How Mike Donovan Sold His 3-Year-Old Tech Blog For High 6 Figures
Mike Donovan returns to the Niche Pursuits podcast for an update on his site.
He was on the podcast about nine months ago in a popular episode in which he shared many cool insights on growing his first-ever niche site to $20k per month.
Soon after the site peaked at $46k per month before running into some unexpected issues we should all be aware of.
But he’s recently sold that site for high 6 figures and joins us to discuss all the ups and downs he experienced along the way.
From a Google penalty to a 7 figure offer falling through to forecasting the future of ad-focused niche sites in the age of AI, Mike has a lot of helpful experience and wisdom to share.
And how he’s managed to accomplish so much in just three years, it’s really an inspiring story.
Don’t miss it!
Topics Mike Donovan Covers
- The success of his first site
- His growth trajectory
- The compounding nature of SEO
- Why he sold his site
- His thoughts on AI and the future of niche sites
- Keeping on top of the numbers
- Google Penalty
- Potential dangers of link-building services
- Disavow links
- The impact of the penalty
- Losing a 7 figure offer
- SBA loan processes
- Riding the emotional rollercoaster
- Brand swapping
- Creating a sustainable brand
- Branching out into other platforms
Links & Resources
This Episode is Sponsored by Search Intelligence & Nichesites.com
Watch The Interview
Read The Transcription
Jared: Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman, and today we have a returning guest, Michael Donovan. Mike, how you doing?
Mike: Hey, Jared. I’m doing great. Thanks.
Jared: Good to have you back. We had you on, uh, well, you know, we had to look it up before we got started about about nine months ago.
So, um, less than a year ago you came on and, um, the interview is a very popular one. It was about your growth of a website you had started about two years before that. And was, uh, at the time of recording, making about $20,000 a month. It was such a cool story. Um, obviously we want people to go back and if they haven’t heard that one, listen to it again.
It was a popular one, but if you could catch us up on who you are, uh, for those who who didn’t hear the episode, and maybe just let’s just do like a couple minute fly by of the first two years of this website because we’re gonna be talking about what’s been going on with it over the last nine months since that episode.
Mike: Yeah, sure. So I’ll try to summarize that hour, uh, episode in just a couple minutes, . But, um, yeah, the story. So I’m Michael Donovan. The story was in, uh, you know, is of this site that I just recently sold was the first site that I had started back in 20, early 2020. Um, and, you know, I’d never learned much about sel, didn’t know a lot about content sites, but just started publishing slowly.
First year, I think I published 45 post total and then slowly built into year two, more and more publishing, uh, on that site. But it was. A very slow burn. So it took about six months before I earned my first dollar with that site. Uh, and then flash forward to when you and I had that interview, that site was doing just under, I think $20,000 a month when you and I spoke, uh, which just, you know, far exceeded any expectations that I had had, uh, for that site.
It was monetized almost, uh, solely with display ads. There are some affiliate links in there, but I’d say 95% of it was display ads. Um, and I had done most of the writing on the site myself. So, you know, I have a nine to five job. Uh, I still have that same job. I’ve had that for, you know, the last three years or so, and then every time I get a free moment, uh, was working on, on that site.
So, uh, that was sort of the story that you and I talked about them, which was incredible. Uh, and then, you know, I got fortunate that the story got a little bit better towards the end, uh, and then excited to talk about that and some of the stuff that’s coming up. Yeah. Some
Jared: of the things I remember from the interview that where they stuck out to me were, um, number one, Uh, it’s such a good story about how long SEO can take as a tactic, but then when it, when it works, uh, oftentimes it’s, it’s this exponential growth path.
Cuz I think I remember you saying, One year in, it was earning hardly anything. And then the pace at which it picked up revenue and page views towards the end, towards the last couple months before the interview, it was just skyrocketing. So that was a really cool thing. You also shared some very interesting tactics you were using to grow, and I won’t, you know, we, we don’t need to get in all those details about it, but man, definitely go back and listen.
Some of the tactics you shared to grow that site, um, were really fascinating. Interesting. So,
Mike: um, yeah, I actually want to talk about one of those tactics and some of the changes. We can do that a little bit later, but I did bring up the chart because I, it’s right. The exponential part of it is, is, um, surprising and I think once you’re aware of it, you might stick with it longer, so.
Jared: Right. And that’s, that’s a good point. I think that’s the inspirational part of it, right? Like, you might be at month nine on your chart, and Right. Not aware of what’s coming.
Mike: Right. So end of year one was 20,000 pages, but the month just before that, in November of year one was 11,000. So it doubled November to December and I was making $51.
Yes, that was year one. And then end of year two, so 12 months later, 350,000 pages and $17,000. And that was in one month. And that was in one month. And you and I spoke a couple months later, two or three months later, and it was making $20,000 a month, and then four months later, $46,000 a month. So, and then the trajectory, uh, went down from there, which we’ll get into, sort of what happened to the site and the sales cycles that I went through, uh, in selling the site.
But yeah, the trajectory of, you know, s e and the compound nature of it is just, um, you know, it’s hard to grasp until you’re in it. And then when you’re in it, you think it’s just gonna keep going forever. Uh, you think you really figured things out and then, you know, as I learned, I hadn’t, uh, and so anyways, but it is, it’s been, uh, a, a ride to say the least.
Jared: So you shared this story over at Niche Twins, which, um, which, uh, I was fascinated to learn about the story since the interview. Right? And as you alluded, the site has now been sold, but it certainly was not without ups and downs over along the, along that last nine months of the journey. And so, um, you, you, you did go into it on, in an email that you sent out to, to the people who follow you at Niche twins and I, that’s basically what we’re gonna be talking about today is we’re gonna start where we left off last time in the interview where the site was earning about $20,000.
Now maybe break the end to us, tell us what happened, give us the cliff notes and then we’ll just kind of the way we do on this podcast, we’ll start to unwind all the things along the way and then, um, you know, all the things you learned
Mike: throughout. Yeah, so the Cliff notes, uh, ending is it’s sold for high six figures, which, you know, ultimately I was very happy with, although I had a seven figure deal fall through.
And so if I hadn’t had that seven figure deal at all, I probably would’ve just been ecstatic with the high six figure deal. But of course, you always compare things, but it was a, it was a great outcome in the end. Uh, but I’ll say to your point, like the first two years were kind of like the Goldilocks period for me in seo.
First year I had nothing to lose. Didn’t even know it was gonna be anything, but was working hard at it. Second year it was like, wow, this is really working. And then within, right after you and I finished our episode, the next four or five months, I feel like was a condensed, just hard lesson in what this business kind of is, right?
The real experience of this business, which many people had said to me and shared on Twitter and some lessons you just have to learn, uh, on your own to actually understand and get it. Uh, but yeah, it was, uh, it was a lifelong, uh, lesson in about four or five months I would say. . Yeah. You
Jared: shared on the last interview actually, I asked you if you had any intentions of selling it.
Um, and at the time, I’m pretty sure you said you didn’t, I’m pretty sure you said, you know, you wanted to keep growing it and, and you did keep growing it. You, you what, what were the next couple months like, were you, were you, you know, what kind of caused the interest in you to stir, um, to sell the site?
Given that from all intents and purposes, the site was continuing to grow?
Mike: Yeah, so there was a handful of reasons, but the biggest ones were I, you know, I, with this Twitter account and the following that I have in the community of people that you know, that you’re a part of as well, Jared, I had multiple people reach out to me and say, Hey, congratulations.
Based on that income report in August of 46,000 a month, they said, Hey, that’s a great milestone. Congratulations on that. Uh, but hey, have you considered selling and you want to be selling on the way up? You know what I mean? When things are going well. And at that time I even responded to them saying, you know, I’m not really that interested in it, but thanks for your, you know, feedback.
And we talked back and forth. Long story short, about a couple weeks later, uh, I decided just to reach out to Quiet Light. Um, so I used Quiet light ultimately to do the sale, but my thinking was, let me just get everything ready with them. You know, there’s a p and l, it’s a content site, so it’s pretty simple, but it’s a p and l.
They do, you know, a hundred question interview, you can change some or, uh, you know, a hundred questions as part of an interview that they give as the package for the sale. But my thinking was let’s get all of that information up to date and ready. And then month to month, I can just send my broker the updated information.
He can update it and I say List it, and it could, let’s, gets listed in two or three days versus the lead time that it took, which was one or two months. Mm-hmm. . So I still wasn’t thinking about selling it at that point. It was more being prepared. Um, and then what triggered me wanting to sell it was actually someone on Twitter, again, reaching out to me directly in my dms.
And they had done that two or three times before asking me to sell to them. And this third time they were pretty persistent. And I said, you know what? I actually have a broker now. I don’t actually know what this process is like. You know, here’s the broker’s contact information at, uh, quiet light, uh, and you guys connect.
And if this is real, you know, let’s have further conversations. And so that’s how the first sale conversations went and how that first, you know, even me really considering selling. What I, I mean, is it,
Jared: is it just a number, like, because since the interview your site was making $20,000 a month, fast forward, not many months later, 3, 4, 5 months later, the site makes $46,000.
