I just read Brand Development Case Study: From Expired Domain To Real Online Brand by Morgan Linton. He is going to take us through a case study step by step to learn his development process; what a great guy. I have been planning to also do a series like this, albeit, mostly in my head. I decided that today would be a good day to do the first post.
I don’t have a bunch of hard set rules that I follow, though, I probable should. I hope that this series will help me and you develop some patterns for developing sites and lead us to models that we can scale into successful brands. To date I only make a few hundred dollars a month on my sites, but I have already begun to identify certain patterns that I am good at and can scale.
I want to back track for a moment and give you a little history of my web experience. You will notice that I focus on scale. I believe this is good, but can also be detriemental as well. My first experience with scalable processes was with magazine production. I worked on a team of nine that produced three 144 page magazines per week. Next, I worked for a printing mail house during the peak of election season. Our throughput was over 400,000 pieces per day printed, sorted and labeled, and delivered to the post office during the height of the season. Then, in 2005, after toying with Ebay for a few years, I set my business on a course for success through leveraging keyword research, closed auctions, and tools for managing auctions. I was on my way to $10,000 in sales per month with about a %50 profit margin when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, my home town. My niche was handbags, which are highly seasonal. When I finally regained my footing, I had lost too much money and my hold on the market.
I work as a software developer, which I have been doing for 12 years. Finding patterns that can be reused is the name of the game. Scalability is one of my main focuses. This is where the detrimental part comes into play when dealing with scaling.
For a long time, I thought that if I could scale a site with loads of content, then it would be successful. I chose to focus on restaurant menus. It is not a bad industry, but there are a lot of players fighting for the audience. I was kind of ignorant to this when I started my menu site. The other problem I had was that content management software was not as easy to use as it is today, or at least they didn’t seem to have the features that I wanted, which meant I would have to program them myself. Since I was already a programmer, and knew how to build large sites, I decided to program it from scratch.
There is nothing unique about restaurant menus themselves; month after month I would put up menus by hand, hoping for a significant jump in traffic. It never seemed to come. I then decided to scrape some sites to scale my site quickly. This brought more traffic to my site, but was short lived when the search engines pulled the plug on me.
Somewhere in the process of all of this is where I learned that just throwing a bunch of content out there, especially if it is not unique, is not going to get me where I want to be. In one of my attempts to monetize my menu site, I contacted hundreds of restaurants that did not have a website with a pitch to put their menu online for $15 per month. I only had one sale. It was this sale that really made me understand the importance of external links to my site. I had read hundreds of times that this was important, but every time I thought about it, I would talk myself out of seeking links because it seemed hard and I didn’t know where to start. I figured I could just keep throwing content at the problem and that would make up for my lack of link building.
I wanted to promote this one menu because the lady was paying me for it. I went to some of the major sites like yelp.com and submitted the link as the restaurants site. Most of them accepted the submission and gave a link back to the menu on my site. This led to instant traffic from the sites and in a short period of time placed the page first in the search engine results.
Well, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I wanted more links on these sites. I started submitting links to these sites for restaurants that did not have a site listed on their profile page. I figured I was doing them a favor by advertising for them and I would get something out of it as well. The big sites got privy to my strategy quick and cut me off even quicker. I had learned two lessons, links count, but you have to play by the rules.
In this series I will take you through finding a niche, researching it, building out a site, monetizing it, and scaling it. I will use an actual, live example. I look forward to sharing with you. Please check back soon for my next post in this series.
I have been looking around on Flippa.com a lot lately and have notice a bunch of suspect activity. This post is a list of the fishy things I have observed. My hope is that it will serve as a guide to help you if you are thinking about buying a site or using Flippa.com for research.
Follow your gut instincts
If you gut tells you it is a bad idea, you should strongly consider listening. We have intuitions, whether we understand exactly how they happen, that are there to keep us from danger. If we don’t listen, our minds will get caught up in the psychological games the seller is playing and will begin to believe the claims, even if they are far fetched.
