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How To Build a Website for One Dollar Guaranteed to Get Traffic and Why It Is a Bad Idea

Like most other internet marketers/online entrepreneurs I struggle with the curse of always thinking up new ideas even though I know I should be focusing on my primary business plan.

Well what I have today is a simple way to build a website “guaranteed” to get traffic for $1…along with an example of how I did it and why it is a bad idea!

What Was I Thinking – This plan was dreamt up and post created on a Saturday night after my baby boy and wife had fallen asleep. I was deep diving into my analytics enjoying a couple beer after my day having started with a teething baby/dirty diaper at 4:30am. So I am not surprised it was not my best idea! But I still find it interesting and hope you do to!  

I have come back and made some edits inputted the results but for the most part this is a pretty raw dump of me thinking through a potential online project and geeking out with Excel…

A Surprisingly Fun Saturday Night!

A Surprisingly Fun Saturday Night!

Exactly How Do You Build a Website for $1 “Guaranteed” to Get Traffic

 

The Overall Strategy in One Sentence…

Find a domain recently expired that has a low Alexa rank, register the domain for $1, build a simple website on it and make money from the traffic.

 

bad-business-idea

My Big I am a Dumb Ass Disclaimer

This idea has obvious flaws but what had me interested in thinking it through was that it could be possible to outsource every step of the process and turn it into a systematized machine!

3 Key Assumptions to Test

In order for a plan like this to be profitable I believe there are 3 key assumptions that will be the focus of the rest of this post. Testing and analyzing them…

  1. Profit/website created
  2. Cost/website created
  3. Number of websites able to create

Well I May As Well Do 1 Case Study to Test The Assumptions

I couldn’t help myself…let me repeat – this is a terrible business model and I do not recommend it but curiosity has me.  So in the spirit of the Lean Startup let’s test some assumptions quickly and see how this goes…

I hate hate hate GoDaddy but for $1 domains I can’t argue

The Process Step by Step…

  1. Run a seed list through Xenu (see Ultimate Guide to Expired Domains for more details)
  2. Run Xenu output through DomainSpoon
    1. Or my free software alternative (not as good as DomainSpoon)
    2. Or use the search parameters at expireddomains.net
  3. Take the best of the list and run it through the free tool – Bulk Alexa Checker
  4. Pick a domain that meets my expired domain metrics and has a low Alexa score
    1. Alexa < 10M (lower the better)
    2. Some traffic recorded in SEMRush, Quantcast, Compete
      1. I want to have 2 tracking tools verify traffic
    3. No Porn/Poker/Pharmacy in backlink profile according to  MajesticSEO.com
    4. Some reasonable commercial viability
    5. Trust Flow & Citation Flow > 15
    6. Natural backlink profile
  5. Search Google for $1 GoDaddy Domain Coupon
  6. Register the domain
  7. Point it to your existing hosts Name Servers
    1. Cheapest Reasonable Host Option if we don’t want this test on our main host
  8. Set Up Website (Outsourced to a fast VA via ODesk)
    1. Add-On Domain
    2. Install WordPress using One Click Install
    3. Setup WordPress Quickly (duplicator plugin can help)
      1. New Theme/General Settings/SEO Plugin/QuickAdsense Plugin
    4. Add a couple original articles
      1. I had a couple medium quality related from another project I wasn’t going to use so I sent them for uploading
    5. Install analytics
    6. Install Monetization method
  9. Set Google Calendar reminder to check stats and kill or renew the site based on income/traffic at 10 months
  10. Become Rich Overnight 😉

I outsourced a bunch of the set up steps above to one of my fastest VA’s and if I was going to scale would assign a dedicated VA to “own” the entire process.

Some Screenshots of my Wild Saturday Night…

3-one-dollar-domains

$1 Domain – Can’t Beat That Price

4-expired-domain-metrics

Ok Link Profile Hopefully Means the Traffic Will Stick

alexa-rank

Alexa Rank for Case Study Site

6-confirm-alexa-rank-isnt-fake

Make Sure the Alexa Isn’t Displaying for Another Site…

What Would This Look Like as a Business Model?

