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Content Website Buying Due Diligence – FAST 5 Minute 5 Step Checklist

There are a lot of great articles going in depth about how to do due diligence when buying a website. Many of these are more in depth than you want to do for an initial pass. After doing this quick check a lot of these deep dive articles are great to checkout put out by brokers… EmpireFlippers & FEInternational.

There are even great companies like Centurica that for a fee will do a deep dive into a site. I have used them in the past to scale due diligence and they are great.  

In this post I am going to provide the quick initial check that can be done in under 5 minutes (if all the information is available) for you to see if there are any red flags. 

In addition to the checklist and screenshots I will do a review myself on a public listing at flippa so you can watch over my shoulder. 

We use a lot of tools for this process totalling over $1k/month! If you want to save the costs and pick up a content site in the $2.5-$75k range checkout the sites listed at MotionInvest.

Here are the tools we use…

This is the quick 5 minute FAST preliminary due diligence guide. 

  1. Income Verification
    1. Images can be faked – video of earnings is best
    2. Earnings per visitor is reasonable – a joke site earning $0.1 per visitor doesn’t make sense while a high ticket focused amazon associate review site earnings that same amount per visitor does make sense. 
    3. Expenses if any are reasonable
  2. Traffic Verification
    1. 6 months to 1 year of traffic – steady growth or stable is the ideal
    2. GEO Location – Making sure the traffic isn’t all from an area that can’t be monetized or faked
    3. Time on site & Device – If the traffic is faked the time on site and the device used isn’t a normal distribution 
    4. Traffic claimed and traffic shown by 3rd party service like SEMRush are reasonably aligned.
  3. Backlink Analysis and Red Flags
    1. Check all 301 redirect – make sure the site hasn’t been moved from another location and the end result would be you own a domain with no traffic
    2. Are the links “Real” and “Relevant” links? – Simple enough but you want to make sure there are “real” links put by someone to help their audience and are from “relevant” sites. 
    3. No unusual concentration of spammy links or rate of link acquisition – See video for explanation
    4. No overuse of any single strategy (blog comments, scholarships, donations, PBN, paid links, widget links etc) – If all the links are from one strategy it is not ideal (see “real” & “relevant” rule of thumb above) – here is a more in depth backlink analysis tutorial
  4. Content Check
    1. Plagiarism Check – Running a quick plagiarism check to make sure the content is unique is great. 
    2. Quality – is the content answering the searchers queries? Maintaining content has a cost… if the starting point of that content is low then you will need to factor in a lot of updates/re-writes to that content
      1. Pro Tip – You can use MarketMuse to see the quality of the content relative to the competition. 
  5. Archive & WhoIs Check
    1. Has the site had a “colourful” past or different then what the traffic/earnings would suggest? See video for more details.  – Note I find Archive doesn’t work for some sites, here is a wayback machine archive alternative.
    2. Does the history of the domain name transfer make sense

If the site passes this FAST preliminary check it is time to do a deeper dive! The deep dive analysis will be the subject of another article… stay tuned for that.

If you are interested in Content Sites that are earning right now and have passed this preliminary a deeper due diligence process checkout MotionInvest!

What is your favourite red flag when looking at a website to potentially buy? 

The 3 Most Common Website Purchase Mistakes I Make

Over the past 10 years I have purchased hundreds of sites. Often these are smaller sites sometimes with some problems that people are looking to sell quickly. For years I have ranked #1 for sell your website fast and have seen lots of interesting deals come across my plate. 

Some of the deals have turned out to be amazing while others have been complete failures.

When I recently did an analysis on all the purchases that failed I could group them into 3 categories. 

These are now my 3 keys when purchasing sites…

ONE – Simple + Believable Traffic and Monetization Data

This one has always been hard. Often a site that can’t be sold somewhere else will come to me and will have some odd way of monetizing. It could be a unique affiliate arrangement, hard to track earnings, traffic tracked with something other than GoogleAnalytics, weird Google Analytics setup etc. 

