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…

What Made it Worth $100,000

Simple; rankings.

More specifically – high rankings, for commercial keywords, that lead to hyper-qualified traffic… and leads.

SEONick-kws

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.

The Way It Usually Works

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.

Backing Into Revenue

Let’s dive deeper into what made this blog worth real money.

Traffic can be valuable for all sorts of reasons:

  1. Sales
  2. Leads
  3. Clicks
  4. Awareness
  5. Cookies

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.

What If You Don’t Want To Sell?

Then don’t.

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 to Revenue

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:

  1. Energy conservation
  2. Small business ideas
  3. Home decor

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 »

Niche Blog Vertical #1: Energy

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:

MyEnergy-kws

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.

Why is this important?

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.

HowSaveEnergy

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:

EnergyGovKws

Moving right along…

Niche Blog Vertical #2: Small Business Ideas

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.

But

Check out the serious search volume cliff that exists on the most common variations:

SmallBizIdeas

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:

  1. small business marketing ideas, worth over $11,000/month, and
  2. marketing ideas for small business, worth nearly $7,000/month

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;

Niche Blog Vertical #3: Home Decor

If you’re relatively in tune with the digital commerce landscape, you probably scoffed at the idea that home decor is a niche vertical.

When you have Wayfair at a valuation north of $3 Billion, and Hayneedle raising over $22 million both in the home furnishing and decor space, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

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.

homeDecor-kws

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 😉

Ana Thomas
Ana Thomas

COMMENTS (52)

Avatar
  • Nick,

    First off, congrats and I have always been a fan of your writing style backed up with amazing data.

    Why I loved this post? What you wrote above can be easily applied to myself and my clients and the simplicity of this statement is what makes me excited moving forward with my team:

    “The intent of the keywords that the site ranks for, like increase website traffic, are specifically being searched by people looking for solutions.”

    What is not so simple is how you achieved amplification of your content? I assume your a great guy, but what is the secret there?

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Thanks Mike.

      While I wouldn’t necessarily call it a secret, it is probably worth a post on it’s own. It sounds so simple it’s stupid, but I send a lot of emails; both before and after the posts are published (and often times before they’re even started). This isn’t just to build awareness that assists with the post-publish amplification, but almost more so to ensure that I’m delivering information that people want to read about, in a way they want to see it presented.

      If you look back over the log of posts on SEONick, you’ll notice a distinct point in time where the posts got exponentially better; longer, data-backed, crap tons of references.. I learned (many times from asking) that readers in this space require that crap ton of research to build a point and support a narrative, so I gave it to them.

  • Avatar Roshan says:

    Nice. Are you taking local or global traffic as reference?

  • Avatar Mart Shark says:

    Build to sell is an interesting blog model. Good quality content on your guides obviously helps, but could you have built those links so easily without an existing reputation? 🙂

    • Hey Mart – When I launched the last blog I had, quite literally, ZERO reputation. My first post that ever got any attention (beyond my mom and girlfriend) was the post on growing to 100,000 visits per month. I took the learning from the success of that post and changed how I developed content going forward.

  • Avatar Nick LeRoy says:

    Congrats Nick. Selling a site for 6 figures is impressive but to do it in the SEO space is even more impressive. Obviously, this sale was contingent on the buyer offering a product that they believe they could obtain extra value from your commercial keywor rankings from. Did you actively seek out the players in our market to sell or did they come to you?

    • Thanks Nick.

      They came to me, and based on some conversations I had prior to selling with some of our peers, they were apparently out hunting and had sent the same emails I received to several other site owners in the industry. From what I can tell (based on changes they’ve made to date) they’re just after the leads.. but I do expect some sort of product to come sooner or later.

      I always figured if it sold, it would be to a software company.

  • Great article, Nick!

    Congrats on selling the blog for 100K.

    I recently did some of the same research and bought a domain to focus on small business marketing. Reading your article, confirmed my hope that it’s a good niche.

    -Kevin

    • Thanks Kevin! I’d love to hear more about the project if you’d be willing to share?

      • Hi Nick,

        Sure thing. I work as a digital marketing strategist mostly with B2B enterprise clients and was looking for a way to put together information for small business owners, who can’t afford that level of service.

        Not sure how I plan on monetizing it long-term, but currently my focus is on getting into a routine for blogging and promoting content.

        Really glad I came across your site. Looking forward to reading more of your posts, Nick!

        • Thank so much Kevin.

          Are there specific strategies you’re finding are working the best for lower budget levels? What kind of budgets are you working with and how are you allocating it to maximize effectiveness?

