There are many success stories out there about people who have built websites and have sold them later for a large sum of money. I love these stories because each story is a little different, but the underlying themes are generally the same.
This is a guest post by Patrick Meninga who recently sold his flagship website for $200,000 dollars. He had worked on his website for 4 years before being approached by an advertiser who offered to purchase it. It's a great story of what hard work combined with some smart thinking can do for your website, and he offers some great advice for all of us.
I asked Patrick if it was okay to disclose the website that was sold, and he said it was totally cool! (Thanks Patrick!)
The website he sold was a site he created about addiction and recovery called Spiritual River. The site presents his unique ideas about how to overcome any addiction using a holistic approach to personal growth.
Here are some of the things Patrick learned from his experience.
I recently sold my flagship website for $200,000 dollars, and to be honest, the site was not even for sale at the time.
I am a long time reader of SPI, and I used many of Pat's ideas to help me build the website. Let me tell you exactly how I did it, and give you advice if you desire the same thing.
Choose a Topic for Your Website that has Decent Profit Potential
Most internet marketers would advise you to start a website about something that you have extensive knowledge, expertise and interest in. But, I would go one step further and make sure there is potential to make money with your topic too.
It's not about what you know, it's about what you know that's also profitable. Starting a website about free poetry will probably never make you any money, even if you rank number one for most of the related keywords.
Consider a topic and look at the type of advertising that appears on similar websites. How much is a new customer worth in each case? How much are people willing to pay for advertising? If the answer is “very little” then move on and find something more profitable.
Be Original and Avoid “Me-Too” Content
Every time you publish an article on your website, ask yourself: “Would anyone share this article for any reason?” If the answer is “no” then you should not publish the article.
When someone lands on your website you have an opportunity to capture attention and possibly take the relationship one step further. If your website has low quality, uninspiring or spammy articles, then what kind of impression are you going to make on new visitors?
Here is the guiding principle when it comes to content on the web: nobody cares. Anyone can go to the search engines and read hundreds of different articles about payday loans. Why would they care if there is yet another unoriginal 400 word article about payday loans on your website?
If you want to succeed online then you have to rise above the sea of web spam and offer something unique, something original and have insight and ideas about your topic.
If you publish an article that could have been outsourced for under 10 dollars then you are probably wasting everyone's time. Yes, you might play this game for a while and even get some search traffic, but your website is not going to stick around for the long haul if that is the type of content you normally publish.
Be original. Be insightful. Create something amazing.
Anything less is going to end up in the dust bin of the interwebs.
Focus on Quality AND Volume
My website sold for such a large amount was because I averaged 3 new articles per day for the 4 years that the website existed.
The long tail is where my website site made all of its money. The best keyword on the site made less than 50 dollars per month in income. Much of the site's authority came from having over 1,500 articles.
I wish I would have published three articles every day, but in reality my journey was much more erratic. I went for months at a time without publishing a thing, but other times I was publishing over 20,000 words per day.
All told, I averaged 3 articles per day. If you are interested in building a serious online empire like I did, I suggest you aim for a similar level of output. Writing one article per day is not going to get you to your income goal in a reasonable amount of time. Three articles per day will make things really exciting if you stick with it for at least a year.
It is possible to create a healthy income stream while publishing less, but most people are not going to be that lucky. If you are interested in creating a long term, sustainable income then you should focus on both quality and volume.
Pat (Flynn) stepping in here for second. I had to comment on this section because I partly agree, but I partly disagree. It's obvious that the more content you post on your site, the more (long tail) keywords you'll eventually rank for and the more traffic will come your way. I've experienced this first-hand with my security guard training niche site. But, in some niches 3 articles per day is overload for its readers (imagine trying to take action when if I posted 3 articles per day on SPI) and for many people it's just impossible to post 3 quality articles per day, let alone 3 quality articles per week.
The point here is: push yourself as much as you can, both in terms of quality and volume. Just be careful about prioritizing volume over quality—it should be the other way around. It's like working out—you get the most benefit to your body by just pushing yourself a little bit more when your mind tells you you've had enough, but go too crazy and you just might hurt yourself.
Don't hurt yourself.
Okay back to Patrick!
Build a Community Around Your Ideas
When you start to get regular traffic and people begin to leave comments on your site, you should answer those comments and start to have conversations with your visitors.
Some comments may be worthy of a new post in order to further discussion. In other cases you may talk about a new topic and ask for feedback, which will also encourage discussion.
Once you are receiving comments on a fairly regular basis and you see a small community forming, you might consider adding a discussion forum to your website.
I believe it's important to do this for a number of reasons. In the eyes of the search engines, having a community of people who regularly visit your website and join in the discussion can help you because:
- People create free content for you every day, expanding the size and footprint of your website.
- Repeat visitors improve your “stickiness” metric, showing trust in your site.
- Fans of your site can help spread your ideas via word of mouth or by creating real links.
If you are receiving search engine traffic every day but failing to build a community by “capturing” some of it, then you are missing an opportunity.
Engage your audience and start a discussion if you want to build a following. My website sold for a large amount because it was more than just a search engine trap. The buyer of the website saw value in the community and knew that this would help it to be a sustainable investment in the long run.
Experiment with Different Forms of Monetization
Many internet marketers get their start with Google AdSense, but the search for online income should not end there.
If you look at the businesses that are advertising via Google Adwords to purchase your traffic, you will learn how to move up the value chain. The Adwords advertisers are profitable. This should be a big clue as to how you should be monetizing your website.
