June 20, 2013
A REAL lifestyle business in less than 10 months…
No, not the kind that replaces your regular J-O-B with a different type of 60 hours-per-week grind. I’m talking about living in a villa near the beach in Bali, hopping a flight to hang out with yours truly in Davao City for a few weeks, hopping another flight to hang out with the guys/gals at the World Domination Summit in Portland – All while making a living “online”.
This is EXACTLY what our friend Mark Brenwall is up to and I just had to get him on the podcast to share his story with you. He doesn’t own a Lamborghini or a yacht and he doesn’t have anything to sell…he just agreed to step out of the shadows for a bit to share his experience with flipping sites that profited more than $20K in the last six months.
His story’s fascinating and his No-BS approach to business and online marketing is refreshing. There’s a ton of value in this episode…I definitely encourage you to have a listen!
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“We completed two linkbuilding tests – both did not provide a positive ROI.” – Joe – Click To Tweet!
“I’ve been making enough money for other people…it’s time to do it for myself.” – Mark – Click To Tweet!
“If @Flippa can continue to challenge themselves…they’ll be absolutely KILLING it in the next 5 years” – Justin – Click To Tweet!
Speaker 1: Welcome, to the Empire Flippers podcast. Are you sick and tired of gurus who have plenty of ideas, but are short on substance? Worried that E-book you bought for $17.95 won’t you bring the personal and financial freedom you long for?
Speaker 1: Hey, you’re not alone. Join thousands of others in their pursuit of niche profits … without the bullshit. Straight from your hosts, Justin and Joe from Empire Flippers.
Justin Cooke: Welcome to episode fifty two of the Empire Flippers podcast. I’m your host, Justin Cooke, and I’m here with Joe “Hot Money” Magnotti. What is going on, my man?
Joe Magnotti: Hey, everybody!
Justin Cooke: Got a fantastic episode lined up for you. We’re gonna be talking about how to make a living flipping or buying and selling websites. And we’ve got our boy, Mark Brenwall here. He is the real deal when it comes to flipping websites.
Mark Brenwall: Hey, guys.
Justin Cooke: How do you like that real deal …
Mark Brenwall: Yeah, well I think it’s accurate.
Justin Cooke: He was telling me before the show, real deal is pretty lame. Anytime you have to say you’re the real deal, you’re probably not, right?
Mark Brenwall: Yeah, that could be a sign.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, before we get to that, let’s talk about our updates, news, and info. First, something we got is an iTunes review, from our man Ryan Coffman over at trustedsiteseller.com.
Joe Magnotti: Hit me up Justin.
Justin Cooke: He says, “This podcast motivates and inspires, five stars. Empire Flippers podcast is one my top three must listen podcasts. Always playing actionable content, Justin and Joe complement each other really well, keep it up guys.”
Mark Brenwall: Thank you, Ryan.
Justin Cooke: Boss, man. Thanks, Ryan, really appreciate it. Next point I want to talk about is, we’ve got a mastermind weekend coming up. We are headed out to SABU. Joe, myself, Mark …
Joe Magnotti: A local businessman called Jason.
Justin Cooke: Yeah.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, I’m looking forward to getting out of town, discussing some bus-nass and having some drinks.
Justin Cooke: Hanging out with Chris Ducker and Sabu. I think we’ll have a great trip. It’ll be a short one, so we’re just hopping over there for the weekend, but, it’s like a forty-five minute flight. It’s a nice little, get out of Devow break for us too, so that’ll be pretty cool. Third point I want to bring up … and we’ve got a bunch of updates here, but … third point is Penguin 2.0. We had someone asking us, you know, “how are your sites? How is everything going? Were you guys affected?”
Justin Cooke: The good news that we had to report is that, at least for this update, we had real no effect. We checked it out via Ooze traffic. So, we track all of our sites based on their keywords and positioning via Ooze traffic and we haven’t seen any noticeable effect.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, and I’d also say that, you know, I still see the people on the internet … those people …
Justin Cooke: Those internet people …
Joe Magnotti: Yes. I still see them saying, “Niche sites are dead. This update killed all my sites, you know, building niche sites is over.” I mean, it’s just proof to me, the fact that we’re getting this update every day from Ooze traffic and sites still rank. New sites rank, old sites rank, sold sites rank, because we still track our sold sites. I mean …
Justin Cooke: Everything’s cruising along … Everyone says that. “Podcasts are dead. Content marketing is dead. Man … You know. It’s ridiculous. In fact, I would say to y’all right now, there’s kind of a niche renaissance going on. I mean, with Pat Flynn doing Niche Site Duel 2.0. You’ve got Spencer doing some stuff. Robert over there, they’re doing Google+ hangouts and talking about niche sites. I just got a great Google+ group going so … Niche sites are alive and kicking for sure.
Justin Cooke: Next point I want to bring up is we recently had a purchase buddy. So we picked up a new site that we’re gonna be adding to the arsenal. Wpranchtracker.com.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, the mergers and acquisitions part of our corporation went out and bought a company.
