Justin Cooke

September 24, 2012

Starting AdSense Flippers was, from the beginning, a “side project” for us…our main business has always been our outsourcing company, TryBPO.  Because of this, we were able to take risks and push boundaries that we might not have been willing to try out on our main business for fear of ruining our primary revenue source.  I mention this because it compares nicely to those that have other companies or “real jobs”you can rely on your safety net for security and really push boundaries with your online projects.  In doing this, you’ll have both failures and successes and the experiences can then be applied to help grow your primary source of revenue.

Note: Joe and I have been having some serious discussions about how we can apply the marketing strategies we’ve learned here to our outsourcing business.  We have a ton of ideas we’d like to see through…more on this in the coming months!

One of the great things about having AdSense Flippers “on the side” is that we haven’t been forced to rely on income from AdSense Flippers to survive.  Instead, we’ve been able to reinvest much of the profit into our business: experimenting with new ideas, marketing strategies, and revenue streams that can continue to grow our company forward.  To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t until a earlier this year that we’d taken any money out of the business personally.  Any profits went towards growing the business or building runway for the project and/or our overall business, if needed.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  Due to the fact that we have our “machine” built for the niche site process it actually takes very little of our time and we’re getting a GREAT ROI.  Where we spend much more of our time is with the things that do not currently make us much money, but have long-term potential for the growth of our business.

It’s a bit counter-intuitive actually, but more on that later when we get into side-projects.  Here’s an overall breakdown on our costs:

Niche Site Creation Costs

We often mention the amount of sites we built that month, but don’t mention the cost of building those sites…which is considerable.  This will break down the costs for each section of the process and give you a total per-site cost on each site that we currently build.

KW Research:

  • 1 agent hour or $2.00 (We currently spend around 50-60 agent hours per week on KW research and adding potential domains to the list and we’re selecting around 50-60 sites/week to target)
  • 5 minutes – Joe’s time (Joe spends around 4-6 hours per week analyzing the first page of Google and their “Chance To Rank”).

Domain Purchase:

Primary Content:

  • $5.00 Outsourced content
  • 1 agent hour or $2.50 for ordering/editing/uploading (Our Content Managers are slightly more expensive due to averaging in higher-priced oDesk workers…more on that below)

Secondary Content:

  • $12.00 Outsourced content
  • 2 agent hours or $5.00 for ordering/editing/uploading

Site Setup:

  • 2 agent hours or $4.00

Total Costs Per Niche Site:

  • $38.50 in actual spend (including agent hours)
  • 7 minutes of Joe’s time per site

Please keep in mind that we’re taking advantage of the economies of scale.  If we were only building 5 sites per week, our costs would likely be higher per site across the board.

Note:  When we started, we were doing linkbuilding on the sites which was around $10-$15 per site.  We’ve stopped building links since March, 2012 and that’s no longer included in our costs or process.

One last thing I should mention is the transfer or sale of niche sites does cost us a bit as well:

Post Sale Process:

  • 1 agent hour or $1.50
  • 1.5 hours of Joe’s time per SALE (This can vary pretty widely.  One of the reasons we like to group sites together is that it doesn’t take much more time to sell 10 sites together as compared to 1 site, so Joe’s per/hour time is better when we sell in bulk at higher price points)

Recurring Service Expenses Monthly Service Expenses

We’d noticed these costs have been sliding up in recent months.  Last week, Joe went through our recurring costs and was able to cut close to $500/month in expenses we no longer needed…ouch!  I’ll list out the monthly services relating to niche sites we are still currently paying for today, although this is bound to change over time. Feel free to ask about them in the comments and I’ll either explain or add/edit them later if I’ve missed any.

  • SEOMoz$99/month – We use their OpenSiteExplorer tool regularly and some of their other tools for research, tracking testing sites, etc.
  • Whoosh Traffic – $179/month – We use this tool to track the ranking on all of our niche sites.  It allows sub-accounts and gives us the option or emailing ranking reports to specific clients for specific sites…quite handy.  Starts at $19/month
  • Hostgator$200/month approx. – We have 15 (and growing) shared servers for niche sites, a VPS for AdSense Flippers, and a US VPS that we log into to check US rankings, use tools, etc.
  • ManageWP – We’ve been fans of ManageWP for some time now, but we JUST cancelled their service and are trying another option.  More on that in a future post!
  • GoDaddy Domain Club – $90/year – We pay this annually to get a discount on our domain purchases without having to bother to look up the latest promo or discount codes each month.
  • Social Oomph $35/month – This tool allows you to set recurring, spinnable messages to go out on a bunch of different social media platforms.  We used to use this along with Ping.fm, but they recently cut out the integration between the two.  We’ve kept it only because of all the content that’s on there and we do have Twitter accounts still using this service.
  • oDesk – We’ve hired a few overflow Content Managers via oDesk at a higher rate than we would pay in-house.  We also have some of our side-project developers and designers hired here.  I’ve already baked in the Content Manager costs into the niche site creation costs above.

