Justin Cooke

May 29, 2011

The debate rages on as to whether it’s better to build minisites about one very specific niche or authority sites that cover a range of topics under a larger niche, but what’s the best way to determine what’s right for you?  Through an email conversation with one of our readers, Kevin T., we decided this was worth looking into and, based on the numbers, would give us some indication as to the direction we should take regarding additional content and “authority” status for our sites.  We’re providing this information to you as an inside look at our numbers, our discussions, and ultimately our decision and gameplan for moving forward.

The Problem:

Due to a channel limitation in our AdSense account, we’re unable to directly determine the amount of revenue each particular page on the site has earned us.  However, we believe we can get a fair estimate by looking at the number of pageviews our secondary pages get as opposed to the pageviews on the site overall.  We can then compare the percentage of pageviews the secondary pages get to the revenue that site has earned over the same given period to determine an estimated value per month of secondary content.  We can then divide that value by the number of pages, to get an estimated value of an individual secondary content page per month.

The Test:

To better explain, let’s take a look at one of our best earning sites for the months of March/April.  You’ll see that this site made a total of $108.12 through these two months.

Our AdSense account doesn’t have pageviews broken down by individual pages for our sites, so we’ll have to turn to Google Analytics to get that information.

You’ll see from the image above that the site received a full 2,711 pageviews, but only 1,771 of those pageviews were on the home page.  940 pageviews were from the secondary pages, making up 34.67% of the total pageviews on the site.  Based on our assumption in the second paragraph, we can estimate that 34.67% of the revenue or $37.49 came from the secondary pages.

If we divide $37.49 by 2 (To get the monthly average through Mar/Apr) we’ll find that the secondary pages averaged $18.75 per month.  The site has 4 pages of secondary content, so we can conclude that the average individual secondary page makes $4.69 per page, per month.  That’s great when you consider the fact that it only costs us around $3.50 – $4.00 in man-hours to have a page of content written and uploaded.  You can find out more about our content process here.

The Results:

Well that’s great when you consider one of our best earning websites and it makes a lot of sense to turn this minisite into an authority site, but how does it look when you take our average site?  What about a low-earning site?  To answer these questions, we decided to research further and sample all of the sites we created in December (44 sites) and see if we could come up with some averages across a wider range of minisites.  This is what we found:

Total Revenue: $963.52

Total Pageviews: 36,166

Total Secondary Pageviews: 15,030

Secondary Pageview Percentage: 41.56%

Average Monthly Revenue Per Secondary Page: $1.14

Considering that our all-in cost for a secondary page on the site is $3.50 – $4.00, it seems like a STRONG argument to turn our minisites into authority sites.  To dig into the data just a little further, we decided to split the websites in to three groups, Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.

Tier 1: Earning $15.00 or more per month on average

Tier 2: Earning $5.00 – $15.00 per month on average

Tier 3: Earning less than $5.00 per month on average

We found that Tier 1 sites had an individual secondary page value of $3.54, Tier 2 was $0.73, and Tier 3 was $0.17.  In regards to a test, it appears that the Tier 1 sites look like the best opportunity for additional secondary content, followed by Tier 2.  Tier 3 doesn’t seem to offer an ROI that would work for us, but we may end up testing additional content on these sites as well to see if there’s any value to it.  Now the bad news…we sold a good portion of our December Tier 1 sites already on Flippa!  (For those buyers, feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to turn over our findings on your particular sites, giving you some insight as to what sites you should focus content on)

One additional thing to note is that it wasn’t always the best earning sites that had the highest individual secondary page value.  For some of the sites, the a particular page or two of secondary content received a significant portion of the pageviews, often more than the primary page of the site, so even if the earnings were lower there appears to be particular value to adding additional content to that minisite.

Our Thoughts:

In the Minisite Vs. Authority site debate, at least for us, the numbers are showing that (for at least the Tier 1 sites) there’s definitely value there worth exploring.  One of the benefits of our approach is that it’s profitable on its own, but once you have enough sites you can really start looking at the data to turn your $0.40 per day earners into $2, $4, $6 per day sites to really maximize profitability.  We know by looking at the numbers that the potential ROI is worth it and, instead of taking our website creation team off to work on this task, we can simply hire/order directly for this project.

