Justin Cooke

January 20, 2014

Welcome to our Monthly Business Report for December 2013!

In addition to our regular monthly reporting, we also wanted to share an end-of-year wrap up from 2013 with you, highlighting some of our successes and failures along the way. We’ll also share some insights into our plan for 2014 and where we’re going from here.

We love hearing about how much these reports inspire and encourage you to continue to build and grow your own online empire. That’s part of the reason we openly share this information with you, but there’s also value for us in the introspection that comes with writing these reports.

Having to take an open and honest look at our strengths, weaknesses, and growth opportunities (along with the feedback you deliver) provides us insights into our business we wouldn’t have otherwise. It gives us an opportunity to look at our business from the outside in, and (hopefully) leads us to make better-informed decisions about the direction our company should take. To be clear:

Most of the revenue comes from you.

Whether you’re a long-standing outsourcing client of ours, purchased one of our products/services, or you happened to use one of our affiliate links to buy a piece of software, we wanted to thank you for your continued support as we continue to expand our online empire.

What We’re Working On

We were able to get quite a few things accomplished in 2013. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

That’s a pretty great overview of our successes, but we’ve had some mistakes and failures along the way too:

  • Unsuccessful products added and removed (Site maintenance packages, mobile app wireframing, and others that failed miserably)
  • Lack of clarity as to our direction with the rebranding (Our new focus on buying/selling websites)
  • Loads of frustration and costs with our broken EF theme and development in general
  • Failure to “move up the value chain” with niche site creation (We started in late 2013, but don’t yet have the results in)

Where We’re Going

“Empire Flippers will be the #1 provider of profitable sites for sale in the $10K – $100K range.”

We spent the first half of 2013 primarily focused on the changeover and the second half of 2013 focused on cleaning up our back-end, operational process, marketing funnels, and customer service.

Our goal for 2014 is growth and our direction is clear:

Empire Flippers will be the #1 provider of profitable sites for sale in the $10K – $100K range.

There’s a huge gap in the market here and we’re ready to tackle it. Sellers would rather not throw their site into the mix at Flippa and hope for a sale and buyers are looking for curated, high-quality listings they can review without sifting through all the crap.

Most brokers prefer to take on sites that are $100K – $300K or higher, simply because they make more money for the same amount of work. This is something we think we can tackle as we have a team of people here with us and the processes in place to make it happen at a margin that will work.

Here are a few of the things we’re working on going into 2014:

  • Redesign of Empire Flippers to better explain what it is we do
  • Revamping our Marketplace to provide better information to potential buyers
  • Creating free/paid tools (i.e. a Website Valuation Tool) to better support both buyers/sellers
  • Hiring a Marketplace Manager to provide a better experience for both buyers and sellers
  • (Possibly) Selling our outsourcing company here so that we can double-down on EF

We’re heavily committing to these goals in 2014. Joe and I have both agreed to reinvest any additional profits into growth to make this a reality. We’re researching and implementing growth hack tactics and we’ll share what’s working and what’s not throughout the year.

Alright, enough about where we’re going, let’s see what we accomplished in December.

Site Traffic

December’s traffic was much lower in December without the Reddit traffic, but we still pulled out a respectable 18,703 visits. (Down around 10K from November) For the year, we ended up with 39,885 visits to AdSense Flippers:

AF Visits 2013

and 197,962 total visits to Empire Flippers:

EF Visits 2013

Which brings our total visits for 2013 to 237,847 visits.

Aside from the homepage, marketplace, products/services and the like, our most visited content included:

EF Popular Content 2013

Twitter beat out Facebook for driving traffic, but traffic from Facebook converted to email at almost 2-1. The WarriorForum continued to drive traffic and conversions for us in 2013. The top 3 blogs for traffic were Niche Pursuits, Flippa (guest posts), and TropicalMBA:

EF Referrals and Conversions 2013

Based on our conversion findings in November’s monthly report:

Podcast & Email Audience

Podcast downloads were down again in December with 13,533 total downloads.

