What I love about Zach's story is that he's been a long time Niche Pursuits reader and had NO affiliate marking or online business experience previous to this.
In fact, Zach is currently full-time employed as a Yacht broker in San Diego. So, if you are in the market for a Yacht, go ahead and give Zach a call.
Long story short is that Zach bought a site for $49k in January of this year. The site was making him a profit of about $3k to $4k a month while he owned it. So, he pocketed an additional $13k before he sold it for $75k in May of this year. That's a cool $40k extra in his pockets from this site flip…not bad!
Zach has some really interesting ways that he was able to grow the site. If you want all the details, I highly recommend that you listen to the full episode!
Spencer: Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits podcast. I’m your host, Spencer Haws from nichepursuits.com. Today, I’ve got another guest with me and this is going to be a good one. I’ve got Zach Zorn from moneynomad.com. He has bought and sold a website to the whole website flipping thing here recently. I want to dive into the success that he had with it, how he did it, and so we’re going to learn together here.
Zach, welcome to the podcast.
Zach: Hey, Spencer. Thank you for having me on. I’ve always enjoyed listening to the podcast. It’s a real pleasure to be joining you today.
Spencer: It’s great to have you on. You actually reached out to me. You’re a reader of Niche Pursuits. You sent me an email, or Facebook message, I don’t remember which first, and just sort of shared that you have recently bought and sold a website and thought maybe it’d be an interesting story. I’m more than happy to have you on. It’s always great to hear from readers.
Zach: Your content actually inspired me to pursue buying a website. You pushed me to do it, so…
Zach: …that’s why I’m here today. Like you said, in late 2016, I kept hearing the word affiliate marketing. I was doing research on what actually affiliate marketing is. I, of course, stumbled upon Empire Flippers which is a brokerage for buying and selling websites. I was on the edge of, “Do I do it? Do I not?” it’s kind of a lot of money to spend on and non-tangible, and then I found your content. I was like, “Okay, well, Spencer was able to do it. I’m going to give this a try.”
In January 1st of 2018, I purchased a website through Empire Flippers that was listed at $60,000. I ended up buying it for $49,000. Four months later, on May 2nd, I sold it for $75,000. I had it listed at $80,000. I think it was a couple of days of negotiation, we finally settled on $75,000. I think that’s kind of the overall what happened. I had no intention of really flipping it when I bought it, but I learned what I needed to learn, and it was a good time to sell. The market was hot, so that’s what I did.
Spencer: That’s, if my math is right, about $26,000 at least difference between where you bought it and sold it, in a period of five months. Along the way, of course, it was making money. About how much money was it making every month?
Zach: It was making $3000-$4000 a month. I think over that 4 ½ months, it did about $13,000. On top of that $26,000, which is not bad in a couple of months.
Spencer: Not bad at all. Pretty close to $40,000 there in income, and yeah, in a very short period of time. Now that we have given the big picture, this is the success that you had buying and selling. I want to backup just a moment. Was this your first online business? Have you been building websites previous to this?
Zach: I had absolutely no experience with building websites. I dabbled in high school with WordPress, but it never really took off. I knew what WordPress was and that was basically the extent of it. I had done some app development. I had a good feeling for technology and just natural with computer, but I was eager to learn. I spend hours reading articles, reading your content, watching YouTube videos, and because I had a burning desire to learn, it made the process so much easier. I was just like a sponge soaking up as much information as I could. I was watching an Ahrefs video, when you called about broken backlink building. Always eager to learn, but the moral is, I had no experience doing this and I was able to make it work by using just general business acumen. Like, “The banner doesn’t look good, let me change that. This isn’t formatted right, let me just make it a better user experience.”
Spencer: I love that. I love hearing that you don’t have a ton of experience building websites, you were able to jump in on your first one, turn it into a success. To also let people know your background a little bit as well, maybe you can just share what you do as a full-time job currently just, so people know that, “Hey, you’re not always in technology. You’re not a website builder.” that sort of thing.
Zach: Absolutely. My full-time or day job, if you want to call it, is a yacht broker. I live in San Diego, California. I specialize in helping people buy and sell sport fishing boats to a company that I’m a professional saltwater fisherman. I spend 150 days a year probably on the ocean, fishing for big fish, next month we leave for Cabo for three weeks. This is something that I would do at night during my spare time, on the weekends. Instead of watching the football game on a weekend, I would work on this, and it was really rewarding.
