6 Month Plan To $3K Per Month Building Niche Websites

Justin Cooke Updated on June 17, 2021

We get this question a lot.

“If you had $10K to invest, what would you do to get to $3K per month?”

“If you had to start over, what would you do similarly/differently?”

“Can I still make money building sites as you’ve outlined in your guide?”

“What’s the best way to get to $2K/$3K/$4K per month?”

This post is a resource for anyone looking to get started and willing to put the work in, but doesn’t have the $60K to invest to purchase $3K per month worth of sites from our marketplace. This is a Do-It-Yourself guide for those looking to build their way up rather than buying in to niche sites.

I’m also going to assume you’ve already read our guide, “Building A Niche Site Empire”, are familiar with the exact process we use to build our sites, and are looking for a growth strategy that will get you to the position where you can “earn a living” with niche sites. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with our method for niche site creation, you can download the guide by signing up here:


“This is a Do-It-Yourself guide for those looking to build their way up rather than buying in to niche sites”
I can’t make any guarantees this will work.

Even more clearly, I have no idea whether this will work out for you. Maybe the skillsets Joe and I brought to this are what made it work out us. Maybe your approach will perform better…or worse. In any event, I will share for you exactly how we went about building our niche site empire and then will lay out the exact process I would use if I had to start all over again today.

One last thing – I’m sure there are better, cheaper, and/or faster ways of earning $3K per month online. While I run across ebooks and methods every day that claim to deliver the goods, I’m sure there really are methods out there that may be better overall or at least better suited for you.

How We Did It Last Time

Phase 1: Getting Started – First 60 Days

In November of 2010, I started testing the process outlined in our guide with the intention of building niche AdSense sites. I was building these sites personally and even wrote some of the content myself. (Mind-numbingly boring – I wouldn’t recommend doing this for long!)

I made some critical mistakes:
Silly business mistakes

  • Targeting BROAD rather than EXACT match search on the first 4-5 sites – Oops!
  • Not adding a Privacy Page to the sites (An AdSense ToS violation)
  • Using a no-longer-supported WP theme that looked a little wonky when I added Ad Units, content, etc.

Ultimately, I ended up creating (on my own) around 8-10 fully-built sites from scratch. (Another 6-8 were only partially created) In December 2010, I decided to recruit a few people from our team to help me. We have an outsourcing company here in the Philippines, so it was much easier to take current staff and add them to projects than it might have been if I had to hire from scratch. (If you’re looking for a VA to help you, we’d highly recommend using Virtual Staff Finder if you’ve never hired a VA before.)

To start, we had two of our Virtual Assistants writing the primary and secondary content for the sites via email requests from me. By the end of December or early January, I’d recruited another agent to help with site set-up, but I was still doing all of the keyword research myself. I’d put together a very simple spreadsheet to track what we were working on.

Phase 2: Growth – Next 120 Days

“We still weren’t raking in the profits, but we’d reached the point where we were no longer spending more than we were pulling in”
At some point in Jan/Feb, I recruited my business partner to continue to roll this out to our team. I trained him on the process, had him create a couple of sites himself, and then he went to work on fleshing out our keyword research spreadsheet, our site tracking spreadsheet, and optimizing the process.

Joe and I traded between KW research and Content Management responsibilities each week. Here are the changes we made during this period:

  • Established process best practices using the Tracking Spreadsheet (Google Doc)
  • Handed over Content Management to our team (They would now order, edit, and publish content from HireWriters, iWriter, etc.)
  • Assigned agent to initial, objective KW research (We continued to check/verify the keywords and purchase domains ourselves)

It was towards the end of this growth phase that Joe and I started to sell sites. (Reflected in our April and May income reports) We still weren’t raking in the profits, but we’d reached the point where we were no longer spending more than we were pulling in and we knew we could continue to ultimately make this profitable.

Phase 3: Maintenance – 180+ Days

It was in June, July, and August that we finally made our money back on initial investments and became profitable, leading to our more than $26K in revenue in September, 2011. While we were still expanding the number of niche sites created, we also put additional systems in place and removed ourselves even further from the process. We looked for efficiency improvements that would cut our costs and improve profits.

While we continued to list auctions on Flippa, we’d had quite a few requests to sell sites privately without releasing the URL publicly, so we significantly expanded our “private sales” during this time with the Buy Our Sites page. It was extremely simple – we started with an uploaded spreadsheet and a “Buy Now” button you had to scroll over to see!

Marketplace 2011

It was during this phase that we were able to reap the benefits of our earlier work and this provided a launching pad for a host of additional profit streams to come. (Including things like our Products & Services, Consulting, etc.)

How We’d Do It Today

Obviously, the easiest way would be to just buy my way into a $3K per month profit stream, but let’s say I didn’t have the $60K – $70K capital to invest upfront. Instead, I’d go the DIY route and plan on coming out of pocket at least $10K to get the ball rolling. Here’s how I’d do it…

Phase 1: Getting Started – First 60 Days

After reading the guide, “Building A Niche Site Empire” I’m going to want to make sure I’m properly tracking the sites I’m creating, so I’d make sure I setup the keyword research spreadsheet and tracking spreadsheet as a Google Docs.

