Website Flipping Case Study: Nearing $2,000 per Month – Part 4
I know what you’re probably thinking, what the heck happened to this case study the past year+?!
I’m not here to make excuses, but this site just hasn’t been a priority for me and I haven’t worked as much as I would have liked. I bought this site at the end of May 2016 and then I did an internship with FE International during the summer and then when I got back from that I have been really, really busy with school. So my time has been limited in terms of what I could work on and this case study just didn’t make the cut.
However, as you’ll soon read I was able to find the perfect solution to this and will help rejuvenate the site as well as this case study! A lot has happened with this site over the past year and I will try my best to explain all of it as well as what the plans are moving forward. I have received a lot of emails asking when the new case study update was coming and I apologize for the long delay.
Catch up on the previous updates below:
- The Introduction to the Case Study
- On the Road to Success – Part 2
- First Month’s Performance + Bigger Goals – Part 3
I Sold 50% Ownership to a Business Partner
In the middle of February 2017 I sold 50% ownership to my friend and business partner for a price of $1,225. We have been previously working on another site together and I thought that this site would be a good fit for us to work on because we have already built systems and process in place to take this site to the next level.
This was also a good fit because I just didn’t have the time to keep growing this site and now with the partnership he handles most of the day to day work (along with our VA) and it allows me to focus more on the strategy and provide direction for the site. I’m really excited about this partnership and it is a perfect fit. This also means that there will be a a lot more case study updates coming.
ROI After Selling 50% Ownership
I want to quickly outline the ROI I have gotten from this website investment now that I sold 50% of the site. So the earnings below are from the very beginning up the point of selling the site, all of the months following the partnership will be outlined in a minute.
For now, take a look at the profit from the site from the months of June 2016 to February 2017:
In the 9 months from the point of purchase up to the point of selling half ownership, the site earned me a total of $1,830 in profit ONLY from the monthly earnings. Considering I bought the site for $1,250 this isn’t bad! I was able to earn my entire investment back plus an extra $500+ during the first 9 months of owning the site. This is a great return, however, let’s now factor in the sale price of selling 50% ownership.
Sale Price (for 50%): $1,225
Profit Generated: $1,830.14
TOTAL Profit Made: $3,055.14
In a matter of 9 months time I was able to generate over $3,000 from an initial investment of $1,250. Not too bad. Let’s now take a look at the next chapter of this case study.
How has the Site Been Doing Since Last Update?
You have already gotten a glimpse at the monthly earnings, but let’s dig into the numbers a little more. I also want to share how the site has been doing since the I sold 50% of the website.
The black line on the chart above shows the month when I sold 50% of the website. As you can see, since that point traffic has began to skyrocket. This growth is for a few reasons:
- We have added 83 new pieces of content since February – around 10 new articles per month
- Previous articles have had time to sit and rank in Google
- Rewrote and optimized old articles
- Started link building
The biggest reason is because of the new content. This is in large part thanks to my partner because he was the one that handled all of the outsourcing of the content, which was the biggest bottleneck when I was working on this by myself. I just didn’t have the time to implement my content strategy I had laid out for the site. Now with some extra manpower helping me out we have began to implement my content strategy and it is working really well.
I’ll walk a little more about this content strategy and our plans moving forward in another section of this article.
One thing that I mentioned last update and still holds true is that this niche is huge. There is so much content that can be created for this site. There are dozens of sub niches that are related to HVAC that we can create content for. This is something that I am really excited about because the potential of this site is huge.
The main metric I am keeping track of each month is the revenue. It is the best way to determine the growth of a website, especially when you are in the growth stage such as we are with this site. In order to grow a site as fast as possible you are going to have to spend money. Plain and simple. With that all being said, the monthly revenue numbers are below:
The site has seen some awesome growth these past 6 or so months in terms of revenue. Last month almost reached $2,000, which is crazy considering I purchased the site for $1,250 15 months ago! This growth has come at a cost though. We have invested heavily in content creation and link building, which has fueled this growth.
Below you can see the expenses per month:
The last 7 months we have really upped the expenses per month spending an average of $1,013 per month. Let’s breakdown these expenses into the average amount spent on each expense type below:
- Project Manager – $497 per month
- Content Creation – $402 per month
- Hiring Process – $25 per month
- Miscellaneous (tools, plugins, hosting, etc) – $85 per month
Our top expense on average is our project manager, coming in close to $500 per month. As mentioned above, our PM handles all aspects of the day to day tasks for the site, He also handles our entire link building outreach along with managing the entire content creation process. It’s fair to say that he is our engine for this site and is vital to the success. Hiring a project manager is something that I should have done a long time ago, but I’m glad I finally got around to it. He has been a huge help and has been vital to growing this site, and will be even more vital going forward.
