I’m excited to have Colin Ma on the podcast! I’ve known Colin for a couple of years and actually had the pleasure of meeting him in person a few years ago at a conference.
Colin has been building niche sites for years and in 2020 he had not 1, but 2 six figure exits. One of these sites was one that he built from scratch. The other site he bought, quickly grew, and sold within in a period of about 6 months.
He has a ton of great strategies related to building a team, content idea generation, and link building strategies as well.
We dive into how to know if you are getting good links and other link ideas that have worked well for him.
These ideas can be applied to anyone building a site from scratch or anyone buying and growing a site.
Colin is someone that is part of the team at Investing.io and DomainMagnate.com. So, he’s well connected in the industry and I expect to see lots of great things from him in the future.
Discussed in the interview:
Watch the Entire Interview with Colin Ma
Read the Interview Transcript
Hey, welcome to the niche pursuits podcast.
Colin Ma: Hey, Spencer. Thanks for having me on the podcast. Been a long fan. Awesome.
Spencer: Yeah, it’s great to have you on the show. you’re active in the niche pursuits Facebook group, and, listeners don’t know this, but we actually met in person it’s been, either two or three years ago at a traffic and conversion summit.
which was great. We got to hang out and have dinner and chat business for awhile anyway.
Colin Ma: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, we were, it was like at an after event and. You know, we were just making introductions and then you’re like, Oh yeah, I’m Spencer. And then I look at you, I’m like, wait, are you Spencer? Haws is like, yeah.
I was like, okay. Like, I, I knew who you were because you actually helped me get started. on this journey, like three, four, no, like four or five years ago. Now a niche for seats is one of the first blogs that I read in the States. Awesome. Yeah.
Spencer: And so, yeah, we got to know each other a little bit then.
And, I know you’ve been. Working on a lot of different sites building sites. you’ve sold some sites and we’re going to dive into that specifically. but for listeners that don’t know you, what’s kind of your professional background and how did you get started with online
Colin Ma: businesses? Yeah, so it was my senior year in college.
I was studying computer science, like a good Asian kid. And, you know, I was on vacation and my uncle has me read this book, rich dad, poor dad, which I’m sure. Most of, if not, all of you are familiar with, and real estate was interesting, but I also live in California and it’s a little expensive. and so it kind of just got me thinking, you know, about long-term investments and, you know, just getting an income without a job.
and I’ve always been a little entrepreneurial, but never really considered anything. So, you know, I jumped on cora.com and started hearing about the different ways that people are making money online. Eventually I fall into kind of like affiliate marketing and people making websites for ads. and I just say, this is it.
And so I just read about the topics and forums for like six months. I’m looking at niche pursuits, you know, just reading topics and forums for like six months. And then it was like one weekend. I was just, you know, on niche pursuits. And I see a finally an example of like what a niche site was and it, it clicked.
And this actually helped me start my first website and that, you know, I was at my parents’ house. I looked in the backyard and we had a pool and growing up, we always have these creepy crawlies, which are like these pool cleaner machines. I was like, okay, I think that’s going to be a great niche. and so my first site was in the website or in the pool space.
but you know, after I graduated college, I kind of started work as a software engineer for three years, build insights on the side until eventually about two years ago. I felt stable enough to leave my full-time job as an engineer and just work in the digital marketing space, completely. And so, you know, now I have my own portfolio of sites.
I have a team of three full-time people, three part-time and then a number of writers that we contract. and then in addition to that, I have some clients that I do SEO for, and then. I also write for investing in IO community. just like a weekly newsletter where I review. A lot of deals I’m talking about, you know, deals that are for sale that are listed through empire flippers investors club, at the international couple of other brokers.
and then I also work with domain magnet to help them actually buy and sell websites for their portfolio and investors.
Spencer: All right. So you got a lot going on. it went from not really knowing what a niche site was and then seeing an example that sided the first light bulb, I guess, it to now you’ve got full-time employees, you’re working part-time if you will, helping out investing.io and domain magnate, a whole lot going on, before we get into all that, what did your parents think when you said like, Hey.
I went to college. I’m working three years as a software developer, but I’m going to go build websites about pools and stuff like that.
Colin Ma: Yeah. So, I mean, you know that the entire three years where I was working as a software engineer, I was building up my portfolio and, and gaining experience. So I would tell my parents a little bit, I live pretty close by and have a good relationship with my parents.
and even though I said, like, I was a good Asian kid getting a, you know, studying computer science, my parents aren’t traditional by any means, like my mom was born here and my dad was born in South Africa and my sister’s an actress. and they supported her through that. So like, no matter what path I would take and like, it wasn’t going to be as risky as pursuing like an acting career.
So either way it was, it was going to be fine, but yeah, they, they were supportive, and super cool with it. Yeah.
Spencer: So, the, the pool website that you built was that kind of the first site that you really, had any success with?
Colin Ma: Yeah, it was the first website that I started. you know, I actually started with like an exact match domain.
It was something like best that came clear, best robotic pool, cleaners.com or something. And then like two weeks after launching, I’m like this, isn’t the way to go. and then I eventually got more of a brandable domain within the space. so it was like blank, Poole guide.com and yeah, I mean, it was my first site and I got really lucky because, you know, I was writing for it myself, just to like on the weekends doing about 20, 25 hours a week.
