If you thought our last interview with Joe on flipping websites for profit was inspirational, then get ready for this interview on buying million dollar websites!
Today, Joe Valley from Quiet Light Brokerage shares with us a story about one of his clients, Ewen, who owns a portfolio of 100 affiliate websites. These are simple websites just like Matt and Liz Raad teach you.
But the difference here is that Ewen uses an unconventional content strategy. And it’s made him millions of dollars.
So perhaps it’s worth keeping an open mind, and seeing how you can use the lessons that Joe shares with your own portfolio? Watch the video or read the transcript below.
Are you wondering how you can make money buying and selling websites? Check out Ewen’s story. It will have you thinking a little differently about how to build your own portfolio of websites!
Matt Raad: Hi again everyone. Today I’m interviewing Joe Valley co-owner of Quiet Light Brokerage, and also author of The EXITpreneur’s Playbook. And if you haven’t already read this book, you should definitely grab yourself a copy of it.
I’m really excited to talk to Joe today about another recent website sale that I think is particularly interesting to our community. There are some awesome lessons here and it’s one of our favourite type of websites. It’s a content site. Thank you, Joe, for coming on and agreeing to have another chat to us and our community.
Joe Valley: It’s good to be back Matt!
4 Simple Lessons you can Learn from Ewen’s recent Website Purchase
Joe from Quiet Light shares some invaluable lessons experienced by Ewen when buying a high-end Content Website
Matt: Joe, we’ve been talking about a really interesting website that you’ve sold recently. Do you want to give us a quick background of the site? Of course – we need to keep confidentiality here of certain things. But can you give us a little bit of a quick background of this website?
Joe: Yes. I want to talk about the site first, and then let’s just jump across to the buyer and what he’s been doing afterwards. It’s been really fascinating what he’s doing with his content site development.
This website is a prepper site. It’s an end-of-the-world-doomsday preparation site. And it’s been around for a long time.
Lesson #1 – Use Website Due Diligence to understand any Challenges of Operating the Website
Joe: It was a woman who owned it. She became the name and the face of the business. Everyone that ever visited the site did so because of an email she sent them, or a social media post that she posted etc. People went to the site because of a message from her. That’s because they believed and trusted her and her own experience.
This can actually become quite a challenge. A lot of people start these types of businesses because of their own expertise. But because of that expertise, it becomes much harder to sell the business because they become the name and the face of it. And that was part of the challenge with this business.
First and foremost, it’s in a really niche space. Certain people are not going to feel comfortable with it. It’s not like it’s a pet site on dogs. It’s really unique. And then you’ve got somebody that is the name and face of it. If she goes away tomorrow and all of these emails start coming from Joe, nobody knows who Joe is, and buyers become wary. Their confidence shatters a little bit, right?
People get really shaky about buying a business like that. It requires a much longer training and transition period from this particular woman (let’s call her Peggy).
If Peggy wanted to sell her business and move on with her life (like most of us do when we sell), she simply cannot because people believed and trusted her. So the buyer (a gentleman named Ewen) required an agreement that she stick around as the name and face of the site for up to a year.
Now that sounds simple enough to say, “Okay, great, that’s no problem.” Peggy relieves herself of the daily grind of running the business, and writing copy etc. All she has to do is just be the name and the face.
But then there’s trust. Whatever Ewen writes about is going to have Peggy’s name on it. You add the fact that Peggy ran a prepper site and she’s a bit paranoid to begin with, so it’s more challenging to work out that language.
Lesson #2 – Be the Website Buyer that Sellers Want to Work With
Matt: To clarify, Ewen wasn’t a prepper himself, was he?
Joe: Oh, not at all. He’s just a digital entrepreneur.
One of the things I tell buyers all the time:
“The secret to buying a business when there’s a lot of other competitors out there is to just be a good human. Be a good, nice guy.” – Joe Valley, Quiet Light Brokerage
Matt: That’s good advice.
