600 – $1,200 range then I concluded it was likely that the site was having a slow start to the month, seeing as it was March and that's usual for a Health & Fitness type site. With the high product price, I knew that site only needed to make 4-5 sale each month to hit the target income…which I deemed very realistic and as such made up my mind that Site 1 was also a good deal (especially when you take into consideration my future plans for the site discussed in detail below).
So I concluded that around $300 per month across both websites was a very realistic number to expect and as such I decided to make an offer. Unfortunately, that offer was also matched by another bidder so I raised it to $2,750 and it was accepted. The seller lowered his BIN price and I picked up the 2 site package at a multiple of 9.2 based on the actual 3-month average.
Keep in mind, all of this was done over a very short period of time, less than 1 hour. In which I had to perform the due diligence and also consult with my buddy Doug over at NicheSiteProject.com. Doug is a project manager by trade and very shrewd when it comes to money, planning and investing. I ran the numbers by him in a quick Skype call, we went through a few “what-if's” and decided that is was worth the investment.
Let's look in more detail at both of these websites.
Investment Site 1 (Site 1)
This site is in the beauty products niche and covers a wide range of products and accessories. This site has just 10 pages and is pulling in some great numbers.
Let's take a look at how Site 1 performed in March.
Traffic – 1,085
Income – $190.12
There is no end to the number of longtail keywords I am able to find in this niche and there is plenty of scope to expand to both Men's & Women's products, as well as some ClickBank offers too.
Investment Site 2 (Site 2)
This is a higher end product in the health and fitness space and was almost a deal-breaker for me given that the domain is not one I would normally use.
First off it's an EMD, and secondly, it's extremely long tail. So what made me go through with the purchase?
Well, I have a master plan for this site…..You see, the domain name contains the year “2016” as does the main set of keywords it targets. So by the end of the year, it will become defunct. This is where I will implement my plan:
The plan consists of taking all of the content and placing it onto a higher authority niche site which I already own and performing 301 redirects of the entire domain over to the new sites pages.
I will also change the “2016” year to “2017” in the hopes of ranking for next years keywords.
In theory, I *should* keep the existing rankings and perhaps even improve in the SERPS since the DA on the new site will be much higher. Again, this could go wrong but I figure by the time I do this, the site would have paid for my trip and then some. So I will have nothing to lose by that point.
Let's take a look at how Site 2 performed in March.
Traffic – 1,142 unique visitors
Income – $220.22
Investment Sites Combined Performance in Month 1?
Both sites have been up and running on my affiliate account and analytics for around 20 days at the time of writing. In total that have brought in $410.34. Which is over $100 higher than I had forecasted from my due diligence.
Bear in mind, I had literally a few minutes to poke around, grab some numbers and do a “back of a napkin” calculation during my TeamViewer session with the seller.
All else considered, if these two sites continue to make the same amount each month ongoing, I will recoup my investment in just 6-7 months…which would make this a great investment.
It's still very early and things could all change, however, I am comfortable with the risk and I'm learning a ton in the process. This is all part of my strategy to move my business from “niche site building and holding” to “building, holding, selling and investing”.
I did decide to jump in head first and I probably got lucky on this purchase as everything so far seems to have worked out just fine. However, as you can see I did my research and consulted with others just to make sure I wasn't blinded by my eagerness to find a good deal and pay for my trip!
Plans For April
So you could say that this “Niche Site $1k to $3k challenge” has grown from 1 site to 3 sites. I didn't plan on this, but an opportunity came up and I took it.
I will be including the two new investment websites in future updates and perhaps give them their own section down the line.
So onto the Niche Site Growth plan for April.
- Work on 5 pages – improve the content flow, length, and conversion rates by change link placements, images and buttons.
- Add affiliate links – I have lots of content not yet monetized, which is my preferred method to test keywords. I simply don't add my affiliate links until I see page 2-3 rankings.
- SemRush research – find low competition keywords via competitor sites, add to the content-planner and target them based on their competition/likelihood to rank.
- Continue offer search – find a better converting CPA offer for my main traffic pages.
- Vet all pages – ensure they meet the Amazon Associates TOS (there has been a lot of chatter about Amazon closing accounts down lately)
Plan for the 2 Investment Sites.
- Off-Page SEO – Zero backlinks have been built to these sites, they rank based on Keyword selection and On-Page SEO alone. Some comment links and perhaps a PBN link or two.
- Keyword Research – Find more low competition keywords and have 5 large pages written and published (2,500+ words each)
- Link Tracking – additional analytics to track which affiliate links are clicked. This will help with optimization and positioning of my links.