Website Flipping Case Study: Eclipsed $5,000 per Month – Part 5
I have a exciting new case study update for you all today where I will show you how this site is now making over $5,000 per month. For context, a year ago the site was making less than $200 per month. The growth on this site has been amazing and I can’t wait to get into all of what has happened since the last update. Before I do, make sure to catch up on the previous case study updates:
- The Introduction to the Case Study
- On the Road to Success – Part 2
- First Month’s Performance + Bigger Goals – Part 3
- Nearing $2,000 per Month – Part 4
Reading those updates will get you familiar with the origins of the site and how things have changed since I purchased it in June of 2016.
Now let’s hop right into this update!
Why the Increase in Revenue?
The burning question you are probably asking yourself is how the site has made a huge jump from less than $2,000 per month 3 months ago to over $5,000 per month now. The answer is somewhat of a letdown because there is no magical reason or special “trick”. This growth is simply from all of the consistent work we have been putting into the site the past 11+ months and we are starting to see some major growth.
People always think there is a trick or some special tactic that people use to grow websites, but it really boils down to 3 things:
- Create high quality content in high quantities
- Build solid links
- Monetize properly
That is it.
Do those 3 things consistently and you will find success with growing websites. Yes, there are other things that contribute to having success but those are the 3 pillars to success. This site is proof of it working. Let’s take a look at the traffic and revenue graphs to see the full growth history of the site.
All Time Traffic Stats
Consistent month over month traffic growth thanks to consistent content creation combined with a solid content strategy. It just works. A year ago, in January 2017, the site was getting around 2,000 sessions per month. Fast forward a year to January 2018 and the site is now getting 34,000 sessions per month.
To give you an idea of what our content creation looks like I want to give you a peek under the hood. Below you can see how many articles we are creating per month, total cost, cost per work, average article length and more. Click image for a better view.
Here are the monthly averages:
- Articles: 13.27
- Words: 17,125
- Total Cost: $517
- Cost per Article: $40.41
- Cost per Word: $.03
- Article Length: 1330
On average we are publishing 13 articles per month and spending $500 per month on this content. Doing this steady for a year is the biggest reason for the growth in traffic and revenue for this site. Consistency is underrated when building websites.
A lot of this consistency of published content can be attributed to having systems and processes in place that have allowed the site to continue to pump out content with minor efforts from myself. Hiring a project manager and implementing systems is hands down the best thing that has ever happened to my businesses.
All Time Financial Stats
As I have mentioned in past updates, revenue is the most important metric that I pay attention to when growing websites.
Profit is important, but in my opinion you should be reinvesting all of your websites earnings right back into it. That is the quickest way to grow. Yes, your profit is not going to look fantastic during this growth phase but it will pay off huge later. That is what we have been doing for this site. Reinvesting everything back into the site and only focusing on growth, at whatever cost.
With that being said, below is our monthly revenue numbers since I took over ownership in June 2016:
The revenue growth has been incredible.
I’ve seen this happen a lot on other sites where the revenue or traffic hits a plateau for a few months and then all of a sudden your break through that “wall” and move into the next plateau. From the chart above, you can see the first plateau was around $200 from October 2016 through March 2017. Then from April 2017 to July 2017 the revenue went all the way up to $1,800. It plateaued in the $1.8k – $1.6k range for 5 months and then in December 2017 shot up to $3.6k and now we are over $5.2k.
It will be interesting to see where the level of the next plateau will be.
Perfecting the Monetization Methods
Testing, tweaking and trying new monetization methods can be one of the best ways to increase the revenue of a site in a short amount of time. If you recall all the way back when I purchased this site it was solely being monetized by Adsense. That’s it. My initial plan was to just optimize the ad placement and increase revenue that way. Doing that did increase the revenue, but I didn’t see a major boost in revenue until I tested other monetization strategies such as lead gen and affiliate content.
To better illustrate how the income streams for this site have evolved and how they have improved the revenue per visitor over time I have created a chart below.
The top part of the chart shows the revenue streams each month broken down by the type of revenue. You can see how the first 10 months we mainly used ads to monetize the site but once we started testing affiliate and lead gen strategies the total revenue went up AND the revenue per visitor did too. You can see the revenue per visitor over time in the bottom line chart. I’d suggest clicking on the image to make it bigger ans easier to read.