          (sorry for so many questions, just really curious :))

  • Congrats, Nick! Great work!

    I have been following you for a while now and this post re-enforces the fact that I am following one of the best people from whom I could learn.

    I have a question for you, Nick. You have given great deal of information here but would you mind talking about these points below?

    1. Did you have a weekly or monthly target to write a certain number of posts? Maybe in order to keep the freshness alive or not let the site(s) sink.

    2. How much time on an average do you spend working on your website, weekly or monthly

    3. Do you prepare a media kit or a document that potential buyers could see for your websites? If yes, how important do you think this is?

    4. While talking about blogs/sites in various markets, what do you think is the best way to go about selling space or the whole site – a) get in touch with the top players and their competitors to sell space or site or b) wait for one these guys to get in touch with you and till then just keep on blogging.

    Sorry about all these questions. I guess I was always supposed to ask these questions but didnt really ask them.

    • Hey thanks Malika.

      I’m happy to answer these questions though they may not give you what you’re looking for, again – as I mentioned in this post, I really didn’t care too much about my last blog, so it never really got the attention it deserved. But anyway, here we go:

      1. Nope. Never had an editorial calendar or a goal to publish x posts in y period of time.
      2. There would be whole strings of months where I would literally do nothing, but when I would decide to write a post I would put 20+ hours into research and producing it to the best of my ability.
      3. I didn’t. In this case I was approached by buyers quite often, and when the right offers came along I just conceded to their requested due diligence and negotiated the deal.
      4. BuySellAds works well on a bunch of sites, so I would probably start there if selling ad-space was my goal. Though it’s much easier to monetize an email list than a website, Bryan Harris actually has some great stuff on how he’s doing this.

      No apology necessary – this is why I ask for comments, I love the opportunity to dive into a discussion on this stuff, so thank you.

  • Avatar Chris M says:

    Thank you very much for sharing, Nick.

    I really enjoyed the examples, it inspired some R&D! May I ask, what software do you use to see the keywords along with pos, volume, CPC, etc?

    Cheers

    • My pleasure Chris.

      I use a combination of SEMRush for initial research, then I dive deep into Term Explorer to get ALL of my data, and then I manage rankings between a couple tools that are each very good at doing individual things, but mainly AWR Cloud and SerpWoo.

  • Avatar Jophan says:

    Hi,

    interesting post. However, I mostly dont understand how traffic comes to those posts or the site in general espescially when the site is new.

    Do you just wrote the posts and did nothing or did you buy traffic like from FB? I think the main part of the success is your traffic and not about what the site is about?

    Thanks and best regards

    • Hey Jophan – All the traffic comes from organic sources, so non-paid channels with the majority leader being Google, then referral (links from other websites), social, and some email.

      For my last site I did buy some Fb traffic but that was only for one page of my site (a product page) and was only for about 2 weeks while I was running a launch campaign for my Master Keyword Research course.

      I think the main part of the success is your traffic and not about what the site is about?

      I think you may have missed the point of this post, which was the site was commercially valuable because of what it was about and NOT the level of traffic, which was relatively small.

      Does that make sense?

  • Avatar John says:

    Hey Nick,

    Great post but your PDF wasn’t coming through (have tried from a few different email accounts and clients).

    Any ideas?

    • Hey John – I think there was an issue with how I had the trigger configured for existing subscribers (I’ve fixed this), but in the meantime I’ll email it over to you.

      Cheers!

      • Avatar Daniel says:

        Hi Nick,
        it is exciting to read that some bloggers managed to make some serious money. I guess that I am not too obtrusive…can you approximate how many hours did you spend writing and maintaing the blog you sold? I think that the report hours worked/money received is very important.
        PS – The pdf download is still not working. I entered the email address and I am still waiting for two hours. Anyway, it is a real pleasure to read your detailed posts!

        • Hey Daniel –

          Not intrusive at all – So based on the 35 posts I created, with 3-4 of them being Podcasts, We can say I wrote roughly 31 post. My average was probably around 18 hours per post, so 558 hours or $179/hour.

          Which PDF are you trying to download – I’ll look into this right away.

          Thanks.

  • Avatar Nimit.Suri says:

    Thank you for the informative blog post Nick . .There are so many new things i come across reading blog post and i make it a point to not everything down and later apply to seo strategy.Although am in my learning phase right now. Been just 7 months am into this industry but am sure i will learn more from your blogs. .Hope you will provide some insight on topics if i need it at times.I find it somewhat a challenge to find topics related to a software company which deals in providing outsourcing and development services.
    Thanks for taking your time out to read the comments.

