Project: “Throw Money At It” – Part 1

July 24, 2011 , 74 Comments

In this project, I will be documenting a simple experiment to answer one question: can I create a site and make it profitable, if my own involvement is basically limited to “throwing money at it”?

In other words, if I don’t create any content myself and don’t build any links myself and instead just purchase content and use some link-building services, can I make a profit or will I just be losing money?

Read on to see how I’ll kick this project off and why.

No Time for SEO

Building websites, creating content and building backlinks used to be my main occupation, back when I got started in this online marketing game. In fact, I used to be quite the obsessive link-builder, because that was the one thing I had picked out to specialize in.

Fast forward to the present and I can’t remember when I last built a backlink that wasn’t part of a review or test, but just a good old backlink made to increase the SERP of one of my pages. Why this change? As I got more deeply involved in projects like SECockpit (the awesomest SEO tool ever) and Backlink Battleplan (my own link-building course, that I’m currently updating for the seventh time since it’s inception), I’ve found less and less time to pursue niche-site building and SEO’ing myself.

It’s clear that I can’t do everything myself and that I need to look to outsourcing the bulk of the work involved with niche marketing. This has been clear for a while, but I’ve really struggled in making the transition from a one-man-operation to something more.

No More Excuses

Outsourcing makes a lot of sense. Once you get to a point where you have a profitable system set up and there’s more work than you can do yourself, hiring people to help you out is the logical next step.

Unfortunately, hiring people is a big project in and of itself. You need to find qualified candidates, come to some agreement concerning working hours, conditions and payment, make sure that you’re covered in terms of taxes and fees, train the employees and teach them exactly what you need them to do, create clear communication channels and keep track of everyone’s progress.

I have hired people for a few short-term projects, with mixed success. While I’d love to build up a little SEO team of my own, this is simply a project that I have not yet gotten around to. I have so much to do that I really need to hire some help, but I don’t have time to hire some help, because I have so much to do…

With the “Throw Money At It” project, I’m taking an easier way out by outsourcing the work without actually hiring anyone. Instead, I will just make use of existing, specialized services. I’ll purchase articles from SEOgenerals, Text Broker and the Content Authority, and I’ll scower some SEO forums and buy some link-building services offered there.

All I personally need to do is set up the website (takes less than 5 minutes) and copy-paste the articles I get, to populate the sites with content.

Let’s do Some Maths (yay!)

The goal with each of the sites built for this project is simple: fill them with relevant content, monetize them with affiliate offers or AdSense and get them ranked for a few targeted keywords, so that they get some nice Google traffic.

I’ve built dozens of sites along these lines, with varying success. Not every site becomes wildly profitable and not every site turns out to be worth investing more time and effort in. So, how can I know how much money to throw at a site, before dropping it and focusing on a new one? To help me estimate this, I’ll employ some (very) rudimentary maths.

Traffic Estimation

There are two factors I need to estimate:

  1. How much traffic can I get?
  2. How much money can I make from this traffic?
Make sure to select "Exact Match" when using the Google Keyword Tool

To estimate traffic, I check the exact match search volume for each of the keywords I’m targeting and estimate that I can get between 40% and 60% of that traffic to my site, if I get a top spot. This is a very rough estimate because A) the search volume numbers in Google are not highly exact and B) the actual click-through rates for a number one spot can vary, depending on titles and descriptions used by yourself and the competing pages, the amount of sponsored ads in the results and the presence or absence of “special” listings like product listings or video-listings that are accompanied by thumbnails.

The third column shows SECockpit's daily traffic estimate for each keyword

Still, it’s a better number to work with than any other estimate I know. You can get the exact search volume by using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, or you can just use SECockpit, which automatically calculates the estimated traffic volume for you.


If I’m targeting five different keywords, I’m going to base my estimate on the assumption that I get top rankings for all of those keywords. However, when I do keyword research, I usually also pick out some keywords to create articles about, without the intention of actaully getting the articles ranked for those keywords. It’s good to have some extra content on your site and keyword data can help you find out what kind of questions people in a niche have and what kind of content they might appreciate on your site.

Next, I need to figure out how much money I can potentially make with a site. There are two scenarios I’m working with, for this project. The first is for a site monetized with  AdSense and the second is for a site monetized with affiliate products.