All Time Expenses
In the last update I gave a detailed breakdown of these expenses and where we are spending our money. Most of the expenses are for content and our project manager. You will see that we had our highest month ever in terms of expenses in January for a total of $2,649. The main reason for the increase in expenses was that we gave a $1,000 bonus to our project manager. So the actual expenses for January would have been around $1,600 without the $1000 bonus. I wanted to note that because the $1,500 $2,000 range for monthly expenses for this site is just about the ceiling. That range for expenses will be where we will sit for most months moving forward.
This is interesting now because we have reached a point where our expenses are “fixed” in a way so our profit will continue to go up each month as long as the revenue keeps growing. In the past, our expenses grew with our revenue which made it so the site broke even each month. Now we are to the point where the site will actually start generating solid and consistent profits each month while still growing.
All Time Profit
The graph above illustrates my point that I made earlier about the site now generating a consistent and solid profit each month. The site has now reached the stage that we have been trying to get it to for the past 9+ months. We knew that if we heavily reinvested all earnings back into the site we would eventually get it to a point where we would outgrow our expenses, which is where we are at now.
I’m super excited about achieving this because we now get the best of both worlds. On one hand we get to keep growing it each month by investing around $1.5k to $2k per month but then on other hand we are also able to take a profit each month.
Current Site Valuation
This case study originally started as a “website flipping” case study because I planned to quickly flip this website within 6-12 months. However, I quickly realized that the site had too much potential to do a quick flip. Now the plan is to continue aggressively growing this site until we feel like we have reached the ceiling. Once that happens we will think about selling it. So looking at the current valuation of the site right now doesn’t really matter, but it is worth mentioning for the sake of the case study.
To keep things as simple as possible, I will use the last 3 months average profit and a 25x multiple to find the valuation. In reality, a lot more factors would be considered and it would probably fetch a higher multiple than 25x.
The valuation is also skewed due to how heavy we are reinvesting all of our profits back into the site. Which is why I don’t care to even look at the current valuation. If you take a look at the profit chart in the above section you will see that in November we actually lost $139. November numbers were used to calculate the valuation of the site, so you can see why the $38k valuation is skewed lower.
Next month, assuming we make a profit of $2000 that would bring our new valuation to $55,883. Just to give you an idea how much the valuation can swing when you are growing.
What Have We Done Since Last Update?
To be honest, a lot of the same. Creating content, building links and testing monetization strategies. The things mentioned below are things a little more “out of the ordinary”.
Started Selling our own Product
This is the biggest thing we have done in the past few months. We have created our own study guide for a test that HVAC techs have to take. This took a lot of work to put together because we wanted to make sure it was top notch. We launched it a few days ago to our small email list and made a few sales, which is encouraging. This product is our MVP and now that we know their is interest in this area we will begin to promote it further and start creating other products we can sell.
We eventually plan to build out a catalog of products that are our own and we hope that this will be a solid income stream for us in the future. I will talk more about this in a second.
Optimized Lead Gen Monetization
One of the biggest reasons for the increase in revenue has been due to the optimization of our lead gen affiliate program. I optimized content on the site to better convert readers into leads. I made changes to the 50+ pieces of content we have geared towards lead gen and this has a direct impact on our revenue. I’m very pleased with the results.
Started Building an Email List
We have started collecting emails and building out an email list. In the past it didn’t make sense to try and collect emails on the site for two reasons:
- We had no use for an email list
- All content was geared towards lead gen or affiliate content, both more profitable to not try and convert readers into email subscribers
Now that the site has matured and we have more types of content where we don’t have a direct way to monetize it makes sense to try and convert readers into email subscribers. We are also now selling our own products which can be promoted via email. We now have a way to monetize this email list.
We have started slow, but are up to over 100+ email subscribers and will continue to work on growing the email list. This could prove to be crucial in order for the site to take it’s next step towards making our own products a solid income source.
Future Plans and Goals
My plans for this site have continuously evolved.
At first it was going to be a quick flip but then in the 3rd update I decided to take a longer term approach to the site. In that update, which was in in July 2016, I set my goal at $1,000 per month. It took one year, but in June 2017 the site earned $1,000. Then in the 4th case study update I upped my goal again, this time to $5,000 in a month. I set this goal in October 2017. A few months later I was able to reach that mark in January 2018.