What causes you to even take the, the leap to list it? Was it, um, like, I don’t want to put words in your mouth or, or, or say the wrong thing, but was it a fear of what you might lose seeing all the updates that were happening throughout 2022? Was it a number you’re like, well now based on average multiples, I can get a certain number that I’ve always been looking for.
Was it a change in circumstances, uh, that you wanted to have the money for? You had a different use for the money. I’m just trying to kind of walk through some of the things that were going on in your mind.
Mike: Yeah, there’s so, there’s so many. For me personally, and I think for a lot of people who end up selling, it’s not usually one.
So there’s the personal side and then there’s sort of the landscape of niche website side of it. So on the personal side, you know, we have another baby coming in about 27 days. You and I were talking about that before this, just before this, Jared. Uh, so, you know, enough said there, uh, that’s gonna be a big time commitment obviously when we have our son who’s 20 months old now as well.
So two kids. Uh, that was, that was a compelling enough reason to maybe think about selling this site as I am still working my nine to five job.
Jared: Yeah. And a p a psa On that note, man, if you don’t have kids yet, it’s a lot easier to build websites on the side. Not that kids aren’t great, but it does make those late nights, early mornings a little harder.
Mike: I contest to that cause I started this site with without, without Declan. Uh, I continued it with him, but it was definitely more challenging. Yes. Uh, so that was a big reason. You know, maybe in parallel to that, having a second kid, the house we’re in now, we had talked about this during our last interview.
We are now pretty close to moving out of this house. Um, and so in order to buy the house that we want to move into, and we wanna rent the house that we’re in now, in order to make that happen, you know, cash on hand became more valuable to me than cash flow. Uh, and so this moment in my life, it may, maybe if it was in two years or three years, I would’ve valued the cash flow more.
Uh, but I wanted to put a sizable down payment, especially with where interest rates are now. I think they’re above 6%. Again, home prices are still really high. I’m in Massachusetts. I think the median home prices over half a million here. Uh, and so having cash on hand to make that work, uh, was, was important to me.
Those are some of the personal sides I think. You know, you mentioned algorithm updates. It has. I haven’t been in this space very long, but the updates feel the frequency, feel like it’s been ramped up to a hundred as of late, whether it’s core updates, spam updates, helpful content updates, link spam updates, some of them roll out simultaneously, back to back overlapping with each other.
Um, you know, in, in a weird way, I was writing this in my, in the newsletter. I’m gonna send this, uh, on Friday, but in a weird way, it’s like, you know, Google’s the dog walker and the search results, uh, and the search results are the dog, right? And Google has the dog on a leash. So in that way they’re in control, but the leash is getting longer and longer, and the play in which the dog can move around your search results is just getting wider and wider.
And that dog is easily excitable. You know what I mean? And this, so your search results, and that might not matter, right? If we were talking about your dog, but we’re talking about your rankings and your business. And so, you know, whether that’s a perfect analogy or not is besides the point. But I feel like just in my three years of being in this space, The volatility in the results has been pretty wild.
Um, and so that’s a real risk, I think, uh, it’s always been a risk, but I think it just, the risk became bigger over the last couple of months or even year. Uh, I would say.
Jared: I’m glad to hear you addressed it. Um, only because that’s the first thing that tends to go through my mind, right? Like when I, when I think about having a site of that size, the first thing I think of is, oh my goodness, there’s so much to lose, right?
Like, tends to be, um, uh, a plateauing for bus, many businesses, uh, well outside of the online world, just business in general. Certainly I went through, uh, learning about this in the last business I owned where you think of a business from the outside that, um, you know, it gets easier and easier to grow. But actually what I learned from working with investors and working with other businesses that had grown and scaled over time is it actually gets harder and harder to grow because every time you want to grow that next to that next plateau, you have to risk losing more because the business has grown so much.
And so I, I can kind of feel. man, maybe at $20,000 a month. This is wonderful. At $46,000 a month, all of a sudden I have a lot more, I have a lot more to lose potentially. And then you have all these other life, um, uh, things happening and all these events that you could actually use that change of, of cash flow for.
So it’s, it’s really, it’s really good, you know, kind of hear, you walk through all the different
Mike: facets. There’s a, there’s a few others I wanna cover. You just hit one of them, which is, you know, you have more to lose, I think when an asset like this becomes a certain percentage of your overall net worth or your overall family’s net worth.
You know, I think it minimally makes sense to consider de-risking or selling in some way. And so I think this matters less if you have, you know, 10 million in the bank, right, and you have an asset that’s worth 5 million if you lost that asset tomorrow. You know, that’s gonna be painful, but you’re, you still worth 10 million, right?
Whereas if you’re worth, say, 1 million and you have an asset that’s worth 500 or a million, and you lose that asset, that could really have improved your quality of life, right? Because now you’re at, you just have more money to play with, or more comfort, more financial stability. And so that definitely played a factor in the decision to sell as well.
Um, and then the, the final thing, which I don’t talk about much because I, I’m just kind of a little bit sick of hearing it, I’m very fascinated by it, but is ai. Um, and I, you know, I think it’s, you have to address it. You have to acknowledge that it’s real, it’s happening. The, the two things I think about is, you know, as in the traditional niche site model, when you’re going after low-hanging, you know, long-tail keywords, low-hanging, competi, low-hanging, In that traditional model, you’re now getting squeezed from both sides with ai.
On the one hand, you have Google and Bing with their, you know, chat bots, which are pushing you further down the SEARCHs, which they’re already pushing results further down. So now here’s another thing, pushing you down, stealing clicks. And then on the other hand, you have chat, G P T and content creators creating their own content, and they’re just easily able to spin up content or steal your content for better or worse, reword it, whatever it may be.
They’re increasing their throughput. So now you’re getting squeezed literally from both sides, from the search engines and from creators. And I just think the margin in the traditional niche site model is probably wearing thin. Like those days probably were numbered even when I started to some extent.
And who knows, I could be entirely wrong about this. It could last another decade. We, no, no one knows. This is all speculation. Mm-hmm. . Um, but I think you have to acknowledge that that’s a very real un not understood risk at the moment. We know, I think everyone agrees it’s gonna change search. No one knows exactly how it will.
And that risk feels like it’s a bit, you know, AI was there, but it wasn’t there at the level it has been in the last three months or so. So a lot
Jared: of factors, a lot of factors played into this decision for you. Not One thing I wanna underscore is if you’re listening, you might not have a website making $46,000 a month.
You might, um, uh, uh, have a website making $4,000 a month or $400 a month, but a lot of the same principles that you just walked through apply no matter what the dollar figure is. It’s about evaluating the ROI of having the ongoing cash flow from the asset. It’s about evaluating what that would look like in your life to just have that cash upfront based on today’s multiples, um, ongoing risk with the way websites are being created, uh, taking money off the table, like these are concepts that apply no matter really what the value of the site is.
Although it probably does peak a bit when your site is growing at the rate that it was, uh,
Mike: that it was growing , it becomes more prevalent. But I, and also just getting a win, right? Like getting a decent win Yes. Early on is so important. I, I’ve felt that I’m only a week removed from the sale and I, I’m not joking emotionally, physically, I have felt better.
Um, and I think it’s primarily because. Well, two things. One is it’s validating, which is nice, but it’s the financial stability part like we talked about, is huge. I think, you know, I don’t think this is the right way. I’m not a finance person, but, uh, I think in terms of like, how many years can I pay my mortgage if I stop working today, if I got hurt, God forbid, or something happened today, how many years of runway do I have of paying my mortgage?
Obviously there’s a lot of other bills and stuff that go into that, uh, but that’s what gives me personally, gives me peace of mind. Everyone has probably a different thing that gives them peace of mind, but this sale allowed me to lock in mentally a couple of years of runway, you know, call it five, six, seven years of like, God forbid something happened, we could pay our mortgage and be completely fine and live our life as is.
That’s important for me personally, just in terms of mental capacity and creativity and, and not feeling stress. Right. So by selling this, I basically freed up myself to do some other stuff that we’ll talk about a little later that I can take my time. There’s not this, you know, I don’t have pressure for this to work out.
I don’t need this to work out. I want it to, uh, and I want to do it, which is a big difference between what I did, which was for money. That was my primary driver on the first site. I wanted to make money. It wasn’t a passion, you know, it wasn’t like some aha moment. And so I think that’s important too, is getting a win early on.
Jared: you go through the process of listing the site and, um, uh, was that fairly easy? Uh, a lot of people will talk, especially with their first or second site, about how, um, keeping accounting, keeping numbers, uh, having to backtrack and all that. What, what sort of things did you learn or maybe wish you had done a better job of, um, uh, when you listed that site, maybe a better job so that next time it, it makes it easier for you to, to, to sell a site.
Mike: Yeah, fortunately I had come across, uh, I think his name’s Joe Valley, the c e o or Founder of Quiet Light. He’s actually on, he had an interview with you, I think, Jared. He did, yeah. Tomorrow is great. Which was a great interview. And he wrote a book, the Exit Preneurs. Uh, so I have that book. I read that book, uh, and I’m glad I did.
