Justin Cooke

December 30, 2014

Welcome to our Monthly Business Report for November 2014.

After a pretty horrible October, we were able to turn things around and pulled out a half-decent month in November. With expenses down, we were able to bounce back into profitability and are hopeful for a strong finish in 2014.

We’ll cover all the details in this report but first, let’s take a look at the overall numbers for the month.

Our hope is that this report encourages, inspires, and helps you as you build your online empire.

Executive Summary

After a devastatingly low October, it’s nice to see our numbers getting back on track. While not our best month this year, our brokered site sales were still nearly double what they were the previous month which kept us out of the red.

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

EF Monthly Report Overall

And those same revenue streams with our outsourcing company removed:

EF Monthly Report No Outsourcing

November 2014 Business Data:

Employees: 8
Apprentice: 1
Contractors: 2
Contact Records: 22,872 (+1,612 from previous month)
Email Subscribers: 14,359 (+1,211)
Site Visits: 23,372 (+2,299)

Earnings:

Brokered Site Sales: $133,331.55 (+$53,863.49)
Brokered Site Earnings: $19,505.75 (+$5,939.74)
Listing Fees: $3,115.00 (+$557.00) – 7 new, 1 returning, 7 new sales, 2 returning sales
Our Sites Sold: $1,803.00 (+$1,803.00)
Outsourcing: $500.00 (+$500.00)
Additional Revenue: $973.18 = ($0.00 AdSense) ($0.00 other) ($408.39 affiliate) ($564.79 niche guide)

TOTAL Revenue: $25,896.93 (+$8,247.29)

Monthly Revenue

Let’s take a look at each of the revenue streams to see how they turned out for November.

Brokered Site Revenue

We ended up selling $133,331.55 worth of brokered sites in November, bringing in a total of $19,505.75 worth of revenue. We ended up selling one of our own sites as well for a total of $1,803.00. This was still below our average for the second half of 2014. We’ll be looking to increase that number heading into December, but it might be slower sales through the holidays.

When we started brokering sites, we were best known for selling sites in the $2K – $20K range, but much of this year was spent attracting and selling larger sites in the $10K – $100K range. In talking to some of our buyers we think there’s an opportunity (and interest) in bumping that up to the $100K – $500K range as well.

As long as we have the buyers to support it, we think it’s a great move for us. It doesn’t take 10X the work to sell a $200K site as opposed to a $20K site, so this will be a great way for us to bump the average listing/sale and improve our overall revenue and margins.

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

EF Marketplace Overall

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

EF Marketplace Monthly

This puts our all-time website sales at $1.66M with $1.4M of that coming in 2014 so far. We’re not likely to hit our $2M goal for the year, but there are some positive signs here as we head into 2014.

Average of $103K in sales per month for Jan-Jun 2014
Average of $154K in sales per month for Jul-Nov 2014 (With a great looking December coming)

That’s almost a 50% increase in the second half of the year. If we can continue that trend into 2015, we’d be looking at a very healthy $230K per month in the first half of the year!

Website Listing Fees

We had quite a few sites submitted in October and the trend continued in November, bringing in a total of $3,115.00 worth of revenue.

7 First-time listings @ $2,279.00 (There’s a discrepancy here as it should equal $2,079. Will check with bookkeeper on this)
1 Repeat listing @ $97.00

We ran a Black Friday listing sale that accounted for the additional listings and revenue.

7 First-time listings (Sale) @ $679.00
2 Repeat listings (Sale) @ $60.00

We were excited to see so many take advantage of the sale, but many of the submissions were for much smaller sites. I think that lowering the listing fee tends to attract many more sub-$10K websites for sale.

We’d like to see continued growth here as sellers and websites for sale are really the driver for how well the marketplace is doing. When we have more sites available for sale we sell more, simple as that.

Additional Revenue

Additional Revenue: $973.18 = ($0.00 AdSense) ($0.00 other) ($408.39 affiliate) ($564.79 niche guide)

We still have a minimal amount of affiliate earnings from links on the blog, although this isn’t an area we’re really looking to expand. Long Tail Pro remains our largest affiliate earner here.

Traffic and Audience

Here’s a peek at our blog traffic, podcast downloads, and email list for November 2014.