Spencer: Very cool. I love hearing that overall success. Let’s dive into some of these details here. Why did you go with Empire Flippers? Or maybe even bigger than that, why did you decide to buy a site as opposed to just building one?
Zach: That was a question that I thought about long and hard. In my research, you can build a website and put all these money and time into content, and marketing it, and building up the backlink profile, and it might never catch on. I wanted to start with a structure that was proven, that had already had years of content and years of traffic and that was stable, so that then I could take what I could offer and build upon it rather than starting from scratch and just letting it slowly build traffic. I want to jump right in to something that was already working, making money. Plus, I wanted to learn about how one of these affiliate review websites work and the intricacies and the only way to do that was either to do it myself, which I realized I don’t want to do, or to see what someone else has done and just take it to the next level. That was what I was like, “Okay, I’m going to buy a website.” Then I discovered Empire Flippers and Flippa.
Really quickly, I was able to decide Empire Flippers was way more quality than Flippa. Then I read some reviews and then from your experience also, I was confident that they were a legit business. It was kind of weird wiring money to a business that you’ve never talked to face-to-face, but it was a great experience. I’m really glad that I took the risk and did it. Actually, right after I bought this website, I don’t know what changed, but the […] has gone through the roof. You’ll watch their listings, a lot of them listings are getting sold a couple of hours after they’ve list them on Monday mornings.
Spencer: It’s crazy.
Zach: It’s crazy high and people are getting premium prices right now.
Spencer: They are. There is definitely a strong argument to be made of buying a site over building. I think you make a very valid argument. I’ve done both of course: I’ve built lots of sites, but I've also bought several sites and they both work. A lot of it can come down to if you have the money to invest to buy a site maybe gives you an advantage where you’re able to do that–you’re in the position to do that. Was it 100% cash deal? Did you do any seller financing?
Zach: It was an all-cash deal. I’m 24 right now and I’ve had my first job when I was probably 17. I always said, “I’m saving up money so that when a business opportunity comes, I will be ready.” I never expected it to be a business opportunity like this. I thought someone would come to me with an investment proposal, then I realized, “Well, maybe this was what I’ve been saving up for,” It was an all-cash deal. With my money on the line, I felt like there was one option, that was to succeed. You’re not going to let your investment spoil. You’re going to do what you need to do. You’re going to learn what you need to learn to make sure you will always get your investment back and hopefully, a due return on it.
Spencer: I love it. Just knowing that you’re 24—I didn’t know that—if I was 24 and made $40,000 in half a year, that’s pretty life-changing for somebody, typically, that’s in their early 20s. that’s a lot of money.
Zach: I put some away in investments to buy a house eventually. Another chunk of it I took and purchased Money Nomad which originally, the gentleman started talking about how you can travel and make money by using a computer and internet connection. He was kind of getting tired of the site and having new projects, so I acquired it. I planned to just use it to talk about my journey, and the things that I’ve learned that have worked and haven’t worked, kind of how you were able to inspire me. I hope I can help someone else take a plunge into something they’ve always wanted to do.
Spencer: Right. Let’s jump into this deal a little bit more. Were there any problems during the transfer of the property or was there any sort of issues during negotiations with the seller? Any hiccups along the way?
Zach: It was a pretty easy negotiation. I made sure that Empire Flippers knew that I was all-cash. As soon as I got the go ahead, that my offer was accepted, I’d be going to Wells-Fargo and they relayed this to the seller. As soon as he said, “Accepted.” I went to the bank. That was pretty smooth.
One thing I didn’t know was what an approved AdSense account meant. The website was earning money through Google AdSense, but I didn’t have an approved account. During migration process, I realized that I wasn’t able to show AdSense ads on the website and earn that revenue, which was kind of a problem because now, I’m losing $300 a month from that. But I realized, “Okay, here’s an opportunity. Why don’t I go out and sell a dedicated ad space to manufacturers and to distributors and to other companies and make up for the loss in AdSense revenue?” it was incredible the mill of […] I was able to make and sell banner space, blew away what I was earning from AdSense. When you sell banner space, you can control the ad that you’re serving. With AdSense, you have way less control than if you’re literally placing a banner in WordPress.
