I got my niche website valued last week, almost two years to the day of starting it.
I wasn’t looking for the website to be valued, but someone at Flippa reached out to see if I was interested in a free website valuation – all I had to do was fill in a quick form.
Seemed easy enough, so I thought to myself, why not? What harm would it do? Less than two minutes later, I was grinning like a cheshire cat!
My site had been valued at $207,701!
I asked within a Facebook group I am part of whether this had ever happened to others before, and apparently Flippa is doing this a lot at the moment. That was a little deflating. I now assumed the valuation had been artificially increased to get me to sell.
I was about to move on when Max from FE International reached out to ask if I wanted a second valuation. If I was going to sell the niche website, then I definitely needed to have multiple valuations, so I agreed.
FE International were far more detailed in their approach and wanted information such as traffic, revenue, profit, etc. This could have been more time consuming, but luckily, I had built an affiliate report that had all the information and more, so I just shared the report with them.
A few days later I had my valuation back… $217,522! What was going on here?
I was brought up to always get three quotes/valuations before making a final decision, so I reached out to Empire Flippers to get a third and final valuation. After a back and forth, I got my third valuation… $201,600!
It was clear that all the valuations were in the same ballpark. I was definitely onto something with my niche website.
I now had a decision to make…
I will tell you what I decided to do, I promise – but before I get to my decision, I want to talk about my journey, how I started the niche website, and the process I went through to get these exciting blog valuations!
How I Built a Niche Website Worth $217,522
Why a Niche Website?
I have wanted to build an affiliate website for as long as I could remember, but the timing was never right.
Working in a full-time role and having a busy social life didn’t leave me with enough time to fully commit to building a website. That all changed when I quit my job in 2016 to start a business, freeing me up (so I thought) to start not just one, but multiple affiliate websites.
Several domain purchases, a couple more years, and even some content creation later, I finally started a niche website that I wanted to focus on.
Most people talk about how they researched their niche, searched through lots of domains and competitors. Not here! Finding the domain I went with was a stroke of luck.
I was surfing the web one night whilst watching TV, something I do regularly, especially if the program doesn’t interest me, and came across an affiliate website that was doing extremely well, but in my opinion was poor.
What took me most, though, was how clever the domain was.
I headed to my domain registrar of choice and wondered if a better version was available, and unbelievably, it was!
I couldn’t believe my luck, so I bought it on the spot and knew this was the start of something.
Getting Started and Setting My Targets Early
I’m competitive… unbelievably competitive!
I have always been like that from a young age, going back to when I used to play football (soccer) at a good standard. It’s ingrained in me.
That competitive nature has carried over into my work, so I knew I needed to set myself a target to get to. I settled on £500 per month through affiliate sales.
Doing my research, and following a number of affiliate marketers, they all indicated that £500 per month would be a good return for anyone building their own niche website – so I plumped for that as my target.
Once that was set, I needed to get my website up and running and build it out, but first I wanted to get some content created.
One thing to note is, I am not the best at writing – writing this post took me a long time – so I decided to outsource the entire content creation process!
Now, before I did this, I set myself a budget, as I couldn’t afford to just spend money without any return. I looked at what I was comfortable with spending, and set out on £1,000 as an amount that I was prepared to lose on this project.
With that in mind, I started by conducting some initial keyword research and commissioned 6 pieces of content, all focused around buyers guides, as I needed to make money as soon as possible.
While I was waiting for the content to be created, I put together the website in WordPress. In hindsight, I would have chosen a different theme and gone down the GeneratePress route, but I will save those learnings for a later post.
With the site live, my first content published, and analytics implemented, the next step was to build a few links to ensure that Google got to my site.
Instead of going down the route of guest posts and comments, etc, I wanted to start by building links that any business in the world would have: local citations. So I went over to BrightLocal and put in an order to get some local citations from high authoritative websites.
I was now ready to move forward on my niche website!
Six Months on, the Progress Was…
I did absolutely nothing!
For six months, I promptly forget all about the website, the content, the links… I basically quit!
I am someone who loves instant gratification, and considering that nothing happened in the first month – which I knew would be the case, since I work in the SEO industry every day – I just lost interest and stopped.
It wasn’t until I spotted a random payment from Amazon after those first six months that I realised the website was making money and that it had real potential.
That payment from Amazon gave me the kick up the arse that I needed and an impetus to really move this forward. It was that moment that changed my approach to building my niche website, and I haven’t looked back since.
Changing My Approach and Building Systems
I couldn’t continue the way I was. It just wasn’t working. I had a job, a young family, and not enough time to get things done.
So, I had to build systems that enabled me to scale my operation whilst also maintaining the quality that I knew would give me the best possible opportunity to succeed.
I looked at the process that I had and put my focus on improving the following key systems:
- Identifying keywords to target at scale
- Growing the content creation process
- Building a team
- Ensuring that I am within budget
- Bringing all of my data together centrally
- Creating multiple revenue streams
A huge part of any niche website is the creation of content.
