Website Flipping Case Study: On the Road to Success – Part 2
It has been about a week since I started this website flipping case study and I am back again to give you all an update on what has happened since then. As quick refresh, I bought a website from Flippa for $1,250 and I will be sharing the entire journey as I grow this site and eventually flip it 6-12 months from now.
Before we get into today’s update, I first want to give a huge thanks to all of the people that read the introduction post. It seemed as if people really enjoyed the idea for this type of case study and there were a lot of people interested. Because of that interest I am super pumped to write this new update and share the entire journey of flipping this website.
So, thank you to everyone that supported my last post, you’re awesome!
Alright, let’s jump right into the new update and see what I have done with this site so far.
I have put together a video that will walk you through everything that I talk about within this article. I would suggest both watching and reading the article to get all of the info because I talk about some things in the video that I don’t touch on in the article and vice versa.
What has Been Done so far?
I have only had this website under my own control for about 8 days, but I have already made a ton of changes to the site in hopes of growing it. Below are all of the different things I have done to the site so far and the date that they were completed.
Date Completed: June 1st, 2016
At the time of the last update the site had not been transferred from the previous seller to me yet. Even though I purchased the site 20 days ago, I have only had full control of the site for about a week due to waiting for the Escrow transfer process to be completed.
On June 1st, 2016 the Escrow transfer was completed and I had been transferred ownership of the domain name as well as all of the websites files.
I am now the official owner of the website 🙂
Moved the Site to WordPress
Date Completed: June 6th, 2016
As you all know from the last update, this website was originally a HTML site and I wanted to make the move to WordPress because I am most familiar with that CMS. I initially thought that it was going to be fairly easy to do, but let me tell you, it was a real pain in the butt.
I Tried Doing it Myself…
I started off trying to do the transfer by myself with the help of online tutorials and at one point I thought I had actually done it, I was pumped. That excitement didn’t last long as I soon learned that I did it horribly wrong and I had to delete everything from my server and go back to the HTML site until I could figure it out.
It was important that I did the transfer correctly because if I messed up there was a possibility of all of the rankings the site had could be lost if the URL structure changed. So when making the switch from HTML to WordPress it is super important to make sure you either keep the same URL structure or do 301 redirects to maintain the rankings in Google.
The risk of losing all of the rankings and the multiple headaches I had, I figured it was time to hire someone for help.
I Paid for Help
With all of that being said, I decided that I would let the professionals handle this to make sure everything transferred properly. It cost me $100 to have someone do it for me, which was well worth it considering how important it was. I want give a shout out to Artt from www.arttdigital.com who made this transfer super simple for me. He reached out to me after reading the first update and was extremely helpful the entire time.
He did the transfer within a day and had everything ready for me to go in no time. Even though I had to pay for help, it saved me a ton of time and insured everything was done correctly.
The site did not keep the same look when the site was transferred over to WordPress because there wasn’t a theme that matched the old look when it was a HTML site. I decided to use a very similar looking theme so that the site remained practically the same.
Check out what the new design looks like compared to the old design:
The site still has the same basic feel to it and I did that on purpose. I don’t want to make too many drastic changes right now because I want to get an idea of how it performs as-is before I make any changes. I plan on making the site look better at some point down the road, but for now it will remain fairly basic.
Improved Speed and User Experience
Completed: June 6th, 2016
Some of the biggest reasons for the switch to WordPress was to increase the speed of the site and optimize it for both Google and the user. To make this happen I did two things, move the site to WordPress and install the WPtouch plugin, that’s it. The WPtouch plugin helps optimize your site for mobile users.
Check out the difference in speed and user experince before I made these changes vs. after. I used Google’s PageSpeed Insights to gather this info you will see below.
Let’s first look at the desktop stats:
Desktop Stats BEFORE
Desktop Stats AFTER
By switching to WordPress, the overall user experince for a desktop user went from a score of 80/100 to 91/100. This was a solid improvement, but there are still some things that I will do later on which will make it even better. It is plenty optimized for desktop users right now and I have more important things to do with this website.
Next we will look at the mobile side of things, which is an area I knew was very under optimized and needed an overhaul. There are two things we will be looking at, the speed and the user experience.
Mobile Speed BEFORE
Mobile Speed AFTER
The speed increased from a score of 61/100, which is really bad, to 78/100. There is still plenty of room to improve the speed for mobile users and that is something I will worry about down the road.
Lastly, let’s check out the mobile user experience:
Mobile User Experience BEFORE
Mobile User Experience AFTER
We saw a huge increase in the overall user experince for mobile users from a score of 61/100 all the way up to a near perfect 98/100, Sweet. Overall, the switch to WordPress and installing WPTouch made a huge difference.
Completed: June 6th, 2016
Having a website that isn’t optimized for mobile users in this day of age is not smart, and Google even considers it a ranking factor now. Not to mention, this site has more mobile users than any other type of visitor.
