In this episode of the Website Investing podcast, Avi speaks with Mo Mullah about acquiring, building, and optimizing websites for sale. They discuss the strategy Mo used to turn a niche site - purchased for $2,700 - into a $24,000 sale.
Read the notes below - or listen now!
📝 Show Notes
Starting Out in Email Marketing
Mo started out with an email marketing company and stayed there for around 8 or 9 years. Throughout that time, he had several successful campaigns in different niches and earned a decent amount of money. However, due to a number of risks and downsides, such as the possibility of your account closing down, (which happened a bunch of times) he decided to look elsewhere for income. These accounts were closed because Mo would personally email people and website visitors, introduce himself and offer the option to stay on the email list or not. This marketing strategy caused a number of problems with ISPs, and was the cause of his accounts getting shut down. Because of this, he decided to diversify and get into SEO.
Mo started building a site, instead of purchasing one off the bat. He did this because he wanted to learn the ins and outs of the trade, and how websites were built from the ground up. This site had tremendous success as a result of continuous finetuning over the years.
Interest in the Niche
Another factor that contributed to the site's success was Mo's interest in the niche. When writing the site content, Mo knew how and what to write for a better audience reception.
Creative Outreach Campaigns
Mo also made use of a large outreach campaign. This essentially involves guest posting and targeting the prospects that you’re trying to get a link from. This included figuring out who specifically would let him put a link on their site by finding a smart way to get into their inbox, and have them read and respond to an email. Mo would usually ask these prospects if they had any ideas that they would like him to touch on in the guest posts. Creative thinking is also involved so Mo would try going out of his vertical to collaborate. He'd attempt to integrate trends in his ideas and offers to prospects, to match what they wanted. Further, Mo did his research and due diligence to make sure that when he pitched a specific article, he’d be more or less sure that they would accept.
Acquiring and Selling Websites
After building his site, Mo decided to acquire sites. One of the sites he bought for around $2,700 was recently sold for $24,000. This was done in under 12 months, producing an almost 10x multiple.
Choosing Which Websites to Acquire
From the beginning, Mo had a set criteria for acquiring websites. Firstly, he checked whether the niche had multiple affiliate opportunities so he could diversify on monetization. Secondly, he wanted something that was evergreen and not seasonal so that income was steady all year round. Lastly, he made sure that the site had a decent amount of content to work with and had traction. This was usually poorly written content. He then worked on the SEO for these websites and performed some optimization to return the optimal income.
Updated Criteria and Quick Wins
These days his criteria has expanded to include one more aspect: CRO. He now checks whether a site has bad or neglected CRO. This enables him to optimize sites and get quick wins in the process. He looks for a site that doesn’t have comparison tables, or tables which are in the wrong place. Secondly, he makes sure that the site doesn’t have any call-to-action buttons. If it does have these buttons, he ensures that the colors stand out. Next, he checks if the site has only a few links within the anchor text. He also looks for images with hyperlinks on the site.
Mo also likes to put a sticky widget on the left hand side of the website so that when users scroll down. they still have access to subscribe buttons or some kind of affiliate link. Mo has found some success with sticky widget on his sites, though it may be hit-or-miss depending on the niche. When it comes to Amazon affiliate links, Mo says that people usually skip them and just scroll down on the main screen. If it's not Amazon-related, Mo says that conversion rates are pretty good and even a little bit higher. He bases this on his experience and data gathered through the sticky widget.
The Pet Niche
Getting Into the Niche
Mo decided to enter the pet niche because it had a variety of affiliate programs to apply to. These included Amazon, and others that could serve as backup in case the Amazon conversion numbers weren’t ideal. From his research, he found that the keywords he wanted to focus on were low competition and had relatively decent search volume. This stood out to him, and gave him confidence that it would allow him to rank.
Acquiring a Site
Mo acquired a site in the pet niche at around $2,700. Finding the ideal site was a bit tricky, since in ~2019, there weren’t as many marketplaces as there are today. Apart from that, one factor he had to consider was the element of trust. Is the website owner trustworthy? You’d have to build up some kind of relationship with the seller to make sure that what they're selling isn’t anything shady, or a scam or rip-off. These days, well-known marketplaces largely solve this problem for you.
