Justin Cooke

December 9, 2013

Monthly Business Report Nov 2013

Welcome to our Monthly Business Report for November 2013!

We’ve got a ton of stuff in this report, including additions regarding our best converting referral sources, content pages, etc.

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 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 welcomed our new marketing apprentice, Vincent Nguyen, to the team in November – starting off a flurry of projects and content for the month. His involvement has led to quite a few new content ideas and projects we’re looking at tackling. You can check out about more regarding his behind-the-scenes thoughts on our business here.

It’s funny to see that, while he brings some good marketing and content tactics to the table, he knows very little about the process we use for creating niche sites (KW Research, Site Setup, Content Strategy, etc.) and even less about our outsourcing side of the business. As we continue to grow I know that we’ll have people that focus in and specialize on various parts of the business, but it’s funny to see it actually play out.

FB and Twitter Growth Nov 2013Here are some of Vincent’s first projects:

Social Media: He’s been crushing it with helping us to promote our FB page, Twitter, etc. We’ve seen way more engagement in Nov compared to recent months.

Niche Site Gold: He’s been working with our KW Research team and sharing our step-by-step process for niche selection in a weekly newsletter. You can sign up here to check it out.

Podcast Interviews: One of his goals was to help setup interviews for the EF podcast and to look at opportunities to have us interviewed. We haven’t done as much here yet, but it’s in the works!

Guest Posts: He’s looking for good guest post opportunities and acting as our connector.

Most of these are task-based and not necessarily goal-based – something we’re going to need to change.

Here are some the areas we focused on in November:

Niche Sites From Scratch:

We wanted to test through a new product we’re looking to release next year. We’d already done some private sales, but decided to do a limited public launch and it went fantastically well…just under $30K sold in a couple of days. Wow!

The idea is to allow others to build sites along with us. We lose a bit in not building them for ourselves and selling when they’re profitable, but we’re frontloading our cash flow and building predictable margins.

Our team is currently building out the sites for the buyers and we’re going to monitor their progress with a plan to open this back up in February.

Removal Of Products:

We’ve had a few products that (either due to a failure on our part to promote or just a bad product/market fit) just failed to catch on and we’ve decided to remove them.

“Why not just leave them up?”, you might ask. “Isn’t it just extra cash?”

Not exactly. There are a couple of reasons this is a bad idea:

  1. Confusion: You want your team as streamlined as possible. Spending any time/effort/energy on something that’s not a hit is a waste of resources. Even if they’re not working on the product for customers, there’s brainpower being expended.
  2. Delivery: If there’s a product you don’t deliver very often, there’s probably going to be a bit of inefficiency that goes into getting it done. We want to deliver the best for our customers and the best way to do that is to double down on what they’re actually purchasing.
  3. Options: How many potential buyers spent time checking out a product that wasn’t very popular and missed out on something that would have really helped them? Cutting down the options keeps our focus tight.

Mastermind + (Possibly) New Direction:

“Tweaking your business may get you to $1M next year, but you need to think way bigger.”

We held another mastermind on 11/23 for a small group of expat entrepreneurs in and around the Philippines. The idea is to get a bunch of sharp guys/girls that have businesses in a room together so that we can honestly and critically look at our businesses and offer resources, contacts, and ideas to improve.

While I can’t share what’s going on in their businesses, I’m free to lay out some of the ideas and criticism lodged at us from the other attendees.

Our biggest takeaway was that we need to “up our game.” This was restated in many different ways – our message, target audience, goal setting, focused efforts/resources, etc.

We made the switch from AdSense Flippers to Empire Flippers, but didn’t clearly define what that change means in our business and what those changes mean for our audience. Some of the questions/comments included:

  • “Tweaking your business may get you to $1M next year, but you need to think way bigger.”
  • “You have an incredible opportunity here, stop dicking around with it.”
  • “Who are you guys, really? Are you niche site guys or do you help entrepreneurs build, buy, and sell online assets?”
  • “Start servicing the high-end of your market. Don’t worry about scale, just crush it”
  • “Stop bouncing around between helping newbies and intermediate entrepreneurs. You’re better suited to help mid-level entrepreneurs, let [others] get newbies started.”