While I could get started from scratch and save myself the cash from having to buy tools, there are a few that I know will significantly cut down my initial time investment like keyword research software, website themes, hosting packages, and URL’s.

This gives me all the tools I need, allows me to reverse-engineer already created/earning sites, and gives me 10 ready-to-go keywords and domains I can use to start building niche sites on my own. I’d likely write the content from scratch for two of the sites I’m creating, and outsource the rest through a service like HireWriters.com, costing me around $15 – $20 per site.

Once I’ve got my first 10 sites started, I’d perform my own keyword research using LongTailPro and try to find suitable targets. (Specifically targeting 4-5 keywords/domains that I think may work) I’d then purchase a 10 KW research package and ask on the order form that my keywords/domains be vetted. If they’re suitable, they’ll be purchased and transferred to me. If not, they’ll be replaced so that I have another 10 niche sites to target.

Towards the end of the 60 days I’d feel confident enough to start targeting my own keywords and purchasing the domains myself. I’d find another 20 targets, purchase the domains, and get the content and sites set up myself.

Sites purchased: 3-4

Created Sites: 40

Estimated Cost: $2,100

Estimated Earnings: $50

Phase 2: Growth – Next 120 Days

“This would effectively remove me from the most time-intensive work”

I now have a really strong grasp as to how to create niche sites from scratch, but a significant portion of the tedious work is still done by me. The next 30-45 days will be spent looking to replace myself in the process. I’ll be looking to create 40 sites per month during this period.

Assuming I don’t have much experience hiring offshore VA’s (or don’t want to spend the time required to list ads, dig through them, interview, etc.) I’d look to hire two VA’s through Virtual Staff Finder. This would cost me $790 to start (And approximately $700-$800 per month) and would include two positions:

  1. Intial KW research + Site Setup – Primary responsibility would be to purchase domains, setup hosting and WordPress, install plugins, and get the site ready for publishing. The secondary task would be to perform primary KW research and store those initial targets in a spreadsheet for me to review each week.
  2. Content Manager – Primarily responsible for secondary keyword research, content ordering/receiving/editing, and publishing the content on the sites.

This would effectively remove me from the most time-intensive work and leave me with only selecting the keywords/domains to use each week and as a manager that QA’s the overall process.

In addition to the tasks I have left, I would look very closely and critically at the sites I created in the first 60 days, tracking their value month by month to ensure they’re on track in terms of earnings.

Sites purchased: 3-4

Created Sites: 200

Estimated Cost: $8,000

– VSF: $790
– Agents: $2,400
– Domains: $1,600
– Content: $3,200

Estimated Earnings: $1,900

– First 20 sites at $200/month
– Next 20 sites at $160/month
– Next 40 sites at $240/month
– Next 40 sites at $160/month

With a total of approx. $10,100 invested and $2,000 in total earnings, I’m getting pretty close to my maximum investment in the project. The good news is that at 200 sites completed and an average earning of $10/month, I know that in a few months, I should be pulling in around $2,000 per month with the sites if I did nothing else.

The problem is that to maintain my team and the 40 sites created per month, I’m looking at around $2,000 per month in fixed costs. I have a choice: I can either invest more cash ($10K? $20K?) until the earnings start to overcome the expenses, or I can look to front-load my cashflow by selling off sites and realizing their earnings ahead of schedule.

To keep from going out of pocket further, I’m going to sell the sites.

Submit Your Business For Sale

Selling The Sites

Sometime towards the end of Phase 2 or at the beginning of Phase 3, I’m going to review the sites created in Phase 1 and pick out those that have the best chance and opportunity to sell. (i.e. better/stable earnings, growth opportunity, stable rankings, etc.)

Assuming that half of the earnings from those first 40 sites are from low-end earners, I’m going to assume I have approximately $200/month worth of sites to sell. (Either individually or through package sales)

Selling through the EF Marketplace, I know that I’ll get 17x monthly revenue in a sale, so I can assume $3,400 in total revenue from the sale. Due to the fact that I’ve been creating around 40 sites per month (and assuming those sites are averaging $10/month) I can reasonably assume I’ll have around $200/month worth of sites to sell each month going forward, bringing in approximately $3,400 per month in site sales.

While I’ll start off selling sites on the EF Marketplace, I’ll ultimately sell some sites at auction on Flippa.com as well. While I might end up with a lower revenue multiplier on the sites at first, it is good to build my reputation and trust in a secondary marketplace as well.

Phase 3: Maintenance – Next 180+ Days

Now that I’ve started selling sites, I’ll begin realizing a decent profit each month:

+ $3,400 Site Sales
+ $1,500 AdSense
– $2,000 Costs
= $2,900 Net Profit (approx)

The AdSense revenue will continue to creep up month after month from the lower-end sites that you’re not selling, but this upside will probably be eaten up by domain renewal costs you’ll have to cover for performing sites the next year.

