Project Go White Hat – Selling a Niche Site For Over $500,000 (pt 1)

The goal is to sell a niche site for over $500,000 after transforming it from Gray Hat backlinking to a White Hat site.

“Looks like we have a problem. NEGATIVE SEO. We have 183 new backlinks all with exact match anchor text,” said my partner in a Skype chat. “All new links added in the last 7 days.”

It was a problem. The site was getting 2,500 visitors per day and making about $333 every day. That’s a real problem for a site worth about $300,000 (based on the monthly profits times 25).

“What should we do?” I said.

That was 26 days into the partnership for this little gem of a niche site. It started a long time before that, though.

Background on the Project

This is the first post in a series that will document Project Go White Hat. It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far, and it’s not done yet. But the cool part is that these posts will get you up to speed fast, compressing months of work into a few posts.

Here are the critical stats to give you an idea about what this project is all about and why you should care…

The goal is to sell a niche site for over $500,000 after transforming it from Gray Hat backlinking to a White Hat site.

This isn’t one of those case studies where I’m starting from scratch. You know, the ones that take forever to get going and you wait for quarterly updates. This site is up and running, and you’ll be able to get up to speed fast, like binge-watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.

Proof of Earnings

Oh, here are the earnings for 2016 so you see the current numbers for the site. Check out the arrow indicating when I became a partner, in September. (Yep, I’m a partner BUT I’ll explain all that later and some interesting things about the partnership…)

All 2016 Earnings blurred

$500,000 will be a stretch, for sure! But you can see from the earnings that a Half Million exit is possible. Depending on how you value a site, this SINGLE Amazon Affiliate Site may already be worth over $500,000.

My Background and Personal Failures

Most people don’t talk about their failures and missteps, especially in a post like this.

They just showcase massive earnings, say it’s easy, and try to sell you some affiliate products.

Hey, I made 6 figures a month while on the beach and outsourced it all. Just follow my plan and buy [insert-shiny-object-you-don’t-need]. Seriously, the whole thing is automated and only costs $17.

But I say that’s BS and here is a reality check for you… Have a look at some of my silliest blunders and a few highlights:

Timeline

  • Apr 2013 – Learned about Niche Sites from Smart Passive Income
  • Jul 2013 – Launched my first Amazon Affiliate Niche Site
  • Dec 2013 – My first site made $6,452 in a single month
  • Jan 2014 – My first site dropped in rankings and earnings dropped to $100 per month
  • Apr 2014 – Launched 5 new Niche Sites
  • Apr 2014 – My house was foreclosed on
  • Sep 2014 – All 5 Niche Sites were penalized
  • Oct 2014 – Launched 1 new site: Site X
  • Jul 2015 – Laid off from full-time job after 9 years at the company
  • Oct 2015 – Niche Site X made about $20
  • Jan 2016 – Niche Site X made about $100
  • Jun 2016 – Niche Site X made about $826
  • Dec 2016 – My wife got laid off from her job of 10 years
  • Dec 2016 – Niche Site X made about $15,000

Here’s How I Got Involved

The partner, whom I can’t mention here, was chatting with me back in May of 2016 about his niche site. It was his big earner and it was growing. Here are some stats about the site at that time:

  • About 45 pages or posts
  • Ranking well in Google for some “buyer’s keywords
  • The majority of the traffic goes to one page, and when looking further reveals that Pareto’s Law is in effect. That’s the 80/20 rule. So 80% of the traffic goes to about 7 pages out of about 40 total pages.
  • This site making $10,000 per month only has 45 pages. Proof that you don’t have to have a huge site to make five figures a month on an Amazon Niche Site.

The owner wants to sell but there are hurdles to jump over to even consider this, such as:

  • The site has many private blog network links
  • Some of the links are on a paid network with monthly fees
  • There would be ongoing fees as the PBN links are non transferable

“Go White Hat” is Born

I had an idea to solve that problem – Go White Hat*. I have an outreach team that can help and specific skills in executing long-term, complicated projects. White Hat and Gray Hat refer to the link building and other strategies used to rank a site in Google search results.

*New to SEO?

  • White Hat: Strategies that don’t violate the Google Webmaster Terms of Service.
  • Gray Hat: Strategies that violate the Google Webmaster Terms of Service.
  • In simple terms, the goal is to get rid of the Gray Hat links and replace them with White Hat links.

We iron out a deal over 10 days and some tough conversations. The important thing was to figure out the contingencies in case the unexpected happens. The unexpected often happens and plans always change.

We used mental models, or possible scenarios that could happen, to think about the things that could happen. Then talked about what we’d do.