Justin Cooke: We’ve been talking about this for a while … Looking for, just kind of a good fit. The funny thing is, we found this sight, and just, kind of, everything that was involved with it seemed to be a good fit for us. Both in picking up the developer, the actual piece of software, the plug-in itself … the sales and being able to bring in any new buyers into our tent. It just seemed like a good fit. We’re not even sure exactly what we’re going to be doing with the site or how we’re going to roll it out, but we did pick it up and we knew that it was such a good purchase for us that it was worth getting and figuring it out later.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, I guess we should talk a little bit about what it does. It’s a WordPress plug-in that tracks the rank of keywords that come to your site. It automatically will track the position in Google, Bing and Yahoo of keywords as they’re found in that search engine.
Justin Cooke: As they come in. So, if a search happens, it’ll record that and it’ll record your position, your rank for that particular search term. Pretty cool. We’ll be rolling that out too. Some of our products will be including it in our stable of products here, shortly.
Justin Cooke: Another update we’ve got here is that we’ve completed our link building test. Joe’s been doing a link building test. Basically we took a bunch of our older sites, our sites that were about to … we were about to cancel in the next few months … and we threw some links at them. This is a two-part link-building test. The first one is we did some profile links. We created a bunch of profile links to these sites to see how that would work. Part B of the test was Spencer’s process for link building.
Justin Cooke: How we doing?
Joe Magnotti: Unfortunately both processes did not return a positive ROI.
Justin Cooke: Any improvement at all or was it not worth the potential investment?
Joe Magnotti: We saw in an increase in some of the sites, but I would say that’s more just getting lucky than anything to do with the link-building.
Justin Cooke: On that, it wasn’t improvement overall.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah. Absolutely. I’d also say that it could be the fact that we’re using underperforming sites in the first place for the test. That could have tainted the test in some way. But honestly, I’m not sure I want to add link building back into our new sites that are ranking and doing well anyway. Why take that risky proposition?
Justin Cooke: Yeah. So we’re not saying that link building doesn’t work. Link building definitely does work in certain situations. We’re just saying that, for the … How many sites? A hundred sites, Joe?
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, about a hundred sites.
Justin Cooke: Fifty and fifty, both profile links end in the process as laid out by a niche pursuits. With our test, it didn’t work. It didn’t return a positive ROI. Which means it’s a positive test. I was going to say, it’s a loser but it’s not, actually. We figured out we should save our money and not do that link building.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, and I think it’s good. I love cutting costs on the back end and finding out that we don’t need to do something or something’s not useful.
Justin Cooke: I don’t like link building anyway. I mean, it’s a pain in the process. It’s really … It puts you at risk at any point. If you’re a good link builder, buying our sites or whatever, buying any sites really … then being able to do Ascio to those sites and pump them up is fantastic, but I don’t like it for us.
Joe Magnotti: I mean, I still really want to know what to do with that twenty percent of sites that we create that just fail and don’t rank and don’t earn any money and that we wind up, in a year from now, dumping and not doing anything with. That’s really what this test was all about … was trying to rejuvenate those sites so that possibly we could sell them in the future.
Justin Cooke: We could always yank the content from those and put them on, like, Squidoo or do something like that. I don’t know, we’ll figure that out buddy.
Justin Cooke: Next point I want to talk to … So Joe’s doing another link building test and he’s looking at the expired domains. He’s looking to pick up expired domains and use them potentially for link building. You’re in the, kind of, early stages of that, right?
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, I found a great guide for it. We’ll put a link in the show notes. There’s a great guide to using expired domains and three very popular ways of using them. Stuff like, building a blog network or linking to your site directly through your web redirect, stuff like that. It goes through the entire process all from finding the expired domains to using them. So it’s pretty nifty, but I tell ya, it’s complex. It’s not at easy as making some forum posts or building a Squidoo page and doing a link wheel. It is pretty complicated.
Justin Cooke: If you do it right it is.
Joe Magnotti: Yes.
Justin Cooke: Next point I want to mention is Flippa now has a classified ad section, which is pretty cool. So people go on there. I think its … don’t hold me to this … five bucks or ten bucks.
Joe Magnotti: Five bucks.
Justin Cooke: And you get listed for two weeks. So if you have products or services that you are looking to promote, you can go to the Flippa classifieds section and get yourself listed and hopefully get yourself some business.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, I wonder what their intention is there, Justin. What do you think Flippa is trying to do?
Justin Cooke: Well, look. It’s pure revenue play for them. They’ve already got the audits. They’ve got people that are better at certain skills or things than others. It’s a way for them to kind of swap the services they’re good at with people that have complementary services, and it’s a way for Flippa to bring in revenue. It’s a pure revenue play for them. Maybe a little bit of customer support, but … I mean people are able to list themselves. It’s really easy. It’s just extra money.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah. I wonder how they’re going to keep the low-end providers out. One of the problems with Flippa, right, is that on the low end their sites are not that valuable. Looking at sites under a thousand dollars, you find a lot of garbage down there. So if you have this classifieds section where it only costs five dollars to get listed, I mean, aren’t there going to be a lot of service providers that are going to be just bullshit?
Justin Cooke: Well, they charge. I mean, the fact that you charge at all is helpful. It’s better than not charging at all. So you’re going to keep a lot of the people that are looking to scam or that are looking to cause problems out simply for the fact that you charge any money whatsoever.
