Justin Cooke

September 25, 2013

Welcome to our monthly business report for June, July, & August 2013!

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 this 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.

Reasoning For Monthly Reports

We’ve been sharing these reports for nearly three years now and some of our reasoning for sharing them has changed.

Purpose When We Started

  1. Trust / Social Proof – So many people claim to be “killing it” online and we thought it might be more interesting to show you exactly where we were having success and where things weren’t working out so great. As we continued to add new processes and revenue streams, we were hoping to share those with you to both inspire and to give you ideas you can use in your own business.
  2. Engagement – Monthly reports brought about a ton of comments (and traffic) as people were following along, leaving comments, and mentioning the reports elsewhere around the web. We were hoping that transparency would drive conversation.
  3. Accountability – It’s one thing to have private goals and something completely different to state them publicly. We wanted a record that would allow us to hold ourselves accountable – one that we could review in the future and see where things were working, where we failed, etc. As I go back through some of our previous reports I find myself cringing at our naievte and our failed projects…but I’m also thankful that I’m able to see what worked and build on those successes.

If you’ve been with us for quite a while, you might have noticed we didn’t have much to report on those first few months in 2010/2011. (Dec | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr) We simply weren’t making all that much money and (by the end of April or so) were already in for more than $10,000 in expenses and had spent hundreds of our hours and more than a thousand hours from our team on the project.

We weren’t including our other sources of revenue (most importantly, our outsourcing side of the business) as we viewed the two businesses as unrelated…even though it was the outsourcing company that was funding AdSense Flippers, our lifestyle, etc.

Purpose Today

Things have changed quite a bit for us since we began our online journey. We’ve brought all of our different businesses and earnings together under one brand, added additional revenue streams, (through brokered sites, products/services, etc.) built a highly-rated podcast on iTunes, and more.

While the reasons listed above for creating monthly reports continue to ring true, we’re also hoping that these insights will help readers see exactly how we:

  1. Build An “Empire” – Following our “70% Rule”, Joe and I continue to test through and add on projects that align with our goals, our vision, and drive our industry forward. We share our reasoning for getting involved in new projects, our process for replacing ourselves with a top-notch team, and hope that these insights help you continue to build your own online empires.
  2. Add Profit Streams – While AdSense Flippers started off with very few revenue streams, we’ve since added tools like IntelliTheme and WP Rank Tracker, added Products/Services, and now have a broker package that allows others to sell their sites with us on the marketplace.
  3. Drive The Business Towards Long-Term Goals – It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of your company and miss the bigger picture or longer-term goals. Our hope is that sharing a long-term, inside look at our business will encourage you to set aside the time required to design the business you want to have in 2, 3, or even 5 years.

Enough about that, let’s get into the report!

What We’re Working On

Three months has given us plenty of time to hash out a few different projects. Here are the highlights:

Marketing Apprentice – We put up a post about a Marketing Apprentice position a couple of months ago and had a total of 27 people apply to join us here in the Philippines to help us grow our business. I narrowed that down to 10 for our first interview and both Joe and I interviewed the remaining 4 to make a final decision.

It wasn’t easy, due to some really talented people that applied, but we’ve finally made our decision! We’re so excited to have Vincent Nguyen from SelfStairway.com joining our team! He blew us away with his initial video (keeping in mind that his job will entail reaching out to others in our space) and continued to impress throughout the interview process. He’ll be joining us here in Davao in November, and both Joe and I are excited we’ll be working together!

Answered Our “Old Content” Problem – We’ve used a process to determine sites that are seriously underperforming and to not renew the domains, effectively making those sites and content on them useless. It always seemed silly to us to waste all of that content we’ve created and paid for, so Joe set out to do something about it.

Using Jon Haver’s process for expired domains, Joe went to work reusing content from expired domains on a new site and well…it worked!

Earnings from our used content site

In the next few weeks/months we’ll share exactly what we did here and also dig into a new site strategy we’re working on that includes using expired domains.

