Okay. I need to know how you got to your level of knowledge. And what I mean is when we had the opportunity to work with you briefly we saw behind the scenes of how you do your keyword research and your content planning and the long-term strategy for the site. So we talked about picking a niche and monetizing through Amazon.
I’m just curious since it really did blow our minds, Morgan and I both, my partner at Jolly. We were like how does this guy – I mean you introduced us to so many tools.
Did this all come through trial and error or I mean were you – you said you rubbed shoulders a little bit. Did you engage in mentorships?
I mean I’ll give credit where credit’s due. So really again the whole path here funny enough, this is like more backstory on my life, but I had a podcast for my bow tie site which I don’t understand what I was thinking when I did it.
I was like that makes sense, podcast for a bow tie site. I ended up interviewing somebody who introduced me to my first SEO tool I ever got introduce to was called SEMrush, right.
It’s obviously a very popular tool. But it was the first time I ever got introduced to an SEO tool. That like opened up Pandora’s box for me. Again, as an accountant, I’m very data oriented. I love the numbers.
So I like went down this rabbit hole, and then eventually I stumbled across a company called Authority Hacker run by Gael and Mark.
Those guys run a really tight ship and really train and like sort of really do great fundamentals in terms of training on an affiliate model. And I sort of soaked up everything they were teaching, and then that just was enough to get me going and then start learning on my own, right.
Again, they’re like a really great entry level education provider for affiliate marketing, and then once you sort of know the basics, you can then start seeing what other people are doing. I would say the best teacher that I’ve ever had was just literally googling the internet, like best anything.
You’re going to see affiliate websites on Google. So like –
– best credit cards, best baby walkers, best accounting software. Like you’re going to see other affiliates playing the game.
The great thing about internet marketing is that it’s very much out in the open, and you just like click on links and see what people are doing. Are they monetizing? Are there like interstitials? Is there like a thank you page?
Is there an email capture that redirects to a thank you page with an offer? Like there’s so many – all the strategies out there you just got to like go check it out.
But again, you need the fundamentals. You need to understand like the basics first that when you do all those exercises it comes together. I would say googling a lot helped me learn.
Well I think even that hack is really useful because in a lot of affiliate communities nobody wants to mention the website. Rightfully so they’re afraid of competitors poaching. But that’s a really simple workaround. You’re trying to rank for something. Google what you’re trying to rank for, and as people say, reverse engineer.
I like that a lot. And if we don’t want to through any sites into anyone’s sites, we don’t have to do this. But are there any particular sites that you have looked at and analyzed to try to recreate their success or are there any communities you follow today even to pick up on new techniques and – that you can apply?
Well definitely follow Authority Hacker. They have their own community of folks. They have a program Authority Hacker Pro. I’m not trying to plug them, but they have a really great –
No, no, no.
– community they built. So I would definitely look into that. As far as like sites that I’ve like seen as like a tangible example, I’m trying to think of one off the top of my head.
I would say that one that comes to mind – I mean the one that I really like – I mean topten.com. So topten.com is an affiliate site that’s run by a computer called Natural Intelligence.
They are a performance marketing agency that specializes in affiliate. I think they really specialize in paid marketing, but they all specialize in affiliate. And they’re all over organic, right, with that site Top Ten.
They’re one. Another one to look into is called the Clear Link. Red Ventures is another one. These are companies that specialize in affiliate, and they have their websites around the internet. You can literally go redventures.com and like see their websites.
And you know the ones that they’re in are where the money is, right, because otherwise they wouldn’t be there, right?
Just massive portfolio companies, right?
Yeah, yeah. They’re massive portfolio companies, but they specialize in affiliate, right, so that’s really important. So I think it would really open your eyes as an affiliate site. People listening to this if they’re affiliate, people that want to get in the affiliate game, like go see sites that are like really doing like six, seven figures per month in some cases, and what those sites look like, how they’re monetizing. I will say that depending on the size of the site, the deal structure that these sites have with the actual brands –
– that they’re promoting are so unique sometimes that you will not understand how they’re making money. I’ll give you an example.