There would be 1 VA to manage the whole process, 1 Google Document(SOP) describing exactly how to do each step and 1 Google Spreadsheet to track everything.

Each step would be entered into the tracking document. The VA would generate a list of sites for me to give final approval on. Once a domain was approved the VA would then go and execute each step with review hold points for me.

There would be 1 GoDaddy Account and 1-5 Hosting Accounts dedicated to this project.

The key metrics for business success would be:

  1. Revenue/site
  2. Cost/site to create
  3. Number of sites created

8-business-process-building-cheap-websites

How Much Would We Make?

There are the 3 metrics to optimize

  1. number of sites created
  2. cost per site created
  3. revenue per site

Number of Sites:

The number of sites created with this set up of 1 dedicated VA could average 1/day and I am confident in the ability to achieve this. The challenge may be finding the domains that meet my metrics and diminishing returns as a result over time.

Cost Per Site:

The $1 domain is limited so we can’t base the business on that (limited to 4/customer). Each step has been assigned time and a cost.

  • Identify Potential Domains – 1hr/site = $2
  • Register Domain = $10 ($1 for the first 4 domains with GoDaddy)
  • Set Up Website = 2hr = $4
  • Content = $15 for decent content or $4 for Spun (DON’T DO IT!)
  • Final Set Up of Site/Tracking = 0.5hr = $1
  • Hosting = $3/month for all the sites = Assume $0
  • Our Time = Assume $0
  • Total Cost = ~$32
  • Minimum Cost = ~$12 (not scalable! Using original content “lying around” and $1 domains)

Income per Site:

This is up for debate but let’s run 3 cases

  • Worst = $0.5/week (Could likely do better!)
  • Likely = $1.5/week
  • Best = $3/week (probably unreasonable!)

Based on the case study results this seems reasonable.

The Analysis

Well it’s always fun to geek out on a spreadsheet on a Saturday night when my wife and baby are sleeping.

So here is the profit loss analysis for this plan…

 9-spreadsheet-analyzing-profit-loss-for-websites

and the final result is a smiley face…

 

roi-for-building-websites

Projected Cumulative Net Income/Loss for Business by Days

We would start off loosing money each day until the income generated from the sites in existance would start to bring in more than the cost of continuing to create one new site per day. Eventually we would make back all the money we had invested and in the last 3 months of the year generate a net income of $2,600

  • Cash Required = ~$2,500 (cash required to start)
  • Net Income = ~$2,600 (at the end of 365 days)
  • ROI (not sure which calculation makes sense)…
    • = Net Profit / Total Expenses = 2,600/11,680 = 22%
    • = Net profit / Capital Required = 2,600/2,500 = 104%

 

Case Study Results

After 2 weeks with no promotion here are the results…

 

Traffic to Site after 2 Weeks

Traffic to Site after 2 Weeks

 

Final Analysis of This as a Business Model

First it does not pass my golden rule I always try to follow…

“Does this add value to a human?” – FAIL – Unless true quality content is created for each site which would drive up costs!

Next the one BIG thing missing from this analysis is the value of our time. I think I have a lot of experience with outsourcing and project management (my day job as well) but I know this would take up a lot of my time or anyone else implementing this to manage, tweak and improve the system.

At some point there becomes a loss of efficiency as the number of sites under management gets to become large. Sometime this optimal number gets referred to as the Economic Order Quantity in the manufacturing world. Just because the number of items created gets bigger doesn’t mean our cost/unit goes down indefinitely!

Tools would need to be purchased to manage the thousands of plugin/theme updates, there would always be the risk of the hosting company kicking you out and having to move the 300+ sites. If the sites were built the same there would be the chance of malware moving through all of them. Plus many other unforeseen problems and challenges especially around monetization!

So, the fact that I am adding no value to a human, the multitude of risks and a marginal return for the amount of time it would take for me to manage this system means this plan is dead dead dead!

So Why Create This Post Then?

I am not going to execute this strategy and don’t recommend anyone else does either so why create this post?