Justin Cooke: Our last plan … I know we have a lot of news and updates. This is a good one, though. We’ve had a lot of really interesting people reaching out to us, hoping we could sell their sites. It’s been a little different than it has in the past. We’ve had people reaching out to us regarding e-commerce sites, people that have more of, like, a service focused business, and of course, our more traditional ads-in-sites. Some of these have thousands of pages of content. It’s interesting, one of the good things there, is we’ve been able to sell a lot of these vetted sites. So even the higher end sites are selling. I think we’ve only had one site so far, Joe, that we weren’t able to sell through the marketplace.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, I think as they get more expensive, obviously they take a little longer to sell. But, yes, we are able to sell more expensive sites. We sold the Ian and Dan site and I think some of the other $10,000 sites we have also been moving. Yeah, I think the other people coming to us wanting to sell their larger sites, it’s very interesting. From a vetting process, it makes it very complicated and I’m a little worried about that but I’m figuring it out.
Justin Cooke: I think it’s cool. I mean … these niches are really interesting that people are in and that’s fascinating to me. I can’t wait to … I hope some of these get through the vetting process so that we can, kind of, share with others and they can see these crazy sites that people are building and making money on these niches.
Justin Cooke: Alright, enough of these news and updates. Let’s get right into the heart of this week’s episode.
Speaker 1: This is the Empire Flippers Podcast.
Justin Cooke: So, yeah, most of you guys know us as the Empire Flippers, but if you’ve been with us a while you know that we do a lot more building and selling sites than we do actually flipping them. We want to change that a bit today and talk to someone that actually does the flipping … Buys sites, sells them and makes margin on the flip.
Justin Cooke: So we’ve got Mark Brenwall on the program. He has been selling quite a few sites through our marketplace and has been buying up sites like a crazy person. So we wanted to have him on the show and talk to you about his process and how he’s able to make money doing this.
Mark Brenwall: Hey guys, glad to be here.
Justin Cooke: Glad to have you, man. So let’s talk a little bit about how you got started buying and selling these sites. What put you on the journey to actually getting it done?
Mark Brenwall: Good question. You know, my history has always been as a web developer. So I’ve been a developer, a front-end developer, mostly, for fifteen, sixteen years. At some point I just got fed up with the whole corporate lifestyle and just quit, you know. Just quit and decided, I’ve been making enough money for other people, it’s time to do it for myself. So last summer, I went to Colorado, I lived in the mountains with a buddy of mine just to do some mountain biking. I had lots of time on my hands and I thought, “You know what, I got time on my hands. I’ve got beautiful landscape to look at while I’m learning. It’s my time to get into the business.”
Justin Cooke: Cool, so you said, “Okay, I’m gonna start … ” What was the first thing? Were you like, “Okay, I’m gonna look for a site to buy”?
Mark Brenwall: No. Good question. First thing I did was … I didn’t even have that clear of a vision. It was just, like, I’m going to start making money online.
Justin Cooke: Oh, you went down that hole. Did you Google, “make money” and find an e-book or something?
Mark Brenwall: I’ve been in that space. I’ve built my own sites. I’ve been doing it, probably five or six years before I actually decided to try to do it full time. So I bought all the courses, I tried all the blog, scammy junk sites. This time I was like, “I’m gonna do really content with a real focus on adding real value to the internet, and is there a way for me to do that? Other people are doing it, making money. I’m a smart guy. I have the experience. I should be able to do it, too.”
Justin Cooke: So you started building sites, and you built a few yourself. And those worked out and you were impressed.
Mark Brenwall: Yeah.
Justin Cooke: When did you make the decision, instead of building sites to buy sites?
Mark Brenwall: So when I was in Colorado, I bought product that was, you know, how to flip sites. I read it and I was at that point where I was like, I’m actually going to take action.
Justin Cooke: I’m going to do this one, actually.
Mark Brenwall: Not am I just going to read it and sort of half-ass it and give it a go. I’m actually going to really do it. Tomorrow I’m going to buy a site. So, they gave us a few places to go, Flippa, obviously being the top choice. They said, go to Digital Point, you might be able to pick some low-hanging fruit there.
Justin Cooke: Yeah.
Mark Brenwall: Since I had the time, I said I’m going to scour through all of these sites and fortunately, the first site I bought was a huge winner. Probably still my biggest winner.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, I was asking you before the show started if that wouldn’t have been a win for you, would you have even taken it to the next level or would you have quit early. But you said you would’ve tested it again, probably, right?
Mark Brenwall: I liked the whole business model. I just liked it. I liked to buy a site that was already making money. Instead of me trying to grow something from the beginning and hoping that it works … and randomly building links or buying paper click ads or just a thousand different things you can get a site to get traffic … Buy one that’s already got traffic.
Justin Cooke: But when you build sites, you have losers too, right? I mean, Joe, you know this. We create some of them and they just suck, for whatever reason.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, I think one of the advantages that Mark had, was he had some capital available to him. So when you have more money than time, it definitely helps buy the sites and see what you can do with them because you know that if you buy ten sites within your budget and you have a few losers … If you have a few wins, as long as the ROI is there, it works out for you.
Justin Cooke: We’re going to get into capital and how much you think you probably really need to get started on this a little bit later. Let’s talk a little bit about the upside. Is it even really worth it? Can you make enough money legitimately to make this a living?