AdSense Example

For the AdSense example, I have limited data to work with, from the two measly little AdSense sites I currently own. For those sites, I’m getting an average CTR of 4.55% (based on Google Analytics pageviews, not AdSense pageviews, which are always a lot higher, for some reason) and I’m getting an average EPC of $1.46. According to Google, the average CPC of the keywords I’m targeting is $3.82.

I could now calculate exact percentages, but in my experience, CPC data is so erratic that it’s really only useful for very rough estimates. So, as a low-ball figure, I’m going to assume that I’ll get about one third of the CPC, per click on an AdSense ad on my site.

So, the calculation goes like this:

Combined exact-match search traffic for my targeted keywords: 12,040 searches per month.

40% of which is: 4816 visitors per month.

A 4% CTR results in roughly 200 clicks per month and one third of the average CPC for the keywords is $2.95 (= my very rough EPC estimate). This would result in the website earning about $590/month, once I get top rankings for all of the target keywords. That’s not super-spectacular, but it’s a good enough earnings potential for me to pursue the project, especially since most of the keywords I picked have low competition.

Affiliate Site Example

For this second part of the project, I’m going to add a few more product reviews to an existing, but badly neglected site of mine. In the past four months, I’ve gotten about 6,000 visitors to the site and made just shy of $1,500 in commissions (after refunds and fees), from a total of 552 clicks (~9% click rate). As you can see, that’s quite a nice per-visitor value I’m getting from the site, so it’s high time I expanded it and optimized it a bit.

Following a similar method as above, I can estimate that the additional keywords I will target, can lead to a boost in traffic in the range of 6,000 new visitors a month. Admittedly, there are some pretty ambitious keywords in there. Still, assuming I can get 6,000 extra visitors each month and I retain a value of about $0.25 per visitor to my site, that would result in the site earning $1,500 per month.

Here’s a quick summary of the main estimation methods I’m using:

It’s important to note that these estimates could all, potentially, be way off target. For example, the visitor-value is only going to be correct as long as additional traffic is coming from the same source and going to the same page. As soon as different keywords and different pages are involved, conversion rates can be very different. Still, I figure it’s better to have some sort of estimate than to have none at all.

Setting a Budget

When setting a budget for a project like this, there are always two factors to consider:

  1. The recurring income the site can generate.
  2. The value of the site, if you were to sell it.

In general, sites sell for around 10 times their monthly income. However, even a site without any income has value. A site with good content, a bit of traffic and some decent backlinks can fetch your a couple hundred dollars, when you sell it. In a sense, you are not risking 100% of the money you spend on content and SEO, because you can always sell the site and recoup part of your investment.

Since my affiliate site is already earning more than $400/month, I can assume that I could sell it for at least $4,000, if I wanted to. Therefore, I can go ahead and invest $4,000 in developing this site and even if that doesn’t increase the revenue by a single cent, I can still get all my money back.

For the AdSense site, which I’ll be building from scratch, I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be turned into a fairly profitable site, but I won’t base any further projections on my estimates. Instead, I will start by investing a maximum of $500 and then wait. I hope that I’ll get some initial traffic and clicks from this first investment, so that I can then base my ongoing budget on the actual, measurable numbers.

I’ll be posting an update on how much I spent and what I spent it on, a few days from now.

Let me know what you think of all this, by leaving a comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.


All Posts in the “Throw Money At It” Project:

  1. Part 1: The Project – currently viewing
  2. Part 2: Outsourcing Content
  3. Part 3: Real-World On-Page SEO
  4. Part 4: Results After Two Months

About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Shane,
    I love practical examples that teach in real time. If you keep this up, I’ll have to start referring to you as MasterSEO.
    Keep up the excellent work.

  • This is great Shane and at just the right time… exactly the projects I am just starting to plan myself – Adsense + Affiliate.

    You will at least have one dedicated follower here!

    Would be good to give a few more pointers on where to go for the backlinks… WarriorForum or a service like Build-My-Rank what about auto-tools like SENukeX?


    • Hi John,

      For this project, I’ll be buying backlinks. I’ve been looking at service providers on Backlinksforum and Wickedfire and I’ll simply pick ones that have gotten good feedback, track results and hopefully find the best of the bunch.

      Usually, I also use my own link-building tools and systems, but not for this project.

