How Celebrity Net Worth Uses Original Research to Get 16 Million Visitors a Month

Celebrity Net Worth has built a great business by satisfying our curiosity about just how rich our favorite celebs really are:

  • 16 million monthly visitors
  • 2 million keywords
  • 944,000 backlinks
  • $10M Estimated Annual Revenue

Let’s find out how they did it.

Where did the Idea for Celebrity Net Worth Come From?

The best ideas for new websites often come when you search Google and can’t find any good results.

In 2008 Brian Warner, one of the founders of Celebrity Net Worth (CNW) searched for “Larry David net worth” and didn’t find any quality results.

He tried lots of similar searches for other celebrities and was surprised that there were no high-quality websites writing about celebrities’ finances.

Later that year he launched Celebrity Net Worth at “celebnetworth.com”. He didn’t get the domain “celebritynetworth.com” until a year later when he bought it at auction for just $1,000.

How Much Traffic Does Celebrity Net Worth Get?

According to Semrush, Celebrity Net Worth gets more than 16 million visitors each month:

How Does Celebrity Net Worth Make Money?

CNW are part of the AdThrive ad network, and appear to make most of their revenue from the display ads shown on their website.

How Does Celebrity Net Worth Create Their Content?

According to CNW themselves, they use publicly available information and inside sources as the basis for their financial analysis.

They say they use a proprietary formula, taking into account salaries, real estate holdings, royalties, and more while subtracting taxes, fees, and other expenses.

Results are then fact-checked by their editors before publication, although they do admit that the net worth figures they publish are only estimates. They also solicit corrections at the bottom of each page:

In addition to the Net Worth figure, each celebrity’s page contains a detailed profile with photos licensed from Getty Images.

The site isn’t all celebrity profiles and financial information. They also write articles on related topics like Celebrity News, Celebrity Cars and Celebrity Homes as well as articles like “The 25 Richest People who Ever Lived”, “50 Richest Golfers” etc.

This original research distinguishes CNW from some competing sites that just republish CNW’s figures and link back to them as a source.

Years ago Matt Cutts of Google advised that publishing original research is one of the best ways to attract high-quality backlinks – and SEO gurus have been saying it ever since.

It’s certainly worked well for Celebrity Net Worth who, according to Ahrefs have attracted 944,000 backlinks to their articles and celebrity profiles:

These include lots of high-quality links like this DR 94 link from the New York Times, and other publications such as Huffington Post and FoxNews.com.

CNW also get lots of links from websites who want to rank for celebrity net worth terms, without doing the original research. See the section on Competition for more about this.

What Kind of Keywords Does Celebrity Net Worth Target?

All CNW’s most popular keywords follow exactly the same format as the query that Brian Warner typed into Google way back in 2008:

“[Celebrity Name] not worth it.”

Look at these top keywords:

Most of these search terms are for celebrities who are in the headlines at the time of writing: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard for their high-profile court case, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Chris Rock for Will Smith’s “Oscars punch”.

CNW gets a lot of traffic from searches for celebrities who are currently in the news.

Social Media doesn’t seem to be a priority for Celebrity Net Worth – there are no links to their social media accounts on their website.

Here are CNW’s follower numbers on their social accounts:

  • Facebook followers: 492,722
  • Twitter followers: 9,503
  • Instagram followers: 17,500

Their top pages on social media aren’t driving much traffic compared to organic search:

Competition

A great niche soon attracts competition and Celebrity Net Worth is no exception.

Less than 1% of their keywords are branded searches – so most people don’t search for them by name, leaving them vulnerable to competition.

Brian Warner has recently taken to Twitter to complain about competing sites out-ranking CNW just by using CNW’s research and linking to them as a source:

On the plus side, their original research means that CNW are getting lots of backlinks from websites citing them as a source – which helps CNW to rank for 2.2M organic keywords!

Google, Setbacks and Perseverance

As with many online businesses, it hasn’t all been plain sailing – CNW has experienced big setbacks along the way and founder Brian Warner has become a vocal critic of Google.

In 2019 Brian Warner submitted testimony to the House Subcommittee on Antitrust in which he was highly critical of Google’s business practices, and accused them of scraping data from CNW’s database and presenting it as if it was Google’s own intellectual property:

By 2014 we had a staff of 12 writers, developers and designers. We were thriving and even entertaining acquisition offers. At the time, I thought of our site as one of Google’s best partners and that we had limitless potential. I could never have imagined that within three very painful years CelebrityNetWorth would be brought to the brink of insolvency.

Today our traffic is 80% lower than it was in 2014. Our revenue and profits have dropped accordingly, which has forced me to cut our staff down to a bare bones team that operates at minimum hours to keep the site moving on life support.

But Brian didn’t give up.

Just 3 years after that testimony, Brian and the team have grown Celebrity Net Worth to 16 million monthly visitors and an estimated revenue of $10m, and it’s still growing!

What Can We Learn from the Success of Celebrity Net Worth?

Here are 3 takeaways online entrepreneurs can learn from Celebrity Net Worth:

  1. If search results are poor – that might be a gap in the market you could fill.
  2. Create quality content based on original research and others will link to you.
  3. Don’t give up. Persevere when things go wrong. Success is still possible.

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