Spencer: This is super interesting because this is, sadly, something that I haven’t done really. I mean, I’m trying to think if I actually sold it. It’s possible that I sold one or two but never made it a focus for strategy. Can you share what niche you’re in and how you found the manufacturers to buy a banner ad space?
Zach: Absolutely. The website was in the technology niche. We would review tech products like drones, 3D printers, the action cameras–pretty much anything tech related we would review it. People would find those reviews and within the reviews for affiliate links or mods or upgrades or we will just have links to eBay, to AliExpress, GearBest which is a big tech distributor, Amazon obviously. I would email these companies that I knew were distributors for these products we’re selling, and we’re already affiliates for some of them and be like, “Hey, we’re generating this much sales for you guys, do you want to put a banner on our website and convert even more?” Most of the time, it was a resounding yes. I’d make the price really advantageous–$200 a month, $300, $150, depending on placement. I try to make it a no-brainer and it was just consistent revenue to PayPal every single month.
Spencer: You just set-up a recurring PayPal subscription essentially until they cancel?[Text Wrapping Break]Zach: Absolutely. They were all very good on paying and they all allowed an affiliate link to be placed on the banner ads so if someone clicked on it…
Spencer: Oh, really?
Zach: …it was an affiliate link, so you’d get a commission also.
Spencer: Wow. That’s huge.
Zach: I don’t like, sometimes, the quality of AdSense ads. I think it can take away from the experience. I wouldn’t even be an advocate of having no AdSense ads whatsoever, but because I was able to tell really pretty ads that were intrusive, I think it just helped the overall user experience.
Spencer: Did the manufacturers provide the banner ads for you or is that something that you design on your own?
Zach: In some cases, they would. In lots of cases, I would just give them the dimensions and their graphics team would make one. The smaller guys that didn’t really have a graphics team or weren’t that good, I would put my Photoshop or Canvass skills to work and come up with something simple, clean, but to the point.
Spencer: It sounded like you said that Google AdSense was making about $300 a month before you bought the site. What were these banner ads making at the peak or when you sold the site?
Zach: I was making probably about $500 on banner ads and then I created an idea for our biggest affiliate was GearBest, and I created a sponsored giveaway program where they would pay $600 a month, $500, $700, it varied a little bit, and they would get a pop-up on the website for every user where they sponsoring giveaway. For one week, it was everyone that signed-up would be entered to win a 3D printer. I would click email addresses, in exchange for the $500, $600, the would get all the email addresses, and they would send the product to the winner and I would do a post and email blast promoting the company.
Spencer: Man, my wheels are turning. That’s super smart. It’s a really good idea.
Zach: It was no cost to me. The only thing it took was time. But they got something out of it; they got email addresses and people were signing-up for 3D printers. Everybody in that list probably has an interest in 3D printer. It was a very segmented email addresses, it wasn’t just, “Sign-up for a newsletter,” type of deal. They could very tailor their marketing to that email list.
Spencer: Now, did you get to keep the email addresses as well on your list or did you have to turn those over?
Zach: I told them that I wouldn’t keep them, so I turned those over.
Zach: I think that’s something you can negotiate in the process, but I didn’t want to be too overreaching or needy.
Spencer: Sure. That’s good. About how much was those giveaways? Did you just do those one-off or were they pretty regular?
Zach: I did it for the last two months of the ownership. The first month, I ran one product giveaway for the whole month. That went so well they wanted to do four products the following month, one for each week. One week was a drone, one week was a printer, action camera, and then something else.
Spencer: About how many email addresses were you generating for them on those weekly deals?
Zach: I didn’t think it was that many.
Spencer: Or maybe a month as a whole.
Zach: About 1000 a week.
Zach: I didn’t think that that was many email addresses, but they were excited about it. I don’t know. Is that a lot? I don’t know.
Spencer. Yeah, that’s a good amount per week.
Zach: Is it?
Spencer: That’s really good.
Spencer: Emails can be quite valuable, of course, if it’s targeted which yours would have been. How much did you say there were paying for that?
Zach: About $600 a month. Plus, they also bought a banner ad too, so they had the top header bar taken with the banner ad too. And then they even wanted to buy a side banner ad too. At one point, they had a pop-up and two banner ads on the website.