Side Project Expenses And Budgets Side Project Expenses

We constantly have additional projects that we’re working on.  Some work out and some don’t, but we’ve spent plenty of time, effort, and energy here as it will allow our business to grow and adapt to an ever-changing environment.  Some projects look to be or turn out to be profitable, but aren’t as in-line with our business goals as we’d like them to be and they get scrapped.  Here are a few examples of things we’ve worked on or are currently in progress to give you an idea as to our costs, budget, and expectations:

Niche Site Gold

  • Domain Costs – $80/month – We typically purchase around 10 domains for the project each month.
  • Agent Time8 hours or $16/month – My assistant will prep the data for the newsletter we send out each week and I’ll fill in the intro, Chance To Rank details, etc.
  • Joe’s Time – 1.5 hours/month – It’s about the same amount of time he spends on KW research and purchasing the domains, with a little extra thrown in for a little extra care and Chance To Rank explanation.  We just pull out 2-3 domains each week from the batch we’ve selected for ourselves.
  • Justin’s Time – 3 hours/month – I just review my assistant’s work and add some of the reasoning to the newsletter each week.  It takes me about 30-40 minutes each week.

Thoughts: It might not be the best use of our time from an ROI perspective, but the value offered to readers/subscribers makes it worth it.  We’ve had a ton of feedback through NicheSiteGold and know well the pain points or struggles people have when selecting a niche.  It’s great being able to deep-dive with everyone on keyword research and it’s helpful for us to segment out those of our readers/listeners that are particularly interested in this topic.

IntelliTheme

  • Development Costs – $3,500 approx. – This has mostly gone to our main developer, with a portion of the costs going to a development “consultant” that has helped us through some of the sticky parts with the theme.
  • Project Management Costs – $3,000 approx. – Out Intern, John, has spent around two full work-months on Intellitheme.  His work has really been driving the project and has saved us considerably on the development costs.
  • Beta/Launch Consulting – $1,000 – Since we’d never done an end-to-end launch like this before ourselves and know someone who has, we thought it useful to bring him in as a consultant to help guide us through the process.  It’s an additional cost, but as a learning exercise it’s been invaluable.  Honestly, he probably would have helped us for free, but we thought it better to really get him involved and pay him for his time. Our Time – Ugh…maybe 200 hours? – Joe and I have spent considerable time on this project over the last few months.

Thoughts: We mentioned it in a recent podcast, but we are COMMITTED to seeing this project through.  This will be our theme, our baby, and we plan to continue to expand the theme as we grow and move into different types of sites.

Authority Sites

  • Site/Content Costs – $1,100 approx – We purchased the domains from a broker, ordered a bunch of higher-end content, and had an ebook created for one of the sites.
  • Agents Time – 20 hours or $40 – I had some of our agents help me out with the design and getting the sites up and running.
  • Justin’s Time – 80 hours – I spent quite a bit of my own time with keyword research, ordering/editing the content, putting the content on the site, etc.

Thoughts: This project was an absolute failure for us monetarily.  One of the sites was deindexed and the other had a ton of traffic but didn’t convert well at all.  (Ultimately, the high-traffic site tanked)  I thought some of the problems came from our hammering these sites with BMR links, but Joe was convinced we bought “tainted” domains from a broker.  Either way, this didn’t pay off for us at all and we’ve been a bit gun-shy about diving into another authority site project.  We’re more interested in testing through the expansion of our current niche site “winners”.