Check out the stats from the last month in May:
Over 47% of the traffic that comes to the site are mobile users, so making sure the site is optimized for them is crucial. You will also notice that the average time on the site for a mobile user is 36 seconds compared to 47 seconds for desktop users. The fact that the site isn’t mobile friendly probably has a lot to do with this.
When I bought this site it was not mobile friendly according to Google’s Mobile-Friendly test. Check out what it looked like before:
Mobile Friendly Test BEFORE
Mobile Friendly Test AFTER
The plugin I mentioned earlier, WPTouch, was the only thing I did to make this site mobile friendly. Now that the site is mobile friendly, it should help increase the average time on the site for mobile users which will hopefully lead to more earnings as well.
Added Adsense to the Site
Completed: June 6th, 2016
In the first post I mentioned that I would be testing multiple monetization strategies which will eventually include Adsense, Quinstreet, CampusExplorer and Media.net. However, as of right now I only have Adsense ads on the site because I have not been accepted into the other programs yet.
For now I will only be using Adsense and testing to see what kind of results I can get. This will allow me to get a good baseline of data to compare to later on when I try other programs.
Current Ad Layout
I am using AmpedSense to control and test all of my ad layouts because it makes it super easy to control the layout and determine which layouts are the best. Below is the list of the different ads that I am currently using and their positions:
- Large Rectangle (336 x 280) – Inside post to the left
- Leaderboard (728 x 90) – 1/4th down, inside post and centered
- Large Skyscraper (300 x 600) – Sidebar
- Horizontal Medium Link Unit (468 x 15) – Above the post
- Horizontal Large Link Unit (728 x 15) – 1/2 down, inside post and centered
- Horizontal Medium Link Unit (468 x 15) – Below post
To get a visual of how this looks on the site check out the diagram I made below. The numbers I used in the list is the same for the diagram. The blue squares represent the normal Adsense ads while the yellow shapes represent the link units.
Those are the 6 ads that I am currently using on the site, but expect it to change quite a bit over the next few weeks/months as I test and optimize. My reasoning behind these ads and their placement are based on what I have seen work in the past for other sites and just a little bit of randomness.
Note: I was going to show you the current ad layout for mobile users as well, but after it took a solid 45 minutes to make the diagram above I am going to pass on it for now. I think you get the general idea from the diagram I made above.
Performance so Far
I added Adsense to the site on June 6th and as of writing this it is currently June 8th, so there hasn’t been very much time to collect data. We do have some initial earnings we can look at though.
In the short time that I have had the ads on the site it has earned a total of $35.86, with about an equal split between desktop and mobile users. It is too early to make any assumptions, but so far desktop ads are WAY outperforming mobile ads in terms of RPM. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues and if it does, I will need to find a better way to monetize mobile users.
Time to Split Test
If you want to watch me setup the different ad layouts to split test you can watch the quick video I put together below:
Submitted Site to Google Search Console
Completed: June 6th, 2016
Google Search Console (GSC) is one of the most underutilized tools that website owners have at their disposal. There are so many uses for GSC and I have developed some really cool strategies that help me improve keyword rankings within Google. Once more data has been collected, around 1-2 weeks, I will show you all some awesome ways to use GSC.
Another reason why I submitted my site was because it allows you to see any crawl errors that Google has found. This is very useful for my situation since I just switched the site from HTML to WordPress, which has the possibility to cause some problems. GSC allows me to monitor all of these problems and make sure my site is running properly.
It is a good thing that I did because I discovered that some of the old URL structures of the site had capital letters in the URL. When the site was transferred to WordPress all of the capital letters were changed to lowercase. See an example below:
Old URL: hvactraining101.com/what-does-HVAC-mean.html
New URL: hvactraining101.com/what-does-hvac-mean.html
This probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but Google views these as two different pages. This can lead to duplicate content, loss of rankings and loss of link power.
To solve this problem, I did a 301 redirect on all of the URL’s with uppercase letters to the URL with only lowercase letters. The 301 redirect will transfer most (90-99%) of the rankings and link juice to the new page. The previous owner had capitalized “HVAC” in every single URL so that was the main problem here. We should be all set now!
Submitting a sitemap will allow Google to crawl all of your pages much easier, which is super important for us right now with all of the 301 redirects we have been doing. It also allows you to monitor the pages that you have submitted to Google and how many of them have been indexed.
See this website’s sitemap below:
Right now, Google says that they have indexed 27 out of the 31 pages that we submitted via sitemap. This is not 100% accurate because all of the pages are indexed, but it takes time for them to update in the GSC.