Blog Traffic & Analytics

Traffic was up this month with 23,372 visits. (Up 2,299 from the previous month)

GA Overall Nov 2014

Some of this can be attributed to our Facebook marketing campaign for the month, which I’ll get into a bit more below.

Here’s a look at our top content for November:

GA Top Content Nov 2014

The bulk of our traffic went to the Marketplace, How It Works page, and the individual listing pages.

Here’s a look at our top referral sources and all goal conversions for November:

GA All Referrals

Ignoring the highly-converting paid traffic from Facebook for a minute, I was excited to see how well the traffic from Reddit was converting. Usually, the small bumps we get from Reddit happen to be unrelated to buying/selling websites, but this small bump in traffic was from the post on our valuation tool in the /r/entrepreneur section, which seemed well received in the community.

The Valuation Tool has done really well for driving new email subscribers and leads overall. Here’s a look at the referral traffic for the Valuation Tool specifically:

GA Referrals Valuation Tool Nov 2014

We’ll be continuing to promote the tool via paid traffic as we head into 2015.

Podcast Downloads

We stayed about the same when it came to podcast downloads, pulling in 14,183 for the month.

EF Podcast Downloads Nov 2014

I’m happy for every single listener we have, but in 2015 I’d really like to:

A) Improve the show (Both the content and audio quality)
B) Significantly improve our reach

We haven’t seen much growth in the podcast in the last year, but we know it’s really effective for buyers/sellers. Have any suggestions on how to improve the quality or the reach of our podcast? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Emails & Contacts

Contact Records: 22,872 (+1,612 from previous month)
Email Subscribers: 14,359 (+1,211)

Our contact records are up to 22,872 in November, up around 1,612 from the previous month.

EF Contact Records Nov 2014

We’re up to 14,359 active email subscribers – up 1,211 from the previous month.

While many of those were again through our After Offers campaign, we’ve been testing out some paid traffic strategies through Facebook that lead to our Valuation Tool and we’ve found some success there.

Customer Experience

Customer experience is extremely important to us, which is why we’ve added this section to our monthly reports. Our goal is to highlight the positives and negatives so that we can continue to improve.

The experience our customers have when doing business with us is important and part of the reason we track our successes and failures on this report. Going through the process of highlighting some of our successes and failures ensures that we’re looking the overall experience our customers are having and it gives us opportunities to improve that experience.

Zendesk Support

We’ve seen just a bit of a slide in response times, although our satisfaction ratings have remained fairly constant.

Here’s a look at November’s numbers:

EF Zendesk Overall Nov

Vs. October’s numbers:

Oct 2014 Zendesk Support Team

What’s really strange is how Zendesk decided to change the numbers for our benchmark. How did their support go so much higher with so fewer tickets? My confidence in their numbers isn’t strong.

Customer Feedback

Here’s a happy first-time seller that has already listed his first site with us:

Comment Good 1 Seller

The site took a little longer in vetting than expected, but we were happy to get everything worked out for him and get his listing up.

We also got some comments from first-time buyers:

Comment Good 1 Buyer

We’re happy to walk first-time buyers through the process. It’s important to really cultivate buyers as nearly half of our sales currently come from repeat purchases. The larger our buyer pool, the more leverage we have in convincing sellers to list and sell with us.

Not all listed sites pass vetting, though. Here’s some negative feedback from a seller whose site just didn’t pass the vetting process and our criteria:

Comment Bad 1 Seller

It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get this one listed, but we feel it’s important to stick to our standards – even if that means we lose out on a few potential sales.

Of course, we also get the odd feedback from non-customers that tend to have unrealistic expectations on what we can actually deliver. Here’s an interesting one from a guy that was looking to setup a company in Davao.

Comment Bad Odd 1

Ok, maybe Joe was a BIT short with him, but we really don’t have anything to do with offering services to get this guy’s company setup and we DO run into problems with the governmental agencies too. It could have ended there, I guess, but it continues:

Comment Bad Odd 2

So the guy wants to setup a business in the Philippines and either plans to pay a $200K fee or, instead, put it in his girlfriend’s name? Yeah, good luck with either of those options…

Overall, the feedback we got from actual customers was quite positive in November. We’ll be looking to continually improve these numbers with the addition of a CS/Account Manager in 2015. (More on this in the coming weeks)

What We’re Working On

November was really about getting back to a schedule for our team. After all of the traveling and excitement of October, we were happy to get back to work and focus on what we do best – helping others buy and sell websites.