Joe: Ewen was just that – he’s a good, nice guy. There were multiple parties that were interested in the sale, but Peggy only wanted to work with Ewen.
Matt: That’s an interesting lesson in itself. We’ve noticed that a lot, and that’s something we teach our students at eBusiness Institute. Get the buyer to like you and trust you.
Joe: Yes. And vice versa. If you’re buying, get the seller to like and trust you.
I’ve sold businesses to people that paid 90% down with a big, big, big seller note. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s $2.3 million site. And the seller took a 10% seller note over an all-cash buyer simply because he liked the other guy.
Lesson #3 – Sites that are Less Reliant on the Seller Sell for More
Joe: So, it was difficult and over the course of a year, it worked out okay. Ewen started substituting more caricatures (in other words, not real people), for Peggy so that he didn’t run into the same problem someday when he decides to sell the business.
Now, he has more of the Warren Buffett mentality. He’s building a portfolio and never, never, ever plans to sell it. We all transition our businesses someday, so someday he will. But he’s still a young guy in his 30’s so it will be a long time before he exits.
But they worked it out. It was a challenge because she ended up having to approve everything that had her name or face on it. Which is a challenge because generally speaking, you’re adding another layer in there.
Whenever you write something – you write it, you review it, and you’re ready to post it. But, Peggy needs 4-5 business days to review and accept it. And then she’s got a life. She has vacations and things of that nature.
All that had to be worked out which just makes it more difficult. And, because of the difficulty in that kind of a sale, you’re not going to get the same value you would if you were just running a straight-up content site without your name and face on it. That’s because it’s much easier to transfer, and more acceptable to the larger population. This means there’s going to be more competition for it, which means that the multiple will start off higher and end up higher as well; versus the site where you’re the name and the face of it.
Lesson #4 – Create a Content Plan and System
Matt: There’s some good lessons that Joe has just shared here. I want to reiterate – this is a content website. But, there’s some big challenges here for Joe, for the buyer, and for the seller. There’s some challenges for all parties to make this work because it’s so reliant on the previous owner around her name.
You actually make it sound pretty easy Joe! But we’re talking a significantly sized site. This is not a small website sale. So, I’m presuming there was a lot of content going onto this site?
Joe: There is a lot of content cycling through this site, and a lot of money being made. There was a lot of money on the line by Ewen when he was buying it.
And when you get yourself in a process and a system, and you want to turn things around. But all of a sudden, the brakes are on because you’ve got to wait five days for that content to be approved. And God forbid, she’s actually on vacation. And then that five days turns to two weeks or more.
It’s just little things like that where buyers lose control. This makes them nervous and has them either pay less or create a transaction that has revenue or earnings on the back end. So you’re going to cash plus an earn-out of some sort.
This one ended up being an all-cash deal because that’s the type of guy Ewen is. But it still had a lot of entanglement in it for 12 months afterwards for Peggy. When she was ready to be done, she didn’t sell it because she had a certain financial goal. She sold it because she was tired. She wanted to move on. She was emotionally tired, and she needed to sell.
Matt: What’s really interesting here is that there was a lot of trust between the two of them. She obviously wanted to sell to him.
One of the things we’ve always noticed as business brokers was if both parties trust each other, especially in this situation, we are going to be entangled. Like I said, for the next 12 months, I’m sure that it’s not always perfect, but at least they both trust each other.
The Value of using a Broker when Buying and Selling Websites
Joe’s story shows us why using a broker is essential when buying and selling websites…
Matt: I’m interested Joe – based on your role as a broker, how long did you stay involved with them after the sale? And how long did it take to get them to come to that sort of an agreement? Are you happy to share that?
Joe: Well, I was actually on vacation while this transaction was in the heat of closing. I remember picking up the phone and helping Peggy through the emotional challenges of being tied to the business after closing. We worked through the emotional challenges of having content go out there with her name and face on it. Her audience trusted her. She trusted Ewen to buy her business, but not to write things and put her name on it.