Mark Brenwall: Well, it depends on what your idea of a living is. I would say in the last six months, I have netted about twenty thousand bucks on sites that I’ve sold. So, I’ve laid out more money than that, obviously. I still have sites in my portfolio. But of the sites I’ve sold, I’ve made a good go at it.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, twenty thousand. That is not too bad for six months. You also have the ones in your stable that you’ve kept that are still earning you money. I think that’s pretty interesting. For most people, they’d think that’s pretty interesting.
Mark Brenwall: Yeah. I think $40,000 a year is a livable wage in America, nevermind Southeast Asia. You’ve been doing a lot of traveling as well, so you really are able to do it on this. I mean, are you breaking the bank or are you using your profits to keep yourself alive?
Justin Cooke: How long have you been doing this, actually? When did you start?
Mark Brenwall: I started last August.
Justin Cooke: Okay, so it’s been …
Mark Brenwall: Eight, nine months.
Justin Cooke: Okay, that’s a pretty short period of time.
Mark Brenwall: Short period of time. I’m actually really excited about the progress so far.
Justin Cooke: Now, as far as potential, where can it go? Do you see yourself kind of capped out right now? Is that about max, or can you buy more and do more than you’re doing right now? Or do you prefer to move up the value chain and buy more valuable sites?
Mark Brenwall: Another great question. Part of the reason I like internet marketing in general is just because there’s so many ways to make money. Not only can I buy and sell sites, but I can hold on to some sites that are making money. I can integrate Facebook pages and see if I can do some product marketing of some sort. So, yeah, you know, to be honest, right now I’m making all of my money with Ad Sense, primarily all my money with Ad Sense. At some point … I feel like that’s sort of my weakness, too. There’s a chance that my Ad Sense account gets canceled, or who knows, really with all the things. I would love to try an e-commerce site, or buy more expensive sites or …
Joe Magnotti: I love the idea of you buying a site and then developing it into something else, either switching the monetization or developing a product directly for that site. Like you said, changing it to e-commerce. I think you have those ingrained programming design skills, it would be easy for you to change a site, whereas someone else might have to outsource all that and, kind of, explain to someone else their vision.
Justin Cooke: Do you think someone could get started with this without much technical knowledge or without much experience with WordPress or, you know, what do you think?
Mark Brenwall: That’s hard for me to say because programming is so ingrained in me. I could really build a website in my sleep. It’s second nature so there’s always problems that come up. This is a problem-solving business. This is like any other business. You have to know about web servers and main servers and DNS and databases … And not to overwhelm anybody but there’s certain things that I can fix in a few minutes that if you hire a programmer it could take days and it might costs hundreds.
Justin Cooke: It might work, but it’s definitely going to eat into your profits. We’ll do you a favor. We’re going to link in the show notes to a video for our process for transferring sites, and if that’s completely Greek to you, like you have no idea what that means, then you’re probably going to be in trouble. If you think you might be able to follow the process on the site transfer, then you probably know enough to roll this out.
Mark Brenwall: That sounds about right.
Justin Cooke: So now we’ve got everyone fired up. Okay, eight months in, I can say over the last six months I’ve made twenty grand in profit. That sounds like a cool gig. I want to do that. What are the downsides? Let’s shoot them down a little bit, buddy. What are the downsides? What are your risk points?
Mark Brenwall: Well there’s lots of risk. That’s part of what I like about it, too. It’s a little bit like prospecting. There’s gonna be losers. You guys were talking earlier about the Panda update. I had a site go from like six hundred uniques a day to like sixty.
Justin Cooke: Ouch.
Mark Brenwall: Yeah.
Joe Magnotti: Big ouch.
Mark Brenwall: I’m probably going to end up taking a loss on that site unless some miracle happens. But, luckily I have some other sites that are big winners. So that offsets it. I look at it like a mutual fund. Some things win and some things lose.
Joe Magnotti: Diversification.
Mark Brenwall: Diversification.
Justin Cooke: Let’s talk a little bit about that diversification. I mean, right now, you said most of your monetization is through Ad Sense, so that’s definitely one point of failure for you, but also organic traffic. It’s mostly one type of site, which are content-based sites. So there’s a lot of points of failure there, which we’ve talked about … Basically expanding to start to build out different revenue streams. We talk about this a lot … Empire Flippers, part of it is building an empire, and what that requires is building out profit streams to help diversify yourself and build a true business out of it. You’re definitely on the right track. You’re making money. That’s the first step, profitable. You’re making profit. The next portions are diversifying away from that …
Mark Brenwall: I think we have to talk a little bit about the stage of my business. The reason I sell sites, or even started to think about selling sites is because I need some cash flow. Ideally, in my mind, down the road, I hold sites. I hold the winners and I sell the ones that either don’t interest me or they just aren’t making enough. I won’t sell losers because I’m just not that kind of business guy, but in my current stage of business I flip sites to get the revenue to either pay off some debt or to buy a new site. So, again, my vision for my business is to have sites. I’d love to … I don’t really want to throw out a number but … something like ten grand a month recurring revenue, I’m golden.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, and then … if you happen to buy and sell sites on top of that it’s just gravy. If you can keep up the three or four thousand a month net buying and selling, fantastic.
Joe Magnotti: That’s funny because that’s originally why we got into the flipping part of it, too was so that we could build more sites, right. But now the flipping part of it has fed so much more of our business and I think that will happen to you naturally as well. You’ll start to look at the flipping side of it as just one tentacle of your business and you can have all these other things around that … and you’ll see that buying and holding is just not as interesting either. As a business guy, you want to do something with the sites, you know.
