Justin Cooke

September 23, 2014

Welcome to our Monthly Business Report for August 2014.

All of the massive changes we’ve been making in our business are finally starting to pay off! We had our second best month ever in terms of websites sold and we’re really on a roll heading into the last few months of the year.

Not everything’s been peachy though. We had several false starts and the website redesign took much longer to roll out than anticipated. Still, we’re pretty happy with the results and excited to share them with you now.

We hope this report both inspires and encourages you as you build your online empire.

Executive Summary

We had an excellent month in August when you add in the sale of our own website for more than $20K. With our decreased costs, this is probably the most profitable month we’ve had in nearly a year (which is great, because we have a ton of additional expenses coming up through the end of the year).

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

EF Revenue All Aug 2014

And a look at those same revenue streams without the outsourcing company:

EF Revenue No Outsourcing Aug 2014

Business Data:

Employees: 9
Apprentice: 1
Contractors: 2
Contact Records: 18,754 (+968 from previous month)
Email Subscribers: 11,181 (+630)
Site Visits: 27,453 (+2,920)

Earnings:

Brokered Site Sales: $153,283.21 (+$14,087.95)
Brokered Site Earnings: $22,116.14 (+$1,409.20)
Listing Fees: $2,861.00 (-$2,538.00)
Our Sites Sold: $20,850.00 (+$20,850.00)
Outsourcing: $0.00 (-$5,077.88)
Additional Revenue: $2,961.15 = ($1,292.95 AdSense) ($872.00 other) ($721.42 affiliate) ($74.78 niche guide)

TOTAL Revenue: $48,788.29 (+$15,016.03)

Monthly Revenue

Alright, so let’s take a look at each piece of our revenue to see how we came up with those numbers in August.

Brokered Site Revenue

We were looking at a pretty bad month with only $80K in sales three weeks in, but we ended up squeaking out a few additional sales right at the end of the month bringing our total to $153,283.21 – our second best month ever! We still need to pick up the pace here a bit if we want to be averaging $200K/month heading into 2015.

This increase led to a total of $22,116.14 worth of revenue to us, based on the successful sale of those websites.

We’ve been working on some outreach and marketing plans that will attract new buyers/sellers and we’re hoping our redesign will boost confidence and retain more of the traction we’re already getting.

Here’s a look at our all-time numbers for brokered websites:

EF Marketplace All Time Aug 2014

And a look at our month-by-month growth that led us here:

Ef Marketplace Monthly Aug 2014

We’re just over $913K in brokered sites for 2014 through August. It doesn’t look likely that we’ll hit our $2MM goal by the end of the year, but we’re working to get as close as possible and to give us a great jump on 2015.

Website Listing Fees

We brought in a total of $2,861.00 worth of listing fees in August:

8 First-time listings @ $2,376.00
5 Repeat listings @ $485.00

This was a bit of a drop from our July numbers – something we really didn’t want to see. Our total site sales are directly tied to how many sites we have available and the total volume, so we really need to increase our inventory if we’re looking to have big sales months heading into the end of the year.

If you’d like to hear more about how to list and sell your website with us, please click here.

Our Sites

We sold off the large majority of the sites that we still held in August, bringing in $20,850.00 in revenue. This was a bit of a one-off as we no longer have any substantial inventory of sites we’ve built ourselves. While I hate to let this revenue stream go, I know that our doubling down on the marketplace and brokered sites will pay off for us in the months/years to come.

Additional Revenue

$2,961.15 = ($1,292.95 AdSense) ($872.00 other) ($721.42 affiliate) ($74.78 niche guide)

We’ve got some odds-and-ends revenue that we’re still accounting for as well that brought in $2,961.15:

  • $1,292.95 from AdSense
  • $721.42 from affiliate sales (mostly Long Tail Pro)
  • $74.78 from our niche site guide on Amazon
  • $872.00 from additional sources (hosting, workshop, etc.)

Traffic And Audience

Here’s a look at our blog traffic, podcast downloads, and email list and how those have helped us to reach our revenue numbers this month.

Blog Traffic & Analytics

We saw a bump of nearly 3K visits in August, bringing our total to 27,453 sessions for the month:

GA Overall Aug 2014

The good news is that there wasn’t any one-off or less valuable traffic sources in August, so the quality of the traffic was even better.

Here’s a look at our top content for the month of Aug:

AdSense Account Disabled – What Should You Do?

The Problem With Flippa

July 2014 Monthly Report

EF Top Content Aug 2014

By far, the majority of our traffic went to our marketplace and individual website listings.