So it wasn’t all about the money and that’s a strange thing. People sell their businesses because they’re ready to move on and they’re looking for the financial pay day. But at the end of the day, you want a comfortable, healthy transaction. And sometimes – it’s not all about the money. You’ve got to take into all of those things into consideration.
When Selling Websites for Profit, a Broker can help with Managing Emotions
Joe: Sometimes Matt, my biggest role is that I’m a therapist, right? A lot of my clients will say my letters (or recommendations by endorsement) show what a therapist I am. The biggest challenge for somebody in my role is to control and help people manage their expectations and their emotions more than anything else.
So, in this situation I had:
- Ewen, where this was one of the biggest purchases he had made in his business to date, and
- Peggy, who’s exiting to move on to her next adventure in life
It was a huge deal for both of them. And that no matter the price, whether you’re selling a business that’s only $50,000 in value or $500,000 or $1 million or $5 million; whatever the stage you’re at, it’s a big deal for you, right?
Joe: If it’s a $100,000 transaction, it’s a big deal. It’s a life changing number for that person. So it doesn’t just change. The emotions are there regardless of the number, but it’s a tough process. You’ve just got to work through it.
A Website Broker can help to Develop Trust between the Buyer and the Seller
Joe: Trust is the absolute, most important thing. When you are buying or selling a business, make sure that you’re developing trust. The best way to do that is to be honest, don’t stretch the truth, and don’t stretch your numbers. Don’t sell anything. Present the facts. When you do that, it’ll build trust and buyers will pay you top-dollar for your business.
Matt: Awesome advice. And obviously, for both parties, that’s really cool. It fits exactly with the sort of thing we teach here as well. And it’s like that thing in life where good things come to good people. Good people like to do deals together.
It’s like Warren Buffett, that’s how he is able to buy some of those acquisitions. He’s done many of these deals so quickly because he says he does business with people he trusts and likes. He knows when he does the due diligence, it’s going to be reasonably accurate. It makes the due diligence so much easier as well.
How Ewen Created Million Dollar Websites Without Using Any of His Own Money
Matt: So, moving on to the next exciting part of the story. You mentioned Ewen is an interesting guy because he’s your EXITpreneur by the sounds of it. I didn’t realize that side of it.
Joe: Well, he’s not an EXITpreneur because he’s holding forever. He’s more of a Warren Buffet.
EXITpreneurs will grow, sell, repeat. But what he’s doing is pretty amazing. I had him on the Quiet Light Podcast that we recorded a couple of weeks ago. It’s going to air in another week or so talking about his story since I sold him that business to Peggy. He has 100 content sites under his portfolio right now.
Step 1: He Raised the Funding to Build the Websites
Joe: And he did a test a while back on raising a little bit of money from a whole bunch of people to develop content sites and see how it went etc. It worked well, but he found raising a little bit from a lot of people was a challenge because then he had to report to them all. Now, I can’t give you the number that he raised, but he raised enough money to launch 24 content sites all at once in niche marketplaces.
I asked him, “How do you come up with what you’re going to make a content site on?” He said they’re all niches in everyday life. It could be an organic garden or a certain type of toothpaste etc. He will then do the research of course, because he’s very good at that. And looking at rankings and keywords etc.
Step 2: Ewen Has All His Articles Written and Posted Upfront
Then he’s raised the money for them, and he’s going to write 120 articles. He’s not writing them himself (the way he’s having them written is even more fascinating). And then he just lets them sit and mature for 15 to 18 months. I always thought, “But, no, you have to write good quality content over time and Google will reward you.”
Joe: Apparently that’s not the case anymore! He’s going with the mindset of write the content -> let it mature -> see how Google responds -> and reacts. When he finds he’s got winners in there, then he places even more focus on those winners.
He said the logic is that if you start with the plan of posting an article every week or two, every week, for 50 weeks; you’re going to be 50 weeks in grinding it out, and you’re not going to know if you’re getting rewarded at all yet. He just does it all at once, waits and checks to see what happens.
