a Case Study – When do You Prefer to Buy or Build a Site?

Mark
✅ CASE STUDY: Do you prefer to buy or build? ✅
In June 2020 I set aside $50k to build 5 affiliate sites with a biz partner. The agreement was, I would put up the cash and he would do all the work. And by work I mean manage an outsourced team of writers, service providers and virtual assistants (VA)s, as well as do all the strategic SEO work.
Rationale:
We could buy a site making $1.5k-$2k a month for $50k. This is great to get out the gates quickly, but comes with obvious downside risk if the site tanks for whatever reason and income + valuation drops.
Of course, there is upside potential if we could grow the site, but in my experience it is usually more difficult than one thinks to increase income at a rate that is exciting (i.e. 2x or more).
Alternatively, we could spend $25k on 5 MVP projects ($5k each). This would diversify our risk and, as a worst case scenario, we could sell each site as a starter website and recover most, if not all our investment.
If one or more Minimum Viable Products (MVP)s showed promise we could double down with the remaining $25k to scale out as an authority. Or use the cashflow from the site to reinvest, thus limiting total invested capital to less than $25k. 👍
Getting Started:
We began work on niche selection in June and have so far built 4 MVPs. We define an MVP as ~100k words (50-100 articles per site).
In total we have spent $14,800 to date.
Results from Site 1 so far…
Here's a quick look at the first site we built in July 2020. I will add details of the other sites as they come out of the sandbox (hopefully!!)
Niche: Automotive
Domain: aged .com (Godaddy auction)
Costs:
Domain: $35
Content cost: $4,500 (@4.5 cents per word for 100,000 words – 80 articles in total from Contentellect) 👉 https://www.contentellect.com/affiliate-content/
Citations: $100 (SEOButler)
Social Profiles: $10 (Fiverr)
VA for posting: $600 (internal staff)
Links: $500 (we've bought 20 link insertions)
Total Cost: $5,745
Traffic (sessions) 📈
August 2020: 750 sessions
September 2020: 2300 sessions
October 2020: 6000 sessions
November 2020 (to the 23rd): 8750 sessions
Revenue
We only added affiliate links in late September.
October 2020: $173
November 2020 (to the 23rd): $414
Valuation after 2 months earnings
$7-10k
Goal
Our goal on Site 1 is to take earnings to $10k a month and value to $300-$400k.
Learnings
Niche choice is critical – for us the criteria was not Amazon, average sale price $100+, 30+ day cookie, high converting affiliate partner (checked using Commission Junction stats), and decent commission 8%+
Good aged domain (make sure to do your due diligence)
A detailed content plan for 80-100 articles takes a solid day or two to create, but it's the foundation of your site structure – think carefully about scalability and silos
Good content makes all the difference.
If the domain is good, your content solid, and your site structure silo'ed and interlinked correctly, you don't need a lot of links to rank (niche dependent)
Any questions? Ask in the comments and I'll respond. 🙂
[filtered from 164 💬🗨]

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a case study when do you prefer to buy or build a site
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Ashwin
Domain had any links when you bought or Just clean aged domain?
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Mark ✍️ » Ashwin
Just a clean aged domain. Very few links but great brand and perfectly niche specific.
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Marc
I'm glad to see our content writing service is paying off Mark Whitman 🙂 If anyone else is interested in applying for this limited-time offer, you can do that here: https://www.contentellect.com/affiliate-content/
Affiliate Content – Premium Content Packages for Affiliate Marketers
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Mark ✍️
Marc Thanks mate! The SEO genius behind this site! Absolute legend!
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Marc » Mark
Too kind 🙂
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Canlas
How many articles? And informational post vs affiliate post ratio?
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Mark ✍️ » Canlas
We've got 80 articles on the site so far. All the articles are commercial. No informational articles yet. We have Brand Reviews, Best Ofs, Individual Reviews and will be adding X vs Y soon…
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Canlas » Mark
thanks how long are the articles?
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Mark ✍️
Between 800-2000 words

