One of the best ways to make money online is to buy established websites and blogs and improve, optimize and tweak them to perform better.
In fact, you can get better returns from websites and blogs than almost any investment in the world. Its a very low input, high output situation.
I thought we’d do something a bit different this weekend (instead of nothing) and try a little exercise with a neat little prize.
Leave a comment answering these two questions:
- What blog or website would you buy assuming money was no option?
- How would you improve on it?
This type of thing is an extremely good way to learn about the valuation of websites. And if you are trying to grow a blog to make a living or an eventual sale you will need to become an expert at this.
What are the rules?
- You cannot choose Google or Facebook
- You cannot choose an adult or gambling website
- You have to improve the website within a year
- Your improvements cannot cost more than 5% of your chosen website’s (guessed) income (ie you cannot just spend a million dollars on advertising)
What is the prize?
I’ll have a look at the answers and see which one I think has the most merits. The author of the entry that I like most will get a free Blog Consult by me valued at $299. I’ll take a look at your blog and send you suggestions on how you can improve, tweak and change it to grow a bigger audience and make more money.
37 CommentsJoin in. The comments are closed after 30 days.
Hmm… i’m thinking positive and I would have to say Econsultancy. They seem to have it all, they have so many sources of revenue such as reports, training events, jobs board, paid subscribers, members directory, press releases, consultancy, affiliates, advertising and sponsorship. They also managed to produce some amazing content but I think they do focus a little too much on UK markets, so I would improve it by focusing on regional areas such as Asia and South America.
One area I would focus on first is there is a fair bit of improvement they could do around their SEO to capture more Organic traffic.
The other area I would focus on is their engagement both onsite and thru social media, they don’t get the same reach as GigaOM, Mashable or TechCrunch.
The final area of improvement would be downloadable webinars & videos including podcasts as this is a growing area for mobile consumers.
Dude, amazing start!
I would buy the Huffington Post. The change I would make is to bring more integrity to the reporting and get rid of the fluff (celebrity news). The investment would have to be in content — paid bloggers, not free. I would also incorporate some thought leadership videos, along the lines of TED talks, but on subjects like politics, the economy, foreign policy — in a very accessible way. But the basic elements I would keep. They seem to be doing great with advertisers.
I totally agree about the journalism improvement. But do you think you’d lose money?
Easy, sort of.
The blog I’d pick is Cyril Huze Custom Motorcycle Blog. http://www.cyrilhuzeblog.com/
The guy gets traffic and comments from folks up and down the chain of the motorcycle industry and riders as well. And when I say he gets traffic, I mean to say he gets a pretty fair amount of traffic–he claims in excess of 300,000 visits per month on his advertising page.
Cyril’s site has a lot going for it, besides the traffic, engagement, and great articles. That alone is pretty good. He’s got several revenue streams working–Google ads, hosted ads, iTunes, and Amazon ads to name a few.
I’d buy it because it’s already a hot property and a known quantity in the bike biz.
I’d work on the aesthetics of the place. It lacks visual branding, in my opinion, that connects to its target audience. Not only do I think it needs some bikie-flavored artistic flair, but the sidebar organization is pretty mish-mash and piled up somewhat. I think that using a plug-in such as AdRotate would help administer the content in the sidebar better.
As well connected as Cyril is, I’d include more frequent guest blogs. At one point in the last few months he had an article submitted by a big hitter in the industry containing content about a subject bikers, home-wrenches, and professional mechanics could learn from. I loved it. More connection from his bench of colleagues would further enrich the site.
Naturally, it’d be easy to say I’d also include an RSS stream from my favorite biker cartoon (uh, mine), but it really doesn’t fit his brand, so that’s out.
Cyril focuses a great deal on the industry. That’s his brand. What we don’t get much of is a sense of his own narrative, his own story. He should be promoting his brand, as he is also a pretty solid bike builder. I’d start with his Philosophy: http://www.cyrilhuze.com/start.html which seems like it may have some parallels to the world of blog marketing.
Great work Rob! Gonna check it out.
I would buy Cracked.com. I love how they write about high-brow topics in a low-brow manner. They’re so good at tricking you into reading about history, economics, etc. You learn while you’re enjoying the comedy.
There are multiple opportunities to monetize their geek cred through partnerships with related websites. One example would be ads for merchandise from ThinkGeek.
–Science fiction and fantasy conventions
–Subscriptions to movie and TV web services
If the ads were highly relevant, I think users might even welcome the chance to discover products they’d be interested in.