And a big part of content creation is targeting the right keywords that will generate you traffic and hopefully revenue.
I am sure that you’ve come across a lot of different keyword strategies in the past, but the only one that you need to really remember is finding keywords with a low keyword difficulty score and a decent search volume.
I got started in a different manner, however.
As I mentioned already, I came across a niche website that was punching well above their weight, in my opinion. So, I started doing some competitor research and identifying the keywords that they were targeting.
It wasn’t complicated, I literally headed across to aHrefs and inserted the domain in question to the search bar.
When the results came back, I headed down to the top pages report and exported all of the URLs and the keywords that they were ranking for.
I then took those keywords and created a content strategy, focussing on those terms with the highest volume and lowest keyword difficulty score.
Once I was outperforming that specific website, I targeted another website that was also punching above their weight – again, in my opinion. Since then, this has become my primary keyword strategy for my niche website, and it has been very successful to date!
I understand that this is not necessarily the best way to start your niche website, and potentially a risky strategy. However, I was confident that the websites I was reviewing could be outperformed and built out a strategy to prove it.
I also was being lazy – I didn’t want to spend all of my time doing keyword research, and I haven’t gotten to the point where I can outsource that task just yet.
With all that said, I couldn’t be happier with the results from this approach! By following this strategy of doing competitor analysis, instead of keyword research, I felt that I could do it at scale and grow much faster.
I just needed to create content at the same rate.
Building a Content Production System
The biggest challenge that I see when building a niche website is how to create content at scale, while making sure that the output is consistently high quality.
Over the first few months of restarting the niche website, I used quite a few different writers, all of whom created average and inconsistent content.
It was frustrating, but it wasn’t their fault, it was mine. I didn’t provide them with the system they needed to be able to succeed with the task at hand. So, I took time out and created a framework that would enable any writer to be able to follow the process and write content that was consistently high quality.
- Creating a set of SOPs for the content that was going to be created regularly.
- Creating a way to connect keyword topics and buyer intent – we call it the Content Workbook.
- Building a feedback mechanism for the team that I was about to build.
Once I had created the framework, I turned my attention to building a team that could create high quality content at scale.
Building a Team
I chose UpWork!
Whilst UpWork can have a bad reputation in some areas, you can find some real diamonds if you look hard enough. I also didn’t have a big budget to work with, so I was looking for people that were on the start of their freelance journey and looking for long term work – if the output was good of course.
The thing with UpWork is, you need to go through a vetting process, and even then you might hire some freelancers that are just not the right fit.
That’s OK, you learn and move on.
When that happens, I find that the content that has been written isn’t a total loss, you can have one of your trusted writers review it and edit to bring it inline with what you are looking for.
For each writer that I take on from UpWork, they have to be able to do the following as a basic requirement:
- Work within the content framework that I created
- Write directly into WordPress (my CMS of choice)
- Format the article as described in our SOP
- Insert the correct affiliate codes/links into the content
They may not get all of them straight away, and that’s OK. You’d expect any new hire in any job to need a little bit of training, but it’s ensuring that most of these are ticked off straight away using the framework that I created.
Off the back of this, I create quick walkthrough videos that I provide so they can actually see what I mean and provide them with examples from existing content.
See, I am trying to remove all blockers so they can get content created at scale and to a consistent standard.
Another key requirement for any writer that works with me is to be able to take feedback from me, but also to provide feedback to me. The relationship that I want to have with my writers is a two-way street. I need to know when things can be improved, what the bottlenecks are, and how I can move things out of their way.
By doing this, I receive better content. The better content that I receive, the better chance I have of ranking higher within the SERPS and generating revenue. It’s a win-win!
The aim of building a team is to build a long-term relationship with them, to get them bought into the process. I don’t want to be looking for or hiring new writers every month.
For me, this means sharing the results that we are achieving as a team on a regular basis – I automate analytics results into our Slack channel on a monthly basis.
It doesn’t stop at just sharing the results, I like to share when we have a good return, and that has led me to give spot bonuses to my team, which is always appreciated.
This has allowed me to keep the same set of writers for over a year, and I am looking to add more to that group as I move forward, as long as the profits allow for it.
Business 101 – Cash is King
To do this, I created a very basic profit and loss (PnL) spreadsheet that I kept updated every week. The basics included:
- Link Acquisition
- Amazon Associates
- Ad Publisher – Ezoic
- Profit Number
I also built in a net profit % as I wanted to ensure that over a 12 month period I was working towards a goal of 80% net profit.
For me, 80% represents the magical number where you are generating a good return on your investment.
Using the PnL, I was able to see how much I could re-invest in the following month. (Remember, I set out to keep within the £1,000 budget.)