  • Avatar Kevin says:

    Nick very interesting post! One question though do you find the keywords you want to target by looking at your competition? For example in your energy example above you seem to be looking at the competition as a basis of determining how to build out your blog am I correct on that or are you using another method?

    Thx!

    • Hey Kevin – Thanks for the question, and hopefully this is somewhat useful, but the answer is yes and no.

      Yes I definitely look at the competition, but more so I’m looking for commercially competitive keywords, i.e. ones that have higher average CPC costs based on how many people are willing to bid on them and the price those bidders are willing to pay.

  • Avatar James says:

    Great article Nick!
    What keywords would you suggest for a web business ideas blogg? What tools you reccommand I should use to find those keywords?

    • Thanks James. Funny enough some of that data is right in this post, and also as I mention I would highly recommend SEMRush and Term Explorer to start building lists of keywords and getting all the data you need to make solid target decisions.

  • Avatar Greg says:

    Hi Nick,

    First of all thank you for this article.

    I would like to know if all your recommandations and tips are pertinents in non-mature/growing market such as Africa, Asia or South America?
    In the US, when we see a 20$ Cost per click for a specific keyword, make sense to use SEO for free advertising, but in developing country can we apply the same recommendations when the CPC is 2, 3, .. 10 times lower?

    Best,

    Greg

    • Hey Greg – IMHO these tips can be applied to any market where there is commercial interest. So even if the CPC prices are 10x lower, so you’re only seeing a max bid of $2, with lower overall search volume – you can still build a blog that is of extremely high value to the businesses in those verticals within that market.

      Best of all, and this is a relative statement, but lower overall value would lead me to believe that there would be lower overall competition, so hopefully it won’t take as much work to build rankings and traffic for these lower CPC terms.

  • Fabulous post Nick!
    I’ve spent years creating content for others. I started freelancing by writing posts for Internet marketers using the old “made for adsense” model.

    This post makes me want to fire up Long Tail Pro and do it on my own.

    Time to jump down the SEO rabbit hole!

    Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  • […] a look at some of their commercial rankings, as discussed in my post on blogging for money, look at the average CPC of these […]

  • Avatar Kurumsal SEO says:

    Thanks

  • Avatar Eric says:

    Nic,

    You’re losing with me with these statements.

    First one: “Lock down your contextual relevance and rankings for the easier, lower traffic, less competitive keywords first.”

    Second one: “Within this tiny set of 14 keywords, there are 2 stand-outs in terms of commercial value:

    small business marketing ideas, worth over $11,000/month, and
    marketing ideas for small business, worth nearly $7,000/month

    So if I was going into to start blogging in this vertical my first priority would be to crush rankings for those terms.”

    In the first sentence, you talk about going for less competitive terms. But in the next one, you say you would focus on the keywords with the highest CPCs which means they are usually the most competitive?

    Can you explain how you judge competition in the example?

    • Hey Eric –

      So for the small business ideas section it’s actually completely counter-intuitive; the terms with the highest CPC outside the first 5 terms are actually not that competitive, which is why I’m recommending focusing on those first – the highest commercial value created with the least amount of content and link effort.

      I’m using a relative and subjective measure of competitiveness here speaking specifically to SEO. These terms have less than 600 searches per month likely making them pretty low priorities from an SEO perspective, whereas based on the CPC (to your point) which is driven by the number of bidders and price they’re willing to pay for those clicks – they are much more competitive.

      It’s a subjective measure but it’s likely more times than not IME.

  • Hello Nick,

    Thanks for sharing this. What I like the most about your post is that it is a real life example about how blogging/SEO could be a viable financially without the need to do it for someone else.

    Normally, that is the kind of work that you put together for a client that because of time constraints doesn’t appreciate the hard work and abandon the project.

    So my questions is: How long did it take to you to put together the blog so could sold it for $100,000?

    Thanks

    • Hey Fernando – Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.

      So the total time I was operating the blog, where I was trying to contribute at least a post every month or two was about 2 years.. but as I mentioned in the post, I never really paid the blog a lot of attention. It never got time weekly, or even consistently month to month, it was more so when I would write a post I would focus on making sure it was well researched and focused on topics that were likely to garner attention from within my focused industry (SEO).

      Ultimately I think this is what made the difference in the impact and traffic I was able to create.

      Thanks!
      /n

  • Great article Nick. Catchy title, but really valuable in that you offer insight into the thought process for driving organic traffic to any blog (not just those that wish to build & sell).

    Helpful in thinking through the process of driving organic traffic by leveraging SEO data to focus content on valuable search criteria. Great post!