Spencer: They’re paying $600 for the giveaway and then your additional banner rates for the sidebar and header?
Zach: Exactly. Nearly $1000 a month in ads just from one company.
Spencer: That’s very cool.
Zach: I think you can’t spam your page with ads. I think it’s got to be very, very limited. They pretty much took up all the ad space for a couple of the months.
Spencer: That’s, like I said, it’s got my wheels turning. I did a giveaway on one of my sites. I bought a mom blog that I’ve talked about before. I bought it a few months ago and we just did a giveaway last month. We gave away a KitchenAid mixer and did really well. We got a couple thousand email addresses, but we ran it all ourselves just to get all the emails. We bought the KitchenAid mixer and right now I’m like, “Boy, I should just work with these manufacturers and get all the product for free and they’d maybe will even pay me $500, $600 a month to do it.”
Zach: I mean, how I looked at it was, “Okay, I’m going to pitch this. What’s the worst they’re going to say? No?”
Zach: Right? Or they’re going to come back, “Okay, look, can you do it for $300?” either way, it’s all pure profits. It’s just a couple hours of your time. That’s how I looked at it like, “Okay, they said no? I’ll move on to another idea.” That’s how I did the whole website. I’m really letting the data do the talking and to dictate the changes of whether they worked or not, and so I would just try something to see if it works. “No? Okay, try something else.” But I think what’s really important—and I think you’ve preached about it before—is starting your email list early and start collecting those email addresses because they are very valuable, like you said.
Zach: If anyone’s starting and hasn’t done any email collection, I would set something up in a non-spammy and intrusive, to start building your email list.
Spencer: Yup. Absolutely. I look back at my online businesses, and if not the most valuable asset, but definitely one of the most valuable is my email list. Just being able to have those people no matter what happens to Google or social media, you’ve always got these people on the email list that you can communicate with and bring it back to your website or sell them products. It really is super valuable. Any other interesting monetization strategies that you use?
Zach: I worked with a programmer because I don’t have much programming experience. I can read code and understand what’s going on, but it’s not my forte. Later, I found that there’s plugins to do this, but I would have the side banner changed depending on the content that the viewer was reading. If they’re reading an article about a drone, the side banner ad would be something related to drone. If it was action cameras, it’d be related to action cameras.
Zach: I don’t have a percentage increase, but I saw the ads converting more because they were being tailored to the content the person was interested in.
Spencer: Yeah, that’s cool.
Zach: They’re not super complex ideas, but it’s just executing them and it’s really basic business marketing, I would say. I got really into trying out and using AdWords. I would find my top-earning articles—I bet everyone knows which articles makes their website the most money and somehow it’s just a handful like two, three, four—and I would build AdWords campaigns for those articles, and in my case they were reviews, and I saw 59% increase in revenue by using AdWords to promote those top articles.
Spencer: Were your campaigns actually profitable?
Zach: They were. For example, affiliate sales for one week without AdWords was $1200, with AdWords the following week was $20,000.
Spencer: What was your ad spend?
Zach: I made 59% on it.
Spencer: Okay. Your profit margin was 59%?
Zach: That’s correct. Yes.
Spencer: Okay. Wow. Just spend more money, right?
Zach: Yeah. I didn’t have enough time to keep throwing money into it. I was only doing $20 a day, I believe. Maybe up to $40, but I was tracking. I would try to find in a month where there was no holidays, nothing to skew it, and I would try no ads for week, ads for week, no ads for week, and compare the results. That’s what I came up with–that 59%.
Spencer: That’s huge. I’ve spoken with another individual that’s done quite well with Google AdWords to affiliate pages to review articles like you mentioned, again, it’s one of those things that’s super interesting to me that I haven’t dialed in yet, I’ve just been focused on pure SEO and other strategies, but I would love to do that. That’s really cool that you experimented with that and it worked out.
Zach: It goes back to just trying a bunch of different things. When you own your own website or business, it forces you to learn new products and new technologies which I like. I learned Pinterest, I learned AdWords, AdSense, all of these different tools, you’re forced to learn them. It kind of excites me, like I said, I’m always wanting to learn more and more.
Spencer: What other strategies overall worked well for increasing traffic? Was there any specific SEO tips or just anything else that increased traffic for you? Or did the traffic increase at all, I guess I should ask.