I resisted some of this at first and spent a few days mulling it over. Joe and I still haven’t sat down to review, but I’m getting the feeling that we’re both coming around to some of the ideas. It’s a bit scary, but I think we can make some changes through 2014 that will significantly improve the value we offer to our customers and help us take our business to the next level.

We’ll have more to say about this in the near future, I promise!

Website Valuation Tool:

There are a few options out there (Flippa, FlipFilter,) but I think we could build something better and more helpful. I’ve gone through dozens of factors that can affect the value of a website and started working on putting it together in a free tool we should have available soon.

This should act as a helpful opt-in magnet to attract people to our brand. Additionally, we can talk to sellers that have the sites we’re looking for and discuss listing their websites or sale on our marketplace. More on this as soon as it’s released!

Site Traffic

Traffic shot back up from a low of 16,157 visits in October to 28,661 in November.

Overall Analytics Nov 2013

While those numbers sound great, it’s also important to know that 5,958 of those visits were from a Reddit post that got some attention. Not only is Reddit traffic notoriously bad when it comes to conversions, the fact that this was for a post that’s mostly unrelated to our core mission made it even worse. We ended up with a bounce rate at 97% and a Time On Site of 0:04 seconds – ouch!

I would mention that our publishing 5 blog posts and 4 podcasts episodes had quite a bit to do with reaching a larger audience this month. Neil Patel argues for regularly posting quality content…upwards of 6 posts per week to hit 100K visits per month! That’s pretty aggressive, but we do have quite a few blog post ideas that I’m looking to get out over the next few months.

Here’s a look at our most popular content:

Popular Content Analytics Nov 2013

And our top referrals:

Referrals Analytics Nov 2013

Our friend Dan Norris asked on our last report if we could provide data regarding conversions and I thought that would be interesting to look at as well. Here’s a peek at our top traffic sources and their respective email conversions from June 1st to Nov 30th:

Email Conversions Jun to Nov

Takeaways:

  • NichePursuits.com and Flippa.com have done quite well for us, likely due to the relevancy of the content and shared audience
  • Honest recommendations from people that trust you (like TropicalMBA.com) convert to email well. (But might not match your target audience?)
  • WarriorForum has sent 10x the traffic compared to BlackHatWorld, but only converted 4x to emails. (Not to mention I’ve spent 20x the time on WF Vs. BHW)

Interesting…

Here’s a look at our top converting content pages on the site from the same time frame:

Email Conversions By Content Jun To Nov

Takeaways:

Anything I missed in looking at this information? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Podcast & Email Audience

Podcast downloads were down in November to 14,228, the lowest they’ve been in quite some time.

Podcast Downloads Nov 2013

It seems that our downloads for all episodes are down across the board, but we’re still getting 1,500 – 2,000 downloads of every new episode each week. My guess is that there are more competition in the podcasting space and we may have lost some of our visibility on iTunes.

I think the quality of the show has actually gotten stronger. These two episodes we published in the last couple of weeks are, I think, some of the best we’ve ever done:

Our email list has continued its slow and steady growth, clocking in 12,677 Contact Records and 9,527 email subscribers.

Contact Records Nov 2013

This is great for us considering the fact that our opt-in and email sequences are a bit broken and currently being re-worked. Here’s what we’ll be doing to fix this in December:

  • Cleaning Up Opt-In Boxes – This is a bit of a mess. We have a ton of different opt-ins and types on OAP but we aren’t using them for anything. We’re consolidating all of our Opt-ins and will likely start using LeadPages and their new “LeadBoxes” for subject-specific opt-in boxes.
  • Rewriting Email Sequences – We’ve written more than 20 different emails to add to each of our sequences. New (and old) subscribers will be able to pick whether they want content regarding Site Builders, Site Buyers, or Site Sellers and will get our best content in those separate areas.
  • Guest Post Opportunities – In reviewing our conversions from referral traffic, we need to do quite a bit more of this, frankly. Focusing on blogs related to our niche seems to be the best strategy, even if they don’t have as much traffic.

“I’ll take customers over random traffic any day of the week!” – Tweet This!

