What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
One of the reasons I love online marketing is that it’s full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something unexpected comes out of left field and changes the game.
This is certainly true of my experiment with a bodybuilding blog. You can read the first half of that story here on the blog, so I won’t cover that in detail again here. But to recap briefly, I started a bodybuilding website using the strategies I learned in the RankXL Authority SEO course.
My SEO outreach for that project led to me picking up an SEO client connected with Arnold Schwarzenegger. That turned out to be a great conversation opener, as well as social proof – so I was able to leverage the connection to win more SEO clients.
So right out of the gate, my little bodybuilding blog was indirectly making me a nice side income from SEO consultancy.
That was great – but monetizing the bodybuilding blog itself proved to be more of a challenge than expected. Traffic wasn’t the issue. Google loves this blog and it outranks heavyweights like Bodybuilding.com for many keywords.
So it seemed like a dead cert for easy monetization. All I had to do was build a list, and drive subscribers to CPA and affiliate offers for supplements. What could possibly go wrong?
As it turned out, almost everything went wrong. The opt-in rate was lower than any of my other blogs, the click through rate from emails was disappointing and the number of sales was (at best) erratic.
I revamped the funnel several times, without making much of an impact on revenue. I tried creating an info product and promoted that instead. I got some sales, but the blog was still underperforming.
My SEO Mistake
But why? After all, bodybuilding is a niche that should be easy to make money in. There is lots of demand and plenty of offers to promote. I decided to dig in and analyze what was going on.
After looking at my rankings carefully, I concluded that I had make a big mistake in my keyword research. I had neglected to consider the importance of searcher intent.
Because I was competing against some heavyweight sites in this niche, I had gone after keywords that were relatively easy to rank for. And in terms of traffic, this strategy worked great.
But most of the keywords I was ranking were informational searches only. The searchers were at the top of the marketing funnel, and not yet ready to buy. So it was inevitable that the conversion rates were disappointing. I realized that if I wanted to monetize the blog properly, I would need to go after phrases with buyer intent (such as ‘best protein powder for weight gain’).
However, ranking for such terms would be much harder, and I was too busy working on other projects to commit the necessary resources. So I switched the site to an ad revenue model, using Ezoic. At least I was able to make consistent revenue this way. This model worked reasonably well, and the site continued to make a passive income every month.
Despite being totally neglected in SEO terms from then on, the site kept on gaining authority in Google, and traffic grew from month to month. Because the site now had good a good DA (Moz Domain Authority) rating, I started getting lots of enquiries about guest posts spots.
I began selling these at $30 a pop, and this turned out to be a surprise second source of income. And as the domain authority grew, the number of guest post sales grew in proportion.
A Buyer Out of the Blue
So at this point, I was moderately happy with the monthly revenue – even though I had not anticipated these revenue streams at all. My plan was to simply let the run as it was and generate a modest monthly income.
Then I got a message via the blog’s contact page, inquiring about buying the site. And that changed everything. The message didn’t inspire much confidence initially:
I’ve had a few similar inquiries in the past, and they have usually turned out to be opportunists hoping to make a low-ball offer and snap up a bargain. So I was wary at first. But we swapped a few emails, and things moved forward. The buyer seemed genuine, and made me an offer of 30 times monthly revenue.
That seemed fair enough on the surface, as that’s a typical multiple for this kind of site. But I thought that if that was his opening offer, there was an opportunity to go higher.
So I sent him screenshots from Google Analytics, showing how traffic and page views were growing organically month by month – even without new content or active link building.
The argument was compelling so I responded with a price that seemed outrageous – about 150X monthly revenue. I expected that to be rejected out of hand, but the buyer was still interested. We ended up agreeing on a price equivalent to 125X monthly revenue.
The deal was handled by Escrow.com and within two weeks, the site was sold and the money safely secured in my bank account.
Why the buyer was prepared to pay such a high multiple remains a mystery. My guess is that he already has a business in the bodybuilding niche, and is looking for additional organic traffic and/or links.
A few years ago, I had a similar experience with another site of mine, GoFreelance.com. Freelancer.com had just received some funding and went on a buying spree, buying up many different sites in the freelance niche.
They offered me a substantial sum, but not enough to make me sell. But sites that they did buy (such as Scriptlance.com) were then simply 301-redirected to Freelancer.com. It seems they just wanted the residual traffic and the extra links.
So my guess is that the buyer has a similar plan – but I have no way of knowing for sure. And who cares! My frustrating bodybuilding blog unexpectedly produced a very nice payday…and I have no complaints about that.
The Blog that Kept on Giving
My bodybuilding blog project ended up generating a healthy six-figure sum when all was said and done. And the money was made in four different ways – none of which had been in my original income model for the blog:
- Ad network revenue
- Paid guest posts
- Generating SEO clients
- Sale of the blog
All of which goes to show that you should expect the unexpected! There are many different ways to monetize a website, and it’s not always easy to foresee what is going to work on any particular project.
But if you produce a quality website with engaging content, then you will find that you can make money one way or another.
A Good Problem
So now I find myself with a problem to solve, but this time it’s a good headache to have. What do I do with this surprise windfall?
I’ve already ‘re-invested’ some of it in a shiny new laptop and a trip to Australia to visit my family. But the rest will go straight back into financing my next online business. I’m already thinking about the next 125X exit…and an even bigger payday!
So this is definitely a case of ‘all’s well that ends well’ – and it all started with a modest investment in the RankXL Authority SEO course. Thanks, Chris!