First, long time no speak! Sorry about that. I disappeared into the world of domaining around Labor Day last year and emerged in late March! We had a record bad winter here with 10 foot snowbanks, and luckily I traveled a bit too.
When I got back, I got a few more niche sites up after that and had scheduled posts to maintain bi or weekly posts on the other older ones as well. I had written a few drafts here, which I obviously didn’t publish, but really didn’t have much to tell. We were just working on our sites, updating the odd Squidoo lens and setting up the farm and animal housing how we needed it.
I had a fairly major surgery in July that I should have had done at least 2 years before, so now have a ton of energy after coasting along with anemia for too many years. I can’t believe how clearly I can think and how much more energy I have now. Some days I could only get out of bed 1-2 hours a day, so this is awesome!
For the sites, we were keeping them going, just working part time, but then this summer, I read a post on the awesome IM forum on the Duckpond, about selling websites. Some of the other posters had some goals that inspired me. That spurred me into action and finally setting a goal myself of a monthly income! We are a long way off, but I think it can be done if we work hard!
I was just in Las Vegas in October with 50 or so fascinating people in the IM and online business space at the Rhodium weekend! It was great to meet friends in person that I have known for years online. I highly recommend this whole experience. At its most basic, just the chance to hang out, chat and party with positive, smart, upbeat individuals was awesome and great fun. Maybe it was valuable for networking too, who knows, but I am so glad I enjoyed the experience itself.
We had talks on buying and selling websites, the business of it, how to automate and remove yourself from your business and even had tips on how to network without feeling awkward! The motivating presentations and advice on automating your business and letting go of the day to day stuff was invaluable and will be important for us moving forward here. Anyway if you get the chance to go, take it! I am hoping to go in 2015 too!
So catching up by category!
About 70% of my Squidoo stuff kept going this past year, after account and lens lockings, and I just let it go to Hubpages. I am grateful for every extra penny we got from the site this year. The news of the sale of Squidoo was not that much of a shock, and better than the site closing which was the other other real option looming this fall. I am sorry so many people have been affected negatively and stressed out by the change.
It is a bit of a nuisance for us, and we are missing the great earnings we were getting on Squidoo, and we will be moving our content after Christmas when the grace period is over. I have a VA working on it right now, setting them posts up as WP drafts. It will not be worth all time and effort reworking and editing and trying to keep them going on Hubpages, to reduce the earning potential while still being at the mercy of someone else’s rules down the road.
As I see it, any web 2.0 earnings are a bonus, and they are definitely way down, now even in December. We have transitioned to our own sites and are crazy busy with them. Last year, I was going to try a few blogspots for locked and random content, and I know Blogspot ranked well. I just don’t think I can give control of my content over again. So I bought domain names instead.
This is so much fun for someone who loves finding a needle in a haystack (keyword freaks like me), but the time to search, cost, renewals and randomness in sales (if you do not direct market – email/spam), definitely eats into any profit you make.
I have sold 6 domains this year totaling over $10k, but I will likely be spending $5000 in renewals. I sell through general domain brokers, domainnamesales.com, sedo.com, and the boutique sites brandbucket.com and namerific.com. My favorite domains to buy, and the most risky according to domaining experts are brandables, made up names like startup business names. Names like injectly.com, and uppio.com and I like the clean generic look of the .co domains!
If you do not care to buy a domain with privacy you can easily buy .com domains for $2 apiece on Godaddy with coupons. If you just want to hold something a year while trying to sell it, that’s the cheapest. Renewals are usually $10 ish, and privacy is a premium there, so I have my built out website domains elsewhere.
I know people are curious how we are doing with our websites too, so here is a bit of an update, as I can’t believe my last post was over a year ago! I was excited to hear a number of readers have started their own niche sites back then, and were starting to see some success! That is great. I sincerely hope anyone not pulling the trigger on their own sites last year, has learned how to do it now.
We are currently working on a number of sites at the moment with posts with some with daily, some as far apart as weekly posts. The plan is trap some of the equity into bricks and mortar income properties. We are posting 600-1000 word posts on each, based on my keyword research with no backlinking at all. It is a colossal amount of work with about 300-400 new pages published a month, but I think that is what you need if you have the patience.
Our writers are writing fast and furious and I have tried a new site for content too, Hirewriters which is OK. But I am impressed with the quality on Zerys on the job board for North American English writers, as I find more regular writers in new niches. Two years ago using the job board could be painful to say the least. We have 2 full time writers too, and they do a great job for us.
