How I Made Over $40,000 With A “Failed” Site

It's been a while since I've blogged a success story, and one thing that a lot of you readers crave the most is success stories. Brad's recent post on his own successes went down very well, so I decided to share some recent good news of my own.

I think it's important to readers, peers, and potential customers alike, to know that I do actually know what I'm talking about with regards to niche websites. When you pick up one of our 'ready-made' niche sites, know that you can follow the path I detail here.

Today's post isn't all about success though, it starts off with failure.

The thing is, not everybody gets it right every time, and not every niche is going be a home-run, which is what makes this post even more pertinent.

When I first started, I went through four or five niches in about three months. The important thing to note is that I actually did get started though, otherwise I'd have got nowhere at all. The reason I went through so many niches isn't because I was necessarily bad at picking niches, or because the niches themselves sucked, it was because I was impatient to see success, and interpreted lack of success as failure.

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This brings us onto the topic of today. How I managed to turn a failed site into more than forty thousand dollars over the course of about two years. I say "failed" lightly, because it was more my interpretation that deemed it a failure. It was clearly anything but!

This Success Story Almost Never Happened

The title of this post could easily have been "How I Almost Lost $40,000", for reasons I'll go into below. However, I wrote a similarly titled post over at WealthyAffiliate a few days ago, so decided to add some variety. If you've already read that post, please note that I'm going to go into much more detail in today's follow-up, so it's still worth a read.

In 2013, about five months into my "niche site adventure", I started a website about shaving. Why did I pick it? I just thought straight razors were pretty cool, and they'd sell well. They mostly cost over $100 on Amazon as well, so I was attracted to the commissions.

While electric razors was a much more competitive niche, straight and safety razors seemed more accessible, so off I went.

Six months later, I started HumanProofDesigns, and as I found myself getting more and more stretched between blogging here, and managing several niche sites, I decided to let one or two go. I was a big fan of Flippa at the time (how things changed!), so I decided that my shaving site should go.

Why I Initially Decided To Sell

At the time, my shaving site was making me about $12 per month. Basically, it was making me 1 sale per month. That was terrible in my book.

I had spent the past six months blogging THREE TIMES a week on the site, and doing a ton of research into the niche. Back then, I was a believer in the mantra "All you need to do is keep blogging", so when I had seen zero results despite hours of work, I felt that the site was a bust. I mean, it had to be right? What did I know back then about the sandbox, or building backlinks, or any of that stuff?

Don't make the mistake I did guys. Six months is only the beginning. I've seen time and time again that around the six month mark, sites start to get a lot more traction. Google doesn't deem them untrustworthy anymore, and all that content has started getting itself indexed and ranked for lot's of long tail traffic.

So off I went to Flippa, and listed the site. After a week or so, it sold for $250 USD. This was a pretty small amount, but bear in mind the site was earning me hardly anything, and I just wanted to be rid of it.

I was pretty disappointed with this price. A site with that much content is worth way more than $250. That's just the problem with Flippa unfortunately.

A Twist Of Fate

Luckily for me, the buyer vanished before the deal was finalized. I couldn't get in touch with him because his Flippa account had been banned, and he didn't reply to my emails. I could have just re-listed the site, but since the price I got was so low and Flippa fees were quite high, I decided against it.

I hoped that the original buyer would return again and we'd finish the deal this time, without me incurring any more fees. At this point, I'd paid to list a site and had nothing to show for it.

The buyer never returned. He was probably a scammer anyway by the sounds of it, getting himself banned etc.

Little did I know, this small twist of fate would result in a MASSIVE payout for me 2 years later, we're talking about over $40,000 USD remember?

Moving Forward With The Site

After Christmas 2013, I'd seen the site start to get more traffic, rankings, and income. I still hadn't touched it for months, so I was really surprised that it had suddenly started getting an improvement. I remember thinking "Wow, lucky I didn't sell it when I did".

The problem was...the site was still not doing very well. We're talking like, $30 per month max. As 2014 went on though, I learned a lot more about ranking niche sites, thanks to sites like NichePursuits, AuthorityWebsiteIncome, CloudLiving, and many more besides.

I started to build PBN links (mostly from Lightning Rank) to the site, and added a few Hoth packages. Traffic started to go up massively as a result, and I blogged about my findings here. In 2014 I barely added ANY new content, and focused on link building instead. That post was so popular I was recently invited to discuss it on a podcast.

