If you’ve ever searched for new side hustle ideas, you’ve likely been hit with ads by overly confident people telling you how easy it is to make money (e.g., just sign up for their course. And don’t forget to hit like and subscribe).
Let’s clear the air.
Monetized content sites are still a great way to earn some side income in 2020. However, building an authority site is by no means an easy feat. It takes a lot of time and sweat equity to start driving quality traffic, which in turn provides recurring monthly revenue.
In the midst of optimizing your site’s SEO and researching compelling topics that align with your audience’s interests, it’s easy to lose sight of your future goals.
There’s a constant pressure to make sure you’re on top of the latest trends, targeting competitive keywords, and making sure your archives are updated regularly so that your content is still relevant.
But is pursuing the number one rank for all your chosen keywords the only goal you have in mind for your authority site?
To take a step back, let me ask a broader question. What is the end goal for your site? You might not have ever considered this question.
I’ve seen many entrepreneurs build up their authority site and establish their site in a niche.
Yet, because they didn’t have an answer to the above question, it’s not uncommon for these types of sites to be left running on autopilot. The site owner may have lost interest in the niche or had different priorities thrust upon them, as often happens in life.
Either way, the site loses its potential as opportunities to rank for keywords and doors to potential growth avenues close.
What if there’s a new goal that anyone with an authority site can consider?
What about selling the digital asset?
Content Sites are Great Digital Assets to Buy and Sell
A common objection to selling an online business is the emotional equity a site owner has in their side hustle. As painful as it is to let go of their darling that they built from scratch, it’s even more painful to watch it decay and fall apart when neglected.
By selling your business, you unlock a huge windfall of capital and open up opportunities that weren’t available to you before. And don’t worry—there are many interested buyers out there.
Digital assets, especially content sites, are highly lucrative to savvy buyers because they’re generally hands-off and easy to scale.
So how are online businesses valued?
At Empire Flippers, we use the following formula to determine the listing price of an online business:
12-month average net profit x multiple
The first part of the formula takes the monthly average net profit into account. This is slightly different from what other brokers in the industry use because we feel using monthly average profit better reflects the volatility of online businesses.
While online businesses can generate a large ROI, the risks are equally as steep because your business’s performance and value can be subject to algorithm changes from the internet giants, like Google and Amazon.
The multiple is trickier to determine and isn’t formulaic. It depends on the DNA of the business and takes into account several factors, such as its age, niche, and the quality of the traffic.
There are plenty of things you can do to improve your business’s operations so that you can move the multiple needle in your favor.
Traffic Quality and Diversity
“Content is king” is possibly the most overused term in our industry. However, such maxims stick because they hold some element of truth.
Content is the means to an end: the quality of your content will reflect the quality of your traffic. However, we’re also wary of vanity metrics.
Having large spikes of traffic is great, but these large numbers are less impactful on your business’s valuation if your content doesn’t draw in the right audience. Make sure to conduct thorough keyword research to answer the right questions your target audience needs help with.
Your business value increases even further when you can establish multiple high-quality traffic sources. Organic traffic from search engines is the go-to method for many authority sites.
Growing a following on a social media platform can also give you another organic traffic source to work with.
Building an email list is often overlooked and highly underutilized. It’s a powerful tool because a subscriber wants to receive curated content from you.
They’re even more engaged than a typical reader who may have found your content through a keyword search since a subscriber has willingly offered their details to you.
Diversifying your traffic sources will also mitigate the impact if one of these sources is negatively affected by an algorithm change.
A content site surviving and even thriving after a Google update shows that the business is resilient and adds another string to your bow—increasing your chances of getting a higher valuation.
We can’t talk about content without mentioning SEO, even briefly. Buyers will pay attention to your site’s on-page and off-page SEO.
Naturally, making sure that your articles and site are optimized makes for a better user experience. If you’re still building your authority site and fine-tuning your voice, bear in mind that readability isn’t how succinctly you put things.
Unless you’re in a highly technical niche where you can’t avoid using industry jargon, keeping it simple works best.
Readability is usually measured by the Flesch–Kincaid test. You can download plugins to help you track this metric as you write. Aim to write for an 8th–9th grade reading level.
Another major factor of good on-page SEO is how easy it is to navigate your site. In addition to having pages located in logical places and categories, quicker loading times play a significant role in reducing bounce rates.