One of the insights we gained in October was that meeting potential buyers and sellers in person is extremely valuable. We plan on doing much more of this through lunch meetings and steak dinners in December and through 2015.

Getting Settled In Saigon

Now that we’ve transferred our office to the new owner and have all of our employees in the Philippines home based, Joe and I are truly “location independent”. While this does mean we can go wherever we’d like, we’ve always found value in setting up a home base and exploring from there.

In November, Joe, Mike, and I all arrived in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with a plan to settle in here for a few months. There are a ton of entrepreneurs that are based here or at least passing through (Cool cats like Jon Myers, Jodi Ettenberg, and James Clark just to name a few.)

It’s easier to maintain your business while traveling than it is to grow. Since we’d really like to focus in on and grow the marketplace heading into 2015, we thought it would be best to be relatively close here in Saigon – at least for the next few months.

Exploring Facebook as a Marketing Channel

I was really impressed with a presentation by Jacob Puhl at DCBKK. He advocated an approach to channel marketing that meant testing through each one by one until you’ve got a solid ROI and have it (mostly) automated.

We’ve been testing a few paid strategies half-heartedly, but in November we decided to focus in on FB as a marketing channel for Empire Flippers. Vincent took charge of the project and we decided to use our Valuation Tool and some buyer/seller friendly guides and worksheets as our bribes.

By targeting previous EF visitors, “lookalike” audiences, and those surrounding our industry we were able to convert FB traffic at around $3 – $4 per VT submission. While we’re not quite sure yet what a VT submission is worth to us, considering the fact that a seller is likely worth thousands of dollars when we get the listing, this seems like a pretty promising channel.

I don’t have all the data for a full write-up on this quite yet, but we’ll be sharing more details in the next couple of months as we scale this up.

Overall, we’re fairly happy with how November turned out and looking forward to a successful December to finish out 2014 strong.

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 Business Report for November 2014 from the @empireflippers!” – Tweet This!

So how did your month shape up? Any thoughts or comments you’d like to share?


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Discussion
Leave a comment
  1. Can we expect a post about your plans for 2015? :) Would be awsome to hear about that!

    /Mikael

  2. bharath says:

    Well, i have shared my first ever income report on the internet today. I would be very pleased if you all have a look at it.My first target is to reach $1000 per month to which i’m nowhere far.
    My income report: http://blogunation.com/my-game-blog-monthly-income-traffic-report-december-2014/

  3. Mushfiq says:

    Great work!
    While I agree that having sites for $100k to $500k in the marketplace is great for Empire Flippers, but it also is unfeasible for buyers like myself. I would encourage EF to keep the wide range of sites to cater to a broad range of buyers.

  4. Tung Tran says:

    Congrats guys on such a good year!

    Looking forward to see you guys crush it 2015.

  5. Hey guys,

    Great to see the bounce back in November. It will be interesting seeing what December/January Does.

    I have to admit, reading the feedback, back and forth.. was hilarious.. I wonder what bridge Joe had to sell him ?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      December’s going really, really well man. Bit of a spoiler, but we’re likely to have our best month ever this month. :-)

      Yeah, that guy was out to lunch, right? Some people get really demanding of your time when you owe them nothing – I really don’t understand it. I would NEVER feel comfortable asking those kinds of questions without first building a relationship with someone…really odd, eh?

  6. James Clark says:

    Great to have you guys in Saigon (though Justin, you should come out to D1 more often ;) ). That email exchange cracked me up, especially the “off white” comment by Joe.

    Good luck for 2015!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Great to be here, man!

      Yeah, haven’t been out to D1 much during the holidays, although I’m writing this from the May restaurant here in D1 right now! :-)

      I’ll be out for NYE for sure and a bit more in January, heh.

  7. Greg Nunan says:

    Nice bounce back guys. I’m sure you’ll be in for a solid Q1 of 2015. Plenty of potential sellers would have been holding out for December sales to go through their sites before listing. Exciting year ahead!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Greg!

      Yeah, we’re working on a STRONG December which is a great sign heading into 2015. We’re really hoping to crush it in Q1. If we can keep the sites and sellers rolling in I think we’ll do quite well. :-)

  8. Toan Nguyen says:

    Great work again this month, you’ve inspired me to start my startup blog. I will start write the first business report in next month :)

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