Justin Cooke: I’d like to see you get into different types of sites, too. Potentially plug-ins or e-commerce. I mean, that all seems interesting.
Mark Brenwall: What I love about the Ad Sense stuff, and the sites you guys sell are perfect examples of it, is it’s just a really great way to cut your teeth.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, definitely.
Mark Brenwall: You understand the revenue model. You know where your profit’s coming from. I have some other sites. I’m doing some Facebook marketing where I’m doing some affiliate marketing. I gotta check like ten different affiliate panels to see where I’m making money. You know, with Ad Sense, I go there everyday, I know exactly what my paycheck is gonna be at the end of the month. It’s easy.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, and we always talk about this too. The principles in building an Ad Sense site are principles that you can use in building other stuff … Like keyword research, right? First page valuation. All these kinds of things. If you can utilize those to build a larger site, I mean … you need to know those things.
Justin Cooke: Yeah. What keyword should you target with your pillar content? What long tail should you be going after on your sites? You add content to these sites and finding the right kind of content to create is critical for you building them out and making more money.
Mark Brenwall: And not to mention, now I have a personal assistant or a VA. So going through the process of finding someone to do that, and you know, training her, in my mind is a big step in my business.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, you’ve got someone working for you, doing your work. The thing is, you’re gonna learn so much with that. On both the hiring process, but also figuring out how to work with a VA, where they provide value, where they don’t, what you can offset to them and what you can’t. It’s a tremendous learning experience and it’s critical for your growth.
Joe Magnotti: How did you find her?
Mark Brenwall: ELADS.
Joe Magnotti: Okay.
Mark Brenwall: Yeah, and I’ll tell you what, she lives in the Philippines. She lives up in Luzon Baguio and I feel like she’s a goldmine. She can write very good English, almost sounds like American English. I do some editing but … I can train her on a new application, Evernote or any of those out there and she just jumps right on it. I got lucky.
Justin Cooke: I remember, and this is quite a while back, a show that was quite a while back in the day … Joe and I were driving to San Diego or something and we had a VA working in the Philippines and we were so fired up …
Joe Magnotti: What year was this?
Justin Cooke: This was like 2006, right? End of 2005, 2006 … We’re in the car and Joe is like, Skyping or whatever with our VA in the Philippines and just kind of, like, getting shit done. And we’re like, “What kind of world is this, man?” We’re driving down the freeway. He’s sitting there chatting on Skype with our VA in the Philippines who is just knocking shit out. We’re like, “This is amazing, Valia.”
Joe Magnotti: I think it was Yahoo Messenger on Windows Mobile Phone, but yeah. I remember that day. We said that this was the future of what’s going to be able to help you build your online empire and, kind of, have outsourcing work for you.
Mark Brenwall: Well listen, just to talk the lifestyle up for a second. I just came from Bali. I was there a few days ago and I’ve been there for about three months. A beautiful villa in Bali with a swimming pool and the whole everything. Just exactly what you could imagine. I lived with a guy who was a schoolteacher and I watched him go trudge off to his school, eight hours a day, eight to three. Here I am, sitting on the couch, probably making twice as much as he is.
Justin Cooke: Ouch.
Mark Brenwall: Dream come true.
Justin Cooke: Hanging out by the pool. Yeah, it’s cool. You were in Bali and now you’re coming out here to visit us for a couple weeks. We’re doing the MasterMind this weekend. It’s really great to have you back, man, honestly.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, I would say, you didn’t get lucky with finding your VA. You probably did some good due diligence and took some of the skills you learned in corporate America to hire and manage people and you used that in order to find this girl.
Mark Brenwall: You know, you’re right. Actually what I did is I hired her to write content. I gave her a small project, which she knocked out of the park. Gave her a little bit bigger project which she did really well and now I’m like, you know what, come on board full time and she was super excited about it.
Joe Magnotti: Cool.
Justin Cooke: Now everyone knows the upsides. You’re aware of the risks. Screw it. They want to get started, buddy. So what’s your process start to finish. So, first thing is, you’re looking for a site to buy. Where do you go? What do you find?
Mark Brenwall: I go to Flippa. I realize that Flippa sells at higher multiples than some of the other marketplaces, but it’s really where everybody goes to sell. So, go to Flippa … You asked me before, what kind of money do you want to use to get started? I personally wouldn’t buy a site that’s under fifteen hundred bucks. Once you find a site on Flippa, I work directly with the sellers at that point. I don’t go through Flippa with them, I cut a deal on the side, I get lower multiples, and they’re more profitable.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, people are always looking for people that can sell sites to you and repeat business is fantastic, right? So it makes sense …
Mark Brenwall: I want to give these sellers … I say, hey, “Every time you have a site for sale, I will pay at X multiple, without any question.”
Justin Cooke: So what do you do for due diligence? How do you check out site builder? How do you know they’re not just scamming you with crappy sites?
Mark Brenwall: That’s part of the risk. That’s the risk that I take on before I put them on your marketplace because it’s entirely possible that a new seller sucks. You know, building crappy links or really who knows what they’re doing. But then I sit on the site for a while, I make sure it’s a good site. I put it on your marketplace.