Our plan is to add secondary content to the Tier 1 (possibly Tier 2) sites that we have and track their progress over time.  If the ROI proves out, we’ll be adding this process to all of our current and future sites as well.

We hope you found this information useful.  Do you see any issue with our numbers?  Our process?  Do you think the assumption of a direct correlation between pageviews and profits is valid?  Let us know why or why not in the comments below.

For more on this discussion and to get your free Niche Site Blueprint, click here.


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  1. […] we’ve built a significant network of sites, the thought is to continue to expand AND improve our earnings for all the previous sites we’ve created.  If we can significantly improve our LTV there, […]

  2. Dakron says:

    Hi,

    I find this analysis quite interesting and very well performed for the data you had available.

    However, I think there is an aspect that hasn’t been taken into account (because you didn’t have the data): an authority site makes it easier to rank new articles.

    That means that an article that is making $1 in a mini site, might make $1.5 or $2 as the site gains authority… without changing the original article or doing more SEO work on it.

    If that was the case, even one of your sites that doesn’t make much money on secondary pages COULD be worth the effort to turn it into an authority site.

    The problem is that I can’t imagine of a way of testing that without turning the site into an authority site. And after doing a few sites, check what the ROI was.

    But as I said, your analysis is very interesting because you can grow the minisites that are making more money on secondary pages, which IMO is a very good indicator to know where your effort is going to be more profitable.

    Cheers

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Dakron,

      Really interesting point…I hadn’t considered the overall gain on ALL content from improving the site to an authority site. And you’re right…really hard to measure, heh. Still…something to think about.

  3. Martin says:

    Thanks so much for sharing what you are doing and how you are progressing.

    I am really curious about a couple of things, would like to get your perspective:

    – The mini sites you are producing don’t add much value to visitors.
    In the post contained within your free report, it even mentions it doesn’t matter if
    They are so informative as that isn’t the objective of the site. In fact you are creating
    So many sites that you probably don’t have time to even check the content. I had a look
    At a couple and found many with grammar mistakes or articles that don’t read naturally
    E.g
    “Are you problematic with your small bathroom?”
    You have mentioned using fiver or other sites to pay as little as possible
    For the content and potentially using non English native writers content on
    Secondary pages. This gets you content written by someone that probably has no idea
    About the topic and just recycles whatever they can find on other sites.

    – This is something I struggle with and usually pay good money and try to find a US writer
    That knows something about the topic. Of course this is a lot more expensive
    But If I would put low quality content on my sites I feel like its not going to rank
    Long term and I’m adding to the clutter of useless information on the Internet.

    – I am really interested in if the google rep you met mentioned anything about the
    Type of sites being built, I think they wouldn’t encourage these types of sites and would be trying to filter these out of the SERPS

    – I think this model is not sustainable and with social factors becoming more important,
    Forced links / Article directories being devalued In the ranking process (obviously these sites won’t get any social or other serious links) they won’t rank in the longer term

    Thanks again for sharing and interested in your thoughts.

    • jwcooke says:

      Martin,

      Thank you for stopping by and you bring up some important points, I think. Let me see if I can break up your points and try to answer each of them directly, the best I can:

      1. Lack of value to end user
      We’re definitely not changing the world here and I seriously doubt we’re going to be in line for a Pulitzer here anytime soon! Our initial thought was that (while we don’t use totally junk or spun content) the content should be informative and somewhat useful, but that it’s not a requirement to having the sites perform well and wasn’t necessary. Funny enough, our agents took it upon themselves to actually improve and edit the content over time…much more so than we were when we started. We’ve noticed that much of our later content, especially that used for our primary articles is actually pretty decent. I think it has to do with the fact that our agents take pride in their work and want to put out something better than is expected of them and it’s pretty decent, actually.

