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Authority Site Overhaul Case Study: Buying an Established Online Business and Ramping Up Earnings

Authority Site Overhaul Case Study: Buying an Established Online Business and Ramping Up Earnings

The authority site project is back!  However, things have changed a bit since I last reported on the project. (You can read all past updates here).

I actually sold the site, as mentioned in this post here.  The primary reason for selling was opportunity cost.  Perrin and I were spending alot of time on the site and we weren't seeing a huge return.  The earnings peaked at a little over $2,000 per month (mostly through Kindle eBooks sales). 

When I launched my first Amazon FBA product just a few months ago, the sales of that product surpassed the earnings of our authority site in about 30 days.  As a result, I made the decision that rather than spend more time on the authority site, I should focus on building my FBA business with my limited time.

The results have been phenomenal, and it was clearly a smart decision for my business.  It's only been about 6 months since I launched my Amazon FBA business, and it just did a little over $40,000 in the past 30 days.

However, that still left me with a great authority site that I was no longer putting time and effort into.  I was chatting with a friend about business in general one day, and the subject of my authority site project came up.  I showed him the site, and he immediately expressed interest in buying the site!

I really hadn't considered selling the site previously, but this friend made me an offer and we made a deal!

I'm now happy to reveal that the buyers of the Authority Site are Hayden Miyamoto (remember that guy!) and George Do.  They have gotten into the business of investing in websites and renovating them for profit.  They believe that my authority site is a perfect candidate for that model.

I agree.  In fact, I only sold 66% of the site to them, and I retain 34% ownership.  I believe that getting great individuals involved that are able to put more time into the site will yield some nice returns.

So, with that I'm actually turning over the rest of this blog post to George Do, one of the new owners of the authority site.  George will explain the plans for the authority site, and share a few other details.

Here's George…

Remember Spencer’s Authority Site Project?

We’re bringing it back from the dead.

I’m George Do from WiredInvestors, a site dedicated to helping people learn about buying websites as investments. I’ve teamed up with Hayden Miyamoto from NoHatDigital (who you’re probably already familiar with) in order to work on this case study.

What We’re Doing

We pooled together our resources to buy 66% of the Education Authority Site that Spencer was working on before he shifted his focus to Amazon FBA. Spencer still owns 34% of the site but we’ve agreed that he’ll be a passive partner since he’s busy killing it on Amazon. We’re going to be running a case study on what it’s like to buy a website and revamp it to boost earnings.

This case study is going to be old school – we’re going to be revealing everything – the domain name, the site, and all the tactics and strategies that we use to improve it. You will literally be able to visit the site and see what we’re doing, and then read about what worked and what didn’t in the weekly update.

We know that Spencer has been burned before with regards to publicly revealing the domains of sites that he’s working on, so Hayden and I came up with what we think is a good compromise – we’ll be revealing the site that we’re working on exclusively through a newsletter. You can choose to follow along and get all the details by signing up for updates below:


If you’re only interested in the broad strokes of what we’re doing and you’re not too fussed about seeing the specific strategies that we use or live changes on the site itself (which you’ll be able to follow along with), we will be providing more general updates on a monthly basis on NichePursuits where we go over what we’ve done to the site and whether or not it’s been effective.

Why are we Doing This?

Hayden and I both believe strongly that given the current climate in online business, buying a site and making improvements is a model that makes much more sense than building a site from scratch. We also believe that investing in websites has the potential to be extremely lucrative (for those who know what they’re doing).

The Google Sandbox (and constantly changing SEO landscape) make it difficult to rapidly validate website ideas. While it is certainly possible to build a profitable authority site from scratch, it will generally take about 6 to 12 month’s worth of work to truly find out whether a site is ‘hit or miss’.

It therefore makes more sense to buy a site that is already a ‘hit’ and try to ramp up earnings instead. If you’ve done your due diligence, the worst case scenario is that you’ve bought an income generating asset that provides pretty good returns. The best case scenario is that you can significantly increase the earnings of the site and end up with an asset that provides you with outstanding return on your investment, regardless of whether you choose to hold or sell.

About the Purchase

Just a couple of notes about our purchase of Spencer’s Authority Site Project. Right now, a large part of the value of the site comes from the Kindle Library – I would say that about 85% of the valuation comes from Kindle sales. We view the Kindle Library and the website itself almost as two separate assets (although there are obvious cross-promotion opportunities available).