A lot of affiliate, big affiliates are so closely tied with their brands that they have a CPC deal, which is like unheard of for most affiliates, where they get paid on a click, right. So when somebody clicks a link in your site, say you’re like bestshoes.com, obviously that’s a totally fake site, but bestshoes.com, say you’re really partnered up with Nike.
They’re buddy-buddy. And you’ve arranged a deal where every time somebody clicks a link on your site it sends them to Nike’s store or a product page you make a dollar, right. Those types of deals are popping up and are getting more and more popular especially because cookieless internet is coming, right, with privacy concern. So it’s really hard for providers like Nike to say, hey, let’s do a cost per sale deal where I will pay you when I make money on a sale.
Now that requires a cookie to be placed on somebody’s browser for 30 days and usually 30, 60, 90 days that if they don’t buy when I initially send them and they buy like 60 days later that cookie still has to be placed. And because we’re moving into this world where there’s less cookies in the internet, those situations are becoming harder and harder for like big publishers to deal with because they’re not making money.
So they’re like, hey, can we get more created? Let’s do CPC and they just – it gets really, really crazy really fast. So I mean I kind of went down a rabbit hole there but it’s just really – I get – I nerd out on this stuff. I don’t know.
No, it’s awesome. That makes a lot of sense, and I had been reading just surface level about cookieless and a lot of people in SEO talk about click lists, zero click searches, things like that.
So it is something to be thoughtful about moving forward. That makes a lot of sense, and I’m not surprised that you are already thinking about that.
But yeah, I guess the broader point is don’t assume that everyone has the same deal structure as you would with Amazon, right. It’s not all 1 percent, 3 percent all based on sales.
Yeah. Really the point I’m trying to make is that you may be like wow there’s like three brands listed on this person’s website that they’re promoting, like again best accounting software, right.
They got Xero, they got FreshBooks, and they got like, I don’t know, some random accounting software Sage. I don’t know. And all those links go to the websites, but there’s no tracking, there’s no like tags. How are they making money here?
Well there is – they’re making money but you don’t know. So like certain things are becoming more hard – more difficult to sort of uncover making like this strategy of just googling the internet and seeing how people are making money more challenging. You can still do it. And cookieless internet is probably not coming anytime soon, but we’re moving in that direction.
Yeah, yeah. Interesting. We’re going to right into right after this the whole monetization aspect and the dollars. But I wanted to ask a real quick like ops question. In your experience scaling websites, what are the most crucial team members that you’ve relied on?
Obviously, I think writers, but I’m coming from a writer-centric service business. I know you got words on affiliate websites, but maybe they aren’t the most critical team member. I’m not sure.
Well I mean it all comes down – I would say – there’s a lot of critical team members. I would say the most critical team member for an affiliate site is probably the SEO.
Like you need to have really strong keyword research or nothing you create matters. Like you can have as many pages as you want, but if they’re not generating revenue, then it doesn’t matter.
So you definitely need a good, solid – you really need a strong SEO to be able to look at keywords and be like those keywords are the ones that matter.
Let’s go after them. So I would say probably SEO is probably the number one most important person on your team. And the second most important person is probably – this is a tough one- I would say it’s probably like a tie between like the link builder or almost like a project – I mean, yeah.
I would say link building is definitely number two because like you could still probably get away with crappy writers and crappy editors, not for long and not long term either. But yeah, I mean if it was just me – I mean realistically speaking it was me and writers in the beginning.
So I mean you could argue, hey, a good strong SEO with a decent writer you got a working formula. So I would say probably both of those with the link builder somewhere in there.
Tough call. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Interesting. Thanks for that. Okay. Let’s fast-forward. Let’s say you’ve done all the work, and we’ll get to it.
And by the way, I just wanted to point out your background of be persistent, among other cool things like Sonic.
But obviously this game is not for the faint of heart, right. You’ve got to hang in there. We ourselves lost heart with you, and we’re like oh I don’t know if it can be done.
So I just appreciate that as your motto. And let’s say you have stuck it out. You’ve really grinded, and maybe you’ve reached the point where you don’t have to grind. It’s actually gaining traction on its own. Why would anyone sell a profitable website at that point?
You’ve reduced the workload. You’ve got cash flow. What’s the motive?