Asif
Congrats on your success journey so far. Would want to hear more on the link building part. How many links? What kind of links? The timing etc.. & if possible whose service u had taken 😉 thanks..👍
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Mark ✍️ » Asif
Thanks man. We built social signals and citations first (month 1 and 2), in month 3 and 4 we bought some niche edits (80% branded to the homepage, and a few to inner pages). No more link building since then, but will likely start adding more in the coming months.
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Ashraf
small question, did you do any CTR Manipulation for any of your keywords? and if so, what was the result look like?
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Mark ✍️ » Ashraf
Do you mean for our meta titles etc? If so, no.
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Ashraf
nope, I mean using services like this (serpclix.com) or other services in the market to improve your ranking
P.S: it is safe and won't harm the site by any mean.
Mark ✍️
Nope, we haven't used a service like this…

Owais
How you did keyword research for 80 -100 Contents? Like this could've been tough 🙄 can you share any strategy of doing keyword research
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Mark ✍️ » Owais
We used competitor research, looked at the top 3 sites and then based our keyword strategy off them – we then validated each keyword in Ahrefs and built a content plan based around silos
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Owais » Mark
can you please elaborate silos,
Mark ✍️
By silos I mean clear distinctions between content topics, either by category or in our case by Brand.
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Sanchez » Owais
this could be accomplished reverse engineering your competition.
Ahrefs make it easier to do this clustering and all once you have a bunch of sites in your niche that are DA<20.
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Chantal
Hi Mark, how did you come to that $7K-10K valuation?
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Mark ✍️ » Chantal
It's a rough estimate as the site is so new (only two months of earnings history), but just applied a 30-40x multiple on current earning taking invested capital into account too.
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Kaspshik
where did you buy the links from. How many sites? Did you outreach or use a service?
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Mark ✍️ » Kaspshik
We did manual outreach.
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Anthony
Nice work! Where did you point your links – a single money page or did you split them up to several pages?
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Mark ✍️ » Anthony
80% branded links to the homepage and a few to inner pages uses phrase match branded
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Henry
Nice advertisement for Contentellect…. your company…. You should have definitely put that in the disclaimer of your "Case Study" https://www.contentellect.com/about/
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Mark ✍️ » Henry
I'm an investor in the company but not involved in operations. But fair point – could have added a disclaimer👍. My aim though is to add value via my case study so hopefully everything I'm sharing is helpful.

Muaaz
What affiliate program you were targeting Amazon or Amazon + xyz?
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Mark ✍️ » Muaaz
Not targeting Amazon. We're using an eCommerce player on Commission Junction.
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Bharath
Is there a reason you went the affiliate route than a pure play e-com site?
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Mark ✍️ » Bharath
As in why we didn't launch an ecommerce site?
Bharath » Mark
yeah…
Mark ✍️
Loads more complexity to setting up an e-com site, but may pivot into it if we get big enough
Bharath » Mark
okay…cool…I've been trying to build my ecom brand site…so trying to figure a good strategy. Hence asked..thanks for sharing nevertheless
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Ican
Do you put social profiles to you home page site?
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Mark ✍️
Yip

Edward
Traffic sessions? AdWords or something else?

Mark ✍️
100% organic

Ezzat
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product?
Can you explain more about this kind of websites?
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Mark ✍️
It's a standard affiliate site. The MVP reference is with respect to building the minimum viable product to get traction before scaling out. In this case it's a site with 100k words.

Chaudhary
Any suggestion to buy links? Any good service?
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Mark ✍️
We do manual outreach for guest posts and niche edits.
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Igor
Hi, how did you research the affiliate network? Is it physical products that you are promoting?
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Mark ✍️
Yes physics products. Our criteria is an average sale price of $100+. For this niche the average sale price is closer to $500.
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Lisa
Thanks very valuable sharing 🙏 you share equally the revenue ? How does this agreement looks like with your biz partner? I'm questioning how to secure my investment legally with partners..
Shome
Please share the strategy to get a good aged domain for a cheap price?
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Mark ✍️
We use godaddy auctions with the only criteria being age, niche relevance and brand. We then do due diligence using archive.org and Ahrefs to check history.
ARCHIVE.ORG
Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free & Borrowable Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine
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Daniel
Congrats on your success Mark! would you mind telling us how long did it take to you to find the right aged domain after you picked up your niche? Thanks!
Mark ✍️
Not long at all, once we had chosen the niche we found a suitable domain within a day or two I think.

Roane
Excellent stuff, man. Thanks for sharing! Are you apart of Matt Diggity's The Lab?

