Marketer by day, frustrated programmer by night

Site Flipping Report Apr 2019

Published May 4, 2019 in Affiliate - 5 Comments

Yes - I suddenly changed the font from the site on this post. Going to be revamping the site within the next few months so I'm going to be throwing random stuff on the site to see where I want to go on a redesign.

Hello and welcome the to 2nd site flipping report 😁

Before I jump into the going-ons of my sites (subtle foreshadowing) I want to talk about where I see these site reports going.

If you don't care, then skip ahead.

But, I'll never forgive you for doing so.

I spent some time thinking about whether I wanted to do this on a monthly basis or more of a quarterly basis. I don't do affiliate marketing full-time (I own an agency) and so I won't always have a lot to say on a month-by-month basis.

On the other hand, it's a goal of mine to put out more content this year, so I really want to push myself to commit to this monthly report rather than doing what I normally do which is take 3-4 months to finish any given piece of content. 

So, instead of just reporting on "Site flip #1" this will be a site flipping report that covers all of my sites at once. Buying, selling, growing, etc. This should give you enough content to be worth reading every month and it also makes it easier than writing multiple posts or only focusing on 1 site.

With that prelude... 

Purchased Two More Sites

Yep.

Couldn't help myself.

One of my other businesses that I'm a co-owner of was looking to acquire a site. I narrowed down the list to two sites, bought one of the sites for that business and one for myself.

I'm kind of addicted to looking at sites and figuring out how to profit off them. I need to not buy more sites right now, I'm pretty maxed out on time, and having two brand new sites that need to have their links changed, strategies built out, etc. Isn't helping matters. 

Tech Site

One of the sites I bought is in the tech space. 

It has some non-tech articles, but the site is going to focus on tech going forward.

I haven't made changes to the site yet, so let me explain why I wanted to buy this site.

Tech is a niche I'm well versed in, and I'm tech savy enough to pick up new concepts quickly.

The other sites I own are all in niches I know fuck all about, so I thought it would be interesting to see if I find benefit working in a niche I actually know - even when I'm not writing the content.

On purchase, the site was averaging $175/m (6-month average) from Amazon and was bought for $3,200. 

For anyone that doesn't have a calculator handy, that's a 18.2x monthly earnings. 

That's a super attractive multiple, especially when buying from people in the SEO community who tend to way overvalue their sites.

Anything over a 25x multiple, I'm not really interested in buying.

Buy low, sell high.

It's rare I find anyone willing to sell for under 20x, so I want to move fast when I can get a multiple that low.

The site wasn't making much before Nov 2018, then started to really take off, 5x'ing in Nov - and not just holiday traffic as earnings stayed the same in Nov - Apr (with a small uptrend).

What I liked was the 6-months of stable earnings, rather than months that swing ±30% of earnings on any given month, which I see in quite a few sites I've looked at.

The history of earnings isn't very long - but, I'm also not risking a lot of money and the multiple was low enough that it was a risk worth taking.

One of my favorite parts is that the domain name is SUPER brandable. Can expand deep into tech and other niches without needing to change the domain name, even if the site was doing $xx,xxx/month I'd be happy with the domain name without thinking it would put users off.

The name of the site gave me a bunch of ideas on how the site could be redesigned and be seen as a real brand. But, that won't be something I'll bother with until it's doing at least $1,000/m in profit.

Next, and a great selling point (especially when buying from our circles), the link profile was pretty clean.

Not a lot of links pointing to the site, even some of the top pages on the site has very few links (less than 5) except for some image spam links that Google probably ignores.

And yes, I looked for hidden links and tier 2's.

The site had used PBNs, Web 2.0's, and blog comments in the past - which I'm not a fan of when buying sites. But, it was used sparingly, and about 2 years ago. Even if they were all bad links, from my experience the amount wasn't enough to trash the domain.

The tentative plan for this site is to hit it hard with content. As earnings grow, do more CRO and branding. Not going to worry about links too much for this site I think, at least not in the foreseeable future. 

The site also has a lot of potential for social growth. I don't do much social stuff, so it's a back-burner idea.

Automotive Site

This is the other site I was deciding between. 

Earnings are similar. Bought for $3,000 - so a 17x multiple. The site did over $250 in April, if it were to maintain those earnings, then it would be less than a 12x multiple. 

The reason why I wanted to get this site was that years ago I actually worked on an automative affiliate site briefly, and I have some ideas that I gave to the site owner that they were never interested in executing. Their site is still around - so my goal is to outgrow their 5+ year old site.