I was already doing some of what was in there, but. If I can say one thing, if you have a site or a business just every month, keep your numbers. It’s a, it’s so no one likes doing it. It’s not fun. It’s a, it’s a, it feels like not productive, but when you come to sell it is, it just reduces the burden on you greatly.
So I would say actually I was in a pretty good spot, primarily with a content site. You’re dealing with just a p and l. So what were your, you know, earnings, which is, Zoic for me, display ads and Amazon Associates a little bit. And then what are your expenses? And for me, I did all the writing primarily on the site.
Uh, and so my expenses were hosting with cloud ways and, you know, a hundred dollars keyword research tool basically. So it was very simple and easy to update that. Uh, and so that was easy. The problem with what I did was there was a difference between which I didn’t like really think about cash versus accrual basis.
Uh, and so depending on, I don’t, I don’t want to even speak on that because I forget what we even decided to do in the end. But, um, but I was advised like, Hey, you gotta rework some of this because we wanted to do it on say, a cash basis versus accrue. I forget what we decided. Um, but it was great. It was easy.
They’re very, like the person I worked with, Chris, uh, Wazniak at Quiet Light, super experienced, I think he has 15 years in the business, sold a handful of content sites himself. Uh, so, you know, this actually sounds like an advertisement for them, but they really were, uh, helpful during that process. Uh, and so I would say overall it was.
Not that hard. Uh, the hard part is the emotional anguish that you go through. Mm-hmm. when you, I think it depends on the size of your deal, but because the first offer that I got was in the seven figures, it made sense to offer the site as s b a qualified that we would accept offers that needed to get s b a small business loan approval in order to acquire the site.
And so that could be a combination of cash plus that loan, however they wanna structure it. But as soon as you involve the SBA and some of the SBA people on Twitter will go, not seriously talk about it cause I’m not an expert in, in sba. Um, but as soon as you involve them, your timeline lengthens, uh, fairly significantly.
And so that for me, this first seven figure offer that I got, uh, at a bad time, which we’ll get into in a minute here, of getting hit by a Google update, like I got reached out to on Twitter to buy the site and I. I think it was 12 or 13 days after that af uh, DM and me introducing them to Chris at Quiet Light.
I think like 12 or 13 days later I got hit with a Google up, uh, penalty. Um, let’s
Jared: talk about that. Yeah. Because I don’t think many people, and to be clear, there’s a distinction here between an algorithm update and losing rankings significantly, uh, in an algorithm update. There’s a difference between that and a Google penalty and you receiv.
I mean, the timing is crazy. You received a Google penalty, which is, uh, an email and a submission through Google Search Console that says, Hey, the, we’re Google and we’re actually telling you , why, why we’re penalizing your site, why the traffic, you know, is gonna be suffer as a result. Like, let’s talk about that.
Mike: Yeah, so the, I, I learned a lot. So hopefully someone can take away something from this and avoid some of the stuff I did. Although I still don’t know exactly what transpired. But the, the high level is I got a Google manual action. They call it our manual penalty, which means an actual human at Google looked at my site.
And the penalty specifically was for unnatural inbound links to some pages. The sum pages is important because there’s also another penalty, which affects the entire site, uh, regarding links. So this was some pages, although Google never told me which pages, so that wasn’t very helpful, . Um, and so that’s good.
Yeah, so that was tough. . Yeah, of course there was no information to help about what it was. Uh, but basically someone at Google looked at my site and said, something’s going on here. We can’t quite figure it out with the algorithm or with software. I think something’s going on here. So you have a penalty until you prove that you try to resolve it, which is, you know, kind of a tough situation to be in.
Um, and so I, a couple things. One is, In terms of link building, we had talked about this quite a bit. I had never done any what would be traditionally called link building of any form for over two and a half years on this site. Mm-hmm. in July of, uh, 2022, I was talking with a few people and I, it felt like my, the biggest risk to my site, whatever I convinced myself of this, was that my Dr or my authority of my site wasn’t that high.
It was like 25 and I wanted to improve that. And everyone I follow is like, you gotta build links, you gotta build links. And I was like, no, this is working for me. I don’t need it. Uh, and so eventually I, I reached out to a company called, you know, and this is, it is what it is, link builder.dot io. I paint.
They were expensive. It was like $3,000 a month and they assured me that they weren’t buying links, but that they would do outreach and try to get sites that made sense to get links. They did an eight link package for the first month. Long story short, I get that package back and those websites were horrible.
um, they were really bad sites and it was noticeable even to me. You go to, you know, ATFs, plug it in and you could see those sites drs you know, a normal trajectory of a healthy site. The DR grows over time, naturally getting links or however you’re doing it, but it looks like a gradual, and there might be some spikes in some falls, but there’s a trend, right?
These sites were like way up, way down way. So they clearly were playing with the manipulating the DR of these sites. And if you went to the websites, they were low, low quality sites. So I talked with their team, they removed all of those links within 20 days of them being on my site. So they put them on, I asked them to remove it, they gave me a full refund, that was in July, and then three months later I get this penalty.
And so I had reached out to a couple people in the community and I got very different opinions, which was interesting from people that really do this for a living. Like look at link audits. Um, and the one I found most compelling was that, It may have been that these links were toxic to begin with, which is red flag number one.
And then having them removed so quickly was like another red flag number two. So you’re almost giving two quick signals to Google of like, Hey, you know, and this is all speculation. Nobody knows. Uh, but that’s sort of a long explanation of the in depth that we went into. And I ended up hiring, um, this guy Chris at Penalty Hammer.
He’s great. I recommend him to anybody if they have an issue, penalty hammer.com. And he went in, did a link audit and did a disavow file of all the links that he thought were spammy. As your site grows, you naturally get spammy links. That’s just part of any website. He went in and took all of the websites he saw that looked spammy, disavowed them, uh, and it got, you know, four months of waiting to hear back from Google.
And luckily we got it removed, you know, We can talk about the second sale, but like two days after we officially listed it publicly, the penalty got removed. So, um, so there was a bad thing. Get him the penalty. It was great timing to get it removed because it, you know, it really sparked more interest in the people that were already interested, became more interested, right, because the penalty was gone.
Jared: we jump into the podcast, I wanted to let you know that today’s episode is sponsored by Search Intelligence. Here’s a short clip of Ferry from Search Intelligence showing you how their agency built digital PR links to a client’s website, hi
Mike: tier back links in publications such as Daily Post MSN, bearing a mail, and many more.
Let me show you how we’ve done it. The campaign was pretty simple. We looked at the number of Instagram followers for each contestant in the Dancing on Ice show. That aired in January. We sorted the contestants by the most popular ones. Now we’ve had the most influential dancing on ice contestant. Then we’ve also used an Instagram earnings calculator to calculate how much every contestant could make from one post on Instagram based on the number of their followers and engagement rate.
Then we put these findings in an nice press release and an email, and we found the relevant journalist with a tool called Rox Hill, where we looked at journalists who covered the show in the past 30 days and sent the findings and the press release to these journalists, and then the links started landing like this and this and this, and many more.
I hope this inspires and shows you that you can build links with simple and basic campaigns.
Jared: If you want similar link building PR campaigns for your website, head to search dash intelligence. Dot co.uk and get in touch with them now. So, A couple things there. I just wanna highlight it. We haven’t talked penalties much on the podcast, at least not recently.
Um, uh, if you wanna go all the way back in the archives, cause this podcast has been around for a very long time. I know. Um, Spencer has ha has had some conversations about it in, in past episodes many years ago. Um, so they don’t tell you what the, they don’t tell you which pages are affected. They don’t give you much information.
Um, you elected to really deep dive and evaluate what maybe could have caused the unnatural links. Um, you hadn’t done any link building. Uh, but, but you’re willing to admit that, hey, these links that you, um, that you had acquired were not what you would consider to be good links. Had ’em removed and then, um, and then, and then the penalty kind of hit a little bit later after.
Um, what are the things I, I mean, disavowing, so that, that, that’s a, that’s a bit of a dicey topic. You, you talk to 10 SEOs and five will say that, well, Google says that they ignore spammy links now that, um, that’s just not a factor. They just don’t give you any credit for them. And then five others will say, you know, you’ve gotta really manage your link profile and actively use the disavow file.
Um, you know, talk a bit more about how you decided to arrive there and how you isolated which links to go after. Given that across the board, it was only some of your pages that were affected.
Mike: Yeah, those are all, you know, I’m certainly not an authority on this topic, which is why I paid, uh, you know, penalty hammer to handle it.
So I didn’t actually do the link audit. You know, the person I paid did do that. Um, I think the, the hard part with s e o in general, and that’s why there’s this old, you know, adage of, it depends, right? That’s the most annoying thing about s e o is like in large part, it depends, is is actually the correct answer.
I would love to know, you know, there’s gotta be a bazillion sites out there who are doing truly sketchy spammy link building tactics or just violating Google’s guidelines beyond eight measly links in three years that they got removed in 20 days. Right. Like, you know, boohoo me. But it just felt like, it just felt, um, like the wrong site to go after in my, in my opinion.
Uh, but no, so I, I paid, I was willing to pay for it cause I don’t have expertise in that area. Uh, they did a link audit, um, and he, it was a big file. I had like, you know, a lot of links that he said were low quality, that were pointing to certain pages and the website in general. Then you disavow them.