Joe Magnotti: Do you run things like a link profile, Copyscape on the content, do you talk to the seller on the phone?
Mark Brenwall: I would like to say I did all that stuff. I don’t.
Joe Magnotti: Well I’m glad that I do, then.
Mark Brenwall: I don’t. That’s just my nature. I’m more of a roll the dice kind of person. I’ll look at the reviews on Flippa. If they’ve sold a bunch of sites. If they have $15,000 worth of sold sites and everyone’s talking about how good the transfer was, that’s good enough for me.
Justin Cooke: It’s funny, you know, you’ve bought a lot of sites … We were talking about this the other day, but I’m much more cautious. I really want a deep dive on someone to make sure they’re legit before I purchase sites. You’re like, “Nah man, you don’t have to go that far. Just buy it, see what happens.” You’ve done a lot more of it, so I’m much more cautious when it comes to that than you are.
Mark Brenwall: I started small. I think my first site was twenty five hundred bucks. The other day I bought one for twelve thousand. Probably the twenty five hundred dollar one was more anxiety provoking for me.
Justin Cooke: That’s okay. So you buy a site, you find what you hope is a winner. You own it, they transfer it to you. Now what the hell do you do?
Mark Brenwall: You know, I put it on my server, I run some security stuff on it to make sure it’s all good, all the code’s good. I add in my Ad Sense stuff, probably try to optimize the Ad Sense layout. Typically, I let it run for a little while but ultimately I always end up putting on the Tele theme.
Justin Cooke: That’s a nice plug, by the way.
Mark Brenwall: Which is nice. That’s a little plug. Just to optimize … The big thing for me is to take something that’s underperforming, get it almost, I want to say … get it to the point where it’s optimized to death. It’s converting as best as it possibly can. Sit on it for a little while, make sure the traffic’s all good, that it’s stable. Then put it on the market.
Justin Cooke: So you’re getting ready to put it on the marketplace, how do you determine which one should go on the marketplace, which one you want to hold … Because you do hold some sites too. How do you make that determination?
Mark Brenwall: It’s not science. I look at the sites that I’m either not really interested in …
Justin Cooke: Because of the niche or because of the earnings? Both?
Mark Brenwall: It’s more likely the earnings. I want to hold on to sites that are making a lot of money.
Justin Cooke: So your biggest earnings you’ll normally hang on to, at this point.
Mark Brenwall: At this point. To be honest, at this point, the Empire Flippers marketplace isn’t currently churning out lots of buyers for higher end sites.
Justin Cooke: Yeah.
Mark Brenwall: I think that can change. When it does, I’m likely to sell those too.
Justin Cooke: That’s interesting. So that’s your process, start to finish. That’s how you roll. It’s pretty straight forward. Where do you see this going? Where do you see your future, as far as flipping sites? Can you scale this up? Are you gonna go for higher end sites? What’s the plan, yo?
Mark Brenwall: Like I said, I’m not a big business person. I don’t need to have a yaught and a Ferrari. I want to get stable, recurring revenue. I want to have enough money where I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. I want to live anywhere I want. That’s pretty easily attainable if I do this right, I think. So far, it’s proving that the possibility of me living a very good and stress-free life is in front of me.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, but I do think that the “set and forget” business is very rare and very hard to do. More than likely, you’ll have some business where you’ll have a limited amount of hours to do every week, but you’re still going to be involved in your business somehow.
Mark Brenwall: The upside is, I love this stuff. I could sit and do keyword research all day and be super stoked.
Justin Cooke: Just dark out with some Long tail Pro, right?
Mark Brenwall: I love me some Long tail Pro. If we can watch Star Wars in the background, even better.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, man. I know you have a VA now. Over time you could probably add one or two more. Really kind of, like, systematize your process for finding builders, finding sites that fit your criteria and systemizing the process for building the sites out, the ones that you’re holding. I can see that doing really well. Do you think other people can do this? If too many people got into this, would it hurt your business or no?
Mark Brenwall: I think there’s a lot of room out there for people. To be honest, I look at this like investing. I’ve done plenty of financial investments in my history. To me, because I have the experience, it’s much more profitable. And I understand the business. If you understand the business, can mitigate your risk, you can profit pretty well.
Justin Cooke: It’s also a “rising tide lifts all boats” and I see this industry going through the roof. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this. Justin over at Flip Filper … Sites like Flippa are in prime position for growth over the next three, five, ten years. I see … the market maturing as far as getting into web properties and really getting to the point where … Flippa’s the leader now, they can really establish their stronghold. They don’t have any really competitors but if they can challenge themselves and continue to drive up there, as far as an auction house, they can be absolutely killing it in the next five years.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, and I think more than just selling the dream of passive income. It’s interesting for people to buy properties that are solid earning properties on the internet … That even if it does take ten hours a week or twenty hours a week to operate, they can use as a hobby and make money from, that they like the niche and is a supplemental income for them … they love that kind of idea. Maybe it’s something they can fool around with and expand, but they don’t have to build it from scratch because you that first six to twelve months where you’re building a site and you don’t make anything and you’re learning all these techniques, it’s really tough.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, that’s one of the scary things about building quote-unquote “authority site” or whatever. It takes so long to see a return. You don’t really know if you’re in the right niche. You know, Mark, you’ve got the epitome of a lifestyle business. Really, it’s a lifestyle business, man. I know your lifestyle because I know you. We’re friends and I see what you’re able to do. You’re able to travel, kind of enjoy life and not be locked down to your computer for eighteen hours a day.