And then December made, you know, it’s, it’s like bursts. $80. and then in January, like 500 February was like 2000 and then they just started really going up from there. and then as it made money, I kind of just invested more into like content and backlinks. but I was, I was lucky in that my first website was pretty good success.
Spencer: Yeah. That’s awesome. That that can give you a lot of motivation to go out and either build or buy, additional sites as well. so, so kind of bring us up to speed with maybe what you’ve done over the last 12 months, right? Like 20, 20, right. I know before we talked a little bit that you were able to build up some sites and exit those, so let’s jump into that kind of those stories.
what did you build and what happened?
Colin Ma: Yeah, so my probably two big successes were two flips that I did in 2020. One of them. I built from scratch and that was in the tech space. I worked with someone who was extremely familiar, within the niche, kind of keeping it broad in respect to the seller or the buyer.
Sorry. but I, I talked to him and I said, you know, I can just pay you for content or you can have like a piece of the pie. and he just wanted to be paid for content. so at the end that it kind of, I got a little lucky, but yeah, it’s, it’s a pretty technical, space. It was earning, maybe about 4,500 a month.
75% of that was through Amazon affiliate. a thousand or a thousand or, you know, a quarter of that was through AdThrive. Okay. and so, yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of blogs about this topic, but it does require some expertise to really stand out from the crowd and get a good site. and so I built that over three years eventually selling that for.
I want to say it was 120,000. nice in. May I want to say April or may. Yeah. and that was actually a broker through investors club. so they took like their 15% or whatever, but it was never listed. it was kind of just, I was talking directly with Andre who is the CEO and he said, Oh, we have like special buyers.
you know, do you want to list your or like, you know, I used it. So I said, yeah. I don’t like to list my sites, typically through brokers. but this. You know, investors club made it pretty easy and you know, they kind of just facilitated it as if it were a private deal. So. Yeah, it was, it was a smooth transaction.
Spencer: So I’m sure listeners would be curious to hear, like, what’s your process of, you know, how do you, since you built this one from scratch, like, what are some of the big picture things that you think at least worked well in terms of, you know, you, you’ve got your niche sort of in this technical space, you know, maybe content and link building, like what’s kind of the strategy that you’re using to grow your
Colin Ma: sites.
Yeah. I mean, so it all started with keyword research. You know, fortunately, even though I wasn’t like super aware of it, like I have had some experience in the niche, so that definitely helped with keyword research. I use a traps and kind of just over a few days, just, you know, reverse engineer, all the top sites in the space.
and then from there, what I essentially do is when I first launched a site, you know, I just, I pretty much use the same stack, you know, I’ll go on, WPX hosting. I’ll use thrive themes. it’s changed a little bit since then, but, I throw it on about 30 pages initially. And at the time they would all be like money pages.
So like all that stuff or maybe some individual review pages. now, especially with the most recent update, I changed that process a little bit, so that it’s. You know, you have some more supporting content, so it might be maybe like 10 best pages and then 20 supporting articles, like two each for each of the money pages.
But yeah, I mean, you know, I initially just kind of throw up like 20, 30 articles and then from there, drip feed, like two articles a month.
Spencer: So, and I want to dive into your keyword research process just a little bit. So you’re looking at AA traps. You say you kind of reverse engineer what the top sites are doing.
Are you looking at like, what are their top pages, the ones getting the most traffic or are you looking at like, what’s the lowest. Competition keywords, right. That maybe aren’t necessarily the highest traffic, but they look super easy to rank
Colin Ma: for. Got it. Yeah. So I know a lot of people are into like finding like low competition keywords.
I don’t do that as much. I have, I like to work with, you know, a little more of a budget when I start out a site. So I know how I have some more resources to me. I think going after more competitive keywords, it definitely takes a little longer, but I think in the end has a higher ROI. if you have the budget for it, you know, if you’re just starting off, definitely go for the lower competition keywords.
but for me, when I’m willing to throw in, you know, I have several thousand dollars plan for content, several thousand dollars plans for link building, you know, even before it really gets out of the sandbox phase. So I’m confident to go after these, you know, medium or higher competition keywords. But to answer your question.
Yeah. I mean, you know, I take, I take a look at some of the top pages, but also just like going to address, go to all the organic keywords that they rank for. and one of the first things that I look at is just, I type in the word best to include, and I just see all the best keywords they rank or just to get an idea of the
Gotcha. Yep. Get all the money pages that they’re obviously doing well with. Yeah.
Colin Ma: Yeah. And that, that’s the easiest way for me to understand, you know, the potential of a, of a niche. Like, you know, I know you can make tons of money from info articles and ads, but. You know, I, I like going after affiliate content and then supplementing that with some, some informational articles.
And so, yeah, it’s the first thing I do when I look at a niche, like what are the best affiliate keywords that I can look at? and they’re not always, you know, the best the affiliate keywords don’t always have the word best in it, but in this nature, it was definitely, The best modifier, right? Yup.
Spencer: And like you said, you ended up something like 75% was Amazon associates earnings right.