I’d start building an e-mail list. Right now, they put more emphasis on Facebook fans. Use that list to promote events, special offers on gear, share articles to cool articles and websites other than Cracked, etc.
Aside from e-mail marketing, the other thing I’d invest money in is SEO. I’d hire a programmer to make interactive quizzes on geeky subjects. Users would take quizzes and try to get the highest scores to unlock access to widgets. Examples: “How much do you know about kung fu movies?” “Are a true Apple fan?” “Test your Linux knowledge!”
Winners would get widgets they could embed on their personal blogs (with links back to Cracked). To show off their expertise.
Search Engine Watch did this beautifully in August 2011 with “SEO Wars.” They created an infographic with descriptions of white-hat and black-hat SEOs. Based on the description, you’d choose which one you were and get a Star Wars light saber widget.
There are other kinds of gamification that I think would work really well with Cracked’s audience.
After writing this business plan, I feel like sending it to Cracked and asking for a job. Ha ha!
I knew you’d have a fantastic entry!
How long do I have to enter, and can I do two entries? 😉 I have two sites I can’t decide between and would love to be able to talk about both of them. Thanks!
I know the feeling! But part of buying a blog is choosing between two or more good options. Take a day or two and choose one I reckon.
Okay, I put my entry below. My other site was going to be Blog Tyrant, if you were curious, but because my niche is in Photography I decided on dPS instead.
If I had the money I would have bought this listing:
It is such a cool topic (I have a few myself but no results yet) and I am just amazed how well it is generating money and ranks. Would love just to buy it to see how it has been build and assembled.
Interesting one Ralph. Hmmm…
Yes, it is a bit different than the other ones but its quite simple yet a lot of effort has gone into this (I presume).
So on the improvements front, I wouldn’t change that much. But perhaps a bit more engaging although why change something that is working so well.
I just find it fascinating how this site is maintained so well. I mean it’s hard to keep ranking and the competition in these niches is very high, as I am discovering myself 🙂
I would purchase Touch Arcade. They write about a vastly growing topic, that is only moving forward. Their website captures over 25,000 viewers a day, with a huge loyal fan base that spreads across the comments section, social web, and even a forum. I wouldn’t plan on taking over, but rather act as sort of the manager.
Despite all their success, their website has a messy design, that I would clean up, improve upon, and make more user friendly, and appealing to new visitors.
They have several long posts a day, and fairly regular podcasts, but absolutely no sign of an email list, or newsletter.
With such a loyal fan base, it just seems silly to me that they would forget something as vital as this. I would quickly have them set up a newsletter, notify their readers, and watch that loyal fan base subscribe by the thousands. I would have them post a weekly newsletter, as well as email updates for new posts.
While they do have advertisements supporting the website, I think there is still plenty of extra revenue to be had. They could, for example, send out promotional emails every once in a while. And/or strategically placing advertisements within the newsletter.
And lastly, I would hire a few community managers, because I just don’t think the social scene for that website is active enough.
Well, that’s my answer, anyway. Thanks for setting up this generous contest!
Wow! No email list. Seems weird huh?
I would buy blogtyrant.com but I wouldn’t change anything because it is perfect already. I’d have to keep the current author too as he’s so talented and handsome.
Do I win? 🙂
Sorry Sam. This site sucks. Ha ha.
Don’t pick on my friend!
Ha ha. All jokes.
I would buy http://www.27bslash6.com.
First step increase and darken the font and then flog the writer David Thorne until he wrote daily instead of his usual frequency of about twice per year.
Aweber, and better sidebar to monetize the site.
The site will make you laugh, and laugh and laugh. You’d probably appreciate this page BT, being Aussie.
He is from my home town. Love it.
BT, I can’t play along but I’ve got to say this really is one of the best contests I’ve seen for awhile!
If I see one more challenge that’s basically a popularity contest (herding readers to another site to vote) – I’m going to throw up on my laptop.
Cheers to you for offering your readers something challenging, that encourages them to use their brains, is interesting as well as educational AND offers something of true value to a winner!
This is exactly why I’m your fan.
From MN, tj
I would buy voiceboks.. an up and coming forum and do more tweeks on SEO and promotion to gain more audience and revune.
I’d buy problogger. Yeap, I’d going BIG TIME!
Problogger.net has gone from being associated with Darren as the author of articles to Darren, “the guy who runs the site.” Guest posts are now so prevalent, I don’t even know why they justify starting each article with “This is a guest post…” That aside, there is plenty of room for growth.