I’ve mostly removed myself from the process and am now only involved in final keyword selection/purchase and overseeing the entire process. I have a few options here:

  1. Buy My Way Up The Chain – Use the profits from the sale of my sites to purchase larger niche AdSense sites. I can then use them as a model to start developing the types of sites mentioned in point #3 or I can look to purchase sites that have an alternative monetization method. (Amazon sites, Affiliate sites, etc.)
  2. Slowly Expand The Niche Sites – I can reinvest $1K per month to slowly expand the process of niche site creation. While I won’t be able to realize those returns for another 6 months or so, when the sites are up and earning, I’m reinvesting in a process that I already know is profitable.
  3. Start From Scratch On Larger Sites – I’ve already proven the method and model with smaller site creation, so I can recreate the same exact steps with a slightly different keyword research and content model. (Following methods laid out by Pat at SPI through his Niche Site Duel or Spencer at NichePursuits.com)
  4. Enjoy The Profits – $3K per month is a fantastic side income…even enough to support a great lifestyle in a place like Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, etc.

If this were only side income for me, I’d likely look to go with Option #1 and diversify my portfolio through purchases. Over time, I’d probably add another agent via Virtual Staff Finder for maintenance and/or Customer Service on those purchased web properties.

If I were looking to live off this income, I’d likely go with Option #4 and take a slow-growth approach to #3, creating 2-3 larger sites per quarter. I’d know that I was probably 12-18 months away from a return on these sites, but I’d also know that they offer much more potential in terms of brand value, varied monetization methods, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – What about failure rates, non-performers, and sites that don’t make anything at all?

I’ve baked that into the $10/month per site estimate. Somewhere between 20% – 30% of the sites we create aren’t even worth renewing the domain the following year. Still…some of our sites easily earn $100 per month or more, making up the difference with those that don’t earn anything at all.

#2 – Can’t I do this without buying any packages, tools, hiring Virtual Assistants, etc?

Definitely! There’s always a trade-off when it comes to Time Vs. Money. On the one end of the spectrum, you can save yourself a ton of hassle and just buy your way into sites. On the other end, you can use the Google Keyword Tool for research, check the SERPs yourself for “Chance To Rank”, write the content yourself, etc. It’s going to come down to how much time you have available and want to spend, your openness to risk, etc. I just wanted to share with you (from my perspective) the best balance between the two.

#3 – What if my sites don’t perform at that level?

There’s definitely some risk here and that risk is more pronounced when you create fewer sites. With only 20 sites created, it’s more likely that you won’t get the one or two “breakouts” that make up for some of the losers. This is the reason many choose to buy our “winners” from the marketplace. They prefer sites that have already proven their marketability and their success in the niche.

#4 – There’s got to be better/faster/easier ways to get to $3K per month than this, right?

There are, of course! Check out our podcast interviews, any of the guests at Mixergy, Entrepreneur On Fire, or our other recommendations for some awesome examples and inspiration.

There are many different paths you can take – choose one that’s best suited to your interests and skill sets.Click To Tweet!

This is just one of many…

#5 – $3K per month (net) after 6 – 8 months is not that impressive. I can crush it with (insert model here).

Awesome – it sounds like this post wasn’t for you. 🙂 While I readily admit that $3K per month isn’t exactly crushing it, most would find it to be a pretty awesome side-income and many are living extraordinary lives abroad or just doing what they love at similar levels of income.

With a fair amount of work, I do think this can be accomplished on the side by just about anyone with some dedication and after-hours focus.

So – does this model interest you? What’s holding you back from getting started today? Let us know in the comments below or feel free to reach out on Twitter – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Make a living buying and selling websites

Sign up now to get our best tips, strategies, and case studies


  • Edwin says:

    Great article! Everything makes sense- both article and comments. Living from a 3rd-world country 3K is a pretty good baseline, to say the least. It took a while before I found this article so my question is- is this still feasible today(2017) and if yes, would you recommend modifications in the process like thr number of posts/articles, backlinking strategy, etc?

    This has been an eye-opener for me and will try to explore asap.


  • Canberk says:

    Hello Justin,

    I’m Canberk, a 25 year old engineer from Turkey, and I have been checking out your website a lot lately. I would really love to give this a try.

    I know that you cannot guarantee that all this will work, but what I would like to ask is that did a major change happen lately which would make this strategy useless now (I mean, 2017 June)?

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Canberk!

      My name is Gregory, I’m the content manager for Empire Flippers. A lot of what is written here is out of date, but the spirit of it is still very relevant. You can definitely go to $3k per month with niche sites within 6 months with a lot of hard work.

      We don’t create niche sites ourselves anymore, but we do have friends who in the thick of it still.

      I would highly recommend checking out these two sites:


      They have a ton of free resources and case studies for building out niche sites that produce real profit month in and month out.

      • Canberk says:

        Hi Greg,

        Thank you for your quick response. You guys are really helpful. I checked out the sites and they seem very helpful. I will definitely try to read all the content there.

        However I thought you guys preferred niche sites over authority sites – at least that is what I have been reading here in this website.

        What is your suggestion for 2017? I read a lot of old articles in lots of sites, I suspect that the strategies might be out of date by now. Are there any changes occurred in past few months/years that would be reasonable to go with the authority sites rather than the niche sites (or vice versa)? Is your business still on the niche side of the fence?

        Thank you,

  • Joe Fleming says:

    Really nice, compact guide. I would say if you can afford it, SEcockpit is the best KW research tool on the market for niche site building. What I really like is the way that it suggest semantic terms that work great for article titles. In my opinion Keyword Research is THE most important part of building a niche site.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Absolutely Joe!