On that site. So that clearly worked out pretty well. and it sounds like since the latest update that you alluded to, you don’t go quite as heavy on affiliate content. You’re doing a little bit more informational articles that are supporting, is that like you had seen things directly from the update on.
other sites cause you solve this particular site, but w what have you seen?
Colin Ma: I hate speaking to specific updates, you know, it’s, I don’t like to spend a lot of time looking at updates. Like why sites went up, why sites went down, you’ll pay a little bit of attention to it. I look at it more like what people are saying and what I think makes sense for Google.
and so I look at everything and I say, okay, does this make. You know, the world of site publishing better. and, and so like, one of those things was one of the topics that revolved around like, okay, well, what was impacted by the update? It was like, how many money pages there are? And people were saying, okay, you know, there’s sites with only money pages with low topical relevance that are getting hit.
And so whether or not that’s true. you know, I took that information and said, okay, well, you know, one, it makes more sense to not. Have just money pages and the 2 billion topical relevance in general is a good thing. Yeah. But I’ve been taking that approach for, for close to maybe a year before the update.
that was just more of a kick in the butt to make sure that you spend even more time and resources to do so, because even before that update, my primary project right now is even about 40% info pages. and that number was going up a little bit. Okay.
Spencer: Yep. No, that makes a lot of sense. you know, it, Google is so hard to, know exactly what they tweaked, right?
Like nobody really knows it’s a black box, but I like that approach of taking, like, does it make sense from a Google perspective rather than diving in whatever the top blogger or whatever Spencer says at niche pursuits? Like he doesn’t, he doesn’t really know anyways. So, I liked that approach though, of kind of thinking bigger picture, like what makes sense for the future, to make your, your.
Business really the best possible. So, any other sort of content strategies, you know, you kind of give us a quick rundown of how you’re doing some of your keyword research, any other sort of things that you do that you feel like have worked well in terms of content or on page SEO?
Colin Ma: Yeah. I mean, you know, for, for the most part, like I don’t, I don’t do anything.
Super fancy, like it’s, it’s creating relevant content clusters. like, I mean, my, my, my contents, like pretty decent, like we usually hire someone who is, who does have specific experience in the niche. so, you know, I know some people will hire writers for like $10 per 1000 words. but you know, to me, it’s, you know, like when you think about creating like a brand or a company, you want a good product.
And if you’re doing a blog words, the continents, basically your product. And so, yeah, I don’t go super high end, but I got go someplace. Or, you know, add a level where, you know, they are native English speakers and they have some expertise in the niche. but for interlinking, you know, I just make sure that, you know, we do really good interlinking and, you know, there’s particular ratios that I keep track of.
and so probably, you know, most of the stuff I do has been talked about before on a number of blogs, But I think one of the biggest things that we do a little differently that I kinda got from Matt diggity, is, you know, we categorize all of our anchor texts. and this is for both backlinks and internal linking so that, you know, if you have the best vacuum cleaners, any keyword with DAS or vacuum cleaners is like one type of anchor and then like click here or this article, that’s another type of art, anchor.
So we have like four or five types of anchors that we categorize. And then we just look and calculate the percentage that we’re sending to each page. So, you know, if we have like 10 links going to like that’s vacuum cleaners, You know, maybe like, you know, I think we do, we do like eight of those 10 are going to be some form of a keyword anchor.
and then the remaining, like, you know, two is going to be like a brand or like a topical or different type of anchor. Right. Okay.
Spencer: So, so roughly like 80%, you know, something like that, you try to. So, it takes a lot of work to kind of figure out what those percentages are. I mean, are you just like using spreadsheets or screaming, frog or something else to like.
Colin Ma: Yeah. So we, we just use a spreadsheet. and we basically just log it every time we add an internal link to kind of like the sheet that calculates the ratios. and then when we’re creating new internal links, we say, okay, well, you know, we have, you know, 80% of the keyword anchors, let’s add a non keyword anchor.
and so, you know, it’s not perfect, like. You’re almost never going to get it exactly 80%, but, as the number of links go up, it becomes more important. And so it’s just an approximate guideline, right? I mean, just always do what makes sense within the article and we want to make everything look natural as possible.
Spencer: No, that sounds good. So, let’s, let’s talk about other link building, right? it says you, you mentioned that you set aside a budget for content and pretty decent budget for link building as well. So. What what’s kind of the link building strategies for, for this, tech site that you mentioned?
Colin Ma: The, the one that I had sold
Spencer: last year.
Yeah. The one you sold last year. Yeah. What worked well there.
Colin Ma: Got it. Yeah. So when I do link building, you know, for me, A lot of people will only build links to like the money pages. But to me again, that’s just super unnatural. So one, I make sure anywhere from like a third to half of the links that I’m building are going to the homepage, just because that’s natural for a lot of websites, but then too, even if you’re looking to rank the money page, If I have, let’s say if I want to send 20 links to that money, page one, I’m going to spread it out across a couple of months.
just to make that again, look natural, like 20 links out of nowhere, going to a new page is just too, too risky. Right. But then two, I want to distribute how I’m sending those things. Like I’m actually not going to send all 20 of those things to that page. You know, it might be, you know, maybe 10 of those links go directly to that page and maybe, you know, another 10 and go to info articles, supporting that page.