Yeah. That’s a great question. It’s one I get a lot. Like why would you ever sell? I mean at the end of the day it comes to risk diversification.
And just like a stock, right, if you’re trying to manage a portfolio and you have – say you have Tesla, right. Say you bought Tesla five years ago, and you bought like 100 shares of Tesla and you bought like – 100 shares of Tesla, 100 shares of Nike, 100 shares of – I don’t know – Wachovia – they’re gone now – Wells Fargo, 100 shares of Coca-Cola, right.
And you’re like all right. I got my nice portfolio, and I’m going to hang onto these stocks and it’s going to be great. They’re going to grow, and they’re going to do whatever.
Now what happens is Tesla-like goes gangbusters, and they’re like worth seven times as much as when you bought them. They now comprise like 95 percent of your portfolio.
So you’re like hmm I have a problem here because a lot of the value that I created for myself I created a lot of value for myself but now it’s like pretty much locked up into one asset. It’s not a good posture to have from a risk perspective because you just – great, it could go up higher and that’s great, but you are in this position where you’re like, all right, can I now take this asset, diversify it and then invest it – bring it back to – basically rebalancing, right.
That’s what it is. And that’s essentially my perspective when it comes to selling affiliate sites. Like once an affiliate site has gotten to such a level where it comprises a good junk of your portfolio from a value perspective and you want to rebalance, you sell it, right. And then you invest in additional sites if that’s your goal.
Personally, I’m selling because I’m trying to wind down my portfolio just to focus on one project versus like 12. Even with a really strong team, it still takes up bandwidth, mental bandwidth to work on these things.
So I would say if you are in the game to build a portfolio of affiliate sites, my perspective is grow one to the point where it’s obviously making a lot of money but also it can’t be grown easily anymore and the additional resources to take it to the next level are such that it’s worth to just sell and reinvest into other sites, and then diversify your risk, increase your overall capital or your overall portfolio worth. That’s generally my perspective.
That makes a ton of sense even from a service business perspective. At Jolly we had people reach out to us a couple times about selling, and we thought you’re out of your minds. And then we thought about it again, and it was exactly what you said.
We’re not in that position where we want to sell, but certainly, it feels a little risky to have almost all of our personal but certainly business net worth tied to one entity. So that makes a ton of sense.
Yeah. And I’ll say that I mean you guys are like all in on your business, right. It’s a little different when you’re a portfolio owner, and I mean you’re like – you’re not all in on one site.
You’re not building an entire like ecosystem around it. So it’s a little different. Yes, the sort of the feeling of like, man, I have all my eggs in one basket can still exist, but I would argue that it makes total sense that you would say no because it’s just like – it’s in a bit of a different situation.
Now if you had like a bunch of affiliate sites and you’re like, man – somebody approached you and you’re like, man, I don’t want to sell. There’s so much upside here, and if there is, great. It just comes down to your risk tolerance, right.
I agree. Yeah. Well, let’s say you’ve made the decision. It feels right. What do you – or maybe there are pros and cons to each. Would you go marketplace, a broker, stick it out private? What would be the avenue you – and you have firsthand experience now a few times.
Yeah, yeah. That’s a good question. My perspective on this has changed a little bit. I have experience of all three, four. So I’ve sold sites at Quiet Light, EmpireFlippers, FE International, and Flippa, so. So I’ve sold sites with every single broker and service that exists out there, so I have a unique perspective that I don’t think a lot of other people have. And I’ve also bought privately.
So that’s the fifth one I guess. Not a huge site. It was a small site. But I would say that generally it depends on your niche. Some niches you’re going to get a lot of inbound interest like you guys got for your service-based business, right? You’re going to get a lot of inbound interest depending on the niche. For example, my pest control site got a lot of inbound interest because there were a lot of people trying to enter the home services space.
Not true for baby. A little different. Not true for a couple other of my sites. Nobody was reaching out to my bow tie site and wanted to buy that, right. So it was more you had to do – you had to go outbound. Now if you want to stay in – there’s pros and cons, right. If you have a deal, like a private deal, you don’t have to pay the brokerage fees.