The Kindle library is a nice cash-flow purchase and I think we can grow it modestly with very little effort.  We also want to do some testing in using Kindle for lead-gen.

That being said, our primary focus in this case study will be on making improvements on the website side – that’s the area that both Hayden and I are most familiar with and where we feel there’s most room for massive growth.

The Case Study

These are the goals of the case study:

  • To provide a clear roadmap for people to be able to buy a site, ramp up earnings, and either sell the site for substantially higher than the initial investment or hold the site as a long term, near-passive income stream
  • To validate the idea that buying a site makes more sense than building a site due to the larger ROIs, better scalability, and the ability to test/validate ideas from day 1
  • To showcase a range of useful, evergreen techniques that can be used to improve either traffic, conversion, or monetization on a site (with the help of multiple outside experts)
  • To educate people about the both the risks and the considerable rewards of website investing, and to highlight the importance of knowing what the heck you’re doing

The Project Itself

Now, don’t get us wrong. This project is not purely educational. It’s equally, if not more important to us that the site itself is successful since we’ve both got money on the line. We’re taking the success of this site pretty seriously and we have both short term and long term plans laid out for it.

Everybody has their own style when it comes to investing in websites (find out which style you fit into here). For this site, Hayden and I plan to apply the 80/20 approach (Pareto Portfolio) in the short term, and we will attempt to validate some longer term monetization ideas (the three models Hayden uses most are Info Products, Productized Services and Lead Gen).  If this validation is successful, we’ll be overhaul experts in the long term.

How will we Validate our Monetization Plan?

Because the site already has some traffic, we will create a couple landing pages and an email funnel there.  We’ll also invest in some FB traffic.

Here are the two scenarios that we foresee for the project:

Scenario A: We manage to validate our long term monetization strategy

  • We’ll apply the Monetization Overhaul mentality to the site – and validate some product creation ideas to see if we can move up the monetization value chain (move from ads/affiliate offers and kindle sales to product creation/lead-gen).
  • Other long term strategies we might apply to the site include: white hat SEO, building authority and traffic via social media.
  • On the Kindle library side, we’ll be playing with pricing, doing some promotion, creating a funnel from the books to our products, and potentially producing new ebooks.
  • In the short term, we’ll apply 80/20 principles to the site: things like On Page SEO, link-building via contributor accounts, Funnel Design, and CRO
  • We’ll be working actively on the project for 6-9 months
  • The goal is to substantially increase the entire project’s earnings (more than 4x) by 1.5 years
  • If we were to sell in 2 years, our total 2 year ROI will be 535%, and our annual ROI will be 152% (compounded)
  • Our plan here is to buy and hold, so we don’t anticipate selling the site unless we get a great offer

Scenario B: We can’t validate our long term strategy

  • We’ll 80/20 the site – this will include things like sprucing up On Page SEO, targeting uncompetitive LT KWs, improving funnels, and working to optimize conversions on ads, affiliate offers, and ebooks
  • We’ll 80/20 the kindle library. This will include playing with pricing, book descriptions, covers and promotion.
  • We’ll be actively working on the site for 2-3 months
  • Our goal in this scenario is to 2x the entire project’s income in a year
  • Assuming that the site’s income ramps up in month 8 and 9, and hits 2x in month 10, we’ll have 3 months track record by the end of the year and will theoretically be holding a site worth 2x what we paid for it
  • If we then choose to sell, our one year (annual) ROI will be 164% based on the income stream each month and the selling price of the asset
  • Note that although we’ll only be actively working on the site for 2-3 months, we don’t expect earnings to increase until a few months after we’re done making improvements (this is particularly true for SEO related improvements)
  • Our plan as of right now is to keep hold of the site unless we get a great offer

As we progress week by week, we’ll be bringing in various experts to help us on specific aspects of the site.

You know those heist movies where they round up a group of specialists to break into an impenetrable vault? That’s exactly what we’ll be doing. Hopefully, some of you will find it just as riveting (it’ll be tough though – a good heist movie is hard to top).