  • This is a great idea Shane, I look forward to seeing your step by step results. Good luck.


  • Hey Shane,

    I like this “throw money at it” project that you are doing. To me it makes so much sense I am not sure why more people don’t employ it. Perhaps you might say that they don’t have the money but they could find the money from somewhere.

    I will be doing a similar experiment with you. I have one site that I am currently monetizing with Amazon products. The site will probably do about $700 this month. I’ve gotten 6000 visitors to the site so far this month. Last month (Jun 2011) it did 514.00.

    I will not be using Adsense however because the most I’ve ever done in one month with Adsense is about $300 but now my income has dropped a bit because I eliminated a bunch of useless websites.

    Back to my case study. I found a product on Amazon that sells for a little over $1,000 and gets a decent amount of traffic. I will be targeting 5 keywords and will use you estimates above as far as traffic and click through rates are concerned.

    I’m expecting a 4% payout for every sell so that’s about $40.00 so only 13 sales puts the site above $500 per month (and this doesn’t include all the other things that people often buy when they go to Amazon)

    I feel that my numbers are quite conservative. I will outsource all of my content writing and link building services. I will however make sure that all my on page SEO is in order.

    I do have some questions for you and here they are?

    1. At what pace will you build your links? 10 per day, 20 per day, etc.

    2. What link building methods will you be using. I own BBP and I know that most of those mostly FREE services. So I am curious since you will be outsourcing this what services will you use?

    3. Will you concentrate on working on one keyword until you have it in the top position in Google or will you work on all the keywords simultaneously. (I’m saying you but I mean your outsourcers)

    4. Since you will only be targeting 5 keywords and other keywords that you will not be trying to rank for but will provide good content for your searchers…approximately how much content (articles) do you plan on adding to your niche site and at what frequency?

    5. This question is closely related to question #2. What type of linking diversity will you use? Do you plan on using your targeted keywords as anchor text at a particular ratio?

    6. What outsourcing companies will you be using for your article writing and link building?

    7. What will be the length of your articles?

    I just bought my domain and put up the WordPress Blog a few days ago. I’ve outsourced having a banner made then I will be getting the articles written.

    Thanks in advance for any of the above questions you choose to answer.

    • Hi Rick,

      Your Amazon project sounds good! I’ve never built a site around Amazon products, but it’s something should probably look into, as well.

      1. Depends on the services I’ll choose. I’ll probably go with some lower-quality links like bookmarks first, and then move on to services where I get more “punch”, later on. But I generally don’t worry that much about how quickly the links are built.

      2. Haven’t decided yet. I’ll be testing various services offered on forums.

      3. I’ll work on two or three keywords at a time. No more than that. With many link-building methods, you can add more than one link (e.g. several links in an article), so it makes sense to work on more than one keyword at a time.

      4. I’ll start with at least 10 articles per site. I’ll post two articles, then get the site indexed, then add the other 8 articles over the course of two weeks or so. Depending on traffic and budget, I’ll keep adding more articles over time.

      5. As much diversity as possible. I believe this is key. The only type of links I’m not interested in are comment-spam and forum-spam links. Everything else, I’ll go for. Anchor text: I’ll go for about 80% with the target keyword as the anchor text. That might be too much, but for now, I have not seen any negative effects of “anchor-text-spamming”.

      6. I’ll order the first batch of articles from The Content Authority. Haven’t used them before, so this is a test.

      7. For an article I want to rank, at least 800 words.

      • Thanks for answering the questions for me. I use Content Authority and have been pleased with their work.

        I have articles written of about 750 to 1000 words for the keywords I want to target.

        The great thing about Amazon (and I’m sure you’ve heard this before) is that it converts awfully well plus you get the bonus of them buying a lot of stuff you were not promoting.

        Thanks again and I look forward to see your results.

      • Victor Pidkowich says:

        Referring to Rick’s question about the article lengths and your reply

        “7. For an article I want to rank, at least 800 words.”

        Do you mean that those 5 keywords which you want to rank for will each have an article of 800 words built around them and placed onto the one site? What about longertails/supporting content on the site-would that be significantly shorter in length such as 300-500 words?

        Have an ETA on Backlink Battle Plan 2.0?

