Making money by selling domains

I’m currently earning money through AdSense adverts on my niche sites and also through the Amazon affiliate scheme which combined earned me £500 in February but there are other ways to earn money online which have crossed my mind.

1. Sell niche sites.

2. Sell domains

I know there are other ways too but these are the ones I’ve been thinking about. I’ve discounted selling websites though for the moment as I wouldn’t want to sell a site that was earning me money on a monthly basis as I’d rather have a continuous stream rather than one lump sum. I would obviously consider selling a site that wasn’t making money but then again who would buy that? I have seen sites for sale on Flippa with zero income and rankings but these are ones that are churned out and I wouldn’t bother with them.

This gets me onto the second option of selling domains and it is something that I would like to get into. I have been buying quite a few domains, some of which I have built sites for, some of which I will build sites in the future, and some of which are just good domains that I think could have value to someone else.

It’s all a bit speculative but with UK domains costing around £7 for a 2 year period it’s not a massive outlay or gamble and gives me 2 years to sell them on before renewing them. If they don’t sell then I will see about monetising them myself.

So taking a leap into the unknown I put my first domain up for sale fittedwardrobe.org.uk

I’ve seen some domains listed which have absolutely no value whatsoever so when I bought this domain I did the research as if I was going to build a site on this domain myself.

“Fitted Wardrobe” gets 1,000 exact UK searches a month and has a average CPC of £2.12 for Google AdSense so there is definitely some worth in the domain.

The domain is listed on DomainLore, a site specialising in .uk domains and has a starting price of £50 which is the standard starting price for sales on the site.

A 10% deposit is required to sell on DomainLore, so in this case £5, but if the domain sells then this is refunded. It’s a great way of doing business as it means only valuable/sell-able domains are listed as it’s not worth advertising rubbish domains.

I’m interested to see if this gets any interest as it’s my first auction but let me know what you think of it in the comments below. Let me know if you sell domains and how do you appraise how much value it has.

Selling domains isn’t for me

In my last post I told you how I was looking into whether selling domains could be another source of income for me, and after some thinking I don’t think it is. I’m being honest with myself and think I will be sticking to developing niche websites instead as I can add more value to a domain from that.

When you see domains selling for hundreds or thousands then it’s quite easy to think ‘how hard can that be?’ but you would be wrong in assuming that it’s an easy thing to do as your domain has to have some very real pulling power to sell or even get any interest. I’ve come in pretty late in the game and most of the good quality .co.uk or even .org.uk domains have been registered so what I’m left with are domains that just aren’t in high demand or have already been passed-over by other domainers. If I had more money to spend then I could look at buying better domains that are already registered and trying to flip them but this doesn’t interest me as I don’t want money held up in domains not earning me anything and me relying on ‘potential’ future revenue if  I can sell it at a later date.

I started a thread on Acorn Domains for advice on how to sell domains and the feedback echoed the same thing: “There is no trick, you have to own domains that other people covet, and for which they will pay.”

People do not covet my domains but I know that I can make money from them by continuing to develop them as niche sites as when I bought them I did my research into the amount of keyword searches they get and the amount of AdSense CPC then average and so they are still perfectly suited for me to make websites for and hopefully start getting some income from. In the end that means no harm done and I now have a portfolio of 36 domains, all of which I have some potential. Some of these are already earning, and some will be developed in the near future. It’ll certainly keep me busy!

Once the sites are earning money then I there is a chance to sell them and I know they will be more attractive then, but at that stage I will probably rather hold onto them for the continuous revenue rather than a one-off payment.

Do you trade in domains? What’s your biggest sale so far?

March 2012 Niche Site Income Report

I usually have my Income Report out on the first of the month but I’ve been away on a short break and arrived back today so here we go:

Another record month

Let’s start off a the best part. This month I’ve made £560.34 from Google AdSense and £37.14 from Amazon Associates taking my monthly total for March to £597.48 (US$948)! I was so agonisingly close to the £600 milestone but I can’t really complain can I?

march-niche-earnings-5059831As you can see I’ve been able to increase my earnings again, even though I thought they would plateau and this is due to the creation of a couple more sites and also the improvement of some older sites and every little bit helps. You will also notice that I’ve been doing this ‘hobby’ for almost a year and I think it’s going pretty well if I do say so myself, but I know that the rug could get pulled away at anytime…

Google Update

When Google puts out a new update to their search algorithm then I’ll admit I’m always a little worried about what it’ll do to my rankings. I shouldn’t really be worried I guess as I play by the rules and have been very organic in how I’m creating my sites but when the rules keep changing then I can’t always guarantee that what was fine last month is not fine this month.