Creating content comes in second in our top average expenses per month at around $400. Creating new content for the site has been the major driving force behind the traffic and revenue growth for the site. This $400 per month we are spending has a fantastic ROI for us.
I’d expect for our total revenue each month to remain around $1,000 per month moving forward.
Profit isn’t a main priority at this point, but it is still important to keep track each month. This will give us a rough guideline in terms of how much we should reasonably be spending each month. For example, if you are consistently losing $2,000 each month for an extended period of time while trying to grow a site, it might be time to reevaluate your strategy. With that being said, check out the monthly profit below:
The huge draw down in March was because that was the first full month of implementing our plan to grow the site and the increase in earnings hadn’t yet caught up to the increased expenses. However, you will see that in the following months the revenue caught up to the expenses and we have remained profitable every month since except for June. Since July you can see that our profit has actually been steadily increasing each month, which is a great sign.
This is mainly due to our monthly expenses remaining consistent around $1000/month and our revenue growing higher each month.
Our plan to grow the site is broken down into two main parts:
- Creating New Content
- Link Building
These two things are the most important part to grow pretty much every website.
In the last update I laid out my content strategy for this site and it contained 3 main aspects:
- Content targeting local keywords
- Review articles
- General info articles
We have been able to create content for all three types of content and they have all had varied success so far. Let’s take a closer look at each type of content and the results.
Content Targeting Local Keywords
This content type is the one that I thought had the most potential to grow. I originally thought that going after articles such as “HVAC Schools in STATE NAME” would be fairly easy to rank for and they would be easy to monetize with an affiliate program such as Campus Explorer or Quinstreet. This still holds true, but that isn’t where we have found the most success so far. Instead of targeting schools in each state, we actually are creating content that explains the HVAC certification requirements in each state. Each state has different rules and laws regarding HVAC certifications and this provides a perfect content opportunity.
Creating this type of content has been a major focus of ours since March and we recently finished creating the pages for each state. 12 out of the top 25 pages on the site are these certification articles. Over the next 3-6 months we expect there to be a lot more as the articles have more time to rank in Google.
Let’s look at the traffic and revenue numbers from these pages:
The revenue generated from these pages has also started to take off. The growth in revenue is mainly due to us creating a lot of content surrounding the HVAC certification articles by state. This content has paid off. These revenue numbers do not take into account Google Adsense, Media.net or any other sources of revenue. The numbers above are only the revenue generated from Campus Explorer. The reason I’m only looking at Campus Explorer revenue is because I want to move away from those other monetization methods completely.
Creating review articles for products used within the HVAC industry was something I wasn’t too optimistic about at first. I just didn’t think there would be much search volume for these types of products and I didn’t expect customers to convert well on Amazon. I was 100% wrong about this.
Matter of fact, this type of content is probably going to outperform all other content types in terms of revenue and traffic for this site for at least for the next 3-6 months. Check out the most visited pages for March – September, the pages highlighted are review articles:
3 out of the top 6 pages are review articles. These 3 pages are driving practically all of the Amazon revenue so far as well. The monthly Amazon revenue can be seen below:
The revenue from Amazon has started to see some nice growth due to our review content doing well in Google. The drop off in September is a little worrying, but this is probably due to a small drop off in traffic to these articles and we had some issues with our affiliate links during this month. The HVAC niche also goes into it’s “off season” that lasts from September through March according to Google Trends.
General HVAC Information Articles
This content isn’t going to move the needle much in terms of revenue, but it does play an important role in the overall success of the website.
Nobody will routinely visit a website if there are only review articles and state specific content. However, people will keep coming back to read interesting and useful content. That is one important reason why creating this type of content is important. Another reason why is link building.
It’s really hard to build links to review articles. Building links become a lot easier when you can pitch content that is genuinely useful and worth linking to. This type of content is also good for generating traffic too, which is a plus. But keep in mind it’s really hard to monetize so we will probably just slap on some ads to this type of content and any money we make is a bonus.
To give you an idea of what this type of content looks like, you can see some article topics we have created below:
- “Everything You Need to Know about HVAC Apprenticeships”
- “Your Guide to HVAC Formulas”
- “Is HVAC a Good Career Path?”