For example, that way, you know, the link juice can kind of like pass through into that money page, but you’re also ranking the other content as well. And that’s, that’s more in line with my. You know, the recent strategy that I created in the year, year and a half, that’s less focused on money content and more focused on creating info pages and actually getting these info pages to rank.
Like a lot of people are just like, yeah, just create info pages just for topical relevance. But. You know, I actually also want them to rank so that they’re actually bringing, you know, tangible value to the site because it’s hard to measure topical relevance. Right. but if you can say, yeah, this page and earns $10 a month and increases the site value by $300, you know, 300, $400.
And that definitely justifies the cost of an article. Yeah.
Spencer: So, like what, what type of link building are you doing? like, is it, outreach guest posting?
Colin Ma: What what’s working for? You. Yeah. So at the time it was actually, and so. All of the direct deliberate efforts were through a couple of vendors.
you know, I’ve been in the game for three or four years now, and there’s a couple of vendors that I actually like that have, you know, good prices, good actual links, you know, at this point, like I, I started to recognize where most of like the popular PBN farmer, the popular blog farms are, you know, they’re not PBNs, but they’re.
You know, quote unquote blogs that just send tons of links. No. And like everyone’s lists. Right. So I avoid those and, you know, I basically just say, okay, I want tentative tailings per month. And I reach out to like three or four different providers. and then get those built out by them. And I intentionally reached out to several providers just because I don’t want just like one place where, you know, my business can fail.
And then that just makes sure that when they all get new inventory, I get notice of the newest inventory. The second way that it built links were was, you know, the content was pretty good. It was written by someone who was. Maybe not quite an expert, but pretty Dan knowledgeable of the experience of the niche.
And so we actually got a lot of natural features in some relevant blogs. and then also like through a lot of forums. So like this type of nature, like it’s, it’s very popular for users and people in that niche to go on forums and talk about the niche and they would. Quote, you know, mostly a lot of like the info, sorry, not a lot of the info, some info articles, but a lot of the money pages where they’d be like, okay, well, like you should get this product for this.
Or like this website says product for this. And so some of the forum links were no follow somewhere do follow, but I’m sure that helped tremendously just build natural trust with Google. Right. In addition to the links that we were actually spending the time money to build.
Spencer: Yeah. so the providers for links, are you willing to share who you use?
You don’t have to, but, I know listeners
Colin Ma: probably want to know yeah. At this point, probably not, you know, you know, people start hitting them pretty heavily and it’s taken me some time to build them. but you know, I would say, like, don’t be afraid to try new people on faith. Like I met all these people on Facebook groups, just through trial and error and I’ve.
Work with, I mean, I’ve quote unquote fired more link builders than the ones that I continue to work with. And so it takes time. It’s a process for sure. So as soon as you find like someone good, you know, all that time and energy was definitely worth it because they’re going to continue to deliver that good product, especially with link building where there’s a lot of crappy vendors.
Spencer: maybe you can give people a little, a bit of a insight into how they can know if they’ve got a good vendor, a good provider, right? Like, ha ha. What should they look for to know that, Hey, this provider, or isn’t using the same sort of blog network that everybody’s using that you referenced, right?
Like they clearly it’s bloggers that. Yeah. They’re willing to accept niche edits or, you know, they’re, they’re Lincoln to everybody all the time. How, how do you avoid those neighborhoods?
Colin Ma: Yeah. So probably the easiest piece of advice. If you have a website and you have an email set up on that email, Or on that site, you’re probably getting a ton of spam of like people just saying like, Hey, I have like these 30 lists for you.
I haven’t looked into those too much, but I, I suspect those are all like probably coming from like the same group of people. And that’s probably like some link farms. but there’s, there’s two ways. So, you know, one look at a lot of people’s lists and sometimes you have to just. By a couple of links to look at the list.
but over time, you’ll start to recognize a lot of the sites. and then to just, you know, when you place orders, look at the links, look at the metrics. So I always make sure sites have at least, you know, 500 organic traffic. CR of 20 plus, it varies depending on the size of the niche. So, you know, I’m okay.
Like if it’s super relevant, I’m okay. Getting, you know, a link from the side that has less traffic and less Dr. but generally those are pretty good guidelines. And then I also make sure that, you know, the graph on a trust, isn’t just like a sharp decline. Right. you know, usually a good indicator that it’s kind of fallen out of favor with Google.
Right. but for me, you know, I, I say Dr. Actually, that’s not true anymore. I look at it more. I look more at traffic than Dr. In general. the reason for that is. CR is just an approximation tool, but if Google is actually sending traffic to these sites, they like it for whatever reason. Yep. That makes sense.
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yeah, but, an interesting thing, particularly in a technique where this is a problem sites with good organic traffic, it can be a little bit of a trap if you don’t look at the actual organic keywords. Because some of these sites are built only this to sell guest posts. And you can tell, so they’re not on all these lists that like some other sites are, but if you look at the keywords they’re ranking for like, you know, watch movies online, or like solar movies.net, and like these weird keywords that like these sites, aren’t going to last.
