One of the most pressing decisions that you’ll have to make in your blogging is whether you should build or buy a website.
I’ve both built and bought websites, and have had interesting experiences in both types of ventures.
In this post, I’ll share what happened to sites that I built, what happened to sites I bought, and for some extra insight, what happened to sites I sold.
I’ll also share my thoughts on a combination of building and buying.
Buying a website has obvious advantages. You’re acquiring a ready-to-go asset that is already earning money.
The moment you get the website, you will start earning money.
Another advantage is that someone has already done all the hard work of researching keywords, writing content, building links, and all the other tasks that go into building a website.
As the new owner, you have the opportunity to build on what the previous owners did right and further grow the business.
The biggest argument against buying a website is that you’re sinking a lot of capital into a potentially risky asset.
That is not to say all websites are risky: there are certain things to look for in an online business that reduce the risk factor, which I’ll get into below.
Any number of things can go wrong: Google may release an algorithm update that decimates the website’s traffic, affiliate programs can suddenly slash their payouts, or an ad network can boot your site.
In May 2020, Google released a core update that destroyed 3 of my sites. A few days later, Amazon announced that they were cutting affiliate commissions in half or more.
Up until April 2020, my portfolio of websites was making upwards of $8000 per month from affiliate commissions and display advertising.
May 2020 brought that down to less than $2000.
Of the sites that were hit, two were ones I had bought, and one was one I had built.
In some situations, buying websites gives you very little time for proper due diligence.
This is especially true for certain marketplaces. Businesses under $100,000 tend to sell so quickly that there’s not enough time to sift through the entire site with a fine-tooth comb.
Websites can have a lot of content, so it’s very unlikely you can read every single piece of content before you buy one. At best, you’ll probably read the top performing pages, but it’s possible that there is a bunch of low quality content hanging around somewhere.
You’ll have your work cut out for you after you buy the business.
After all this, you may be thinking that building a site is the only way to go…
Building a website can be a very effective and low-cost way to setting up a business that can potentially earn thousands of dollars per month.
Additionally, building a site puts you in complete control over every little detail of the business.
You choose the niche, you choose the affiliate programs, you choose the keywords, you write the content or get it written.
This affords you a level of quality control that you just can’t get with a website you bought.
In online businesses, I can’t understate the importance of quality. There are far too many run-of-the-mill sites that have poor content and downright incorrect information.
Additionally, if you write all the content yourself, you’ll also learn a lot about the niche itself and you’ll become a genuine expert on the topic.
Provided you don’t cut corners anywhere, you’ll build a solid business on a solid foundation.
It’s also an opportunity to build a brand around something that you are good at and passionate about.
Building a website is a LOT of work.
To start, let’s just look at the sheer amount of content you have to publish to stay competitive.
Let’s say your content target for the first year is 100 posts. 100 is a very conservative estimate, and this is if your keyword research is incredibly spot-on.
Content velocity also plays a role, so the more high quality posts you can churn out, the better.
According to a study done by Backlinko, the average length of a piece of content that ranks in the top spot of Google is around 1,500 words.
Not every piece of content will be 1,500 words, but since some will be less and some will be longer, let’s use 1,500 as an average.
That means you need to publish 150,000 words in the first year.
That’s a good chunk of content!
Note: If 150,000 words seem daunting, consider this: 150,000 words divided by 365 days is 411 words per day is not too bad!
Writing the content is one thing. The next factor is content promotion, which actually takes more time than the actual writing.
Promotion involves getting influencers to share your content on social media and building links to key pieces of content.
In today’s SEO landscape, even the best pieces of content sometimes need some money to get a link to them, though there are some niches that you can get links in for free.
You can certainly outsource some or all of these tasks, but you give up control in that case. Not to mention that it requires a significant amount of money to do!
Decent content is not cheap: expect to pay at least $0.05 or more per word, and even more if the niche is highly specialized.
150,000 words times $0.05 is $7,500. That’s just your content cost for the first year, and it will take at least 6-8 months for your first pieces of content to start ranking and bringing in money.
Or you could do it all yourself at the cost of a significant amount of time.
To build a successful online business, you’ll need to invest time or money(or both).
At this point, you may be thinking that building and buying are both difficult propositions.
And you’re right, they are difficult.
But here’s the rule of business: you can’t get high rewards without high risks.
