You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

Income Report – September 2012

Justin Cooke Updated on February 29, 2020

Income Report - September 2012

It’s time for another income and traffic report from us and we have quite a bit to cover with the recent Google changes and the effect on our business.  We publish these reports each month to help you better understand our business, where we’re earning our money, and to help motivate and guide you towards building a successful and profitable online empire.

Before writing this post, I took a few minutes to go back to our September 2011 income report as I remembered us taking a bit of a hit with some of our sites.  I thought it would be interesting to compare where we are today to where we were a year ago.  Here are a few of the things we were looking at and how they ultimately turned out:

  • Niche Site Recovery Project – We stopped production for a couple of weeks and redirected the team to significantly changing and improving the 100 or so sites that were hit or “tanked”.  This was a wash…the few thousand dollars we spent on this was recovered in AdSense earnings value and site sales, but we would have been better off focusing on new sites in terms of ROI.
  • Improved Content On Niche Sites – The value of the content on our niche sites to searchers was pretty low when we started.  We significantly improved the content over time (As much as we could with the limited scope of our sites) and this proved effective, avoiding all of the negative effects of updates over the last year.
  • Expanded Niche Sites – We’d originally talked about expanding these sites out a year ago and this is something we never followed through with, unfortunately.  I think this was a costly failure, actually…we would have been better off “leveling up” our site building at that point rather than today.  More on this in a future blog post…

If you’re a regular reader you’ve likely already seen our post on the EMD Update and its devastating impact on our sites across the board.  It’s been a few weeks and we’ve all had time to review and weigh in on the impact.  Many of you have left some extremely interesting and insightful comments on the post.  Here’s a quick run-down from some other niche site builders, where they’re at, and our thoughts on their direction.

Niche Pursuits – Spencer

Spencer wrote a post shortly after the update that estimated around a 13% hit to his sites from the EMD update.  He attributes part of this to taking a larger hit on his sites from the Penguin update and is reporting those that some of those that survived Penguin have actually benefited from the most recent update.  He went on to discuss the opportunities these changes represent and actually talked about it a bit in his latest podcast.

We admire and agree with his entrepreneurial outlook on the opportunities that are presented with change.  Overall, I think you’ll find that the types of sites we build in the coming months will be quite similar.  I chatted with Spencer the other day and told him we disagree on a few points:

  • There wasn’t a penalty – This is true in some instances, but we also had plenty of sites that were hit with a domain-wide penalty across the board for both their primary and longtail keywords.
  • EMD’s lost value – EVERY site is, ultimately, an EMD for their brand name.  There may have been some semantic interpretations that effected some EMD’s and not others, but cutting out value simply on the fact it’s an EMD seems rather improbable.

Still…significantly upping the value to the end user and “leveling up” the site building process is his main point and we’re in agreement there, for sure.  We’ll be laying out some of our changes to site building in the coming weeks.

Mike From Maine

Mike been successful at scaling out niche sites in recent months.  He recently sat down with Spencer for an interview where they both discussed Google’s changes and the heavy impact on his sites.  Mike’s since backed off from selling sites that have earnings and has positioned them as Authority “starter” sites for sale.  Shortly before the latest update and after, Mike’s pivoted his blog to be more interview focused…looking and talking to those who have widely-varying methods, tactics, and strategies for success online.

I really like some of the content I’ve seen in the interviews and he’s been KNOCKING THEM OUT lately!  It’s interesting, because I know that he’s focused on finding new/different ways to make money online and so his questions come across as quite earnest and he tends to pull quite a bit of information out from those he’s interviewing.  He mixes in some affiliate sales and self-promotion, but it doesn’t take away from the value of the interviews at all, in my opinion.  I think his positioning his sites for sale as authority starter sites is interesting as a path to recovering some investment, but I think that going down-market with site sales wouldn’t be a good long-term strategy…you’ll be competing with…well…everyone who can setup a wordpress site.

