Do you have e-Commerce or dropshipping experience and want to learn how to leverage your knowledge to quickly grow profitable niche sites?
Or perhaps you’d be interested in some tips and prompts to help you create rankable AI-powered content?
If any of that sounds interesting, you’re in luck because James Beatty is on the Niche Pursuits podcast with tons of golden nuggets to share.
James has been building online businesses for years, mostly with dropshipping and YouTube.
But when 2020 disrupted the global supply chain and Facebook ad costs, he started looking for something more passive and hands-off.
So, in 2021, his niche site was born, ticking all the right boxes for his ideal business model.
He focused on tutorial-style articles, answering questions related to the niche, and later hired a writer to create affiliate content. The website’s main source of revenue was Ezoic ads, with some income from Amazon. James reinvested profits to hire writers and scale up production – publishing 160 articles in his most productive month.
While James says he was in no way an SEO expert, his site reached 96,000 page views in its first year generating $3,000 in monthly profits. It eventually peaked at 365,000 page views, $7,700 in revenue, and $5,000 in profit.
Then the site got hit by a Google update, and James decided it was time to sell. He soon after successfully exited for six figures, plus an ongoing 6-month performance bonus.
In his interview, James dives much deeper into the details and shares lots of great advice and insights:
- Why you should have a passion or some prior experience in your niche
- How incorporating video content can boost rankings and engagement
- Handling the emotional rollercoaster of growing and selling a site
- Deciding when to sell
- How he now chooses niches in the age of AI
- And more…
He also discusses his use of AI in content creation. He’s been testing out GPT-4 and shares some tips he’s been using to produce surprisingly good articles.
And he shares some great prompts you don’t want to miss!
So, tune in to the full episode to learn more and get inspired to scale your niche site today.
Topics James Beattie Covers
- Why he transitioned from eCommerce to content sites
- Differences between paid and organic traffic
- How his eCommerce experience helped with content sites
- His first content site revenue numbers
- The ups and downs of SEO
- How he chooses a niche
- Being one step ahead of the audience
- Using video content
- Creating helpful and logical topical silos
- The emotional involvement when building content sites
- Diversifying content types
- Selling after a Google hit
- Tips for using AI for written content
- And more…
Links & Resources
Watch The Interview
Read The Transcription
Jared: Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. My name is Jared Bauman, and today we are joined by James Beattie. James, welcome on board.
James: Thanks for having me. It’s good to have you.
Jared: It’s good to have you. I’m excited for what we’re doing today. I mean, uh, you, you basically just sold a website and I, I love it when we just get to deep dive into a single website and a.
A single site that you grew. Um, before we get into those details though, tell us about yourself. Give us some background and, and tell us, uh, kind of maybe catch us up to the point where the website
James: was started. Yeah, so pretty much since 20 15, 20 16, I’ve been working full-time online. Um, I used to work at corporate job for a year just after I come outta school.
And then I started doing e-commerce and did pretty well with e-commerce, mainly doing drop shipping stuff, running pad. Right through from 2015 to 2020, uh, that was kind of my main thing and did a lot of drop shipping and then also did a lot of kind of YouTube and, and teaching paired ads. So did that right up until pretty much lockdown.
Um, and then just kind of got sick of the, the, the kind of, there’s a lot of issues with Facebook ads and the coupons and stuff like that, and just headaches, and I was kind of looking for something a little bit. You know, passive and, and hands off and you know, not dealing with product, not dealing with support.
And I was kind of just in limbo for that 2020 lockdown year. I think it kind of rattled me a little bit and was just honestly didn’t do too much that year. Uh, and then in 2021 that’s when I was kind of looking for something else to do, a project to kind of dig into and started doing the, the niche site because it kind of ticked all those boxes.
What I wanted, and it’s definitely not passive, but you know, you can go away for three, four days, not look at it, and it’ll still be there when you come back versus e-commerce where if you do that, you’ve got 600, you know, if you don’t have a team in place or whatever, there’s a lot of paces and you’ve either got, you know, your, your employees messaging, you saying This is happening, we need this done.
Words with a, a site, you kind of, you know, it’s, it’s pretty passive where if you’ve got content up there, it’ll continue to rank, it’ll continue. Pull in revenue unless you get slapped by Google, but there’s not really much you can do in that three day period anyway. So it was kind of ticking all those boxes, um, for a business model to get into.
So that’s kind of when I picked that up and started fairly slowly. Um, you know, with, with built the website, because I wasn’t sure. It’s a, it’s a very. You know, a very long kind of period between posting your first article and getting some sort of decent revenue, which is very different compared to e-commerce, where, you know, you put an ad up right now, you could have seals coming in in two, three Rs, and you can see what’s working and it’s, it’s very quick, uh, on the pad ad side.
So I, I’d never kind of done organic traffic. Um, free traffic was kind of mind blowing to me from the, you know, coming from that paid ads side. So it was a, it was a very different world, but there was also a lot of stuff that could obviously be applied and building websites and stuff like that. It made it probably a little easier for me than someone coming in completely from scratch.
Jared: You know, I wanna ask you about those because you’re, you’re exactly right. I, I don’t, I don’t wanna say it’s rare, but certainly the things that are involved in e. Are in so many ways, almost the opposite of what’s involved in website building, right? Or at least in content. Affiliate website building. Yeah, affiliate, you’re, you’re really saying, I don’t want to deal with all of the inventory hassle, the customer service hassle, all of the product replacement and SKUs and all these things that’s affiliate marketing.
And then in e-commerce, you’re just, you’re, you’re, you’re all the way up to your elbows right In, in that kind of, What, um, you mentioned that you didn’t do a lot of organic with your e-commerce brand, but you were doing paid ads. Um, what, how did you end up growing that e-commerce brand? Was it on the back of paid ads and then, um, you know, I I, I guess where, where did you end up getting that to at some point?
James: Yeah, so like back in, we, we pretty much did drop shipping stores and we would do a lot of different, just random, like they’re called general stores kind of in the. And essentially the model is your drop shipping from, you know, you start probably from Ali Express or Alibaba just initially to test a lot of products.