Zach: It actually didn’t.
Zach: I didn’t focus on increasing traffic. I focused on, I guess, increasing revenue and a better user experience. Traffic might have actually decreased a little bit because in technology–technology is moving so fast that you got to stay up with reviews because a product that was popular last year is no longer popular. It’s a constant uphill battle to stay on top of the newest products and trends which was one reason why I sold the website was being that you really, really had to stay up on the content.
Traffic kind of stayed the same or maybe decreased a little bit, but just some other things that I did was, the old owner had some of the links. When you click a link, it wouldn’t open to a new tab, it would just take you off the website. That affects your bounce rate and things like that. I wanted to keep people on the website, so I went through him, made all the links open on new tabs. I also found all the affiliate links that redirected to dead product pages and switched those out to products that actually existed. It was a tedious process, but it definitely helped. It probably took a day or two just sitting there, checking thousands of links, I would say. There’s tools to help you to see what’s a 404 and things like that, but still going through and checking all the links was really important.
Spencer: I think that’s huge, for sure. It’s really fascinating that you just focused on monetization, improving the user experience, and taking full advantage of the visitors that were already coming to the website. I think, of course, that’s similar to what I do when I buy a site. It’s first sort of, “Plug the holes. Where’s the bucket leaking? Let’s plug the holes.” and then next after that is, “Okay, how do we increase traffic and make more money?” that sort of thing. But you just churned around and sold the site at that point.[Text Wrapping Break]I know you briefly mentioned the market was hot but was there a specific reason you decided to just, “I’m going to sell now.” What made you make that decision?
Zach: My real job was becoming even more busy and so I was having less time to put into this website and then it was back to, “Okay, if I have less time to take all the reviews, I got to stay up on it. Well, now, I have less time. Now, the site might really start dropping in traffic.” I don’t want my investment to start going bad. I was like, “Let me free up a little bit of my time here, sell it, catch my breath, and maybe do this again or see what are the opportunities arise.”[Text Wrapping Break]I spoke to Empire Flippers and they’re like, “Hey, this is a great time to sell.” The site had three offers within the first day and we agreed on a price the second day after listing it.
Spencer: That is so cool. I love it.
Zach: The trend that I’m seeing—maybe you can agree or disagree with this—but if you’re selling a site between $15,000 and $70,000, there’s a very good chance it’s going to be sold within day one or two, if you’re not using a PBN and if it’s a pretty legit website.
Spencer: Yup, I agree. Those sites are going really fast.
Zach: Oftentimes, for full price too.
Spencer: Yup. It’s a fascinating time because more and more people that sort of haven’t been in this space are wanting alternative investments or they just want different opportunities. More and more people are learning about the fact that, “Hey, you could buy or invest in a website as an alternative in investing in stocks or whatever people may have done previously.” More and more money are just pouring into this market and so if you have a site to sell, it probably is going to go pretty quick especially if it’s under that $100,000 range that you mentioned.
Zach: I’m only looking at the under $100,000, I don’t really look at anything over that, so maybe they’ll sell quick too, but I only know because I’m staying under the $100,000 when I’m looking. But it was actually a private equity company that purchased my site and they have a huge portfolio of websites that they manage. They have a fund that you can invest in and instead of managing stocks and bonds, they manage websites. Like you said, it’s an alternative to typical investing. I’m calling it—I don’t know if the phrase has been coined yet—but like e-real estate. I would say only websites can invest in e-real estate.
Zach: For those of us that can’t afford property in Southern California and things like that, this is kind of the second best, we’re investing in online property.
Spencer: Exactly. Anything else that happened with the deal in terms of how you improved it or just anything else that maybe we missed?
Zach: Let me see. I took a couple of notes. I had a deal in coupon page because a lot of affiliates would offer deals and sales on these tech products and that page was—I figured that if someone was going to that page, they’re very, very close to purchasing. If I could basically be the one to help convert the sale, then that would be great. I made a really good-looking deals with coupons page with clear call-to-action, concise texts, and discount codes worth 10% off, 15% off.
The struggle was that these discounts change rapidly that keeping the page updated took a lot of time. But I think worth it. I installed a heat map on the website which killed my performance for a couple of days, but I was able to see where people were clicking and things like that, it gave me a really good insight. Using Google Analytics, I saw that people were really going with the deals and coupons page, because who doesn’t want a discount on something?
