Justin Cooke

June 17, 2015

With May wrapped up, we might have set a new “normal” for our monthly reports.

We ended up closing $357,253.00 worth of websites for the month – that’s now 3 months in a row with $300K+ sales per month.

With even a reasonable report in June, we’re very likely to hit our Q2 goal of $900K and are well on our way to the $4M in sales mark we set for ourselves at the beginning of 2015.

Still – this is a very, “what have you done for me lately” business. Without recurring revenue we’re still subject to the high’s and low’s that come with the industry and our marketplace…something we’re looking to change by the end of 2015.

We’ll dig into our analysis of the month and share a bit more about our investor program, meeting with the team in the Philippines, and our new hires, but before we do that let’s take a look at our top-level numbers to see how the month played out.

As always, our goal is to share with you our successes and failures in the hopes that they help you build and grow your own profitable business. Our hope is that this report encourages, inspires, and helps you as you build your online empire.

Executive Summary – May 2015

Brokered site sales really account for the majority of our revenue in the month. In addition to the brokerage side of our business, we’ve started our pilot investor program with our first investor and spent much of May looking for and acquiring sites to fill out his portfolio of sites.

Here’s a look at all of our revenue streams over time:

May 2015 Overall Earnings Graph

April 2015

Business Data:

  • Total Team: 14
    • Customer Heroes: 9
    • Management: 3
    • Apprentices: 2
  • Contractors: 5
  • Contact Records: 32,013 30,246 (+1,767 from previous month)
  • Email Subscribers: 20,903 (+1,261)
  • Site Visits: 49,384 (+13,124)

Earnings:

  • Brokered Site Sales: $357,253.00 (-28,179.60)
  • Brokered Site Earnings: $53,359.67 (+$390.49)
  • Listing Fees: $3,061.00 (+$1,091.00) 9 new, 4 returning
  • Investor Program Raised: $0.00 (-$0.00)
  • Investor Program Commissions: $0.00 (-$3,750.00)
  • Investor Program Monthly Earnings: $0.00 ($0.00)
  • Investor Program Revenue: $0.00 ($0.00)
  • Our Sites Sold: $0.00 ($0.00)
  • Additional Revenue: $1,380.17

TOTAL Revenue: $57,800.84 (-$2,091.38)

Revenue Breakdown

Now that we’ve looked at the total numbers for the month, let’s break down each revenue stream individually for more detail.

Brokered Site Revenue

Here’s a look at our all-time brokered site sales:

May 2015 Marketplace Overall

And our month-by-month breakdown:

May 2015 Marketplace Monthly

We successfully brokered a total of 14 websites in May with the largest at $90K and the smallest at $1.6K. This brought our total for the month in at $357,253.00 and continues our trend of $300K+ months in 2015. This brought our total company revenue to just over $53K for brokered sites in May.

Our significant increase in sales in 2015 as compared to 2014 is due to two things:

1. We’re selling more sites

We’ve been testing out some paid marketing and have had a few posts go “viral” which has really helped get the word out to both buyers and sellers that we’re a great option. We’ve seen a jump on both the sell and buy side in 2015 as compared to the previous year.

While I do think we’re taking a dent out of both Flippa and other brokers, I also think the pie is getting bigger and there’s more room for everyone. While I don’t know that buying/selling websites and online businesses will ever go mainstream, the fact that there are so many new online entrepreneurs joining the ranks each day definitely helps our business.

2. We’re selling larger sites

In 2014, we were still regularly listing/selling 4-figure sites and a mid-high 5-figure site sale was a reach. In 2015, we’re regularly selling 5 to 6-figure sites and are starting to move up the value scale towards the 7-figure sales – I’m guessing we’ll be there within the next 6-12 months.

These 6-figure sales are now noticeable in our overall earnings and has really improved the $ volume of sales.

One thing I was looking for and DIDN’T find was a significant increase in the average sale at Empire Flippers. There’s been a slight increase, yes, but it’s not as dramatic as I would have expected. I think the reason for this is that we’re listing/selling more smaller sites at the same rate as the larger sites, bringing our average down to the $20K – $30K range.

Website Listing Fees

We saw a bump in listing fees for May, pulling in $3,061.00 for the month.

  • 9 First-time listings @ $2,673.00
  • 4 Repeat listings @ $388.00

We’ve seen some really quality sites come through in May and early into June.

We’ve made improvements and changes to our vetting process, which currently takes less than 2 weeks for 85%+ of the listings submitted. We’d like to get it down to 95% of our listings vetted within 2 weeks, though, and have been putting people and processes in to make that happen.

We’ve seen a significant bump in the number of submissions in early June, so I’m hoping we have even more to report here next month.

Investor Program

If you’d like more of an explanation on this section, I’d suggest checking out last month’s report.

We’ve been looking at target acquisitions in May for our first investor and should have that first package filled out by the end of June. We’ve made a couple of smaller pickups, but missed a larger, “anchor” site we were bidding on in a Flippa auction. It was a quality site, but the bidding took the multiple too high and we no longer saw it as viable for the investor program in terms of delivering a reasonable return.