And then you can go ahead and once you get some traction, you can then go ahead and start bringing those products into a, to a three PL or like a fulfillment service. Uh, and then you can start shipping them out there. Mainly we did, so we did a lot of, in the, in the early days that Ali Express stuff and we did millions in, in revenue.
But again, that’s very different than than profit. So it’s, you know, when you start out a product, the profit margins are grit. But as you start diluting audiences on Facebook, they’ll get narrower. Narrower. So, You know, sometimes it’ll be 30%, other times it’ll be 10%. I’d say overall, throughout the three or four years I was doing it, you know, I probably netted out about 10, 15% profit margins on it.
So it’s like a lot of work and it looks flashy and the screenshots and stuff like that, but it’s not, you know, as a lock was into the back end of that and the profit. Aren’t as good, but you know, it’s mainly just Facebook ads. You can, you can start up a store and when you like, especially back in like 2016 mm-hmm.
If you just hit the right offer, you just, you know, if, if you’re putting in $5 in ads and you know, you’re selling the product at 20 costs, you five, you’re making $10 profit of product. You just start spending hundreds a day and you just up that budget and you can, because it’s drop shipping, you, you know, you’ve good cash flow.
Whereas if you’re holding inventory, I think you know what, that then really throttles your growth because there’s a lot of cash flow issues and you know, you’re waiting a month to get stuff and that can kind of, you know, hurt, like, give you a big hurdle. But when you’re drop shipping, you can really just scale rapidly.
And some of this stuff in like, I, I wasn’t one of the biggest people that I. Do it. There was people like literally would run hundreds of thousands of odds a day pumping out these and seeing and seeing numbers. But yeah, it’s just pad odds is kind of, it’s a very different game and you put money in if it’s profitable, you know, put more money in.
Jared: Yeah, and those were, uh, I don’t wanna say dramatically different days, but pre, you know, covid and global supply chain and ad costs going up so much and all that. So it’s, um, it’s a good point. I mean, so as we transitioned to the period in 2021, where you started, what would be more along the lines of an affiliate style site or a niche site?
What do you think, we’ve talked about the differences, but I’m curious, what do you think were some similarities that you were able to pull over from your e-commerce experience? What were some things. Like you said, gave you a bit of a leg up that you had learned on the e-commerce side that you were able to apply.
And I’m thinking about people out there who might have an e-commerce background. We have a lot of people listening who maybe work at agencies that do e-com or work on their own e-com site. Might be thinking about going down the the, the affiliate style website route. What similarities did you draw, did you think gave you an advantage?
James: I think kind of, you know, the main thing, the whole like website set up. Doing the kind of, I’m not, I’m no web dev, but I can web up a WordPress website or a Shopify website in, in a couple of ours. So that obviously, you know, there was no kind of technical troubles with installing a plugin or, or so, or doing a little bit of HTML editing and stuff like that.
So that definitely helped in, in one aspect. And then also just, I think just being through that online business and knowing that it’s something that works. And I think a lot of people are very skeptical and I don’t. Get getting into the, the web, the passive website or the, you know, affiliate websites and stuff like that because of tech.
So long to work. I think, again, so many people just give up early, but just from what I’d seen in e-commerce of, oh, I see this guy doing this. It, it works. I, there’s no reason I can’t do that too. It was to see him in this space where, I was seeing a lot of people, it was working for them, so I thought, you know, I’ll, I’ll give it a go.
And I was willing to stick it out long enough to, to see the results. Um, and then obviously you’ve got stuff like copywriting stuff you do, copywriting for Facebook, adss and writing, like I used to do webinars and stuff like that. So I, I would write like long form seals letters, so that definitely applies a little bit when you’re, you know, doing an affiliate review article and conversion rate optimization and stuff like that as well.
So, and then also the team side of. Where I’d done a lot of, you know, working with Viz in the Philippines and stuff like that. So I had experience with being able to hire them people and hire riders, uh, and kind of put some systems together to get them working, um, when starting off with the, the, the affiliate site.
Jared: Yeah. No, all good points. Yep. All those things. Super applicable to running a website, uh, and growing a, uh, an affiliate style. So, I mean, I, I want to just dive in and unpack everything you did. Um, before we get into all the details. I always love to do this cause I think it helps people set the stage for where we’re gonna end up.
Maybe tell us, um, whatever you’re comfortable sharing, some of the peak. Traffic earning numbers, whatever you’re comfortable with. Um, you did end up selling this site, so, um, hey, spoiler alert, and you, you had a, a great exit on it. And then once we get that outta the way, then we can drill into the nuts and bolts of the last, you know, couple of years that you’ve spent since 2021 building it.
James: Yeah, so I’ve, I’ve pull up a little spreadsheet here. I can go through the, the actual numbers. So, uh, in 2021, that was kind of the first year of the site. It was fairly slow getting started. The amount of articles I was posting was probably like 10 to 15 a month for the first six months. Mm-hmm. And then kind of pushed a little harder, but in the first year it did $6,000 or so on revenue and $3,000 in profit.
So wasn’t anything crazy? Um, we just, we hit like 96,000 page views in December that year, and I started it in January, uh, and then peak was August of 20. Where we did 365,000 page views, and that was about 7,700, uh, in revenue with about five grand in profit. So that’s kind of, that was kind of the pick of the site in, uh, August.
And then unfortunately got hit by a Google Opio, uh, at that point. Uh, and then that’s when I looked to, to list the website. Um, so we, we had an initial hit. I think it was in September. And then we also had a hit, I think in the October up update possibly as well. So that definitely at that point I was kind of like, okay, I should probably take some money off the table.
When I initially listed the site, I was hoping to sell it for a lot more than we ended up selling it for. Um, but it was definitely a good like learning experience in that two years that, that I can take away and, and push in. But there was also when selling it kind of chat, G B T had just come out and you’re seeing all this AI stuff.