Spencer: Exactly. Yup.
Zach: I was able to just I think convert that final step, pushing them like, “Okay, I’m ready to buy now. I get 30% off.”Spencer: Yup. I think that’s another good tip.
Zach: Like I said, clear call-to-action buttons through your entire content not just on a deals page. Make it easy for someone to learn more about your product or whatever it is, just don’t make someone have to find more information if they want to find it. Does that make sense?
Spencer: It does. That makes a lot of sense. You’re able to have a successful flip and then you decided to buy another website, was it just shortly after selling on Empire Flippers, you decided to buy Money Nomad?
Zach: It was actually, the sale wasn’t fully completed yet. We were still in the migration process. Empire Flippers’ migration process takes multiple weeks. We were still in that when I bought Money Nomad and that was a private party sale, that wasn’t through a brokerage. If you’ve never used escrow.com, I used escrow to hold the funds while we were migrating the site, so me and the seller migrated it together. Escrow.com, they’re so easy to work with that I’d definitely recommend them if you need to keep your money safe and not go through an actual website brokerage. Pretty much right when that migration ended-up Money Nomad, the sale closed on the other website. Perfect timing.
Then I kind of let Money Nomad sit for the last four months without doing anything which is kind of a mistake on my part just because my day job was so busy. But now I’m fired up, I’m hitting it hard, and I’m looking forward to seeing what it will become.
Spencer: Is Money Nomad making any money when you bought it?
Zach: It was doing about $1000 a month.
Zach: We’ve lost a little bit of traffic with it, but I did not buy it with a flip in mind. I think it’s going to be a long-term play. It has a really outstanding bank link profile. I already arranged for a lot of keywords, so I want it to be a long-term investment rather than build up and flip type of deal.
Spencer: Right. I can see it’s got your picture on there. You’re really developing out your own branding. This is sort of going to be your focus, your website, that can take time but can be well worth it.
Zach: This week it’s getting a whole new theme and a whole new redesign. We’re going to bring it up to 2018 standards.
Spencer: There you go. Maybe by the time people listen to this podcast, and they’ll go check it out, they’ll see the new look.
Spencer: It’s been great. I think we’ve covered everything on that deal. I think kit’s super interesting. Hopefully, it’s been inspiring for people to hear Zach’s story of how he bought a site on Empire Flippers, four and a half, five months later he sold the site for a nice profit. There’s lots of deals out there. It can totally be done.
Any final parting words from you, Zach, either in terms of just anything that worked on this deal or just other motivational tips for anybody listening right now?
Zach: Yes. If you have been looking at buying a business, especially through Empire Flippers—I missed out on two other listings prior to the one that I purchased—have your criteria, write it down, know that your sites, the ones these listings come up, that they meet your criteria. If they don’t, then okay, great, you wait until the following week for new listing. But if that site meets all of your criteria, move quick. Set your alarm, I think the listings come out at 7:00 AM on Monday mornings, set your alarm. If it’s the right one, you’ve got to buy it right then and there because if you have hesitate, 30 minutes, it’s probably going to be sold. That would be one tip. I was pretty bummed. It worked out for the better that I missed out on those other two, looking back. But at the time, I was pretty bummed, just that they went so fast.
Secondly, just go for it. No one is going to care if you fail because there’s a lot of people that are trying anything. Be adventurous and put some of your hard-earned money, put it up–it’s an investment. Enjoy the process, enjoy learning, enjoy finding things that don’t work, […] things that do work, it makes it so much more rewarding. You can sit back like, “Hey, I found that XY and Z worked and look at what it did for me, I’m making extra $1000 a month because of it.”
Spencer: I think those are great tips, great motivational words. If anybody wants to follow along with Zach, they can go to moneynomad.com. Any other place you’d like to send people or is that the best spot?
Zach: Just keep reading Spencer’s content. Like I said, he was the reason that I’m even here today.
Spencer: Thank you.
Zach: Your content is great so keep it up.
Spencer: Thank you. Appreciate that. Yup, people can follow along at nichepursuits.com. Thank you, Zach so much. Appreciate having you on the podcast.
Zach: Thank you very much for the opportunity. I appreciate it.
Spencer: Thank you everybody for listening.