Leaving Work Behind

My New Project – A Website Purchase Case Study

Written by Tom Ewer on April 12, 2012. 19 Comments

My New Project - A Website Purchase Case StudyWhen I first started dabbling with internet marketing, the potential of my efforts bearing fruit were generally met with doubt by my friends and family. Most people don’t seem to understand how a website can make enough money to sustain a livable income.

And in fairness, my friends and family have all been proven right to date – my last successful website was killed off by Google many months ago (just as it was starting to show promise), and since then I have spent far too long going about things in the wrong way.

But I digress. The project that I’m going to tell you about today originated whilst I was skiing with my family in Colorado. Seemingly out of the blue, my dad decided that he was very interested in investing in websites. And since I am involved in internet marketing, he wanted me to help him out. This came as rather a surprise, as last time I knew, the idea of investing in websites struck him as absurd.

I should probably tell you something about my dad. He is an extremely successful businessman, with an eight figure property portfolio spread over the UK, USA, and the Cayman Islands. But more than anything, he loves doing deals. It doesn’t really matter if it is $3,000 or $3,000,000 at stake – it is dealmaking that gets him out of bed in the morning. Which is the only way I can rationalize him spending a couple of grand on a website, when quite frankly, he has far better things to be doing.

For him, it’s just a fun experiment. For me, it’s an educational goldmine. I’m starting with an already-established site and need to take it to the next level. It’s going to be challenging. And if I manage to elevate the income, I will get a cut of the profit. So I have two incentives to make this a winner.

About The Site

Unfortunately, I am not going to be revealing the site itself. Unfortunately, there are plenty of unscrupulous people out there who like to scheme, plagiarize, and generally make a nuisance out of themselves. I hope you understand.

However, I can certainly tell you about the site. It is a review site for a common type of household appliance. As you might guess, it is monetized via the Amazon affiliates program, which is new to me. The site is pretty big, with nearly 150 pages (although I am not sure where they all are, as the navigation system leaves a little to be desired!).

Having said that, I think there is plenty more to be done.

Stumbling At The Starting Line

The first hurdle I had to overcome was transferring both ownership of the site, and the actual content itself. This turned out to be a bit of nightmare, but I eventually figured it out. The whole thing was such a hassle, I decided to document the process in a WPMU article, for others like me!

Once I had got that sorted, it was a case of adding the site to Clicky analytics and changing the Amazon affiliates links to point to my account. I quickly saw that there was a problem – the traffic numbers were about a third of what I expected (and what previous analytics data had indicated).

I now know that the backlinking strategy has been solely based upon the Postrunner private blog network – which I believe hasn’t been subject to one of Google’s manual culls (yet). So I am not immediately sure as to what has caused the dramatic drop in traffic. I am not going to do anything about this for the time being – I’ll just continue to gather more data and see if I can make any before and after rankings comparisons with the information I have available to me.

Although my plan to increase the earnings of this site has apparently taken a huge hit before I have even got started, there is no point in crying over spilt milk.

So What Next?

My provisional plan to increase the value of the site is threefold:

  1. Build a list
  2. Get more traffic
  3. Optimize monetization method(s)

Let’s take a look at each in turn.

1. Build A List

The previous owner made no effort to build an email list, yet most of us know that “the money is in the list”. With a site like this, I believe that an email list could be a relatively huge asset. You could use it to promote new reviews, send out “recommended products” emails…the sky is the limit.

I will probably just put a standard signup form in place to start with, but I would imagine that the conversion rate would increase dramatically if I included an incentive. My idea would be to have a monthly giveaway for all subscribers – perhaps one of the reviewed products. Something to keep in mind.

2. Get More Traffic

As for more increasing traffic, that can theoretically be achieved with more content and better link building. Building links is of course a touchy subject at the moment, so if I do choose to do anything, I will be pretty damn careful about it.

I think article marketing is out of the window, as there are so many different keywords to target (across all of the different review posts). Blog network link building in the vein of the now defunct Build My Rank (and of course Postrunner, which has been previously used for this site) would have been ideal, but I’m not sure that I want to touch that strategy with a barge pole right now.

Social bookmarking might be another option, but beyond that, I am not forming any concrete opinions.