Until an idea has been written out it consumes a portion of my limited brain power. So since I had spent some time thinking/planning this one I thought it would be fun to post it on here for everyone else to discuss. Then once I started writing the post I figured a case study site to test the assumptions would be interesting and make the discussion more fact based and valuable.

Hope you enjoyed and please comment below with your thoughts and challenges to my assumptions…

  • Has anyone done this before and had success/failure?
  • Would you consider doing it on a small or large scale? Why/why not?
  • Did I mess up in my analysis and it’s a better opportunity or worse than shown?
  • Am I a terrible person and should be slapped by Google for just thinking about this?
  • Should I get focused on my core business – YES

 

 

About the Author Jon

I am a 33 year old husband, father of 3, engineer and a huge fan of developing systems to build useful and profitable websites. The reason I build online businesses is to provide financial independence for my family and yours AND so I can spend time outside skiing and biking with my family.
Jon Gillham, Online Entrepreneur

Leave a Comment:

36 comments
Kristy says September 16, 2013

Jon the way you think out ideas makes my head hurt a little. This is a clever idea but I am glad you decided it was not the right business strategy. It has me thinking though should I do this for 4 sites since I could build them for $1?

Reply
    Jon says September 16, 2013

    Sorry for the headache – it gave me on e too. Building these for $1 really depends on your goals online. If you are playing around for fun sure go ahead…if you are trying to build something that brings value to the world…stay away.

    Reply
Lisa says September 16, 2013

Hey Jon – you are definitely a supreme geek 🙂 – but I love how your mind works!

This business model reminds me of Justin and Joe’s at empireflippers.com with the exception that you are starting with an expired domain – which should theoretically give you a leg up on a brand new domain. At this point they don’t spend any time at all on creating or managing the niche websites, so it truly is passive income for them.

The big difference in their model which is where I think a plan like this would really pay off is that they sell their websites. And when they have websites to sell, they sell out in hours! It’s truly a sight to behold.

Since you’re so good at outsourcing, what do you think of a plan like that?

I’ve got LOTS of adsense sites that are making money – I just need to start selling them. Why don’t you put that brilliant mind of yours to work on figuring out how to get more hours in a day?

Reply
    Jon says September 16, 2013

    Lisa thanks for your thoughts. There are a lot of similarities but a few key differences. Their websites are targeting low competition keywords and have a lot more upside potential than what these little sites have. Plus I think they have a little more value baked into their sites since they are centered around a core problem from their keyword research. More hours in a day sounds like a great idea!

    Congrats on the success with your AdSense sites.

    Reply
Karl Steinmeyer says September 16, 2013

Jon,

Thanks for the time saver, this is something that i hear from most newbs (I can say it because i am one) that are first getting into the thick of it. Nice heads up and data on to why NOT to, and now I can point them here instead of explaining it myself!

Cheers,
karl

Reply
    Jon says September 16, 2013

    Hi Karl, glad you found it useful. Best of luck on your kickstarter campaign!

    Reply
Nick says September 16, 2013

If you are interested in something like this, check out domain parking, as this is what people have been doing for years in this industry.

1- Find domains with traffic
2- Park the domains, 0 effort on your part, just set up the nameservers to the parking company. No need to create content, install website, etc.. Your website will be a page full of ads now , which has the highest ctr in terms of revenue potential, as there is nothing else to distract the user.
3. Measure revenue and see if it’s worth to renew the domain.
4. Profit

Reply
    Jon says September 16, 2013

    Thanks Nick…that parked idea sounds like it would be much lower cost and easier to implement. However I would be concerned the traffic would drop off and the real “wins” for people doing this in large scale must come from selling a few of the domains. Ad’s paying for the process the private sales of the domains being the profit. Let me know if that is the case I am just guessing.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
Kashif says September 16, 2013

I like the idea of buying expired domains. However, instead of going for a WP install that is time consuming and requires maintenance (plugins have to be updated etc), why not put a single landing page on it? You may also put a form to capture emails and start a mailing list etc.