  • […] commercial intent keywords […]

  • Avatar claude says:

    Hi Nick

    My challenge from last couple years is to sell my blog $12000 and I haven’t got no idea how to do it
    but thanks for this post

    thanks

  • Avatar Brian says:

    Hey Nick,

    Great post. After reading it, I listened to your podcast with Thomas Smale, around selling websites, and had a few questions.

    Let’s imagine you don’t have any client work and you’re going to undertake one of these projects as your own — let’s say you’re going to attack the energy niche. Your goal is revenue. Would you monetize as you went? Or would you refrain from monetizing, and focus on an exit? Why?

    Depending on the option you choose, how would you go about it? Selling leads is an obvious monetization strategy, but selling email signups could be open to fraud (in the lead purchaser’s mind). How would you deal with this?

    On the other hand, if you’re focusing on an exit, what would your approach be?

    Thomas stated he’d want to see a sustainable backlink profile on any sites he bought. Knowing that you’re an ethical guy, and knowing that someone else is going to care about the rankings once you’re gone, would your approach to ranking the site change at all?

    In another post, you talk about reaching out to your target market in advance of creating content assets, to pre-warm them for sharing and to ensure you’re building the right stuff. Would you also do an element of that with this project, if you were focusing on an exit? Would you coordinate with potential, strategic buyers throughout your journey?

    Finally, how would you evaluate opportunity cost in a “blogging for revenue” project? I’ve assumed that you wouldn’t take on client work for this example, but that’s not a real world representation of the choice you have. Building an asset like this comes with risk, whereas I’m sure you could earn a (more) guaranteed income with other projects.

    I know there’s a lot there, but you’ve obviously thought deeply about this and have invested a lot of time in the post, so I hope your answers to my points can add some additional nuance to an already cracking resource!

    • Hey Brian,

      Thank you for putting so much time and effort into asking logical and thoughtful questions 🙂

      I’ll do my best here to answer as objectively as possible.

      If I were going to build out an energy blog with an outset focus on monetization I would start by contacting a few deregulated energy companies, solar companies, resellers, etc. and see if they have affiliate programs or service qualified leads. Based on their lead criteria I would test a few contact forms as well as an email sequence to keep the top of the funnel as wide as possible. I also wouldn’t focus on generating leads until I hit at least the 5k visits/mo mark, and then would want to start collecting and qualifying. Only once I had a steady volume (say 3-5/week) would I follow-up with the buyers and start the process of selling and delivery.

      If my focus was solely on an exit I would probably go more the evergreen route and not focus on rankings and traffic that would likely convert into a lead. I would want more top of mind traffic and to be sesen more as an informational resource. This would allow me to maximize traffic and focus on building trust at the brand level. This could be exceedingly valuable to a vendor/fulfillment partner later as a bolt-on resource center to an existing site or lead funnel.

      RE: approach to ranking the site, nope. If the goal was to build solely for an exit I would build links using resource content, relationships with data journalists, publishers in the space, and through ad-hoc BLB campaigns.

      There would definitely come a point where I would want to start conversations with commercialized entities in the space, but not until I reached a minimum size, like say 50k visits/mo or so – OR a few extremely valuable rankings, i.e. #1 for terms that pull $25+ CPC. Prior to that I would just focus on the publishing relationships with bloggers, small to mid industry pubs, and service businesses/consultants.

      There’s not much risk if you do it right. Building a solid resource and eating up SERP real estate for commercial keywords will always have liquidatable value, the only risk would be if you had a hard exit shelf and needed money. Websites are not a liquid asset any more than single-family or multi-family homes. So as long as you treat your site like a property, maintain+invest in as such, depending on either operating cashflow OR competitive *pain* you can likely flip it in a 30 days window.

      Hopefully I answered at least some of what you were looking for.

  • Selling a blog! Informative.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • […] In fact, Nick Eubanks used case studies to build his blog to a healthy size then sold it for $100,000. […]

  • Avatar Roland says:

    Thanks for the excellent post

  • Avatar Mariya says:

    Scratch exceptionally intriguing post! One inquiry however do you discover the watchwords you need to focus by taking a gander at your opposition? For instance in your vitality case above you appear to be taking a gander at the opposition as a premise of deciding how to work out your blog am I revise on that or would you say you are utilizing another technique?

  • […] Nick Eubanks sales of a 47 post blog for $100,000 […]

  • Avatar TeamPlus India says:

    Great article. It is very useful and informative. I got some good ideas about this topic. Thanks for sharing this post.

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