And they’re just using some strategy each just to sell guest posts. So if you’re in the technique, I would be super, aware of that, just to double check that that doesn’t happen to you, but then also with link providers, you know, once you pay for that link, track, that link, make sure that it’s up. I use link tracking software to make sure that it’s up.
And, you know, sometimes people, the links go down after a few months. And if you’re paying anywhere from, you know, 20, 50, a hundred, $200 for a link, like, yeah, you can, you can spend like five, 10 bucks a month on link tracking software. because if your vendor is good, they will be willing to replace some, if not all of the links.
Right? And so with one vendor that I used, even though, you know, maybe 20% of the links go down at some point he replaces all of them. Hmm. and so I’ve, you know, it’s probably been like 20 or 30 minutes that he’s been able to replace for me.
Spencer: Yeah. Those are some good tips that people can yeah. Use sort of the skills, right.
Going beyond, Hey, just use this vendor of like, Being able to analyze. Yeah, who’s good. What are, link neighborhoods to avoid and, yeah. Good, good tips there. So, it sounded like you also had a second site that you flipped, last year. Is that right? let’s jump into that. When did you buy it?
Colin Ma: Yeah, I bought that site in December of 2019.
Okay. And I actually sold that in July of 2020.
Spencer: Okay. So only about six months, six, seven months.
Colin Ma: Yeah. Yeah, it was, it was a quick flip. And so this site, it had an, it was an affiliate content site and it was its primary products were info products. And
Spencer: so like digital courses or something like that.
Colin Ma: Exactly. Okay. Yeah. So it wasn’t Amazon affiliate, you know, four to 8%. This site was getting 50% commissions. And, you know, I saw that I saw the network that it was on, it was on a share sale. And I know that you can negotiate a lot of payouts. A lot of times are like higher pipe payouts with, you know, your existing affiliate relationships.
So I thought, okay, you know, that’s one thing that could be improved, you know, it could definitely add some more pages. So when I bought it, I was like, okay. The first thing I did, as soon as escrow closed, I emailed my affiliate manager. I’m like, Hey, we do an X amount of sales on a month. Like, can you increase commission?
So I was like, yeah, we’ll move it from 70 or 50% to 75%. Wow. So, you know, that’s, I think when I bought it, it was making, I don’t know, The 3,500 a month. So going from 50 to 75%, only 25% increase, but that’s a 50% increase in earnings. Right. So just like that out of the gate, it started earning, you know, close to four and a half, half, $5,000 a month.
Okay. That’s awesome. I’d
Spencer: love that. I mean, he can’t do that with Amazon, right? Yeah. And so I love opportunities like that. Yup. Very
Colin Ma: good. You can’t and do that with Amazon. And so, you know, that was all the traffic was spread across like four pages, which. Is a little more risky than I would like, you know, for a site at that level, you probably want it much more evenly distributed across maybe like 1520 pages.
but because I saw this as an upside, I was okay with that risk. you know, whereas really just four pages ranking. And because when you buy a site, you know, if your sites, depending on four pages, like it’s pretty high risk, especially, you know, if you’re buying a site for, I think I bought it for 80,000.
Okay. and so, but you know, if you’re behind a smaller site for 20 or $30,000, you’re going to have just one or two pages that are really ranking. Like that’s pretty normal. Right. it’s just how, you know, sites start ranking with Google. But yeah, I mean, I got that commission increase and I said, okay, well, let’s also work on CRO and I’m not a CRO junkie by any means.
I think this is actually like the first time we’re actually did CRO. but what I did was like, I changed the button colors. I added a table. At the top of the money pages. And then I added a sticky widget in the sidebar. And also in the content,
Spencer: like for the, the best selling product that you are selling.
Colin Ma: Yeah. And this is the first time I had done it. and that actually boosted conversions by like 15%, just through, well, those two tests ended at the same time. So adding a sticky in the, in the sidebar and then one in the footer. So like as you’re scrolling down and you see, okay, this is the best product.
As you continue to scroll down that product or like just that button, that CTA would remain on the bottom. Whereas on the sidebar, it was like, okay, like, this is the number one, these are the pros and then the CTA.
Spencer: And, what tools were you using both to like display the sidebar, if there’s any special tools and the AB testing software.
Colin Ma: Yeah, AB testing software. I didn’t use anything fancy. I was just doing it manually. Okay. Let’s share a sale. You get a pretty good insight of like the conversions and clicks. and so I was kind of just tracking in a spreadsheet like conversions, traffic, you know, that data as far as, you know, the CRM I was looking at Hotjar I use the free version of Hotjar.
Okay. Which is a heat map tool just to see where users are looking and clicking on the site. And then, for that tool, I think it was elementary or pro where I was, making those edits. Usually I’m a, I’m a thrive guy. thrive architect is pretty good, but it’s, I think not as robust as Elementor pro.
And so that’s one thing that I tested on elementary pro that I really liked, and was able to get good success. So basically within the month, you know, we had. Maybe about 70% increase in revenue. That’s impressive. Yeah.