CRM Migration

  • Project Management – $1,000 in niche site value ($50/month) – A student/entrepreneur named Ryan reached out to asking if we needed any help with projects and we thought it would be a great fit for migrating our data from a Google Doc to the CRM.  He didn’t ask for any compensation, but he did put in some real work on this project and were happy to compensate him for it.
  • Agents Time – 80 hours or $160 – We had a couple of our Team Leads train with us, work on getting the data correct for migration, and then teaching their related teams how to work inside of vTiger, the CRM we’re working with.
  • Our Time – 40 hoursRyan probably saved us 60-80 hours worth of work by running the project…an excellent investment on our part.

Thoughts:  Hopefully, we’ll see some cost-savings and efficiency improvements with the CRM, but the real purpose in migrating was because we had seriously outgrown the Google Docs we were working with.  In addition to our two main Google Docs, our team had created several others privately to communicate and keep track of their work and it was turning into a real mess.

Squidoo Project

Squidoo Project

  • Round 1 Budget – $300 – The goal is to put up some quality lenses targeting similar keywords to our niche sites.  We will monetize these lenses, but the real purpose is to see if they “stick”, are high enough quality to remain on Squidoo, etc.
  • Round 1 Content – $200 – We ordered 10, 1,000-1,200 word articles from a quality content writer to get the Squidoo Lenses started.
  • Round 1 Agent Time – 20 hours or $40 – Creating and organizing the modules on the Lense, researching videos and images to use, etc.
  • Round 1 Our Time – 40 hours – I’ve detailed the process for our agent and I’m checking/editing the lenses after they’re saved as drafts before publishing.
  • Round 2 Budget – $1,000 – We’ll create 30-40 lenses that are specifically built to earn us money and track their results in the coming months.
  • Round 2 Content – $600-$800 – We’ll again order $20 articles from higher-end content writers.
  • Round 2 Agent Time – 60 hours or $120 – Time spent creating/editing modules for the Squidoo lenses.
  • Round 2 Our Time – 100 hours – I’ll be monitoring these lenses closely, making sure they’re optimized to earn and remain live on Squidoo.

Thoughts: I’m having fun getting this project up and running and it’s a nice break from focusing on niche sites.  I’m not excited about building out this process on someone else’s platform (Squidoo) but I don’t expect this to ever be much more than a side-project for us.  It’s disappointing reading about all those who have lenses and earn sub-$100/month (ugh) but I read some of those same horror stories about AdSense before we started.  I was interested to learn that you CAN sell Squidoo lenses, so that’s likely something we’ll add to the project if it works out.  We could be expanding this project as early as 2-3 months from now, but if we’re not seeing success I’d like to wait 6-8 months before calling it quits.

AdSense Flippers Redesign

  • Total Budget – $5,000 – We originally thought of this as a vanity project and weren’t excited about the financial costs and time obligations that would go into this project.  Over time, we realized that if our (admittedly horrible) design was turning new readers away and making it difficult for our current readers to access our content, that’s ultimately hurting our brand.  Seeing as our goal is to help others getting started, we thought this project was important enough to move on and worth a real investment.
  • Conversion Review – Budget: $1,000 – We reached out to Andy Hayes about reviewing our site to build more meaningful connections with our readers.  We’ll be implementing many of his tips into the new site in the coming months.
  • Design Budget – $2,500 – We’re running a “blind” contest at 99designs based on the design brief we’ve created.  The initial prize will be less than the budget here, but we’re expecting to work more with the winner post-contest on additional pages.
  • Implementation – $1,500 – We’ll be working with John “The Intern” on implementing the new design on our site, making sure all the redirects are in place, matching up our Buy Our Sites page with the new site, etc.

Thoughts:  We’re really looking to make the new site more user-friendly for new readers and to make our older content more accessible for those who have been following along for some time.  If you get a chance you might want to check out our design brief on 99 designs.  It might give you some insights into our strategy and conversions that are important to us.  We’re happy to have this project up and running, but frustrated knowing it will be a good 3-4 months until it’s complete…ugh.