Mark Brenwall: It’s true. That is the reason why I got into the business. Now, to be fair, I have to call out that I do have some other revenue streams. I do some consulting so I have some regularly recurring revenue which gives me some leeway to spend my time as I want. So I just want to say to everyone who’s listening, have different streams of income. If you’re going to go into a business and not have a full time job, protect yourself.
Justin Cooke: That’s the empire, baby. Let’s ask some of the questions that I’m sure some of our listeners have right now. Like, if I’m brand new and I’m just thinking about getting started off, following your process. I’ve listened to this and said, “Done! I’m sick of reading e-books. I’m sick of reading everything else. I want to do this.” What tips or recommendations would you have for someone just starting out?
Mark Brenwall: Wow. I’ll give you another shameless plug. Buy one of the Ad Sense flipper sites.
Justin Cooke: Alright.
Mark Brenwall: Because you know it’s making money and you’re gonna learn a ton.
Justin Cooke: Well right now there’s a fifty percent chance it’s going to be one of yours.
Joe Magnotti: And if I could give advice, I would say, either divide your capital up into multiple sides if you could afford that, or look for a package. If it’s going to be one of your first buys. This way you have multiple sites to play around with, choose from, mess up, or improve. You’re not, like … your eggs are all in one basket. If you have $5000, you spend $5000 all in one site, then you’re very hesitant to make any changes or do anything to that site because you don’t want to mess up your baby, right?
Justin Cooke: I would suggest if you’re just getting started to build a site on your own from scratch. Learn the keyword research process. Learn how to install WordPress on your host. These really basic things are going to be critical for buying and selling sites and you don’t want to donk it up on a four or five thousand dollar site you just purchased.
Mark Brenwall: I agree. In all fairness, I did that. I spent a lot of time building sites. I learned a lot from that. I agree with you. If I was a brand new person just thinking about how am I gonna make money online, I wouldn’t be buying sites because you will screw it up. Your server’s gonna go down, you’re not gonna know what to do, you’re gonna lose your rent and you’re gonna get all disheartened. So you’re right, build some sites. Understand how to do keyword research. All the basics.
Justin Cooke: So I know someone else is listening to this that is a site investor and you’ve had this question, we’ve had this question before, why the hell do you sell the sites at all? Why not just hold everything? And I know one of the answers is cash flow. If you just kept investing in sites, it does take a period of time to get paid off and eventually you’re pretty deep out of pocket, so getting some of that cash back in to reinvest into other sites is critical. What other reasons do you have for selling sites over holding?
Mark Brenwall: Just the maintenance. I like to keep a stable of probably twenty sites. Anything more than that gets a little overwhelming. I have to hire more writers. I have to manage more servers. It’s just a little more work.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, so, if you’re going to be doing the same amount of work you might as well be doing it with less sites so you can continue to level up.
Joe Magnotti: We definitely see that on our end. With fifteen hundred active sites right now, it is … it takes a team to manage that.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, I mean, it’s silly. “I can’t manage twenty sites, how do manage fifteen hundred?” Well the truth is we’re not really managing fifteen hundred. We have a team of Filipinos here that work for us that, kind of, look at them in aggregate, but we’re not looking at each individual site, trying to baby it or give it some love. I mean, that’s not at all scalable for us and doesn’t fit in our process.
Justin Cooke: We’re moving towards the end of the interview but we do have one more section, which I love to bring up. I think people are going to be interested to hear about this. It’s the niche business idea. So if you had to pick an idea that either you’re chasing after or you haven’t had time to follow through with … something that you think people could sink their teeth into … what would you be your niche business idea for our listeners?
Mark Brenwall: Well I happen to be a little bit of a conspiracy theorist …
Justin Cooke: Alright, truther, what you got?
Mark Brenwall: So I’m always suspicious of big daddy Google. I want to learn how to get traffic in other ways than relying on, you know, one source. So I’ve really been going after Facebook marketing and learning how that works, building a site from scratch, doing some Facebook ads. Turning Facebook likes into email subscribers, turning email subscribers into purchasers.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, I was hammering you about this this weekend at the pool bar while we were hanging out. So tell us a little bit about that. So you are building or buying Facebook pages and expanding them out?
Mark Brenwall: As far as I know, you can’t technically buy a Facebook page. And I wanted to learn the process from the beginning so I’ve been building them from scratch. So I’ll pick a niche. One of mine is fitness related. I will start a page from zero, buy some Facebook ads, get some likes and then the whole way you get people to share things and get more likes.
Justin Cooke: It’s fascinating. You’re doing some Facebook spend, getting a bunch of likes. You’re trying to get some organic growth. You’re getting email sign-ups because of that, right? And one of your pages is up to, what, eighteen thousand likes now?
Mark Brenwall: So the one I’m really excited about, I’ve probably spent five hundred bucks in Facebook ads, and I’ve already made that back. I’ve only been doing it for a month, two months, maybe? Eighteen thousand likes. You know, eighteen thousand likes is like, who cares? But eight hundred email subscribers from those eighteen thousand likes, that’s pretty exciting.