Now what? Good question!
The new goal is $10,000 per month in revenue.
I think reaching this mark will actually be easier than expected. We have been working really hard to expand this site into new areas that will allow us to reach the $10k mark. Some things we are working on are listed below.
Double Down on Amazon Affiliate Content
Content where we write reviews about various types of products has proven to be very successful on the limited sample we have so far. There are a lot of sub niches that we have yet to explore and a lot of untapped content we can go after. We feel like we can really grow this aspect of the website fairly easily so we will be doubling down on this type of content. You can see from the revenue numbers talked about above that Amazon has become a major part of this website’s income streams.
One thing that is interesting about the AC/HVAC niche is that it is seasonal, but half of the products are popular in the summer and die down in the winter and the other half are the opposite. For example, heaters are poplar in the winter months but then AC is popular in the summer months. We are trying to create this content in a smart way so that we don’t see a dip in traffic as the seasons change.
Expand Product Line
Creating your own products to sell on your website is HUGE.
You make your business a lot more sustainable by doing this because you are no longer relying on a 3rd party for your income. I really like the idea of expanding our products we create and sell in order to minimize our 3rd party risk and add another income stream for the site. We have only dabbled in this area so far with our first study guide, but the initial sales have been encouraging and we will begin to look for ways we can expand this part of the site.
One idea that I think is really interesting is to eventually move into a more interactive “course” of sorts that will provide the user a variety of material that will help them pass the exam. We are still brainstorming ideas but we are eager to expand this area of the business. This will be important for the site to reach the next goal of $10,000 per month.
Test New Sub Niches
When I use the term “sub niches” I am talking about new avenues within the overarching niche of the website. This site started as mainly an informational website about HVAC, but once I took over I began to caover more sub niches such as product review content and local keywords. Both have been the main pillars for the site’s success so far. We have done a good job with these first two sub niches, but it is time we begin to look for new angles we can create content around in order to keep growing the site.
As a recap, we have currently created content for the following sub niches of the main niche of HVAC:
- Product reviews
- Local content for state specific content
- Test study guides and practice tests
- General HVAC info
Some new areas we are looking to expand into include:
- AC brand reviews
- AC troubleshooting content
Both of these are very deep, meaning that there is a lot of content that can be written for both of them. There are probably at least 50+ pieces of content we can write between these two new sub niches. This is where a lot of our time and money will be spend over the coming months in terms of content.
Until the Next Update
That’s gonna do it for this update. Hope you enjoyed seeing how the site has progressed and grown since I first bought the site. You can probably expect updates every 3 months or from now on since there isn’t a whole lot of new developments on a month to month basis that would warrant a a new blog post.
If you have any specific questions that weren’t covered in the post feel free to ask them in the comments below!
Do you Own a Site?
My business partner and I have created and optimized systems around growing websites with a content based approach. If you are looking for help with any, or all, of the following aspects we would be more than happy to help you out:
- Keyword research
- Content creation
- Content management
- Implementing systems
- Hiring writers
- Or anything else surrounding content marketing
Our systems have worked on multiple sites and we are interested in helping a select few people who need some help in this aspect. If you are interested please shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll be in touch!
Josh, this one’s great.
Have been following all your updates since beginning. Highly impressed and motivated with this projects success. One question:
Can you guide on the backlinking strategy and any anchor text ratio you follow…
Awesome to hear that 🙂
As for building links, we mainly do guest posts. Anchor text doesn’t matter too much as we don’t build too many keyword based links
Excellent progress Josh, congratulations.
I like how you treat this project as a real business and actually invest quite a bit of money on a monthly basis to achieve that traffic and income growth. The ROI is awesome, well done.
I appreciate it AJ! For a long time I bootstrapped all of my sites, mainly because I didn’t have extra cash to invest, but being able to reinvest large chunks of money back into the site has been able to speed up the growth tremendously.
I’ve been following you since you started this project, I’m super happy that you’re having success. You’re absolutely right, the best way to grow a site is with consistent long term quality content creation, links and proper monetization.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks for reading Mike!