Generally brokers would charge 10 to 15 percent commission on the seller side for the service of representing you and getting you buyers, right. And that’s a fairly reasonable fee. It’s very expensive depending on the size of the deal, but it’s a very valuable service, right. It’s hard to find buyers for digital assets like these, and you need somebody to be able to find them. So unless somebody is actively reaching out to you, you’re going to have a hard time selling your site.
And I would argue that even if you did get somebody to reach out to you, you still are sort of behind the eight ball in terms of negotiation because you don’t have any leverage. It’s just you. There’s no other counter – there’s no other parties that you can sort of balance with this one that’s saying I’ll give you 100,000 for your site. It’s like okay. I kind of want more.
What’s the market bear for your site? You don’t know because you haven’t brought it to market. It’s just you and a guy or girl, agency that you’re selling it to. So I would always probably bring it to a marketplace just because you – unless your site is just like tanking and you’re just trying to fire sale, even then you could still probably argue, hey, what does the market bear for this site, and you can come out ahead.
Now once you bring it to a marketplace – when I first sold my first site I felt an immense amount of stress trying to do it privately. So that was immediately relieved when I had a broker to help me along to process. Interests were aligned. They made more money if I made more money. There’s a lot to be said there. So I think it’s in your best interest to go with a service to help you, especially if it’s your first one, right. It’s not even close. If it’s your first deal, you should always go with a service just to step you through all the details, the due diligence, like marketing it, right. Like how do you put together a prospectus to actually market your business, right?
There’s a whole lot that goes into that that then is distributed to your network to put your business in the best possible light, right. And then that’s a whole work stream in itself, and then actually having a network to promote it to, and then stepping you through the negotiation process, like weeding out the tire kickers, right.
Nobody talks about that, right. There’s a lot of people that just want to do market research by like asking – trying to figure out how you’re making money. So that’s always like the shitty part about a marketplace is that they’re going to try – there’s going to be a lot of people that are just using these marketplaces as a market research tool, so you want to make sure the brokers sort of filter those tire kickers out.
And then people that are just really not sophisticated. I had somebody that jumped on a call with me that literally had no idea about affiliate and just liked the niche. He was like yeah I really – I like babies or I like fashion.
And then they didn’t really understand the value, and it was a waste of everyone’s time. So again, marketplaces they filter all that stuff out and make it really a little bit easier. And that negotiation part, that’s really important. They take care of all that stuff. I am generally on the marketplace side.
Yeah. It makes a ton of sense to me. All right. I’ve got an ignorant question for you here, Shane. For those of us who are impatient like me, what’s the timeline look like?
Let’s say there’s probably two I’m interested in, one if you’re starting from scratch, and two let’s say you bought with the intention to flip one day. What do these timelines look like in terms of initial investments through point of sale?
I’ll start with the scratch. So your question was what’s the timeline look like if you’re trying to sell an affiliate site if you build it from scratch, right?
Okay. So having done these again multiple times, the timeline is generally at least 12 to 18 months, probably 18 months if your goal is to sell. The reason I say that is because it’s going to take at least 12 months to bring it to a level of earnings that is meaningful, and then at least another like 6 to 8 months of like history –
– to like actually prove to a buyer that they’re not going to buy a shitty site.
So at least 12, 18 months.
And I guess it’s all relative. To your point earlier, how much are you looking for? I mean if you want to just get the site to a few hundred dollars a month and sell it –
That’s a great point, and depending on the price point you’re selling it, you’re going to get different pools of buyers. So like you could probably sell a site that makes $1,000 a month in like – you could sell it probably within a week on certain like Facebook groups and marketplaces, Flippa, assuming it doesn’t look like a crappy site or whatever.
As long as it looks like a decent site, it will sell. Yeah. I mean to get to $1,000 a month that can be done like within probably 8 months if you’re just monetizing through Amazon. And then to sell it you don’t need a lot of history because the risk is so low on the buyer’s side, but you could probably get away with like 12 months if that’s your – and the $1,000 a month site is like a $30,000 sale so it’s not like pennies. It’s decent money.
So yeah. I mean I would say that. But yeah, for a big like $10,000 per month site, you’re probably looking at least 18 months to 24 months.
And then the flip, right, so if you’re trying to flip a site, again tread carefully here, right. You should be experienced and have done it before. But personally I’ve never actually flipped a site properly.