Things are changing very, very fast in, in this space. So I was kind of happy to, to offload it and you know, be able to just have, you know, a part of cash there that I can now work with and still do website stuff, but possibly think about, you know, doing something a little bit different and just seeing how this AI thing plays.
Jared: good to take some cash off the table, you know. Um, we had, um, we had Michael Donovan on a couple, well, probably a couple months ago now, and he had, I don’t wanna say a similar experience, but growing a site, working on it. Um, and it had, um, it had a rapid growth rate, then got hit, uh, it had a downturn for a little bit.
Um, and he ended up selling it and walking away with still what was a great sum of money. And we were joking about the fact that, well, you know, would you have been happy if. If you hadn’t have had a little bit of a downturn on the tail end and you had just said to yourself, I started this website two, three years ago and I’m walking away with this much after the sale, and he’s like, I would’ve been totally happy with it.
Right? So perspective helps give that, and you, you’re able to walk away from a, a site selling it for a good amount and um, with really less than two years in on it. I think that’s also the remarkable thing about it. So, um, congrat.
James: I think as well, like if you took, so even where the site dipped to, if that’s all I ever got to, but it was just gone up in a smooth line upwards.
Like it’s so much less stress just when things are going up. But once something goes down, it’s a lot of stress and you’re thinking, is it just gonna disappear? You don’t really know what’s going on. So, you know, it’s maybe nicer just to have that, a slower growth but smooth. Cuz we did like a lot of the time just double month over month and things were going really, really well And then you, you got hit and it was really hard to understand why we’re getting hit, you know, what’s the difference between the sites that are getting hit and not getting.
And, you know, we hand wrote everything. We had good expert writers. I wrote probably half of the content and it’s, it’s very hard to diagnose what’s going on. Mm-hmm.
Jared: Well, and that was also the time period. I mean, September, October, I, I don’t remember all of them, but we had like a core update. We had the very first helpful content update.
I think we had a spam update. I think we had a product review. I mean, it was hard to even keep your head screwed on straight knowing what was happening. And I think when, when Google, uh, launches that many updates in a three to six month period, like you’re just, by sheer you know, numbers, there’s some natural increase in chance that you’re gonna get caught up in an update.
And your site wasn’t that old yet, you know, which, um, data would show that increases the chances. You know, like, uh, uh, younger sites get wrapped up. It, you know, it’s, it’s hard to, it’s hard to, hard to understand. I agree with you.
James: Yeah, for sure. And it’s like, you know, you’re, there’s no, Google don’t give any into cash in, there’s no, you know, this is what’s wrong with your site.
Like it’s, you’re just completely in the dark and you’re trying to, you’re changing stuff, but you’re probably changing stuff That’s. Perfectly fine because you don’t know what, and it’s very hard to, like, I think I’m looking at the numbers here on the, on the spreadsheet and in that September month I was like, just push more and more content.
I think we did like 165 articles that month compared to an average of 60. And I was just like, just put more content out there that’ll grow the traffic again. And if new content was ranking perfectly fine, like we didn’t seem to be hindered in any way. You know, on, on articles ranking, we’d still put it up a couple hours later.
It would be in the first second page and slowly work its way up. And it was just kind of older content seemed to fall out. We got the snippet ban, which was kind of huge for us. So I think we lost about 20 or 30% from that. So that was was massive.
Jared: Yep. Man, you’re saying all the things that, uh, every, uh, niche website owner was, was going through and, and perhaps still is going through.
So I wanna unpack this if we can. Um, I wanna get into, there’s so many things we could talk about. Um, I, I do wanna hear from you though some, uh, how you selected the niche all the way back in 2021. You know, I mean, any tips for people who are sitting on the fence waiting to pick a niche? Uh, tips maybe you went through from when you were selecting it or tips, looking back now on the niche you selected and things you might have done differently.
James: Yeah, so the, the main reason I did it was cause I was over lockdown in that 2020 period. I was actually taking part in this hobby and doing it. Um, so when I, when I came across niche websites and I was looking at a lot of the, the stuff that you had to do in terms of keyword research and how to find like low competition topic.
A lot of that I’d experienced personally when I was trying to set up in this hobby myself. And I’d go and I’d, I’d remember like, oh, whenever I was doing this, I was searching for articles on how to set x, y, z up. And there it, I was on a lot of forms a lot of the time. There wasn’t good guides. There was a lot of back and forth.
And I thought, well, there there’s a gap here. And then when I did kind of more dive in deeper into the research, there wasn’t that many sites in the niche. There was prob, there was one big player who was like the mean competition, I’d say. And then there was probably at the start, Four or five other websites doing similar to, to what we ended up doing.
Um, but they weren’t massive. They were doing 40, 50,000 page views a month. The, the man player on the site, he was maybe doing 400 to 600,000. So I knew there was potential there and I knew that, you know, even if there’s only four or five other people doing it, you’re still on the first page for, for most terms.
If you, you can rank for that. Um, so in the early days there wasn’t much competition and I was already doing the niche, and I think that’s huge because, you know, I’ve started a ton of sites as most probably do, uh, since I started that one. Most of them ended up just, it’s actually paying off now because they’re sitting there ready to like start out in content too.
But at the time they just kind of left for dad because I couldn’t. If, if, if I don’t know about a topic or I’m not interested in it, I can’t sit down and write two, three articles a day on that. Whereas on the niche I picked initially, I knew it. I had experience in it. I could sit down and write an article without doing very much research.
So I think if you’re getting into a niche website now, and especially now, cause I think the games changed a little bit. You really need kind of experience. You probably want to be doing some form of videos and maybe content on TikTok, shorts, stuff like that. I think you have to have some sort of passion in it and you know, if you, that’s a huge advantage over someone who’s just, you know, like if someone’s writing about a topic that they don’t know about and don’t like, the content can’t be that good.
Like it, it can only be so good. So if. Passionate about it, you’re knowledgeable about it and you know, you can sit down and write on it every day and enjoy it. It’s gonna be so much easier to, to work in that niche. And I think even if there is a lot of competition, I still think there’s probably room. If you are, you know, passionate about it and you wanna build a brand around it,
Jared: you ended up writing a lot of the content yourself.