Purchased WPRankTracker – This was a bit of an impulse purchase for us, but it fit so well into what we were doing that we knew we’d find something to do with it. The creator/seller knew us actually and was willing to come down on the price to give it to a good home and we thought this was a great deal for $2K.

We’ve since revamped the plugin and have added some features. You can check it out here.

Niche Site Mastermind – In a recent podcast episode, Joe and I mentioned that we might be interested in starting a niche site mastermind on steroids. Basically, we’ll have 5-10 people apply and get accepted. We’ll then fund the creation of a niche site and offer a small team of Virtual Assistants on our team for them to work with while we have regular strategy calls.

The response was incredible.

This is definitely something we’re going to do, although we’ll likely get it rolling in November to give us some time to get ready. Want to join us? You don’t have to do anything…just check back in the next 4-6 weeks and we’ll be accepting applications! You can sign up for our email list for updates:

 

Last thing, and I know this is a bit of a reach/longshot…but I’ll be traveling SEAsia quite a bit in October and I’d love to meet with you! If you happen to be in any of the following locations and are down for a coffee, beer, and/or chat shoot me an email and we’ll set something up!

HCM, Vietnam – 9/29 – 10/1, 10/9 – 10/14
Siam Reap, Cambodia – 10/1 – 10/4
Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 10/4 – 10/9
Bangkok, Thailand – 10/14 – 10/21
Phuket, Thailand – 10/21 – 10/28

Let me know – I’d love to meet up!

Site Traffic

Traffic has held fairly steady, bringing in a total of 64,506 visits over the three months.

Ef Traffic Jun Jul Aug 2013

Here’s a look at our most popular content:

EF Popular Content Jun Jul Aug 2013

And our top referrals for the three months:

EF Referrals Jun Jul Aug 2013

We’re happy to see our traffic keeping up even with less blog posts over the past few months. Most of our content has been through podcasts in recent months, but you’ll see more blog posts here as we head towards the end of the year and prep for 2014.

Podcast & Email Audience

Something weird happened in June where our podcast downloads across the board dropped down to 15,256…but we more than made up for it in July and August with 31,080 and 35,432 downloads respectively.

EF Podcast Downloads Jun Jul Aug 2013

I think the things leading to our increased downloads in July and August were:

– Great guests and interviews
– Hot streak w/ popular episodes and rankings in iTunes
– Others interviewing us for their podcast
– Weekly schedule and consistency

We’re really excited to see this and hoping we’ll have a 50K month before the year is out!

During this three month period, we fully transitioned from using Aweber to Office AutoPilot as our email tool of choice. This allowed us to really combine all of the separate lists we were building into one major list and start the process of segmenting based on interest and behavior.

After importing all records and deleting duplicates we ended up with a total of 10,732 contact records and have been continuing to grow since:

EF Email List Jun Jul Aug 2013

Monetized Sites

Here’s a look at our AdSense earnings overall:

AdSense Jun Jul Aug 2013

We brought in a total of $3,783.75 with our worst day on August 23rd at $17.42 and our best day June 25th at $66.05. Not great! We were really hoping to grow our earnings from the niche sites over this period, but it seems our earnings couldn’t keep up for several reasons:

– Creating sites for clients took sites away from us
– Selling a ton of Empire Starter Packs that include the low-earning niche sites
– Dropping domains for extremely low earners

Selling Our Sites

Our total site sales for the three months were a bit low at only $6,060.40, although we’ve sold quite a few sites that were included in the starter packs. This hasn’t been as much of a priority for us lately as we’ve really been exploring additional monetization methods, but we’re ramping up our production spend through the rest of the year so we can come out strong in early 2014 with sites for sale.

We’d really like to get our average sale price up on our own sites and the only way to do that is to create significantly more sites (so that we have more winners) or create sites that earn more per site. Joe is researching and testing through a couple of different options to find out the best way for us to approach this.