3. Optimize Monetization Method(s)

As previously mentioned, the site is currently monetized with the Amazon affiliates program. It’s a perfect fit for the subject matter, but is there more I that can do? AdSense is an obvious choice, although implementing it may serve to reduce overall income (if potential commissions are lost to advertising clicks). That is something I could test.

Another idea is in-text advertising – this is something I know Chris Guthrie of Make Money On The Internet has used for his Copy Cat Crafts website. I don’t know a great deal about this option, but it is an idea I have in the back of my head.

Finally, I could simply look to better optimize how the Amazon affiliate links are presented and promoted on the website.

What Do YOU Think?

I’m sure that many of you have more experience than me in dealing with Amazon sites (a few names come to mind immediately), and I would like to open this up to anyone who would like to offer their comments and advice. What would you do in my shoes? Let me know in the comments section!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver

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19 Responses to “My New Project – A Website Purchase Case Study”

  1. Gregory Ciotti
    April 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    This is awesome, glad to see you getting family involved, hope this project works out for you.

    I’m looking at selling a site (had two offers in the past two week), maybe you can help me with that.

  2. Marshall Davis
    April 12, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I have always thought of buying an existing domain/website in terms of buying a used car. While it might seem all shiny and pretty on the outside, you never know what is under the hood, or rather, how it has been treated in the past.

    Good luck with this site and I am eager to what your progress with it as you post updates.

    • Tom Ewer
      April 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      That’s a good analogy up to a point Marshall. In theory, you should be able to get a positive return on a “used” site…that isn’t generally the case with a used car!

  3. Tory mcBroom
    April 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    That’s a golden opportunity you’ve been presented with. A lot of struggling IM’ers out there would kill to be in your shoes.

    When dealing with Amazon affiliate sites, you need to link often! Link to Amazon multiple times through out the copy, in all images and a little trick I’ve found useful is to create a “view price” or “view discounted price” button on the product pages. Anything to get the user to click through.

    Basically, spend the bulk of your time on conversion optimization (getting users to click through to Amazon) and I would create an automated stream of backlinks from social signals.

    Take it seriously and take it slow… Good luck my man!

  4. Jon
    April 13, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Hi Tom, looking forward to reading more about this. But can you first say a little bit about how you bought the site – where you found it, due diligence, etc?

    • Tom Ewer
      April 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Jon,

      The site was purchased from Flippa. The pre-sale documentation was very good – traffic and earnings for the past 4-5 months from memory. I also liked the site because it was targeting extremely low-competition keywords – I would prefer link building to play a relatively small role.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  5. Connie Hammond
    April 13, 2012 at 4:22 am

    Good luck! Also, good recommendations from Tory McBroom above — I should give those a try! Thanks.

  6. Justice Wordlaw IV
    April 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Hey Tom,

    I recently purchased an Amazon affiliates based website from Flippa and I had to change the monetization method because in Illinois we’re not allowed the affiliate program. The text links is a really great idea. I use Infolinks. Their a really great company and offer some great ideas. If you could with your monthly newsletter if you can, create a monthly coupon code to implement so that people can gain a percentage off of the items that they purchase from you via your newsletter. You can then track to see who is actually converting within your list.

    Another thing you can look into is Sponsored Reviews of items as well. Since you have a website with some relevant traffic this might be a good idea to use. With your indexed pages you might want to look into hiring a VA or a seo company to go through all the pages to make sure their are no affiliate codes from the previous owner on any of the other pages.

    When I first purchased out a website I forgot to do this and lost about $2,000 over the first three months because their were links on the first 3 indexed pages. No one ever remembers to check the very first ones.

    Other than that man good luck with everything. You’re going to kick ass.

  7. Leo
    April 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Great post and wish you the best of luck with it all. 2 quick questions though…

    1. Howcome you don’t use GA but Clicky instead?

    2. Is Clicky actually free?

    • Tom Ewer
      April 16, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      Hi Leo,

      1. I much prefer the Clicky interface – GA does my head in. Just personal preference!
      2. Only up to a point – I think I pay $15 per month for 20-30 sites.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  8. bryan
    May 15, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Hoping you update us further with this study, i have been interested in both amazon sites, AND the idea of purchasing a site to further expand it

    • Tom Ewer
      May 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Well here’s a mini update – the Penguin update absolutely killed the site’s rankings. Traffic has dropped through the floor. Lesson learnt – investing in a site that relies solely upon search engine rankings is a bad move!

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