I have bought a site, did some stuff to it, and then sold it again, but it wasn’t like a traditional flip. I would say that – I would say speaking a little ignorantly here that to flip a site you’re basically going to have to buy something that’s unmonetized. You have a quick flip of a monetization that you could just inject into the site very quickly with ads, right.
So quick is an easy example. Or you have a better deal with an existing brand partner. It’s very common for flippers to see a site that has the same deal that they do or the same brand partnership than you but they have a better deal. So this guy has 3 percent. You have 5 percent. You immediately get 2 percent more commission per sale. It’s an easy – that kind of thing happens a lot.
There are actually custom rate cards on Amazon Associates. So those types of people probably buy up Amazon Associate sites like gangbusters because they know they can flip them very quickly and very easily or at least make more money from them. Maybe they wouldn’t sell them because you have to get the rate card to sell it.
But I would say again you’re going to need – to do a proper flip, you’re probably looking at 12 months of holding to get it to a new earnings level and then history you want that bake in. A buyer is going to want history, right, because in order for you to get the credit for additional earnings you’re going to need at least 6 to 8 months of history to convince a buyer that it’s going to – it’s not a new one rate.
Well look, from the outside in and you know Jolly and Link Sorcery certainly serves the affiliate marketing community, so I won’t say that we’re like 100 percent an outsider. But it has the feeling of like this is a gold rush, a get-rich-quick and for newbies. And that’s why again patience but in the background, they would be persistent. I really appreciate.
You’re obviously moving into your role at three shifts. You’re in this for the long haul, and I would imagine moving more towards those kind of partnerships we talked about rather than strictly Amazon, the entry-level. So I really appreciate the advice you’re giving here. It’s not a 1 or 3-month kind of flip. Like you need to be in this. We’re talking about a year and a half really is should be where your head’s at. It’s not a quick one. That’s what I’m getting out of this.
Yeah. I mean it’s not a quick path to me. SEO takes time. I mean everything is through the SEO channel, so in order to rank you need time and you need time for Google to crawl your site, understand your site, to rank it appropriately. And yeah, I mean with traffic comes earnings through the link.
So I mean like, yeah, you got to be able to hang in there while it’s aging. I will say that feedback is very slow for SEO, so if you are a new SEO and you don’t know what you’re doing, if you mess up it’s going to take like a couple of months for you to realize you messed up, so. And then you fix something, and it takes a couple of months for it to fix. So that’s the stupid – well stupid part. It’s the part that stings about SEO, especially as a newbie.
You’re trying to come in. You see big dollar signs. You’re like, oh man, I’ll just put up a site. I went through this guy’s course. And then what happens is you cut corners or you don’t really understand the material or whatever, you get bad advice, and then you create content, doesn’t rank. You’re like oh but Shane said you got to hang in there 6 months, but you’re doing the wrong thing.
So like you’re never going to – so you really – I mean the point I’m trying to make is you need proper – you do need proper training and mentorship and like that’s why SEO communities are really great. Ask questions. Traffic Think Tank is a classic example of one. They have an affiliate channel. That would be a great place for questions. You really need to be a sponge when it comes to SEO and affiliate and digital marketing in general.
This was awesome, Shane. And you talked about communities. There’s certainly a ton of them. I agree. I’m in there soaking up what I can. I know you’ve got ShaneDutka.com.
Is there anywhere else people should look to find you? Because I know I’m going to hold onto this relationship. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. And thank you.
Yeah. No problem. I feel like I talked too much, so please edit out extra like my ramblings.
Well, we can edit this segment out but that’s not the case, man. You’re the guest for good reason.
Yeah, no. Yeah. And if you’re interested in following me and just like being curious at what I’m doing, ShaneDutka.com is the best place for that. It’s kind of my like outwardly facing I guess you can call it internet resume where I just kind of publish – I try to have a personal newsletter to talk about stuff that I’ve been doing, what’s working.
That’s probably the best way to stay in touch with me. I do have a YouTube channel. It’s kind of like a little bit stagnant. I might go back to it. That would probably be the next best way to stay in touch.
That’s awesome. Shane, thank you so much. I appreciate it.