Google also wants to see you make an effort to reach out to webmasters. So they wanna see some communication. Like you actually go to the email on their about and you say, Hey, can you take this link down off your site? They want that effort. And so he did that for me as well. And then he puts together a little bit of a package of all those things, submits it to Google.
The problem with a penalty is it’s a black box. There’s no one you, you can’t call some assistant at Google and say, Hey, how’s the status of my, you know, my, my request? You’re just waiting. Uh, and I’ve heard, you know, stories of they hear back in a month, I’ve heard a couple weeks, I’ve heard six months in some cases before you ever even hear back from a Google.
Um, and so that was the hard part, was just wondering, is this gonna get lifted? A lot of times it takes two or three tries to get it lifted. So to get it lifted in the first try was huge. Um, and the timing of it worked out in the end.
Jared: Yeah, it’s, uh, I, I mean, at my, my agency that I run for my day job, we’ve worked with several companies post, um, post, uh, uh, penalty.
And in one case it took, uh, 13 months with the back and forth to have a penalty.
Mike: So, you know what I was feeling, sorry for myself. Four months is pretty good .
Jared: So just so you know, I, uh, I wasn’t a part of the penalty recovery process, but we started doing work on the site after that and it was a 13 month process.
I could see,
Mike: I feel bad for that webmaster. That’s, uh, that’s painful. Yeah.
Jared: Um, so what effects did this have on traffic and earnings and are you able to determine the effects this specifically had versus maybe all the other things that just happened on to a site, on a, on a monthly basis?
Mike: Yeah, it’s really difficult to determine, but I think it’s a common, I don’t think this was the one factor.
So just to give some context, the site really peaked. I’m looking at the chart of traffic in front of me here. So the site peaked at 780,000 pages in. Um, and then the next month it did 761. So it didn’t, you know, it just kind of leveled out at that point. And then October, when the penalty came, it still did 709,000, but the penalty came at the very end of October.
So before the penalty hit, the site was already plateauing in the 700,000 range for three months. Yep. Um, end of October, then traffic started to grind each month down. So October, November, December, January, the site dropped 50% between those four. There wasn’t a single day. You know, sometimes if you look at, you know, I look at competitors in my space all the time when I own the site and some of my competitors, you could see their traffic in a two day span drop 50%.
Um, and that was a clear, to me, that’s a clear indication, an algorithm update, right? Like clearly Google has changed the way they favor your website. You know, my site, if you look at the decline that happened over the course of four months, there’s no one or two day period where the site clearly got hit.
It just grinds. And of course if you look, depending on what scale you look at, it looks like a free fall. But if you look at it on a year period, it clearly is grinding lower over four months from August all the way actually to February. Um, and then when the penalty got lifted in early February, the immediately following the first week, it was up 15%.
Um, and I, you know, I had been doing a little bit of refreshing content on four or five pages. But I doubt that contributed to the 15% rebound. But it’s, this is where it’s hard to parse, uh, truly what it is. But, so I think the action certainly had an impact, but there’s also so many updates going on around, uh, link spam, right?
So if I had an unnatural inbound links, would it be crazy if the Google algorithm picked up on something and I got hit a little bit there? Could it be helpful content? Could it be certainly content that was very outdated? I hadn’t updated any of the content in large part of my site for three years, which I had tweeted that out.
And people in the industry are like, you know, how do people miss this? You have to refresh content. Uh, and I was getting great results doing that. I had articles that fell to eight and then update them and they’d bump, bounce back to position two and put in 24 hours. Uh, and so that was definitely a contributing factor.
But I think, you know, to answer your question, I think it’s multiple things that happened to the site. Um, and so yeah, I, I don’t think you can pinpoint and just blame it on, you know, a penalty from Google. I think it was probably a combination of those things.
Jared: Interesting. Wow. Yeah, it’s so interesting. I think the one piece of data that, uh, really cements that opinion, right, is that the week after the penalty was, um, removed, your site traffic did bounce back, but not the full, say 50%.
Right? So there’s, uh, yeah, there’s some, there’s a lot of components Ha uh, having a play there .
Mike: Yeah, for sure. And I’ve heard, you know, who, who knows, but I’ve heard people that have penalties in the past, traffic does not. Uh, immediately, regardless if it, if that was the determinant factor of why traffic fell, you would expect it to grind higher over a period of months, is what I’ve heard.
Not that it’s like some elastic rebound effect of like, you’re being suppressed and then the next day the suppression is released. Who knows? You know, I don’t know a lot more than that, but, um, so we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I’m excited, you know, the new person who bought the site, I’m really excited to see what they end up doing with it.
We ended up repricing it to reflect the reality of both the penalty and the current traffic situation. Site was still doing, um, in January, what the last month that I officially owned the site, it was doing, uh, a little over 355,000 pages still and was still earning five figures. I think it did around $13,000 in January, which in January, you know, ad rates are already suppressed greatly.
Uh, it’s one of the worst months of the year for ad rates, uh, for revenue. And so for it to still be doing five figures with traffic down significantly, there was still a valuable asset, just not at the original seven figure valuation that I had. So let’s reset a bit
Jared: here cuz we’ve kind of navigated down a bunch of different topics, which is great.
That’s what, that’s what we’re here to do. But to give ourselves a reset on the timeline, the site peaked in traffic in August of 2022. We were looking at over 700,000 page views, uh, $46,000 a month. And then in the fall you listed it for sale. And basically simultaneously, um, uh, the, uh, the. Traffic started to drop probably, uh, partly as a result of a penalty and partly a result of aging content and maybe even some algorithm updates, uh, that you alluded to.
Um, now you had an accepted offer and that accepted offer came in before, but right before the penalty hit, what ended up happening with offer? Obviously at this point, we know it fell through, um, but you know, how did that offer, um, progress as these other factors we just went through were playing themselves out?
Mike: so that was, that was hard. So it, to be clear, the site was not publicly listed, although, you know, it wasn’t on Quiet Lights website, it was someone reached out to me on Twitter. I had already reached out to Chris and they, we kind of back channeling because we’re like, we have a, you know, a bird in the hand, right?
They wanna buy the site. It was a, a good valu. And so that took place, you know, I said 12 or 13 days later, I get hit with the penalty, uh, manual action rather. Um, from Google, I reached out to the, uh, potential buyers immediately and let them know they were still interested. Again, the site was still doing fairly well, uh, in earning, you know, 30, between 30 and $40,000 a month.
Uh, so they were still very much interested, although concerned, uh, which naturally, you know, they would be. They pursued an sba, a loan, as I mentioned, for funding. Mm-hmm. Uh, and that process is just, it’s difficult because, you know, you’re getting very good terms typically with an SBA loan. Uh, but in order to get those terms, you know, you have to really prove, uh, that one, the business is worth it.
And two, that you can back up. You know, actually one of the benefits of an s b is that you typically don’t have to personally guarantee it, uh, which is a huge differentiator with typical loans, as I understand it. What happened was the first S B A loan that they got, the terms actually did require them to personally guarantee it, which they were not expecting and, and they were not comfortable with.
And so they went to another S B A loan, um, bank basically, and that bank took up their application so they didn’t have to start over. But it was definitely not ideal considering we, at that point, we were like three months or two months into the process. So they get the other S B A loan going. Those terms were actually fine.
They weren’t needing to, to personally guarantee the loan. And they got approved for the original seven figure amount, uh, to buy the site. Um, flash forward a little bit, it did feel like they understandably were dragging their feet because they wanted to see as traffic was grinding lower and lower. They wanted to buy time to see what was happening.
Uh, and I completely understand that. I actually took the initiative because they shared, I had asked a couple of questions like, Hey, what’s taking so long? I feel like we’re approved. Let’s move it along. You signed the letter of intent, they got the loan approved. We’re moving on to the asset purchase agreement to actually, you know, binding.
Say they’re gonna buy the site for this amount, and then you go to escrow and close. So we’re at the asset purchase agreement part. We’re sa sharing. I have my attorney involved. They have theirs, so we’re invested at this point, but they felt like they were taking a little while. They had shared their, uh, lender’s contact information and said, if you have any questions, reach out to them.
So I had called them, uh, in the morning and just said, Hey, you know, my name is Michael Donovan. They’re buying such and such site from me. You’re representing them. Can you just gimme an update on Malone, uh, how it’s going? And they were like, it’s great. We’re we’re approved. They’re good to go. Uh, and they wanted to wait another 30 days.
So at that point I kind of put a little pressure on them to say, Hey guys, either you want it or you don’t. I understand if you don’t. That kind of at that point that forced their hand of like, Hey, I’m so sorry to do this. We’re have, they were invested too, right? I mean, they had attorney fees, they had s b a loan fees that they can’t get back as part of the process as well.
Uh, and so it wasn’t a good situation for anybody. So I’m not faulting, you know, it was just a tough situation in general. Um, and so that was the story of the first one, but that took, I said that in about three minutes. That was three plus months of just like seeing my traffic decline and knowing that there’s this seven figure offer that’s there, but every day traffic is going further and further down, earnings are going further and further down.
