Nick is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of From The Future. When he's not elbow deep in data, he's spending time with his wife, his dogs, or his cars.
I sold my last SEO blog in September 2015 for $100,000.00.
At the time of the sale it had 47 blog posts, which comes out to approximately $2,128 per post – but of those 47 posts – I only wrote 35 of them.
The rest were written by guest contributors, so in reality I actually made $2,857 per post (that I wrote).
Not bad in my opinion considering my goal was never to make money from blogging…
More specifically – high rankings, for commercial keywords, that lead to hyper-qualified traffic… and leads.
The crazy part is it’s not a lot of traffic, relatively speaking.
There were months where the site would hit 80-90k visits… but that wasn’t the norm. The average month would bring in closer to 60k visits.
But 100% from SEO.
All screenshots in this post are taken from SEMRush, one of my favorite SEO tools.
The intent of the keywords that the site ranks for, like increase website traffic, are specifically being searched for by people looking for solutions.
This means they are very likely to turn into leads – which they do, on average 3-5 times per day.
It’s this lead flow that allowed me to create (and sell) another SEO-related site in March of 2015 – one that sold leads.
When you sell a website, you usually have to agree to a non-compete for a period of time (often 1-2 years) and hand over the attached email subscriber list.
Not in this case.
Both of those terms were deal breakers for me, but apparently not for the buyers – so I sold the site.
Partly because I wasn’t crazy about the brand… it was never well thought out, more so a blog I spun up one weekend to move a lot of the SEO-related stuff I was writing off of nickeubanks.com
Since I still have my SEO products, and no non-compete, I figured I’d keep right on blogging about SEO and traffic, and this time not attach the brand so heavily to myself.
Let’s dive deeper into what made this blog worth real money.
Traffic can be valuable for all sorts of reasons:
and probably 50 other ways I haven’t mentioned here. But for the purposes of this post, I’m going to specifically be taking a look at traffic with commercial value, that is traffic for keywords that people are willing to pay for.
What I’ll be using for valuation is a simple 3rd party metric, average cost per click (or CPC), that you would need to be willing to pay to place your ad on Google when that particular keyword is searched.
So in terms of keeping the valuations very simple, the formula I’ll be using to place a monetary valuation on a keyword (again, just for the purposes of this post) is:
monthly search volume x average CPC = value per month
The direct driver of these costs is competition, but the indirect drivers are more interesting to look at from a revenue stand-point…
Often the value is easy to comprehend, if it’s a direct product keyword like “mens gucci shoes for sale” there’s a straight-forward path to revenue; a retailer pays for the click for the chance to sell the product to the end consumer.
But for lead-based keywords, it’s not as clear cut; for example rankings for the keyword increase website traffic.. what are those worth?
Well, if you’re a digital marketing agency with your numbers dialed in, i.e. customer acquisition cost (CAC), average close rate (ACR), and customer lifetime value (LTV), potentially several thousand dollars each.
Knowing this is how you maximize on a liquidity event from your content-based blog; you don’t sell based on multiples of operating revenues or profits – you sell based on strategic opportunity, to a strategic buyer.
For many people their blog is like their baby, and they build them into nice streams of relatively passive revenue through combinations of affiliate offers, product sales, sponsorship and advertising.
At the time of the sale my blog was making between $4,000-$4,500 per month without me doing anything besides sending an occasional email. Granted four grand per month is nothing to write home about, but it’s also not nothing..
Yes, I could have not sold and just ridden the wave of passive income, and doing nothing (if nothing changed) in 2 years I would have made the same amount, but the entrepreneur in me believes I’m not a one-trick pony – and that I can stand on this success to replicate it at a larger multiple.
The new owner is likely is taking the Warren Buffet approach: believing they will be able to fix/grow/exceed the success I was able to create with the blog, and to be honest; they probably will.
That blog was never that important to me.