We’ve changed the way we’re tracking email signups from referrals heading into September, so I won’t be able to show you the conversions from each of the referral sources until we get that transitioned.  In the meantime, you can still check out our top referral sources for the month of August:

GA Referral Sources Aug 2014

I’d really like to see us expand our sphere a bit here. Every month it’s a round-up of the usual suspects and I think we’d do well to expand the EF brand outside our regular sphere of influence and contacts.

Podcast Downloads

We dropped down around 4K with podcast downloads, bringing in a total of 18,073 for the month of August.

EF Podcast Downloads Aug 2014

We’ve been pretty consistent with our publishing schedule for the year – I think we’ve only missed three so far since the start of 2014. We tend to take a hit on those months and–having missed an episode in September–I’m expecting another drop.

If you haven’t checked them out, I think we’ve published a few great episodes over the last few weeks. I’d particularly point you to:

EFP 109: Quickstart Guide for Website Buyers

EFP 108: Anatomy of a $200K+ Website

EFP 106: Understanding the Six Types of Website Sellers

Emails & Contacts

We grew our total contact records to 18,754 through August, up around 1K from the previous month:

EF Contact Records Aug 2014

We ended August with 11,181 active email subscribers – not too shabby!

If Ontraport is to be believed, our open rates vary from between 22% and 30% depending on the email, audience it’s sent to, etc. Here’s a sneak peek at our email stats on recent messages. (Nevermind the clickthrough rates from 8/3 – 8/11. We were testing something that skewed the numbers)

Ontraport Emails Sent Aug 2014

Customer Experience

Improving customer experience is critical for us moving forward, which is why we’ve added this section. We want to track and document our successes/failures here in an effort to improve them.

We’re finding that our business with $40K+ sites is extremely high-touch. Many of the deals that get done require multiple phone calls with the buyers and sellers to answer questions and hash out the agreements between the two parties. Most of our marketing efforts are currently acting as funnels to get prospective buyers and sellers in this range down to a phone call to discuss directly.

Zendesk Support

We took another hit in August in terms of support tickets.

Here’s a look at our August numbers:

Zendesk Overall Aug 2014

As compared to our July numbers:

Zendesk Overall Jul 2014

We’ve seen our numbers getting worse, so we sat down with our team in late August to go over everything and look for areas of improvement. We’re expecting some improvement in September as our team gets back on track.

These numbers aren’t terrible in the grand scheme of things (as compared to our competitors), but if we really want to crush it we know that we have to offer superior service. We’re looking for 90% of tickets answered within 8 hours and an average response time of 4 hours or less.

We’ll get there!

Customer Feedback

We regularly review and reply to feedback in ZenDesk and I wanted to share a few of the messages we received in August.

Here’s a look at feedback from a happy website seller:

Support Good Seller

And a review from the guy that ended up buying that site:

Support Good Buyer

We’re really happy with Davy’s response here and excited to get this deal closed. We felt that both the buyer and the seller got a great deal here and were happy to help them work everything out.

Sometimes we get feedback from depositors that (while not customers) had a good experience with our process as well:

Support Good Depositor

Of course, not all the feedback is as positive as we’d like:

Support Bad Buyer

Dr. Steve wasn’t very happy with our deposit process. We tried to reach out to him directly and explain where we’re coming from, but we weren’t able to get in contact, setup a phone call, etc.

Often in these situations it just comes down to a misunderstanding about our deposit process and we’re able to clear things up over the phone. It’s still a messaging problem we’re working on, unfortunately.

Case Studies & Interviews

We had a few mentions, interviews, and case studies go live in August that we’d like to highlight (and thank):

A/B Testing and Case Study over at the VWO blog – An interesting look at some split-testing we did to improve conversions on our site.

WPCurve’s Inside Look at Income Reports – A peek behind the companies and brands that use monthly reports as a content marketing strategy.

Podcast interview over at NHD w/ Nathan Tsang – Podcast interview about selling more than 30 websites. Definitely worth a listen.

Thoughts and Musings Behind Buying an Online Business – Richard reached out to Justin Gilchrist after hearing him on one of our podcast episodes.

What We’re Working On

Most of August was spent finalizing, attempting to launch, and then failing to launch our new redesign.

The total outlay of cash on this was substantial ($25K – $30K, approximately, and still on-going), but when you factor in the time we spent on this over recent months, the costs are astronomical. This is a fairly common theme for us, though. Any design or development projects end up costing much more and taking significantly more time than our (conservative) estimates allowed.

Don’t get me wrong – we LOVE the new layout, look/feel, and backend system we’ve created. We’re confident our ROI on this will be positive in the coming months/years. Still – it’s always a painful process for us in getting these things completed, heh.