And, you know, seven figures is a big deal, you know, to me, to my family, that that’s significant. Um, and so it just emotionally, it took the life out of me for, for that, you know, three month period basically. Well, I’m
Jared: sorry it fell through. Uh, that is a, a double, a double effect, right? You’re like already having to deal with the challenges and emotional frustrations of having a site that’s going down.
You’ve got the penalty on top of it, which is weighing on you, and then you’ve got a deal that’s e elongating and taking forever. Um, deal fall, deal falls through and it collapses. You still have a penalty in place. You’ve got a site that’s. Declined in traffic by some 50% . We have a happy ending here. Yeah.
Uh, why don’t we start making our way towards the happy
Mike: ending. Yeah. Yeah. So in the end, you know, this is all a fantastic outcome. We can summarize, you know, at the end what’s. What this little site did in three years, a little over three years. But, you know, so in the end, I was done with this website. There was just zero chance that I was spending.
Can’t imagine why at this point. Yeah. You know where I mentioned the baby’s coming the house, but then this experience was just pretty painful. But I still had a val, I still had a valuable asset. I mean, five figures a month. It’s still a great asset in that way. Uh, but it’s got a penalty. There’s uncertainty and there’s risk involved.
And so I talked with, uh, Chris, a quiet light. We reevaluated the sale. He, you know, is actually against his advice. He thought we could got, uh, get a bit of a higher price. Uh, I wanted to be done with it. And I also wanted, importantly, I wanted all cash buyers. I, I did not want an SBA loan to be an option or loans in general.
And so we landed on actually a high, uh, six figure amount as the sale. That ended up getting, even with the penalty, we got a ton of interest, um, in the site and then two or three days later, the penalty got lifted. And so that, I think for me, that’s what helped me close so quickly. I think we closed in two and a half weeks, um, from the, when the day that it was publicly listed to me selling.
Um, so that was huge to have the penalty listing cuz the people that were interested were now very interested because the penalty’s gone. You know, we had obviously disclosed all that in the public listing. Uh, so that was a big deal. And then what ended up happen, we got multiple offers above asking, which was fantastic.
And the ending offer was 15% above asking, uh, so it was high six figures, which again, I i, if you had told me that when I started this thing, just that alone would’ve been just a crazy success. Uh, and so I have to keep re like putting that in perspective, uh, having, you know, had the seven figure deal fall through between the sale and the earnings while I earned the site.
It was over seven figures in profit. Mm-hmm. , uh, and when I mostly, because you know, if you value my time, which I do, that’s probably not the true number, right? Cuz I did a lot of work on the site. Um, yep. And I, I wrote a lot on it, but the outcome, you know, for a site like that with 300 and I think when I officially sold, I’d written three 50, we deleted some posts, I think it was around 320 posts or so total on the site.
Um, you know, just a great, a great first experience. That’s the other thing is most times when you’re learning something, at least in my experience, there’s a cost, right? Mm-hmm. , maybe you make a dumb mistake and that costs you upfront, but then in the long term it pays off cuz you learn that thing, or it’s just time you’re learning and then you get to use that learning later.
In this case, I got to learn SEO and content sites for three years and it was super profitable. It was painful at certain points. Um, but, you know, I’ve. The history of a site, going up a site, going down, getting hit by a penalty, having a seven figure deal fall through, but experiencing the s b a loan and buying process from end to end and then having a cash deal go through.
Uh, and so great experience overall, uh, and in the end was, you know, a, a great outcome. I would never would’ve imagined it was that kind of outcome, uh, three years ago. There’s, so
Jared: I’m hearing so many threads from all the different financial investment books and financial literacy books I’ve read over the years and, and your perspective on it I think is really valuable, especially as you alluded to in today’s ever-changing and pretty volatile, um, online world that we live in.
Like to expect a website to continuously climb over the course of three years and not have ups and downs, um, seems to be farfetched. Uh, it could happen, it probably does happen, but you probably went on the rollercoaster that a lot of people, uh, echo with, right? Like that they’ve kind of sy anonymize with that.
And, um, there’s an element that we don’t talk about much, which is balancing your emotions, um, as you go along the rollercoaster and, um, during the hard times, continuing to stay focused on, you know, ultimately what is best, right? And we see this with people, you know, talking about taking time away from a site for a while, uh, because it, it gets hit.
Um, just, you know, the emotional effects of it. It, it sounds like you really were able to maintain. Your perspective on it throughout is that I, I, I mean, any tips on that? Cause I mean, I’m not just seeing about the person trying to sell their site and they have the myriad of things that happened to you, but just the person who also emotionally gets super dele deflated from a, from a big algorithm hit, you know, kinda like
Mike: you addressed earlier.
Yeah, I’m, I’m glad somehow it comes across that I was like completely stable during this whole time and, and, uh, confident. But no, I think, you know, it was hard. I thought things that I’m gonna start doing now, like I wasn’t eating great, I wasn’t working out like I typically do. Um, I did, I don’t think I did handle it all that well while it was happening.
Um, what I did do is stick with it, though I did not get deterred from seeing this thing through and making sure that there was an outcome and I also knew that I was done working on the site. The worst thing you could do is be done and just let that drag on and kind of half, you know, half commit to doing it cuz it’s just gonna die, right?
Like, it’ll die over time. And so I knew that I was done, which is important. Some people, you know, they kind of know or they, they can’t admit it to themselves. Maybe, maybe they’re really invested in the project. Uh, luckily for me, you know, again, this wasn’t a passion project, uh, for me. So it was easier I think on that end.
But yeah, I don’t think I handled it particularly well emotionally. Um, but you know, in the end, the outcome. Was great. And you know, now again, like I have this win under my belt in some time that it bought me, which is huge. And so now I can kind of reset but dur while it was happening, I think my wife will certainly contest that I was not the best person , uh, to be around just in general.
Jared: Fair enough. I was trying to give you a free softball there, but I appreciate that. I’m glad you told us the truth cuz that’s the reality for, for, for all of us at some point. This is a tough game, you know, and um, but it’s, it’s great to see a happy ending like you have. So, I mean, let’s talk a bit about, um, about what’s next for, you know, you and, and, and website.
Blame me. I I think that, I mean, I don’t know if you had ever started a second site or anything like that, I don’t think you had. Um, like where, where, where are you at now? What are we doing going forward? Yeah,
Mike: so I, I actually did, uh, start a second site a while back. Um, and I’m glad you brought this up because it was built foundationally on this concept of brand swapping that you and I had talked about back then.
And to be clear, I, you know, I’m not a guru. I’ve never put myself out there as a guru, just sharing what I was doing that was working as I went. Um, you know, not that anyone knows exactly what works, what doesn’t. That was working. And so I shared it. I believe now, you know, it’s very hard to tell with all these updates, but I’m of the opinion now that it’s worth the effort to not use word for word.
And I need to update a couple things on our site and to share this more publicly. But this is a great opportunity to get in front of a lot of people that heard me say that. Then I just think, one, it’s not sh, it’s not a sure thing that duplicate content is necessarily an issue. But if you can take the effort to reword it so that it’s unique, it’s definitely not an issue.
Uh, and so just that alone, I think it’s worth rewriting it for the peace of mind of, you know, having my site traffic to climb the way it did. You could point to 10 million different reasons why that might have been. But in the back of my head, I was always thinking, a, a certain percentage of my articles were brand swapping, uh, articles, which were basically the high level for people that didn’t see it was you take a brand, you basically take another brand for the same topic and you use 60 or 70% of that content because they both, that content works for both those keywords.
And so you just reuse it. It’s still super helpful. It’s answers the question, but I’m of the mindset now that you should, you should take the effort to reword it, even if it is the same exact answer. Reword it, uh, from a unique standpoint. So long way of. I’m not gonna work on that site. I only put 30 articles on that site.
But it also, that site, which leads to what, what I’m doing, uh, next and I’m excited about that site was going after long tail keywords that were low competition, medium volume. I like we talked about, I think you’re getting squeezed if you follow that model. And that’s gonna be difficult going forward.
People are probably eyerolling that have been saying this forever. Uh, but you need more than one platform if you just rely on, and again, like I’ve heard this a million times, you have to learn lessons yourself sometimes go through it. Uh, but if you just rely on seo, I mean, man, that is a tough way to exist because you’re, you know, you’re basically on a one-legged stool.
And for a period of time there I was like juggling on that one-legged stool. I was comfortable, everything was great. And then someone comes along and bumps you a little bit and you realize all at once you’re on a one-legged stool, right? You’re just getting organic SEO traffic. And so for me you gotta, you know, newsletters.
Social, whether it’s YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, whatever it may be, um, you know, organic, obviously that’s another leg. Physical, digital products. You need this ability to have more than one income stream and more than one way to be seen online. Uh, and again, this is old news. People told it to me a million times, but I believe that strongly.
And so Niche Twins is a good example of what we’re trying to do. That was just almost easy because you and I had that interview, the Twitter account called a following. So right off the bat, social presence, you know, I’m the person behind that. We start niche twins. The website, we started getting, you know, doing income reports, so getting social traffic over to the site in that way.