Podcast Downloads Dec 2013

In reviewing our numbers overall for 2013, I see that we had 232,279 total downloads for the year. It’s odd, though, in that the downloads Jul-Sep were extraordinarily high:

Podcast Downloads 2013

I wanted to dig into this a bit to see if I could find the reason. When reviewing the data and looking at “US Markets”, it seems that Washington DC (Hagerstown) accounted for an odd amount of those downloads, when compared to markets like LA or NY.

Podcast Markets 2013

I’m not sure the reason for this, but I’m guessing that had something to do with the anomaly.

Podcasting will remain a focus of ours in 2014, although I think we’ll be focused more on the buying/selling of sites and actionable entrepreneurial topics than the tactics around building niche sites.

Our Contact records went from 10,732 in June to 12,958 by the end of the year.

Contact Records 2013

We’ll be looking to expand this heading into 2014 through interviews, guest posts, etc.

Goal: 2,400 Additional Opt-ins Q1 2014.

Monetized Sites

Here are our AdSense earnings for December:

AdSense Earnings December 2013

Our total earnings in AdSense came to $18,265.91. This continues to be a lower priority for us. Most of the higher-earning sites end up sold, the lower-earning sites are included in starter packs, and the non-earning sites we typically drop when it comes time to renew the domain.

AdSense Earnings 2013

I would like to see us add additional monetization methods to some of our created sites or to purchase some sites with varied monetization as we head into 2014.

Selling Our Sites

We sold $1,931.60 worth of our own sites in December, down a few thousand from November. It was interesting to see how December would play out. We thought we might get more buyers looking for tax breaks as they head into 2014, but that didn’t happen for us this year.

In 2013, we ended up selling a total of $40,940.80 worth of our own sites.

Products & Services

Sales were down to $2,313.00 in December – not terribly surprising with the holidays. We’re expecting this to bounce back in Q1 of 2014 as we continue to grow our traffic, email subscribers, etc.

We ended up with a total of $120,090.00 worth of revenue overall for 2013. This turned out to be a fantastic revenue stream and we’ll look for this to grow this year as well. We’ll continue to add and test new products, keeping those that are winners and dumping those that don’t seem to stick.

Goal: $30K Product & Services sales in Q1 2014.

Brokered Sites

We didn’t have any brokered sites sales in December – they all seemed to fall in late November and early January.

We ended up with $271,453.49 worth of brokered sites sales for all of 2013, bringing in $42,276.82 worth of revenue. While this is less than some of our other revenue streams, we see the most potential here and this will be a main focus of ours in 2014. Much of our expansion will be focused on brokered sites and the marketplace as we look for more quality sites for sale, find qualified buyers, etc.

Goal: $240K brokered site sales Q1 2014.

Software Projects

IntelliTheme brought in $194.00 and WPRankTracker brought in $141.00 in December 2013. We don’t have any paid tools or software projects that we’re currently working on.

For 2013, IntelliTheme brought in a total of $22,500.97 (not counting affiliate payments and launch commissions) and WPRankTracker brought in $1,546.00. These were fun side projects for the year and we learned a bit, but we think this work may have distracted us from our main objectives.

Affiliate Revenue

We brought in a total of $848.38 worth of affiliate revenue in December and pulled in $10,855.70 for all of 2013. ($1,788.52 of which was through sales of “Building A Niche Site Empire”, which I just ended up throwing into affiliate revenue.)

While we appreciate those who have chosen to buy the products we recommend, this continues to not be a focus for us. We may start creating some affiliate sites in 2014, but that revenue will be tracked above under Monetized Sites.

Outsourcing Clients

Outsourcing brought in the majority of our revenue for December, coming in at $30,247.91.

We ended up bringing in $345,264.28 for all outsourcing revenue in 2014.

Joe and I have been recently discussing selling off our outsourcing company. We like the idea since it will let us focus primarily on the EF side of things in the future and provide a cash injection to promote that growth. It will also let us turn over this stable company that we’re not as focused on to someone more interested in growing the business.