      Keyword research is the foundation for any solid niche site planning on using SEO to drive traffic to the site. Without good keyword research it is practically impossible to build a good niche site that makes decent money.

      SECockpit is good, we also really love SEMRush and Ahrefs especially for keyword research

  • Craig says:

    Nice in-depth article and something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Building a niche site making some cash, but not enough to live off, and the selling it. Repeating that process with the cash that came in until there is a decent cashflow coming out of it.


    • Greg Elfrink says:

      It’s a good plan Craig!

      A lot of our six figures sellers started off by following a similar plan as to what is outlined here.

      The biggest thing I can say is… be patient. These kind of sites nowadays can take 6 months to start ranking and start earning anything. And often that first bit of money is going to be small. After that 6 month trial period though, if you did your keyword research and backlinking / on page SEO right, the income can often balloon up to a very significant amount.

      It is worthwhile to keep going.

      We have friends doing $40k a month from a single Amazon affiliate site that they barely touch anymore (they’re busy building other ones).

      I hope your journey becomes the next success story here at EF 🙂

  • Ah ok, I guess starting out with fifty goes to induce that invalid PageRank coming quickly. I’ll check out that guide thanks! Also, looking forward to your approaching changes!

  • Thanks for sharing this amazing post about Niche Sites.
    I am working on one and i will definitely follow your tips.
    I hope my Niche Site project will get some success.

  • Juan says:

    In 2016 I have found many people who made the site for you and guarantee a minimum monthly value.

    My first try was kind of successful, I purchased a site for $100 and earned $79 in the first month. Monthly fee was $40 for driving traffic.

    I know a lot of providers which I am trying right now.

    Let’s see how it goes.

  • patrick says:

    Do niche websites based on exact keywords still work, are they still profitable??

  • Anas Khan says:

    Hi everyone.

    I bought a new programe that updates my website with unique high converting content every hour automatically. Its a really cool program check out this link for more info.


  • Dom Wells says:

    Good stuff again guys. I’m curious though how valid some of this still is. I know that EMDs are less powerful than they used to be, so I think the 5 content limit per site is probably outdated too. I’d imagine something like 5 per month over a consistent period before any rankings show (at least in my experience) rather than just 5 in a “set and forget” manner.

    I’d also imagine that social sharing would be needed. I know that the big G doesn’t put full weight on social yet, but things like comments and shares definitely speed things up. What are your thoughts there?

    Finally, I’ve not produced a whole bunch of sites en mass yet, but in my experience, most of the strategies mentioned above would be good for a page 2 or 3 ranking at best (unless you were consistently posting content to each site year round, say one article a week), so what would be the major change you made to this strategy post-hummingbird?

    Would be great to hear your thoughts on this! Cheers,


    • Hey Dom, you’re right this is probably something that should be updated. I have been toying with expired domains and 50 page sites, a that strategy seems to work well, but you still need to consistently add content to the winners as you indicated.

      If you develop a bunch of sites en mass and then focus on the big earners to optimize monetization, CTR, rankings etc, you could make a very decent income out of it. Afterall this is what many of our sellers do. However, I think as the marketplace on Empire Flippers evolves we will be less involved in building sites and more focused on promoting and developing that aspect of our business. We want to become the place to buy or sell online businesses between $10k and $100k in 2014 and beyond.

      Big changes are coming, so stay tuned!

      • Dom Wells says:

        Cheers Joseph. I assume with 50 page sites you drip the content out gradually rather than just throw up all 50 at once?

        The problem with expired domains is getting hold of them, there are definitely some gems out there, but it’s a bit time consuming. Probably worth it in the long run though.

        • 50 pieces of content all at once and then a post every week. We might experiment with less content up front.

          I am following Jon Haver’s guide on finding expired domains:


          like you said, not easy, but at least I have an army to help out!

          • Dom Wells says:

            Ah ok, I guess starting out with 50 is going to get that expired PageRank coming back quickly. I’ll check out that guide thanks! Also, looking forward to your upcoming changes!

          • Exactly! That plus a 404 redirect seem to get PR going quickly. If the links are relevant it help the content rank a bit faster than normal and be more competitive in tough niches.

          • Dom Wells says:

            Ah I hadn’t thought of that. I assume you mean 404s from the old-dead links to the homepage?

            While we are on that subject, what do you think about using expired domains and 301 redirecting them to your site to get some PR boost that way, or even repopulating that site with a bit of content and linking it to the money site? It seems that your way is *cleaner*, but the technique I’ve heard about means you can point 4 or 5 sites/domains to the same site to give it a big boost…although it’s a pain having to set them all up on different hosts etc.

          • Well I just use a plugin to redirect all 404’s to the homepage. Easier than setting up possibly thousands of redirects.