      • Hello Victor,

        Yes exactly. Any article I want to place in the SERP will be at least 800 words and will include images as well.
        For secondary content, I usually go with 400-600 words. I also make sure that my articles are of varying lengths. I’m not sure this is something that Google checks, but if you have a blog where every article is 300 +/- 10 words, that could be a potential red flag.

        I’m working like crazy on BBP 2.0, but there’s still a lot of work ahead. I’m hoping to be able to finish everything up this weekend.

      • Victor Pidkowich says:

        Thanks Shane! And good to hear you do the article length variation as well. I implement roughly 50 words + or – from the rounded lot number. From my understanding having them all a very similar lengths does indeed create a footprint which search engines read as a “no no.”

  • Nathan "Spanky" Briggs says:

    Nice outline, Shane. It’s really helpful, at least to me, for successful people to describe exactly WHY they are doing something, not just 1-2-3 follow-along steps.

    • Hi Nathan,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you see it that way, since I was worried that I maybe went into a bit too much detail, in this post.

      • I personally think your attention to detail is first class and that is why you get so many comments and thunks from your subscribers, including me. One of the problems with a lot of marketers is that they give you plenty of “what to do” but only a little of “how to do it”.

        Keep up the details Shane!

      • Thanks, Joe! I’ll do my best to keep the level of detail going, throughout the series. :)

  • Hi Shane – this looks like an extremely interesting project and I’ll look forward to hearing your analysis. Although I now have a good system of manually building backlinks by myself, I find I’m gradually outsourcing much more of my backlinking to augment these initial links. In the future I anticipate outsourcing more and more of this work. Hopefully you’ll be giving specific examples of the sources you buy the links from.

    Thanks again for all your great content… Cheers, Neil

    • Hi Neil,

      Yep, I’ll be listing all the services I use, although I’m also just testing those services, as I go along. So, my listing them won’t equal a recommendation, necessarily.

  • Good stuff, i like these real case studies Shane, looking forward to see all the results.

  • Nice write up, Shane. As I get more deeply into building online businesses, I’m starting to see the value in both outsourcing and learning to do rational analysis of the numbers involved.
    Thanks for the lesson.

  • I’d never sell a website making $400 per month for a 10x multiplier. If it’s under 1 year old then a 12x multiplier (depending on market) and it it’s had recurring solid income for 2+ years than you’re looking at a 18x – 30x multiplier with the right buyers :-)

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Hey Niall,

      And there you’ve just shown how little I know about site-flipping. I haven’t sold any of my own sites, so the 10x multiplier was something I just took from hearsay. The site in question isn’t 2 years old yet, but I’m glad to see that it could be worth even more. I’m pretty confident that I can turn it into a very valuable site, if I invest a few thousand in it. :)

  • Shane,
    If this works for you, and I certainly hope it does please consider starting a video series where you use Secockpit to find a niche, establish key words and build your SEO from scratch with a WP theme. It would be invaluable!

    • Hey Lenny,

      I’m planning to do something along those lines on the SwissMadeMarketing blog.
      I’ll definitely make videos showing how to pick keywords for a specific type of site (e.g. AdSense site) and then how to build the website, add content and optimize it.

      • Thanks Shane,
        I’m on the mailing list for that blog, and a user of Secockpit so I look forward to the info!

  • Thank you for sharing your experiment with us. I better go back and revive some of my throw money at it projects. I down fall is I give up to soon.This step by step is valuable to me.
    Cheers Bruce.

    • Thanks for your comment, Bruce!
      Well, it can be daunting when you throw money at a site and it doesn’t pay off in a reasonable amount of time, right?
      I’m glad I have one already profitable site to work with, in this case. Makes things a bit easier. But I do hope that the AdSense site, that I’m starting from scratch, will also become profitable before too much money has been sunk into it. :)

  • Thanks Shane

    The deeper I get in IM, the more outsourcing becomes a must. Unfortunately, the income side hasn’t caught up with the site potential yet.

    This will be a great study, and an aid to me in how to move forward as well.


    • Hi Dave,
      That’s a good point. It’s also something that I worry about: will the VA actually make more money than he/she costs me? The time investment is still the bigger hurdle for me personally, though.