And so it certainly sounds like you attribute not only your interest in it, but your experie. In the subject, uh, how important for you was prior experience to creating that content? And what I mean is, excuse me, I have so my throat, what I mean is, um, You know, uh, some might say, well, it’s okay to pick a niche that you have a passion for, but maybe don’t know much about yet, because while you’re researching it, while you’re learning about it, you could write about it.
You seem to have a pretty good amount of experience already with it. I’m just curious, your take on that difference there. It might be nuanced, but you have a passion, but you also have
James: experience. I think it’s fine. Like, I mean, I wasn’t by experience in it, I’d just done it as. As a hobby over 2020, I was by no means like an expert or mm-hmm.
One of the best in the industry. I was just a, a bog standard. I was just figuring it out in 2020. And I definitely could have, as you know, if, let’s say you’re, you’re doing something in, you know, the, a computer niche and it’s how to set up a, you know, a monitor for the perfect graphics or whatever it is, you, you know, you’re going to do that process.
You look at your monitor, you research a couple of articles, you watch a couple of videos. Well, now you’re an expert. And Saturday not up, did you get to the. You set out to do well if that’s the goal of your article and you know how to do that, you’re as much as an expert as you need to be to help someone else.
So I think as long as you’re always one step ahead of the person that you’re teaching or writing for, I think you’re, you’re completely fine. And I think a lot of the time as well, especially with like YouTube and, and Tech Talk, if you’re like documenting your journey, I think that’s as much, you know, as.
Like fun to watch for people, especially, it’s more relatable. I know like I’m getting fairly like deep into running right now and like I watch a lot of content who are people who are maybe just a step ahead of me. Like I don’t wanna watch Elite runners run because I’m never gonna be that. But watching people who, you know, are just maybe a little bit better than me or who are like hitting goals that maybe I want to hit a few years down the line, I, I like watching them because it’s, it’s more relatable.
So as long as you’re, anyone can really do it in terms. You know, just being a little bit ahead of whoever you’re making that content for,
Jared: bring up some really good points. It’s a really good point. And um, you’re obviously speaking about the value of video. Did you incorporate video into this project or is that more something that you’re thinking about doing on a future project?
James: I, I did probably not as much as I should have. It was mainly just like tutorial content. We did eventually get this, the, the channel monetized. I think we had about 2000 subscribers. Okay. Um, so it, it did okay. And we got like a couple of videos that were like 60,000, I think a couple maybe had a hundred thousand views.
Um, and they were just tutorial videos, like they weren’t hard to Mac or anything. It was. Oh, I’ve got this article. It’s doing well on my site. I’m gonna make a YouTube video on that. And a lot of the times we would find that, especially whenever there was a stage last year when, uh, Google introduced a lot of videos.
Yeah. Especially for tutorial articles in that top spot. So, yep. A lot of them, we would have a video in one of them three, and then also have our article below. So we were probably getting a lot of traffic from Google search, uh, which obviously then helps on YouTube and, and most of our, I would say most of our views on YouTube, Uh, through like YouTube search rather than recommended.
There weren’t videos that would do well, like just being sent out to a random audience. Um, but yeah, I think there’s probably room. We probably could have done more with that and if I had a kept the site, it’s definitely something I would’ve focused on more moving forward. Mm-hmm. Good tips.
Jared: Uh, let’s see. I have some notes from earlier.
You were saying you were doing about 10 to 15 articles a month There. In that first year, um, and by December of 2021, you were getting 96,000 page views. That’s pretty good for a, a pretty new site. I mean, you’re still less than a year old. And you’re getting 96,000 page views. What type of articles were you writing?
What type of keywords were you going after? It sounds like they were very question oriented, tutorial based, but I’m kind of reading into it there. Maybe talk us through that cuz you downplayed it, but that’s, that’s a good amount of traffic. Um, for less than a year in.
James: Yeah. So yeah, as you said, most of them were kind of questions, tutorial style articles.
Um, I pretty much started initially just going after those things in my head that I knew I struggled with whenever I was getting started. And at that point I didn’t really know much about niche sites when I was starting out, and I didn’t really, I didn’t know anything about seo, to be honest. I, I still don’t think of myself as someone who like overly knows much about seo.
I think it’s. I was just thinking to myself, what site would I want as a person coming into this niche and what would I want? So I started off with, you know, low competition topics and going after them initially, but I was also thinking I want a user to be able to come to my site and follow a path, to get to a goal.
Uh, not maybe text 10, 15 articles and not everyone’s gonna need to read everyone, but I wanted that full guidance there for. Coming in and I built a lot of, so like back in the, in the e-commerce days, I built courses for Facebook ads and stuff like that. Mm-hmm. So I kind of knew the process of building that out on what someone wants when they’re flowing through.
Like, how do I do, or how do I get a goal? So I was building out and started with the low competition stuff to get that traffic rolling in, but I also filled in them gaps even in stuff that I knew I. You know, enough of an authority to rank for, I would still go ahead and fill them pieces of content in because I felt that it was useful for readers who maybe needed that as their next step.
And you know, it might not be looking back now, I didn’t realize at the time, but I was building like topical silos. Yeah. And I didn’t know at the time, but that’s essentially what, what I think I was probably doing and then just building them out. So for example, if I was doing, you know, if you’re doing can tutorial.
I would go on, ah, Fs, use low fruits, something like that. Find all the low competition Canva, stuff that you can go after and go after them first, because they’re gonna be the ones that get you that traffic. And I think getting like your first dollar, getting your first a hundred visitors is like the most important thing to keep that dopamine hidden, to keep Brighton and then fill in the harder ones and just go through the difficulty and just, you know, and then sometimes one of them ones that you think you’ll never rank for.
I dunno, maybe just by luck or I just accidentally did the stuff right? But it ranks and you start getting like 10,000 page views a month from an article that you never thought you could rank for. And maybe that’s just that topical authority coming in and helping you reach that level for that. So yeah, that, that’s kind of the, the strategy I I used initially.