In no particular order…
1. Place an image link in the header, on the right side, for the flagship product.
2. Offer expanded articles for members (or a one time fee). For example, the latest article “From Blogger to Book Author: The 4-Step Guide” could have a footer link that reads “for a detailed how-to guide to righting a book, check out this 45 page article that walks your through everything step-by-step.” I tend to think problogger has a lot of great content but EASILY could make some money AND offer deeper content if they took the occasional article and used this tactic. Well, that’s what I’d do.
3. Completely re-do the membership forum sign-up. Clicking on it, there is a learn more button but it only gives testimonials. And from where I’m accessing the internet, I only see a “video coming soon” text in the middle of that first page. I’d show a detailed case or two where people where helped. I’m not talking screenshots, but breaking it out into bullet-points from problem-to-resolution. Even highlight the turn-around time. I’d list topic areas, number of forum members, and the number of forum moderators/authors. That’s just for starters.
4. Re-do the probloggerbook page that’s linked in the header menu. I’d change it to a longform sales page. Right now, it’s a simple page that seems more about driving traffic to amazon that to promote the book.
5. Remove the Job board posting area. It seems any afterthought and takes away from the core focus.
6. Update the Featured Article so it changes once a week. I think I saw the last one up for a month. It would likely be an article with a “learn even more as a member” type of link at the bottom, as I mentioned in point 2.
7. The links to the recommended money-makers in the footer are direct links to the programs, chitika and amazon. I’d write up reviews of each and how I use them on the site. Then, I’d link to that article which would in turn give more credit to my recommendation and have those links within the article.
8. Remove the “Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework” advertisement at the end of each article and either move it to the end of the comments or move it to the footer or sidebar. That being the case, I’d highlight it as “What to know how Problogger uses WordPress Themes for this great look? Find out here.” That sort of thing. A problem, I have, with it in the footer is that I’ve become blind to it…and it always seemed out of place to me.
9. Offer a reason to subscribe to the newsletter. Free ebook or something. It seems the larger a site gets, the less they offer the free bonuses that helped grow their newsletter list in the first place.
10. Re-do the “recent video post” section on the home page. It doesn’t seem to change often and it isn’t always directly related to blogging. As the owner, I’d use it for either a free weekly video that talks about news in the blogging/copyrighting world. I’d use it to give a face/personality to the site. Much like what Darren does but I’d just have different content. I’d also use that block it to link to a membership video below the free video such as, “Members; This Week Learn How To…”
Here’s where I make a brief note to Darren…you might say that you’ve tried my recommendations in the past and they didn’t work. I respect you and your work as a blogger, author, and businessman. I’m simply saying that I’d try something different here and there. And if it didn’t work, I’d try something else.
All that being said…in short, I’d maximize the potential for a membership site; forum access, advanced articles, exclusive weekly video.
PS. BT, sorry I haven’t commented in a while. As you know, life can get very very busy.
Dang…typo in the first line. LOL.
GREAT to see you Chris.
And what an entry! I am interested in this because I think Problogger has been underutilized for a little while now.
I would buy mixergy.com because it is the website I wish I would have built. I would try to improve it in the following way:
1. I would start branding it as a place to get a real life MBA by learning from some of the best entreprenuer’s in the world. Mixergy has a premium site where you can access all the interviews Andrew has done and Master classes they release two to three times a month. Instead of calling it “premium membership.” I would call it Entreprenuership University.
2. Besides changing the name of the membership area I would change the innerworkings of it. Right now, you pay a certain price and get access to everything. I would create a document that would be similar to what we got in college once a year that listed every course the college offered and the basic purpose of the class. I would do this for every interview and master class in the membership area. Right now, it’s hard to find out if your looking for something specific (like sales tactics) to know which interviews cover those areas. I would categorize all the interviews and create a document to make it easier to help members find what they are looking for…I think this would help with retention rate.
3. I would offer multi-levels of membership. Currently there is only one level of membership. I would keep that as is, but start offering more advance courses, mastermind groups, etc. For example, I would create a six to eight week study course around the basic master class and charge extra for the longer course.
4. I would also hire someone to build the community inside the membership area. I know most of the audience is made up of entrepreuners, but currently there is no way to connect with one another. I would hire someone to help figure out how to build a community where everyone is sharing ideas with each other. And maybe even include a job board where if I’m looking for a programmer I can find someone from the mixergy family.