I have a background in planning projects as a Project Management Professional (PMP). I treat it like a management consulting project:

  1. Identify Overall Goals
  2. Develop Requirements
  3. Create a Project Plan, Schedule, and Assign Responsibilities
  4. Take Checkpoints and Adjust as things change
  5. Complete milestones along the way
  6. Review the project after completion

We brainstorm on the plan for a few days. We throw out some less important stuff, but keep 3 critical things:

  1. Guest Posts to replace the PBN links
  2. Improve the existing content
  3. Add more long tail content that’s Keyword Golden Ratio Compliant

BAM! Negative SEO

Negative SEO takes place, meaning a competitor is creating bad backlinks. This sucks since the aim is to trigger a penalty. It is not uncommon for this to happen in competitive niches.

And from the opening, you’ll remember that 183 new backlinks were created in less than a week. That’s more than double the existing links!

If you aren’t familiar with Negative SEO, here’s what happens:

  1. Links are created using an automated link building tool.
  2. The links are blog comments with exact match anchor text for a page.
  3. The competitor’s goal is to trigger a Google penalty for “Unnatural Links.” Google applies this penalty when the anchor text ratio is out of whack.

The plan was to keep monitoring the new backlinks and closely monitor the impact. It’s tedious but necessary. If the links continue to be created, then we can reassess how to deal with it.

Starting a Guest Posting Campaign

At this point, we’ve started on the guest posting campaign. This is called Project Go White Hat after all.

It’s going great and the first 10 guest posts are accepted within about 3 weeks. The project is progressing faster than expected.

But my outreach team has made a HUGE mistake. They didn’t understand anchor text ratios – a basic concept in SEO and link building.

It was my fault 100% and here’s what happened:

  • 10 guest posts were pending publication
  • 7 of them had the exact match anchor text
  • This was a very big deal and I knew it. It’s like we negative SEO’ed ourselves!

I was dreading telling my partner because this could cost us HUNDREDS of dollars per day.

I took a few hours to think things through. Then, I thought about it some more over a beer not unlike this image.

In Part 2, I’ll tell you about:

  • How my partner reacted about the major screw up on my part with the guest post anchor text and our plan to fix the problem.
  • The plan to remove 15 POWERFUL private blog network backlinks.
  • The next steps and the results, such as:
  • The simple $200 tweak that boosted the value of the site by $100,000 and skyrocketed monthly earnings by 40%
  • What happened when my content team nearly dissolved and my crazy idea to give them a raise when they turned in work late
  • How it took 6 TIMES as long to get the second 10 guest posts as it did to get the first 10.
  • Sign up for the free webinar here, happening on Wed, Jan 11 at 12 PM, Noon MT, 2 PM ET.

READ PART 2 NOW

Sign up for a FREE Webinar on " Amazon Affiliate Reviews That Convert (for niche and authority sites)."

Tues, May 16, 2017, at 7 pm, Mountain Time. There is a replay, so even if you can't attend live sign up!

Claim your spot now. (Opens in a new tab, then enter your name & email.)

9 comments… add one
  • Sabbir Ahmed Jan 15, 2017, 10:24 pm

    Thanks a lot for your article. I am very impress to read your article. Recently I am starting Amazon Affiliate marketing. But some years ago I was only design Niche site. So I want to make me more prepare about affiliate. I have already download you 15000 free keywords.

    • Doug Cunnington Feb 6, 2017, 7:31 pm

      Hey Sabbir, thanks for reading!
      Good luck with your site & see you around the blog.
      Thanks,
      Doug

  • Thomas Smale Feb 5, 2017, 12:41 pm

    Great post, Doug. I like the plan – sites with PBNs are challenging to sell at the $500k+ level, so replacing those links with guest posts/other higher quality links will work well and help increase the valuation and sellability.

    I would suggest waiting at least 3 months after all of the PBN links have been removed so there’s proven stability for buyers.

    Another thing to consider will be how a buyer will be able to take over and run the site as you have been – as I am assuming you want to keep your team. This has 2 issues – how to aportion accurate running costs and how much it will cost a buyer to replace the team. It might be worth figuring out how someone in your team can stay with the site and continue to build links for the new owner and will avoid any ambiguity over costs.

    • Doug Cunnington Feb 6, 2017, 7:35 pm

      Hey Thomas, Thanks for the comment and it’s great to see you read my blog. I’m a big fan of FEI!

      That’s excellent information to have from you and to consider.

      Waiting 3 months will be fine, but the ongoing link building could be more challenging. It’s definitely a tougher thing to do. I guess I have some time to figure that part out.

  • Sergey Feb 8, 2017, 6:51 am

    Interesting post, thanks Doug!

    What kind of topics in golden ratio would you advise for a health related site?

    • Doug Cunnington Feb 8, 2017, 4:30 pm

      Sergey, thanks for the comment. I’d go to popular blogs in the niche and see what they are writing about. Then you can narrow down the topics so you get to the lower competition keywords. Hope that helps!

  • Jerry Navarro Mar 20, 2017, 4:17 pm

    Hi Doug,

    This article is an eye opener, great case study for all domaineers and flippers.

    Kudos to you and your incredible team.

  • Subham sarkar Apr 14, 2017, 7:06 pm

    This article could be the Ming changer for me , thanks for sharing the pure value information .

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