If I made £100 one month, then I was prepared to invest £100 the following month, even if I wasn’t being paid that for two months. This gave me a plan to stick to and manage my budget.
Centralising Data to Make Informed Decisions
If you have already built an affiliate website, then you are likely having to switch between Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Amazon Associates (if monetised in this way) and your ad publisher dashboards to review your data.
It’s annoying, isn’t it!?
I got very frustrated with this, and after trying to find a simple solution, I decided to build my own tool that allowed me to see all the information in a single location.
Once I had it, it was such a time-saver, especially when I started to get my VA to update the manual parts on a weekly basis – it takes them 5 minutes max!
I was able to view the following all in one location. I even merged some of the data sets:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Amazon Associates
- My PnL
At a glance, I was now able to see what products were my best sellers and across a date range, how much money I was making through indirect (9.1% up until the end of September 2020, if you were interested).
With the event and goal tracking that I had added to Google Analytics, I was able to cross-reference the product set to the pages. I knew exactly where I needed to be optimising and why.
I had my PnL built into the report as well, so no more doing the math to see my net profit, cash in vs out, etc. For future proofing and to see where my website was placed from a valuation perspective, I built into the report a valuation metric.
These metrics looked at the last average profit over the past 6 months and added a multiplier – a number that automatically updates month on month.
When it came to valuing my niche website, this report was the only thing that I needed to provide each company with, though I will go through the valuation process in another post!
This report that I created became the command centre for my niche website, I was able to make decisions purely by looking at the data that I was provided, all in a central location. It was well worth the investment in my time to create it!
Adding Multiple Revenue Streams
As with most niche websites, I set out to earn money from Amazon Associates through the creation of buyers guides and informational content.
At the beginning, I wasn’t able to use the API, as I didn’t have any sales, which meant a lot of manual creation of images and links through to Amazon. This was such a ball-ache, but once I got those sales, I quickly bought the AAWP plugin enabling me to automate this process. 🙂
When I first started the niche website, I wasn’t sure which WordPress plugins I should be using for my site, so it was quite a manual process at that time.
As my website started to gain traction and I was starting to get traffic, I looked for different ways to monetise my website. If I wasn’t going to make money through Amazon Associates early, then I needed another source of income.
Whilst I was aware of Adsense, I never really had a good impression of the tool. However, I needed to make additional money to fund more content and as I wasn’t generating enough traffic at that point for Ezoic, Mediavine, or AdThrive, I took the plunge.
Using SiteKit, Google’s plugin for WordPress, I connected AdSense to automatically place Google Ads on my site. Being honest, they didn’t look great – even though Google complains about that – but I left it on for a little while before moving across to Ezoic.
Connecting to Ezoic is not as straightforward as they make out, especially for a newbie like me at the time, but the support team helped get me set up and running.
Since then, I have been making more money than I had been with AdSense, even during the pandemic of 2020 when RPMs dropped significantly.
Either way, the goal of generating another revenue stream had been accomplished and I was able to invest more into the content that generates more traffic, and therefore more revenue!
Where is the Site Now?
Fast forward to today, and my niche website is almost running on autopilot. I spend somewhere in the region of 4 hours on the website per week, where I focus on:
- Keyword research for new content topics
- Reviewing the content, providing feedback and publishing
- Checking in with the team
There are some further additions that I would like to make to the team so that I am no longer conducting keyword research or reviewing content, but just checking in with the team and managing them to do the work.
I have some ideas of how to do this, so time will tell if I am able to get my involvement down further.
In terms of traffic, September was slightly down on August, but this was to be expected – some of my products are very summer-focused. But since the start of the year, traffic has increased significantly and continues to increase as I add more content.
This has been reflected in the profit levels for the website increasing month on month, to an average 70% net profit for the past 12 months. (Which, by the way, I am super happy with!)
At the start of the post, I said that I would tell you what my decision was.
Well, here you go.
Look… $217,500 is a huge valuation. For most people, they would sell in a heartbeat, but that’s not me.
After running the numbers:
- Converting $ into £
- Taking 15% off for commission
- Taking a further 10-19% tax (UK)
I saw that this would significantly reduce the amount of the valuation that I receive, even if it successfully sold in that price range.
So, I have decided that I am going to keep hold of my niche website for at least 12 more months, then hopefully I will have done enough to get it closer to a valuation that I will let it go for.
That means I need to get back to work, and I have the following on my mind:
- Changing the theme on the website, making it look more professional
- Improving the brand, the domain is very brand-able
- Continuing to build the social media profile as an alternative traffic source
- Constantly publishing a mix of content types
So, there you have it! That’s how I built my niche website valued at $217,500 over the course of 24 months.
In my next post, I am going to talk about how the valuation process went, what I needed to do and the information required to get a valuation.
Other Posts in This Series:
- Website Valuation: What you need to be ready!
- What I learned from building a Niche Website valued at $217,522