  • Most interesting concept Shane and I look forward to reading more as you get more information back!
    Im just starting out on my IM adventure and have read SO much and now applying what I have learned thus far….Ive decided that Adsense will be my business model and am starting to build up a few Authority sites… lets just see how it all goes.
    Think that old keyword research is the make or break of any of these kinds of sites.
    I enjoy your videos too!
    Kind regards

    • Hi Libby,

      Good stuff! I think AdSense is a great model, especially to start out with. I hope you can glean some useful information from this series as well and wish you all the best with your own sites!

  • You must have nerves of steel :) A full on trial in the public gaze – I like it!

    I think we are all going to learn something.


    • As I wrote in the email: it could also end up as a huge train-wreck. Then again, even if everything goes wrong, there are bound to be some valuable lessons along the way. :)

  • Hello Shane,
    I’m with Dave on the income/potential thing. I have enough work for 4 teams, but the income to date hasn’t matched the potential. Ha.

    The fact is that I have done so many cockadoodle experiments over the years (Including dogs and diets) that I have a slew of older sites out there just gathering dust. I am my own well of older, PR’ed sites from which to draw on.

    What I need to do is go back, knowing what I know now, and just develop the things anew. I believe in this so deeply that I bought yet ANOTHER danged brand new domain and spent three weeks making it into an authority site. Sigh.

    On the other hand, Google picked it up immediately and I have top billing for everything. Darndest thing I ever saw.

    I’ll leave this for you and the fans. On advice I picked up somewhere or the other I did two things differently this time.

    1. I paid for 2 years of domain.
    2. I did not hook it up to Google in any way. Friend Google found the pages all on it’s own…with just a leetle help from some FREE automatic link building thingies featured in Backlink Battleplan.

    I dunno if the magnificent top of page one search results will last, but I have hundreds of them. If they aren’t a flash in the pan, then I’m onto something here, and I haven’t done a lick of article link building yet. No one knoweth the mind of Google.

    I HOPE sincerely that your experiment is a success. If it does well, then it means that it will provide a rationale for outsourcing for folks who normally wouldn’t because of the ROI factor. If it bombs, you have still learned something useful.

    Continue Shane, and as always thanks monstrously for providing this forum of friends.

    Norm, Your Man In Cowchip/AL

    • Hi Norm,
      I hope your sudden top rankings remain sticky! It is strange how Google operates, sometimes. A customer recently showed me an example of a site of his, where we both could not figure out why he wasn’t ranking better than he was. He beat the top sites in ever measurable aspect, but wasn’t even close to out-ranking them. Although I’m sure that it will change eventually, given more time.
      Apparently, a lot of people also experienced ranking-jumps on Friday. I could only observe the same for two keywords.
      Google does move in mysterious ways.

      I hope that we’ll be able to shed some more light on it all, during this case study.

  • Hey there Shane,

    I am very interested in seeing your results from the test. Keep up the awesome work. SECockpit is already helping me get new clients.

    Matt Hepburn

    • Hey Matt, thanks for your comment!

      Glad to hear that SECockpit is helping you with client aqcuisition, that’s awesome!

  • Hey Shane,
    great idea as always! You’re right, hiring the VAs is a big task. I just hired my 3rd. Hiring and training the first was by far the most time consuming though.

    If anyone out there doesn’t have Backlink Battleplan and wants to hire VAs, I HIGHLY recommend buying it, then hire a VA and tell them to go through the course very thoroughly. This will make training MUCH easier! And NO, I don’t get a single red cent from that plug…

    Maybe when doing your case studies, you can video your screen, and show how you came up with the niche and keywords you chose. I think a lot of people still struggle with GOOD keyword selection. Good keyword selection can make or break a campaign right from the start. SECockpit is wonderful for this (where’s my affiliate link ;-) ).

    I’m not sure about everyone else, but I learn best from watching over the shoulder of someone actually doing it, rather than just reading about it. Just something to consider.

    I am looking forward to finding out the results though!
    Ttyl Shane,

    • Thanks, Alex!
      Very cool, that you got your VA’s battleplanning! :)
      I’ve already picked my keywords for the first two projects, but I’ll see if I can make a keyword-picking video for a third one, later on. I’ll see if I can incorporate video as well, for future updates.

  • Your “throw money at it” is a real valuable learning experience Shane … thank you very much for providing these examples of paying out considerable amounts of money and the possible successful results to someone like me who would be too cautious to try them!

    I look forward to reading more of your learning experiments.