Mark ✍️
My biz partner is.
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Gurbir
This is awesome Mark.
I read that you do manual outreach for niche edits? What was the average DA/DR range of the link insertions? Also, what do you mean by citations? The ones that are used for local SEO or just mentions/links of your website on any website.
I would love to know more about your niche research process. Also, I have specific keyword research process that I use for site planning. If you'd like, I could show it to you 🙂
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Mark ✍️
We targeted sites with DR > 30. As for citations, We used directory listings like one would use for local SEO

Tariq
Great stuff man. Thanks for sharing. What were your Silo and interlinking strategy for this site?
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Mark ✍️
We siloed by brand. We think interlinking has been key to the success of the site. We linked from the brand reviews to the individual reviews and and vice a versa, and then from the Best Of reviews to the individual reviews and brand pages.
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Kwan
Great effort ! and appreciate your sharing. Any tips on how you do niche selection ?
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Mark ✍️
In terms of niche selection we chose a niche that had a few low DR sites ranking on page 1 for some of our target keywords. And then validated the niche based on product pricing being greater then $100 and not Amazon.
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Sanchez
Nice results! What do you mean by MVP? TFS.
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Mark ✍️
Minimum Viable Product.
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Sanchez » Mark
gotcha! thanks.

Sanchez
You added all the content in one go?
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Mark ✍️
Nope, we added 3-5 articles a day over a month period.
Stephen » Mark
How long are the articles? Like 1000 – 1200 words.
Mark ✍️
Between 800-2000 words. From Contentellect – https://www.contentellect.com/affiliate-content/
Affiliate Content – Premium Content Packages for Affiliate Marketers

Yarik
Pretty sick tbh, nice to see you guys killing it!
Any chance you could share the guidelines for the content?
Did you provide just the main keyword for each article?
or used services like SeoSurfer for detailed guidelines etc?
I want to order a bulk of content, but I am torn between a few services..
Nice to see how fast it went up!
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Mark ✍️
Contentellect have a guideline document when you order through them – you can apply to their service here: https://www.contentellect.com/affiliate-content/ Marc Bromhall.
Affiliate Content – Premium Content Packages for Affiliate Marketers

Johnny
Awesome work! Thanks for sharing.
Regarding manual outreach for link insertions.
1. Is outreach via email or do you use other methods?
2. Do you outsource this task to VA?
3. Best tip or piece advice you can share for acquiring these type of links?
Thanks
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Mark ✍️
1. Yip email outreach. We use Gmass for mass mailing.
2. Nope, we have a slick process for scraping contact details and mass emailing.
3. Write a short email that gets to the point quickly. And make sure to setup a follow up sequence to chase non replies
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Johnny
Legend. That helps a lot. Appreciate it
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Sanchez
Thank you for answering all our questions Mark. Would you mind discussing about profit sharing?
How do you divide the profit for a partnership like this? 50-50 on everything? (expenses and profit)
Asking because this is a model I want to explore as well.
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Mark ✍️ » Sanchez
I have committed an amount of invested capital which is ring-fenced and will be paid back from earnings or the sale of the site in the future. The profits from the site are split 50:50.
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Sanchez » Mark
thank you for your time. Could I PM you?

Kandhari
From where do you get these MVP sites and how much do they usually sell for?
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Mark ✍️ » Kandhari
We are building this site ourselves.

王盼盼
how do you find your niche? I think the difficult part for me is to find the suitable niche
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Mark ✍️
In terms of niche selection we chose a niche that had a few low DR sites ranking on page 1 for some of our target keywords. And then validated the niche based on product pricing being greater then $100 and not Amazon.

Suchita
How are you planning to scale the site to $10k per month? What content and SEO strategy are you planning?
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Mark ✍️
Based on the trajectory of the site we estimate that it should cruise towards $10k as we have another 100k words of content going up soon…
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Chisom
How do you do keyword research
Is your success due to keyword research or links bought
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Mark ✍️
It's entirely down to the aged domain, quality content, and proper silo and interlinking. We haven't done much link building at all.
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Vintila » Mark
Are you doing the strategy for silo and interlinking or the guys at contentsellect do that? (inserting what to link to from what they already wrote)
Mark ✍️
We do that. Contentellect just provide the content.
Chisom
Okay. But with quality content, do you pay less attention to keyword research
Mark ✍️
We focus each article around primary keyword and then make sure the content serves the intent of he reader – we don't overly optimize around Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords and perfect density using tools like Surfer.