Monetized Sites

Here are our AdSense earnings for November:

AdSense Earnings Nov 2013

This brought in a total of $1,210.83 for the month with our worst day on Nov 7th at $26.32 and our best day on Nov 30th at $55.55.

I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get to do much in terms of testing through different sites and monetization methods. We’re testing through sites with more content now, but I’d still like to give some Amazon sites a shot in 2014. We’re also considering buying our way into some dropshipping or eCommerce sites next year as well.

For an interesting read on an eCommerce site, check out Andrew’s post over on eCommerceFuel.com. He digs into all of the relevant details on the site he just sold for $180K – interesting stuff!

Selling Our Sites

We sold $4,527.20 of our own sites in November 2013. We’ll be listing a few more sites through December and January, but I wouldn’t expect our site sales to start picking up again until February at the earliest.

Products & Services

We crushed it with product sales in November, bringing in a total of $33,228.00. I should mention that $29,290.00 of those sales were through our limited release of Niche Sites From Scratch.

Paypal product sales Nov 2013

This was great in that it allowed us to front-load our cash flow leading into the holidays and gives our team plenty to do during the down months as we’ve scaled up a bit from where we were in the middle of the year.

I’m also excited to announce that we’ve set aside 20% of that limited release for charity! We’ll be doing our Christmas Gift Project here in Davao City, Philippines again this year and we’ve also launched the Empire Flippers KIVA team – we’d love for you to join us here!

Brokered Sites

“We’re looking at starting a ‘white glove’ service for buyers and sellers”

We sold a total of $33,008.20 in brokered sites in November, bringing in $4,951.23 worth of revenue to our business. We’re finding more interest from buyers and sellers for sites in the $20K – $100K range but we’re finding this process much more difficult to scale or automate.

In the mastermind mentioned earlier, some of the other entrepreneurs recommended not bothering trying to scale this process. Instead, we’re looking at a “white glove” service for buyers and sellers. (Basically, this would mean much more involvement from Joe and I with sellers, more due diligence and finding sites for buyers, etc.)

There’s a market gap in this price range and they thought we were best suited to serve this market.

We wanted to explore this a bit further, so we’re currently setting up calls with some of our top buyers/sellers to find out a bit more about what we can do to meet their needs in terms of service, tools available, etc.

Software Projects

IntelliTheme brought in $281.67 in November, while WPRankTracker came in at $231.00. Joe’s currently exploring a few more tools and pieces of software we could potentially create, but there’s nothing planned in the next couple of months in terms of release.

One of the things we’re looking at is creating or purchasing tools and bits of software that we might be able to use as lead magnets. I mentioned a website validation tool at the top of this post, but other plugins and tools that would be valuable to us and our audience are things we’re open to looking at as well.

Affiliate Revenue

We earned a total of $696.38 through affiliates in November. I was going through our affiliate links earlier in the month and noticed a few of them have changed their offers, creating dead links on our account – oops! I’ve since cleaned those links up so that we’re directing people to the right stuff.

Our Resources page is a bit out of date and I’ll be working on cleaning that up in December.

Outsourcing Clients

We earned a total of $29,708.28 from legacy outsourcing clients in November. This continues to be a money maker for us, but there’s no plan to expand our outsourcing business or take on new clients.

Summary

I’m really happy with what we were able to accomplish in November. The increased in posts has definitely boosted traffic and our pre-launch product sales made this our second best month of 2013, pulling in more than $75K worth of total revenue.

I’m expecting December to quiet down a bit in terms of both traffic and revenue, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to accomplish quite a bit before 2014 hits. We have some big plans for next year and I think we’re on track to hit or even surpass some of our goals.