There are a few problems with this, though. It’s NOT a hands-off, run-from-anywhere business like a website. Our outsourcing company includes assets, office space, etc. This would definitely require someone on the ground here in Davao to run things.

We’re not fully committed to selling this quite yet, but it’s something we’ll be looking at over the next couple of months. If we do sell, we’ll be happy to list as a premium listing and fully share all of the details regarding the business for prospective buyers.

Summary

While December was a pretty slow month aside from outsourcing revenue, I’m really happy with what we were able to accomplish for 2013 and I’m looking forward to some serious growth as we head into 2014.

Here’s a chart of all revenue streams in 2013:

EF Revenue Chart All

And a look without including outsourcing revenue:

EF Revenue Chart wo Outsourcing

December 2013 Business Data:

  • Employees: 39
  • Interns: 1
  • Contractors: 2
  • Contact Records: 12,958 (As of 12/31)
  • Email Subscribers: 9,743 (As of 1/8)
  • Site Visits: 18,703

December 2013 Earnings:

  • AdSense: $1,338.84
  • Site Sales: $1,931.60
  • Products/Services: $2,313.00
  • Brokered Sites: $0.00 ($0.00 in vetted sites sold)
  • IntelliTheme: $194.00
  • WPRankTracker: $141.00
  • Affiliate: $682.43
  • Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $165.95
  • NicheSiteGold: $0.00
  • Outsourcing: $30,247.91
  • Consulting: $0.00

TOTAL: $37,014.73

2013 Business Data:

  • Site Visits: 237,847

2013 Earnings:

  • AdSense: $18,265.93
  • Site Sales: $40,940.80
  • Products/Services: $120,090.00
  • Brokered Sites: $42,276.82 ($271,453.49 in vetted sites sold)
  • IntelliTheme: $22,500.97
  • WPRankTracker: $1,546.00
  • Affiliate: $9,067.18
  • Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $1,788.52
  • NicheSiteGold: $147.00
  • Outsourcing: $345,264.28
  • Consulting: $2,780.00

TOTAL: $604,667.50

“Check out this detailed monthly report for Dec 2013 from the guys @empireflippers!” – Tweet This!

So…what do you think? Did any of this give you ideas to help you grow your business? How does this compare to your business and what you’re working on? We’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave a comment below!


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Discussion
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  1. Josh says:

    Love seeing how you’re using analytics, and interpreting the results to make conclusions like “we should spend more time at blackhat world than warrior forum.” Made me realize I need to implement this for one of my clients. I would love to see you guys do an in depth post of how you’re using analytics.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Josh!

      Yeah – determining where we should be spending our time seems to keep getting more and more important. A post on analytics sounds like a pretty good idea…I’ll add to the list!

  2. Nate says:

    Awesome breakdown!! Love the transparency. Cheers to a BIG 2014 :)

  3. Loved this “Empire Flippers will be the #1 provider of profitable sites for sale in the $10K – $100K range.”

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Yeah, buddy! :-)

      We were looking for a more singular focus that we can really sink our teeth into. I think this is it…

  4. Jokes aside, awesome stuff guys. I LOVE the BHAG of “Empire Flippers will be the #1 provider of profitable sites for sale in the $10K – $100K range.” – make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

    Go get ’em!

  5. I think you should sell the outsourcing business AND the EF business and move into MLM. I have this GREAT opportunity for you if you just tell 3 people, and they tell 3 people…

  6. Gunnar Bengtsson says:

    Justin,
    always a pleasure to read your income reports.

    You might be interested in learning that one of my goals for 2014 is to sell $150,000 worth of sites through Empire Flippers – so get ready :).

  7. Dave Starr says:

    Very informative and inspiring post guys, thanks. An item you touched on which is well worth more focus. You mentioned you thought more people might take advantage of tax benefits at year end.