Now, if any of this sounds remotely interesting to you (or if you’re just dying for a fully transparent case study – they’re rare these days), you should definitely sign up to receive our weekly newsletter updates. Each week, we’ll go over the changes we made on the site, what we’re testing, and our overall thoughts on how the case study is going.  You can do that below:


If you guys have any questions or comments about this case study, website investing in general, or anything else online business related, both Hayden and I will be doing a quasi-AMA over the next week or so in the comments section.

Feel free to Ask Us Anything and we’ll do our best to answer any questions you might have.

Related Projects:

50 Comments for this Post

  1. kamin

    kamin

    Hey guys this sounds very very interesting! Do you also reveal how your way of determining a websites value is? Or how you find a project which fits your needs? Keep up the good work, I like your way to write and think (e.g. ROI).

    A guy from germany 😉

    • Hayden

      Hayden

      Yup, if you sign up that’s all covered in the first post which will be mailed to you 🙂

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Kamin,

      Good to hear that you enjoyed the post! We did go over valuation in the post, but it’s pretty specific.
      More generally, website valuations are tricky because there’s no real ‘framework’ to go by and it’s relatively difficult to find comps as there’s not all that much data out there on the subject. If you have any questions about valuation, I’d be happy to answer them to the best of my ability though.

      As for how I/we find projects, it’s honestly pretty difficult once you get past the $10K mark. I’d say monitoring Flippa and various brokers has been helpful, but the very best sites tend to sell pretty quickly – it’s happened a couple of times where I was doing due diligence on a site and it got sold.

      Basically, keep an eye out in all the regular places (marketplaces and brokers) and also maybe see if anyone in your network has sites they want to sell. Private transactions (like this case study) can work well if you trust the counterparty.

      You can also try direct outreach, but honestly it’s yielded little results for me so far. I’m still experimenting with this though, so we’ll see what happens.

      • Kamin

        Kamin

        Thanks for your reply! The market in germany is much much smaller than yours (english speaking countries). Therefore it’s much harder to find projects.

        But anyway our way of website valuation seems to be similar except I don’t like monetization by digital products (e.g. ebooks, courses).

        I’m looking forward to read your next article!

        Thanks a lot!

        • Kamin

          Kamin

          I can imagine it would be difficult to find good sites to acquire in languages outside of English. Not sure if there are any specialty brokers that do that.

          I’m actually on the opposite end – I think that ebooks and digital products are probably the best monetization options when you consider A) it’s relatively easy to test/validate an idea and B) logistical simplicity.

          Obviously if you’re comfortable managing physical inventory/etc or you have a software development background, then Ecommerce or SAAS are also very attractive.

          But i definitely prefer digital product creation to monetizing with ads where possible.

        • George Do

          George Do

          Whoops, that comment above was mine – I put your name instead of mine by accident.

  2. Cesar

    Cesar

    This is going to be a very interesting case study indeed! I already subscribed. I’m looking forward to all the updates and learn a lot along the process. I wish you the best with this project and hopefully you can reach that amazing ROI of 535%! 🙂

    • Hayden

      Hayden

      Thanks Cesar!

  3. Prasad Rane

    Prasad Rane

    Thanks for sharing this case study bro….Awesome

  4. Dan

    Dan

    Where did you buy the site from?

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Dan,

      We bought this site (66% of it) from Spencer. This is the authority site project that he was working on previously before he shifted his focus to FBA.

  5. Jim

    Jim

    Hey,
    Hayden/George
    I have signed up for the authority site project, I’m building an authority site myself and i’m looking forward to the case study, maybe it can help with my site.

    I have about 50 pages as of now but have decided to build out to 100 pages or so, it’s been live for about a year, not much success yet. I’m receiving traffic from the major SE’s and I also advertise on the bing/yahoo content network, it takes lot’s of work and focus. Good luck on your project.

    Cheers,
    Jim E. Novak

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Jim.

      Thanks for following along. Authority sites can tough – you put in tons of work and often see very little return, at least for the first 6-12 months. It’s definitely a ton of work.

      That’s one of the reasons why Hayden and I decided to focus our efforts on buying vs building. Taking something that already exists and already works and running with it tends to be more straightforward than creating something totally new.

  6. Bob

    Bob

    That email optin at the bottom is lame.

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Bob,

      Sorry you feel that way. (Although I guess the one at the top is perfectly fine? =p).