Products & Services

We saw a massive amount of growth in our Products & Services in the last few months. Considering the fact we only brought in $8.5K in May, we crushed it in June/July/August with $5,391.00, $26,006.00, and $10,573.00 respectively. This is great, of course, but the increased orders and work put us behind a bit on delivery, which led to a few grumbles from clients. We’ve hired additional staff in the last 60 days or so to help with the increased orders.

There’s a real 80/20 thing going on here…80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the products. The plan will be to pare down the products that aren’t a hit so that we can focus on those that are popular with our customers. We had a big-miss with our maintenance app development/wireframe packages…ugh!

We also found a better way to test through new products – create and offer them privately! We’ve been working with some clients on non-published products and packages that are successful. As we continue to test through these offerings, we’ll eventually make the “winners” public so that others can purchase as well!

Brokered Sites

As we’ve been low on inventory, this has been another area of focus over the last few months. I was a bit shocked with the numbers on this one: $157,567.96 in total brokered sales, with $23,887.08 of that to us in revenue.

Wow!

We’ve added some premium listings to the marketplace that are, frankly, a bit more expensive than usual and outside our comfort zone. Typically, we’ve sold our own sites and packages in the $2K – $20K range, but we’ve spent some time talking to and working with site sellers in the $100K range. We didn’t start out with many potential buyers at that level, but after listing some of the higher-end sites we’re starting to see some of the higher-end buyers check out the marketplace.

I don’t see the $50K – $200K range as a core price range for us quite yet, but it’s good to see that we are attracting buyers to support those sellers.

Software Projects

We’re wrapping IntelliTheme, WPRankTracker, and any future software projects into this section. IntelliTheme brought in a total of $1,677.40 over the three months and WPRankTracker $932.00 in July/August.

While this represents a very small percentage of revenue, it’s taken up a ton of our time/focus. (Especially if you consider non-product related software projects like the marketplace, OAP setup, etc.) Joe and I have been discussing this lately – we really WANT to have a big win in software, but it’s something we really struggle with.

We like the idea of predictable, recurring revenue…but we struggle with individual developers, meeting deadlines, etc. It’s a bit silly to spend so much business focus on this with everything else going on, but it’s something we both really want to get better at and we appreciate the challenge.

I asked Joe a few weeks ago what he thought the thing was that we’d look back on in 2-3 years and think, “Man, I really wish we would have done THAT”. His answer was that we should build a dev team of our own. Between that and purchasing products that fit our brand, we do continue to work on these projects in the coming months/years.

Affiliate Revenue

Nothing much has changed here, as we brought in a total of $2,545.33 through Jun/Jul/Aug. Chasing down the latest/greatest affiliates offers is tiring and time consuming…I don’t know how affiliate marketers do it! :-)

Outsourcing Clients

After a big month in May catching up on invoices, our revenue leveled back out here bringing in a total of $74,614.03 over the three months. This has been our “bread and butter” since before we started AdSense/Empire Flippers and allowed us to fund our online projects from the start.

Still – even though we merged TryBPO and AdSense Flippers under one banner (Empire Flippers) it still really feels like we’re running two separate businesses with (sometimes) competing interests. The problem, of course, is that these competing interests compete for our time and focus…and our half-hearted attempts at acquiring new outsourcing clients isn’t worth it.

To cut the cord, we’ve recently made the decision to no longer pursue outsourcing deals. If/When amazing opportunities present themselves here we’re definitely willing to consider them…but chasing opportunities down is not something we’ll continue to do.

Consulting

We technically brought in $1,460.00 in consulting revenue, but $1,200.00 of that was actually converted to products instead of continuing on with the consulting hours.

I’m not really a fan of consulting, to be honest. It just seems so much more helpful to share information to a larger audience – the net value gets multiplied. This realization is what’s leading us to the mastermind idea instead of 1-On-1 consulting.