            I like the 301 redirect of an expired domain to an existing domain. You might see a bump from this, though in my testing it doesn’t work everytime. Why? No idea, and I’m sure Matt Cutts won’t be telling us anytime soon. 😉

  • RJ Cid says:

    YES!!! this would basically radically change my life and deliver what ive dreamed of: living in South america working solely on my fitness sites and enjoying my life…. No more wishing…

  • Dave Zegers says:

    I am wondering if the guide you guys offer is still valid after all the updates in Google, the EMD and penguin did changed the game in SE land of course, beside that thank you very much for putting up this business model



    • No, it’s not valid, please send $7.99 to……joking of course!

      Our guide niees an update. However, I would say the keyword research (minus the EMD part) and content portions are still accurate. I’m testing some big changes that will impact our process. We’ll try to update our guide based on those results.

  • civillibros says:

    i have this question, how many articles per site? only 5 articles, and how many words that articles??? and with only 5 articles the sites can make 10$?? what cpc is the minium to achieve that?

    • Yes, each site has only 5 articles. We able to do well because of solid keyword research. Finding keywords with decent minimums (i.e. 800 exact match searches and a CPC of $1) plus relatively easy competition on the first page. The first part is objective, the second is more of an art than a science.

  • Robert Harper says:


    I loved this article. I have already thrown it into Evernote. I have a couple of questions.

    1: Do you top off with five pieces of content per site or grow beyond there? If you grow them can you tell me the process? Don’t bother saying you don’t have a process by the way, I know Joe better than that. They guy has a process for taking a crap.

    2: So lets say I have a $20 dollar a month site that I want to sell through your site. It will cost more than it can make. Where do you see the monthly dollars need to be for a site to sell it on Empire Builders to make it profitable?

    As always thanks for all you guys do.

    P.S. Joe please don’t be pissed about the process joke. I don’t want to get on your “bitch slap process” form.

    • No worries Robert, I can take a joke! Just let me know when you want to come down to Davao and get into the ring. 😉

      I know the questions were directed at Justin, but here are my answers:

      1) We top off with 5 pages right now. We’ve tried limited tests growing sites and never found the ROI as high as just creating more sites. That’s not to say it can’t be done, it’s just more valuable to us to create new sites. Also, repurposing the old content on sites that don’t make the cut has been a big push for me lately, so nothing goes to waste. I’m calling it “informational recycling”.

      2) Your math is correct — I would recommend combining low earners into a package that make at least $75 a month. We can sell those on the marketplace as well and I believe they hold a lot of value for investors. As for single sites, it really depends on your building costs but again I think earning at least $75 a month is a minimum. Less than that and you would only clear a few hundred bucks after fees, so your mutliple might not be that high.

      • Robert Harper says:


        Thanks so much for the quick reply. Believe me when I come to Davao the last place I want to find myself is in a ring with you.

        So to a follow-up. When you repurpose the content will google slap you for duplicate content do you think?

        • I’m waiting at least 90 days plus checking the Google cache using site:domain.com and testing via Copyscape for similar content. If it passes all tests then its gets put on our content hub. Still not sure if this will work out, but “reposting” only costs about 30 cents so the ROI can be minimal to be profitable.

          • Iain Robson says:

            How have your re-purposing tests gone so far? I know you have made a bit of money so far.

            How have you been repurposing the content? Has it just be via another site. You could always spin the content once it has been de indexed to be sure maybe.

          • Justin Cooke says:

            It’s going pretty well, Iain.

            So far in August, the site with the re-purposed content has made just over $23 and I’m expecting that number to keep growing over the next few weeks/months. Joe picked up a domain/site with a PR of 2 and some backlinks and we just started dumping some old content on there. 🙂

          • Iain Robson says:

            You use it like an article directory sorta idea?

          • Right, plus I have set up rigid categories that Google prefers (taken from the keyword tool) to try and get site organization correct. I’m testing layouts using IntelliTheme and although it’s early there are two clear winners.

          • Iain Robson says:

            Great to hear that.

            Are you going to do a post about this ? Could be interesting to read about how you guys went about setting it up.

            It’s definitely an intriguing idea.

          • Yeah, let’s see how things go first. It’s very early. If the domain get penalized and it winds up being a bust, it’s not something I want to recommend. Though talking through the process on the podcast might still make for useful content.

          • Iain Robson says:

            I totally agree.

            Wouldn’t want to jump the gun.

            We shall have to see what happens next.

  • MGB says:

    Hi Guys, I always love reading your posts and get a lot of value from them.

    One thing I’m curious about, how has your process changed since the EMD update? I know you have stopped linkbuilding but I didn’t see this as related to the EMD update really as I lost approx. 50 sites that didn’t have any links built.

    I’m interested as I know it was the one update that really has an impact on you.

    • That’s just the thing — we haven’t changed our process. Besides looking for better content and doing more editing (i.e. adding bullet points and bolding which have nothing to do with the EMD update) and dropping link building we’ve changed nothing.

      It’s tough to say what happened with your 50 sites, but most likely it was some sort of over optimization penalty due to on site content. Did you use 100% original content checked in Copyscape and Google?

