Podcast 144: Warren Buffet Evolution: The True Costs to Build a Blog (Niche Site Project 4 Expenses)
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When Warren Buffet was a young investor he employed one particular strategy that worked really well; however, over time his investment strategies evolved as opportunities changed.
My niche site strategies have evolved from very low investment per site to greater costs per site.
Listen in to hear exactly how much I've spent building my Niche Site Project 4 site and what the potential returns are on that investment.
In this episode, you will hear my explanation of the exact costs associated with building my Niche Site Project 4 site as documented here.
Read the Full Podcast Transcript
I recently finished reading a book about Warren Buffett's life called The Snowball by Alice Schroeder. In fact, I’m holding that book right now, and as you might be able to hear, as I open and close that, it’s really thick. It’s over 850 pages long, it was quite a task to get through, but I’m glad I did. I think there’s some valuable lessons there.
Most of us already knew the Warren Buffett is one of the richest men in the world and he made his money through investing. However, what you may not be aware of is the strategies he used to make most of his money initially and how that has changed over time. When he initially got started investing, he was looking for what the book describes as ‘cigar butt companies.’ These are basically companies that, from the looks of it, are pretty worthless but if you examine closely, might have one or two more good puffs in them.
Using the techniques he learned from Benjamin Graham, his college professor at Columbia University, he would look for companies that had a higher book value then stock price value. The book value is the total value of all the assets of the company, so if the company was liquidated, the monetary value would be worth more than the stock trading price.
This still blows my mind that these types of opportunities were available back in the day. These types of trades are long gone. These types of deals are no longer around because we have better information and it’s more widely accessible by everyone.
Warren would buy up as much stock as possible of these companies when he would find a deal and sometimes was happy if the company even failed, because then the assets would be liquidated and the shareholders would get more money than they paid for the stock. It’s crazy. In addition, Warren was trading lots of private companies. He couldn’t just call up a stockbroker and say, “I want 1000 shares of XYZ company.” He would look up who all the shareholders were and then he would either call them on the phone or literally drive to their house and ask if they wanted to sell their stock. They would then physically hand over the stock certificate and he would give them money.
He made so much money doing these types of trades that he planned on retiring in his early thirties. He very well could have; he had plenty of money. However, we all know that he kept investing but his strategies changed. These cheap companies with a high book value were less and less available. He started looking more and more for good, fundamental companies that he believed would grow over time. He was still a value investor, always looking for the best deal, but he also wanted good companies to invest in, which was not always the case when initially made most of his money early on.
So, what does any of this have to do with building websites and SEO? Stick around and let’s chat about it. When I first got started building websites, I was looking for a quick deal. Much like Warren Buffett with his cigar butt strategy, I wanted to build a super small website, using exact match domains that might only rank for couple of keywords, and would make a couple of bucks a month. I could build it super cheap and if it only made a couple of dollars a month, it was profitable for me.
It turns out this was a great strategy for me from in the early days. It’s sort of like investing in stocks with a high book value was a great strategy for Warren Buffett and his early days. I was able to quit my job back in 2011 thanks to the strategy and my sites were making ,000 a month.
However, times of changed. Those exact match domains and super small-type niche websites no longer perform in Google. The time has come where you need to be looking for sites that truly have growth opportunity and fundamentally are a good business. A quick arbitrage or lower quality website is no longer a strategy that works. I’m far from as smart as Warren Buffett, but if it’s okay for him but change strategies, then it’s okay for me, too.
I now build and invest in high quality niche websites that have the potential to grow well beyond the few hundred dollars a month. Today, I want to dive into the type of investments that I’m making in the Niche Site Project 4 site and give you an exact breakdown of all of my expenses. The site is growing quickly but what are the true cost?
As you may know, as I shared in my last podcast, the Niche Site Project 4 site is growing rapidly. In fact, April 2019 which is the month that it is right now, it is really close to about $350 in earnings. There’s still another week to go and I may break the $400 mark that I mentioned last time I didn’t think I would do. It may even get to the $500 mark this month in earnings, which is really great. I’m excited about that and the best part is that the growth trend is going up quickly. Traffic is increasing. In fact, I have my highest traffic day ever yesterday and I expected that by the end of next week, hopefully I have another highest traffic day.
It’s great to hear about, “Here’s the income, here’s the growth,” but what’s the investment? So, I want to be very upfront. This is one of the most common questions that I get is how much are you spending on your niche website? I’m going to break it down for you. If you go to my blog, I have the profit and loss statement broken out by month. Maybe I’ll just give you the total number that I’ve invested since September of 2018. It’s about 7½ months almost to 8 months of investment. I’ve invested $14,659.85. Down to the penny I’ve got it for you. So almost $15,000.