WSO Testers – Josh And Trevor

Josh and Trevor were able to quickly build their empire through an initial investment, but are now reporting a 70-80% hit with this last update.  They didn’t mince any words and are reporting that both their niche sites and authority sites were hit…ouch.  Their short-term plan is to discontinue building sites and to instead possibly focus on testing through and reviewing various WSO’s from the Warrior Forum.

I really like these guys, their approach, and have been following their progress in recent months.  I’m hoping this post was written out of frustration more than anything else.  I think a focus on testing through random WSO’s is not likely to produce a viable long-term strategy for their blog, won’t be a profitable or ROI-driven strategy, and won’t provide the helpful content to their audience they’re hoping it will.  Don’t take this the wrong way…I really like these guys and I’m wishing them the best.  They’re smart/resourceful and I’m sure they’ll figure out their next move in the coming weeks/months.

Our Short-Term Strategy

Joe and I are in Thailand from October 14th to the 28th on a pre-planned trip and we wanted to implement a few changes before we leave so that we’re not hemorrhaging cash.  Without going into too much detail in this post, here are the short-term changes we put into effect:

  • Drop from 40-50 sites created per week to 10-15
  • Cancelled contracts with 3rd party
  • Content Managers All in-house
  • Content Managers are now writing and not ordering content
  • No longer targeting “low-4’s” on our Chance To Rank scale…only “mid-4’s” or better
  • No longer using exact match for site title, H1’s, etc.
  • Cut down keyword density from 4-5 mentions to 2-3 on each article
  • Only using partial match on image titles and their alt tags
  • Less aggressive internal anchor text and linkbuilding

These changes will significantly cut down our costs in the coming weeks and will (hopefully) produce sites that will withstand the latest updates.  It will also buy us time and allow us to further adjust the process to create sites that Google will “love”.  There are no guarantees, but these are the quickest/easiest changes we can implement right now that we feel will have the most positive impact.

Based on the lack of success with our “Tanked Site Recovery Process” we implemented a year ago, we’re only going to be working on a recovery project that focuses on the top 30 site earners (that ended up tanked) leading up to the update.  This 1.5% of our sites represents about 30-35% of our earnings in the previous 30 day period and is worth some level of effort to recover.  Depending on how that test goes we may or may not roll this test out to more of the sites.

Traffic To AdSenseFlippers

AdSenseFlippers Analytics September 2012

Our traffic was pretty consistent for September, coming in at 18,635 visits for the month.  Our EMD Update post drove a crazy amount of traffic, but that will be included in October’s traffic report.

Here are the top content pages, in order of pageviews:

Podcast Statistics

AdSense Flippers Podcast Statistics September 2012

Our podcast downloads were pretty consistent in September with 11,972 total downloads.  We’ve been on a 2-3 week podcast schedule which tends to fit our schedule a bit better and gives us plenty of interesting things to discuss.  We’ll have quite a bit of content coming out with both AdSense Flippers and other brands in the coming months that will compliment the podcast greatly, we think.

AdSense Earnings

AdSense Earnings September 2012

Overall, September was great for AdSense earnings and we brought in $4,129.40 total for the month.  Our best day was on Sep 18th at $191.42 and our worst day was on Sep 30th at $37.88…ouch.  As you can see, September 29-30 was when the full effects of the EMD update kicked in our sites.  To give another representation, take a look at this screenshot of pageviews over the same time frame:

AdSense Pageviews September 2012

Ouch…  We’ve seen a bit of bounce-back/growth in early October, but nowhere close to where we were in September, unfortunately.

Flippa Sales

We were planning on offering up a few Flippa auctions in late September, but never got around to it.  We’re not planning any Flippa auctions in October.  If we estimate a value based on revenue it wouldn’t be fair to the potential buyer…he or she would be paying a multiple on earnings that have taken a huge hit.  I haven’t looked, but my guess would be that it’s a BUYER’s market on Flippa right now with AdSense accounts.  It’s likely that plenty of those creating sites will be looking to sell them off in a fire sale.  As long as you’re sure they’ve updated after the EMD Update, you might be able to snag some excellent deals right now.