I'm not spiteful, you are.

I also have an idea to build a front-end application and have the affiliate be on the backend of the site. I don't want to give away too many details right now, but if you imagine a site like Credit Karma, you go there to check your credit score for free, then they suggest credit cards to you. 

I'm not going to suggest articles based on the front-end application, but the point of it will be to advertise its functionality and use that to gain press, links, and subscribers. If this works, it could easily become a $x,xxx,xxx site (if executed properly) since I don't think anything else exists currently (but, I could be wrong).

Obviously, this is a large undertaking and I don't know how much the front-end will cost to build. So, the current plan is to sit on this site for a couple months until I have time to do something with it.

 I want to make sure I take the time to make something clear, especially if anyone reading this ends up taking this as a
"I should emulate this".

The reason I'm buying so many sites is not to "diversify". Since I'm new to the affiliate game, I'm trying a bunch of different things with different projects to see what works best for me. To take a system developed on one site, and see if it works seamlessly on 2-3 other sites as well. 

I would not recommend working on a bunch of sites at once. If I was doing affiliate full-time then I would put 80% of my time, effort, and money into a single site.

To give you an idea of my thought process... with my first affiliate site (more on this below) the keyword research I did was just within its niche and I analyzed over 250,000 keywords and selected ~50,000 target keywords. This took about two weeks.

Another site, I see a lot of sub-niches it could go into, so I started doing the research on hundreds of topics - it was so much data and took so much time I eventually scrapped it and tried a different approach. 

Same thing will happen with these two site, improve the method to maximize time, effort, and money.

Sports Site

I didn't talk about this site last month during the first site slip report, but this is another site that I own. In fact, it was my first ever affiliate site.

Because it was my first site, I made a lot of mistakes. 

Having done SEO for 7-years, I thought it would be a much smaller learning curve from local/client work to affiliate marketing.

Oh boy, was I wrong 🙃

I don't have everything written down that was done up to this point, so I'll give you the fast version. What was done, what mistakes were made, and how I would have done it differently.  

This site was acquired in Sep/Aug 2018. I bought it from SERPSeeds.

SERPSeeds sells pre-made affiliate sites on aged domains. 

The site was built on a brandable, aged domain. It had 4-5 money pages, 2 supporting articles, a decent design, and some terms already ranking within the top 5 pages.

I was able to get the site for $2,000 and buying this site was a mistake. 

For the same amount of money, I could have bought a site that was already making $60-$100/m. By spending a couple thousand more, I could have gotten a site doing $150-$300/m.

In the current state of the industry, I don't see a point in starting a new site - it makes way more sense to buy one based on how much you'd have to spend to get a site up to those earnings anyway. 

I could invest $3,000 in getting a site to $200-$300/m over the course of 6-8 months. Or, I could buy a site today for $3,000 that's making $150/m.

This is the site that I spent almost two weeks doing keyword research on.

I don't like getting into things without doing a lot of research, that's just my personality.

Sometimes, the situation warrants a lot of research. Instead, I should have kept a list of content ideas. Do some research to find the best 20-30 ideas. Then do the keyword research just for those pages. 

That would have only taken a couple of hours, and I'll have content written before I initially finished with the keyword research. 

Sure, you could research 100+ ideas. Find all the root keywords and longtails. Analyze the competitors to come up with estimates on competition and cost to rank and analyze all that data against what you think the earnings would be if you got X traffic.

Or, you could pick 20 topics that seem good enough, eyeball the keywords and competitors, launch the content, and then dive deeper on it when it actually starts to get impressions.

Speed of execution matters way more than I value it at with my actions.

One of the first things I did was build out the content on the site.

The mistake I made here was building out too much supporting content and not focusing 90% of the content on money pages. The site right now probably has the same amount of supporting pages as it does money pages.

I ended up building about 5 more money pages but about 10 supporting articles.

Of all the money pages, I found the page which I believed would be the easiest to rank, so that the site could start earning money.

I focused link building on this page, and sent some links to some of the other pages. 

The mistake here was not focusing 100% of the link building on this page and its supporting content. Some of the other money pages got 1-2 links and saw positive movement from it, but not enough to drive sales. 

It's not a waste of money, but I won't see benefit (sales) until I do a lot more to rank those terms. 

I was spreading the budget too thin by trying to target multiple money pages at once rather than focusing on one.

Another mistake made was the amount of link building I did. While the money page did end up ranking and is now responsible for pretty much every sale the site makes, I spent thousands on links when I should have built out more money pages.