Panda 3.4 is the 14th major update in the last 12 months and it seems that these updates haven’t always been great for some websites and this latest updates effect 1.6% of searches. That doesn’t sound like much but Google is BIG and so that means 1.4 billion queries each month.

How 3.4 affected me

Nada. Which is pretty good I think. Actually I think it’s helped my sites as it’s removed lower quality competition. I did see my main Amazon Affiliate site (the one that actually earns me money) drop completely off the rankings from #2 in the SERPS but I’ve managed to make a few changes and get back up to #4. How did I do that?

  • Improved Content – I combined and rewrote several articles.
  • Improved Theme – I had been using Chris Guthrie’s Azon Theme but felt that a change to a more original theme not used by 1000s of others might help.
  • Added Graphic Logo – Previously the site had a plain text logo, but with Google’s focus on ‘brands’ I made my own graphic logo.

All in all these changes Google is making are improving sites and site content but I still get the feeling that they are still favouring the big name companies which doesn’t always mean the best content websites are #1 and I think we all know that people will always find new ways to get around the rankings system.

Local Listings Authority Site

I’m earning money from small niche sites but I would also like to make a website that I feel proud of and that has genuine return visitors who comment, share, and get real value from it, and so I’ve start work on a new listings site for the town I work in.

I’m aiming to make a site that Google will love, and visitors will love. I want to create a ‘brand’ and I think this site will achieve this (hopefully) but know that it will take a long time to get anything back from this. I’ve already written a couple of articles but want to get lots more content on there before going public with it.

Watch this space for more updates…

What am I doing with the money?

The first thing I’ve been doing for the last couple of months is putting half my earnings into a savings account. I will be paying tax on all my earnings although I’m not sure yet how much it will be, so putting half away will cover me for that and also the previous months where I didn’t save anything. I’m not sure how much tax I will have to pay but know that saving 50% will more than cover it and hopefully avoid any surprises and leave me with some savings at the end.

As for the rest of the money I’m earning, I’m enjoying life and not worrying too much and spending it. On my recent break I was able to pay for the majority of it with the remainder of my earnings and not have to worry about not having enough money in the bank. What’s the point of earning extra money if I can’t spend it?

My year in niche websites

1-year-12-months2-2967241I started dabbling with niche sites in May 2011 and so it seems fitting that I write an update for the year to say how things have gone and most importantly how much I’ve earned in that time, and also how much I’ve spent.

It’s also worth noting that this will be my last income report for a while as I’m going to take a bit of a break from niche sites and won’t be focussing too much on the money made from them. Obviously it’s great to get revenue from the sites but with the constant changes to Google and the web, I really don’t know how my sites are going to fare in the future and I’ve got too much ‘real life’ things to concentrate on. Did I mention I’m selling a house, buying a house, and getting married in the next 3 months?

In the beginning

So I started my first ‘niche site’ in May 2011 and didn’t really know what I was up to but it’s nice to know that the first site has been my biggest earner and earns me a couple of hundred pounds each month. I think that if that site hadn’t been a success then I probably would’ve given up a long time ago but as soon as it started earning a few £s then I was hooked and had to build more and more sites.

I’ve never really been involved with SEO previously, and so I will admit that I did undertake some dodgy linkbuilding activities at first as that was what I saw everyone else doing, and it seemed to work. That’s how Google worked, more links=better ranking. And then a few months down the line my site got penalised by Google and I had to rethink my strategy. I cleaned up, put more focus onto the content, and haven’t had to rely on links. If you get a good EMD (Exact Match Domain) and write good quality content then you should rank well. That’s the way it should work, but it seems that Google is even changing that now, so even completely organic sites are getting punished and one can’t help but think there is some ulterior motive from Google to make more money from paid advertisers. Of course there is as they’re a business like any other, so if you’re in niche sites then be prepared to constantly change your strategy to keep earning.

How I’ve made my sites

I make my sites very cheaply with minimal outgoings. I see some people spending hundreds on outsourcing to put a site together but I’ve done most the work myself. I’ve only used free themes, written most content myself, and manually created links. That’s about it really. The only essential costs have been my hosting which I’ve had for years and the domains. Here’s how is usually plays out when I make an AdSense site:

Finding a niche

  1. Brainstorm for an idea. It really is that vague, but I have a think about what people are looking for, and from this I will have a keyword.
  2. Go onto Google Keywords Tool. From here I can get numbers for searches per month as well as other suggested keywords linked to my initial keyword and also the average Cost Per Click (CPC). I ideally want a search term above 1000 local searches and with a CPC of at least £0.50.
  3. Next is checking for available exact match domains (EMD). I only buy .co.uk or org.uk as I know the market for the UK and they are also cheaper than .coms and more likely to be unregistered.
  4. If I find a domain I will then have a look at other sites ranking for that search term. If I think I can break onto the 1st page of Google then I will buy the domain.