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Mills
Your transparency is amazing, posts like this make the industry better. Hope you manage to scale to the moon!
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Whit
Awesome breakdown. You mention silos… I see many blogs nowadays using the url structure domain.com/post-title – with no category in the url. Do you include category names in the url?
Anyone else got an opinion on best practice here?
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Mark ✍️
We use pages only. No posts and no categories. We then silo by interlinking.
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Jennifer » Mark
is there any specific reason why you use pages and not blog posts?
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Mark ✍️
Just a personal preference. Posts come with issues around categories, tags, authors and archives, which add many thin and useless page. So using pages is just cleaner.
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Tom
Hey this is brilliant, thanks for posting. It's great to see honest posts like this. Really cool. Good to see you didn't go the amazon root too. One question – do the expired domains need to have had content on them when you buy them?
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Mark ✍️
Nope. We used an aged domain so it was parked.

Faisal
Can u provide us some contacts for buying the services u used , seems like u had a good experience
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Mark ✍️
Sure man. For content we used Contentellect, see: https://www.contentellect.com/affiliate-content/. For citations we used SEOButler. For social signals we used a gig on Fiverr ( it wasn't very good) and for links we did manual outreach.
CONTENTELLECT.COM
Affiliate Content – Premium Content Packages for Affiliate Marketers
Faisal » Mark
thanks a lot. Is there someone u can trust with manual outreach??
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Mark ✍️
Yip, our in-house team of VAs

Ayan
Awesome
Whats your contents strategy all are buying guides or information
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Mark ✍️
All commercial content – brand reviews, individual reviews, best of round-ups and x vs y comparisons.
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Ayan » Mark
great thank you

Ryan
a bit broad question, what do you think or have a target that a site with 100k words should earn minimum of?
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Mark ✍️ » Ryan
that's difficult to answer. And I don't think using a word count to value the potential earnings is the right approach. Earnings are dependent on the niche and the ability to rank.
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Lee
What hosting do you use?
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Mark ✍️ » Lee
WPX

Lee
Good aged domain (make sure to do your due diligence)
What are the DA/DR/TF/CF. that you aim for? and any other items on on your due diligence list?
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Mark ✍️ » Lee
We don't look at these metrics in our due diligence – just interested in an aged domain, that is relevant and brandable, and doesn't have a spammed history.
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Lee
do you look for domains that have previously had content and been a live site or are you looking for just aged with no historic site

Bryan
BIG wowwww. Does EXPIRED DOMAIN matter
Or.has to be AGED
AGED means expired???
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Mark ✍️ » Bryan
Expired domains are just that… expired. Aged domains have been dropped by the registrant but are maintained by the auction company and therefore haven't expired.
Bryan
Mark
WOW COOL

Yorn
How you share the earnings?
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Mark ✍️ » Yorn
50:50 split on profits, which we are currently reinvesting.

Singh
Read the all comments. found it way worthy… thanks man…
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Jerry
I would like to know if there is a company that would create the content plan for the niche, anybody, would like to get into. Is this a service the content writing platform offers?

Talal » Jerry
I find low comp keywords, 50 – 100, divide them in groups for interlinking and silos and then write content on those. Have you tried something like that?
Jerry
Talal
, that's an awesome approach, will try to implement it. I normally google search and if I find some articles are low on word count and there is more to write about them then I create it and then from there continue down the rabbit hole. The issue here for me is structure which I really would like to learn. How do you structure from the beginning of creating a site what your pages would be, anchor text would be, long tail keywords to go after and progressively more aggressive keyword difficulty terms. My questions is more towards is there a company that offers this planning before creating. I recently came across somebody that talked about planning the site before executing. That way you know where you are going and what you are going to spend on content, backlinks, and what your ultimate goal powering your money pages for conversion.
Talal » Jerry
I'm not sure, and I wouldn't do that unless it is a niche you know that 100% converts. What I do is find a strong domain that can be used in multiple verticals. Then find 50 – 100 low comp KW in one vertical, throw up content and see if it's profitable, if all goes well then I keep going with it. If not, I can leave that up and find another 50 – 100 KW in something related.
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