This rule is also a catch-all for any time that the numbers are confusing or don’t check out. 

When a site has a clean monetization method that I am familiar with (adsense & amazon are ideal) and traffic sources that can be verified (organic traffic with Google analytics) it makes the purchase much simpler/faster. 

Case Study: Custom Affiliate Arrangement Cancelled In The First Week

I purchased a site in the tech space that had tutorials that were about 2 years old. A couple of those tutorials were ranking very well and the site was generating about $25/day from one relationship for lead generation. It was also making some earnings from adsense but the revenue per user from the lead generation arrangement was 10x better than adsense. 

Lots of things checked out…

  • the site had been around for a couple years
  • traffic was growing steadily
  • the quality of the content was the best for what it was ranking for

But… 1 week after I purchased it I received an email from the business contact for the lead generation company and was informed they no longer saw value in the relationship and were terminating it. I don’t believe any funny business occurred with collusion between the seller and the lead generation company but it certainly hurt! I was able to refocus the site on adsense and bring up the earnings to about 25% of what they were when I purchased the site. 

Overall it was an unfortunate event and one of a few where I purchased a site with a monetization strategy I was not very familiar with and the site struggled.   

TWO – Not Declining and with Decent History

Lots of sites that are declining have sellers that are eager to sell. In terms of the multiple paid to purchase the website they can often look like incredible deals.

So many sites come to me that are declining I have even created a strategy for trying to revive them… Dead Cat Strategy – How to turn around a declining site.

However, what I have often seen is that the inertia of a declining site takes more energy to turn around than it is worth. If the deal is too good to pass up then great but many times I have been lured in from the “cheap” multiple to buy a declining site and been overconfident in the time/energy I will dedicate to turning it around. 

Case Study: First Larger Purchase

Early on around 2010 I put in a lot of effort and the most money I had to date to purchase a site. The site was declining but I had grown a site in that niche already and had unique affiliate arrangements which gained me more per commission than the seller was receiving. I thought despite the fact it was declining I would be able to turn it around and instantly give it a lift with improved monetization. 

The result was that despite way too much effort to turn it around the site continued to slide. The lift in earnings I was able to achieve was great but all of that lift was quickly eaten up by the continued decline.

I certainly overpaid but the bigger failure in this case was sticking with the site for too long. This and others like it helped me evolve my dead cat strategy… 

  • buy cheap
  • give it a kick (quick SEO audit and add more content/links)
  • if it jumps nurse it back to health and if it stays on the decline let it go

THREE – Current Operator Not Doing Unique Activities

This one is my favourite because it often brings me in contact with some “crazy” entrepreneurs! 

I have had a couple experiences where I purchased a site where the deal came to me because they had been turned away from brokers due to being volatile/rude/crazy! Some of these purchases have been great but I often learn the same lesson over and over. 

That lesson is that if the founder is still heavily involved in the business they are often doing something that is generating value you can’t simply plug in an SOP to handle. 

Case Study: Welcome to Crazy Town!

There was an ecommerce site generating 20k/month in revenue and everything about the deal was great!

  • Great price to buy the site as she was too crazy for brokers who she previously spoke with to handle or put her on a call with a buyer
  • Lots of organic traffic verified with significant content marketing growth opportunities
  • Healthy margins for dropshipping and long history with the wholesaler (10years)
  • Sites conversion rates could do with an easy improvement with images/redesign

There was one big variable… the founder. She was working tons of hours with it as her full time job and most of the activities I thought were completely inefficient. She was spending her day doing what seemed like inefficient tasks such as directory submission, social bookmarking, misc conferences, calling every customer (valuable but inefficient), TONS and TONS of “research” and only a little content creation.

But what I didn’t fully appreciate was how much that relentless energy and obsessive focus put into the business yielded sales. 

We improved a lot of things easily… improved the rankings, improved the site and the conversion rate for organic traffic, email automation, abandoned cart and other site tweaks. All these changes improved the metric we were trying to but overall… sales dropped by 40%!! 