It’s funny to
Jared: hear you mention it cause that was gonna be what I said next is it sounds. You brought your experience in funnel creation and landing page creation, and you brought this experience from your previous business and without realizing it created topical authority because you really, you didn’t just start by going after the low competition keywords.
And I think that’s where from interviewing people and talking to a lot of website builders, a lot of people will get hooked on that low competition keyword. Um, the long tail, right? But then they’ll maybe bounce around topic to topic without realizing it, going after those low vol, those low competition keywords, and then fail to kind of build out the silo and then down the road never really capitalize on what a true authority site could capitalize on.
But you were writing content for articles you had no business ranking for, but it sounds like it kind of helped your topical authority and then you ended up ranking for a few of them.
James: Yep. Well, for, for a certain period of time until Google said no, but it, it worked initially.
Jared: It did work initially. Fair enough, fair enough.
Um, let’s see, in terms of monetization, I mean, as we were nearing the end of 2021, you’re breaking into a hundred thousand page views. Like were you writing much affiliate style content that could be monetized by, you know, affiliate offers and those sorts of things? Was this mostly a monetization play to generate revenue?
An ad, an ad, uh, an ad platform. Like a, like a ad, thrive media vzo, these kind of places.
James: Yeah, so I think around that time, 2021 I think was one of the, the first big like affiliate review updates. So like a lot of the stuff that I was hearing was like, don’t put affiliate review content on your site. And there was a lot of talk about.
Like balancing with this amount of informational articles and like 20% review. So I don’t think I did overly much in those early days. I can take a look like in December, that’s probably not a good month to look at because December’s affiliate heavy. But if you say like October of 21, I had like $750 in zoic revenue and then 113 of of Amazon, and those were the only.
That I really used. So it wasn’t really a focus at all on going after affiliate content in the early days. I did then start, I hired a writer specifically to do that type of content, probably mid 2022. And we did have a couple of articles that did really, really well for higher ticket stuff and ended up generating like a decent amount in affiliate revenue.
But ads were always the. Generator on the site. You talked
Jared: about hiring writers, and I wanted to ask when that transition happened, you were writing a lot of the content in the beginning, 10 to 15 a month, something like that, and then you dropped a number where you were producing a lot more content in 2022, uh, you hired writers.
What was the impetus for that decision? Where did you find these riders and what kind of scale did it afford?
James: Yeah, so I think initially when I got into it, like I just wanted it to be super low risk and not have, you know, a huge outlet of money. So the site was never any more, like I never spent any more than a hundred dollars in like the being in the red on the site.
So any rider that were ever hired came from profits from the site. Um, so I think I started like as soon as I started Mac Indecent money. Uh, I can see here content writers. Started probably in like July of, uh, the first year, and that was just like $240, $315. Oh, okay. And that was pretty much everything the site was making at that point, and I was just reinvesting it.
So we weren’t getting many articles for that, but I, I was just trying to build out that team at that point and just getting a little bit of extra help to keep publishing and keep that momentum going. Yeah. Um, but I, I was still publishing. In the, in the first year, I wasn’t doing a huge amount because I still didn’t know if it was a, a site that would work or would make any substantial money.
It was probably just the tail end of, of 21 where I started taking it seriously and kind of pushed this to my main thing. Um, so I started riding, like I’d just get up and ride. Pretty much like the full morning, and a lot of the articles I was writing were, were fairly short. So I, I struggled to sit down and, and some of the niches I’m in now, like it requires a 3000, 4,000 word article and I really struggled to sit down and write that.
Like, it, it’s, it’s hard. I need that, like dopamine hit of pushing, publish. So the niche I was in initially, like you could get a, a really good article out that answered the. In like six, 700 words. Sometimes it was more, sometimes slightly less. But I can sit down and write one of them in an R to RS max and publish 3, 4, 5 of them in a day.
And that was for me, the best way to do it. Now, like there’s, it’s definitely I see a lot of people who are very selective over articles to write. You know, I see some people who have 200, 300 articles on their site and they’re making a lot more money than I ever. And they’re, they’re just, it’s just a different strategy, right.
And I, I don’t know which is, is better. Um, probably right now I would go after them very specific articles just with all the AI content, probably eating up stuff that I was able to rank for. Um, but yeah, I, I wrote most of that and then started to hire that team mainly in, in 2022, started to scale it up and it was over summer.
Probably from like June to August, I was doing a lot of traveling. I don’t think I wrote any articles in them three months. And you can kind of see that in our, uh, costs up them months cuz it just ramped up. And I wanted to keep the same level of publishing but just with writers instead. So we had them doing all of that content for, for three months and I would just publish the articles at at night or whatever.
Uh, and that was kind of, kind of the mean play. And again, it was just trying to get it to a. Where it was as passive as possible. Like I did eventually want to take myself out of it, but I knew in them early Des if I didn’t want, you can go to wires, you can use time or money to invest in content and push it.
But again, it, it’s something that I see a lot of, like I see some people and the strategy to me seems crazy, spending like hundreds of thousands and they’ve only got, they’ve got like, really no traffic at all yet. And I’m like, I could not do that. I couldn’t stomach it. Um, but for them, you know, maybe in the long term it just, it, it plays.
Probably net better in some situations, but I just couldn’t humble that sort of stress. How
Jared: many articles did you end up, like what was your peak month of publishing? Um, how many were
James: publishing? Um, I think it was actually probably the, well it was that 165 in September. That was the biggest month. Um, but that was like an outlier cuz I was freaking out with the update and just, we need, we need to push more content.
Uh, January of 22, I published 140 articles, and I know I wrote a lot of that myself as well as content writers. I was the most productive month of my life by the looks of it. And then it averaged about 60 to 70 articles kind of creeping up to a hundred over them summer months, and then that was that 165 month.
In September though,
Jared: winter’s a great time to crank out content. You know, it’s dark, it’s cold, there’s not much to do, so put the time to good. Putting the time to good use. Yeah. Um, what, how, like, if I can ask, what were you do if you were reinvesting a lot of the profits and you weren’t doing the e-commerce thing anymore?