  • Hey Shane,

    Thanks for sharing this great initiative, I will be following it as every body else in this post, its quite informative.

    I have a question though, for your adsense project – why you are using CPC , why not Contextual Targeting, in estimating the worth of the keyword?

    What is your recommendation?


  • Great stuff, Shane!

    I’m very interested in this as many of us will reach a point where the question of outsourcing and automation becomes more pressing if we are to grow our IM income. Backlinking and SEO is very time consuming.

    I really appreciate your putting metrics to the planning.

    Any chance you’ll be using paid traffic methods?

    • Hello Tai,

      I won’t be using any paid traffic for these sites. There’s an upcoming list-building project that I have planned, where I’ll probably be using paid traffic and I’ll be writing about my experiences with that as well. This SEO project has a higher priority right now, though. :)

  • Hey Shane,

    Really looking fwd to following this, great attention to detail as always.



  • At a time when my savings account pays me 0.25% interest, I have been thinking more and more about ways in which I can use my money and get a better return.

    Every single time I think about this, I always arrive at the same answer: Invest the money in creating valuable web properties.

    I think it’s an excellent way to make your money work for you. Caveat: You need to know what you’re doing!

    I’m in the same boat as you – spending my time doing writing and building backlinks is actually a false economy. I save money by spending money to have other people do this for me.

    Also, for high value sites (ones earning say $4k + per month), I think it’s worth going through an investment banker rather than through sites like Flippa because you’ll have access to a different type of buyer. Stereotypically: one with deeper pockets and great business acumen than your typical Flippa customer!

    • Hey Paul,

      That’s a really good way of looking at this! Money sitting on a bank-account is slowly wasting away, since inflation rates are universally higher than interest rates. This type of investment certainly makes more sense. And going through an investment banker is a really cool idea. Do you know anyone who actually sells/sold sites like that?

    • Good point! I was wondering for a long time what to do with savings, and you say it right, if you know what you do, you can create a very nice asset with the money online.

  • You do like to live dangerously, don’t you, Shane? What about throwing money at me and I organize the whole thing for you?

    Well now, seriously, I only work for me, so it wasn’t a hint.

    I think it could be much more profitable and less nerve-wracking if you invested a little time to find a manager to organize the whole backlinking for you. Controlling a minimum quality at the three writing services you mention also takes time.

    But apparently you like the experiment in and by itself and although I haven’t read absolutely all comments, only some, I can see that your followers and fans are thrilled at your experiment and courage. So why not?

    • Hey Pat,

      Yeah, you got that right: I really enjoy experimenting and that’s part of the reason I’m doing this. :)
      At the same time, I am kinda working on a better organized way of building and promoting niche sites. If all goes well, I’ll have some big news to announce about this before the end of the year.

  • Andy Iskandar says:

    Hey Shane,

    I’m so looking forward to your updates about this project!

    On another note…

    I understand that sometimes you’re concerned about the depth of detail you go to in your posts. Well, I’d like to tell you that you don’t have to be concerned. I love it and I’m sure many others do. I greatly appreciate the lengths you go to in being very detailed in your posts. It shows that you care and you take the extra effort. I’m a fan. :D

    Here’s an idea for you…

    Your attention to detail combined with your fervour in getting to the bottom of things makes for a brilliant subscription-based business: A service where you go out and do backlinking (and other SEO-related stuff) detective work. A kind of SEO lab if you will, where you go out and test different services, tactics & strategies for the members so that we don’t have to. The members would get only the best of the best of what’s working.

    I know you are kind of doing that already now but this service will be more detailed with specific numbers, sites and tests conducted with scientific rigour. I’d more than willingly pay for that membership.

    • Hi Andy,

      Thanks a lot for your comment!
      I like your idea. I’d also pay for that membership site! :D
      Not sure if I have time to do something like that, though…

  • hi Shane,

    I find when I’m doing Internet Marketing it is so easy to lose focus. This case study will certainly help me to concentrate the mind. It’s so easy for a relatively inexperienced marketer, as I am, to flip from product/method to product/method and to end up spending a fortune and achieving nothing.
    I’ve now made a decision to stick with SECockpit and Backlink Battle Plan for my SEO efforts. I find all your training material so logical with exceptional clarity.