Sites age and income reports
A site with very little age is not a complete show stopper, but it is close; unless it is the domain itself that holds the value. I see tons of sites selling for $1000 to $2500 that are only a few months old. The problem with this is you can not be sure if the traffic and income are stable. It doesn’t matter if the traffic is coming from search engines, social media, or a bunch of different sites; if black hat methods were used or the initial traffic was based on a fad, you could lose. Also, it is almost impossible to validate the revenue streams. Many of the sites I see make all kinds of claims, but when potential buyers ask for more details, like analytics and income reports, the sellers make up excuses as to why they can’t provide it or they provide screen shots that could be for multiple sites or doctored.
One example I saw, claimed the site had been up for a few months and they had been making hundreds of dollars each month with Adsense. The problem they suffered from, or at least they claimed, was that their Adsense account had been hijacked and they could no longer run Adsense ads or access the account to get the past reports. This should be an immediate flag that this is probably a scam.
Seller is selling site to move on to bigger projects
I have seen this statement so many times in what I deem to be scam auctions, that I am willing to say, if the auction has the phrase “I am selling this site because I want to focus on bigger and better projects” or something like this, run as fast as you can away from the listing; it is a scam, period. First, I am not saying that it is not legitimate to say you are moving on to bigger things and would like to unload a site to free up some time and get some working capital out of it. What I have observed is this statement is usually the sole reason for selling. It has become the de facto, default, fill in the blank, copy paste way of getting by the question of why the seller is selling the site, and the scammers love it.
Buying an auto whatever site can be okay, if it has history, or if it doesn’t, you only pay $200 or less for it. If it has history, then there should be an existing business model that you can follow. This model will more than likely not be based off of search engine traffic, because autoblogs employ plugins that either put syndicated or spun content on the site. These sites do not normally rank high with the content, especially if it is syndicated content. But other methods of creating an audience can be followed to make the site profitable.
The problem I see with the autoblogs is that the sellers make claims of the possibility of future search engine traffic if enough time passes. These auctions are usually for very young sites and make no claims or very little claims of traffic, although, there are some that do the opposite. If you buy a site like this because you think you will get traffic in the future, you will be sadly disappointed. This type of site may serve a purpose in the world, but generally, the people that know what to do with an auto site, know that they can build one in an hour, or they can pay someone a few hundred dollars to set one up.
Claims of traffic
Many of the scam listings claim they have traffic. When you try to verify the traffic it usually doesn’t hold water. Some of these unscrupulous sellers will answer the question of the traffic not matching their claims by saying the traffic has dropped off because they haven’t been working the site recently or posted new content. I own several websites and I have never seen traffic suddenly drop off because I didn’t make post in the past few months. I have seen traffic drop when the search engines change their algorithm and I have seen it drop when a source of traffic dries up, but to say if you make a few more post the traffic will be what it was is very misleading. Usually these sites that had some traffic history for the first few months and it suddenly drops were either participating in some type of black hat techniques and got found out, the traffic was fabricated, or the traffic was from search and their was an algorithm change. The first two are scams and the last, algorithm change, is usually not that easy to recover from unless you know what you are doing. I would only ever consider the traffic drop to be an algorithm change if the site had at least a years worth of history or I knew the market very well.
Quality of inbound links
A site can have links from many different sources, and a good site with a good link profile will normally have a few links from not so good sites. But the good links will far out weigh the bad. Scam listings sometimes, but not always, have a poor link profile. The bulk of the links are from sites that are considered bad neighborhoods. This not always the case, but it is some thing to look at.
Claims of ranking for particular keywords
Anyone can claim they rank for certain keywords in the search engines. A quick check in each of the search engines will reveal the truth. I use a free search engine ranking tool to verify this in the top four search engines.
Take some time and check all of the claims made by the seller. If it doesn’t lineup or feel right, move on; there are plenty more sites to purchase.
Morgan Linton did a really good post on spotting scams on Flippa. You should definitely read it before bidding on anything.