I just spun up a newsletter. Then I’m, you know, I sent the first one last week. I’m gonna do it every Friday in the morning, weekly going forward. So that’s another way that we’re trying to get, you know, build a list. Keith is working hard on the SEO side of that site, so he’s going after keywords, but creating great content and adding YouTube videos to all the, all those things.
So you can see right off the. It’s already way more involved than anything I talked about on my first site. Um, and I think foundationally we started right off the gate with an interview with you in links from very reputable sources to niche twins like day one. And I’m not saying everyone can start a site that way, but that’s a good example of like building that swell of you’re a real person.
It’s a little bit slower, I think. Um, but you’re a real person, uh, and you’re backing that site and you become an authority in that space and then you can start to branch out in different ways, like I just discussed. I think that’s way it’s more durable in every sense of the word than just a niche site in the traditional sense.
Jared: Yeah, I was, you took the words right outta my mouth cuz my next question was gonna be, hey, looking back on three years and one site and seven figures of profit, what would you do differently? But it sounds like you know exactly what you would do differently and you’re already doing it on your next
So that’s niche twins and then that’s That’s right. That’s niche twins. Were doing that. And then my wife actually started a travel site, um, and she wrote. Four total articles. This was seven or eight months ago. She does a great job. It took her a while. Uh, content takes a long time. All unique photos, all, you know, unique perspective.
And those four articles are getting a thousand page views a month. Um, and, and the, we haven’t touched it since. It’s a great domain, it’s a great site in general. And so what I’m also gonna be working on that and really making that, you know, brand, whatever you want to call it. If your site isn’t a site that someone would genuinely share with someone else for any reason other than just finding you in Google, like then you’re not, I I just don’t think you’ll exist in the next 10 years.
Um, and that’s a hard thing that I I, if I just took a step back and said the site that I. Would anyone ever genuinely share? Maybe they’d share my content for sure, but would they share the website overall? And I think the, the hard answer was no. Now there’s ways to make it so that that’s the case. You might say like, well, do you feel bad about selling that?
Well, it’s kinda like a stock, right? Like I sell, cuz I think it’s going down, someone buys, they see a massive opportunity. So there’s, there’s always two sides. And I, who knows, I could be wrong, but there’s always opportunities to start with SEO and then build in these other facets. Um, but we’re gonna do that with that travel site as well.
And so I, I think the long summary here is, or the short summary of the long explanation there is, uh, what you, the goal now I think is slower and better. For longer. My goal early on was just make money quickly. Go after it, and I think people will still do that and kill it. There’s opportunities there. But for me, I’d rather put out a great piece of content that’s really, really great, has a lot of, you know, has a YouTube video, has a newsletter aspect, whatever it may be, and you really build something that’s great.
That will last. And that’s unique as well. That’s gonna last long term with all the chaos. I still think you’ll have a business. Um, if you do what I did to start, you know, I don’t know that that will get you what it did for me. I think there’s still time. Um, but again, we’re all speculating. I’m just talking about what I, what I think.
Right. Um, that’s
Jared: great. Yeah, it’s great. Yeah. I mean, you know, the concept of brand is something that is being talked about probably more so now than ever before in this space. And, um, you know, uh, obviously a brand is something really big. But, um, I know you were referenced a couple weeks ago, or a couple months ago now when Kevin Oftu came on.
Um, the king of brand building himself, frankly, I mean, the brand, incredible. He’s built over at Epic. Gardening is fantastic. And he’s talked about this approach. Um, and, you know, you had a great, uh, seven figure, uh, you know, not exit, but seven figures of profit over the, the course of this, this asset you built.
But Kevin’s earning, you know, that, uh, you know, I don’t remember on a monthly basis, right? He’s built a brand. That does all those things. So I think it’s interesting to hear you talk about it almost in reverse, um, because, uh, you know, you get to a level that is very difficult and most people never see.
And then we talk about the effects of a brand and where it can take you well beyond that level. You even got with this website, you, you currently just sold.
Mike: Yeah, exa actually ke I’m glad you brought up Kevin. Uh, Kevin’s great by the way. What he’s built with epic gardening is, uh, I think most people in our space look up to him.
If you’re not, you, you kind of, you should be. Um, and just a quick story. So we dmd we just crawled on Twitter, you know, started DMing each other and at the end of this long conversation, I’ve never met him before, never talked to him. He just sends me a cell phone number and says, you know, if you need anything, let me know.
So he’s just a, I think he’s a genuine nice guy. Um, so he made a comment on his interview with you talking about my site, uh, which I agreed. So I wanna just comment on that and we can probably end there. Um, but, so he made a couple comments. One, which was I completely agree with is, If you shine a light on a business and that poses a risk to the business, you know, what do you really have?
Like, is that a business? And when I hear that, I instantly think, yes, of course I agree with that sentiment completely. Um, but I would argue that for him, he built epic gardening early on, right? And it was going after, for his words, s e o traffic lo like keywords. He was built a blog. That blog made a hundred dollars a month, then a thousand, then a couple thousand.
If he had the audience that he has now. I wonder if he would feel comfortable sharing what he was doing then at that stage, at that phase in his growth. Um, I think that’s the distinguishing part. I agree. Your goal should always be to get to a point where you are comfortable saying, here’s my website, here’s my business.
Right. But I do still believe that there’s a period of time where you’re incredibly vulnerable, especially with the, the ability I, and I’ve experienced it firsthand, so I know for a fact people can steal your content, spin it slightly, and outrank you. That happens all the time. And so I just don’t know that there’s too much of a benefit at the early phase to outing yourself or outing your site at some point.
It becomes very beneficial in my opinion. Now Kevin has his physical products make up the majority of his business. He’s buying businesses now. So he’s at a stage in his career, his business where giving his name is only a benefit to his brand. Um, but I think early on, you know, I’m sure I’d be interested to hear people’s opinion on that, but when you’re just trying to start with just s e o and then you wanna evolve it into a newsletter and then something else, I think you hit a point where you become comfortable sharing it.
But until then, it’s hard enough in this game on the internet to get traction. Why would you invite competition if you have an audience? I’m not talking about telling your two friends about your website. I’m talking about a targeted audience that are interested in what you’re doing. Um, you know, maybe they’ll come after that opportunity that you just showed them.
It’s a little bit like saying, I found gold over here. It’s working. The a the ad rates are great. You stay, you stay over there. Anonymous person, you know, and I’ll just continue collecting this. Uh, that’s how I think about it. I’d be interested in what other people think. But, uh, anyways, Kevin’s what he’s built is incredible and I agree.
Your goal should be, you know, here’s my business and say it publicly. Truly the benefits
Jared: of building a brand. I mean, when you get to a point where’re almost flipping on its head, you get to a point where you really don’t care either way because your brand is, you know, I, I don’t wanna use the word bulletproof, but certainly can handle quite a bit, whatever the case
Mike: may be, good luck going after epic gardening.
I would just say that ,
Jared: I’m not starting a gardening website anytime. You don’t tell you that much. . Um, well, hey Mike, this is, uh, I can’t believe an hour flew by so fast. I mean, what a, um, what a crazy story , but what a, uh, what a successful story in the end. And I, I think that that’s the perspective I would have as well is, um, if you only, you know, choose to focus on, you know, really, uh, a seemingly short downward period in an otherwise very successful three year trajectory you created with this website, if you only chose to focus on that, uh, sure you could, but really the step back approach that you’re taking.
Is that this is such a big win for you. And I think, again, just continuing the inspiration that your first podcast episode carried, I if you, I said at the beginning, but if you, if you didn’t listen to Mike’s first interview, it’s a great deep dive into the first couple years of growing a website. Not only the tactics of how you did it, but also a lot of the, um, the, the, the inspiration behind sticking, sticking through it.
And then now we get to cap it with this interview here and the culmination of it. So, uh, I just, congratulations, man. What a big success and so excited to see what you have coming, um, over the next, uh, next phase of your, uh, your, your online business here.
Mike: Yeah, thanks Jared. And thanks. Uh, that interview is really, if I hadn’t started, I started the Twitter account because I knew I was getting an interview with you and that’s what started this whole niche twin thing in the first place.
So thanks to you, thanks to Spencer, uh, has been great. And again, even a week removed, I don’t know that I would, you know, I’d take the money, the, the delta of the, the seven figure sale and what I sold it for, but genuinely, I don’t think I would change much. I mean, I’ve experienced a lot and that experience is worth something.
Uh, and so, you know, great outcome, I’m happy about it. Uh, and, uh, you know, if people, uh, want to learn or just hear more about that process, I’m gonna be writing about that sale process in more depth. Um, and you know, cause I have a lot of emails that went into that sale process. So I wanna kind of break it down into phases of the sale process.
So when you, when you sell a content site with an SBA loan with cash only, what that looks like, uh, that’s one example. But, uh, niche Twin’s newsletter is something I’m gonna focus on weekly, on, uh, uh, Friday mornings is the goal.
Jared: That’s where I first, um, kind of got introduced to the, the whole process that you’ve gone through this last couple months.
Um, I know on Twitter you’re at, you’re at Niche Twins. Um, what’s the website? People can get signed up if they wanna get your email newsletter.