Ewen Created a Software System for Writers to help Manage his High Level of Content…
Joe: So it’s fascinating. It’s not the first time he’s done it. Obviously, he now has 100 content sites, but I said, “Well, how do you manage the staff? How do you get all of that written?”
His company is called Venture 4th Media. He has created a proprietary system and he’s actually building a Software as a Service tool out of this (separate from Venture 4th). Writers can go to his site, click on the subject headline and the content that they’re interested in writing on. They download the subject, write the article and get paid anywhere between $0.05 to $0.15 a word. It allows people to work at home remotely without any oversight. They’re not employees.
It’s just a brilliant business model for him. And for the writers, as well. As I’m interviewing him, I’m thinking, “My goodness. My sister-in-law would be great at this! She’s an amazing writer. She could make an extra few hundred dollars here and there.” She’s actually writing articles for him now.
Given that there’s such a broad array of content sites, there’s a subject matter that you could be interested in writing. So it comes down to the question of how do you write about plumbing fixtures if you’re not a plumber? And he said, “There are plumbers that are actually halfway decent writers.” And they manage to find them in different niches and pay them properly and pay them accordingly. And it just made it seamless for them.
Should You Diversify your Portfolio of Website Assets?
Joe: It’s pretty fascinating what he’s doing. I wish he was going to build it and sell it. But I think he’s going to build and hold it forever. Actually, he told me that he’s going to peel some off and recoup some cash and use that cash to build the next portfolio. That way, instead of raising money next time, he can just use his cash proceeds to launch the next 100 sites.
Matt: Yes. To really ride those winners as well, you would presume.
Because that’s what we’ve found over the years when you have a portfolio of websites. We always say to our students, “Okay, say you’ve got 10 websites. Out of those 10, you can’t pick which ones are going to work. It’s an 80/20 rule. There’s always 2 that seem to make it 80% of your money”.
Diversify your Assets, because you never know which Niche will work…
Matt: And I like to think that because I’m so experienced, I can always pick which ones will work, but I can’t. I’m shocked sometimes of these weird and wonderful niches you can get into. So, I know why Ewen’s going into these everyday niches.
There’s been some niches where I’ve said to Liz, “There’s no way that site’s going to make lots of money”. And then I’ve been proven wrong. So, we segment our portfolio and just see which ones will take off. And I think it’s a really smart strategy.
And then what you do is over the years, you sell off your lesser ones and you ride your good ones. I think it’s a fantastic strategy.
Can You Build A Portfolio of Websites in 90 Days using this Unconventional Content Strategy?
Matt and Joe consider Ewen’s model for building his websites in under 90 days…
Joe: What do you think about the model of writing all that content up front and then waiting to see what happens? I’m not so sure about it, but he’s done it once successfully.
Consideration #1: How do you make Your Site Look Natural?
Matt: Yes, I’m sure the people from our community are reading this thinking, “Well, what does Matt think of that?” Because I’m an SEO’er from a decade ago. And the way I love building websites personally (and also what I teach in an ideal world), is that you need to make the site look natural. So in essence, you drip-feed the content.
You make the content, and feed that content out over a year. And what I’ve said to all our students is I understand totally from a time management viewpoint, that’s not effective at all. I like Ewen’s idea that, I’m just sitting here going, “That would be my dream to go in and slap down 120 articles right up front and then just sit back and say what happens.”
But I guess I’m old fashioned and it’s so ingrained to me. When I first got online and learned SEO, this has now become my big thing. And amongst the people that Liz and I were hanging out with, they were all very successful in really competitive niches. These are all underground people that you would never know of, making seven-figure websites. And you’ve got to make them look natural.
Joe: I did the same thing. I ran an e-commerce business that was driven by content. I wrote good quality content. Over a five-year period, I would write a 1,500-2,000-word article at least once a month, bare minimum. Google rewarded me, and I sold the business five years after I started building it.
Consideration #2: How can you Show your Investors Return on their Investment?