5. I would repurpose content from all the interviews that already on the website. You can create special reports like, “How the These Top Entreprenuers Got There First Client,” and then pull the material from the interviews. I would create written blog posts from the interviews to send through my newsletter (currently mixergy has newsletter, but not a consistent time of sending it out. You could also take the videos of interviews and make some 1-3 minute segments and put them up on YouTube with a link back to the original interview, which would lead to a page to sign up for “Entreprenuer’s University (membership area), because the interviews are only free for a week or two before they go behind the membership wall.
I have more ideas, but these items would keep me busy for the next year, but I believe they are tactics that would broaden Mixergy’s brand, increase views, and most importantly increase the profit of the website.
Howard this is really excellent! Very nicely done.
Seconding that. Howard, that breakdown was brilliant. A consultant could charge a mint for a detailed, actionable site audit like that.
I especially like idea #2, mostly because I’m a freak about organization. That would work really well, almost like a “menu” to whet your appetite for knowledge and get you to order a course.
A few months ago I’ve stumbled on a Flippa auction that really caught my attention. Urbantitan.com. Although it’s not website’s such as: problogger, johnchow, and incomediary that makes a lot of money. I really liked the content from that blog. Even though I normally don’t subscribe to blogs, I’ve became a subscriber and fan after checking out the content from the website. The content in that blog is what you would called “unorthodox.” After that blog, I was yet again, reminded that CONTENT IS KING. It was sold for about 13,000 USD similar to how you mention you sold your first blog for 20,000. If I had just enough money I would have definite bought it. After, the blog was sold to the new owner; I was quite disappointed because I think the new owner bought that blog just to start a business.
What I would change is:
1. Fix the layout. The new owner made it easy to navigate through that website. But, the layout isn’t what you would call “good looking.” The layout from that blog does not match the content at all. It can receive a better looking layout similar to mines.
2. More content needs to be produces. The previous owner was more consistent publishing new posts daily. The new owner is barely producing new content.
3. Take away the referral sites from it to make the site more cleaner.
4. Build a community. Just like how failblog.org is so popular, posting the most failed moment with image. I believe urbantitan can also create something more similar. Instead of fails, how about the most bizarre and weirdest?
5. Videos. Also like failblog videos you often see on youtube. How about videos about the most weirdest and bizarre videos?
Thanks Ray. Great entry!
Okay, I’ve finally decided. 🙂
I’d buy Digital Photography School (another one of Darren’s sites!) http://www.digital-photography-school.com
Darren has a lot of really great things going on at the site already that I’d keep, and the way he monetizes is brilliant, but I think he’s missing out on one main area that could really expand his site and his reach.
There are currently 3 main topics on dPS – Photography Tips & Tutorials, Cameras & Equipment, & Post Production. The audience is mostly amateur photographers.
As the cost of digital SLR cameras has come down and the economy has dropped, I’m seeing more and more amateurs starting their own business.
As these amateurs get into the business side of things more and more, I believe they may “move on” from dPS because it no longer fits where they are at. The site really doesn’t cater to professional photographers at all and I think it would be a great way to gain and retain more readers longer.
The first thing I’d do is to expand the three main topics into four main topics and add a “Photography Business” section to the site. There’s already a category called “make money with photography” that identifies some of these posts, but I’d pull it out and make it one of the big ones and go far more in depth with it.
I’d then hire some professional photographers who are already blogging on the subject to really start filling this section with meaty content about running a business. I’d also write several articles myself as this is the main topic of my current blog (http://www.themoderntog.com).
I would also create a store with various affiliate products that are out there that are geared specifically towards professional photographers. I’d create more ebooks of my own to sell along with their current lineup as well.
I’d also experiment with advertising and try to minimize it. I know it’s a huge part of his income, but it just yells “untrustworthy!” to me, so I’d play around a bit with placement and see if I could reduce its prominence without reducing too much income. Eventually I’d try to move away from it if it was possible to make that income up elsewhere.
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about a site and to win a blog consult with you. 🙂
Speaking of advertising, what’s up with the awber banner? I thought you wrote a post awhile back about not having advertising and why it helps build trust, etc? Just curious….
Great entry! I really love that site and think your idea is fantastic.
As for the advertising I’m not sure about it being untrustworthy. After all, the NYT and Time magazine do it. But I think over doing it can appear cheap.
For me, part of the reason I began doing it in small doses here is so I can learn more in order to share it with my readers.