Mike: Yeah, the, uh, the website is niche twins.com and then my Twitter account is niche down and Keith’s is, uh, patient publish. Ah,
Jared: good. I’m glad you corrected me. No worries.
It’s been a while since I blew a Twitter handle, but I do it everyone every now and then again. So it’s, um, at Niche Down. And, uh, obviously we’ve got your niche twins, niche twins, however you wanna say it.com. , you
Mike: just, you just angered everybody by saying it both ways. , I, I tried to, I, you
Jared: know, Hey, I gotta place Switzer in here.
I’m the host. All right. It’s up to you to have strong opinions. I’m just the host. I gotta play both sides, .
Jared: enough. Hey, Mike, thanks so much. Um, yeah, until we talk again, really appreciate you coming on and sharing your story. What a wonderful one. And congratulations again.
Mike: Thank you so much, Jared. I appreciate it.
How Much Money Can You Make on YouTube in 2023? 5 Ways to Profit
For new and aspiring YouTube creators wondering how much money can you make on YouTube, we’ve got you covered. Did you know there are YouTubers making millions per year?
Creating YouTube videos can actually be quite lucrative, believe it or not. You can create content around your passion, work from home, choose your dream work schedule, and earn an unlimited amount of income!
There are many ways you can make money on YouTube. We’re going to cover them in this article.
- YouTube monetization and how much money you can make on YouTube
- How YouTubers make money
- 5 ways to monetize your YouTube Channel
- How much a YouTuber with 100,000 subscribers makes
- How much you can make from one million views
- Realistic earnings as a YouTube creator
Let’s dive in!
How Much Do YouTubers Make?
YouTube monetization is about making money from your YouTube channel. How much money do YouTubers make? There are various monetization paths you can pursue. We’ll cover that in this article, including how to qualify for some of them, how they work, how much you can make, and more helpful info.
According to this source, YouTube creators reported earning between $82 and $83,000 per month! Quite a large range, indeed. The amount you can make as a YouTuber boils down to many factors. Some can be beyond your control, but with time and consistency, you improve your chances of making money as a YouTuber.
What Can You Do to Ensure You’re Making the Most as a YouTuber?
There’s no tried and true formula, but there are best practices you can put into place to help you make the most money as a YouTuber:
- Choosing multiple income streams to monetize your channel
- Creating and publishing YouTube videos consistently
- Creating high-quality YouTube videos
- Engaging with your audience
- Focusing on building a strong personal brand
Now, let’s get into five ways YouTubers make money!
How Do YouTubers Make Money?
YouTubers make money in many different ways. That’s the beauty of YouTube. There’s more than one income stream available to monetize your content!
The highest-earning YouTubers monetize their channel in multiple ways. Here are 5 ways YouTubers make money with their channels:
- YouTube Partner Program
- YouTube Shorts
- Affiliate marketing
- Brand partnerships and sponsored posts
- Selling products and services
How to Make Money with the YouTube Partner Program?
The YouTube Partner Program is YouTube’s ad network. Once eligible, YouTube creators have advertisements placed on their videos, earning money based on the number of views their ad-monetized videos receive. As a YouTube partner, you’ll earn money on each ad view you receive.
For example, a YouTube video with a $20 RPM (revenue per thousand) on a 200,000-viewed video will earn $4,000 for that video from ad revenue.
Imagine 10 YouTube videos per month performing at that level.
One video alone can support a full-time income in this example. More videos can produce a very lucrative income stream for the YouTube creator.
But, the RPM you earn per video fluctuates, and the number of views received on YouTube videos fluctuates as well. So, it’s not as clear-cut as you might imagine.
Also, YouTube creators must qualify to join to YouTube Partner Program by meeting these requirements:
- Receiving 4,000 public watch hours in the last 12 months
- Have more than 1,000 subscribers
- Agreeing to the YouTube Partner Program Terms and Conditions
Once you’re a YouTube partner, you’ll have the chance to start monetizing your videos with ads.
How Does YouTube Premium work?
YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) gives viewers a way to view YouTube ad-free, offline, and in the background. This is a recurring paid service that also includes:
- YouTube Music
- YouTube Kids
For YouTubers that are monetized from the YouTube Partner Program, you might wonder how they get paid for the ads on their videos if Premium users pay to skip the ads. YouTube partners that get their videos watched by Premium viewers get a cut of their membership fee as compensation. So, YouTubers can still financially benefit from Premium users viewing their videos.
What Are YouTube Shorts, and How Can YouTubers Make Money with Them?
YouTube Shorts is YouTube’s short-form video experience. Creators can post short video clips up to 60 seconds long on YouTube. Using creative tools like music, text overlay, and adding music can make these short-form videos extremely engaging and garner up to millions of views.
Current YouTube Partner Program creators who make YouTube Shorts will be eligible to have ads placed on the short-form videos. Those ad-monetized videos will give YouTubers a chance to earn money from their Shorts.
Read more about how to create a YouTube Short and how they work.
How Do YouTube Super Chat and Super Stickers Work?
Monetizing your YouTube channel with Super Chat and Super Stickers is available if you’re in the YouTube Partner Program.
- Viewers can buy live chat messages that stand out
- Messages can be pinned to the top of the live chat feed
How Do YouTube Channel Memberships Work?
YouTube channel memberships are like exclusive clubs that YouTube creators set up. Channel members get:
- Exclusive content
- Access to perks like loyalty badges and live streams
- Access to exclusive posts and chats
- A chance to show their support to YouTube creators
Becoming a channel member happens from the YouTube desktop site or YouTube app. It’s available on YouTube creators’ accounts that have channel memberships in place. If a channel membership is available, viewers can click the “Join” button to join as a member. Not all creators have set up a channel membership.
For YouTube creators, you get 70% of the membership revenue after taxes and fees. This is a smart way to create community among your viewers, giving your top fans a way to support your content.
Read more about how YouTube channel memberships work.
How to Make Money Through YouTube Affiliate Marketing?
YouTube affiliate marketing is about monetizing your YouTube videos with affiliate marketing.
This can be a lucrative path new Youtubers take to monetize their channels while waiting to qualify for the YouTube Partner Program. It’s also a good way for seasoned YouTubers to make money as well.
Creators like Eric Worral are making up to $40,000 per month from YouTube affiliate marketing!
It’s a smart way to monetize your YouTube content and a path to passive income, too!
How Does YouTube Affiliate Marketing Work?
Refer your viewers to affiliate products related to your videos. Then, post your affiliate link:
- In the video description
- As an end screen
- As a pinned comment
- In the Community tab
When viewers click the affiliate link and take action (like making a purchase), you earn a commission!
Monetizing Your YouTube Channel with Brand Partnerships and Sponsored Posts
Brand partnerships and sponsored posts happen for YouTube creators when a company wants to be advertised on the YouTube channel. An agreement is forged between the company and the YouTuber in which the YouTuber is paid to talk about the brand with their audience.
This can be:
- A brief mention at the beginning, middle, or end of the video
- A full feature video entirely dedicated to the company
- An ad segue embedded somewhere in the video
There are many ways to structure a YouTube sponsored post, and it’s one of the best ways to monetize a YouTube channel.
How to Monetize Your YouTube Channel by Selling Products and Services
Selling your own products and services gives you an opportunity to monetize your influence and sell to your YouTube audience.
This can be selling:
- Merchandise like hats, hoodies, socks, or T-shirts
- Handcrafted goods like candles, soap, jewelry, etc.
- Digital goods like digital planners, MS Excel spreadsheets, Notion templates, ebooks, etc.
- Services like personal coaching, consulting, accounting, bookkeeping, or other services
The sky’s the limit!
Create your product, then connect it to a payment processor and distribution channel, and you can have a functional business on your hands!
Examples of payment processors are Stripe, PayPal, etc.
Examples of distribution channels can be a Shopify online store, Teachable school account, or Gumroad store.
How Much Does a YouTuber Make With 100k Subscribers?
A YouTuber with 100K subscribers can make thousands per month. Sarah Lavender, with 100K subscribers at the time of this publishing, earned between $1,000 to $6,000 per month.
This source estimates $600 to $4,000 per month for a YouTube account with 100K subscribers.
How Much Do You Make From 1 Million Views on YouTube?
From 1 million views on YouTube, with an average RPM of $4, you would make $4,000. That could be:
- $4,000 from 1 one-million viewed YouTube video or,
- $4,000/month for one million views in a month with that average RPM or,
- A total of $4,000 earned for one million views lifetime
Keep in mind, though, that this is an estimate for YouTube Partner Program income only. You can earn far more from other monetization channels like sponsored posts or selling your own products.
For example, a brand may pay $20,000 for a sponsored post on YouTube that results in one million views.
Or, if you sell products at an average conversion rate of 2.5% on one million views for a $10 product, that could result in $250,000 in sales!
You can see how earnings can range a lot for one million views, depending on the monetization channel you’re using.
Check out this post if you’re wondering how much money is 1 billion views on YouTube worth.
How Much Money Can You Realistically Make on YouTube?
How much YouTubers can realistically earn from YouTube can swing wildly in both directions. This article shares an income of $82 to $83,000 per month, according to creators!