Spencer: And so, did you, what else did you do? I mean, that’s obviously huge win right there, out of the gate.
did you just kind of let it ride? Did you build new content? What
Colin Ma: else worked? Yeah. So from there, it was just those, those were like the quickest wins that I had saw. I did some internal LinkedIn, which is something that I always do for, you know, new sites where it’s kind of just like implementing them into our system.
nothing amazing there, but we started hitting content. in the nature, pretty heavily, like, I think we were doing like, well, not super heavily, but 15 to 20 posts a month for like three months. because the niche is so large and they were all in articles or sorry, they were digital product articles.
So all the money pages, all of the affiliate offers were these digital goods. So the commissions were on the low end, like 15%. And then. as high as like 50% apart from the original 50 to 75 that I had, requested, but yeah, the commissions were great. And, you know, actually by the time I had sold it, none of those had really like come to fruition.
like they had started to pick up in the SERPs and rank, but, none of them had it hadn’t started making any money yet. So all, all like when, when I’d sold it. You know, it was just based off of the revenue off of like four, maybe five pages. So maybe we added like one more page. I was making some money.
Spencer: And so you sold it in late July of 2020. How much did you sell it for?
Colin Ma: I sold that for 115. so. Yeah, it was a, what like 35, $40,000 profit actually sold that through empire flippers. So not all, so maybe like 20 K profit as far as the raw sale, but then for the actual earnings, you know, we probably came up total about, maybe about 60,000, something like that.
Yeah. no, a little less than that, but it was, it was a good flip because I knew, the set some quick wins and then I just. For some reason, I just wasn’t feeling the nature at all. Like I just didn’t like where that personally. so that’s why I decided to sell. And then I think it may have gotten a little bit of a COVID bumps, so I kind of wanted to capitalize on that.
Spencer: That was definitely right in the middle of, everybody at home March, April, may timeframe, that sort of thing. so let’s jump into like a bigger picture of like, what, like what are you doing now in terms of. You know, there there’s so many different opportunities you could, you could buy and flip a bunch of sites.
You could build a bunch from scratch. or there could just be bigger picture things. Like what are you trying to achieve? Like you trying to like build a bigger empire that, you know, is totally different from like niche sites. Like just kind of curious, like what, like, are you trying to scale up or anything like that?
Colin Ma: Yeah. So, so definitely trying to scale up the portfolio a little bit. I mean, so the high level. I don’t really know. I’m not a lot of people like for, for the past, like four or five years. Right. I kind of always had an answer for that, but more recently, I’m not really sure where I want to be at, in like five years.
Like, yeah, I want a bigger portfolio, but I’m not sure exactly how big, I think one of the reasons why I have my hands in a couple of different places is just to keep the options open and figure out what I really want to do. For example, one of the benefits about working with Michael from domain magnet is they they’re setting up fonts.
and so I’m part of that process where I’m learning about it, seeing the legal side, the logistical side, that’s kind of been very interesting to me.
Spencer: And what’s, what’s your role there? I mean, you’re, you’re kind of, are you just helping out as needed or do you have a specific, like responsibility that you’re doing on an ongoing basis?
Colin Ma: So my official title is deal manager. what I’m responsible for is looking at deals, websites to buy four domain magnet portfolio, both private and public sites. So, you know, I kind of scour all of the public listings, but. You know, at this point I’ve been in this space for a couple of years and I’m fairly active in the group.
So people will come into me because they know that I’m always looking to buy or there, I mean, previously it was for myself, but now it’s for domain magnet. And so now I get some inbound leads. so just through personal connections and then I also help them sell some of their websites when they’re ready to sell.
So really it’s just, you know, I don’t do any actual, like SEO for them. I look at deals, I’ll do some due diligence and then make my recommendations, but yeah, nothing, nothing too involved.
Spencer: Yeah. No, that makes sense. And since we’re on sort of subjects of, I don’t know if you’d call it a side hustle or what, but, investing.io, how’d you how’d you get involved there.
Colin Ma: Yeah. I remember how I got involved, but I think I’ve been talking to Richard Petty who founded the newsletter initially. And he was just like, Oh yeah, like, do you want to help me like write, you know, newsletter? I’m like, yeah, that sounds cool. Like I actually like writing, I just don’t do it as much as I used to.
And then I’ve reviewed the deals anyway. So it was kind of just this perfect fit where, you know, it’s this like, Fun project, low time commitment, high visibility, that’s, you know, kind of giving back to the community, but also some extra money in the pocket. And so with that, it’s very low involvement, you know, spend a few hours a week writing up my review on deals, through most of the public marketplaces.
Every now, and then I’ll bring up some, some private deals to private opportunities, but a very low time commitment, but it’s a lot of fun because people will actually send me private messages about just like, you know, thoughts on deals and I’ll be able to help them out in a pretty specific way. And that the thing about on Facebook, like when I make a post, I get a ton of comments to kind of, messages, but a lot of them like.
You kind of have to filter out who you respond to, I think, and I’m sure you understand this, or you get a lot of messages from people who maybe aren’t as committed or serious. With the investing IO community, everyone’s paying for the platform. So everyone’s like fairly serious or experienced. And so, you know, they’re going to take action on what you’re saying.
cause I love helping out people, but most of the time people don’t take action and then it’s just kind of a waste of time on in my eyes. Yeah.