      2. Using cheap content is…well…cheap
      Content is one of those things…paying more doesn’t necessarily make it any better. In general, if we were paying $40 – $50 or more per article, I would expect a significantly improved level of content delivered. That would be great, but would not make it very cost effective for us at the level we’re playing at. There are sites that have higher quality content where it’s completely worth it, but it’s just not with our lower-end niches. In the $2-10 range, we’ve found that it’s actually quite similar and more work goes into weeding out those that are the best value. Not always the cheapest, but the best content we can get for the lowest price. We have two content managers that are constantly testing out new writers, vetting the content, etc. Surprisingly, we do actually check every article for both uniqueness and quality and edit many of the articles before they go on the sites. We’re able to do this with our low-cost team.

      3. Not liked and won’t last…
      Joe specifically went over some our sites specifically with the rep in a meeting that was supposed to last 30 minutes and stretched out to an hour. Remember, this was an AdSense rep and not someone from the search team, but she felt the sites we have are performing well. She recommended some changes and we’ve since implemented. I read a “sky is falling” post a while back talking about only getting rankings if you had great, natural +1 scores and depth through Google. I don’t really think that’s the case, but even if it were people would figure out how to use that to their benefit…I think it’s a ways off anyway. We can’t really say how long these sites will last or how effective they’ll be. We only started this in December and so we’re far from being experts on this, but we’ve read from many who are that their sites continue to earn years down the road.

      Lastly, regarding the cluttering of the internet…We view it like this: There are holes or gaps in the content available online. We’re providing an opportunity to match potential buyers with sellers of stuff they actually want and providing some information about those products or services along the way. An import/export business doesn’t actually create anything of value, but they do act as facilitator and that’s kind of how we view what we’re doing. Being so new, we’d definitely like to continue to grow and expand into other areas and continue to expand the value we provide to our end-users, advertisers, and readers.

      I took a few minutes to read your sales copy on the site you linked to and see some of the same tactics promoted by others. (Fear of loss or false scarcity, promoting fear through uncertainty, etc.) I understand that this may work for you, but feel that it’s not an approach we’re interested in promoting or supporting. (Take a look at our ethics statement here) You may have a problem with our less than outstanding content, but (hopefully) we’re learning, growing, and getting better at it. We may not appreciate your sales approach, but hope that you’re at least promoting a product you feel is truly helpful and not a $29 time waster.

      • Martin says:

        Justin,

        Appreciate your detailed response to the points I brought up. I hope I did not come across as too critical, I was most interested just to get your perspective on these points, which you have given, so thanks for that.

        Thanks for taking the time to review the sales page of my product. As you have mentioned you don’t appreciate the sales approach and highlighted your ethics statement, here is how my product fits with your criteria:

        Not promote a product or service on this site unless we’ve tried it out ourselves and found it to be useful.
        -> This is a product that I created using my experience and research that took many months of hard work to produce. The aim of the product is to truly help people that are looking to buy websites and offer a structured approach, examples and checklist, as it can be difficult as I know from experience, where to start when checking sites to purchase.

        It is not a quick report produced overnight as is often seen online. I have not had one refund request. Flippa reviewed a sample of the content and felt comfortable enough to allow me to write a guest post:
        http://flippa.com/blog/guest-post-going-beyond-screenshots-when-buying-a-website/
        There is also a blog attached to the sales page, where I am adding more useful information on buying websites.

        Not include false testimonials or hype.
        -> There are no false testimonials on my sales page

        Not give projected revenue claims or false guarantees on any of our website sales.
        -> The only guarantee I offer is to refund if customers don’t find my product useful. I haven’t had one refund request.

        We will not use false scarcity as a “Fear of Loss” tactic. If something is offered on a limited basis it’s because it is limited.
        -> The product is currently sold for $29 for a limited time – it was initially offered for $47 and I do intend to raise the price, as I feel it is providing at least that much value.

        • jwcooke says:

          Hey Martin,

          I might have been a little quick to criticize. Your sales copy is much less disturbing than some others we’ve seen. I do feel the general tone is somewhat based on selling fear, though, and your site launched in January and still has the product at the same price?

          That being said, if the content is truly valuable that’s a good thing. There are a ton of sketchy sales and sellers on Flippa and it can be hard to pick the good from the bad. We’ve been emailing a reader back and forth on different auctions available and I’ve been pointing out the less than trustworthy points I’ve seen, while also trying to point out those auctions where I think there is value and the seller appears to be trustworthy. There seem to be less of those in the bunch.