Summary

We’ve made some serious changes to our core projects over the last few months and those changes are reflected in our revenue streams. We’re happy with the direction we’re headed, but we still have a lot of work to do to meet our goals in 2014.

Speaking of which, it’s been a while since Joe and I have sat down to discuss the direction of our company and our longer-term goals…something we’ll knock out in November, most likely.

June Totals

  • Employees: 31
  • Interns: 1
  • Contractors: 3
  • Contact Records: 10,902 (As of 7/15)
  • Email Subscribers: 8,395 (As of 7/15)
  • Site Visits: 18,035
  • AdSense: $1,311.16
  • Site Sales: $4,364.20
  • Products/Services: $5,391.00
  • Brokered Sites: $12,681.41 ($82,863.46 in vetted sites sold)
  • IntelliTheme: $393.88
  • Affiliate: $837.97
  • Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $192.53
  • Outsourcing: $27,609.01
  • Consulting: $200.00

TOTAL JUNE: $52,981.16

July Totals

  • Employees: 32
  • Interns: 1
  • Contractors: 3
  • Contact Records: 11,272 (As of 8/13)
  • Email Subscribers: 8,728 (As of 8/13)
  • Site Visits: 24,593
  • AdSense: $1,308.43
  • Site Sales: $0.00
  • Products/Services: $26,006.00
  • Brokered Sites: $6,203.08 ($41,353.90 in vetted sites sold)
  • IntelliTheme: $884.66
  • WPRankTracker: $506.00
  • Affiliate: $890.37
  • Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $174.47
  • Outsourcing: $22,989.46
  • Consulting: $1,260.00

TOTAL JULY: $60,222.47

August Totals

  • Employees: 35
  • Interns: 1
  • Contractors: 2
  • Contact Records: 11,804 (As of 9/17)
  • Email Subscribers: 9,062 (As of 9/17)
  • Site Visits: 21,878
  • AdSense: $1,164.16
  • Site Sales: $1,696.20
  • Products/Services: $10,573.00
  • Brokered Sites: $5,002.59 ($33,350.60 in vetted sites sold)
  • IntelliTheme: $398.86
  • WPRankTracker: $426.00
  • Affiliate: $816.99
  • Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $173.59
  • Outsourcing: $24,015.56
  • Consulting: $0.00

TOTAL AUGUST: $44,266.95

Jun/Jul/Aug Combined

  • AdSense: $3,783.75
  • Site Sales: $6,060.40
  • Products/Services: $41,970.00
  • Brokered Sites: $23,887.08 ($157,567.96 in vetted sites sold)
  • IntelliTheme: $1,677.40
  • WPRankTracker: $932.00
  • Affiliate: $2,545.33
  • Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $540.59
  • Outsourcing: $74,614.03
  • Consulting: $1,460.00

3 MONTH TOTAL: $157,470.580

Reviewing a detailed 3-month report over @empireflippers – Check it out!Tweet This!

Alright, now it’s over to you! What are you working on right now that you’re excited about? What would you like to see us write about that would help you? Let us know in the comments below or shoot us an email…we’d love to hear from you!


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Discussion
Leave a comment
  1. Hey guys,
    Congrats for the amazing results, it’s very true that the monthly reports are among the most interesting articles to read!

    I’ve been considering myself to start writing my own, but I still feel some resistance in putting “out there” something so personal and sensitive.
    I’m the kind of guy that never told a friend his salary (and it was a good one, back in the corporate days!) but at the same time I agree completely with the points you mention.
    It seem to me a courageous choice, and I believe others are in my same situation…

    Do you have any recommendation? :)

    Thanks!

    • We’ve found that transparency has worked great for us. In fact the more it hurts, the more you wince and say “I shouldn’t talk about that” the more powerful the message seems to be. So I say go for it!