      • Justin Cooke says:

        I think what Joe’s saying is we haven’t changed our off-site or linkbuilding process. (or keyword research for that matter) What we HAVE changed are a few on-site things:

        1. Added 1-3 related words to site Title/H1
        2. Added 1-3 related words to Title/H1 for all secondaries
        3. All internal links are now partial match not exact match

      • MGB says:

        Cheers Joe, that sounds about right re: over optimisation. I did check all my content at the time through copyscape but I was pretty aggressive with my page titles and interlinking (I find I get away with this on non emd’s though 🙂

        • Justin Cooke says:

          Yeah…I was thinking that, without any other external links to look at…the internal links (and their anchor text) may carry more weight in the overall grading of the sites. That, and it looked funny to only use exact match titles for the primary/secondary content – hoping the more natural wording will improve CTR from the SERP as well.

          • MGB says:

            I’m sure you are right about that Justin, makes a lot of sense re: lack of external links and the extra weight given to (over optimised) internal links as a result.

            I’ve been tracking serp CTR actually and while hard to prove as the description obviously plays a part I’ve seen CTR as high as 55% on some sites.

  • Amar Reddy says:

    I have a question regarding selling the sites through your auction marketplace.

    If I have a site that makes about $200 and I want to sell it through this site, what would be your total fees upon a successful sale.

    Is it going to be just 15% or 15% + $297.

    Please clarify.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Amar!

      It’s $297 upfront (Refundable if we don’t accept the site for listing on EF) and an additional 15% from the purchase price if/when the site sells.

  • James says:

    And not a single word about backlinking?

    • Considering we stopped all link building efforts in March of 2012, I think the subject is worth skipping especially if you are on a budget and just starting out. It’s too easy too sink a whole lot of money on a mistake.

      • Katie says:

        Does this mean I should not post articles to any article directories? I’m confused. What do you do, do your keyword research, put the articles on the blog and that’s it?

        • Justin Cooke says:

          We don’t build backlinks to our sites at this point, so giving you direction we’re not taking ourselves isn’t our style. You’re free to build backlinks to your sites via article directories if you like, of course.

  • Jeff says:

    Very helpful article Justin. My question is in regards to once you have your two full time VA’s. Ideally, I would love for them to handle buying my domains, setting up hosting, and ordering content. Thus far in my business I haven’t offloaded those monotonous tasks because I would then have to give them access to all of my personal account information and bank account. Do you entrust your VA’s with all of this information? Or is there a way to still protect your personal information while still allowing them to handle these tasks?

    • Jeff, I resisted this for so long, but I eventually caved and gave in. You have to empower your people or you will become the bottleneck to getting things done. Sure, have safeguards in place (like limited account access, petty cash accounts etc), but give your people the ability to do their job directly. In the end, you have to trust someone, but in todays environment, monitoring what they are doing is easier than becoming a bottleneck for administrative tasks.

      • Justin Cooke says:

        I was just going to respond, Jeff, but I think Joe put it best here. It’s not without risk, of course…but it comes down to the process being (ultimately) more valuable than the risk of access.

        There are ways to limit the potential harm to your business from others having access, but that can be an expensive (and potentially endless) rabbit hole to go down.

        • Jeff says:

          Thanks guys, I guess I’ll have to give it a shot. I need to take the risk in order to move things forward quicker rather than fartin’ around doing non-value add tasks myself.

          I forgot to ask one other question in regards to KW research. I currently use Market Samurai and have yet to outsource this to a full time employee of my own. In the process of hiring and training someone to do this for me, do I need to purchase a software license for each VA doing KW research on their own personal computer? Or is it generally expected they will already have this tool and be familiar with it? (if I were to use Chris Ducker’s service for example)

          • Justin Cooke says:

            I think it might be a bit tough to find a software-dependent KW researcher via VSF, but they are on places like oDesk, eLance, etc.

            Still…if someone familiar with the mechanics of KW research, they’ll likely be able to switch platforms and continue on. Expect to do a bit of training to teach them the way you want to do it no matter who you end up with. Worst case, you have to buy them a license…

          • Hi, just wanted to input.

            Plenty of people on odesk to get kw research done. Specify the tool you want them to use. If they don’t have it reject them. They have there own licenses.

            I would go the vsf route if you have the volume required and you have debugged the process yourself first.

  • TimPaige says:

    Dude, this is so stupidly good it makes my head spin. How many people out there would KILL to make $3k a month online in only 6 months. Yeah, I realize that most people looking to do that probably can’t invest $10K, but even just using those principles and modifying it to your budget, it’s still doable. Hell, if someone is going to go to college to make $36K/year, they’re most of the time going to spend far more than $10K off the bat, and the prospect of increasing their income past the $36K/year quickly is so limited then.
    I don’t know, I think this is something people need to pay attention to. In fact… maybe this is my wake up call to finally get this stuff going. Thanks for the always good stuff.

    • Especially in SE Asia, $3k is more than enough to live on. Most people won’t need to pony $10k upfront, but rather slowly over time before they see an ROI. So don’t quit your day job until you build this little empire!

      • Tim Paige says:

        Oh dude, I can’t imagine. Even here in the states, $3k isn’t baller status, but it’s enough to get you by in the beginning. And I don’t think it’s a ton to ask to slowly invest $10k into the business to generate that really solid side income.. and then slowly work into going full time.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Tim!

      Yeah, the Time Vs. Money balance definitely comes into play…you have to invest from either only up to the point you’re willing to risk.