Spencer: The investing.io group is, I mean, it’s impressive. I mean, any chance you have to work with somebody like Richard Petty and Travis Jamison. Super smart guys. but then just everybody in the group as well, like I’m in the group and I know a ton of the guys there they’re really successful entrepreneurs.
and so if you have the opportunity to kind of exchange ideas and interact with people like that, you know, it’s a, win-win right. You get paid and you get to interact with, all those people there. So I, I think it’s smart, to, to be able to do that, as well. So. What, what are you currently working on?
You sold your site in July and, did you buy another site or are you just building something from scratch?
Colin Ma: Yeah, so those were my two biggest sites, you know, I always have a portfolio running, anywhere from like five to 10 websites. and so after selling those two, I had. Maybe a few sites that I were a year old at that point.
And then I built another like five sites over two months. So, wow. That’s something that we had never done before. so that was kind of like a crazy two months where, you know, I think in the, at most over two months we built two sites. and so kind of going after, you know, five sites in different niches, you know, with our team, that was a crazy period, but.
so those are still pretty young. I think we built those like October, November. but there’s one site that I started December of last year. So I was just over a year old, actually on an expired domain. and so that, that was really taken off, you know, the trajectory on that site was, was doing really well.
and still is, you know, I was. You know, just on his current trajectory of like, okay, you know, maybe flip this in like, you know, two years for like mid high six figures. and then the December update happened and the site got here by about 40%. It wasn’t terrible. I know other people were hit harder than that.
and it’s just like, at that point, like I’d been hit by enough updates. I was like, it’s just part of the game. So that was probably like the first time I got hit by an update where I wasn’t like, just extremely sad and depressed about the site. but I just said, you know what, I’m just going to keep working on it as if it was never hit.
And, you know, a month later in January, we’re actually just, just under, our best numbers. So it more or less recovered for. Two reasons. One, I think there was a small January update that I think undid some of the hurt that the December update did. And then two, we started, well, actually, no real too. I mean, I think a lot of it was, was the January update, but I think it helped to just continue our normal process.
We kept building links and kept, you know, doing articles so that, you know, they all started to get indexed and ranking as well as. I think, I think actually the biggest thing for this site that I’ve, I’ve done differently is our content cadence for this site now. And since probably November, we’ve been publishing about one post a day.
And you know, for me, that’s, that’s a lot of content for a site. You know, usually we do one. You know, one to two posts a week, maybe three or four for bigger sites, but you know, I’ve, I’ve been reading this theory about like, you know, content velocity is a ranking factor and being sites just start ranking.
So it was like, okay, you know, the site’s making enough money and we’re seeing enough traction. Let’s, let’s try this out. And so we’ve been just hammering it with content, doing one post a day on average. and I think that might be another factor, but it’s, it’s just really hard to take and attribute one thing that you’re doing to like, why site is doing well or poorly.
So, but that’s my theory.
Spencer: Yeah. So how much content does that site have now, approximately
Colin Ma: now it probably off the top of my head. It probably has like 250 articles. Okay. yeah. And so we’ve, we’ve done probably half of that in the past three or four months. Yeah.
Spencer: So, no, that makes sense. I, you know, I think there’s something to be said for content velocity. I haven’t actually tested that, but at the end of the day, you’re going to end up with a lot more content. Anyways, that ages overhaul it. You know, six or eight months. And so, you know, it’s not a bad thing anyways.
so you mentioned a little bit that you’ve got a team, what’s kind of the roles of everybody in your team. What does that look like? Just, you know, if people are wanting to maybe scale a portfolio of sites, you know, maybe they can get some of those insights on how they might be able to build a team like that.
Colin Ma: Yeah. So I would say. Probably the first person to, to hire, even if they’re not in house to be a freelance writer. when I first started, I spent, you know, probably six to eight hours on a single article, when I was working on my pool site and these were like 4,005,000 words. And I’m, it’s not that I’m a slow writer.
I think I’m a fairly quick writer in that I do close to a thousand words an hour. but it was just a pain, you know, working full time and then just. Pumping out like two articles a week, easily, like 10 to 15 hours on top of format and everything else. So writers, definitely the first thing I would recommend hiring and then secondly, people to kind of like format the content.
So I never refer to the people I work with as VAs. I think it’s kind of dehumanizing. I, I prefer to give them like, kind of like real roles and titles. And so like, instead of like content designer or like, or like a format or, or VA, I call them like my content designers. it’s a little more of a fun title.
And so, you know, for me, I hated one writing and then two just formatting those articles. And I think when you hire people, You know, you can the same people, like depending on who you are, you shouldn’t hire the same person as someone else just, it should reflect kind of like gaps in your own interests and expertise.
But like, for me, I hate design. I’m not good at design. and I hate repetitive tasks. And so like that was like the next clear hire, just hiring someone to be able to. Make things pretty look good and actually care a little more than I do about how the posts look. and that’s awesome because I’ve, I’ve been working with the same person for like three years now.