We’ve spent quite a few man-hours on this project – more than we’ll be able to spend in the future as we scale it up. We’re not too worried about it at this point, though. The goal is to give this the best chance to work for us and our investors. If we have to spend more time up-front figuring it out, so be it. We’ll have plenty of opportunity to figure out scale as the program grows.

We’ve been re-thinking our next round of investors/partners and are considering pooling several investors together into a larger package. (3-5 investors at $500K – $600K) This gives us more options when it comes to purchasing websites and still keeping the package diversified. With individual investors at $150K, a single site at $100K is out of the question, but that same site might fit nicely in a package of sites worth $600K total. Most of the investors we’ve discussed this with are on-board.

Additional Revenue

I’ve lumped all of our additional earnings for the month into this section, bringing in a total of $1,380.17.

This includes residuals from our outsourcing company, affiliate payments, eBook sales, etc.

We spend very little time or effort on side-projects at this point and aren’t fans of plastering EF with affiliate offers, so I don’t think this will be a major growth section of ours in the near future.

Traffic & Audience

Here’s a peek at our blog traffic, podcast downloads, and email list for May, 2015.

Blog Traffic & Analytics

We saw a fairly massive bump (36%) in traffic in May and we’re up to 49,384 sessions.

The primary driver for this additional traffic was when was our post about the credit card scammers went viral, hitting #5 on the first page of Hacker News and getting quite a bit of traction on Reddit.

HN Russian Scammer First Page

At one point, we had 312 visitors on the site at once – definitely a record!

EF Active 312

Here’s a look at our overall traffic in May as compared to the previous year:

GA Overall May 2015

And a look at our traffic sources and deposits for the month of May:

GA Sources And Deposits May 2015

We currently have a team working on our on-site SEO and we’re hoping to see those improvements over the next 3-6 months. Considering such a large portion of our deposits come in from people that reached us via search traffic, we’re hoping to see some revenue gains there as well.

Much of the direct traffic comes from having our brand out there and we’ll be looking to step up our content marketing considerably in the coming months.

Here’s a look at our referral traffic for May, 2015:

GA Referrals May 2015

HN and Reddit sent the most traffic by far, followed by the usual suspects: Twitter, BizBuySell, Facebook, etc.

Here’s our top content in May:

GA Top Content May 2015

Our Marketplace pulled in most of the sessions, followed by our Homepage, viral scammer post, and our Valuation Tool.

Our Top 3 Listings:

Listing #40197 – $428K – Affiliate network and business created in 2010 containing both advertisers and publishers.

Listing #40223 – $3.3K – AdSense site in the Asian travel niche. (Sold)

Listing #40216 – $339K – Affiliate site in the weight loss niche and built in 2014.

Our Top 3 pieces of content:

Russian Credit Card Scammers Post

What To Do When Your AdSense Account Is Disabled

Empire Flippers Case Study: Tripled The Earnings On A Purchased Site

As mentioned in our last monthly report, we’ve decided to double down on our content production heading into the second half of the year.

We’ll be working more closely with our editor Elisa @ CraftYourContent.com. She’s done quite a bit of editing for us on the blog, but we’ll be expanding her role in a pilot program that brings in content pieces along with that editing.

We’ll also be posting another “apprentice” position for a Content Manager to join us in SE Asia. I’ll be publishing a blog post about the new position in the next couple of weeks, but we’d like to get this person hired and out here with us within the next couple of months.

Podcast Downloads

We stayed at about the same pace when it comes to podcast downloads, pulling in 14,221 for the month.

EF Podcast Downloads May 2015

In looking back, our podcast numbers haven’t changed much since all the way back to 2012.

That’s not to say it’s not valuable for our business. In talking to our customers, many of them referred to the podcast as the thing that made them most likely to do business with us, so it’s definitely something we’ll continue.

Emails & Contacts

In May, we finally broke 20K active email subscribers! We ended the month at 20,903 email subscribers and 32,013 total contact records in our database.

We finally finished migrating all of our old data from Office Autopilot to the new/improved Ontraport. As much as I thought I’d love the new UI of Ontraport I…don’t. The look/feel is definitely cleaner, but I miss some of the functionality and ease of use in the old system.

We hired a contractor to help us with the migration and to assist us in cleaning up some of the data and reporting functions, but I’m not yet really seeing the value. I’m hoping he can help us more with this in June.

Customer Experience

The metrics and feedback we get on the customer support side are an important ingredient in our success. By listening to our customers and improving in areas that are important to them, we feel we have a great advantage compared to our competitors and it’s one of the reasons we include this section in each monthly report.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on with our customer support.

Zendesk Support

We managed to improve slightly in our customer feedback survey, but took a big hit on customer response times.

Here’s a look at May’s numbers:

EF Zendesk Overall May 2015

Compared to April’s numbers:

ZD Apr 2015

We heard about this directly from customers, too. Even those who were satisfied with the process gave us feedback about having to wait a bit too long to get a response from the team.