    I look forward to the rest of the case study. Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Tony,

      I think that this hopping-form-one-thing-to-the-next syndrome is one of the biggest problems people have in IM. And that includes myself. I had this problem when I started out and even now, I’m still not very good at focusing on just one thing. But even focusing on just two or three things makes you so much more productive than when you’re constantly re-focusing and don’t really know where you’re headed.
      Don’t worry, though. I know a lot of people who have “kicked the habit” and all of them became more successful thanks to it. I’m sure you can do the same. :)

      As for the “spending a fortune” part: that’s one thing I also think this should be a good case study for. When Link Liberation was released, one of my main criticizms of it was that I think it’s a bad idea to spend $2.5K on SEO information, because $2.5K will buy you a lot of actual SEO, done for your sites. And I think the latter is always a better investment.
      For my affiliate site, I’ll be spending that much and more, so I can see if I can prove my point. :)

  • I am following your test parameters, and have some questions for you:

    (1) when you say a niche with low competition keywords – what is the range of daily exact searches that would fit that definition. I can see your example gave words that were approximately 200 searches.

    (2) what is the daily exact search number that you would say moves from the low range to medium?

    (3) what is your budget estimate in dollars for one of these websites that you will spend to get your 5 keywords on page 1. One number showed how you could spend $4000, and another number related to an adsense site mentioned a maximum of $500?

    (4) did you base any of your income projections from any one else attaining these numbers, or did they come from the estimates you described. I am sure you realize that you have many people who have attempted some of this drooling with these numbers, because of not coming close to them?

    Good luck on the test – first comes a test and then comes a product – and that I am looking forward to it :)


    • Hi Barry,

      The serach volume and the competition strength are largely unrelated. With “low competition” keywords, I mean keywords where the current top 10 Google results are not occupied by paricularly strong websites. This in turn means that they don’t geneally have a lot of backlinks, they aren’t very high PageRank pages, they aren’t particularly well optimized for the target keyword etc.

      Concerning search volume: for AdSense sites, search volume does matter quite a bit. For affiliate sites, it matters a lot less, because you get paid for purchases, not for clicks. Some keywords might deliver lots of traffic, but nobody is actually in a buying mood. So there, it’s more important to focus on keywords that are likely to convert into sales, even if the search volume is low.

      3) The $4,000 figure is because that’s what the site is currently already worth, at the very least. That means I can safely invest $4K and even if everything fails and my traffic and sales don’t improve in the least, I can still sell the site and get all my money back.
      The $500 figure is just an arbitrary limit. I could spend more, but that would make the case study less useful. Most people can afford to spend a few hundred dollars on an asset such as a website. Fewer people can afford to spend thousands. So, I want to keep expenses to a minimum, when starting out (I’m going to try and stay below those $500) and get it profitable on a small budget.

      4) They are all based on the numbers I got from my own sites. They are only very rough guesstimates, but I believe it’s still better than operating on no numbers at all.

  • I am all for outsourcing. I have bought many tools in the past and have used some of them. The learning curve is always a investment. Some of the programs just do not seem to be worth the effort.
    I look forward to your results.
    I have bought lump sum profit for site flipping. I like building sites much more than building backlinks.

  • Shane, thanks for your reply.

    I was most drawn to the idea of only having to spend $500 to create sites that could (1) have top rankings for 5 different key words (2) make $590/month in adsense.

    That would be like re-inventing the wheel for internet marketers; I would be totally thrilled to make $100/month from adsense on a $500 spend.

    • Ah, I see. I’m not expecting top rankings for an investment of just $500. But I’m hoping for enough profits to wrrant further investments, after $500. :)

  • Hey Shane,

    I love this business model but I’m not to fond of writing so I’m always on the lookout for good article writing services.

    What made you choose SEOgenerals, Text Broker and the Content Authority?

    Maybe you could do a review along the way, that would be very helpful to a lot of folks, I’ll be following along.

    • Hi Kevin,

      SEOgenerals is very cheap and they write decent articles (considering the price).
      Text broker, because it was recommended and Content Authority because they are up-and-coming. These guys run a very successful business. Quite inspiring. Their prices are slightly lower than those of Text Broker, so I want to test them both.

  • When you talk about low competition relative to the backlinks that the page 1 sites have, what is the most accurate way for determining this?