Previous Run-ins With Shady Sellers
Back when Mo didn’t have much know-how in the industry, he communicated with a website seller who sneakily tried to hide and mask PBNs and shady links. At the time, Mo was just starting out and didn’t know how links worked. Mo says that you definitely have to understand how links and link profiles work in order to detect shady deals. He mentions that these people would pay for links from a link service, but the link service had used very similar images, or even the same images on different websites. This also applied to the text, where the link service used similar text to accompany the images on various other websites. It became apparent that these links all came from the same provider. Avi says it’s good to check whether the links are on the home page, and whether the links are actually relevant to the site you’re acquiring, and to the niche. At the end of the day, it all depends on your risk tolerance, and whether you are willing to take on challenges like this when purchasing a site.
Some Initial Snags
Mo ran into some traffic loss and potential revenue loss when he first acquired the site. During the first 4 to 6 weeks, Mo was busy changing the site links while performing his first ever migration. However, he noticed that page traffic was declining at a steady rate of 30-40%, and he couldn’t pin down the cause of the decline. Normally, this wouldn’t be a concern, but these pages were the top 3 pages on the site. As a result, the overall website traffic slid down, including conversions. Mo says that it may have been due to an algorithm update, or possibly due to the fact that he picked up the website from someone who had it in a portfolio and hadn’t touched it in a long time. Mo then reminds us that we should always be wary, and do as much due diligence as possible on the sites we wish to purchase, especially if these sites are in decline.
Turning Things Around
Mo did turn the decline in traffic around. He first completed a technical audit to make sure that the redirects and page titles were in order. He also checked if any page was significantly slower than others. More importantly, he ran the website through Ahrefs’ Audit Tool to clean up the technical aspects of the site. Their Audit Tool is amazing for this, and according to Avi, is very underrated.
Next, Mo did a content audit. He put all the content into a spreadsheet, and assessed which content needed changing or modification, and which could be left untouched. At the end of the audit, Mo deleted 10 to 15 pages that weren’t receiving much traffic. He also consolidated some pages to make the site leaner.
Lastly, he performed a backlink audit by listing every link and making sure that none of them were suspicious, spammy or unrelated to the pet niche.
Auditing is a great way to figure out what’s wrong with your website, especially when you weren’t the one who built it in the first place, and more so if the website has passed through several different owners.
Surprisingly, Mo didn’t perform any keyword research until about 5 or 6 months after he acquired the site. This is largely because many of the pages on the site were ranking highly, and other pages only needed minor tweaks to improve their rankings. Mo was only concerned with on-site SEO for the first few months, instead of creating new content. This is usually his strategy when acquiring a website: he prefers a site with existing content that doesn't need much work. He then optimizes the site and the content, instead of having to churn out new content during the busy first few months. Avi says that there is no point in creating new content when there is plenty of under-optimized content already available to you.
When optimizing site content during the first few months, Mo made use of Surfer SEO, which is a very handy and inexpensive tool. At the time, it was relatively new and trendy, which pushed him to use it for his site.
At the time Mo bought the website, it had around 50 or 60 articles. By the time he sold it, it had around 200. Writing began after the first 5 or 6 months of optimization. Initially, the content was all written by Mo, but as soon as a little money was coming in, Mo decided to reinvest the income into the site. He would have hired a content writer for the site, but luckily, he chanced upon someone who was passionate about pets and was skilled in writing. This person offered to write articles and edit the existing ones for free. All Mo did was give her the keywords and a template, and she wrote about 50 articles for the website. According to Mo, this is a reminder that niches have people who love the space so much that they will offer to do things like this for your website. However, Avi believes that it's difficult to keep these kinds of people long-term without some incentive for them.
Selling the Site
When Mo does manual outreach, he always adds a few sentences at the end of the email asking if the recipient could recommend anyone who would be interested in guest posts. One day, an outreach manager came back and recommended someone who was potentially interested in acquiring the website. This outreach manager did this after noticing the backlinks on Mo’s pet website, and seeing that revenue was going up. Mo was then able to sell the site for $24,000, with a multiple of 27x.
A Wealth of Experience
These days, Mo now offers audit services, which includes technical, SEO, content, and link audits. He brings his vast experience in the field to the table, and techniques that have worked well for him. He helps people grow and optimize their sites in the same manner as he has done.
Reach out to Mo here:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mo.mullah.77
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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