How…To a significant extent I didn’t realize how much she was acting as a sales person talking to everyone she could about the site/product wherever she went… grocery store, post office etc. 

For me who likes to see all activities in the business fit neatly into an SOP I need to be on the lookout for the founder doing things that don’t scale and can’t be efficiently replaced.

Overall the purchase of this business was still a great one as even though revenue declined it was operated more efficiently and profits went up but… I had hoped for much more.

What Are Your Hard Earned Website Purchase Due Diligence Rules?

If you have been busy purchasing sites have you discovered any “rules” you follow? If so please share in the comments.

Do Internal Links Matter for SEO and How To Build Them Systematically – LinkWhisper Review

There are some things in life you KNOW you should do, and they aren’t hard to do, but they just don’t seem to get done. Internal link building is one of these!

You finish your post, get everything ready to publish, publish and then think: ****, I should really should have built some internal links!

This post will show you how to do this in 5 minutes using this tool for your site so that you never have to worry about internal linking again.

I am going to cover…

● First: Sharing some data analysis that the guys at AuthorityHacker did which shows that YES, internal links really do matter for ranking in Google.

● Second: Showing how this can be done systematically through LinkWhisper (plus my review of this tool).

(‘Data’ and ‘systematically’… 2 of my favourite words. This will be fun…)

One of the most popular books of the year is James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which explains how small, repetitive tasks which become habits and have compounding effects to transform our lives. How does that relate to internal link building? This post covers one of those small simple tasks that will have ongoing compounding benefits to your site. By making the process of internal link building easier, faster, and automatic, you can systematize a good habit!

First: Do internal links matter for SEO?

Short answer is yes!

Internal linking matters for more than just SEO purposes, but for the purposes of this article we are focusing on the SEO benefit.

Don’t let internal link building for SEO purposes distract from the more important issue of user experience and driving traffic to your $ pages.

The guys at AuthorityHacker–specifically Michal Ugor–have created a fantastic article digging into the data of 1 million links.

See their full article here: Internal Links. Great article that goes into this topic in more detail!

Credit – https://www.authorityhacker.com/internal-links/

The bottom line:

1. Pages that rank higher in Google averaged having more internal links pointing to that page than pages that didn’t rank as highly.

2. Anchor text matters for internal links and you can be more aggressive with exact match than typically you would be for off page links.

3. A decent rule of thumb is to have 5 internal links linking out for every post and, for the pages you want to rank, up to 100 internal links pointing to them. As with most rules of thumb this will have limited application.

a. NOTE: I was shocked when I saw my average was under 1 for outbound internal links on my posts!

Second: How to Systematically Structure & Sculpt Them? LinkWhisper Review

So we know links matter and would all love to spend the time analyzing and optimizing them for every post. The reality is most of us don’t have that time.

So what is the solution? How do we get the majority of the benefit as efficiently as possible?

That is where LinkWhisper comes in, a great new tool from Spencer Hawes of NichePursuits.

Here are the steps I use, leveraging SEMRush to identify the opportunities and LinkWhisper to systematically build internal links.

Note: Any time you systematically do something it is not as ideal as fully sculpting the page rank flow with a site architecture plan. But, for the busy online entrepreneur looking for a systematic solution, I hope this helps.

Procedure for Automatically Internal Link Building

1. Identify Opportunities using SEMRush (this is optional and can all be done with LinkWhisper)

a. Note this is similar to the significant success we have had identifying the content that needs a refresh and upgrade. We are excited to combine both upgrades and internal link structure improvements to the key pages we care about and see the results!

b. Go to SEMRush and sign in

c. Enter the Domain in question

d. Go to Organic Research

e. Keyword Identification – Select metrics of ‘Position 4-20’ and ‘traffic 100+’

  • The key here is to identify low hanging fruit on keywords where a small impact in link juice being passed to them will improve their ranking.

