In this episode of the Website Investing podcast, Avi speaks with Colin Ma who writes our Digital Asset Deals inside the community. Colin has grown a portfolio of sites and also works with us to find and vet our weekly website deals.
Starting His Career
Colin’s first job was as a programmer and consultant, back in 2016. At the same time, Colin started out with his first ever affiliate site involving swimming pools. The site became very successful, and, at one point, Colin earned more from the site than he did from his day job.
Getting Into Sites and SEO
Colin first dabbled with e-commerce and SEO back in college. He devoted a significant amount of time learning about these subjects and investigating how people earn money online.
Colin also invested in a training program for affiliate sites and SEO. In this program, Colin initially learned and got advice from the couple running this training on website investing, and eventually decided to purchase the website from them. Though the website wasn’t earning much to begin with, he soon found out that it was a scam. The methods they used to grow their site were not legitimate, e.g. using fake clicks for ad impressions. Colin was eventually banned from AdSense because of this. After 3 or 4 months, Colin decided to stop running and growing the site, and instead focus on affiliate marketing.
Affiliate Marketing and First Site
Colin didn’t know much about affiliate marketing back then, and he would constantly browse Flippa searching for sites. One day, he stumbled across Spencer Haws’ website, Niche Pursuits, which basically explained everything about affiliate marketing. He then decided to start an affiliate website for pool equipment - after looking around his house and backyard for inspiration. He built his first site while in his first job as a programmer and consultant. Colin usually spent 6 to 8 hours on Saturdays and Sundays to put out 3 to 4 articles for the site. It eventually grew and ranked, and, soon after, Colin was able to outsource the writing process. In a few months, the site raked in the insane amount of $29,000 per month.
Later on, the site was hit by a Google update due to Colin's aggressive use of PBNs and because of dirty SEOs. He grew the site back to a few thousand dollars per month, and sold it. It was later brokered to Income Store by FE International (2018), before Income Store folded and was exposed as a Ponzi scheme. Colin decided to go with FE International because he was approached by them with an offer to purchase, and not because he was in the market to sell.
Building His Portfolio
After selling his first site, Colin went on to buy and sell different websites. Some were e-commerce sites, but most were content sites. He has built a team that operates his constantly changing portfolio. These days, Colin is busy building sites with his team, and, since COVID hit, they’ve built a whole bunch of new sites - with 4 in the last two months alone. Colin also makes sure that he reinvests most of the money he makes back into his team. Earlier this year, he sold 2 sites in a 6-figure range each.
Building Over Buying
Colin prefers building sites in niches that he really knows about and that is profitable, instead of buying bigger sites in the high-figure ranges. This is mostly due to his fear of another set of Google updates. The risk involved doesn’t make it appealing for him personally. If he's going to buy a site, it would have to be a smaller size (in the $20,000 to $30,000 range) earning around $1,000 a month.
Colin likes to buy sites and sell them within 6-12 months, after performing his optimizations (like building links and SEO) and improving their profits. When it comes to the sites he builds, he keeps these for around 1 to 3 years.
Current Portfolio and Team
Right now, Colin has 8 sites in his portfolio, with 4 of them being built in the last 2 months. He also has a 4-person team manning the sites: one SEO manager, two content designers, and another for handling ad hoc tasks. They also work with writers to provide content for the sites. Colin is looking to hire more writers to edit and publish additional content.
Currently, his portfolio value is around mid-six figures.
Colin also helps vet around 6 to 8 deals for investing.io’s newsletter every week. He researches many different marketplaces and sorts through hundreds of deals to complete the due diligence.
Domain Magnate and Niches
As the 'Buy and Sell Manager' for Domain Magnate, Colin is responsible for looking at websites, getting them purchased, and also selling their portfolio. He isn’t really involved in managing the sites, but he does provide strategy and insight.
Together with Domain Magnate’s outreach team, he performs outreach to many different people and website owners in various niches, as well as checking private deals and marketplaces. Through this, he gets involved in niches that most people don’t really know about, but which are surprisingly viable. These niches include crypto and informational products, which Colin finds quite interesting. This doesn’t mean that they stay away from the more mundane niches, because as long as the niche is making a lot of money, then expect Colin and his team to do some outreach there as well. Their aim is to get around 1 or 2 sales a month, considering how hard it is to find really good sites that you want to buy. Most of the time, the quality just isn’t there.
Colin looks at a ton of deals for both Domain Magnate and investing.io. In finding and assessing quality sites, he usually looks at new and fresh deals that take place within the week of the newsletter's release. He also looks at sites with a decent trajectory, and, for this, Colin considers whether or not he would purchase the site himself. In the investing.io newsletter, he explains why he would personally buy it, and the possible pitfalls it would have if purchased. Colin reminds everyone that this isn’t something readers should take as a definitive guide to buying, as he is only doing the initial research on a deal. Readers should definitely do more research and due diligence on their own, and figure out why the sites are bad or good before purchasing. Risk for one person may not be risk for someone else.
Colin recently found 2 trends when it comes to brokers and marketplaces. Firstly, Motion Invest, (who sell a lot of smaller sites) sells sites relatively quickly. In fact, they sell so fast that Colin can’t even feature them on investing.io or Domain Magnate. This is the reason why he doesn't feature Motion Invest, even if he'd like to.
The second trend involves Empire Flippers, who recently increased their multiples. Colin thought that no one would actually pay that premium for a site. However, within 4 hours, a site with not a great trajectory was sold for a surprising 39x monthly revenue. Colin says it is amazing to see people paying these multiples. Though sellers usually list them at high multiples, you still don't actually know the lowest multiple offer they will take. It might be a surprise to see how much you could negotiate these multiples down.
Enjoyed this episode or have any questions? Leave your comments at the bottom of the web version of this post.