For example, let's say that your website is about food allergies and you are making a certain amount of money with AdSense on the site. You examine your advertisers and realize that most of them are buying your traffic in order to sell your audience an ebook about food allergies. In this hypothetical example, you would be better off selling that book directly to your audience rather than using AdSense.
This is an example of “moving up the value chain.” If people are buying your traffic via Adwords, there is always a way to move up the chain and monetize more efficiently.
I was able to negotiate direct advertising deals based on this technique, and eventually one of my advertisers made me an unsolicited offer to purchase my website. It was the experimentation with monetization that led to this opportunity.
Pat (Flynn) again here. When I started GreenExamAcademy.com I was running Adsense on the site and noticed one advertiser that was advertising their practice exams for this test. I built a relationship with them and eventually started selling their practice exams as an affiliate on my site. Commissions from one sale as an affiliate was the equivalent of 30 Adsense ad clicks. I've been an affiliate for 3 years and have made over 6 figures promoting their product. So yeah, this works.
Reinvest a Portion of Your Website Income
If you reinvest 100% of your earnings into site growth then you never get to enjoy any of your success.
On the other hand, if you never reinvest any income into growing your site, then the rate of growth will be very, very slow.
Therefore, I would recommend that you reinvest a certain percentage of your income. One strategy is to start by reinvesting 50% of your income into the website until you reach your monthly income goal. After that, reduce your investment into the business to 25% of revenue.
That way you can aggressively grow the business until your reach your desired income level. After that, you insure that the site stays fresh and continues to grow.
How do you reinvest your earnings into the website?
There are two options. One, you could pay for more on-site content, and essentially hire writers. Two, you could pay for promotion.
I think it's wise to avoid the first strategy and pursue the second. Write your own content and use your income from the website to further promote it and increase its authority. This is a smart strategy for two reasons:
- When you outsource on-site content, quality typically drops. This is not good for your brand or long term outlook.
- If you outsource your promotional efforts, it frees your time and mental energy to focus on creating great content on your website.
Create amazing content on your site, then outsource the promotion of that content. This will free you up to create more amazing on-site content.
Pro tip: One way to implement this idea is to use paid Stumbleupon traffic. Create an amazing article on your website, then spend as little as five dollars sending traffic to the page. See how many people give it a “thumbs up” and then create another piece of amazing content to repeat the experiment. By examining your results and comparing the number of “likes,” you can continuously refine future articles that you write to better serve your site visitors. Thus, this can become an iterative approach to crafting the best possible content on your website.
Find the Big Advertisers in your Niche and Reach Out to Them
If you are using AdSense then you are aware that Google makes a certain percentage from each pay per click transaction. If you were to go direct with one of your advertisers and eliminate Google from the equation, both of you would come out better.
Pay attention to the advertisers that show up on your site when you run Google AdSense. Examine their business model, see how they are making money, and understand how they profit from purchasing your traffic.
Then approach them with a proposition. Ask them if they would be interested in eliminating Google and buying your traffic directly. Brainstorm and consider other compensation models. You may be able to negotiate a much more profitable deal if you go direct with the company.
This is exactly how I stumbled into such a lucrative sale for my website. I contacted all of my AdSense advertisers with a friendly email that sought to open discussion and negotiate a direct relationship. This led to a few trial runs that basically fizzled. Then one advertiser approached me and eventually offered to buy my website for a huge sum of money.
It is very likely that the biggest websites in your niche monetize traffic more efficiently than you do. Capitalize on this and reach out to the big players and offer to negotiate a direct deal. If they know the value of your traffic (and they obviously do!) then they should be eager to either advertise directly or purchase your site outright.
Ignore Internet Marketing Advice (including this) and Do your Own Testing
Internet marketers are always giving advice. Take all such advice with a grain of salt and test everything. What works for them will not necessarily work for you. Every niche is a bit different.
The key is to take action. Once you have some traffic and income trickling in, it is time to make a serious effort to really grow your website. Take massive action if you want big results.
For example, how many articles are you publishing per day on your website? One? Could you push it to two or three?
The long term effects of publishing multiple articles every day are enormous. When creating an authority website, volume matters—a lot. Push yourself to create lots of new (quality) content and this will also allow you to do more testing about what works well and what does not. Thus, you learn simply by taking action and refining your approach based on your results.
Be Patient and Let Success Unfold in its Own Time
Most people who dabble in internet marketing give up long before they see a payout like the one I received. The problem is that there is so much spam on the internet that the search engines have to “put everyone on probation” for such a long time in order to see who is really serious and who is not.
This creates a barrier to entry, but it also represents a huge opportunity. Most people do not have the patience to keep creating high quality content while the search engines turn up their noses at them.
Realize that this is an opportunity for you to persevere and be rewarded. The average time to success on the web has been stretched out considerably. Most people will give up within the first year or two due to lack of results.
If you create amazing content over and over again, eventually you will be rewarded with a steady stream of traffic and income.
But, you have to believe in the process and have the determination to keep pounding away.
Be patient enough to let success find you.
Create something amazing, and one day you might be telling someone like I did:
“Yes, I will sell you my website for $200,000 dollars!”
Thanks, once again, to Patrick for sharing his story and advice. You can read more from Patrick on his blog at Make Money with No Work. Any comments or questions? Please leave them in the comment section below. Cheers!