f. Export to tracking sheet–see free copy of sheet you can copy

g. Page Identification–What are the top 10-20 pages you care about? You can use Google Analytics for this or SEMRush

h. Create final plan using judgement around what pages are low hanging fruit for boosting traffic and what pages you most care about

2. Install LinkWhisper and use the sheet you made in step 1 to set it up

a. Purchase LinkWhisper here

b. Install LinkWhisper

c. Activate LinkWhisper

d. Wait for InternalLinksReport (2-5 minutes)

e. Refer to the plan you made in step 1 and systematically go through each page adding internal links for the ones you care about

3. If LinkWhisper doesn’t have any recommended internal links

a. Search Google to identify top pages for the keyword you are wanting to rank for sitel:yourdomain.com “keyword” the results should show #1 as the page you are wanting to rank for the keyword and then the next 5 pages are likely great places to put an internal link back to your target page.

b. Edit page(s) and add link back to the main page you are wanting to rank for that keyword

Conclusion

Internal link building matters and is often neglected.

LinkWisper and some manual work is a great way to efficiently get your internal link building game back in order!

Hope this actionable article was helpful!

Does The Holy Grail for Content Marketing Exist Yet? – CognitiveSEO Review

What is the “holy grail” for Content Marketing? The answer is:  The ability to predictably say that if you target a keyword with a specific criteria, and produce an article that meets certain specifications, you will be “guaranteed” to rank in the top 10 of Google.  

Today we look at how CognitiveSEO can help in this quest!

The “Holy Grail” of Content Marketing might be a long shot, but we are always using our unique position of publishing A LOT of quality articles on great sites with Content Refined to try and come closer to understanding the variables that will rank your content with certainty on search engines. With the sheer number of articles published, along with access to data science talent, we were able to perform a multivariable regression analysis that we think it is worth pursuing.

In this article, we are going to talk about the results from one specific tool that can provide more metrics about both the keyword and content quality compared to almost any other tool on the market. 

CognitiveSEO provides an amazing array of metrics for data driven content marketers to dig into and analyze against the performance of their content. Where you would need data from several different tools such a SEMRush, MarketMuse and Ahrefs etc., CognitiveSEO consolidates a lot of that functionality into one super awesome tool. A great solution for those who have too many ongoing SAAS subscriptions already (I’ve been so guilty of this). 

So by using just CognitiveSEO, what are the metrics that would “guarantee” a ranking in the top 10? Come on a stats adventure with us.

Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
GIF – Indiana Jones

Stats Disclaimer – Before we get dig too deeply into these numbers, it’s important that we share what some of the statistical performance was for these. 

The Keyword Monthly Volume, Content Performance, Article Word Count and URL Character length are the most valuable variables to analyze. Analyzing  50+ regression scenarios,12.42% r square is the best regression result available using a majority of only CognitiveSEO’s Variables. The best single regression variable, content performance, achieved an r squared value of 4.4%. In most successful multi regression analysis, a variable ” anchor” is needed to drive line of best fit. This seems to be missing as the most successful single regression variable only has 4.4% correlation to google rankings, making it hard to fit the rest of the data to variable with little fit. Actionable insights are still achieved and are explained below. 

Actionable Insights: 

If you are trying to create content that will predictably rank on google, according to CognitiveSEO, you want to follow these guidelines. 

Metrics: 

Minimum Conditions:

  • Keyword difficulty should be at least 17
  • Content performance score should be at least  51
  • The readability score should be at least 47
  • Minimum article length should be 250 words

Ideal Conditions: 

  • Keyword difficulty should be at least 17
  • Content performance score should be at least 85
  • The readability score should be at least 65
  • Minimum article length should be 1400 words

I checked to see if one of my best ranking pages met this criteria, and check out my findings below! 

My article “How to Build a PBN” is a great example of this. This article does really well–it has 10 keywords ranking in the top 3 spots on Google and it has been picked up for Google’s featured snippet for this article. 

In this case all of the “Ideal” Criteria were met!