Some people might think I’m crazy. “Why would you invest so much money? You’re only making a few hundred dollars a month of this point. Is that really worth it?” On the other hand, maybe my plan is genius and I want to dive into that.
First, let’s break down where am I spending all of my money. Just to give you a rough estimate, I’m going to just take the last month, March of 2019. Hosting it is in there. That’s only roughly $10 a month. Content writers and editor, that ranges between $800 to $1500 a month. I spent $1200 in March of 2019. That’s going to be the bulk of my monthly expenses. Then outreach and link building, I spent about $500 last month.
Pinterest management, I have a company that manages my Tailwind for me. They schedule all of my pins. I actually have a Pinterest VA that creates all of the pins for me. Once the blog post is posted, I assign a job in Asana and then that Pinterest VA goes out, creates in Canva a couple of pins related to that blog post, then uploads them with the hashtags, the description, and then the link on Pinterest.
Once that’s uploaded, the Pinterest management company, which is a separate company, then goes in and pins that to the most relevant board. They schedule that in Tailwind and then they’re also active in Tailwind Tribes to try and grow my followers on Pinterest and to share pins to get more traffic that way. I spend about $250 a month on that Pinterest management company. My VA that varies depending on how many blog posts each month, but it’s in a roughly $50–$100 a month there.
I also spend money on Shutterstock; I have a subscription there. shutterstock.com is stock images. I use it on all of my blog post. I spend $99 a month there, actually share the cost with other websites but I’m putting $99 in the P&L here. Tailwind is $10, OptinMonster $9 to collect email addresses. Email automation through ConvertKit, I put $10 here because I have a ConvertKit account that I share across lots of websites. You can use something cheaper, get something for about $10 a month if you use MailChimp or something else.
If I were to give a rough estimate here, I am spending between $1000–$1500 a month, maybe closer to almost $2000 a month. So, somewhere in that range, $1500–$2000 a month is the average amount I’m spending on this website. Now, that’s a lot to invest. This is something that I’ve outsourced almost 100% at this point.
I personally only spend maybe an hour a week on my website. Other people are doing everything. I just set up the processes, the systems once I found the keywords, and plug it into my spreadsheet that I have. The rest is running on its own and that’s costing me $1500–$2000 a month.
Right now, I’m losing money. I’m only going to make maybe $500 a month if I have a really good month this month and I’m spending almost $2000. Right now, it’s sounds a little crazy, perhaps, but I know that this particular site, this niche and just websites in general, have a ton of growth potential.
Just to give you a little bit more detail on what I’m spending, again, most of the spending is coming from content writers and editors. I may actually take over editing on the website. I’ve got my writers trained so well that they format everything for me, they insert all the affiliate links for me. The editor really doesn’t need to do a whole lot, so I may go ahead and take that over, basically just quickly browse the article, make sure there’s no glaring mistakes and hit publish. So, I’ll eliminate a little bit of cost on my editor there.
The average cost per article right now has come out to be about $80. I found a couple of young, US-based writers that do great work for about $10–$15 an hour. I found them on Upwork. Some of the articles that have been written, that are much longer from doing 3000- or 4000-word article, could be $150 or even $200. But lots of the other articles that I’m doing are shorter, 1500- or more-word articles that are maybe more image-heavy, that might only take somebody three hours, and that could only be $30–$45 if I’m paying them $10–$15 an hour. You can see that the average is about $80 per article that I’m doing, just so you’re aware.
Outreach and link-building is going to vary quite a bit. So far, I’ve spent almost $2000. That’s been between the HOTH and authority builders. I can, in a future podcast, share the results of that, but right now I’m seeing positive results from both of those.
So, is this of investment really worth it? To judge whether or not it’s a good investment comes down to basically two things: how much do I think I can get the monthly revenue to and how much do I think I can sell the site for. Obviously, I’m hoping that over time, the site will reach a level where it’s making $5000, $10,000, or more each month. Now, I interviewed people here on this Niche Pursuits podcast that are making $20,000. That was Jake Cain that I did a few months ago. Will Blears was making $40,000 dollars a month from his site. I’ve interviewed others as well that are in there and interviewed somebody else making over $100,000 a month from their site.
The ceiling is pretty high with these types of blogs, these types of niche sites. If we do some math, a whitehat blog or a content site really is a pretty hot commodity right now in the marketplace. These types of sites are really easy to run and buyers and investors love them, especially the types of sites that are very hands-off like like mine, that are completely outsourced.
A 3X annual multiple is not out of the question if I were looking to sell this website. Just to play it safe for our calculations, let’s go with the 34X monthly multiple, which is closer than 2.8 annual, I believe. If the site has a net income of $500, it could sell for $17,000. $500 x 34 is $17,000. You can quickly do some math. If the site was making $1000 a month, it would be worth $34,000. It could sell for that much. If it was making $2000 a month, $68,000. $5000 a month, it could sell for $170,000. If it was making $10,000 a month, it could sell for $340,000. If we go on up from there, if it’s netting $40,000 a month, it could be a site worth $1.36 million. $50,000 a month, $1.7 million.