I’m not saying I didn’t care, far from it in reality, all I’m saying is the blog was never a priority – where as with as much money as the new owner has invested, they’re likely to make it a priority, and squeeze every drop of money they can from it.
The key here is understanding strategic synergies, and positioning for revenue; sometime this is direct monetization while you operate your site, and other times this means eating up strategic market share within the SERP’s to position for an exit.
In my usual fashion – I’m going to provide you as much real world data as I can to provide you with helpful perspective and some actionable directions.
To do this I’m going to provide data on 3 example niches that I’ve considered building revenue-focused blogs for:
and I’ll even do you one better, I’ve put together a bigger list of some of the verticals I’ve considered building blogs for (including the associated target keyword lists) and you can download it for free by clicking the button below, but this is only going to be available for a limited time.
BONUS PDF: Get a list of niche content verticals, including sample keyword lists. Click here to download the PDF »
Energy is an interesting space to be building content right now; due to deregulation of utility company’s leads for brokering energy between individual consumers and resellers is a rapidly growing (and quite profitable) market.
Hence capturing search marketshare in this market, for keywords with intent ranging from research and education (TOFU) to interest, shopping, and ultimately service quoted (MOFU – BOFU) could mean significant opportunities for monetization.
Let’s look at a small sample of valuable keywords from one of the sites doing a good job at ranking for commercial investigation terms, myenergy.com:
This is a very small sample of keywords in this vertical, but I wanted to look specifically at terms that have a high commercial value, i.e. they are competitive in paid search with average cost per click prices above $10.
To put this in perspective, myenergy.com’s organic traffic (according to SEMRush) is only about 8,000 visits/month. This is a pittance in comparison to the bigger players in the energy space, like consumersenergy.com, that gets a projected 400,000 visits/mo from SEO.
However, to get that measly 8,000 visits per month from the same hyper-commercial keywords you would need to spend an estimated $29,000 in PPC every month.
Starting to make sense?
To expand on this, let’s move up the funnel to more informational keywords to get a better sense of what this landscape looks like.
Doesn’t look too exciting does it?
Mostly low volume, low bid terms.. but you need to try to see the forest through the trees here; this is where the opportunity lies.
Lock down your contextual relevance and rankings for the easier, lower traffic, less competitive keywords first.
These are your foundational building blocks for a monetizable blog or website – and once you’ve got a nice store of content (and relevancy) built up for these terms, you can set your sites on the big money transactional queries, like these:
Moving right along…
This vertical has been played out – so much so that the whole first SERP now contains content from big brand sites like entrepreneur.com, Business News Daily, About.com, Forbes, and Inc magazine.
Check out the serious search volume cliff that exists on the most common variations:
Yes there’s a 94% reduction in search volume between the first and second most popular keywords but, to come back around to competition… this means opportunity.
Many of these second and third tier keywords are just as valuable from a commercial perspective as the foundational term.
Best of all… if we sum up just 14 secondary keywords in terms of commercial value from search, it’s over $43,500 in monthly traffic value.
Within this tiny set of 14 keywords, there are 2 stand-outs in terms of commercial value:
So if I was going into to start blogging in this vertical my first priority would be to crush rankings for those terms.
Now onto our last niche content vertical;
If you’re relatively in tune with the digital commerce landscape, you probably scoffed at the idea that home decor is a niche vertical.
But I’m going to have to persist, home decor itself as a category is not a niche vertical, but if you drill down inside of it, there are niches you can still tap for commercial traffic.
Are you seeing them?
Again, you’re not as concerned with pure-play search volume here, you’re analyzing areas that warrant further investigation – with the goal being to build up a nice store of SEO-driven traffic for less competitive commercial terms.
The sub-niche I’m seeing here is around DIY and budget/cheap decorating ideas.
If you were to expand this full list out to include all 602 keywords, less the top 3 outliers, you’d be looking at a list with over 22,000 searches and a commercial value over $30,000 per month.
These numbers start to become really exciting when you annualize them 😉
Our data driven approach to keyword research.