  • Keyword difficulty should be at least 17
    • For my Keyword it was 37
  • Content performance score should be at least 85
    • Our content performance score was 97
  • The readability score should be at least 65
    • Ours was 75
  • Minimum article length should be 1400 words
    • We went big with this one and it was 14,743 words long! 

Conclusion: 

So what does this mean? Have we “cracked the code” of content marketing? According to this data analysis (which has pulled on hundreds of articles written by Content Refined) we are able to predict that if the ideal conditions of an article are met, you should be able to rank in the top 10 of Google. We’ve given you the Holy Grail–so give CognitiveSEO a try for yourself and really step up your game in the world of content marketing.

Summer Content Plan Failure and How to Fix!

Summertime is around the corner. For me this usually means long weekends at the cottage, outside activities with my wife and kids- like hiking, biking and boating and also just some general vacation time. I’ve always been an outdoorsy guy so the summer is a great time to recharge and reap the benefits of our area, especially since it doesn’t last too long here in Canada!

Although the down time is really nice, it unfortunately has come at the expense of some of my businesses- especially the ones that are relatively low maintenance and are easy to fall off my radar.  I’ve had a long history of taking my foot off the gas pedal during the summer when it has come to my content sites, which for some sites has lead to irreversible traffic declines and lost revenues!

Over the years I have noticed a consistent decline starting in or around June and July which coincides with the beginning of summer. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a guy who is pretty data oriented and systems focused- so this predictable decline is annoying to me. What’s more annoying is that it is entirely my fault. If I had just taken a little bit of time to get in front of my content strategy and systematized the content creation process then I could have saved myself (and my sites) the hit that we ended up taking.

Take a look as some of these screenshots- none of these sites have recovered fully from these declines!

So what are my takeaways for this year? I’m going to get in front of my content creation strategy and systematize the content creation and publishing on my money sites so that I don’t even have to think about it this summer while I’m taking some time off. I’ve leveraged my team at Content Refined come up with a great plan that they will execute over the next 5 months so that it’s completely hands free for me.

Take a look at my spreadsheet for all of my money sites for the summer! I’ll quickly use one of my sites as an example to show you what I’ve done. And hey don’t steal my Keywords! 🙂 I’ll give you this sheet or free at the bottom of this article so that you can create your own plan!

Step 1:

Figure out how many articles you want published on a monthly basis. For this particular site, I have steady traffic already and am just looking to maintain. I figure 6 articles per month at 1000 words each will be sufficient in keeping the momentum I need around this size of site.

Current Traffic:

2. Conduct Keyword Research for your Niche.

The Team at Content Refined has engineered my site and separated it into the pillar topics. This is to make sure that every section of my site will get some content throughout the summer. They’ve picked the keywords and assigned the month of production to each

Step : 3 Make sure the metrics are understood and aligned with your goals!

Search Volume and competition are super important when it comes to picking keywords that will predictably rank on search engines. The gold standard that Content Refined uses is searches above 500 per month with a competition of under 30% are most likely to rank top 10!

We leverage other tools such as marketmuse to pull the average content score and the average word count that we should be targeting for each article. This way the writer assigned to each article knows how long it should be and what kind of content score we expect when we run it though marketmuse. If an article exceeds the average content score it is more likely to outrank the competition !!!

Step 4: Pick your plan!

I’ve opted to have the team at Content Refined deliver these on a monthly basis and update the spreadsheet accordingly. Alternatively I could have had these articles created all at once and then scheduled out on a weekly basis. The team is pretty flexible and can work with your budget and needs.

Now I’ve got my summer content plans ready to go and a system in place to make sure that my content creation strategy doesn’t fall off the priority list. I’m really stoked that I got in front of my content marketing goals for the summer and I think this will help avoid the trend. So what are you waiting for?

Download my spreadsheet for free: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1DjC0ir8UqigcXwa-nJrPTt2Mz2UPG_Vqk_Psy0PWz64/edit#gid=0

To have your summer content strategy taken care of, visit https://www.contentrefined.com/summer-special/ and have a chat with them on how they can do this for your sites!

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