You’re an inspiration Josh. Looking forward to employing some of what you talked about as I begin my web blog / e-commerce journey online in only a couple months.
One question, what was “lead gen” referring to? Is that from selling your own products or something else?
Thank you. Lead gen refers to sending people to colleges/schools/programs within the niche and then we get paid for sending them the leads
Thank you Josh for this entire case study.
What I don’t fully understand is the Lead Generation part? Who is paying you to refer potential user to a school? Is this a deal you have with specific schools or a 3rd party. Who is that 3rd party?
Thank you! Roger
Companies such as Quinstreet and Campus Explorer
I always read your updates with great interest. It’s great to see how well you’re doing and I can only see it getting better and better. Very well done!
Do you have any advice for the initial stages of evaluating websites for suitability. I struggle to find anything on Flippa – is there a better way these days or is it still the go to site? I know there is EF but they are a bit more upmarket I guess?
Glad to hear you are still reading my content 🙂 I appreciate the kind words as well Daniel.
As for evaluating websites, it is more to explain than what I can here because there are so many variables in play. Each website is different and requires different methods of evaluating. However, the basics that I look for are:
1. Steady organic traffic (ideally US traffic)
2. Established longer than a year
3. Consistent earnings
4. Good niche
5. Room for growth
6. There is a way that I think I can grow the site. I never buy just to maintain the earnings, always to grow
I know this isn’t super actionable advice but they are the basics. I might create a full post on this topic at some point though
Really cool to watch your progress on this project Josh.
Email is so key for back end monetization. Good luck and look forward to reading about when you kit $10k/mo!
Thanks Matt! Email is something we are trying to really double down on because I agree with you 100%. Thanks for reading
Great job Josh. Fun to watch the progress.
And I think your site could fetch several times more than your estimate 🙂
Thanks Tom, and yes, I agree about the valuation of the site being inaccurate. However, I just wanted to explain what it would be valued based on the common valuation formula for sites. This site is a tad different because we have focused so heavily on growth and the profit numbers don’t look fantastic. Thanks for reading and commenting!
thanks for the update. I have the worst time with finding detailed writers. Also I am in a competitive niche so other sites are writing lots of guest posts or have lots of links. The HVAC industry seems like a nice less competitive niche. I am going to read back through the earlier pots on this case study.
looking at your site. Do you use post templates ? Have you tested the conversions on your Amazon posts ? I am trying to get a good understanding of what is a good $ per visitor to Amazon and conversion rate. I get about 15-16cents a click and 7-7.5% conversion rate. I don’t follow a template and found Thrive content builder too cumbersome. (PS- I think Amazon doesn’t like reviews using star ratings, even if they are your own star ratings)
Great update and congrats on reaching your goals! I’ve been following your blog since you started your Amazon FBA business. You have inspired me to try and flip a website. What skills or experience do you recommend to develop in order to flip or run a website? What I had in mind was that I need to learn WordPress or web development in order to be able to make modifications to the website or do you subcontract that work out?
As for the skills needed to do this, you need to master one or two skills that you can leverage to grow websites. Whether that is SEO, paid ads, email marketing, content marketing, keyword research, etc. You need to master one of these and use that as your competitibe advantage to grow sites, Then slowly start to pick up the other skills as needed. Check out this article I write a while back that explains more of this concept – https://feinternational.com/blog/skills-needed-successful-website-investor/
One common misconception is that you need to know how to do web development or code websites. That is 100% not true. I dont know how to code at all. Focus instead on tangible skills that will actually move the needle in terms of growing a website. Hope that helped!
Thanks for the update, Josh. Congrats and your hard work is inspirational. How do you keep track of lead gen with WordPress?
I have been following this study since long. Glad to see the site has finally paid you off. All the hard work you have put into it, you totally deserve it. Anyway, what do you use for creating the images / graphs included in this post? (https://www.passionintopaychecks.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/HVAC-Income-Streams.png)
Have you trained your writers to post the articles directly into WordPress, or you have another person for that task?
Hey Josh I hope you are doing well! I was just wondering how you find your content creators? Do you use different writers?
All writers are from Upwork!
Just wanted to see if you had any updates on your site? I have a few sites that run 100% on adsense and am looking to implement some Amazon affiliate links. I was curious if that is still your biggest rev stream?
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