In this episode of the Website Investing podcast, Avi speaks with Jon Dykstra, publisher of the Fat Stacks Blog. Jon starts and grows niche content sites and he has a wealth of knowledge to share. Read the notes below - or listen now!
📝 Show Notes
Who Is Jon?
Jon describes himself as an online digital publishing company owner. He prefers the term 'online publisher' over niche site owner or affiliate marketer, since not a lot of people know these terms, and it makes more sense when you already own a number of sites.
Getting Into Advertising
Jon’s primary income source on his sites is through display advertising. For some time, he did only affiliate marketing, and although he got a lot of traffic to his site, he wasn’t gaining anything from the affiliate links. Because of this, he decided to capitalize on the traffic the site was getting, and go into display ads via AdSense.
This move was a huge success and Jon was able to earn a large amount of money overnight. It completely changed his outlook on advertising, as he previously thought that it was the least viable source of income for his websites.
Focus on Keywords
Jon focuses mainly on low competition keywords. The advantage to this is that you get little competition, especially when you’re doing affiliate marketing and you have to publish on very specific keywords if you want to generate commissions and make a profit. Though product reviews are generally boring to write, the fun is in looking for the keywords that other sites aren't targeting. For this, you need to use your keyword search tools and be creative in your hunt.
Optimizing Your Site
Recently, Jon has been onboarding NitroPack for optimizing his bigger websites. It’s a monthly paid service, and, after some checking and testing, Jon found that it improved their scores dramatically. Jon did this because he wanted to take advantage of the recent Google announcement stating that site speed has an impact on rankings.
Jon says that a lot of publishers don’t pay attention to this, but he thinks that it’s worth a shot and so he’s not afraid to invest in increasing and optimizing his site speeds. At the end of the day, it’ll give him a tiny advantage over other publishers and sites, and he is happy to pay the monthly fee to achieve this gain.
Effect of Display Ads
Display ads negatively affect your site speed. Jon says that ads can really wreak havoc so that is something to watch out for.
Actual Site Speed vs. Page Speed Score
Jon says that it is important to distinguish between actual site speed and page speed score, since page speed score is an artificial concept. Additionally, some tools used to measure page speed score often delay elements of your site intentionally, and alter your speed score in the process.
Google states that they do take page speed into account, and, to measure this, they use real metrics. Jon says that since this is the case, a delay wouldn’t hurt at all if it increases your score.
Concerns About the Future
Google Removing Third Party Cookies
Google has announced that, by next year, they will be restricting and eventually phasing out the use of third party cookies in the Chrome browser. Cookies stay on a user’s device and are designed to collect a user’s data for the benefit of advertisers. These advertisers get to learn users’ browsing patterns and preferences in order to send more relevant ads to them. Avi says that he read that this may reduce RPMs by up to 50%.
Jon states that regardless of which solution Mediavine and AdThrive come up with, there will be a decline in revenue until a viable long-term solution is found. Whether the decline will be temporary or permanent remains to be seen. Moreover, 50%, (if ever this figure estimate is true) would be brutal. This doesn’t mean that display ads would go away altogether or that the business model would disappear, since a lot of money has already been, and continues to be poured into it. Jon says that we’ll just have to wait and see.
Jon says that buying sites is a liability for many people, but a tremendous opportunity for the few who know what they’re doing. You have to know how to complete your due diligence when buying a site.
Getting Bombarded with Copyright Claims
One important aspect of due diligence is to take note of the copyright. Jon says that you have to check on the copyright in terms of the images and other media on the site, and get written representations from the site owner that they have licenses for these.
A lot of people don’t do this and end up getting sites with images ripped out of random places, without permission. This practice becomes ripe for copyright infringement claims that can reach tens of thousands of dollars.
These claims are sometimes sent to you even if you already have the permission. Senders forward them willy nilly, without checking if permission was previously granted or if the image used is actually the same one as that of the copyright holder. This is something that people should watch out for, and something for you to disprove when a claim gets sent to you. Jon personally doesn’t buy a site if the owner doesn’t give a written representation to that effect.
Jon gets photos for his websites from various sources such as ShutterStock. He and his writers also try to take as many photos as they can - using their iPhones to cut down on costs. He also has a VA who contacts people and websites to use images that are suited for their sites, along with gaining the corresponding permissions.
Cyclebaron.com - A Public Case Study
Jon got into this niche largely because of his interest in mountain biking. Due to the huge number of questions he receives on how to build and grow a site, he decided to do a public case study with this site to show people how he does it. In the study, he shows people how to build and design a website, and how to best structure it.
Avi was surprised to find out that Jon recently announced that he is selling 8 sites from his portfolio. This is quite a big move, and Jon intends to sell them in order to keep around 4 in his portfolio. These 4 sites are the ones he thinks are the best fit for his plan and for the writers he has.
Jon has listed all 8 sites on MotionInvest, which is run by Jon Gillham. This is actually the first time that Jon has sold sites. He hasn’t delved into selling before because of the time and hassle.
He doesn’t have time to answer 20 different queries or due diligence requests from various potential buyers for each of his 8 listed sites so he opted to go to MotionInvest. They will handle everything for him and provide him with an easy and hassle-free method of selling his sites because he wants the least possible involvement in the process.
Though Jon is looking to sell the sites individually, he is also open to selling the 8 sites as a package should the right buyer come along. The sites will be sold through a Dutch auction, which sets a minimum bid amount.
At the end of the day, Jon isn’t sure how he’ll spend the earnings from the sale of the websites. He says that he doubts he will redeploy the cash to his other online assets, as they are already self-financing.
Jon would love to diversify and own more sites in the long term, considering the high demand for websites right now. Currently, Jon says that it is difficult to grow his portfolio with the current budget he has, but he would definitely love to own multiple websites again in the future.
Upping the Ante of His Content
Right now, Jon and his team are hard at work creating stronger content for their sites through high quality processes. They are also going through their existing content, and looking to elevate and update posts to ensure they are high quality.
To kick off the whole process, Jon and his team always start with the working draft of an article. They complete several edits in order to tailor the draft to their readers, and also to cater to Google by slotting in as many good keywords as possible.
After this, they run the topic through AHREFs while checking a variety of keywords. Interestingly, using this process, Jon and his team find even more available topics for articles. After AHREFs, Jon also runs content through AnswerThePublic and MarketMuse. By this point, the article would have probably doubled in length through the addition of subsections and questions. After that step, he moves onto incorporating linkable assets like graphics. Finally, he publishes to the site.
Although this is a lengthy process, Jon says that it is all worth it in the end, and he is willing to outlay the cash to get really high quality content.
Jon currently has a partner for an Amazon e-commerce product which his partner offered to him. In the partnership, Jon contributes by promoting the product and generating sales, while his partner handles all the branding, monitoring, and marketing on Amazon.
Email marketing is something that Jon would love to get into more in the future. As it's simply writing to your readers, you don't have to worry about keywords at all.
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