Additional Expenses

  • John “The Intern” DeVries – We’ve paid John $800/month over the 8 months he’ll have been with us, but we’ve also included his room/board, travel to Cebu/Manila/Puerto Galera, etc.  In that time he’s learned our process, documented it in our guide, “Building A Niche Site Empire”, ran our IntelliTheme project from idea phase through Beta, and he’s currently working on a test to expand our niche sites.  In addition to his projects, he’s been a tremendous sounding board and has helped us with countless other tasks and projects we’ve needed help with.  All in all he’s been tremendously valuable.  He’s heading back to the US in October, but the plan is to keep him onboard and have him take over our project management needs for AdSense Flippers as we continue to move forward.  We’ll be announcing another Intern position shortly and we’re expecting to see John back here in the Philippines in January or February of next year!
  • LibSyn – $20/month for podcast hosting.  It’s totally worth it for the statistics and analytics.  We push the episodes through FeedBurner to iTunes just in case we ever need to change hosts and don’t want to deal with trying to update iTunes.
  • Podcast Transcriptions – $20/episode – We’d had several requests for podcast transcriptions so I had my assistant work with someone on Fiverr to get these completed.
  • Dynamite Circle – $97/quarter – We’ve made a ton of connections with the people in this group and have met quite a few of them in person here in Davao, in Singapore, in Bali, etc.  We’ll be heading to Bangkok in October for a meetup with many of the DC members…should be fun!
  • Aweber – $69/month – We use Aweber for all of our email lists.  As of today, we currently have 7,184 email sign-ups across all of our lists and the price will increase when we break 10K.  We went with Aweber as they were a “best in class” service and we’ve been very pleased with the value here.

Well…that just about wraps it up!  There are definitely some older projects I didn’t include, some monthly software or expenses we’ve canceled and didn’t mention here, etc…but that should give you a pretty good idea as to how much it costs to create our niche sites, what monthly services we pay for, and the costs and budgets we have for previous and ongoing projects.  Please keep in mind that all of this is subject to change over time, so even though it gives an accurate picture as to where we are today that may vary significantly as the months go by.

Now…over to you!  Did we miss anything you were hoping we’d cover?  Any surprises?  Ideas on where you think we should be spending more…spending lessLet us know in the comments below!


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  1. […] AdSense Flippers Monthly Expenses […]

  2. […] We’re expecting this to grow as we’ve been back on track building niche sites as of February…it will just take a few months for those sites to start popping up on the SERPs and earning.  If you’d like to know a bit more about our costs in creating these niche sites, you can check out how we spend our money here. […]

  3. nigel1974 says:

    What’s you total outsourced expenses in digits?, You should do a income statement like Pat Flyn where everything is in black and white. $57K income looks good on paper but it’s what your left with that matters. Bit more clarity that’s all. Good work. Nigel

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks for the comment, Nigel.

      We’re not comfortable with a breakdown on individual client revenue or outsourcing expenses for a few reasons, one of which is that it’s unfair to disclose that information on our clients and our employees. It’s better to view this as top-line sales revenue rather than a profit/loss. We wrote this blog post to give you an idea as to our expenses with regard to niche site creation.

  4. […] Please keep in mind this is top-line revenue for our company and, while we’ve shared our average monthly expenses for niche site creation and have broken down our IntelliTheme revenue and expenses in a case study, sharing the breakdown […]

  5. Naicop says:

    Uf, your are great in adsense investments!! Nice to know that people can earn money…

  6. Sounds like you guys really have a lot invested in quite a few projects/areas. I’m excited to read about them as they come along. I really like how well organized you two are. I think that’s something that I definitely need to work on.

  7. Taswir Haider says:

    Nice post buddy. But without spending $90 for Godaddy domain club, I would go for this link for coupons of Godaddy… http://www.domainpromocodes.com/promo-codes/godaddy/ (never mind, this link is for your reference only). I work with this all the time & working fine so far…

  8. Wow, that was a really good post! Where in the world did you find $2/hour agents? :)

  9. Nice post but can you guys show exactly how much you spend on your niche sites that would be very interesting! haha sorry thought id ask one more time but seriously cant belive you spend $0 on SEO…but I thought this could work as some of my sites made a bit without any link building done to them yet. But i still like to do a little Linkbuilding to them (and always a little different for every site) to try to avoid any penalties of future Google updates rather than every site having the exact same link portfolio

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Matt,

      Please look at the “Total Cost Per Niche Site” heading. Above it, we break down the costs for each step in the process, but we have the total there for you.

      Or: $38.50 and 7 minutes of Joe’s time

      So…if we’ve created (let’s say) 160 sites in a month…that means we’ve spent $6,160 USD for the month and Joe’s spent around 18.5 hours on KW research.