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

All Revenue Chart Nov 2013

And a look without including outsourcing revenue:

All Revenue Without Outsourcing Nov 2013

November Business Data:

  • Employees: 39
  • Interns: 1
  • Contractors: 1
  • Contact Records: 12,677 (As of 12/7)
  • Email Subscribers: 9,527 (As of 12/7)
  • Site Visits: 28,661

November Earnings:

  • AdSense: $1,210.83
  • Site Sales: $4,527.20
  • Products/Services: $33,228.00 ($29,290.00 from our limited offer)
  • Brokered Sites: $4,951.23 ($33,008.20 in vetted sites sold)
  • IntelliTheme: $281.67
  • WPRankTracker: $231.00
  • Affiliate: $696.38
  • Building A Niche Site Empire Guide (via Amazon sales): $111.59
  • NicheSiteGold: $147.00
  • Outsourcing: $29,708.28
  • Consulting: $0.00

TOTAL: $75,093.18

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

So…what do you think? Did we share anything that motivates or inspires you? Any insights as to what you think we could improve? 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
Leave a comment
  1. Jared Oldham says:

    Justin,

    Not sure where to ask this question so I thought I would do it here. How much content do your niche sites typically have before they start ranking well? I know that is a odd question but with the amount of sites you guys build I figured you may have a number of content you “purchase” for each site.

    • We’re still having sites with only 5 pages of content rank frequently (though not 100% of the time). I would recommend adding at least 2 new pages a month to keep the sites fresh in the eyes of Google at this level though.

      We are testing through a process using 50 pages of content (and expired domains) to see if we get better results. Numbers won’t be in until late February at the earliest.

      • Jared Oldham says:

        Joe,

        Thanks for the reply. My site has doubled in organic traffic the last 3 months in a row but still things are not even close to potential. I currently have a blog on the home page and 27 other pages that need more and better content. Have you seen better success with a few static pages with a medium to large amount of content vs a multiple posts on the home page?

        • Rolling pages off the homepage or static content doesn’t seem to have an impact on success. However, our biggest earner does use multiple posts on the homepage. With this model you better add content often.

  2. Dionne says:

    Congrats on the expansion of your empire! Keep grinding and reaching new heights.

  3. Great stuff, but the first rule of Davao Mastermind is you do not talk about Davao mastermind! I am sending the goon squad to your house to correct this misstep. ;)

    Looking forward to seeing you guys crush it in 2014.

  4. Tung Tran says:

    I dig the idea of serving the higher end of the market and let Cloud Living helps the newbies haha :P

    To be honest, I’d love to see EF as a better middle market with higher quality sites. Flippa is getting worse I think.

    Anyway, great report guys.

  5. Kévin Jourdan says:

    Good job guys! And great initiative for the Christmas Operation!

    I’m looking forward to seeing the coming updates especially on the niche selling part. Still looking at selling that niche of mine in coming month, once it reaches the target revenue per month.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, man!

      Yeah, the Christmas Gift Project has gotten bigger and bigger each year – really fun to do. I’m really stoked about the KIVA group, actually – supporting entrepreneurs and business owners in a sustainable way!

      Looking forward to listing and selling your site!

  6. gerprz says:

    Hi Justin,

    Curious why you are leaving out the expense side of income statement? (hard to get a clear picture of your post without it).

    Q What is this ” Products/Services: $33,228.00 ($29,290.00 from our limited offer)”

    Based on what you are showing us, it seems that your proposal to no longer pursue work on the “outsourcing” side makes sense, looks like you may be able to replace that income with whatever Products/Services is, no?

    Thanks for all you for us.

    -Ger

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey, thanks for commenting.

      You can get a feel for our expenses here:

      http://empireflippers.com/adsense-flippers-monthly-expenses/

      The Products & Services bump was temporary, from the limited offer we had in November where we sold $29K worth of that product. The rest of our products accounted for the other $4K. You can find all of our products/services here to get an idea:

      http://empireflippers.com/products-and-services/

      I don’t expect that number to be nearly as high in December without the limited product we released, but I do expect that section to grow in Dec. Where I’d really like to see growth is the brokered site section – I think there’s a ton of opportunity there for us, our buyers, and our sellers.

  7. Dan Norris says:

    Hey man don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re doing $75k a month I think that’s pretty damn good ha.

    Also re the drug dealer post. I’m a big fan of doing targeted content but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that untargetted stuff is totally useless. You are still getting in front of people, getting your brand out there, probably getting backlinks, increasing social shares etc. You wouldn’t want every post to be like that but some content is good for that, others are good for conversions.