Joe: But the world changes so quickly. It was interesting. I was a little blown away with his idea and his concept, but he’s proven it out once. And I think the reason he does it is because he can’t raise money and have the investors be incredibly patient about it. You’ve got to show that growth in ROI. I’m going to put up 24 sites right now, and this is what your money is going after. As opposed to the dripping-feeding it out one article a week etc.
Matt: So, he’s launched 25 sites at a time, is that right?
Matt: That’s really interesting because Google rewards fresh content. And I still personally think… I’m not saying it wouldn’t work. I can’t help but be still biased towards the idea. Google wants to see fresh content regularly put onto it. Because I remember reading an article from Matt Cutts many years ago, and I know Matt Cutts isn’t around in Google now anymore, but I used to follow his blog.
Joe: I used to follow him too. We’re old, we used to follow the guy that’s no longer there!
Matt: I know! But this is where my bias comes because you could read between-the-lines of what he liked. And I always remember him saying it once on his blog. It was words to the effect of, “We’re not stupid here at Google. What we want to know is that you are putting love and attention into your websites.” We own a lot of websites, and that statement is always wired in me.
Consideration #3: Does this Improve User Experience by offering a full Article Library?
Joe: Why can’t you do that 120 articles at a time? If you’ve got the resources like Ewen does, you write the good quality content, plop it all down there at once. I go to the site today. So instead of 1 article or 4 or 5 or 10; there’s 120 that are all interlinking. That lets me go down that rabbit hole I want to go down on organic gardening for instance. I get the logic. I don’t know if it’s the approach I would take, but I get the logic a little bit.
Matt: Well, I guess what my litmus test is – would that come under Google’s view of it being spammy, or is this someone putting love and attention into the site? In other words, they’re passionate about the prepping niche or dog training niche etc. Is this someone that’s just mass manufacturing it and throwing out random content? If you remember back in the good old days, there were the big spam content sites where they would… And now they’re just really poorly written articles that they can just mass produce. They were created in obviously third world countries and stuff.
That’s what’s always worried me. It’s an obvious flag to Google to see this little tiny website all-of-a-sudden just have 120 articles on it. That’s always been my point versus it having love and attention over a period of 12 months, with 10 articles a month go onto it etc. That looks more natural to me.
Consideration #4: Do You Have the Resources?
So that’s my thinking, but obviously maybe the world has changed? And, like you said, if it’s done properly. And obviously Ewen is doing this at a very high-quality level, I’m guessing?
Joe: Yes. As I understand it, he is. I know that someone like my sister-in-law is a brilliant writer. She’s not in a foreign country with very poor English skills and writing skills. So it is going to be good quality content, as whatever language they’re writing in it’s going to be their first language, not their second or third.
It sounds like maybe Ewen is going to be a guest on your show someday so you can hash this out with him?
Matt: Absolutely! If he’s open to it, I’d love to introduce him to our community. And it’s always fun at our Digital Investor live events when someone like Ewen throws his spanner in the works, especially for poor-old-Matt in front of everyone! These young guys, they shake it up and they find a new way of doing something. I would be fascinated. I’d love to see what happens here. I want to see how well this works.
Joe: Well, I’ll send you an intro. The key difference to point out here though is that he’s doing it because he raised a whole bunch of money and can do it.
Matt: That’s right.
How to Use These Lessons to Build Your Own Website Portfolio
Use Your Own Level of Experience and Capital when Building a Portfolio of Affiliate Websites…
Joe: Most people that are going into this space are bootstrapping it and cannot launch 120 articles that are well-written by first language, English speakers. So he has the capital to do it. And he’s tested out that model and it works.
Matt: I just wanted to give this caveat to all our community who are listening, thinking, “We’re on your own side, Matt!” It’s important to realise that Ewen is very experienced and he’s got the knowledge. As Joe just said, he’s not building a beginner site. He’s got very talented writers and he knows what he’s doing.