  10. Daryl Mander says:

    2 hours site set up time for your agents seems quite long. Building similar niche sites to yours, I’ve got my site set up time down to 5 sites per hour. To do this, I’ve been using a plugin called WordPress Duplicator. I create one site template by hand each month, then use WordPress Duplicator to batch create multiple sites at once. Quickens up the site build process considerably, you should get your guys on it if it’s currently taking them 2 hours per site!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey, Daryl, thanks for the comment!

      We were a little conservative in our estimates, but that’s about right. We’ve looked at ways (through ManageWP, for example) to automate site creation. It is possible, but there are some downsides that kept us from doing it. I forget what they are right now…Joe would be the person to ask.

      In general, we’ve resisted the temptation to automate almost anything. There are programs out there that can spit out hundreds of sites per hour, thousands of sites per day, etc…but it doesn’t fit our model.

      • Daryl Mander says:

        Fair enough Justin. Out of interest what drawbacks have you encountered?

        • JustinWCooke says:

          I’ll give you a couple off the top of my head, but Joe and I have discussed this at some length in the past:

          1. Lack of personal care/interest going into them. Don’t get me wrong, our current sites aren’t pampered and loved or anything…but true automation would take what little we have of that out. We’ve worked with our agents to ensure continual improvement on the sites and, I think, automation would be counterproductive to this.

          2. Signatures in the automation. As it stands, we can put slight manual variations into the process and avoid leaving huge signatures across our site creation. The more you automate, the more you’re open to this.

          • Agreed with Justin here. Plus I will add three more issues:

            1) Security. If the site you are cloning ever gets hacked or contains some type of issue, you have copied that problem to every other site. much better to start with a clean install.

            2) Process change. Even small process changes can be very difficult with automation because no one actually knows how it works. If someone is manually doing is a thousand times a month they are very familiar with the ins and outs of how things work and can easily adjust.

            3) Cost. Because we are so close to the labor here int he Philippines are costs are very low. So low in fact that I do not think we would save much through automation.

          • Hey Joe, we’ve spoken about this (automation thing) and i just wanted to add to your replies.

            2 hour @ $2 per hour is $4 so per site is really not an issue.

            I use cloning tools as well and no way could i build a complete site and add the content, setup seo and do the final plugin settings such as seo module and analytics integration in anything under 30 mins.

            I dont have the same concerns with automation but if i was in the philippines I’d be using the labour approach.

  11. Great stuff, now this is the true authenticity and “open kimono” type of content that your audience loves to get from you. Keep it up.

    Oh, and BTW your launch consultant is a hack!

  12. barry says:

    This is how it should be…breaking down monthly expenses? I have tried no backlinking with great on page seo and it held up quite well. Then the animals came and I was lost in the jungle:(

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Barry,

      It’s a little odd that you got hit with Penguin with no backlinks, isn’t it?

      • barry says:

        Yes it is! My sight is not indexed..its still come up when i put site:xxxxx who know maybe google just decides to let them go….10 websites to be exact.

        • It may be something else. Check http://panguintool.com & if you don’t find the corresponding date there, review posts from any of my social pages – I post about Google changes I think a bit more accurately than they do with this tool. And if the dates don’t match (or even if they do), you could’ve been hit due to something else. Check Google Webmaster Tools and post a reconsideration request. Hope that helps.

  13. Johan Woods says:

    Hey guys, long time – love the breakdown. I’m really curious to find out more regarding your Squidoo lenses(!?). Never in a million years would I have thought of that.

    IntelliTheme – can’t wait. Signed-up for updates.

    Anyway, seems like you guys are running as tight of a ship as ever. Almost skipped half-way across the world to the Philippines this summer. Oh well, maybe next year.

  14. Jay says:

    Justin – you guys are an inspiration. For a newbie like me this site has some great information. Keep up the great work.

  15. This is really cool to see if broken down in this much detail…must have taken awhile to put together ;) Awesome stuff!

    Thomas

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Yeah, was definitely a bit of work! :-)

      I thought it would be nice to have something to refer to with our income reports, though…and wanted it to be comprehensive. Thanks!