- “How to Create a Standout HVAC Resume”
Link Building Strategy and Progress
One area that my business partner and I wanted to improve for this site was the backlink profile. If you recall from previous case study updates, the backlink profile was very weak. Practically all of the rankings for this site have been solely due to the content alone. We knew that in order to not only maintain rankings, but also increase rankings, we would have to at least get a solid foundation of links to strengthen the backlink profile.
The first thing we did was run a super targeted guest post campaign where we only contacted websites where we felt confident reaching out to and pitching a guest post. We ended up only emailing a total of 24 people and 10 of those emails bounced, meaning really we only contacted a total of 14 people.
Check out the stats from our outreach campaign below:
Out of the 14 people that opened our email, 7 of them replied back to us. Out of those 7 replies we were able to lock in 3 guest posts that have already went live and we are in talks with 2 other people that will probably result in 2 more guest posts. So out of a total of 14 emails we were able to get 4 guest posts and the potential of 5. Not a bad conversion rate!
To give you an idea of the quality of these guest posts, you can check out their DA below:
- Guest Post #1: 47 DA
- Guest Post #2: 45 DA
- Guest Post #3: 24 DA
- Guest Post #4: 24 DA
These guest post links aren’t anything crazy, but they help us accomplish our main goal of laying a solid groundwork in terms of a backlink profile. This will help us rank for more competitive keywords and give a boost to already ranking keywords. We are planning to launch a higher scale link building campaign in the near future and we will report back on the results in the next case study update.
Check out our progress with building backlinks to the site:
Other Website Developments Since the Last Update
The biggest thing that has happened since the last update was me selling 50% ownership and us starting to scale the growth of the site with new content. However, we also knocked out a handful of other things that are worth sharing.
Updated Website Design
If you recall from previous updates, the websites design was very poor and I didn’t improve it right away for a reason. I wanted to maintain the look and feel of the site in case that was helping Adsense earnings. Now that we are moving away from Adsense, we figured it was time to upgrade the design of the site. You can see the new design below:
New Homepage Design
Just as a refresher, you can see the old website design below:
Old Website Design
This new design helps the site look more credible and brings it into the modern era of website designs.
Moved to HTTPS
This isn’t a huge development by any means, but it was something that needed to be done. All websites are going to have to eventually make the switch and we figured it was a good time to make the switch.
Created a TON of SOPs
This is something that I should have been doing a lot time ago, but better late than never. With the help of our new project manager we have been able to create SOPs and processes that streamline the day to day activities for growing this site. For example, things like creating article outlines, creating content, posting articles, social media and other similar activities have all been put into processes that anyone can follow.
Doing this will not only help grow this site, but we can also reuse these SOPs to grow our other sites as well.
Created a Persona for the Website
This is something that I have always been on the fence about because it seems weird (at least to me) to create a fake person for a website. However, I think doing so is necessary to create trust and to look like an authority within the space. It was extremely beneficial when we were doing our guest posting campaign and I feel like it helped us land those guest posts.
Created Practice Tests for HVAC Exams
This is an area that I’m really excited for. There are a handful of tests that HVAC techs need to take and we have created some practice tests around these tests. We have completely finished creating a practice test for one type of exam and will be knocking out the other exams soon. There is a lot of volume around this topic and should be fairly easy to rank for as well. The plan is to use these practice tests as a way to generate leads and sell our paid products to down the road.
Future Plans for this Site
There is a lot of potential in this site. If you recall from my very first case study post, my original plan was to get the site to $500/month. At that time I wasn’t aware of how big this niche truly was and how there is still a lack of an authority site in the industry. If we are able to claim this title then the potential of this site is probably around $5,000/month. I think this is attainable, but we are going to have to continue to expand our site and aggressively grow month over month.
How will we eventually get to $5,000/month?
Cover ALL HVAC Topics Under One Roof
This is so important.
Currently in the HVAC niche there are a lot of informative websites out there but they all cover different aspects of the niche. If we are able to cover all of these topics under one websiet then I think we will be able to become the authority in this space. We are already well on our way to covering a few aspects (review articles and state certifications), but there are plenty more. Below are some of the more important aspects of the HVAC niche that we will eventually cover on our site:
- HVAC Schools and Programs by State
- HVAC Exam and Test Information
- Technical Aspects of HVAC
- Sub Topics Such As
- Energy Saving
- HVAC News
We will have to knock these topics out one by one, but if we do it correctly it could pay off. We will be looking to start making progress on a few of these over the next few months.