Like, were you living on savings? Were you doing other things as supplement income? Um, or, you know, how were you kind of paying the bills as.
James: Yeah, so I mean, I had money coming in from, from other stuff. I’ve done YouTube for years. Uh, I had like affiliate stuff that I’ve promoted in the past that still pays good money.
And I think that’s something I’d like to focus on as well on my niche sites is, uh, recurring affiliate programs. And I think that’s, we can maybe talk a bit that in, in a little bit. But yeah, I had money coming in from that. I had savings and stuff, um, as well. But even in the, in them, there’s like the, they were still making fairly good money.
Like the profits in those months, even when we were investing a lot, I was still making four or five grand a month in profit. And even in them peak months, like the most I ever spent on content in the month was $3,000. So in, in our niche as well, you can get fairly cheap riders. There wasn’t, you know, a need to spend 10 cents a word on a writer and not niche.
Jared: So let’s talk about when these updates started hitting because you had, um, obviously published a lot of content summer of 2022. Again, just looking at my notes here, um, August had 365,000 page views, $7,700 in revenue, over $5,000 in profit. Um, sounds like a lot of those costs were in writing, you know, so you could argue that you didn’t need to spend that, that was for future growth, right?
So that really the site could have earned almost $8,000 that month in pure. Um, and then these updates started to hit. What were your plans? What were you thinking for that site before the updates came? And then what was it about the updates that, you know, maybe caused you to change or, or modify that plan a bit?
James: Yeah, it’s, I mean, it’s hard to know. I think. When everything’s going up, you’re like, well, I’ll just keep doing this because, you know, the kind of goal, I think was to get it probably about 20,000 a month and then sell it. And that’s kind of where I, I wanted to get to. And everything was kind of going to plan.
Everything was, was looking good. And I have kind of my theories about why I got hit, um, a little bit. I think possibly, you know, once we started publishing all these, the Nayha was in, wasn’t that. And the articles that it, it kind of eventually topped out. We covered everything that we could and then we branched into like a shoulder niche.
Mm-hmm. I don’t know if that affected the site, um, potentially, but it, it’s kind of like a, I feel like you’re just, Gambling a little bit like you’re on a high, and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that like crypto rocket game where you ju it is just a gambling thing and it just goes up and up and you have to like cash out before it explodes.
I think that’s kinda what they’re, what I felt like I was playing or looking back. That’s kind of what it felt like. You’re just like, hold on another month before I sell and hopefully it just keeps going up until, you know, it doesn’t, so it’s hard to, it’s hard to. But especially because it wasn’t something that I wanted to, like, I, I didn’t wanna hold this brand for 10 years and continue publishing content in the niche.
I enjoyed it while I did it and, you know, I had a bit of knowledge in it, but it’s not, it wasn’t like my end goal. So I knew at some point I wanted to sell and then, then Google updates hit. I just, I was like, right, I’ll, I’ll get out of this. I’ll take that money off the table that, you know, cash in on those two years of work that I’ve done.
Because it would suck to see it go to zero and not have anything for that really. So that was kind of the, the thought process.
Jared: I, um, I really appreciate you coming on and, and just sharing about the ups and the downs of this website because it’s, um, Like, uh, especially nowadays, like sites are going through big ups and big downs and that’s, I don’t know if I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know if that’s gonna be the new norm, but certainly 2022 probably had more updates than ever before.
And there’s a bit of a stigma, you know, to kind of get in your website nailed by an update. Um, but you know, not only did you start a really successful site and end up, uh, selling it for still a very. Uh, very decent amount, but I just appreciate that you’re talking about it very rationally in terms of what you did really well, and then maybe some of the areas that that, that might have caused it to get kind of wrapped up in something like, uh, Google updates.
Just really nice. Thanks for, thanks for sharing about those things.
James: Yeah, no, I think as well, it’s kind of like I do li I think the site is, Top quality. And I do think it, it could be the authority in the niche and it kind of hurts now cuz when I’ve sold it, looking at it, it’s like they got, the person hasn’t touched it, they haven’t, I think they bought probably 10 sites at the time they were buying mine.
So they were buying a lot. And they haven’t posted an article, they haven’t updated anything. So it kind of sucks to say that, but you know, once you sell it, it’s, you have no involvement in this. But I, I’d, I’d like to have even like, stared on maybe as like, Uh, you know, a paired employee who are managing the site or something like that to continue to grow it.
Cause I do think eventually it will rebound and, and come back. But, you know, it’s all well in good thinking that if, but if it, if it doesn’t, then you haven’t took the money off the table and then you were seeing like, I, I think a lot of it was the reason to sell was the AI stuff. Like I really didn’t know what was.
Happen with that. Um, and then again, I think we’re going into a, a recession. I, I don’t, I think we’re in a recession, they’re seem to change the, the meaning of it or whatever, but like things are way more expensive. Companies are not making as much money. RPMs are cutting half seemingly across the board. So there was, there was a lot going on that, you know, maybe if we were a year backwards, I maybe would’ve kept the aside another.
But there was just so much saying it’s probably time to take this money off the table.
Jared: You’re probably touching on a lot of things that website owners are thinking right now. Um, even the website owners that are holding onto their sites right now are probably still going through the same, uh, mental gymnastics that you’re going through and that you went through with this site, you know, which is, um, uh, you know, when to sell.
And it’s, it’s the, it’s, it’s the age old question in this business of when is the right time to sell versus when is not the right time to sell. You know, at the same time I always remind people that um, you know, kinda like what you said, the new site owner hasn’t touched it. Like, if it’s a project that you’re not gonna end up putting a lot of effort into, say, recovering, you know, after you hit that, got hit that Google update, then OAR probably was a good move to sell it.
You know, if you didn’t have the energy and didn’t wanna put in all that effort to, uh, fix some of the things and rebound it, you, you probably actually made a really good decision. And then obvious. There is a case we made for knuckling down and really putting a lot of effort into it, but that takes a lot of work and there’s no guarantees.
