It's been a long time since I wrote any kind of update about our niche site portfolio, and I had recently been thinking about writing up an update.
Today, I had this question in my Facebook group which made me realize the time had clearly come to do the update!
Here's the thing:
At HumanProofDesigns we've always taken a “practice what you preach” approach to teaching affiliate marketing.
Integrity is rare in this industry, but incredibly important. When we were first starting to get noticed and attracting an audience, we were very often complimented on this stance.
Even Entrepreneur.com highlighted how we “walk the walk”, in this article from 2015:
So, the point of all this is that it's time we started sharing some results with you again. Walking the walk is great, but we do have to talk about it too.
I'd also like to point out that when we created our course a few months ago, it was based on this very experience we have. We took everything we've learned from both running HumanProofDesigns, and our portfolio, and turned it into the most exhaustive training we've ever made.
But for now, let's talk about the actual portfolio itself, and some of the key things we've been working on.
The Current Portfolio
- Core Sites – 4
- Mid-Tier Sites – 5
- Low-Tier Sites – 4
We split the portfolio into multiple tiers so that we know how much time, and resources to allocate to them. The tiers are based mostly on income, but also on potential, how well they're responding to continued investment, and a few other factors.
Generally, the core sites are ones that are earning well, but we also feel have room to grow. If a core site earns us $2,000 per month for example, but is still growing and responding well to link building, we're happy to invest $2,000 into it every month to keep scaling it up.
They also get the most attention from my team as well. I'll talk a bit more about how the term works on the portfolio below.
Mid-Tier sites on the other hand are ones which are still in the growth phase, but are also responding well to links and content.
Maybe they're only earning something like $50-100 per month, but we know they are still growing, so we're happy to spend more than that on them each month.
An example might be one of the sites we shared with our private members, in the “health and beauty space”. That site is only earning $50 per month at the moment, but it has dozens of keywords at the bottom of page 1 and traffic is steadily increasing.
When you have a site like this, you know it's going to start earning big money as soon as those keywords hit the top of page 1, so it totally makes sense to spend $300-500 per month on more content and more links to get it to that stage.
It's important you have the cashflow from the Core Sites and from things like HPD (or your day job if you're doing this yourself) so that you can support the growth of mid-tier sites.
As for Low-Tier sites. These are ones that are not yet showing signs that we should jump in with them yet. Perhaps they're still new and sandboxed, or maybe they're out of the sandbox but jut aren't showing signs of ranking yet.
These ones are generally treated as “in limbo” and we leave them as they are until we see signs that point otherwise.
We do still send some links to these sites, and we do also add content to them (we usually focus on KGR keywords at this stage), but we limit the amount we add.
Of course, there's a bit of a catch 22 situation here because if we don't do anything to the sites, they'll never show signs of growth, but at the same time, if we spend too heavily on them, they'll eat the profits from the other sites.
So we generally have them in limbo most of the time, and we add some contents and links every few months to see if the situation has changed.
Matt Diggity talked about this a bit in this YouTube video below, and we also have an interview with him coming out on the blog in the next week where he goes into more details.
So we're not the only ones doing it this way.
So let's talk a little bit about the kind of things we've been doing with the sites.
Every site is a little bit different, so we haven't been doing a one-size fits all solution. Core Sites just get the majority of our focus, outside of our work for HPD.
To understand a little better, I'll tell the story of the sites.
I picked this site up about 1 year ago for $15,000. At the time, it was doing $500 per month, so I paid a 30x multiple. The majority of the income came from just 2 posts on the site, which was a little risky.
Fast forward to today, and the site has done $1,100 per month for the past two months, after steadily increasing every month, clearing just over $1,200 in this past June.
One of the two pages which made the money is a winter product, so commission from that page have dropped quite low, so the fact we've managed to more than double the site's income in spite of that is good.
On the one hand, we expected to be able to increase the site's income by more in a year, but on the other hand, this site has more than doubled its value in a year, and the money we've spent adding new content to the site has been paid for by its monthly earnings.
So overall, this site's had a 100%+ ROI since I bought it. Not bad, considering I could have bought stocks instead and earned 8%.
The main things we did to increase the site's revenue:
1. Added more Amazon money posts to lower the site's reliance on just two pages. These posts are starting to rank higher now, but could still do with more love.
2. Added MediaVine to the site. This took a few months because the site wasn't getting enough traffic at first.
3. Added the site to a private guest post service network. We now get a regular flow of paid guest posts on the site, which brings in some decent money.
We did attempt some basic CRO on the money pages too, but they were already very optimized when we bought the site.
However, Kurt Philip gave us some great feedback on one of the pages when he did an AMA inside our paid group last week, so we are going to implement some of those tips and see if we can keep this site growing.
Read the key takeaways here: https://www.humanproofdesigns.com/how-to-increase-niche-site-conversions-w-kurt-philip/
Once the site reaches a point where it's not growing anymore, we'll hold it for 6 months, then flip it. You generally need to use a 6 month earning average when selling sites, so that's why we'll hold it before flipping. We're confident we can get the site to about $1,500 easily enough, and at that point it'd be more worth out while to flip it.