  2. civillibros says:

    if you just sold your kitchen site that makes 640$ a month in flippa, that means that you only will earn with adsense the nex month 400$???, i mean that the another hundreds of sites are only making 400$??? i am right? and just 1 site makes 600$?? why did you sell that site that is making the most of money from you, and it is obvius that the value of a site there is no more earnings x20, because that site was sold for earnings x15, that means that you shouldn´t overvalue the sites that are you selling, because you just sold earning x15

  3. Great idea from Vincent. Rand really struck my cord :)

    I’m happy to see you guys moving forward with your business. I only know as much about you as you say, but still was able to totally tell (you mentioned it at least 3 times) that people wanted you to broker their sites and you were stubbornly against it. We can now see that it was the correct move, so congrats :)

    Question: do you guys take a set fee for brokering or does it vary depending on the particular site? Sorry if this was answered before, I’m not yet up to speed with your podcast.

    Best wishes,
    Chris Trynkiewicz

  4. stumpedout says:

    Damn Vincent, You got Neil Patel, Rand to create a video for you? Awesome

    • Yeah, they were really cool! Neil and I talked on the phone and we got along really well and now I’m helping him out with his new forum. He’s a genuine dude who loves providing value.

      Rand went through a lot of trouble to help me out too. We had to figure out logistics with Elijah (part of Moz team) and they were going to film it during a Whiteboard Friday session, but something came up. They followed up with me a few days after that and sent me the video. :)

  5. Let six(teen) point email chain begin! Thanks man, it has been a busy few months, but it sure has paid off.

  6. Haha, damn! I was really hoping for some very high-end transportation upon arrival. Is it safe to say I won’t be needing my tux?

  7. Tung Tran says:

    $157k in 3 months !!! You guys are killing it!

    I’m working on scaling up my amazon niche website business and preparing for the upcoming duel between me & Josh from FormYourFuture (or Wsortesters.com).

    And I’m excited to meet you guys on DCBKK next month too :P

    Congrats @Vincent Nguyen . You’re really an inspiration for me!

  8. Ryan Cote says:

    Hey guys, I loved Vincent’s approach in his video, gathering up all those power testimonials. Super creative!

  9. Hey Justin, great job! Keep it up!…just recently I stumbled onto your site and going through your free ebook now. I currently live in South Korea, but next year me and my Korean wife will be moving to Bohol for a while. Have you been? Me and my wife loved it when we went on vacation…hopefully one day I could meet up with you guys for coffee when I get out there….take care…peace…

  10. Dan Norris says:

    Good stuff guys dominating. Enjoy Vincent, sounds like a great opportunity.

    • Thanks, Dan! It’ll be hard not to. :)

    • Thanks Dan. I would love to see income reports from WP Curve. I’m sure with that recurring model you must be doing well. We need somehting like that!

      BTW, change your Disqus profile, it still points to your old site.

      • Dan Norris says:

        I do them on here http://thedannorris.com/monthly-report-august-2013/ but my cofounder banned me from putting specific numbers in there. We are up to about $3,600 / month recurring most of that is WP Curve, a little bit is Informly. We were only at $476 3 months ago so the growth has been excellent. Thanks will update Disqus.

        • Wow, I don’t know how I missed that, Dan. Maybe because it’s on your personal blog and I didn’t get the updates? Awesome growth though!

          Commitment to public numbers is a chore that we have discussed the merits of before. There are some huge downsides. In the end we decided to continue on a quarterly basis because they’re so damn popular and it keeps our eyes on the numbers.

          • Dan Norris says:

            Yeah there’s a bit of history there. I originally published them on the informly blog and when we launched WP Curve that didn’t really make sense so I set up the personal blog. I’m all for it. I think the co-founder was a bit worried when trying to hook up deals with big partners if our numbers are all out there (i.e. how small we are). Hiten Shah gave us that advice as well.

            My reports are popular but I don’t know how useful they are for anybody. I’m trying to focus them on some actionable wins we’ve had that other people can apply but it’s tricky.