    But if you promoted that idea I missed it, for sure. (Part 179?)? This is a
    potential minor gold mine IMO.

    In general tax benefits, pitfalls and optimization is virtually ignored in the
    online entrepreneurial world

    Just one example, how long must you hold an investment site to have it taxed at the Capital Gains rate? Or can you?

    Most CPA’s have no concept of “this world”, which means, again IMO, a significant potential “service niche” out there.

    Anyway, here’s to a great 2014.

    • Dave I don’t know exactly how part 179 plays out when buying a website, but I do know you can write off website purchases as an itemized investment expense. So if you have extra money laying around come years end, it might make sense to pick up a site to reduce your tax liability.

      For instance if you made $100k but only spent $80k you could use the extra $20k on a site. Of course any money you earned the following year would have to declared as income, but at least you have deferred taxes and could always reinvest proceeds again.

      Please check with your tax professional as I am not a CPA.

  8. Dan Norris says:

    Good stuff guys congrats on a great year. I think the new direction is great. I’m looking forward to seeing something epic.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Dan…really appreciate it.

      We’re planning on some awesome stuff this year. If even half of it goes through we’ll be stoked.

  9. What percentage of revenues are you guys devoting to paid media? Seems to me the fastest controllable, repeatable, scalable, predictable, speedy way to scale the biz is paid media. Just a thought. Hit me up if you care to chat about it..

    • This is coming soon, something Justin and Dave Huss (our AdWords guy) are working on right now. Expect to see our adverts following you around soon!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Great, great point, Shola.

      Surprisingly, we haven’t done ANY paid advertisements up to this point. The general thinking was that we’re not a stop-by-and-buy brand. Most of our buyers have gotten to know us a bit through the blog, podcast, etc. We don’t have a landing page + sales funnel that’s very clear or agreeable to paid traffic.

      We ARE looking at remarketing campaigns, however…I think that’s a great first step we’re starting this year.

      • I’m talking DR (direct response) marketing. Didn’t Gary Halbert advertise? Doesn’t Mark Ford/Michael Masterson (Agora), Does Jay Abraham? We have to break the myth that advertising is just for big brands. Here’s a challenge: look at the % of revenues that McDonald’s and Google reinvests in advertising. If the biggest brands in the world need to invest to get first awareness, don’t we? Rich Scheffren: “If you can’t buy customers you have a promotion, not a business.” Okay, I will get off my soapbox ;)….Congrats on your success and you guys get major cool points for your philanthropic endeavors in PH as well….

        • Justin Cooke says:

          Thanks, Shola!

          Our remarketing campaign just started a few days ago, actually. We’re seeing some subscribers rolling in which is great. I THINK a site purchase came in from a remarketing campaign too which is awesome – but I have to check to verify that it was tagged correctly. Good stuff!

  10. Hey guys

    That’s really good growth you’ve achieved last year

    Sincere congrats.

    Really impressed with the new direction and actions you’ve taken. Selling the outsourcing off makes sense to me at least.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Steve!

      Honestly, we were just hoping to match our 2012 revenue. We figured 2013 would be a rebuilding/rebranding year and that we’d lose a little, so we were excited with the growth.

      Interesting to see how the outsourcing company and/or sale will work out. Will be discussing with Joe in the coming weeks as we dig into it!

  11. Dan says:

    Love these reports guys! I’ll be swinging by shortly to pick up those beers ! :D

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Dan!

      Will definitely get you that beer! :-) Might be a challenge getting Spencer his, though… Just an 18 hour flight, Spencer…come on out! hehe

      • Spencer Haws says:

        I’d love to come see you guys! Can I swap the beer for a plane ticket? Then I’ll pick up the drinks :). Love seeing the success you guys are having, congrats!

        • Oh man Spencer, that’s a lot of 30 peso beers! ;-)

          Certainly you can trade 20 LTP sales for a ticket, once you’re on the ground things are cheap here. Let me know if you are serious and I can walk you through it.

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