    I have looked at seo quake to try this, and if my sites don’t have more backlinks than they show, then I am going to shoot myself :)

  • Hi, Shane.

    Thanks for your sharing. Appreciate a lot. It seems that you have provided a real solid and practical plan. I would like to learn how to build a similar site like yours. Can you teach me more?

    I am just graduated from university and would like to build a business that would earn me passive income other than my full time job. I feel that this is a method that I can follow, build and let it make money by itself. And when I need extra cash I can sell the website.

    I would really like to learn more about this. Things like choosing targeting keyword. I don’t know how to drive traffic effectively. Appreciate a lot if you could write a step-by-step report. I would love to buy if it’s within my budget.

    All the best!

  • Shane,

    I purchased an article last night through The Content Authority and received it today. That’s an amazingly fast turnaround time. The quality was lacking, though. Mine was at the ‘Great’ level (15 cents a word) and it contains quite a few spelling and grammatical errors. In fact, they misspelled one of the words in the title.

    I ordered one from SEO Generals for the same price, but haven’t received it yet.

  • Shane, thanks for all the information that you provide every week. I think this is a great training lesson for me because I am at the point of starting to outsource. I have looked forward to opening your emails every week for the last few months. Thanks for everything.

    Corey Hoffman

    P.S. Secockpit is the best keyword research tool I have ever used.

  • Looking forward to the results of this test.

    My two cents – it’s OK to out-source the backlinks, but be careful about outsourcing the content.

    Almost every site I’ve seen that has been pandalised, has outsourced content. It’s obvious a mile off that a site has used outsourcing, by the convoluted sentences and insertion of superfluous words.

    I think what happens is that the outsourcer is told to write an article with 300 words. They pull up the product page from amazon (or an ezine article) and with the info available, manage to write say 150-200 words. Then they go back and pad it out with extra words. So instead of saying “I recommend this product” they write, “I would wholeheartedly have to recommend this product” – hey presto, a four word sentence becomes eight words. And then they continue like this for the entire article till they get the word count.

    That sort of thing passes copyscape, and passes basic automatic grammar checkers, but is really hard to read because so long-winded.

    I think G penalises articles like this – they are now able to classify pages based on the standard of english (advanced search lets you select pages based on reading level) – and these sorts of articles probably fail at every single level for good English.

    • Hi Rose,

      Thanks for your comment!
      That’s a very good point you make. This has been my experience with most low-priced content providers as well. You get articles that are quite uninformed, padded with lots of unnecessary wording and, in some cases, barely recognizable as English writing.

      I’m avoiding these cheapo-articles, for this experiment. I’m also contacting and testing various article writers on forums and I always try to find someone who already has a certain level of expertise in the niche that I need articles for. I pay 2x to 3x more for this kind of content, but so far, I’m liking the articles that I have received and I think it will be worth it.

  • Hi Guys,

    This is Gian Sim from the SEO Generals. First off, I would like to thank Shane for mentioning our services. For those still on the fence about outsourcing article writing to us, I would like to offer you a risk free review article just to test the waters so to speak – this offer is only available to readers of this blog. So create an account at, send us an email at and we will hook you up with free credits.

    If anyone has any problems with our articles, feel free to reach me any time at

    Good luck to your experiment Shane!


    • I’m planning to update at least once a month, but probably more often.
      I’ll have the second post ready some time next week. :)

  • Hi Shane

    I suppose that if you eventually decide that one or other of the sites doesn’t get a decent return you could always sell it on and get your outlay back. Perhaps even turn it in to a small profit by flipping it.

    The new owner will not have your self imposed outsource restrictions and could maybe put the site to good use. Even if it was to just do a 301 redirect for all the backlinks it will provide them with, or split the content up for re-purposing.

    Glad to see someone who should know what they are doing is showing us what may be possible in real time rather than a historical view.

    Thanks Shane


    • Hi Tony,

      Yes, that’s what I’m hoping for. If I can even just get a small bit of income going for any of the sites, that will already increase the value of it dramatically, so I can get a lot of my investment back when selling it.
      Of course, it would be even nicer if the sites become highly profitable and I can just keep them for passive income. But the above would be the exit strategy.

  • Hi Shane.
    Does the thumbnail in you listings just happen by chance or is there a way to optimize for it?

      • Yes it was the example you showed for this site in the email.
        I will check that out, Thanks.

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