Setting up the site

  1. I only use WordPress so I get that installed along with the usual set of plugins. XML Sitemaps, Google Analytics, Yoast SEO, etc.
  2. Next is the content. I will always set up ‘about’ and ‘contact’ and will also put one page of original content on there. I will either write that myself or sometimes get an article from iWriter.com for only a few dollars.
  3. Then I add a free theme and customise it so it has some individuality.
  4. Finally I will add AdSense onto the site, usually using the Quick AdSense plugin.

Getting the site to rank

  1. The most important thing for this to happen is content and a page of content will start giving you indicators of how the site will rank. Using Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics will show how the site is doing. This will also give you indicators of what future content to produce.
  2. It always helps to have a few links back to the site, so I will set up twitter, and use a plugin like Tweet Old Posts to get them automatically on the twitter account. I may also try and answer a few questions on Yahoo Answers. But generally I don’t worry too much about links until I think the site has started ranking and I know it has potential. Link building is the poorest part of my skillset but luckily it looks like Google is reducing the impact links have so that will probably work in my favour.

That’s just a brief outline of what I’ve been doing. Some sites have kick-off straight away, some have taken months to get any traffic, and some are just dead in the water with no chance of ranking.

I have of course got a few affiliate sites but their earnings don’t even compare with AdSense so I won’t go into them.

How much did I earn this month?

I made just over £600 this month and would’ve made more had Google’s ‘Penguin’ update not come into play and disrupted the past weeks earnings but I’m very happy with that total but think it will be a while until I see those figures again. I predict that next month I will be lucky to earn £300 but I’ve had dips like this before and managed to come back. The income breakdown for April was

  • AdSense = £567.93
  • Amazon = £26.23
  • Ebay Partner Network = £6.87
  • Total = £601.03 (US$973.80)

The eBay Partner Network (EPN) is new this month and I have a basic RSS feed running on a couple of my sites and I’ll see how this goes. You can read more about EPN here.

How much did I earn this year?

So from what started as an experiment I’ve managed to make £3772.38 of extra income in one year. That’s just over $6100 for anyone who wants the figure in USD. This is obviously not ‘take home’ as there are expenses and tax to take into account but it will still leave me with a tidy sum for something I consider a hobby.

As you can see I’ve had my dips, built the revenue back up, and I expect to have another dip next month. You can read individual monthly reports here.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

It wouldn’t be a review without some negatives and so I thought I’d put some in here:

  • Bought worthless domains – Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and I’ve bought some domains which have got zero value. Just because a domain is free to register doesn’t mean that you have to buy it! Luckily these only cost me less than £8 each for 2 years registration so it’s not a big loss but I wish I’d took more time thinking about what I would actually use them for rather than buy first, think later.
  • Wish I’d got involved in making niche sites a lot earlier – This is a big regret but there is absolutely nothing I can do about this.
  • Bought WSOs from Warrior Forums – You know the stuff that promises to let you in on the secret to making thousands. All a load of bull, and even though I only spent about $50 in total on a few offers early on I see it as money wasted. There is no ‘secret’. There are lots of ‘experts’ on there actually make their money just from promoting these offers and not from actually using the product they are promoting.

What now?

As I explained at the start, I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from my niche sites to see how the dust has settled after the latest Google updates, and I’m also moving houses so there is bound to be some time without internet etc, and then I’m also getting married so that will take priority over everything else, as will my super honeymoon in Bali.

My overall plan is to have a bit of a cull and get rid of the dead sites and domains that I don’t want anymore. That will leave me with a handful of sites that have the potential to be a lot bigger and so I will concentrate of them. In the end I want to have websites that I’m proud to show off and ones that I’m happy to put my name against.

This leads onto my big idea for a local listing site. Yeah, I know it’s been done before, but I think I can make something different and earning money will not be the overriding force behind it. Crucially I won’t be relying on Google for the success of the site and am aiming for people to be reaching the site directly. This may take a year to get going but I am looking to create a BIG site with big visitor numbers. Not huge ones but ones where businesses will want to advertise on my site.

It’s been a pretty wordy post so I’ll end it here, but please leave a comment and get in touch with me on Twitter @Adem.