All of us love to get feedback for what we are doing; I know I do. We spend a lot of time working on ideas and would like to know what others think. We also need places to tell people about what we are doing. Here is a list we can all us to reference when we want to introduce or have our startup reviewed.
I have been playing around with WordPress a lot lately and have decided to write a plugin. The plugin will take a list of post from a file and insert them into the database. It will let the user set the publish status to future through the file with a date/time for the publication.
It has been awhile since I have done php programming, but I have already looked at the WordPress api and it seems simple enough.
Here are some of the resources I found helpful.
I’ll post a link to the plugin when I am finished.
I don’t really buy a lot of domain names, so I found it strange that someone would contact me about buying one from them. Then I thought about it for a little bit and realized they must have been searching for sights that have info about Metairie, La restaurants and found menuflavors.com, my restaurant menu site.
Anyway, the domain name they were trying to sell was pizzametairie.com. When I saw the name I first thought, why would I want to buy that name? Then I became a little intrigued, so I searched the email for some statistics on the name. Nothing. They included absolutely nothing about the search volume, CPC, or history. I figured the seller was to lazy to note the details or the seller didn’t even bother to look at the stats; hoping some poor slum would buy the name just for the name’s sake. It is also possible that the seller used the Google keyword tool set on the default setting of broad.
But doing the exact match search yields something totally different. And to me exact match would be the only reason to buy this domain.
Also, the domain name is not even index in Google’s search results (at the time of this writing).
Now, if I were selling pizza in Metairie and I was shown some direct type-in stats that were acceptable, then I may be willing to purchase this domain, but not for to much more than the $10 it cost to register.
The thing is, I don’t sell pizza. My site, at the time of this writing, generates it’s revenue from ads. Adding 40 – 50 visitors to my menu site that are searching for Metairie pizza is not going to bring in enough traffic to make anything significantly more on advertising. If I were selling a high ticket item, then we could talk. But pizzas are $10 any way you like them and so are useless generic domain names.
If you like unique art, you should checkout my brother’s art. He creates found metal art sculptures. He finds all kinds of things that most people would consider of no use and he creates beautiful figurative found metal art sculptures. His pieces depict jazz musicians, chefs, and new orleans street lamps to name a few.
A water bottle has been developed that allows you to take any water from any source (pond, puddle, river, stagnant water) and drink it immediately. Lifesaver systems, a UK company, claims that their water bottle filters 99.9999% of dangerous bacteria and 99.99% of viruses from all water, no matter the source.
They reference a test conducted by London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as the support for their claims. The bottle cost $229 US. Fox News reporter, Allison Barrie, writes, “Just one Boeing C-17 transport plane full of Lifesaver bottles would provide 500,000 people with access to safe drinking water for up to 16 months — saving millions and saving lives.”
Could this bottle really save so many lives in an emergency? We can all hope. I would like to see more independent test done by organizations that don’t have a financial interest in the product. If it is really as good as they claim, hopefully mass production and a kind heart will bring the price down. But, hey, a life is worth more than $229. Way to go Lifesaver Systems.
SEE Toys by Zen Design Group are windup toys that never need batteries. The cool, monetary benefit is, according to the company, you get 15 minutes of use before you have to wind them again. The wonderful benefit is you never have to worry about your children swallowing batteries.
They have five different toys available: DynaFly, DynaShark, DynaCar, DynaTiger, DynaDophin. They look cool and I think most kids would like them. There price from $14.99 to $19.99. The price seems a little high, but considering you don’t have to buy batteries, the price balances out.
I would like to see a money back guarantee in case I don’t like it when I get it. I also don’t get the name, SEE Toys. What does SEE mean? Anyway. I think they would be worth trying out.
As a marketer, getting your ad copy, article, or whatever you are writing read is your number one goal. Brian Clark, “new media writer/producer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney”, is the founder of CopyBlogger.com. His blog is filled with a wealth of information on writing good copy that gets results. Check him out. I’m sure you will learn something that will help your sell.