      Somewhat on topic, I just wanted a great TED video with an experiment in learning and a new model for learning that doesn’t involve being “taught”. Interesting stuff:


      • Tim Paige says:

        Right, that’s the thing. There’s a risk element regardless, and when you’re getting into business you need to consider that. But you’ve got money or you’ve got time, and that’s the leverage point.

        Checking that video first thing in the morning!

  • Rod Bryant says:

    Hi. Cool article. Re content though, you are spending $16 per site. Even using iwriter (I use Textbroker) one can hardly get ONE good article for that. In primary school English you can get 3. Do you really only have 3 poor articles per site?


    • Justin Cooke says:

      At best we’re at $5 primary / $2.50 secondary. At worst we’re at $6 primary / $4 secondary. Please keep in mind that we also have Content Managers that are ordering, receiving, AND editing the content as it comes in. As you can imagine, some of the content has to be edited more than others, depending on how poor the writer is.

      Keep in mind we’ve ordered countless articles over time…eventually we’ve found content writers that are cheap, decent, and willing to work with us long-term.

  • Mike Murray says:

    Thanks Justin! This was a great article. I have definitely had my share of stinkers in the past but your site and your guide to KW research has been a great deal of help and hope moving forward! Love the podcast too!

    • Brandon Bear says:

      Ah… keyword research, (in my opinion) one of the largest parts of competitive SEO… if you get it right, then your SEO is easier.. if not, you deal with lots of competition.

      • Justin Cooke says:

        Brandon’s ABSOLUTELY right, Mike…it’s all about the keyword research! That’s why we’ve spent so much time discussing this in the guide, in podcast episodes, on the site, etc.

  • darren says:

    Great post as all ways. Its nice to know that you even stuffed your first few KW researches with Broad instead of exact. I did the same thing problem was, I was using Long Tail Pro, and was doing 10 sites at a time, did it twice so I had 20 sites, with crap KW’s… Lesson learned…

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Darren!

      I hear that’s a pretty common mistake actually, hehe. Yeah, I definitely donked that up when we were starting out.

      Hey – when’s the next time we’re getting you out to the Philippines? Was great meeting up with you here in Davao!

      • darren says:

        Yep, a very common mistake… (well that’s what I am telling myself). Mate if I was cracking 3K a month, I would be back there in a heart beat. what an amazing time I had..

  • Don Shelton says:

    Tremendous topic; one question I’ve had in the post EMD update era is whether you still use article marketing as your primary link building process. Any other details you’re willing to share on changes to the process in the Guide since the EMD are naturally very valuable; it sounds, though, like you’ve not made many changes to the process. Perhaps updates have pulled per-site profit down, but the process is still profitable as it was?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Don,

      To be clear – we’re not doing ANY linkbuilding to our sites at this point. Nothing…not even article marketing. It’s not worth the risk of potential Google changes. This obviously takes us out of the running for targeting more profitable keywords and niches, but also keeps us out of the trouble linkbuilding can cause.

      • Don Shelton says:


        Thanks so much for the follow-up. The link building is the part of the process which has bothered me the most – both from time/money cost (time and money I’d prefer to spend creating content) and the whole concept of “needing” to fool Google in order to rank, even this being the area where we see the most hucksterism on products, ebooks etc.. Article spinning seems a most unattractive approach (at least to someone like myself who actually likes to write original content). In the early site building I’ve experimented with several approaches, from link wheels to doing nothing (maybe a few blog comments and web directories). While all of the approaches work some, my experience right now is that nearly all the forced or gimmicky approaches to link building aren’t working well as a return on investment of time/money. Link wheels (2.0 links, whatever they’re called) still seem to work sometimes, but again not well versus the cost. The sites where I’ve done nothing take a long time to gain significant traction, but several of them (as you say, it’s a numbers game) have become decent $10-$25/mo sites after time, a better return on investment so far than the ones with link building processes. After these experiments (and reverse engineering a couple bought from you all), I think I’m ready to finalize a process that doesn’t include extensive link building. Thanks again for your guidance.

        • Justin Cooke says:

          Awesome, Don…

          I think there are some competitive industries and niches that you just HAVE to build links to…but I don’t think that applies to the niches we’re targeting. I feel much better about not building links and letting them come naturally – a much better approach, I think.

      • Mike says:

        Since you guys aren’t doing any linkbuilding and are obviously targeting low competition niches what range are the average number search for your keywords? For example would you be more likely to target several keywords that got 600 ems vs a keyword that was a little more competitive that gets 1600 ems?

        • Justin Cooke says:

          Hey Mike,

          The KW research process is the exact same. The (rare) difference is that we might not pickup those 5,000 exact match, $4.50 CPC more competitive keywords that we sometimes come across…but that’s just because we’ve narrowed or fine-tuned the selection process down to not go after reaches as much as we have in the past, heh.

  • Jeff says:

    So the gist of this is that steadily building 40 well-researched sites a month, and selling the winners, would yield ~$3k monthly profit?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Jeff,

      The gist is that with some investment of time and money, you can build a (mostly) automated and outsourced profit stream of $3K net per month in about six months…yes. I get this question quite often via email and thought it was worthy of a post I could direct those readers to.