Added Google Analytics
Completed: June 6th, 2016
I added Google Analytics as soon as I could so it could start recording the traffic. I will be closely monitoring the traffic stats over the next few weeks to make sure that the traffic doesn’t drop-off due to switching to WordPress and having to change the URL structures.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a brief decline in traffic while Google accounts for all of the new 301 redirects and the new URL structures. It should not take long for Google to notice these changes and react accordingly by returning most (if not all) of my previous rankings.
It has been less than 8 days since I added Google Analytics to the site so there isn’t a whole lot to look at, but I am sure you all still want to see (I know I would!) how it is going so far.
Traffic so Far
So far, it looks like the traffic has remained pretty much the same since the switch to WordPress, but it is too early to know for sure. We will need to keep an eye on it for the next few weeks to be certain.
Quick Recap of What I have Done
Below are the main tasks that I have completed so far since I took over full control on June 1st, however, I didn’t work on anything until the site was moved to WordPress which was completed on June 6th.
- Moved the site to WordPress
- Optimized website speed
- Made it mobile-friendly
- Added Adsense ads
- Submitted site to Google Search Console
- Fixed all URL structures with 301 redirects
- Added Google Analytics
Not too bad!
Most of the things that I have done so far have been “housekeeping” stuff and just making sure everything is running properly. I have not been focused on making money just because I want to make sure the foundation is solid before moving forward.
I will get into the good stuff, growing the traffic and making money, in future updates.
Now that I have caught you all up on what I have done so far, we can look at forward at the things I will be doing to grow this site.
Start Doing Keyword Research
This is going to be a major area of focus going forward. In the previous update I mentioned that I would be going after local keywords such as “Texas HVAC certificate” because they should be fairly easy to rank for as well as bring in HIGHLY targeted visitors. My plan is to go after all 50 states and the larger cities. This should help bring in a lot of longtail traffic.
Along with those local keywords, I will also be diving into the overall HVAC niche and finding any keywords/topics that I want to target. I am planning on documenting all of my keyword research via a Youtube video so you can all see exactly how I will do about doing this. Make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel if you haven’t already – www.youtube.com/c/joshshogren
I think there is a lot of potential here and I am looking forward to seeing what kind of results we can get from it.
Add New Content/Directory
After I do the keyword research I need to go out and outsource the writing of the content and add it to the site. I had originally planned on just adding the new content in the form of normal articles, but on my last post on Reddit someone suggested I create a directory for all of these states and large cities and I think that is a great idea.
I am not sure exactly how I would do this in terms of the siloing of the pages and making sure all of the pages are optimized for Google. This will be something I will need to look into and figure out. However, I really like the idea of creating a directory so that people can easily find their state or city they are looking for.
I could also reach out to local HVAC training programs or colleges within these states or cities and see if they would be willing to pay a monthly or yearly fee to be listed within the directory. This would add some recurring revenue along with the ad revenue, which could be a great combo. There are a lot of things I can try and test out in the future.
Hire a Writer
I mentioned this last time, but I want to make it clear: I HATE writing content for my websites
I will very rarely ever do it and 99% of the time I will outsource all content creation. The same thing will be happening for this site as well. I will be hiring a content writer from Upwork to write all of the new content for the site. I will be showing you all how I go about finding and hiring a content writer. I will also show you how I create my article outlines for the writers to follow and share my overall process for doing this.
Optimize Current Content
The previous owner of the site did not do a very good job of optimizing the content in terms of meta descriptions, title, URL structure as well as the content. I think there is some room to increase the keyword rankings just by tidying up and making things a little more optimized.
For example, a lot of the pages only have around 500 words of content and I think by adding 250-500 more words, some images and a youtube video we could boost the overall quality of the article which in turn will hopefully boost the rankings of that article. I will also start utilizing interlinking between pages on the site which provide more link juice but also a better experince for the user because they can read more related content.
There are many things that can be done to optimize this site further and that will be a major focus in the next update.
Get Accepted into the Ad Networks
Right now I am only using Adsense on the site because I have yet to be accepted into Media.net, Quinstreet or CampusExplorer. I am hoping I will get accepted into these programs soon so I will be able to test multiple monetization strategies. However, it is not super urgent because right now I am getting a baseline average in terms of the daily revenue from using Adsense. This will allow me to have something to compare to once I start using other ad networks.
That is going to wrap up the second update in this website flipping case study. I hope you all enjoyed this update and make sure to be on the lookout for the third one coming soon.
I have high hopes for this site and I am excited to see how this turns out. As a reminder, I will be using Youtube quite a bit throughout this case study so make sure to follow my Youtube Channel for all new updates. Thank you all for reading and see you in the next update!
I am following your case study. I believe it will be really beneficial for me. I am currently looking for a nice niche to start. If things go well it will be easier for me to multiply the success since I have my own dedicated server.Which tools should I consider buying or subscribing(like semrush, etc…)? Since I am on square 1, it would be really useful. I have read your updates but for an up to date recommendation, I would be glad if you could give an up to date short list. By the way in your website “CComplete Guide…” the extra C there is on purpose or a typo? Thank you
Semrush would be my number one recommendation. Good catch about the misspelled title and thanks for the suggestion
I’m really excited to see the work you have completed on the new site in such a short time frame and look forward to it developing further.