  11. Don Shelton says:

    Glad to get the update on your expired domain approach. I had concluded not too long ago that expired domains were an area to explore and have moved in that direction; while of course people use them for private blog networks, feeder sites, 301 redirects and such, in the long run I’m also interested in simply building new sites on the old as you all have done. Can’t wait to see your process. While I’m building feeder sites currently (eventually maybe I’ll try a PBN), the thing I like about feeder sites is if they are done right they are sites with real value on their own (as opposed say to crappy 2.0 pages created for link wheels) and over time may prove to be candidates for money sites on their own. However, if there is a good system to simply build directly on the old domain, I like that too. It seems you would really only need a limited number of feeder sites supporting your authority sites anyway, so what better to do with other expired domains than build them out with a process. I’m looking forward to your reveal on that!

    • I’m loving the expired domain thing. It fits in easily to our process and help us capitalize on one of our best practices — keyword research. We were leaving so many good keywords on the sideline because of a crowded domain market where EMDs aren’t always available. Expired domains allow us to still use the nice and have the advantage some PR and strong backlinks/domain authority.

      One thing to note — we do use 301 redirects for all 404 pages when using an expired domain. This is important so when Google crawls those links they still get a result. This can easily be done via a plugin.

      • Don Shelton says:

        Agreed – 301 redirects on all the 404s in the domain is a must – to the home page if nothing else. 301s for every page on an old domain to a new one is an SEO technique that is less attractive to me, though, than what you are doing by building out a new, relevant site on the old domain. Not sure a domain 301 adds value (and can look suspicious), and eventually I think Google will address most things which don’t add value.

  12. Hi Guys

    Thanks for sharing. I get the pain,around these reports, but its really useful to us out here in the trenches.Lets just hope that people that dont understand accounting dont jump in talking Poo again.

    The software side of your business is interesting and i get why you want to get involved. HOWEVER my only concern is that your underestimating the cost of support. Particularly since your developing the products and that will always cause new buglets.

    If i was starting a software company again today I’d NOT build an in house team no way. Developers are to prima dona like :-) The support team i would in house but location independent. Tons of amazing developers and coders in eastern Europe let alone Asia now.

    The guys at 37signals have written and talked about this alot (something that will feature even more in the newest book)

    Remote Office Not Required
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Remote-Office-Not-Required-ebook/dp/B00CZ7OC46/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1380131592&sr=8-3&keywords=37+signals

    Enjoy your Asia tour Justin, I hope Angkor is as assume for you as it was for me. Just remember “get up early before the crowds :-)””

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Steve! Yeah, a bit of a pain to put together…but feeling good I (finally) got this one out! hehe

      Yeah, we’re kinda banging our heads against the wall with the software side of things…but it really is a good learning experience and I hope/think we’re learning/growing there. You’re totally right about support always being a concern, though. Much less so with SaaS and recurring revenue, of course.

      I totally hear ya regarding “distributed teams” and developers…a ton of winners in Eastern Europe! The 37signals guys are rock-solid, of course…

      I’m not a morning guy…but will force my self to hit Angkor early! :-)

  13. Justin Cooke says:

    Hey John,

    Close…around $1.7K per employee or so! We’ve built quite a few AdSense sites, but that’s not our only focus, for sure.

    Your $1.5K w/ 2K visitors sounds cool – there are a ton of ways to go about things, of course. Our visitors at EF are worth more, for example…while I know others with comedy/fashion/gossip sites that get millions of pageviews and not much revenue. It’s about the TYPE of traffic you’re attracting, of course.

    We’re interested in some product sites…we’re talking about buying our way in next year to some dropshipping sites, potentially. We’ll see!

  14. Thanks for the mention and for putting my video up! I’m excited to get started working with you guys. :)

  15. Jared Oldham says:

    Do you ever sell sites before listing them on the classifieds?

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