      • Jeff says:

        Oh, didn’t mean to be a dick about it – was just trying to make sure that was the ongoing process in maintenance mode. Thanks!

        • Justin Cooke says:

          No worries, Jeff! I was wondering if you were just thinking, “F#%$ me, you could have just tweeted this!” but I thought it was worth going into some depth to explain it clearly and go step-by-step, hehe.

  • Steve Cooke says:

    What If someone had some money to invest in buying already made sites (producing say 50-100 a month….and had potential for 300-500 a month revenue)?….What about hiring a consultant to “help” go through the process of “screening” and reviewing the sites with proper due dillegence?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      I think I get what you’re asking, Steve…but let me just restate so that I’m clear. You’re talking about a potential site investor hiring someone as a consultant to help them vet the sites they’re looking at purchasing…is that right?

      I think it’s a reasonable position to take as an investor. But…the problem is, who do you trust to hire as the consultant? That’s not a well defined position and there aren’t a ton of people out there offering those services so it might be a problem with who to trust maybe?

  • John Shea says:

    Great info here! My thought would be is would I really want to dive into managing THAT much content and sites over time, even with VA’s it seems like a very time consuming model to upkeep everything.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Yeah, I dunno…as I was writing it up I was thinking, “Damn…that’s quite a bit of work for $3K per month” and actually mentioned it in the article I think, heh.

      Ultimately, though…you really can almost remove yourself from the process completely. Joe and I have almost nothing to do with creating the niche sites, selling them, etc. Our time right now is more focused on expanding software, reaching out to others and creating content, general biz management, exploring growth opportunities, etc.

  • “Once I’ve got my first 10 sites started, I’d perform my own keyword research using LongTailPro and try to find suitable targets. (Specifically targeting 4-5 keywords/domains that I think may work) I’d then purchase a 10 KW research package and ask on the order form that my keywords/domains be vetted. If they’re suitable, they’ll be purchased and transferred to me. If not, they’ll be replaced so that I have another 10 niche sites to target.”

    That’s pretty cool. Have you thought of an option to just “validate my picks?” With out the rest if that option?

    It looks easy when its written down, and in a sense it really is an investment/process.

    Working alone I find the which to pick was the hardest part through self doubt more than anything, Also buying to many at a time and not fully developing what you have before doing more research was an issue.. Bright new keyword syndrome.

    Great write up and plan


    • Justin Cooke says:

      The KW Research Package can be used for validation…although you’re going to lose the value of having the domains included (and the secondary KW research if it’s a No-go) We don’t have a validation product exactly…that was one of the software products we had in mind, but Long Tail Pro’s platinum option was pretty close to what we were thinking anyway.

      I wonder of an on-the-go validation process would be both useful for others and worthwhile for us…hmmm…

      • I know it has value to us but is it to costly to do? Plus sometimes it’s best to,keep things simple

        Cheers Justin!

        • Justin Cooke says:

          It’s not terribly costly on our part, I don’t think…but I would have to take one of our KW researchers and have them bouncing back and forth between support and KW research for us and clients to check them out. It’s more of a time/focus thing…worth it if the demand is high, but for only a couple of orders per week I think I’d have to price it too high to be worth it, possibly.

  • Dave Irwin says:

    Great info here Justin.

    When I started I bootstrapped everything; I didn’t have more than a couple hundred dollars for hosting, a domain and research software (I’m still using Samurai). I did everything, and I mean everything, myself because I couldn’t afford to hire anybody. I got lucky though, because I shot for a larger niche site with great quality articles on it. Luckily it paid off because that first site is now clearing $1700/month after 9 months.

    I guess my point is that even without $10K, almost anybody can do this with a plan and dedicated hard work. Now I can afford to outsource a lot of my work and I am doing about 1 good quality site a month. I’m not as diversified in the number of websites I produce as you are, but I don’t really plan on selling them in the short term either.

    You and Joe have been an inspiration and a great help to me! As a side note, my income is allowing my to quit my soul-killing job and stay home with the kids within the next month or so. Keep rockin’!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Dave!

      Yeah, I mentioned the slow-growth approach I’d take to option #3 once I had the system in place – it sounds similar to what you’re doing right now on your own. 🙂 Can’t wait for you to earn enough to leave the soul-sucking job…I just talked to a friend who left the Philippines to go back to one of those last year and isn’t really digging it, heh.

      I think there’s always the Time Vs. Money trade-off. If you’re short on cash, but have plenty of time…you can’t definitely go the hardcore bootstrap route! If you have plenty of cash and no time you can always buy your way in. I was looking for a more measured approach as this seems to be a question we get often.

  • Tyler Herman says:

    Think the most important part is the selling. From my experience most smaller “build them and forget them sites” I’ve built have a definite shelf life with Google. Usually hitting their peak 6 to 18 months in and falling off in both revenue and traffic from there.

    Definitely not the easiest way to earn 3k a month but if you can get to the point where you can outsource, I guess it’d be worth it.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      I think that if you’re selling them, adding content, monetization, etc. is upside for the buyer. If you plan on keeping the sites for a longer period of time, having a well-defined strategy for adding content, linkbuilding, etc. can extend the life and the value of the site significantly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Business to Sell?

Click here to get the process started today.