      Truth is, we were on the fence about revealing vs not revealing the domain on this one. We thought this was a reasonably good compromise – it makes it so that (mostly) only people who are genuinely interested in the case study will get to see the domain.

  7. Chris

    Chris

    Hey guys, I’m interested to finally see the site. I signed up and went to your post, but the password you sent me didn’t unlock it. Did the password get changed?

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Chris,

      I just tested the PW given and it seems to work fine for me (I used incognito mode). If you still have problems with this, you mind emailing me at george@wiredinvestors.com and I’ll try and fix this for you?

  8. Al

    Al

    The email option option is not working

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Al,

      Which portion of the opt-in doesn’t work for you? I just retested it and it seems to be operational. If you give me a little bit more detail I’ll look into it.

      Thanks!

      George

  9. Louie Luc

    Louie Luc

    Hi guys!

    Incredibly thorough article and planning details you posted here, with every little detail on both case scenarios. You showed you do know what you’re getting into.

    As I told Spencer before (sorry, if it seems I keep repeating myself, but George and Hayden don’t know about it), I’m following Spencer’s Niche Site Project #2 and building a niche site from scratch and documenting all the steps I take publicly on my blog. To see if those tactics, strategies and techniques still apply today.

    I can already tell you that it’ll be an authority site (my dedication and effort in every project nearly forces me to make it like so).

    The point here is: I’ve just learned from your words that it will take me much longer to confirm if it is a ‘hit’ or a ‘miss’. (That’s the first lesson, back then it was way faster.)

    But let’s say it’s a ‘bullseye’ and maybe in the future I would consider selling it, are you guys potentially open into buying authority sites from other people (not just from gurus like Spencer)?

    I.e, will you guys be considering creating some sort service/resource where people can show you their websites to see if you’re interested in doing business?

    Thank you a lot and best of luck!
    I’ll be following along,
    Louie

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Louie,

      Yup, we’re very open to buying sites from people. When your site is up and running and doing well, reach out to me at george@wiredinvestors.com with some basic info and I’ll definitely take a look.

      Thanks,

      George

      • Louie Luc

        Louie Luc

        Wow! I’ll definitely think about it some months from now!
        Thanks for the reply George!

        Good luck,
        Louie

  10. avi

    avi

    HI,

    great i can’t wait for the updates and to follow along.

    George Do or Hayden, i was wondering i have a site that i build but didnt really add any more content i get some traffic here and there io was wondering if your interested in buy it from me. i dont have the time for it. if your interested please get back to me or tell me where to email i can send you all the info any money i get is good. FYI i am also doing amazon and want to build that up 🙂

    Thank You

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Avi,

      You can email me at george@wiredinvestors.com

      Potentially interested, but both Hayden and I tend to be pretty specific in what we’re looking for – just keep that in mind.

      Thanks!

      George

  11. Nigel

    Nigel

    I haven’t commented on here before but have been avidly following Spencer and the Authority Site Project to get some tips. I am soooo glad I can get to see the website; I’ve been chomping at the bit to know what it is. Thanks for this and can’t wait to get your updates on taking it further 😀

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for following along!

  12. Ben

    Ben

    All the best George & Hayden. Appreciate the transparency!

  13. ilyass

    ilyass

    i love the email optin at the bottom

  14. Simon

    Simon

    Nice post, although I don’t agree with the 6-12 months comment you’ve made. The Sandbox isn’t that hard to bypass, plenty of people in the know are launching sites and ranking in a month.

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Simon,

      The 6-12 months thing more or less comes from my first hand experience. That being said, I’m not any kind of SEO wizard so who knows. All I know is that I haven’t been able to consistently beat the sandbox, and the people I know in the space have also been having trouble.

      If you could link me to a few case studies where people are beating the sandbox on a consistent basis, I’d be really interested. Especially if the sites that they’re case studying are A) not local seo focused and B) not churn-and-burn sites.

  15. John

    John

    Just wanted to let you know, the email field for the opt-in form does not seem to render correctly in Safari (8.08) on OS X (Yosemite 10.10.5). It just looks like a button (Sign Me Up) , with nowhere to put your email address. It seems to be some javascript focus problem. Pressing the button does nothing (as no email address has been entered). It might be a bit confusing for some readers, so you may want to consider using a simpler (html only) form to make sure people can sign up. Wishing you guys all the best and thanks for all the great content!