By the way, your calculations show VA rates as $2/hr. I am yet unable to find a quality VA on such rates 🙂

Reply
    Jon says September 16, 2013

    A few people have suggested the landing page route and sounds like it is a relatively well established business model for people in the domaining business. I would be concerned about how long organic traffic would stick around for if the site was just a landing page.

    Reply
      Kashif says September 17, 2013

      You may not be able to capture the long tail traffic through a landing page. But if you want just to check the idea whether the domain works or not, you can start with a LP and then grow it into a full fledge site, an authority site if you may, if things start to look good.

      Reply
        Jon says September 17, 2013

        That definitely sounds like a significant improvement over the plan I executed above – thanks for the tip. I still don’t think I would execute it but thanks for adding to the conversation!

        Reply
JP says September 16, 2013

You had me at the word “metrics”!

As an engineer that works as a military acquisition officer during the day, I enjoy seeing a numbers-based approach to online income. I hadn’t heard of your blog until a few weeks ago, and you’re now at the top of my list for useful reading.

Thanks for putting in the time to create a useful resource… it means a lot to your readers!

Reply
    Jon says September 16, 2013

    haha, thanks JP. I am glad you found it useful. I worry when I geek out like this only a small percentage of my audience will enjoy it. These number driven posts are a lot of fun to create so expect more of them.

    Reply
neale says September 16, 2013

Interesting idea just needs tweaking from where I’m sitting. How about using a similar process and building half decent sites on great expired domains for $100 aiming for a return of say $10 per month
less logistics more time to focus on quality..

Reply
    Jon says September 16, 2013

    Hi Neale – yah that is definitely one way to go and I know some successful people are going that route. I do like the focus on quality. If you ever test it out and want to share the results let me know.

    Reply
Theodore Nwangene says September 17, 2013

Wow Jon,
I don’t know if i should call you Mr Incredible. Always coming up with new ideas. Like you mentioned, it might be a bad business approach but, I’m ready to give it a shot.

Will see how it goes.

Thanks for sharing.

Reply
    Jon says September 17, 2013

    Thanks Theodore, I would be careful giving this strategy a shot! Definitely not the best long term strategy for success online. But if you do let me know how it goes.

    Reply
Lucian says September 17, 2013

I used to have “killer” ideas too after a couple of beers back in the day and now I stay away from that. However, your idea clearly beats all the ideas that I had and it’s not such a bad idea after all. The only problem here is that the websites that “died” most likely died because they made no money so reviving them with the original content would obviously have the same result. But I also think that there’s a possibility for something to go terribly wrong (from Google’s point of view) and one of those revived websites to really make it big. It’s something I would definitely try out if I had the time for this!

Reply
    Jon says September 17, 2013

    Hi Lucian – I think you are right in that the income from this strategy would be from the outliers in the strategy. The ones that either went big or the domains that could sell.

    I am sure you had several better ideas than this one!

    Reply
Matthew Allen says September 17, 2013

What about finding a decent paying and relevant affiliate product to promote via these domains? If you could find the right match for what the visitors are looking for – it could far outperform your Adsense projections. But then again – conversion rates would probably be terrible and it might not perform at all!

Cool that this is your idea of fun for a Saturday night! Welcome to family life. I was also working on my sites until about 1am Saturday night – except I skipped the beer this time. I was trying to be productive!

Reply
    Jon says September 17, 2013

    Hi Matt – with the right match it could definitely out perform. But it would be a very manual process to try and understand who was coming to the site and pick the right affiliate offer. It would definitely add a layer of complexity I wasn’t interested in – but could perform better.

    Family life is good – You were working until 1am on Saturday and now up at 5am working – when do you sleep!

    Reply
      Matthew Allen says September 17, 2013

      “If you love sleep, you will end in poverty.
      Keep your eyes open, and there will be plenty to eat!”
      -Proverbs 20:13

      First Bible quote ever in your comments? 😉 I like to take this verse literally. To me, sleeping is a waste of time. Kind of like a necessary evil. I was able to stay up until 1am Saturday because Sunday is the only day that I don’t allow myself to get up early to work on my internet stuff.