So, am I crazy for investing so much money in a niche site? If the site never makes more than $1000 a month, I might be crazy. But if the site even gets to $2000 a month, I could have a nice return on my hands. If the site gets to $3000, $5000, or $15,000 a month, then my plan might be considered genius, right? Investing $2000 a month is a lot of money, but if it gets to that level that I’m hoping it gets to, it could be a really great investment.
Now, I don’t think that everyone needs to invest this much to build a successful website. There’s a sliding scale that’s based on how much are you willing to invest versus how much time do you have, how much time were you able to put into your site. I wanted to have very little time invested, so I’m required to spend a lot more money.
But if you have a lot more time on your hands or conversely if you just don’t have a lot of money to invest, you can get started for as little as $5 a month, a WordPress blog on cheap hosting, and you can do all the work yourself. You don’t need to be out hiring writers if you write all the content yourself. You don’t need to be hiring people to do outreach and link-building for you if you do all of that yourself. So, you don’t have to spend $2000 a month to have a successful website, but you would be required to spend a lot more time and put a lot more hustle into it.
A lot of people are doing this and have very successful websites. I just happen to have lots and lots of projects. I am building out a new software product. I have nichepursuits.com that takes a lot of time. I have a couple of other niche websites that I’m working on and trying to grow. There’s just a sliding scale there and I’ve chosen to invest money rather than time.
So, the cost really depend on those factors that I’ve mentioned, as well as how much money are you willing to invest, and how much time and desire do you have to work on your website. In addition, how big do you expect your site to grow and how long are you willing to wait before you want a return on your money. I’m willing to wait a year, or two years, or even more before I need to get my money back. I want to see high growth and I want to see a high return over that period of time. I’m willing to wait to get that high return.
Overall, we may not all be at Warren Buffett’s level, making billions of dollars, but hopefully there’s some lessons we can learn from Warren Buffett. First of all, it’s okay to change strategies. Early on, he made lots of money on one particular strategy, looking at the book value of companies. Now, he’s more of a value investor looking for companies, I should say, that have good fundamental businesses, that are able to be stable with just a little bit of growth.
Over time, I’ve been willing to look at my website strategy and have gone from building hundreds of really teeny niche websites the ranked quickly, and are super cheap and easy to build, that are kind of a turn and burn-style site. That worked well back in the day. But now I’ve moved to what I hope is a higher-value, longer-term investment. I’m willing to invest bigger dollar amounts, longer amount of time into each individual website, because I believe that my return is going to be much higher. And also because those small, quick, cheap niche website opportunities just really aren’t there any more today.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed this podcast as I explained how much money I’m spending and investing in my niche website. If you do enjoy this podcast, I have two favors to ask. One, please go over and leave a rating or a review on iTunes. That helps me know that you’re listening and that you’re enjoying the podcast, and also helps more people discover that. And then two, if you could go to nichepursuits.com and subscribe to my email list. If you’re not already on my email list, please go over and do that. I keep you up-to-date. Most of my announcements and things that are going on are shared through my email list. If you want to know the things that are going on, the lessons I’m learning, the most recent blog posts, et cetera, please go ahead and join my email list. Overall, thank you very much for listening to the the Niche Pursuits Podcast.
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Great podcast. After 3 years, I’m still stuck at about page 300. It’s an 800 page book that could have been done in 200 🙂
Keep up the podcast – with so much focus on ecommerce nowadays niche pursuits is a refreshing change on content based sites.
Hey Dave, thanks for stopping by again…we should catch up! What I didn’t share on the podcast is that I initially started this book almost 3 years ago, then started back up more recently. I agree, there’s alot of fluff. Hope things keep going well with you and Mike over at eCom crew!
Great episode. The details you share are helpful. One thing I’m curious about relates to article creation. You mention using writers on Upwork. But do you do the research before you brief the writers? If so how much detail do you go into? Or are the writers knowledgeable in the niche? Any insights on this would be great.
I’m just getting started on a site. I’m finding research the most time consuming part.
I specifically ask for beginning writers/new to upwork many times. New to upwork (not new to writing usually) means they are more ambitious to do a good job and might be willing to work for less. I do almost no background check. I send 1 or maybe 2 messages just asking if they understand the job. Then I hire and give them a couple articles to write. If they do a good job I keep them, if they do back, I fire them.
Makes sense. Thanks Spencer!
This is nice post for true costs to build a blog and having right article to see you here. Thanks a lot for sharing with us.