Ultimate Guide to Building & Selling Content Sites

What are Content Sites?

Content sites are either product review sites or blogs where the majority of their traffic comes from Google organic search. They are predominantly monetized by advertising and affiliate commissions, as well as revenue from info / digital products.

Content sites are not directory / lead generation sites. Nor are they ecommerce stores (such as a Shopify / FBA) or SaaS.

Directory sites that focus on lead gen for monetization, often build out a large number of geographic pages with thin content to rank in google. I like the lead gen model but I wouldn’t call them content sites, and you typically wouldn’t be buying them for the quality of the content.

Examples of Content Sites

My top 3 niche website examples based on execution and creation of brand are:

  1. Capterra – monster software review site that leverages user reviews and advertises on This Week in Startups
  2. Runner Click – great site structure and first-class design, including the best single product review pages I’ve seen
  3. Hosting Facts – looks like a niche site with a ranked / monetized homepage and has less than 100 pages in the google index but has a traffic value in Ahrefs of over $3MM!

How to set up your content site

  1. Buy domain – I use 123 Reg as a Brit as well as Godaddy
  2. Buy hosting – I use WP Engine (link for 20% off first payment)
  3. Install wordpress and pick a theme, free is fine to start but I use Thrive Themes as well as Elementor.
  4. Create a google analytics account and install a wordpress plugin such as Monster Insights to add the code
  5. Install the free Yoast SEO Plugin to optimise your content for the keywords (search phrases) people are searching for in your niche
  6. Set up your sitemaps (see video below)
  7. Do keyword research into the topics your site will cover
  8. Find the best content for the top keywords using buzzsumo.com or ahrefs.com
  9. Write better content and promote on social channels and through email outreach to websites that linked to existing content
  10. Create an optin to build a list you can use to drive traffic to new content and create a simple autoresponder in Drip (now free for 100 contacts) to push people to your top monetized content

Content Site Building Services

For ready-made or done for you niche and authority sites check out Alpha Investors. To power up those sites with guest posts, niche edits and PBN links check out The Hoth.

Content Site Training & Courses

How to Buy & Sell Content Sites

Website investing is now an asset class. You can either sell with a brokerage such as Empire Flippers (save their $297 listing fee using this link) who represent you as the seller to get you the best price, or sell your site with Alpha Investors.

As a website buyer, you need to make sure you have a solid due diligence process or you can choose to purchase a low priced, vetted deal through Motion Invest to then build up.

For managing the transaction, it’s best to use a 3rd party such as escrow.com where you can immediately get paid out to your bank (and save a lot in fees) if you use a service such as Transferwise.

Website Due Diligence Checklist

As a website flipper and from helping investors acquire, operate and generate upside from content sites, I’ve personally looked at hundreds of web deals. I have developed an ability to quickly analyze a content site for search traffic and conversion upside. And unless you simply want to cashflow a website, there needs to be upside to be able to compound returns and be able to flip. 

In terms of risks, I analyze backlink profiles and look for keyword dependencies. I’ve been burned in a deal in the past where a seller had used and removed PBN (private blog network) links which tanked the site after purchase. From this experience I’ve learned how to better evaluate a link profile to best reduce the risk. I also check to see if the majority of the site’s traffic is dependent on ranking on page 1 for a small number of big keywords or just a handful of pages which is a risk.

Below is the due diligence website checklist I use to assess whether to get involved in deals.

❏ Has the domain been dropped in the past and used as a PBN?

❏ Does the backlink profile look natural?

❏ Is the backlink profile trending up in Ahrefs?

❏ Can any PBNs be found (if non declared)?

❏ Are there any 301s or canonicals pointing to the site?

❏ Is the organic search trending up in Ahrefs?

❏ Is the majority of traffic from organic search? If not how is it being driven?

❏ Are there any keyword or page dependencies?

❏ Is the content quality strong?

❏ Is the content unique and evergreen?

❏ Is the site violating any affiliate program TOS?

❏ Is there obvious SEO upside (i.e. site structure)?

❏ Is there obvious CRO & monetization upside?

❏ What is the seller’s reason for selling?

How to Operate a Content Site

You can run content sites yourself or by building your own team – paying subscribers of my newsletter for website investors get access to process templates for acquiring, operating and generating upside from content sites.

Or you can use an operating company such as onfolio.co who will run your asset for you for a management fee and a split of the upside. 

How to Generate Upside

There are 6 main ways to generate upside from an acquisition.

  1. Content Audit
  2. Content Gap Analysis
  3. Keyword Dependency & Opportunities
  4. CTR Optimization
  5. Monetization Optimization
  6. Internal & External Link Optimization

Website Content Audit

A Content Audit is one way of generating upside from an acquisition that has 100s of pages in the google index.

A content audit (also known as “Content Pruning”) crawls all the indexable pages on your site and discovers pages that are competing with each other for keywords and recommends which pages to combine, redirect or noindex / delete. It also discovers pages that should not be in the google index such as tags, archives or simply thin content that has no traffic or links.

A content audit will improve the overall trust and qualify of a domain in the eyes of Google in a post-Panda world. It will optimize crawl budget so that the most important pages of your site get updated more often in the Google index. And it will improve the flow of link equity throughout the site. A content audit is the first thing a new content site owner should perform, before thinking about creating new content or building new links.

The best example is how Quickbooks nearly doubled its traffic by deleting half its content in this content pruning case study.  Index bloat is a real issue especially when caused by bugs in SEO plugins such as Yoast. Two other examples are shown below:

Content Gap Analysis

Know what keywords your top competitors are targeting which you are not, according to Ahrefs. Plus Surfer SEO optimization recommendations on your top pages.

Keyword Dependency & Opportunities

Discover which keywords and pages could use a boost to prevent them from falling off p1 in Google (or to get them from p2 to p1).

CTR Optimization

Ways to increase click through rate from the SERPs, such as identifying featured snippets to optimize for and title tag hacks.

Monetization Optimization

Ways to improve your revenue per 1000 pageviews ($RPM), such as improving conversion elements or stacking monetization channels.

Internal & External Link Optimization​

Link sculpting to your main pages plus balancing external anchor text vs your competition.

All paying subscribers to my newsletter get the above as SOP process templates that they can implement on their acquisitions.

What’s in an RPM?

I’ve been obsessed with better understanding and using $RPM for niche research.

RPM = revenue / (pageviews/1000)

It tells you how well you are monetizing your traffic. And it can be improved through adding new affiliate offers, improving product tables or optimising ad placement.

I’ve been asking every website investor I interview what’s their average RPM.

One was Hektor from Hekkup who has built out over 30 sites on aged domains and has just published what his RPM is in this post.

What we are all lacking, however, is sample size, so I tapped into the Empire Flippers Public Listings API and pulled the revenue figures of content site listings. I then paid Fancy Hands VAs all of my monthly credits to manually grab the pageviews from each listing page.

Back in early 2020, I discovered the average RPM for over 500 content site listings on Empire Flippers earning from amazon affiliate, other affiliate, advertising and info/digital products was… (drumroll) $85.

This was before the Amazon associate big commission change however, which on average cut revenues by 50% so I will have to do another study to find new average RPM going forward.

However, having read this article on Ezoic, I now understand that total revenue per session is the most important metric to focus on.

Conclusion

Content sites offer the most passive business model of any online business. But nothing is truly passive – if you simply acquire a content site and do nothing to it it will decline over time. This actually is a strategy that some PE firms have done in the past, stripping out all costs so you can cashflow at 50% so that it returns all money within 2 years and then it doesn’t matter if it dies.

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Helping Website Investors Make Better Decisions