But, how much you make as a YouTuber is based on so many fluctuating variables from:
- The number of subscribers your channel has
- How active you are on the platform
- What your ad RPM is and,
- How you monetize your channel
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Many more factors can come into play here.
What’s the bottom line?
Some YouTubers can earn a very lucrative living. Others can financially struggle as they try to find their audience and get their channel off the ground.
Like blogging, there’s no way to know how successful a channel can be, but there are YouTube tools that can help you improve your chances.
One such tool is TubeBuddy, a keyword research and optimization tool to help you get more views on your YouTube videos with YouTube SEO. This TubeBuddy review shares more about how it works, its features, its pros and cons, and more.
Do you think the potential money is worth it to be a YouTuber?
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7 Keys to Unlocking Success in 2023
Working your way through each of the steps in this article about how to validate your business idea will save you time, and money, in the long run.
Idea validation helps determine if a potential customer will buy your product or use your intended services.
Most importantly, you will know whether your business will be profitable.
Read on as I share the seven essential steps that will assist you when validating your business idea.
How to Validate Your Business Idea
Market validation is the process of finding out if your product or service is in demand by consumers. You need to do it so you don’t leave the odds of your startup’s success up to chance. This is where the power of assumption could get you nowhere in a hurry, so don’t cut corners.
Idea validation will go a long way to not wasting time and resources on a product that may not appeal to the market.
By validating your idea, you will foster confidence among the people you approach for finance. Even existing businesses need a solid business plan if they approach investors, financial institutions, or crowdfunding groups on behalf of a lean startup. Only then will they “talk money.”
Once you have worked your way through validation, you will have a blueprint of your business model. You will know how your product aligns with the wants and needs of potential customers.
Doing proper product validation will strengthen your service offering if it is in demand. And that will entice people to make purchases.
1. Clarify Your Business Idea
Having a clear vision and well-defined goals is important when starting a business.
Start the process with a Q&A session with yourself:
- What problem will my business solve?
- How can I provide my customers with value?
- Why would customers pick me over my competitors?
This validation groundwork will help shape a purposeful direction for your venture. It will also form the foundation of the steps to follow as you confirm your business idea.
So this next step’s goal is to identify what makes your product idea or service offering unique. You want to be sure that your startup idea is one that customers would choose over the thousands like you out there!
2. Do Market Research
Market research plays a crucial role in understanding your industry, customers, and trends in the market. Your target market relates to the group of people who use your business category.
Start by collecting information about your target market’s demographics, behaviors, and preferences. Use your products and services to address their needs using information about their desires and pain points.
I delve a little deeper into how to go about learning more about your target audience later.
On we go!
Analyze market trends and study your competitors to identify potential opportunities and challenges. Conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups to gather insights from your target audience about your great idea.
We live in a spectacular age where tech resources are improving by the day – make use of it! Work smart and not hard by using the hive of information available on the internet. You can maximize online resources, industry reports, and social media analytics (Facebook ads).
Collect data and information used by others from Google Analytics, Google Trends, and Google AdWords. You can also check out digital marketing intelligence like Semrush for insights.
Questions to Ask
Here are a few questions to help you along as you consider how to validate your business idea. They cover essential aspects such as problem validation, market analysis, competitive differentiation, value proposition, revenue generation, and validation methods:
- What specific problem or need does your business idea address, and who experiences it?
- Who are your direct and indirect competitors, and how does your idea differentiate itself?
- What value or benefit does your business idea provide, and how does it outperform existing alternatives?
- How will your business generate revenue, and have you analyzed its profitability and scalability?
- What validation methods have you used or plan to use to gather feedback and refine your idea?
Doing thorough validation research will help you make informed decisions. Then you can tailor your offerings and position your business for success.
3. Identify Your Target Audience
So, now that you have done some market research, you need to identify your audience. Your audience is your target customer who tends to make use of businesses like yours.
This is where the AI Tool ChatGPT can be of help in giving you basic answers to questions you may have. It can help you refine the characteristics of your business category’s ideal customers.
Consider demographics such as age, gender, location, and income level when you prompt the chatbot. Remember, this will only be a general idea of your ideal customer because ChatGPT’s knowledge base is not up to speed with current market analysis.
AI can help you understand customer behaviors, preferences, and purchasing habits. By pinpointing past habits, you will have greater insight. That way, you can know what problems your product or service will solve for them.
Do some networking with people who fit the profile. Get them to take part in surveys and interviews to gather insights. This will help you create detailed buyer personas that represent your target audience.
These first “customers” will form the basis for growing the interactive client base you should aim for.
4. Analyze the Competition
Analyze other companies like yours if you want to understand your business category’s landscape.
Further questions to ask would be:
- Who are your direct and indirect competitors?
- What products, services, pricing, and marketing strategies do they offer clients?
Look for gaps or areas where you can differentiate your business from the ones already out there. Understand their strengths and weaknesses to identify potential opportunities for your venture.
A helpful tip is to conduct a SWOT analysis. In case you don’t know what SWOT stands for, it’s an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Here’s an example of a SWOT analysis that covers a hypothetical business you might be up against.
This is a SWOT analysis for a fictional software company.
- Qualified and experienced development team
- Cutting-edge technology and software solutions
- Strong reputation and positive customer feedback
- Efficient project management and delivery processes
- Well-established partnerships with industry leaders
- Limited marketing budget and brand recognition
- Small customer base compared to competitors
- Growing demand for software solutions in emerging markets
- Potential for expanding customer base through strategic marketing efforts
- Intense competition in the software industry
- Rapid technological advancements requiring continuous innovation
By analyzing the competition, you will gain valuable insights that will help you position your business to your advantage.
5. Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Creating an MVP lets you test your business idea with a basic version of your product or service.
Once you know what your product’s core features are, you can create a prototype. Use this simple version to test-run a mini-version of what your business will be offering. Once you have done that, gather feedback and iterate based on your interactions. Use a small group of target users or stakeholders to help you with this step.
These valuable insights will also grow confidence in your ability to adjust.
Now you will be ready to plunge into spending resources on the full-scale model.
Launching an MVP will cut your risk and optimize your product development process. It will ensure that your final offering meets the needs and expectations of your target audience.
6. Gather Feedback and Iterate
I want to highlight how important this part of the process is. Gathering honest feedback from industry experts, potential customers, advisors, and stakeholders is crucial for improving your small business idea!
Do this at various stages, such as product development, after launch, and through customer interactions.
Take all criticism as constructive, and use all the information you gather to improve your offering.
Once you are on the go, pay special attention to surveys, customer interviews, or online feedback platforms to gather insights. Acknowledge both positive and negative feedback.
Make the necessary adjustments to enhance your product, service, or business strategy. Get used to this part of the process because successful companies never stop gathering feedback and iterating.
7. How to Validate Your Business Idea – Financial Considerations
I will spend a little more time on this step. Without the startup finance to back you up, you are pretty much stuck at having a good idea.
- Determine your startup costs. This includes expenses such as equipment, inventory, office space, marketing, and legal fees. Calculate these costs and create a budget. This way, you will have a clear understanding of your financial needs.
- Consider your sources of funding. Are you a startup founder that will be self-funding your business? Or, will you be seeking loans from banks or pursuing investments from venture capitalists or angel investors? Weigh up the pros and cons of each option and determine the best fit for your business.
- Develop a financial plan. Forecast your revenue and expenses for the first few years of operation. Consider factors such as pricing, sales projections, and overhead costs. This will help you understand your financial sustainability and make informed decisions.
- Keep an eye on your cash flow. Check your income and expenses often. This way, you can ensure you have enough funds to cover operational costs. Avoiding cash flow shortages is key. Nobody likes unexpected outlays. Make a point of implementing proper bookkeeping and financial tracking systems. You want to maintain accurate records.
- Consider legal and tax obligations. Consult with professionals to ensure you meet regulations, licenses, permits, and tax requirements. Failure to do so can lead to financial penalties and legal issues down the line. Don’t go there!
- Review and adjust your financial plan often. As your business evolves, your financial considerations will change. Stay proactive and make necessary adjustments to optimize your financial performance. This will ensure long-term success.
Why Validating Your Business Idea is Essential
Validating your business idea is essential because it allows you to assess market demand. It also ensures that there is a customer base willing to buy what you’re offering.
Refine your concept by engaging with potential customers, gathering feedback, and doing research. This way, you can address weaknesses or flaws and increase the chances of long-term success.
Validation also helps attract investors or secure funding. It provides tangible evidence of market interest and potential profitability, mitigates risks, and makes necessary adjustments.
If you have doubts about your business idea once you have gone through the validation process, you may want to look at other options. Here are some articles worth reading:
Conclusion – How to Validate Your Business Idea
In conclusion, validating your business idea is a vital step toward building a successful venture.
By understanding your market, you can refine your offering. The feedback will pave the way for a powerful and impactful business.
Embrace the process of validation! Embark on your journey with confidence, and don’t cut corners. When you are on the path to creating a thriving enterprise that will meet the needs of your target audience, you will have the confidence to succeed!
Once you are ready, register your limited liability company (LLC) with state and local governments. You can get all the necessary registration details from the U.S. Small Business Administration website. Alternatively, you could get a company like Northwest to help you with that.
All the best with your new venture!
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