And there’ll be like, Hey, I think for this new site, we should do like a new, you know, design. Like, what do you think? I’m like, yeah, that sounds good. Like, just send me, you know, mock-ups and so like this person who actually like cares about it, they’re doing a way better job than me. They put in the time and energy and, you know, cause if it were up to me, Probably all like 20, 25 sites that I built would have like almost the same template, but because this person is like caring and thinking about it, we are actually able to vary it up and improve our designs.
Yeah. but that’s not a full-time role. Their first full-time role that I hired for, He’s been with me for like three or four years. He is, I call him kind of like a content SEO manager. So he’s responsible for everything to do with content. So at this point for the content creation phase, I just help with the initial keyword research.
But, you know, from there he’s actually, once we have all the keywords lined up, he’ll choose the keywords, the info articles, look at how many words we should do. you know, create the outlines for writers. so you ended all communication with writers and then he’ll edit them and to make sure he works with our content designers to get formatted.
So he basically takes care of almost everything to do with content. Right. And then, I’m still teaching him a little more about like specific things for like on-page SEO. So as far as like, you know, interlinking, anchor, text selection, and, and some other. Trickier aspects of on-page SEO. he’s still kind of figuring out, but it’s, it’s a continual learning process as I kind of focus some more high level things, and then he kind of focuses and learns more of what I’m doing.
So he’s kind of like my right hand man there. Yeah.
Spencer: So where have you found success, hiring people? What, any, any specific place that you found good people at?
Colin Ma: Yeah, so, you know, a lot of people hire from the Philippines and. My two newest hires are from the Philippines, but I have had good success so far with hiring from Serbia, Serbia.
Really? Yeah. And the way I started that, my first, my very first business partner, he actually, he and I actually worked on the pool together a little bit. He was from Serbia and he was like, 19 year old at the time, I was like, barely any older, like 23, 24. And you know, we were like, Oh yeah, like we need more writers just cause like, we need more help with this.
And it’s like, Oh, like my old English teacher. you know, could be interested. So, you know, this gentleman who’s now, you know, my full-time employee and manager, like he taught this guy English like 15 years ago and then just started riding first in the beginning, saw that he was doing great work. He was eager to learn.
So eventually when my business partner left, I hired him. But so far, like what I like about like the Serbians I’ve worked so far is like, they’re all really hardworking, open to feedback. and they have a lot of integrity with the work that they do. and so I’m able to trust a lot of the work that they do and that they’re going to ask the right questions.
I think culturally though, hiring people from like Philippines and Serbia for that matter, they’re very different as far as like how they think, like, especially more. So I think it’s a bigger problems maybe with like a bigger problem with maybe some of the Filipinos that I’ve worked with thus far, not saying this is true generally.
but, but you know, they seem to be better at like taking specific instructions for specific tasks. Whereas, you know, if you’re from the U S you’re probably better thinking you’re better at thinking like. More higher level, and, and do more project planning and understanding the context more. But like these people who are usually like looking for overseas work as, you know, quote unquote virtual assistants, again, I hate that term, but they usually look for very specific instructions.
And so for me, where I’m used to working with more like people from the U S professionally, that was, that took some adjustment. Right. I would give them what I thought were good instructions. And they might be for someone who’s from the U S. But then, you know, for people from other countries, it’s not as clear.
And like, they don’t really understand that they have to do more research and look into it. They just want everything kind of like tied up listed as a very specific standard operating procedure or SOP. And so for the first few months, fortunately with the first guy I’ve worked with it, wasn’t a problem, but like the next few people from Serbia, we had hired, we had to create very specific SOP because the first two months, it just wasn’t working now.
But it, I realized that that wasn’t on them and that was more of a problem with us and the way we were delegating tasks. And so that was a big mind, a mindset shift that was kind of required of us and how I view things, because I do think very high level and I don’t love getting into the weeds. So I had to take the time to create these very specific SOP like video instructions, and just outlined tasks.
Spencer: And I mean, the great thing once you’re able to do that, because I’ve had to do the same thing, I’ve noticed similar things, right? Is that once you do get a standard operating procedure, like it, it becomes a lot easier if that person were to leave, right. You can plug somebody else into that position.
And, it may require you to think through like, all the steps so that you do get the quality content or the on page SEO that you really wanted anyways. But, that, that comes with the game, right? Like we’re, we’re able to sort of take wage arbitrage right. From people that are overseas and, and it’s a good full-time income from them.
Right. But for us, it’s obviously a much more cost effective way to hire. And so, having to go through those steps, I guess, is not that big of a deal, big of a deal at the end of the day. so, first of all, Colin, thanks for coming on the show. You’ve shared a lot of great, strategies and tips. And of course I shared a couple of years success stories.
if people want to stay in touch with you or follow along with you, or,
Colin Ma: yeah, so they can either just hit my Facebook up at facebook.com/call and Elma. And I can, I can messages too, to, or through my personal email call and Elmo gmail.com.
Spencer: Awesome. Thank you. once again, it’s great having you on the show, going from, building niche site on swimming pools and glad you found niche pursuits and saw some examples, that maybe helped out there as well.
But, yeah, it sounds like you’re doing good things and, scaling up and got a team. So, love it. Thanks for coming on and sharing your story.
Colin Ma: Yeah, Spencer. Thanks for having me. It’s a blast.