    Keep it up! What normally happens to your business in December / January? Do things slow down revenue wise?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Dan!

      Maybe not completely useless, but I think you’re more likely to have popular content that is niche-specific if you primarily write niche-specific content. Who did we not help/serve by not writing a post that would have been better for our audience?

      The less expensive sites tend to do worse in December/Jan, but buyers with more to invest sometimes sneak in at the end of the year. They’re looking to invest money and avoid taxes – we’ll see what happens, eh?

  8. moussaif said says:

    my dreal is just to make 1k per month

    zoomer robot dog

  9. Another solid month guys congrats.

    I see where you mastermind group(s) are pushing you towards. I get a lot of it (even remotely) I just wonder if it’s what you want? That’s the real question.

    For example the logo sure it’s not high end luxury branding (Mercedes etc) but that might not fit your market. Now of course if your go up market then the logo should change as the business will less reflect your personalities.

    Btw in a podcast you made reference to Fiat being a low quality brand than Mercedes… I agree. But it’s worth bearing in mind Fiat is huge very popular in many markets and they own Ferrari. Not bad for a low end brand :-)

    • Yes the EF branding needs to be re-done to move upmarket

      • But should they. Remains the question. Also fiat did not rebrand why do internet folk thing you can only gave one brand? Even amazon did not rebrand acquisitions

        I saw a very fast sale on built for you site last month which was sweet. And from a time / revenue it’s got to be awesome

        Folk also keep suggesting pat flynns got it wrong and should go more up market which he is doing somewhat. BUT he resists (rightly) the move away from his personnel style. The affiliate earnings show the huge potential of helping people in the early stage.

        I wish joe and justin a awesome 2014 which ever way they flow

  10. Chris Lahay says:

    Thanks for the update… they are always inspiring. I have been working on a couple of products over the last few months and was looking for some inspiration as I head into the hectic holiday season. Your successful product launch information definitely helped in that department. Thanks!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Nice, Chris!

      What are you working on? Anything we could help with?

      Best of luck to you and hang in there!

      • Chris Lahay says:

        My long term project is converting tools we developed for our content removal company into a SaaS app. The other is an info product and website in the freelance writing market, which is my background. I’ve been keeping an eye on the site sales and will continue to do so and I’ll probably hit you guys up in the New Year for one your keyword research services as a starting point for new projects. Cheers!

  11. Are you able to share why you are choosing to maintain the BPO side versus growing it?
    Is it a change of emphasis?
    Market conditions/competition?
    Other?

  12. Rob says:

    I’m surprised / disappointed to see only $1200 in adsense revenue for all this skills and effort you put into it. I’m a complete newb and made almost twice that with a simple eCommerce site. You guys rock but I wonder where you’d be if you put your energy into something that can make you much more?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Rob,

      Most of our sites are sold – either directly or through purchased Starter Packs that sell as products. The sites we hold are growing, low-earners, or duds.

      Everyone’s disappointed with something we’re doing. :-( Some can’t believe we make so much while others scoff at how little we make. No worries…lots of perspectives welcomed!

  13. Also, can you give any indication about the expenses? $75k is great – even mind boggling…I have to think the 39 employees do add up on the other side of the equation.

    Thanks!

  14. Great report, Justin!

    How many websites generated the $1200 for the Adsense earnings?

  15. Justin Banks says:

    It is great you guys have income from multiple streams. Diversification is still very important.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Justin!

      We discussed this in a recent podcast. I think diversification is a “5-Figure Problem”. Too many people worry about diversification when they’re just starting off – I think it’s better to find something that’s working and double-down on that until you get to that level.

      Diversification too early spreads you too thin, IMO.

      • Justin Banks says:

        I completely agree with you there. Diversification comes after you are established with some sort of base income. Many people jump from one shiny way to make money to another and never lock anything down because they don’t stay committed to mastering one thing to begin with.

  16. Great work guys! Keep it up.

  17. I’m really glad you guys didn’t let my mistakes slide. Seriously, I’m grateful that you, Joe, and DT sat me down and handed me some brutal honesty. Much needed criticism and that’s what I need to grow. :)

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