If I had invested the money spent on supporting articles and links to other money pages, it may have been enough to not say "too much was spent on links to that one money page" But as it stands, the current money pages on the site (minus like 3 or 4) are all best X for X which are at the most competitive topics.

This next mistake is the fact I was too greedy. 

I billed my agency for work done on the site.

The sports site is owned by another company that I'm the co-owner of, and my business partner and I decided that we would pay the agency a retainer to grow & manage the site.

Now, this would be 100% fine if the site was already earning in the 4-figure a month range.

But, it just ended up wasting some of the budget to grow the site in the agency making a profit. This only went on for a couple of months, and once the agency was no longer on retainer for the site - most of what the agency ending up profiting was reinvested in the site.

Now, any work done by the agency is done at cost and any work I do personally is at no cost.

Over time, the money page that I was focusing on started to rank (yay!)

It took about 2-3 months to start showing progress and is now where most sales come from. As I mentioned, this was a "Best X for X" article. Looking at search console, I noticed that what was driving 50%+ of the traffic for this page was a specific product. 

  • product name
  • product name review(s)

Not only was it driving a lot of the traffic, about half of the sales (only getting 1-2 sales a month at this point) on Amazon were also this product.

The product itself only had a couple short paragraphs written about it, so naturally, I searched for those terms to see what came up.

Turns out, there was no review content ranking that was specific to this product (except for some Youtube videos in a video carousel). 

The review content that was all ranking was Best X for X content. So, no titles, URLs, or H1s were optimized for this product and like my article, it was just mentioned as another option on the page.

Naturally, I created the best pice of content for this SERP.

A 1,000 word article reviewing just this product. I had the most relevant:

  • Content
  • Title
  • Headers
  • URL
  • And internal links

Of anyone else ranking for this.

To avoid cannibalization, I linked from the old money page to this one with an exact match anchor. I also sent 1-2 target PBN links to this new product page to get Google to recognize it. 

AND....

Nothing. Dead in the water. 

Page was indexed, links were indexed, page was showing up within top 10 pages.

Then, a couple of months later...

I'm now #1 and #2 for the review term and for the root product name I'm #3 (only behind Amazon) 🥳

I'm surprised by how long this actually took given the complete lack of competition. But, I've been noticing more and more just how much time matters.

Check out my article on how time is a ranking factor.

I wasn't sure where to put this. So, I'll put this here. Perhaps it deserves a post of its own at some point.

I've slowed down a lot when it comes to SEO in recent months, I've written about time as a ranking factor a couple of times now.

A lot of us throw a ton of content, links, more onsite changes & tweaks, etc. at a site. But from the sites I've been looking at and working on - most of the progress is made when nothing is really happening on the site.

It takes way less supporting content, links, and onsite "perfection" than you think to rank a page. At least, in my experience. 

I'm not an SEO guru, I'm not here to sell you on my methods or ideas and I have not put nearly enough thought and investigation into the cases I've seen of letting a site "rest" to put together anything even worth reading on the topic.

I've just found this really interesting as you don't get as much opportunity in the agency realm to just let a site sit. You have deliverables, reports, etc. But, I do have ideas on how to work this into processes.

So, all of this leads up to April.

What did I do in April for this site?

Nothing.

Ta-da 🎉

I haven't done much on this site in the past couple of months because of how much money was invested into it compared to how much it was making

It's a seasonal sport, so search volume is just starting to ramp up now that winter is over and I wanted to see how much it was going to earn during the spring before putting more money into it - in case it was a dud.

The one thing I did do in April was remove all the PBNs pointing to the site, wasn't very many and I'm not really using PBNs anymore for T1s.

If I have time this month, I want to take a closer look at the onsite.

P&L From Purchase - April

Expenses

Website Cost ($2,000)
Hosting ($85.56)
Marketing ($7,096) [Don't have this itemized]

Revenue

Amazon earnings $131.06

In total, this site is at a $9,050.5 loss.

Outdoors Site

This is the site I talked about in the first flip report.

Earnings this month are a little lower than last month, but more items were ordered. What I love is that this site has a 7-8% conversion rate on Amazon.

So, what was done this month?

I spent some time reworking the click tracking that I set up last month through Google Tag Manager. I had to do this multiple times since I was also doing some CRO (more on that in a minute).

Turns out, I was only able to track image clicks, not button or text clicks from last month.

Fixing this was fairly simple since GTM tells you all of the element properties when in preview mode, and you just need to check what variable is unique to the element type you're clicking on.