James: Yep. It’s a, you know, you’re, you’re kind of rolling the dice, especially like, it’s not even, you know, I think Google probably as a company’s freaking out right now, I, you know, they’ve launched their AI stuff. It doesn’t seem to be as good as, you know, chat G P T and whatnot, and is Google search even gonna be around in three, four years from.
There’s just so many stuff. There’s so much things that are up in the air that it’s hard to, you know, it’s hard to just say, I’m a content site that gets traffic from Google search. I think diversity has to be, you know, massive in your, in your strategy now. Um, I’m putting it, there’s a lot of platform risk, I think moving.
And it’s, you know, I don’t know if we could have got traffic like that from anywhere else. And yeah. So there, there was a lot of things just playing to the, to the sell card.
Jared: Let me ask you to kind of tie a bow on this website, um, and whatever you’re comfortable sharing. Like, did, did you sell this site for five figures, six figures?
Like, um, you know, what kind of an exit did it end up being?
James: So it was just over six figures. Um, it was, so there is a, uh, like a performance bit. We got over six figures in cash and then it’s like a 15% on top, which we’ll see if we get, it was a six month period. Um, I sold it with, with Empire Flippers, so I, I was happy enough, but I did think like two months before that we were gonna get double what, what I did get.
So it was kind of like, I remember. Getting offers in the initial des when I listed it and being like, nah, no chance I’m not taking that. And then those offers would’ve been nicer than what I did tech in the, after that second update hit. So, um, yeah, it, it was, it was a very stre like that selling process.
And even though it’s not, it’s a, it’s a decent chunk of money, but like, I can’t. Trying to go through like multi-million pound deals or multi-million dollar deals. Cause I was very stressed out during that two months or whatever, where, you know, things are upd, an update rolls out whenever you’ve just got an offer and you’re like, is this gonna go through, is it not?
Then he was buying 10 sites, so there was, you know, it was a slow process. It wasn’t, you know, there was a lot going on. So it was a, it was very interesting. I’m glad I went through that and as. And before I even went through that, I think for the audience, like there’s a lot of people buying sites out there that are.
The, in having like big VC firms, uh, who have in insane amounts of money or big publishing houses who have, like some of the people I spoke to during that process, it was kind of mind blowing to me that these types of people were in this space because it seems just like our little hobby blog, but there is big people out there want them and they’ve got a lot of money to spend on them.
If you’ve got the right. So I think that was interesting to look at and definitely made me think about my next site that I build. Um, so yeah, that, that was very interesting. Well, congratulations.
Jared: Six figure sale. Nothing to sneeze at. I’m, I know you, uh, hindsight’s always a bummer. Uh, it’s, it’s so cruel because you have clarity about where things are now, but still six figure sales.
So congrats. Well, Um, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your plans going forward, and obviously so much of why you sold your site was to take money off the table. Um, uh, current global conditions, uh, the state of, uh, of, of building websites on the back of organic search. So I’m really curious now that the site, uh, now the sale has be official for a couple months, like what projects you’re digging into and what you’re focused on going.
James: Yeah, I’ll, I think I, I wish I had had this conversation with myself probably three months before I sold the site, but yeah, it’s, I don’t, at the minute, like I’ve got a couple of sites going. We’ve, I have a new site. It’s had probably gone ahead about 20,000 page views a month here. Um, so I’m putting a little bit of time into that and pushing AI on it and trying to use AI to see how that works out.
And then I also have a, a running site that, it’s very, very small at the minute, but I posted a couple of articles on it a couple of years ago and they’re ranked very well. So I’m thinking about kind of pushing that and maybe doing, uh, some YouTube content and stuff around that. Um, but it’s very much like in that shiny object syndrome stage because things aren’t making a huge amount of money right now, so it.
Where do you go? Whereas if you’ve, it’s nice to just have one thing to wake up every day and just work on and you know what’s making money. And the more time you put in, the more money you make. Uh, so I think I, I’m just kind of in this limbo period right now where I’ve my hands in a few different pies and just kind of waiting to see which one ticks off and, and push it.
Jared: You’ve talked about video a number of times and. You know, you did video, but uh, on this website that you sold, but, you know, doesn’t sound like it was a big, a big factor. How big of a factor or how big of an emphasis will you be placing on video on any of the projects you have going forward?
James: Yeah, I think, I mean, I think it’s huge.
Like I, my personal YouTube channel, I have about 50,000 subs and I did YouTube pretty heavy back in 2018 to 2020 or whatever. And like I know there’s a lot of money there and there’s a lot of potential. Like I, it’s, I think it’s a lot different, and I’m sure you guys know, you know, from your podcast and you guys are, have a YouTube channel of a personality, like pushing something as a personality or recommending a.
I think it’s so much easier than just some random article you read on the internet. Who are you gonna trust more? I, I know if I’m buying something expensive, I wanna watch a video of someone and see them, review it and go through it. So I think, I think it has to be a part of your play. Whether it’s you or I see some people now doing, you know, they’ll, they’ll hire someone, they’ll bring someone in to do that content on their brand.
Cause I know not everyone’s comfortable getting on camera. But yeah, I think, I think it has to be a part of your, your play. Like obviously there’s gonna be some outliers that, that do just fine without it. But if you want like a leg up and you want the fastest way to get into it and grow, I think you have to be doing it.
Jared: Ai are you using it for any of your current projects? Um, how are you using it, you know?
James: Yeah, so I pretty much with, you know, chat g p t and g p t three and 3.5, I honestly, I thought it was useless. I, I still, like, sometimes I’ll accidentally use 3.5 instead, same four. What I’m doing,
Jared: they really, they really funnel you to 3.5.
If you don’t, if you don’t pay attention,
James: they don’t want you using that one. But it’s, it’s so much worse. Like, I would never have published an article straight. Even any of the, the AI writers tools, I tried. I just kind of wrote it off, like it’s not something I’d wanna publish or put on the internet. I don’t think it provides anyone value.