      Reply
Phil says September 17, 2013

Hey Jon,

thanks for this inspiring post, although I agree to say this method isn’t worth the efford. If you want to build sites on expired domains with traffic that’s not Bad at all, but I would focus on one or only a handful and build it into niche sites.

Of you create some quality assets this way and maybe keep or sell them the ROI will be much bigger.

Thanks anyway 🙂

Phil

Reply
    Jon says September 17, 2013

    Hi Phil – I agree – Building a larger site on an expired domain may definitely be worth it! I would feel more confident in that strategy over this strategy since you were adding real value through a useful site. Not really a strategy I can test out in one night though. Thanks for the idea.

    Reply
Jason says September 17, 2013

What I find most interesting, is that you value the time spent finding good expired domains at $2/hr.
Is this something you’ve actually outsourced on oDesk, where you’d end up with say, 5 quality expired domains for just $10 paid? If so, then I better hop on that wagon.

Also, why do you dislike GoDaddy so much?

Reply
    Jon says September 18, 2013

    Hi Jason, I do use my VA’s to find expired domains but I need to still do the QC check. I think I could probably get them to the point where they could do the whole thing themselves so that is why I estimated it at $2.

    GoDaddy – I hate all the up-sells – the irrelevant commercials – the goofy pricing – expensive privacy – cumbersome interface – trying to do everything hosting etc. I just want a simple service with good pricing that I can register domains at and that’s what NameCheap is for me.

    Reply
Louis says September 18, 2013

Hi Jon,

I think traffic would drop a lot sooner than you think and possibly within 1 year unless you keep adding content regularly and more backlinks. So then if you’re going to do that then it would be more in your interest to make a quality site out of the Expired domain, as already suggested, because the low alexa, higher pr and backlink profile would give you at least 3-6 months of a head start compared to a new domain.

Just my opinion though!

Reply
    Jon says September 18, 2013

    Hi Louis, that is a really good idea. See if the site is doing well then decide to grow it or not. Interesting thought.

    Reply
MMD says September 18, 2013

If this is how much planning and creativity you put into a plan you DON’T plan to use, then I can’t imagine how much energy goes into a plan you ARE going to use! Nice work here Jon.

Reply
    Jon says September 18, 2013

    Hey MMD – sometimes a lot less. Sometimes a lot more…I try and get it right but sometimes I just geek out on the planning and then never execute. I am glad I at least tested this one and am satisfied in not going forward with it!

    Reply
Deepayan says September 20, 2013

Hi Jon,
first of all thanks for sharing these useful thoughts.i just wanted to know if i opt to try out this method in our regional market and traffic which in this case is india,will it going to work?Kindly Suggest

Reply
    Jon says September 21, 2013

    I am not sure what you mean by your regional market – buying only websites with India content or executing this strategy in India. There isn’t a reason that I can think of that the results would be different – mediocre either way.

    Reply
Joe says September 20, 2013

Nice post on what not to do. The real issue with sites like these is even if you get to grow visitors and convert the constant changes made by Google will catch up with it sooner or later.

I’m at the point where I’m beginning my search for a VA to do the outreaching, backlinking, web 2.0 sites and social media work, but have noticed that rates that people charge are all over the place from the real cheap to the real expensive. What would be a good rate for this type of VA?

Reply
    Jon says September 21, 2013

    Hi Joe – For rates for VA’s you can get quality people for $2/hr but plan on going through a few until you find someone that works.

    Reply
Luc says September 30, 2013

Hi Jon,
this is a GREAT article!
I’ve bought an expired domain one week ago. Yesterday Godaddy has transferred it to my account.
I’ve taken it just for testing the market of expired domains (to get some traffic). I’ve choose a domain similar to mine but with a too high alexa rank (8M). Checked it on various sites which reported 1600 monthly visitors. Currently it has sent 5 visitors in 10 hours (after activating the redirect to my site).
Alexa rank is a good indicator in choosing expired domains? The traffic reported from “site estimator traffic” are real (I use statshow.com)?
Thanks again for the article (and sorry for my English!!)

Reply
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