Private Sales

We’re not planning on any private sales through October for the same reasons mentioned above in the Flippa section.  We’re going to need to wait a couple of months and see how everything plays out, first.

I like Mike From Maine’s approach in positioning them as starter sites rather than expecting a multiple on earnings.  Our plan now is to move up the value chain with site creation…and we’ll probably have some of our new/expanded sites for sale in the next 6-8 months or so.

Niche Site Gold

I know they’re calling it the “EMD Update”, but we’re pretty confident that the value of EMD’s will never truly go away, even if they have tweaked it down a bit.  Still, I would expect the PERCEIVED value of buyers to be pretty negative towards EMD’s in the next few months, presenting a great opportunity for buyers to take advantage.  You might see some pretty interesting EMD’s become available in the next few months.  If a purchase/transfer will remove any associated penalties you might find some awesome bargains here.

Affiliate Sales

Our free trial and discount on Long Tail Pro continues to be the primary driver for our affiliate income, bringing in $1,008.90 of our overall $1,346.92 in affiliate income.  It’s awesome to see so many people picking up LongTailPro.  No matter what kind of sites you’re building, having a keyword research tool that works is the most important step for getting ranked and getting traffic.

Download your free report


Sites Created: 130 (182 last month)
AdSense Earnings: $4,129.40 ($3,983.59 last month)
Flippa Sales: $0.00 ($0.00 last month)
Private Sales: $7,477.20 ($10,797.40 last month)
Niche Site Gold: $500.00 ($450.00 last month)
Total Affiliate Sales: $1,346.92 ($1,455.31 last month)

  • LongTailPro: $1,008.90
  • SubmitYourArticle: $59.59
  • CTR Theme: $60.62
  • SECockpit: $28.02
  • HostGator: $100.00
  • GoDaddy: $50.44
  • Our Niche Site Guide on the Kindle: $25.55
  • Whoosh Traffic: $13.80

Total Income: $13,453.52 ($16,686.30 last month)

Thank you so much for your support at AdSense Flippers!  Want to check in with us?  You can sign up for email updates, check us out on Facebook, or say Hi on Twitter!  How did your September turn out?  Let us know in the comments below!

Make a living buying and selling websites

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


  • Thank you so much for sharing. How many sites did it take to make the 4129 Adsense income? Best regards Jesper, Denmark

    • The short answer is “the top 300 sites makes the vast majority of the income”.

      You know we get this question every month. We should probably start making it part of the report. We currently have about 1,800 active sites in our library (we created more than 2,800 sites all time, but sold or canceled a number of sites). About 20% of all current sites earn little to nothing, so that bring us to 1,440 sites. About 500 of those sites are relatively new and in various stages of development. That brings us to 940 sites. Of those sites, 30% make the vast majority of the earnings, bring the total to 282 sites.

  • Daryl Mander says:

    Re the EMD update let’s not forget that a stealthy penguin update went out that same morning. A lot of the cases where it looks like an EMD was actively penalised, it may well actually have been penguinised rather EMD-slapped.

    My September was great up until the end of the month 🙁

    Much like you guys and Spencer Haws, I am trying to ‘step up my game’ when it comes to website content and am going after higher value, larger sites now. Time will tell if that works. Meanwhile, I sit on the edge of my seat holding my breath in anxious anticipation!

  • RS says:

    I’m pretty sure that the EMG slap looks for correlating factors – too many links with the exact anchor and so on. You could try to get some social traffic to the sites and see if that helps. For example for some categories Pinterest really works well – see the following for top Pinterest categories:

    You get links from Pinterest that most SEO’d sites won’t get, and hence will break the pattern the algo is looking for

  • That was a good example of a bullet proof website, even there was a drop your earnings seems untouched.

  • Doug Yuen says:

    I think the less aggressive optimization approach sounds promising. It seems to me like Google makes good on their penalties way after the fact. It took a while before everyone saw the link networks like BMR get devalued, even though Google made their stance clear on that a long time ago. I think it’s the same thing with the over-optimization penalty now.