By the time 2015 rolled around, the site was now getting significant traffic, but I had no idea how to improve its income. It was STILL getting less than $100 per month, even though it was raking in 4,000 unique visitors a month.

Once again, I did a little experiment, this time with Thrive Content Builder, and put better CTA boxes and "Recommended Products" on the top 10 posts on the site.

I've never seen such an uptick in income before. Literally overnight.

The site went from $50-70 per month to $300 per month instantly. It then went on to $500, and $600, and $700 per month. Now we were in business.

Again I posted about my findings here.

Thrive had paid for itself instantly, with only a few hours' work on my behalf.

Rinsing And Repeating

I now had a winning formula. Build links, add new content (used Semrush a lot to get new ideas), and then go through Google Analytics to figure out which posts were getting the most hits, and optimizing them with Thrive.

For the rest of 2015, this is what I did, and I was able to grow the site to 12,000 monthly visitors, and over $1,800 in Amazon commissions for December 2015.

Let's stop a second, and take stock.

In August 2013 I *almost* sold the site for $250. Through luck, I ended up keeping it.

In 2014, I earned about $500 from the site.

In 2015, I earned about $10,000 from the site. It was more, but let's keep the numbers round.

Can you imagine if I had sold it for $250?

Selling The Site – Take Two

Naturally, some of my case studies about the site were popular. I did an interview on NicheHacks about it, and it was this post that Thomas from FE International read. We’d met at a conference several months before, so were already on good terms.

Thomas suggested I sell the site (a natural suggestion for a website broker to make!), and as it happened, I was thinking of ways of raising money for another investment at the time. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of selling this site, so when I realized I could get more money for it than I’d imagined, and that money would pay for 90% of the other business I wanted to buy, it was a bit of a no-brainer.

I listed the site with FE International around January 8th, had a buyer by January NINTH, and after all the due diligence, site transfers, and agreements were signed, I had the money in my bank account (and back out again on its way to a new venture), by January 26th. What an incredibly fast (and amazing) end to a journey that almost ended two years sooner.

For confidentiality reasons, I can’t share the exact price, but it was over $25,000, a little less once the broker’s fee was deducted of course.

As an aside, I definitely recommend FE International for selling sites. Besides EmpireFlippers, I don’t think I’d ever recommend anyone else either.

Let's take stock again.

In 2013 I almost sold the site for $250.

In 2014 it earned me about $500.

In 2015 it earned me over $10,000.

In January 2016 I sold it for over $25,000.

That's close to $40,000 that I shouldn't have earned, but for a twist of fate.

Want to learn how I came with this niche idea that made me over $40,000?

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The Main Takeaway

There’s a lot to takeaway from this post. Content without links can kill a site. Site age is important. Flippa is a pain. FE International knows how to find buyers…

But the ONE thing I want you to take away from this journey is this.


Your site probably isn't a failure. You just haven't yet turned that oh-so-lucrative corner.

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That sounds like something you might see on a motivational cat poster, but it’s the truth. Most people quit affiliate marketing because they think their site is a bust, and success online is a myth. Well, not everybody is going to succeed, that’s for damn sure, but those people are probably the ones who sold their sites on Flippa for $250.

Glad I lucked out there.


  1. Thanks for this great post and for sharing your site’s journey to success. I needed to read this today!

  2. Pinar Tarhan

    This is awesome! I’ve been at it for a while, and I rarely see fresh and actionable advice anymore. Thanks for sharing all the details of your journey. I bookmarked the post and pretty much every link you mentioned. I didn’t pick the best niches to begin with, but I’m passionate about them and I’d love to improve them before starting new ones. Thanks again! 🙂

  3. Wow… Gave me some new hope for one of my lousier sites! Thank you! : )


  4. Excellent post! I learned a lot of both practical, hard-earned lessons and also motivational material.

    Thank you!

  5. Great article Dom. Very inspiring and instructive experience. You never know how things will turn out for you.

  6. Hey this is an amazon post. i have a site that i just left along an its getting traffic but made no money i was thinking of selling it but now i dont think i will. but i think i need a new theme what theme do you use for your niche sites??

    thank you

  7. Mike Gaensslen

    Great article Dom.! It;s hard to hang on if nothing much happens but with the effort, I am sure, it is possible. You probably remember me and my site you built about the Ancient History, the Sumerians. Well, I have on Google right now, with 3 x 2nd place on page 1, 1x 1st place, and the rest inconsequential. I am just starting the SMM campaign and it needs a lot of work yet but it’s on its way! Thanks to you!

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