So you need to ask yourself some key questions to determine your risk tolerance, your expertise in SEO, and your current situation.
Then you can decide whether you should build or buy.
As you saw above, buying a website is a risky endeavor, so before you expose yourself to this kind of risk, you need to know what you are doing.
You need to have working knowledge and experience of how to maintain a website and grow it. You also need to know what to do if your website starts losing traffic!
A website can take a serious turn for the worst in the hands of an inexperienced person.
This is not to hate on anyone, but it’s just a fact of any business.
To successfully run a business, you need to know how the business works!
Successful affiliate websites can bring incredible ROIs for those who can tolerate the risk.
As of today, websites usually sell for 35-40x multiples of monthly revenue.
If you invested $100,000 in a website, you would start making $3,500 to $4,000 per month right off the bat.
That’s a yearly ROI of over 40%!
You’d be hard-pressed to find 40% of (potentially completely passive) ROIs in any kind of business, unless you’ve got a magic crystal ball and can predict the highs and lows of Bitcoin!
If you invested the same amount into the S&P 500 index fund, you’d get 10-11% returns per year.
If you bought real estate and rented it out, an 8% yearly ROI would be considered good.
Websites are a comparatively new asset class that can bring you fantastic returns.
In reality, you’ll have to reinvest some of the profits back into the business to keep it growing. However, even then, you’re still getting very good returns.
If you have no experience running a site, you can work with website operators who specialize in maintaining and growing online content businesses.
Portfolio owners will most likely have a team in place that helps them scale and build out websites. Building out sites is a lot of work, and the best way to get it to scale is to have a team.
Portfolio owners will have processes in place from sites they’ve already built/bought that can help them maintain new acquisitions.
There’s no doubt that content sites are one of the best kinds of online businesses. Learning a few key skills like basic WordPress, keyword research, and content writing can get you started.
The best part is that you don’t need mastery of any kind in any of those skills to get started: the best knowledge will be gained from actually doing the work.
When you’re just starting out, your only major investment is the time you spend writing the content and reaching out to promote your site.
Time is obviously a significant investment, but you may be in a situation where you can’t afford to spend $100 on a piece of content, but you can take out 2-3 hours to write it yourself.
Additionally, many people like to try and find a niche that aligns with something they’re interested in or passionate about, which makes writing significantly easier.
Best case scenario: your website does great and you start making relatively passive income.
Worst case scenario: your website does not do quite as well as you had hoped, but you gained a ton of knowledge and experience along the way.
Experienced SEOs will find that building content websites is a walk in the park. Julie Andrews is a great example of a talented SEO turning their skills towards building their own assets instead of working for someone else.
There are plenty of other stories from interviews on Niche Pursuits and the like of folks who used to work at an agency before transitioning into building their own site(s) and doing very well.
Another prime example is Adam Enfroy, who used to work at a large tech company in the marketing department before creating his own blog and doing very well for himself. According to his income reports, Adam currently makes upwards of 6 figures per month.
Portfolio owners may wish to diversify their holdings and save costs by implementing all of their systems and teams into building a website from the ground up.
If a website generates $10,000 per month, you’d have to spend close to half a million dollars to acquire such an asset.
But if you’ve got the chops to build a website from the ground up and get it to that level, you could do it for far less than that.
It would still be a significant investment of time and money, but less than buying the business outright.
Where to buy a blogging business
If you’re in the market to acquire an already-earning blogging business, there are a few marketplaces worth checking out:
Investors Club has an excellent deal flow of tens of sites across a variety of niches and budgets. The customer service is great, and they also have a bespoke service where they’ll find a site in a niche of your choosing and acquire it for you.
Motion Invest has lots of offerings as well but you’ll find more starter sites than established blogs. If you’re looking for a fixer-upper at a relatively low cost, you should definitely check them out. There are bigger sites available every now and then, too.
Empire Flippers are the “original” online asset marketplace. Back in the day, they were the go-to place to buy and sell affiliate websites and blogs. They still have a decent number of affiliate blog listings, but you can also find established Amazon FBA businesses and ecommerce stores as well.
Whether you choose to build or buy, you need to have the proper resources in place to make sure you can take your blogging business to the next level. Having a plan is key, and creating systems to help streamline your tasks and work will help you a ton.
Check out some of our other posts for more information on growing and building your dream blogging business.