There are plenty of plug-ins on WordPress to help improve your site’s user experience.
One way to decrease loading times is by compressing images so that they don’t congest the site.
You can use yourself as a guinea pig. You wouldn’t stay on a site for a long time if it wasn’t intuitive and quick to browse.
Hold your own site to the same standards and make the necessary changes to meet them as best as you can.
With off-page SEO, buyers pay attention to the backlink profile. While your site might have lots of backlinks, a buyer might be put off if they feel the backlinks are of poor quality.
One way to think about a backlink when doing a site audit is to consider the page authority (i.e., the article’s topical relevance) as well as the domain authority.
You can take more control of who links to your site in a number of ways. Using PBNs can be valuable if you’re vetting the quality of the backlink sources, but we recommend avoiding this route if you’re not too familiar with PBN links.
On the other hand, you could go down the Web 2.0 road. Some user-generated sites where you can leave your links include Wix, Weebly, WordPress, Quora, and Medium.
If you’re going for manual outreach, consider offering to contribute guest posts to other authority sites in shoulder niches.
Not only do you leave a backlink, but you also add value to their audience and get exposure to a new crowd who might have never heard of your brand.
Supercharge Your Earnings
Speaking of traffic diversity, your revenue sources also play a major role in an online business’s valuation.
You could apply for display advertising if you’re only monetizing through affiliate marketing, or vice versa. Just be wary of advertising fatigue since your target audience is coming to you for help, not to be hit with ads and promotions everywhere they look.
Another way to increase earnings is by applying for higher-paying affiliate programs and display ad networks. For affiliate marketing, Clickbank, ShareASale, and Commission Junction are popular alternatives to Amazon Associates.
You might be able to find higher commissions from the same products you promote on your current affiliate program. However, beware of focusing too much on commission percentage.
Ask yourself if the product itself is high-quality and fits with your brand’s image.
You might earn more from a high-ticket sale, but if the store selling the product has a shady reputation, that will ultimately reflect poorly on your online business as well.
For display advertising, Google Adsense is the go-to network. Aim to get onto Mediavine and Adthrive as well if your site qualifies for either of these networks.
To start your journey towards a profitable exit, you’ll need to adopt a different mindset from thinking that you own a personal blog. Start thinking and acting like a media company.
It sounds a bit grandiose, but taking this broader perspective helps you detach yourself from the site. Many people often undersell their digital asset by only thinking of it as a blog.
An authority site is just one of your assets under your media company brand. Even if it’s the only one, this opens avenues for flexibility.
You could buy more content sites and work towards building them as authority sites in their respective niches or explore an offline business venture instead.
A common concern people have at this point is worrying about who will buy their site.
This question often prevents business owners from listing their site for sale because they’re “not ready.”
While striving for perfection feels like good practice to improve the quality of your work, it’s better to objectively reflect on the state of the site by simply asking yourself, “Would I buy this business?”
Even if you’re not ready to sell at this point, putting your site up for sale and preparing for an exit helps you streamline operations and increase both traffic and revenue.
By asking yourself if the site is something you’d consider buying, you’ll know where you should start working to make it a more lucrative purchase.
A buyer may purchase a content site with a strong upward trend of profitability and revenue with the intention of it being a lifestyle business or part of a larger portfolio. Buyers love businesses they can scale since they’re considered easy wins.
However, even if your site isn’t fully optimized, this shouldn’t prevent you from listing the business for sale. Buyers with deep pockets are often on the lookout for distressed assets to “fix and flip.”
The bottom line is there’s a buyer for all types of businesses.
The next question is how do you sell? You could choose to go for a private deal, use an auction site, or use a broker.
Disclaimer: I’m biased in saying this, but I’d recommend using a broker if you’re selling for the first time. The services you get facilitate a smooth deal, and the deal flow of qualified buyers with serious buying intent provided is unparalleled.
A private buyer might end up being a tire kicker or stubbornly lowball you to negotiate as far as they can.
Auction sites might generate a lot of interest, but you don’t have the same level of protection. Buyers often won’t have to go through an approval process, and you have no idea if they’ll be trustworthy or not.
Vincent is a Content Specialist at Empire Flippers. Originally from the UK and now residing in Malaysia, he loves everything related to online businesses. He loves discovering new (and old) films, music, and cultures.