After spending some time discussing this with our staff in May, the fact is our team is pretty maxed out. We decided to hire three new agents to provide some relief and to assist as we scale up our business.

Customer Feedback

Out of a total of 555 new tickets, we had 98 marked as good/satisfied and 11 marked as bad/unsatisfied.

Here’s a sample of some of the satisfied comments:

EF ZD Good With Comment MAy 2015

These mostly came from depositors, website buyers/sellers, and those with questions.

Here are the unsatisfied comments:

EF ZD Bad With Comment May 2015

Two of these came from sellers who were frustrated we couldn’t accept their sites and the other two were from depositors that felt we weren’t responding to their requests quickly enough.

I understand the frustration that comes with not having your site approved with us to list/sell, but there’s not much I want to change there. I think it’s good that we have high standards for listings on the marketplace.

However, being slow to respond to buying inquiry requests from depositors could hurt us in the long run. We ask potential buyers to jump through the hurdle of trusting us enough to send us a deposit on any sites they’d like more information on. Once they’ve done that, our customer support and response times need to be top-notch if we want to earn their trust and keep them around as buyers.

What Happened In May 2015?

1. We brought on a new portfolio manager – Kenny Nance.

Kenny applied to work with us back on the Account Manager position we opened up. He was a finalist, but we knew we had a need coming up in the next few months for a portfolio manager and asked him to hold off a bit for that position.

As we find ourselves both running our own sites and shopping for new sites to purchase for the investor program, we saw an opportunity to get Kenny on board and we took it. We called Kenny to make sure he was interested in the position and, once confirmed, flew him down from Thailand to meet us in the Philippines for a couple of weeks.

The position is part-time to start, but with Kenny’s experience and after spending some time with him in the Philippines, this will likely turn into a full-time position within a month or two.

2. We met with, trained, and partied with our team in the Philippines.

EF In The Pool

With the in-house trainings, co-working meetups, resort visits, and island hopping, we definitely had some opportunities to reconnect with our team. We also had everyone meet Kenny and Andrew (our Account Manager) for the first time. It was great having the entire team together in Davao City – it had been a while! We even had our FB ads guy (and previous Marketing Apprentice) join us in the Philippines while he’s traveling around SE Asia.

As much as we dig our remote teams, there’s real value in having everyone connect in person, even if it’s only a couple of times a year. This is something we’d like to continue doing – through 2015 and beyond.

3. We broke $300K in sales, 3 months in a row!

In our industry consistency is key, so we were excited to hit this milestone. As part of our package for management/apprentices, we had an agreement where we agreed to a “baller” trip for everyone if they hit the following tiers 3 months in a row:

$200K+ = Economy Class – Short weekend getaway in an awesome local hot-spot.

$250K+ = Business Class – Half-week trip to a fun/exciting resort.

$300K+ = First Class – Full-week extravaganza in an awesome location.

We’ll be celebrating this accomplishment with a week in Bali – either in one of their sweet-looking villas or a nice resort. Congrats team!

All in, it was an exciting month as we continue to build on previous months’ successes and hit our goals for Q2 and beyond. Our annual goals include hitting $4M in sales and having $1M in assets under management and I think we’re in a good spot to hit or even beat them both this year.

That’s it for this month’s report – thank you for checking it out! Please feel free to share if you think others might find it useful too:

“New – Monthly Income Report for May 2015 from the @empireflippers!”Tweet This!

Now – over to you! How did your month turn out? What lessons did you learn? Let us know in the comments!


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Discussion
Leave a comment
  1. […] may even start calling it a “Business report” like the guys at EmpireFlippers and a few others do. You know that things are getting serious when you’re writing monthly […]

  2. Cruuuuushing it! Great to see you guys again! :)

  3. Amir says:

    Nice read Justin.

    I’ve asked this question before but in that time you couldn’t provide us more information about the salary of your employees.

    Can you please explain this a bit more? How much do you pay to your local and expat (if any) employees? I think this will be helpful for those willing to set up a business in the Philippines.

  4. Joel says:

    Keep the buying process the same, I put in a deposit and felt the response time was good. I accepted that the deposit coming back to me would take a couple of days and that’s ok too. I don’t think you need to rush anything with buying or selling.

    Looking forward to one day finding that site to buy from you guys!

  5. Rishil says:

    Not surprised that post went viral, it was a a pretty good piece, thoroughly enjoyed it…

    Doing a good job guys, enjoying the transparency too.

  6. Omar Jackson says:

    I’ve been keeping up with you guys for a while now just to stay motivated,

    I really love the transparency you guys have, I think that will do a lot to build confidence for future investors. I hope I can one day be in a position to be a part of that investor program as well!

    Good Luck in reaching your goals!

  7. Greg Nunan says:

    Way to bounce back from that down month in Feb guys! Distant memory that one and you’ve well and truly buried it with three solid months. Hope the site we just closed on helps to get you across the $300k mark again in June :-)

  8. Tom says:

    Nice one guys! Top result.

    Looking forward to listing my site. Just going through the vetting process now (y)

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