  16. MB says:

    Great post Justin, thanks for the insight.
    Just wondering, now you have stopped link building are your parameters changing as far as minimum monthly searches and CPC? I’ve tried something similar and found the sites did well initially but don’t stick, after 1-2 months they drop away considerably.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      We’ve stick with the same parameters. Some of the sites fail, but that’s always been the case for us. I “think” the failure rate has gone up, but I don’t have concrete proof of that. We’ll be testing some linkbuilding options in the future…

  17. Interesting read, Justin. Thanks for sharing. When are you launching Intellitheme?

    I don’t know what you’re using instead of ManageWP but I’ve been using WP Remote for the past several months on all my sites and it’s great. It’s free, too.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Tristan,

      We’re in beta now with Intellitheme. Our launch date will be dependent on both our internal tests and the feedback we receive from the beta testers. We’d like to launch in November, but we have to wait and see how it turns out first…

  18. This is very helpful for anyone considering the type of projects you do.

    It sucks that the authority sites didn’t work out for you. With that type of investment I would be pretty disappointed too. Hopefully there’s something that can be done to monetize it better.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Jessica,

      Yeah, it was a bit of a bummer it didn’t work out better. I was REALLY hoping we’d have a winner there when we tested through it…we’d probably be building those sites right now, actually, along with the niche sites! We’ll step through it again, though…we really do want to “level up” in the future…just trying to figure out the best way to go about it. Maybe we start with expanded niche sites (and get that down) and then move onto authority sites, etc.

      Ultimately, we’d like to have a standardized way to create full-on, replace-your-income type sites!

  19. gerprz says:

    Great post Justin!
    Thank you.
    I’m trying to find your design brief on 99 designs and unable…
    I’d love to hear more on the Squidoo project, what is your goal long term with that?

  20. Hi guys

    Just a quick comment (for a change).

    You deserve a great deal of respect for standing up and coming out with all this great data. Bearing you souls as it where.

    I’m with you on managewp (you might recall i pointed it out originally as im an original fan. Ive scaled back the use a lot. As ive said to them when you go past 50 sites the monthly cost is questionable. It need to be more flexible in pricing (have 100 site but 5 of them on pro and 2 at the top level 93 on the lowest level for example).

    It will take a bit of digesting to see if i can offer any thoughts of value.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Steve!

      Yeah…it’s always the case that posts I think are questionable are definitely the posts we should be writing! hehe

      Agreed on ManageWP. We’re looking at another option…more on that to come!

  21. Anisul says:

    Hey man , nice post.. I was hoping to see some breakdown on your expenditure for the SEO of the niche sites. Would you please describe how much typically do you spend per niche site to rank it to top or possibly a monthly breakdown??

  22. Rob Mills says:

    A great share. Did i miss it or did you not mention your SEO costs for your niche sites. I would be interested in seeing this. Apologies if i missed it. I will read through again. Cheers guys great job as always!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Rob,

      Our SEO costs per niche site are currently $0. We’re not spending anything on linkbuilding! :-)

      We have a test planned, though, that will test through a fairly heavy spend per site. We want to test ROI on linkbuilding before starting it up again to see if it’s even worth it or not…

  23. warren says:

    Hi, why have you stopped your link building costs ? Can you rank your sites now without link building, or do you have a system to do it automatically ?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      We’ve tweaked our KW research so much to go after the low-hanging fruit that we haven’t noticed much of a difference. Our sites are still getting ranked, earning, etc. We’ve explained this to our customers and they viewed it as upside! :-)

      Still…we’d like to know if there’s any benefit to linkbuilding. Here’s the question:

      Would we be better off spending an additional $X amount of money on linkbuilding for each site or would that money be better spent creating additional niche sites? That’s what we’re looking to answer…

      • As somebody that ran a ton of link building back in the day :-) Im now 100% focused on KW research, natural ranking and gaining more traffic and revenue but adding content.

        We need the good content anyway so that’s a fixed cost. Great content costs less than most think when using odesk ($4-$5 USA and UK writers 700 words). And no back-linking management or overhead.

        You have to wait longer but that’s no bad thing.. Just my .1 cents worth…

        Of course if your not targeting low first page comp EMD sites then back linking is still going to be needed or you will have to build a following etc.

  24. warren says:

    Hi, why have you stopped your link building costs ? can you rank your sites now with link building or do you have a system to do it automatically ?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Warren,

      We’ve found that with good KW research we can rank our sites without linkbuilding!

      • ENGLM says:

        In previous comments you have said that you tweaked your KW research and that now you are able to rank without any backlinks. Could you share your updated keyword reasearch? And how do you analyze your first page now?

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Sorry…I know I used the word “tweaked”…but that’s probably not accurate.

          Previously, we MIGHT pick up a high-3 or low-4 on our “Chance To Rank” scale. We’re now just a bit more picky and try to really stick with true 4’s…maybe reach for a lower-end 4 now and again.