Interesting about the capitalised URL’s and Google. The modern trend is to keep them lower case, certainly for images lowercase is preferred for server compatibility.
And ya, you are correct, most URL’s are lowercase. That is why it was weird when the previous owner used capital letters within the URL.
Hey great update! Just wanted to let you know you’ve got a typo on the first page you show in the video, you have something like the complete guide to becoming AND HVAC
Good catch Austin, thank you!
And thank you for reading the update and leaving a comment
Awesome stuff, as usual, Josh!
Have you considered using Human Proof Designs for your content creation, instead of Upwork? I haven’t used them yet (plan to do so soon), but Jon Dykstra from Fat Stacks Blog speaks highly of them – and they only charge ~$20 per article for high-quality content.
I have not considered using Human Proof Designs for content, do they make content for money sites or is it more geared towards PBN content? I will have to look into it, thanks for the suggestion
Hey Josh, I’ve been inspired by these posts to start my own niche site, so thanks for doing what you’re doing. I’m trying to do it all myself and starting from scratch, as in new domain name, no PBN, writing the content myself… how feasible is this and, if done correctly, how long do you suspect it will take for the site to be making as much as this one is now ($50 a month)?
Awesome to hear I have inspired you! As for your question, if you can pick the correct niche and consistently produce high quality content then you have a great chance of seeing success. I wish you the best of luck and if you have ever have any questions feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]
Great update Josh !
I love the way you describe all the process, it’s crystal clear.
Looking forward the next update
Thank you Maxence, glad you enjoyed!
Good update! On the local targeted pages, might be an idea to create a single HVAC directory page that you add to the navigation bar, which contains some keyword rich content at the top of the page and then links to each state page “HVAC Arizona” etc all the way through each 50 states with keyword anchor text linking to each state page. Just a thought.
Yup, that is pretty much what I am thinking. I want to implement a clickable US map that would link to each state
Thanks for the comment and for reading,
Thanks for doing this. Can you go a little more in depth about how you research keywords? What tools do you use? And what data do you look at from those tools?
Thanks, can’t wait to read next part.
You are welcome Emils! I will go into more detail about keyword research in the next update, including the tools I use and the data that I look at.
So great like previous part
I like both
Sweet, glad to hear 🙂
Sorry Harun, I must have missed your comment. My bad.
Ever thought about doing a study on passive income (as opposed to flipping)?
Do you think a goal of $5,000/month in completely passive income (only effort is paying for hosting once everything is established) from a collection of sites is feasible?
I’m doing something similar to a passive case study in my other website investment (https://www.passionintopaychecks.com/website-investing-experiment/)
And yes, $5k a month in passive income is possible. You just need to make sure that the sites you add to your portfolio are passive and don’t require a whole lot of work to run.
It was great to read that article. I haven’t purchased any site as of now but I do own a couple and some of them are not mobile optimized. I never paid much attention to it, but after reading this post I checked the performance on Google pagespeed insights and it wasn’t good.
I really have a lot of work to do to improve my own websites before I start acquiring new ones.
Glad I could help! And yup, being optimized for mobile is so important in today’s internet landscape.
Thanks for the comment
Just curious as to why you chose not to use responsive ads?
I chose responsive ads for mobile users only. AmpedSense allows you to segment your traffic by device so the desktop traffic doesn’t have responsive ads 9obviosuly) and tablet/mobile traffic does
hey josh, i always feel glad to read all your posts! i’ve learned alot along way.
i would like to ask regarding to sitemap.
must we keep submitting the sitemap to google everytime we updated our website?
if yes, then how to resubmit?
Thanks Tracy, I’m glad that you enjoy reading 🙂
And no, you do not need to submit an index to Google with every new update. The reason why I did it was because the change I made was urgent and the sooner Google found the change the better
awesome posts so far, they are very informative and interesting.
When can we expect the next update? Really looking forward!
Thank you Paul! And the newest update just went live here – https://www.passionintopaychecks.com/website-flipping-part-3/
Any more updates for this case study ?
Currently showing only 2 parts on this website.
Yes 🙂 I am working on a new update and it should be out soon! Thanks for your patience. Also, thanks for reading and leaving a comment
How do you deal with taxes? Did you set up an LLC or another entity that owns the site?
I have an LLC that I run all of my websites through
I can see that you’ve changed your amped sense recipe on hvactraining101.com, could you share what layout you are currently using, and what work best for you ? I’ve been trying 2 differents layouts with various results, was just wondering what’ve learned ont this
When will the next update be out, Josh? 😀
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