    By the way, I recently broke even on earnings with the site I bought from you guys in February … it took just 7.5 months, and now I’m making about 5X (!) the original monthly earnings. I took about a 20% hit in pageviews and earnings after this last update, but I can’t complain. Naturally, I’m very happy with my purchase!

  • John says:

    great post guys, thanks for your honesty! I know that most, not all wordpress themes weight the article/post title as a “H1” tag. Does this mean that you will not use the targeted keyword at all in the title of your article/post? If so will you use a partial match or just have a article/post title on the subject without including the keyword? You also said that you were going to be less aggressive with your internal anchor text, are you referring to the internal anchor text to other internal pages or are you referring to internal anchor text to other sites like “wiki’ etc?.

  • Alex says:

    Now that I have a ton of excellent content on sites that have been “destroyed”, I’m wondering what will happen if I delete that content and put it up on fresh domains. Anyone tried this? Was the penalty applied only to sites with EMD or was keyword “over-optimization” across the site part of the penalty.

  • Kevin says:

    Great post, thanks for the update. Seems like you guys are now producing fewer sites going forward. Is that because the process flow will be slower and possibly the word count per article and the number of articles per site will be higher? Just wondering if that’s part of the plan.

    Certainly seems like Authority Sites are the way to go. Based on your and Spencer’s views I feel like I have one in mind to get moving on. Although I still feel small niche sites like you used to do are still viable. Maybe a mix of both are in order.

  • SJOptions says:

    Thanks for being so open about how the update affected your sites. I have a few EMD sites and none were affected. However, they were designed to look like authority sites. I put a lot of time into the details, creating unique content, and overall design.

    There definitely is more to the EMD Update than simply penalizing exact match domains across the board.

    Thanks again.

  • Hi guys, nice update and review.

    Do you have a view on the number of pages min your going to build to now?

    Enjoy BKK (sounds like your there already) and CM.. Jealous lots

  • Howie says:

    “No longer targeting “low-4′s” on our Chance To Rank scale…only “mid-4′s” or better”

    Can you help by explain what you mean by this?


  • Tyler Herman says:

    I’ve stopped building websites for the sole purpose of ad/affiliate earning but of the ones I have, none of mine have taken much of a hit. But they were geared more for longtail and natural results from the start.

    Also agree with Kris. Work on a list or better yet, build other products. You guys are good at mobilizing cheap labor. There are other opportunities on the website besides ad revenue. Real products. Real services. Either would probably be less risky in the longterm.

  • The drop in the end seems pretty bad.

    The traffic is down on my sites, but as Kyle mentioned, my click value has also raised. This is the only positive aspect.

    I’m wondering if you guys are building lists on any of your niche sites? I think that a new subscriber to your list is worth much more than a adsense click.

  • Steve Eason says:

    Good stuff. I look forward to hearing more as you progress through this process. My main site was affected a little by the EMD, however it appears to be recovering a little. But that site is a site teaching others how to be effective with blogging and social media, it’s not a niche site per say.

  • Thanks for the mention, guys. I’m excited to have you on my show this week.

  • Leny Pearson says:

    My sites that were hit are still generating traffic through Web 2.0 and Social sites, and I still have repeat traffic so I will work on 1. Improving content quality on the sites and 2. Adding a lot more content targeting different keywords. Glad to see that you guys are doing okay and have a plan going forward, I would hate to have my favorite podcast and blog go away because of this. It will take some work but I think all can be salvaged over time.

  • Here’s an idea: take like 2 sites with small incomes that got hit and make a 301 to a new domain (PMD seems a good choice) just to see if they’ll recover. Their value will be passed to the new domain, so maybe it’ll be enough to rank them almost as well as they had been.

  • Kyle Proctor says:

    The websites that were hit seem to still be getting some traffic but mostly through long tail. I have seen my click values go up since the updates. I think it might be because of the overall quality of ranked sites that get traffic now are better but I am not sure.

    Are you guys seeing an increase in the click value?

Leave a Reply

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

Have a Business to Sell?

Click here to get the process started today.