          Please don’t worry about being critical…that’s what will help us and our readers learn and improve! The quickest and easiest way to fail is to smother yourself in flattery and praise, so we do appreciate it!

  4. Great debate guys, not sure if you knew this but you can combine your adsense with your analytics to get info on how much each page earns you. I did it a while back for an authority domain, posted 100 articles on it, waited a few months and then checked google analytics to see which articles was pulling in the most $$$, then I made niche sites around those topics! That’s part of the reason I was able to quit my job, it set me down the right road of targeting the right types of keywords.

    Once you have the special code on on your site you just open analytics, go to the site, then click on content in the left sidebar of GA and then click adsense and it gives you the break down.

    As for your debate I like using both, but I would take an authority domain any day because I feel there are more monetization opportunities with an authority domain vs niche sites. Also you can scale authority domains and grow them a lot. For you guys niche is where it is at though because you can build, monetize and flip them quickly

    • jwcooke says:

      Yes, we combined Analytics/AdSense for our first Analytics account, but you’re only able to have up to 50 profiles per Analytics account. Our understanding is that you can only attach your AdSense account to one Analytics account, keeping us from doing that for the rest of our sites, unfortunately.

      I did see recently with a new Analytics account we created that it was offering to combined AdSense/Analytics…so maybe that’s changed?

      Yes, there’s definitely some benefits to authority sites. Most likely, we’ll take some of ours that seem to earn more revenue per secondary page and expand them into more authority type sites.

      Really interesting idea about building your niche sites around your secondary pages that make money. We’ve unofficially done this…by looking at niche sites that are performing well and sticking in that same general category. Also, we had a secondary page for one of our early niche sites that was performing quite well and built another site around that great performer.

      When speaking to the Google AdSense rep though, they did warn about going after a KEYWORD.org when you already have a KEYWORD.net We’d tested that and had some good results, but they said they didn’t want any one person to take over the SERP with different domain variations, so we went along with that…

  5. […] we’ve built a significant network of sites, the thought is to continue to expand AND improve our earnings for all the previous sites we’ve created.  If we can significantly improve our LTV there, […]

  6. […] had some excellent ideas posted by a few of you that are worth following up on, including adding additional content to our current sites to see if we can increase their value.  Through our research, we’re going to start by […]

  7. Jay D says:

    Turning micros into Authority sits is what I have (accidentally) done with a few of mine just recently.

    I had a couple of sites that were performing well ($3-$5/day each) so decided to invest in a few more high quality articles for them – using my ‘Tier 1’ writing team. And the topics that I was writing about were not even ‘precisely’ related to my micro-niche (but were definately ‘related’). Anyway, what I found is the more articles I wrote, the more visitors I got and the more adsense income I generated. Not sure how long this upwards trend will continue though. I think that I’ve going to give these guys a break now (some of them have 10-15 articles on them now – but if they are bringing in $5 per day, that cost is recouped in 2 weeks).

    I’m going to now pick my next best sites, and write more articles for those, and see if I can replicate the initial success.

    Will keep you posted …

    Hey, can I get a copy of that ebook? Sounds interesting :)

    Cheers,
    Jay.

    • jwcooke says:

      Hey Jay!

      Yes, we’re “stumbling” into it as well. For sites that seem to have made it and are performing well it looks like it definitely makes sense to add content. It can be tough, though, if your niche is a micro-niche, but even if the articles aren’t directly related but WOULD be interesting in the person that searched for and found your site, I think it will make sense.

      I wonder how far you can take it as well…we’ll be testing it out too…let us know how it works out! If you can, track your revenue per secondary page today and then find out what it is down the road, once the content has been indexed and ranked and you’ll have a good idea as to the value/ROI.

  8. jwcooke says:

    Of course, David!

    I’ll email it to you directly.

  9. David says:

    Hey Guys!

    I was wondering if i could get a copy of the e-book. when I try to enter my email is says that I’m already a member. Looks like a good one.

    Great article.

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