Here are all of the elements I'm tracking

For tracking button clicks, I just made sure all of the buttons had the same text and track anyone that clicks on an element with that text.

Tracking the text links were a little more complicated, The only element that I could use to track was the amz.n link in the link element, but if I just looked for that, then it would also track the button clicks since they also pull the amz.n link element. So, I had to add an exclusion to ignore any clicks with the button text.

From here, I did some CRO.

The site was fairly inconsistent. Some pages with tables, some had featured products, and only some had buttons for each product.

  • The main color of the site was everywhere. Buttons, borders, header color, etc. The CTA's just didn't stand out. I chose a color for the CTA and change everything else that had that color so that it stood out.

  • Every page that didn't already have one, got a table of contents added to it.

  • Some of the money pages would review a product, but the only link was in an image, and it wasn't very clear that the user had to click on the image. So, I added a CTA button under each review section.

  • Removed site search from the site. Not big enough to need one, and it was distracting

  • Some of the money pages had a featured product right at the top, I liked this idea a lot - so it was added to every money page.

  • The featured images for each page were just basic stock photos. I used a combination of GIMP & Canva to create something much better. Added a gradient and a blur to the image and then added a text design on top of it.

  • The sidebar used to show the 3 most recent posts, now it shows the 3 most recent money pages and 3 most recent blog posts under that. I wanted to do something more sophisticated but would have to edit the site code first and don't have time for that.

  • Made sure that all reviewed products were still for sale & in stock. Had to remove 3 products that were "currently unavailable"

  • Made sure that all the reviewed products were actually good. Removed 7 products that were rated on Amazon as 3.5 stars or lower.

  • Some of the products there were reviewed had a "content box" where the image, some details, and bullet points were made about the product. I rolled this out site wide.

  • Some pages had videos embedded, I felt they were distracting and didn't add any value to the page so I removed them.

  • Purchased Table Labs to revamp the (bet you can't guess this)... tables

Once the new tables were live, I had to set up GTM tracking on those too, but it was easy to do.

Lastly on the CRO front, I checked the site on mobile.

It was... rough.

The navigation had drop downs but the top level page was also a page so you couldn't access the drop down, half of the CTA buttons has margin & padding issues that caused it to cover content.

😭😭😭

This was an annoying change to have to make, but had to be done.

I also set up Amazon native shopping ads. The site came with them originally, but I didn't think having ads on a money page made sense, but after reading some articles, I thought it would be worth a try. 

I, of course, set up click tracking on them so I can see if they're worth keeping.

I was offered 14 free links, so I pointed them to this site. I split the links between 3 money pages using conservative anchors. I haven't had time to build out a link strategy for the site yet and didn't want to cause any anchor issues.

For May, I want to take a deep dive on the onsite and get some more content made for the site. I recently revamped the onsite processes, tools, and tactics for the agency - looking to see how these translate to affiliate.

P&L For April

Expenses

Table labs ($67)

Revenue

Amazon Earnings $96.90

This puts the site at a sum of a $4,843.27 loss so far.

That's it for this report! Have a question? Post it below 👇

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5 comments

Alakesh - May 4, 2019 Reply

That’s quite comprehensive report.. Similar stuff with a site in the sport niche i am running.. Season time is starting so hoping to get them..

Quick question : since you decide to remove pbns from one of your sites, what are you replacing with? Do you send links directly to money page?

    Jarod Spiewak - May 4, 2019 Reply

    On that site? Nothing.

    The page already has “white hat” links going to it, so I didn’t just remove all the links to the page.

    I don’t really use T1 PBNs anymore, it was only a couple of links so I don’t think things will tank – but if they do drop I’ll get some guest posts.

Marc - May 4, 2019 Reply

hey man

super interesting been thinking about this a lot myself.

where are you buying your sites? privately? I don’t normally find ones I like at the lower range on the popular flipping sites.

keep it up 🙂

    Jarod Spiewak - May 4, 2019 Reply

    Privately, yes. I just post in various FB groups. 99% of sites are crap but gotta ween it out 🙂

    Personally, I wouldn’t users brokers to buy from, it’s 100% a seller’s market right now.

Adam - July 18, 2019 Reply

Hey Jarod, I enjoyed reading your site flipping report. Glad I am not the only one this has happened too! I had similar experience to the Tech site in terms of at a loss. Instead of buying the site I started from scratch. I did no content writing and outsourced it all, paid way too much for a very good writer though and backlinks that were ineffective.
Look forward to more updates.
Adam

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