We should have had our own sites earlier, but having analytics and higher traffic gave me the headstart I needed to see how keywords rank and tweak and fine tune a page to convert. I am not sure I would have learned it that on my own sites right off the bat.
This has been the most passive thing of all and my black and white belted Galloway cow images still sell. Zazzle is just ticking away with no new designs added since summer 2013. I’m now a powerseller on there, and appreciate the get the odd little paypal payment.
Part of the plan was eventually selling some of the sites, to raise cash for an investment property. But I figured a longer period of data was required to sell. Well, this year we have sold 4 sites through Justin and Joe at Empire Flippers.com. All sold fast and went smoothly. We are now used to the drill of organizing our earnings stats etc.
The 4 sites sold, totaled monthly earnings of about $2300. Most were our earliest sites and ones we were not really in love with, and we do things differently now and we didn’t really want to rebuild them. All were solid, low competition based kw based sites with no back-linking.
The buyer of two of them has been asking for more if we have them, which is great, but we are not quite ready to sell any more yet. Our smaller sites are actually maturing, sales increasing, so it will be smarter to hang onto them a little longer.
What I have learned doing my own sites
Do good backups! Last summer, one of our sites messed up and we made it worse. We had to rebuild it, and thankfully it was a only a month old, had about 30 posts and was starting to make sales! We sold a $200 item when it was still in the Google cache after the site was gone. We use the Updraft plugin now and use it for cloning and moving sites.
My own Amazon affiliate sites are building, though the number of Amazon affiliate links per page and duplicate content from poorly configured WP categories may be a factor in traffic rising then falling on some, but some have also surged up again due to Google refreshes. SEO Yoast is a great plugin for making sure Category pages are not indexed and causing duplicate content problems.
We plan on at least 50 to 100 articles per site, more for the best earners. I don’t think we will ever be done as Amazon content is far from evergreen, and at the moment, we were noticing a traffic drop on the newer sites if we went longer than week without a post.
It is taking longer for the bulk of the new sites to rank and get traffic than ever before, even with the same low competition parameters. Though in the past couple of months we’ve had a number of new sites earn something in the first month, which hasn’t happened in nearly a year. I think it may depend on the niche too as we are getting better at picking, but it is welcome anyway.
Maybe 10% of our sites are real duds and end up earning under $50 a month after a year, and most duds seem to be on branded domains, and the odd expired EMD domain where I must had messed up evaluating them.
I have gone back to using EMDs, general non-ugly .com names that do no limit the scope of the site too much. More of my duds were on branded domains than not, though we had a handful of brandable successes too. I have some new EMD sites with no content yet, except the EMD and a couple of plugins accidentally drawing Search engine traffic, while we get the content written.
If you are worried a site is taking too long to take off, as long as there is a steady upward trend in traffic (go to weekly in analytics right back to the dawn of the site, if not sure) leave it on the same domain. I moved 2 sites to new domains too early back in May and I think they would have earned eventually, now I have more traffic trajectories to compare to.
FBA on Amazon
We were starting to think about a bricks and mortar business here. Our home is in a touristy area, and there are many summer-only businesses up here that keep their proprietors’ bills paid all year long. But have decided to do something more scalable that we can do from anywhere, so are starting with FBA, about 2 years after initially buying the Amazing Selling Machine course. Nathan is in charge of it and is doing a great job, we just had our first sales this week!
I didn’t fancy dealing with customers directly before, but now feel we are ready for the customer service and building a business on sales of our own products. We are also part of Chris Guthrie’s FBA Facebook group, AzonMasters, and have access to some cool software with more on the way. Nathan is off to Vegas in Feb for the AzonMasters and ASM meeting, so should come back with more ideas.
I am still dying to master the email list, landing pages and want to start with and master Adwords too, likely for our own brand on FBA, but I may buy a site that is profitable with Adwords traffic. I think diversifying traffic is a good idea and social media looks like a time suck.
An authority site would be something I’d be interested in doing too, if it was related to our products or interests. I don’t think I could have all my eggs in one basket, but I could certainly enjoy having a bigger site in a niche I know backwards.
I need to be more productive and efficient and just read the 80/20 Sales and Marketing book which is awesome. I’ll be reading it again soon. Replacing myself and maybe hiring at a higher level is a goal for this year too.
Now after that novel, let me know how you are all doing in the comments? And your plans this new year for 2015!