If we can sell the site for $45,000, not only is that a 200% ROI on the initial $15k, but it will allow us to buy another site that might have bigger wins.
One thing we've realised lately is that it can often make more sense to flip a site, and pick up another one with more areas for growth.
For example, let's say Site A is earning $1,500, but you don't see any easy wins on the site. Scaling it up to $3,000 could take 6 months or more.
On the other hand, if you sold that site, then used the money to buy a different one also making $1,500, that site could be way easier to grow to $3,000 (maybe it has under optimised pages, room for different monetisation techniques, an untapped email list, etc etc).
We do have some pretty cool ways of finding these quick wins and getting fast 2x with sites (as we'll talk about below), but we aren't going to share all the secrets publicly yet, because a.) We want to get more results with them before sharing b.) We want to reserve some of the best value for our paid members, it's only fair.
For a general view of what's going on and how to flip websites, head over to this article.
Which brings me on to:
This site we bought two months ago. It was making $950 ish per month, and we paid around $34,000 for it. Yep, a 34x multiple, but it was well worth it.
In July, the site is likely to earn $1,500 to $2,000, so we've already nearly doubled its revenue in a short time. That's why we were willing to pay a high multiple. Plus, when we flip it, we'll get the same multiple if we use the same marketplace.
Let me go down a rabbit hole for a second here:
As you can see, our current strategy is to buy sites where we can get a very quick boost in revenue, hold them long enough to get the six month average earning history up to the new level, then flip then, and rinse and repeat.
Let's take a look at how this model could work in the long run. This is a hypothetical model because the numbers never work out exactly as planned, but it's a model we're already proving is correct. The numbers may vary slightly of course.
Month 1: Buy a site for $30,000 earning $1,000 per month. Implement a few quick win strategies to get the site to $1,500 – $2,000
Month 7: Sell the site for $60,000. Minus the 15% broker fee leaves $51,000. However, the site earned $2,000 x 6 so you have around $63,000 total.
Month 8: Buy a new site for $60,000 earning $2,000 per month. Implement a few quick win strategies to get the site to $3,000 – $4,000.
Month 14: Sell the site for $120,000. Minus the 15% fee but plus the $4,000 x 6 its earned you leaves $126,000.
Month 15: Buy new site for $120,000 earning $4,000 per month. Implement a few quick win strategies to get the site to $6,000 – $8,000.
Month 24 (Let's say the results take a bit longer as you scale): Sell the site for $240,000. After the fees and monthly earnings, you have $252,000.
Now, this is a hypothetical model like I said, and you may not be able to 2x the site every time, or it may take more than a month to reach that point every time. So you may find that it takes 30 months instead of 24 to hit these numbers.
However, some sites may 3x in that period instead of 2x, so it should average out.
In any case, in this model, you turn $30,000 into $250,000 in two years, which gives you $110,000 profit per year, not including taxes of course.
These numbers also rely on you not having to spend much on the sites to get those results. The strategy we're working on doesn't require us to add more content or links to the sites to get them to 2x. If we see an opportunity to get extra gains through more SEO or content, then sure we'll do so, but that's considered upside. We are looking for opportunities where the sites can 2x or more without us spending much extra on them.
- Sites that aren't mobile optimized (especially now that Google is “mobile first”)
- Sites that have an email list not being used properly
- Sites that have adsense (just replacing adsense with another ad network can get 2x right off the bat)
- Sites that are making money despite being very poorly conversion orientated.
With cases like the above, you don't have to build links or add more content to get growth, you just have to improve things. This is what we've already done with Site 2 above, we've spent $0 on the site since we got it, and it's already close to 1.5x.
This is one we built ourselves from scratch. We do still do this! It's just not our quickest win anymore.
We built this site in November 2017 and at the time of writing, it's getting about 30,000 pageviews per month, which isn't bad for a site that young.
We're still experimenting with different monetization techniques for this site, as it's not an Amazon affiliate site. It's making money, but we think it could make a lot more.
This site deserves its own case study and will get one in the future, but for now, let's move on.
This is a site we partnered with somebody else on in order to grow it. Similar to what companies like LeadSpring do. We have two sites that we're partnered on, and one site we've managed to 5x its revenue in about a year, and the other we've only had one month, so can't talk about results yet. It's looking good though.
Incidentally, let us know if you have a site that you think could be a good candidate for partnership. Get in touch here.
It's probably not worth us going into details about the Mid-Tier and Low-Tier sites at this point, as most of the action takes place with the core sites.
These lower tier sites are basically following the standard affiliate site path:
- Good keyword research and niche selection
- Build the sites with good onpage SEO
- Let the sites marinate in Google while doing some basic link building
- Drip more content over time, especially KGR and other long-tail content
- Wait until the sites start to come to live, and then invest more heavily in them.
Want to grow your own affiliate portfolio?
This is the same stuff we teach in our course, and it's the path most of you are probably on right now.
We WILL do more blog posts in the future about this path and the stages an early site goes through, but it's definitely beyond the scope of this particular article.
Stay tuned and subscribed for more updates on both the portfolio and the general affiliate training we are famous for.