Here are a few of the highlights in August:

1. Held Our Quarterly Strategy Meeting

This was long overdue for us as we hadn’t held a strategy meeting for nearly six months. The idea here is that we have a long-term vision of what we want Empire Flippers to be. Every quarter we meetup to discuss that vision and lay out the plan over the next 3, 6, 12, 24 months that will help get us there. Here’s how it works:

  1. Review long-term vision and make adjustments. (Changes here are minimal and should be implemented carefully and on a limited basis)
  2. Review previous quarter’s goals. (Looking at what we’ve done and how close we are to our targets)
  3. Adjust upcoming quarters to match any changes in our business, market, etc. (Constantly reworking our path to hit our longer-term vision of the company)

These meetings are great in that they remind us what we’re heading towards and allow us to plot out the path we see that will take us where we need to be. Currently, this meeting is held with me, Joe, Vincent, and Mike.

2. Finished Planning the Alpha Test For Our Investor Program

We spoke about this a bit back in episode 92 of the podcast. The idea is to bring on fully passive investors interested in owning websites, but allowing us to use our team to run and grow those websites out. The big idea is to turn this into a portfolio that can be bought into by a number of investors.

To start, we’re trialing this with just a few investors on a one-to-one basis. They’ll actually own the site, but we’ll be doing the work to manage and grow it out. We’d like to build a track record with a limited number of investors to prove the model before opening the doors to others in 2015.

3. Held Our First Empire Workshop in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

In an effort to do more low-volume, high-touch recruitment, we’ve decided to launch our Empire Workshops and we held the first event in Ho Chi Minh. We had a good turnout with 17 attending and got some great feedback from potential buyers and sellers in terms of what they liked, what they didn’t, and what they’d like to see the next time around.

We’ll be running another Empire Workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand on October 7th. We’re limiting the seats available – if you’d like to join us, click here.

We’ve got a BUNCH of these events coming up in the next few weeks! Will you be in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Vegas, or Los Angeles at the same time as us? We’d love to hang out at a workshop or any number of events we’ll be visiting.

Click here to check out our upcoming events page and for details on attending.

That’s it for this month’s report – thank you for reading all the way through and I hope you got some value out of it! If you did, please feel free to share:

“New – Monthly Business Report for August 2014 from the @empireflippers!” – Tweet This!

So how did your August shape up? Anything new you’re working on that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!


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Discussion
Leave a comment
  1. Kashif says:

    Love your site guys. I am a switcher from flippa.com to you. This is all down to business now:)

  2. Lorenzo says:

    Hello Justin and Joseph,

    I am trying to get a copy of your Building A Niche Site Empire without success.

    The download links on this page do not work.

    http://empireflippers.com/building-a-niche-site-empire-guide/

    I have signed up for the book with my email address and the links I received via your email also do not work.

    Any link that might work?

    Thanks a million.

  3. I always appreciate the great deal of details you guys provide in these reports.

  4. Raweewan M says:

    Hi
    See you in BKK. If I can apply for the Dynamite Circle within this month. I think I can meet you guys at DCBKK too.

  5. Hey Justin, Joe and Vincent,

    I am happy for you guys for seeing great development in your business in August.

    That’s awesome.

    I can attest to the fact that you guys have great customer service @empireplippers from my experience with you.

    And again your new website design is very impressive. Congrats.

    I am thinking of purchasing a site via your marketplace in the future – I will contact you guys when am ready to make the move……

    Have a nice day.

    PS: I will share this article on twitter for others to read and benefit from.

    Regards,
    Oloyede Jamiu

  6. Joe Magnotti says:

    Whew, made those big sales by the skin of our teeth, right on the last business day of the month. A lot more padding in September fortunately.

  7. Aaron says:

    Another month of impressive figures guys! I have sold a bundle of sites via EF early this year, the Zendesk support from you guys are pretty spot on. The experience was very pleasant, I have no complains. I think the zendesk support is what keeping both the buyers and sellers happy in terms of leading to a successful transaction. Keep rocking and thumbs up!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Aaron!

      Love that you had a good experience with Zendesk. It can get a bit wonky when you’re 30+ messages back and forth on the customer side – still looking to fix that.

      Was just talking to someone about how we wished Slack integrated with a customer-facing chat on our site (that then logged via Zendesk). That would be awesome…

  8. tung tran says:

    Solid month guys!

    I’m excited to see how the new design will perform in the next few months.

    August was good for me not financial wise but I finally figured out the new direction for Cloud Living and my business.

    It’s gonna be fun to catch up with you Justin in Chiang Mai and I’m gonna meet Vincent for the first time at DCBKK…. so pumped!

    @Vincent: We will have a lot to share with each others buddy.

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