Sell Our Own Product
Eventually I would love to be able to create our own product and sell it through our site. Doing this help diversify our revenue sources and I think it is the best way to monetize this niche.
What type of product would we create?
Not entirely sure yet, but it would probably be an ebook, course or some sort of study guide that would help people pass HVAC tests. This is a big market where people are willing to pay money in order to increase their chances of passing. Before we create this product I want to already have traffic coming to the site that would purchase. This is why we have started to create content around HVAC exams and the practice tests. This should give us a pool of people to easily sell these products to. If we can execute this plan it could easily take this site to $5,000 in revenue. I’m excited to see how this unfolds!
Wrapping this Up
I hope you enjoyed this long overdue case study update. We have made some awesome progress on this site and there is a lot more potential too. I hope to remain more consistent with the updates to this case study because I think it could be a great learning opportunity for people to study and learn from. Thanks so much for sticking around even though I haven’t been very active on the site lately. I appreciate all of you who gave this read and I hope you enjoyed. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments below and I’ll happily answer them all.
Nice work Josh! Where did you find your PM out of interest?
My partner hired him, but it was from Upwork I believe
Josh, well done! It’s great to see another update and how successful you’ve been with this project! Keep up the good work.
Thanks Ricky, I appreciate you stopping by and reading
Good update. Did u find any easy way to cover over to https. I’ve read stories about problem losing traffic and hard converting all internal links within a site over to https.
Hi Brian, good questions!
Switching to HTTPS: It is kinda confusing the first time you do it, but it went smoothly for me. The hardest part for me was actually installing the certificate on my server. Once I was able to do that, I just used a plugin called Really Simple SSL and it handled all of the 301 redirects for me. Super easy.
Content: This is something that we have continued to refine and test to find good writers for cheap. My best advice would be to try out a bunch of writers and then pick only the best from that group. That gives you the best chance of finding good writers.
Also curious how you found good writers. I’ve paid up to $30 per 1000 words and the content is still mediocre despite providing detailed instructions to follow
Great to hear from you again Josh, always enjoy reading your content and following your journey. Well done.
Thanks Daniel! Really appreciate you taking your time to read and leave a comment.
Good job Josh, interesting read.
Thanks David, glad you enjoyed it
Why do you use only Campus Explorer? Did you also try Quinstreet?
Great update by the way.
Thanks for sharing.
We have tested both and found Campus Explorer to convert much better for us. Thanks for reading Dan
Nice job Josh. Keep it up. Looking forward to seeing you hit $5k per month. Always enjoy reading your updates and seeing your progress.
Im looking forward to hitting $5k too 🙂 Thanks for reading and leaving a comment Travis
Congrats on the success, the internship and the partner. Sounds like things are going well and growing for you!
Can you go into some more detail about the persona you mentioned? What exactly does this involve, is it the whole shebang of a fake name, stock photo, completely artificial “face-of-the-company”? Or is it more toned down, just you posing as some character e.g. an HVAC pro who lives and breathes HVAC and and is really enthusiastic etc.?
I appreciate it Chris. As for the persona, I like using a fake name + stock photo and pose as an enthusiast within that niche. I find this helps a ton when doing outreach for link building
Nice to see an update from you… Finally…
You came to my mind a couple of weeks before the update so I checked out the site. I was so impressed with how much more mature the site looked and was very happy that it was still ranking very well.
It’s always nice to see the longevity of the seo strategy you implemented on the site in the beginning still kicking strong after all this time.
Looking forward to more updates.
Yep, even though there haven’t been super frequent updates I have been consistently working and growing the case study site. Thanks for the comment 🙂
Good to have you back 🙂 please write more frequently..
That’s the goal 🙂 thanks for commenting
Just come back your blog and see this post. So great to read it man. 😀
Cheers brother 🙂
I’ve been following this case study since the start. Honestly, I was very sad since you were not updating us on this. Good to see you back, Josh. The site is doing great and you can definitely turn it into an authority in the space. Good luck!
Sorry for the delayed update, but thanks for sticking around 🙂 I appreciate the comment as well Charles
Can you give me a little more information on guest posts? How do these work in your favor? Do the authors post the articles on their channels as well, and that in turn helps drive traffic?
Yep, and the guest posts have links back to our site
Great to have you back
Very interesting to read!
Thanks for reading 🙂
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