          There’s nothing in particular we’ve tweaked…we’re just reaching a bit less.

          • To further this, I am also looking a bit more at commercial intent. if a keyword fits all our parameters, but does not seem like a buying term, I will pass on it. Examples include recipes and coupons.

      • Daniel Delazion says:

        im not sure i agree
        I built 75 MFA sites based on most of the info in this site exactly 12 months ago. I didnt have the time or manpower to build links, i threw a few now and then at about 10 of them and left the other 60 odd without.
        Today i earned 10 GBP from all of them, and the best earners are the ones i build a few links too. The others have earned maybe 3 gbp total in the last year.
        Ofcourse the last year has been harsh with a lot of algo changes, but not building any links? thats not going to do much in your favour i dont think. Ive aqlready tested the theory and now im all about getting ready to build links.
        I was actually going to follow you advice with SYA and UAW but have a few automated ideas i may try first, afterall we dont need many to make an impact.

        p.s. the last 2 months income doubled, so yes there is a theory that the sites as they get past the 9 month mark they gain more trust, ofcourse xmas is approaching too.

        • Then you should purchase our sites, run them through your link building process, and get more bang for your buck!

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Hey Daniel,

          I was a little short in my reply, only because I’d answered the linkbuilding question in a couple of other comments. Basically, I was saying that we haven’t done any linkbuilding and it hasn’t dramatically hurt us.

          That being said, we will be testing other linkbuilding options in the future and trying to find a process that works and isn’t likely to get sites penalized.

  25. Sean Spurr says:

    Hey, interesting to hear you’ve left managewp. I’m using them and loving the service but paying $200 a month or so really bites into my income. Have you moved to a competitor to them or a bespoke solution or what ?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      We’ll have more about that in the very near future…we have another option in mind. :-)

      • You guys are going to like it. I have been fooling around with it this month and have found it has all the core features of ManageWP and it much cheaper considering it does not have a monthly price tag. It’s a one shot lifetime deal.

        • GT says:

          Come on share the name of the new option :o) I’ll still come back to read about your experience with it. I’m right in the middle of looking through all the WPManage alternatives and would love to see which one you are checking out.

          • Soon! We are preparing some material to show how and why we use it.

          • Jeff Stevens says:

            Any update on your alternative to manageWP? You guys mentioned something “coming soon”, but I haven’t seen anything else on your site about it.

            I have been considering ManageWP, but the price tag is difficult to justify at my scale. So I am very interested in a potential alternative!

            Thanks

          • Justin Cooke says:

            We never did roll this out, eh? We ended up testing out InifiniteWP. It’s definitely a cheaper alternative, but less feature rich. Worth taking a look if you’re interested.

          • Joe Magnotti says:

            As Justin said, we have been using InifiniteWP, but I have been unwilling to recommend it because of stability issues with a very large number of sites. Right now we are doing most updates manually, which works for us because of the reduced costs of Philippine labor.

  26. Mark Mason says:

    Wow. This is an excellent post — thanks for taking the time to put this together (I know how much work this was). Will definitely send my listeners to this (and would love to have you guys on the podcast to discuss some of this stuff).

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Mark!

      Would love to be on the podcast…we just finished recording our next episode tonight, heh. Shoot us an email and we can set something up!

  27. Derek Smith says:

    Great post guys, I remember hearing about your guys stopping linkbuilding on one of your recent podcasts. Is this something that will continue or is this just a test? Wondering about how well those sites are doing from March – present compared to sites you used link buiding on in 2011.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Derek,

      Yeah, we mentioned it in a podcast and (I think) in some comments on the blog, but I don’t think we’d ever mentioned in a post. The thing is we’d fallen behind several months and with some questions about which links to build, we realized we’d never actually NOT built links.

      We have a linkbuilding ROI test in the works. Unfortunately, to do it right it will take MONTHS before we can actually get anything out of it…so we don’t have much to say about it yet, heh.

  28. Forvin says:

    Now I am confused :)

    “Note: We’ve stopped building links since March, 2012 and that’s no longer included in our costs or process.”

    So you’re not building links to your sites?

  29. That’s what you call a detailed post. Pretty cool stuff. Keep it up guys!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Mike! What do you think about our strategy…spending in the right places or do you think we should focus on something else?

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