So please understand that managing 25 websites at one time, (I’ve been there, done that), it is way harder than you realise. Even though it sounds like, “How hard can it be? Just sitting at home, building websites…”
But, to do all that at once and to have the team behind you. Ewen’s got the teams and as you just heard, he’s got the funding. He’s got significant-sized websites that does change the ball game.
That’s not to say it won’t work for our readers, especially those out these with the big, audacious goals. Maybe you’re sitting there right now thinking, “Okay. We can go out and raise funds.” And I know some of you have done much bigger deals, and you’ve already got some really successful websites. So, this is a good goal to go for when you really want to go big and step it up. I think it’s a brilliant goal, Ewen!
And then obviously I would highly recommend as you step it up, you need to speak to Joe. This is important as you start to build them up, sell off the lesser ones or whatever, and then really ride those winners. I really love your long-term strategies, Joe. That’s what we’re all about.
…Well, I did not expect this website sales story to turn into this type of discussion!
Joe: Sorry. We took a twist. We went from a Preppers content site case study, to launching 100 sites or 24 sites at one time.
Matt: We don’t teach that and we actually recommend the longer-term game so there you go.
Joe: Well, you want to do it the same way.
Matt: The old fashion way.
Joe: Well, yes, with the resources that most people have. Right?
Matt: Yeah, that’s true.
Joe: And that’s a huge difference. Ewen has years and years, decades-worth of experience, number one, and lots of capital to do it with.
Not only that, but one of the biggest challenges of an operation like that is having the writers. And so he developed a software to allow the writers to grab an article, write it, submit it, and get paid. And then he’s got people that are reviewing the writer’s articles and editing them.
It’s beyond my level of competence that I would never ever do it. I’m more of a one-man, two-man show. I know we’ve got 25 people here at Quiet Light now, but they don’t work directly for me. So, I haven’t quite promoted myself to my level of incompetence yet. There’s still time yet though. I’m sure it will happen.
Work within your own capabilities – how many articles can you write for your website?
Matt: Yeah, well that was just awesome, Joe. I did not expect that. Thank you so much. And there’s going to be lots of our community members having lots of fun at our Digital Investor Summit discussing this very topic. Now, I’m just sitting here thinking, “Gosh.”
Joe: It’s certainly a twist.
Matt: But everyone heard Joe’s caveat, Ewen ‘s experience and got lots of funding behind him. So they go, “There’s my excuse. There’s my out on that one.”
Joe: There’s a process and a system. Don’t take it lightly. You’ve got to do it your way. You can’t be Ewen. Just be yourself.
Matt: Yes, be yourself. And realize your level of where you’re at in the journey. What is your funding like? What are your capabilities? Do you have the headspace to handle however many websites and 120 articles at once etc.?
After doing this interview with you Joe, my take-home is, “I’m going to have a chat with Liz and we might do this with a few of our own sites? Just test out the theory. Maybe not 120 articles, but maybe 20 to 30 articles. And I’ll just see what happens.” So that’s a really fascinating story.
Joe: Sorry to throw the monkey wrench in your process and system.
Learn More from Joe about Buying and Selling Websites for Profit
Matt: That is awesome, Joe. Thanks so much for your time today. And yeah, I’d like to say obviously a real special thank you. And I think those of you that if you didn’t see our previous interview with Joe Valley from Quiet Light, you definitely need to check it out.
And make sure you also check out Joe’s new book, The EXITpreneur’s Playbook, because it’s a really interesting business model (and a bit different to Ewen’s model as you just read from Joe). This book is a about basically flipping websites. So starting small, building them up and selling them off for progressively higher prices.
I really do think that interview, and Joe’s book, demonstrates the value of having a good website broker on board with you when you’re buying and selling websites for profit. If you want to go down this path, I think you can see how having an advisor like Joe from Quiet Light Brokerage on board can make a huge difference to all parties, whether you’re a buyer or seller of websites.
So big thanks there, Joe for coming on board again today. Look forward to our next one.
Joe: My pleasure, Matt. Thanks for having me.