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi John – appreciate the heads up and we’ll look into fixing this. Thanks!

  16. Brian

    Brian

    Looks good. I spent a while looking at sites to buy but was never really good at how to improve their returns.

    What optin plugin on this page does the surveys after optin. Cool

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your interest!

      The Opt-In is using some proprietary stuff that Hayden had built. I’m not sure what his plans are for it exactly. I do think it’s pretty cool though =).

  17. Scott

    Scott

    Hi guys,
    Great to finally learn who you are.Your project sounds like it will be ultra helpful for me and lots of other marketers,Looking forward to the updates and to your success.
    Thanks for sharing and being so open about what you have planned.
    Good luck,Scott

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for your interest! We were actually pretty on the fence about revealing everything vs just describing what we’re doing, but in the end we decided that when we read case studies ourselves, it’s SO much better when all the details are revealed, so we figured we’d be transparent about it even if it does pose a risk to our investment.

  18. Paul

    Paul

    The wired investors site has an ICAN error, it’s been suspended!

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Paul,

      Yup, I’m aware of the issue. Trying to resolve it ASAP, never got the ICANN email and am talking to support now.

      Bad timing, huh. Anyways, sorry for the inconvenience and I’m sure it’ll be fixed soon.

  19. Robert

    Robert

    This is a very interesting move for Both Spencer and Hayden and George.
    I’m looking forward to get your updates.
    Good luck!

  20. Eric

    Eric

    I’ve tried a couple times to add my email to the weekly updates list.

    After entering my email in the form in the post, I answered the survey questions. I haven’t received any welcome email. That was yesterday.

    I thought you’d want to know there might be an issue. Also, I’m eager to follow along.

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Eric,

      You should’ve gotten two emails, one with the subject “And the Domain of the Authority Site Project is…” and one with the subject “Thanks for filling out the Authority Site Overhaul Questionnaire!” I just rechecked the opt-in and it seems to work on my end.

      If you didn’t get either of those, try checking your spam folder? If you still can’t find it, reply me here or email me at george@wiredinvestors.com and I’ll get you sorted by adding you to the list manually.

      Thanks for your interest in the case study and sorry for the technical issues that you’re having.

      Cheers!

      George

  21. Carlo

    Carlo

    Hi Guys,
    thank you for the value you are bringing to the table 🙂

    thanks

    • George Do

      George Do

      Thanks for following along Carlo!

  22. Amin

    Amin

    hey guys!
    very very interesting!
    i’m gonna write about it in my website!

    • George Do

      George Do

      Hi Amin,

      Thanks for the support and we really appreciate any mentions we get about this case study. We just ask that you don’t publicly release the name of the site since we’d like to keep in to people who’re following in the newsletter.

      Cheers

      George

  23. Tessah

    Tessah

    Very interesting case study. I’m looking forward to read more updates.

  24. Victor

    Victor

    I have always thought website flipping is interesting. I once bought an adsense site and I didn’t know what to do with it. I still held on to it till date. Now maybe I can use this case study to get an idea. This is going to be interesting to see how you can take somebody’s project and ramp it up for greater profits.
    Excited and looking forward to this.
    Thanks guys

  25. Robert

    Robert

    Hey Spencer, nice content man. This website is pretty awesome. All your advice and success want me to start my own business. I wish I could steal your brain like right now.

    Well, I do need your brain right now because I have a question. If you are building a niche website and when you plan to earn from Amazon Associate. Does it really matter if the product based keyword you are targeting is low priced? Not really talking about keyword CPC here but product price itself. I mean, will there be any major difference in earning on Amazon if I am targeting for expensive pens or inexpensive pencils. Do you understand what I am saying?

    Because I think, our job is to only make them go on Amazon website from our link. And regardless of what they buy, we will earn commission as they make a purchase.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Robert! If there is not much of a price difference between expensive pens and cheap pencils, then no your earnings might not be that much difference. Adwords CPC is not as important for amazon associates.

      You are correct, that you get a commission regardless of what they buy; however, people will mostly buy similar products for what you refer them, so it can make a difference.

  26. olivia

    olivia

    nice too. giving the authority site still performs well.

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