Justin Cooke: That’s really cool. Do you think you could set up processes similar to what we do with niche sites?
Mark Brenwall: I do.
Justin Cooke: You could create these Facebook pages?
Mark Brenwall: I do. The hard part for me at this point, just because I’ve been doing it solo, is doing some brainstorming about which niches I think might take off. Just me in my head, I can only think about four things.
Justin Cooke: Did you optimize for keywords at all, for organic search? No, you’re doing strictly Facebook.
Mark Brenwall: Strictly Facebook advertising.
Justin Cooke: That’s cool, man. I wanna hear more. Joe’s got a question. He’s got a puzzling look on his face right now.
Joe Magnotti: What is the niche business idea here?
Mark Brenwall: The niche business idea would be … I like to go for like, a passion subject. So, if you’re passionate about yoga, build a yoga page, turn those Facebook likes into subscribers to email lists. Build the email list into followers and fans and purchasers.
Joe Magnotti: So are you recommending that people follow this process or that someone offers a service where they could build these pages for you?
Justin Cooke: I think follow the process. Basically, you could take the niche site process to Facebook pages, get a little bit of spin, get a bunch of Facebook likes, build subscribers, and start an email autoresponder sequence that could then sell affiliate offers, e-books, training, that kind of thing.
Joe Magnotti: That $500 that you made back from those eight hundred subscribers, how did you monetize them?
Mark Brenwall: All affiliate marketing. So, Amazon, certain protein supplements, tee shirt sales. That’s kind of the fun for me, there’s a whole new way to find out what people could buy.
Justin Cooke: It’s so funny because your primary money maker, at least for the stuff we’re talking about today, is the sites you’re buying and selling, but you’re way more fired up about the Facebook stuff.
Mark Brenwall: Again, it’s what I love about internet marketing. There’s endless ways to make money. So as soon as you find something that’s interesting to me, you can go at it as hard as you want.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah … the only hole I can find is the one that you know already. That creative part of coming up with the idea is difficult. If you can’t prothesize that … if that’s a word … it’s hard to teach that to a VA so you can scale it up.
Mark Brenwall: There are certain parts of your business that you’re always going to end up doing. The creative part is always really hard to outsource. For example, we’re doing a MAsterMind weekend this weekend, I’m going to have you guys brainstorm with me.
Justin Cooke: Cool. That’ll be fun, man.
Justin Cooke: Well, that’s it for the interview. Mark, if someone wants to reach out to you, what’s the best way to do it?
Mark Brenwall: Can’t reach out to me. No.
Justin Cooke: No? Lifestyle business kicking in here. “You can’t reach out to me. You can’t get a hold of me, I don’t have a phone number. I’m on the beach, baby.”
Mark Brenwall: I like to be the guy behind the guy behind the guy. I want to be the quiet guy in the corner that’s making a lot of money and nobody knows about it. Honestly, if you want to get a hold of me, send an email to Justin and Joe and they’ll forward it to me and I’ll get back to you.
Justin Cooke: That’s Mark Brenwall if you want to look him up … B-R. No, kidding buddy.
Mark Brenwall: Social security number …
Justin Cooke: Thanks for being on the program, man. I really think what you’re doing is interesting, that’s why I was hammering you about it this weekend, trying to get some details out of you. I’m glad you were able to share with our listeners. It’s some sexy stuff.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, thanks a lot, Mark.
Justin Cooke: Let’s get right into our Tips, Tricks, and our Plans for the Future.
Speaker 1: You’re listening to the Empire Flippers Podcast with Justin and Joe.
Justin Cooke: So for our tip this week, we’ve got an interesting one. It’s actually coming from Mark. So let’s talk about it.
Justin Cooke: Word Fence, buddy. Is it Wordfence.com?
Mark Brenwall: I have no idea what it is, it probably is wordfence.com. As I mentioned, I’m a little bit of a geek. I’m always trying out new plug-ins or new systems to get new traffic or protect my websites. Wordfence.com is a plug-in, it’s free. Every time I buy a new site, I run Word Fence on it. It’ll check all the core WordPress files against the ones that are on my site to make sure they’re all legit. All the plug-ins get checked. The reason I’m just talking about it today is because I ran it on a new site and sure enough, there was a Trojan on there. I got to take it off and I felt really good. I’m not going to be reselling a site that has some faulty code in it. To me, that’s worth its weight.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, and it does some login lockdown type stuff as well.
Mark Brenwall: It also does some login lockdown stuff. If someone’s trying to reset the admin password, or even any admin that you’ve already set up logs in, it’ll let you know that this admin’s logged in.
Joe Magnotti: Hey, yeah, that’s cool. Right now, we use two different plug-ins to accomplish the same thing so I’m gonna check it out and maybe be able to recommend a new plug-in.
Justin Cooke: Sweet.
Justin Cooke: Well that’s it for episode fifty two of the Empire Flippers Podcast. Thanks for being with us. Had a fantastic episode this week. I love what Mark’s doing. If you do decide to start buying and flipping sites, do let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help you out. Anyway, check us out on Twitter @empireflippers and we’ll see you next week.
Joe Magnotti: Bye bye everybody.
Speaker 1: You’ve been listening to the Empire Flippers Podcast with Justin and Joe. Be sure to hit up EmpireFlippers.com for more. That’s EmpireFlippers.com. Thanks for listening.