Um, whereas GB four, it has surprised me. Like it puts like articles that I feel I can upload this, it gets the user their question answered. It all makes sense. It seems to flow well. Like one of the biggest problems I had with the older version is, It’ll say something in this top paragraph, but then not acknowledge that it’s said that in the bottom one it’ll repeat it or you know, it’ll just make mistakes that a human writer wouldn’t.
Whereas now it seems to flow and understand context and stuff instead before and won’t repeat things. So it seems to be working really well. Um, I’ve been testing it out a couple of different ways, and I don’t know, one of them is maybe a little gray hat or I don’t know, but like if you faded three articles from.
On your keyword and then, you know, give it like a, a decent prompt of what way to write it, how to write it, and I give it a template of a format. I want to spit out that information in. It’ll produce a pretty good article and essentially tell it to use them articles as the source instead of like, Just going out there and, you know, searching the whole internet and it does get some stuff wrong.
It seems to get the facts a lot more right. When you’re using it like that. And I dunno, in my head, it’s essentially what you’re telling a writer to do, right? Like if you’re asking a writer to write a thing, they’re gonna go watch a YouTube video, read two articles, and summarize the information in their words.
And that seems to be, well that in my head, that’s what, what we are doing with ai and I, so it’s, it’s only the last week or so I’ve started doing this. The articles are. Um, and, and they answer the questions that they look good. They’re not plagiarizing. So that’s kind of how I’ve been using it. I’d like access to the, the api.
I haven’t got it yet for the, for the new version. Um, but yeah, I, I think it’s scurry in terms of like how good it writes and what’s gonna happen with search. I think it’s gonna be flooded. Articles in every nation. I don’t know how they’re gonna handle it, but,
Jared: gotcha. These are very big questions. I agree with you.
Um, I’m curious with, with chat Qpd four and what you’re doing, are you, it sounds like you’re, you’re having it kind of construct an entire article for you. I’ve also heard a lot of people giving it specific prompts and then assembling the article from like five or six different prompts. Have you tested any of that?
James: So the main thing I’ve been doing that seems to work well is just getting it to write that, give it a template, and then get it to fill in the, the gaps in that template. So it works well for, like, say you’ve got a batch of 20 articles that are similar formatting, like say you’re doing top 10 best hotels in Paris, in London, that’s, you could maybe have 40 articles you’re writing on 40 different cities.
So at that template, it’s essentially the same for all of them. And. So you faded that and then give it, you know, a prompt and give it information. It’s a little manual because you have to feed it the articles that you want it to pull information from. Um, but yeah, that’s kind of how I’ve been using it is just give it a template, give it a prompt of like how you want to write it, the style you want it wrote in, um, and then feed it the content and tell it to pull specifically from that content.
Very good, very
Jared: good. These conversations, we’re gonna be having a lot more of ’em, obviously, and, uh, so, you know, I just, uh, anybody who’s kind of leaning into the AI world and, and producing content for it, um, I just would love, I just love getting your take on it. Um, Hey, so go ahead.
James: Yeah. Yeah. I think it kind of like you, you kind of have to, especially if you’re doing like commodity style content, like I see some people completely ignoring it.
Like, I think you’d epic gardening. Like his stuff is just, that’s a different level of content. He’s doing the YouTube, he’s doing, you know, the, the other platforms and the, you know, that’s, that’s different. But if you’re doing like, you know, these question and answer sites that are just going after. You know, simple terms like you can’t afford, you’re just not gonna be able to afford to compete with people who are using ai.
And you’re even seeing, you know, the big, big publishing houses using it as well. So I, I think like one of the, the, the niches that I’m in, they’re fired like 200 riders or something the other day. And I don’t know whether that’s just simply cost cutting or they’re gonna start using AI as well to start producing stuff.
But I think you have to have a little bit, or dabble in it at least until, maybe don’t put it on your main sites or whatever, but it’s there. And I think a lot of people make a lot of money in the early days of it. And yeah, I think it’s an opportu.
Jared: I really like your top down approach, thinking about it as though, hey, a lot of times, depending on the style of content you write, and depending on the niche you’re in, and depending on what type of keywords you’re going after, what AI is producing and what you’re instructing a writer to produce are very similar.
You know? And again, if you’re hiring a writer who’s not an expert per se, in the space, who isn’t necessarily drawing on their own experiences when they write the article, a lot of what they’re doing is. Researching based on what’s already out there. And so I think that’s a good perspective for people to think about if they haven’t thought about AI from that perspective, that certainly can help them understand a little bit better about where it could play in for them.
Obviously, the element of bringing your own experience, like you talked about running, you’re actually running, you’re actually learning how to run. There are things that you’re gonna be able to talk about from a running perspective. You know, that is brand new to the world, you know, and so there’s a d it does place a different emphasis whether you want to lean into it or not, on e experience and, and expertise and that sort of thing.
So ironically, this whole AI thing seems to have shined a bit of a spotlight on Google’s, uh, e e a t, uh, emphasis over the past couple years. But, uh, that’s probably a topic for a different day. Um, yeah. Hey, James, where can, um, people fall along with what you’re doing? Where can they, uh, catch up with you? I, I know I caught up with you on.
And, and caught wind of this, this cool story, but where else can people fall along with what you’re doing?
James: Yeah, so if you just search GMs BD on YouTube or Twitter, it’s GMs y bd and I don’t know if you put links down below or whatever, but, uh, yeah, they’re, they’re the two main places you can find me. And from there you’ll be able to find anything else.
I do. I don’t have any product or anything right now, so it’s just, just sharing the journey. I do have a newsletter, um, where I’m kind of documenting this process. Building the portfolio back up. I’m starting from scratch again and, and just sharing that, that whole journey, uh, over there, back to the
Jared: beginnings, but with, um, yep, with, with a lot more experience under your belt now.
That’s it. Hey James, thanks so much for sharing your story. Like I said, I really appreciate you coming on board and not only sharing the highs, but some of the lows. We can all learn from both sides of the story and hearing both sides is really helpful. So thanks for coming on and congratulations.
James: Thank you.
I appreciate it.