In January of 2021, we acquired this business for $160,743 as a result of a private deal that Colin Ma had found. At the time of acquisition, the site was making $4,500/month on average over the past 12 months.
Over the past 14 months, we grew the site to over $9,000/month on average the past 6 months. The site is currently growing, with a $10,500/month average over the past 6 months and with the most recent month (April 2022) hitting an all-time high – less than $100 shy of $13,000 despite April historically being a relatively low month.
Additionally, in January of 2022, the affiliate program which drives 80% of the site’s income, actually reduced payouts by 20%. Impressively, the income has been growing despite reduced payouts.
Acquiring The Site
What we liked about the site:
- 7+ years old
- Evergreen education niche with plenty of room to grow
- Most traffic from UK but also ranked for US keywords
- Good EAT with plenty of real videos made by the original owners
- Opportunities to improve on-page and technical SEO
- Had its own info product
- Brandable Domain
- Great natural links
Looking at Growth Potential
We saw that the site had peaked a few years earlier, understanding that it was possible to 3x the site. With plenty of pages ranking on the 2nd page and a lucrative affiliate program, we were confident we could increase rankings and improve affiliate sales.
We also saw the site was primarily just getting traffic from the UK. Our idea was to make more content to capture the US market, which is very large.
With a brandable in a lucrative niche and with online learning growing, we saw that this site had so much potential to grow to new content verticals and use different lucrative affiliate programs.
Finally, we saw an easy win in adding display ads. The site had no display ads and was just 100% affiliate and saw this as an easy opportunity to add an extra 10%-20% of revenue.
Summary of Progress
Although the site had been successful it was past its prime. In fact, when we acquired the site it was just getting 1/3 the traffic it did in its prime of 2017 when it was getting essentially 100,000 visitors a month.
However, this didn’t bother us due to the fact that we knew it was a quality business. In fact, when the owner explained he just hadn’t been working on the site it made sense – the posts were outdated, had broken links, and there were plenty of things we knew we could do to improve the site.
That said, for most of 2021 the site didn’t really pick up until our new manager took over the site in October. In fact, almost all of the growth has been in the past six months, which you can see below:
However, we’re positive the work we did in 2021 helped boost the site as well – SEO can sometimes be more of a slow burn than seeing a quick pump. It helps that we decided to reinvest almost everything into the site and taking a content-heavy approach to grow the site even more.
Focusing on Content
With any new site it’s easy to want to go after new, lucrative verticals in a niche and sometimes that’s the way to go. However, our methodology is to double down on the winners to really establish topical relevance and go deep in a topic before expanding.
We always employ a heavy content strategy and went from 35 posts at the time of acquisition to now over 293 published. This helped increase our organic keywords in the top 100 as well as boost our traffic:
Doubling Down on Our Top Content Silos
There were two content silos that were ranking – the first that generated affiliate sales and the second that generated sales to our own info product.
We also decided to initially keep targeting UK traffic instead of expanding to US traffic. The new posts were ranking well very quickly without building links due to the topical authority of the site, which gave us the motivation to continue going hard on the content.
Both content silos ran out of feasible topics and we decided to expand on some winning US traffic content silos. It’s always tricky getting traffic from another country and we weren’t sure how this would work out. However, we mentioned earlier we liked that the site was already getting traffic from the US. Even though it was only 6%, this gave us the confidence to try to go after the largest applicable market.
We knew winning US traffic would be pivotal in gaining more traffic overall. It took a little more time, but the US traffic really started picking up in Q4 2021 to where it is today:
At this point we had added 30 more posts targeting US traffic and have doubled down on targeting more lucrative US keywords. US traffic now represents 36% of our visitors, a 6x from when we acquired it.
The previous owner had essentially stopped content production. Immediately we started doing 10 posts/month.
In Q4 2021 we started doing 30 posts/month, and in Q1 2022 we’ve ramped that up to 70. We’re going to continue to reinvest heavily into the site as there is still a lot of room to grow and a lot of US traffic that we are targeting.
We’ll likely keep it at 70 for another few months to see if the site will continue to grow and if it does we’ll likely bump it up to 100/month.
We didn’t do anything crazy with link building here. The site already had some solid, natural home page links including links from Wikipedia, New York Times, and other large publications.
In fact, almost all of the links were going to the home page. While this is good for the site’s DR the interlinking wasn’t great (more on this later) so a lot of the link juice wasn’t flowing through the site (which we improved).
Building Links to the Right Pages
So we started building links entirely to interior pages – to both money pages and informational pages, which help improve rankings more than home page links. However, this isn’t what you should do on your own projects necessarily. You want a good balance of links to the home page AND interior pages, as it can be a bit spammy to have too many links going to interior pages.
Working on Link Velocity
We started building about 5 links a month just to get it going and we have now ramped it up to about 10-15. It’s not a huge increase, but we’ve seen the site react better to more content. Additionally, the niche isn’t too competitive so the content doesn’t need a ton of links.
The content is already winning relatively easily but we want to at least give it a little gasoline in the form of links to help fuel the fire. Ahrefs is showing almost 3X in referring domains (RDs) here from 440 to about 1150. We did increase the number of RDs here, but a lot of the increase also came from natural spam.
Apart from content, the on-page SEO work we did for this project was probably the most important.
The original owner did not know a lot about SEO whereas our site managers are content site specialists. They were able to identify a number of opportunities that would improve the site short term. Some of the opportunities we saw:
- Linked to important pages from the home page
- Implemented a soft silo structure to improve internal linking and optimize juice flow
- Updated old content multiple times in waves
- Add FAQs and schema
- Did Surfer SEO on top pages
There weren’t a lot of major issues with the site since it was relatively small. We did crawl the site with both Screaming Frog and Ahrefs to get rid of some canonicalization issues, link out to orphan pages, and fix some meta title and meta description limit problems. Ahrefs score isn’t everything, but we think it’s a decent indicator. In fixing the above we went from 68 to now a 99:
There are certainly some other things we could do to improve beyond the 11 “Errors”. We’re not too worried about all 1,108 “Warnings”, and we’ll try to get to some of them at some point. But like with any business it’s about prioritizing properly and we’re not overly concerned about the remaining warnings.
Improving Site Speed
However, the biggest change we implemented was setting up a CDN. The site originally was just optimized for UK traffic so it made sense why the original owner didn’t have one.
However, we understood how valuable the US traffic was and could be so setting up the site on a paid version of Cloudflare with Argo was a priority to us.
This move not only reduced the average loading time of visitors in the US but also reduced UK loading time by about 20%. Not only did this help decrease bounce rate, but it helped improve time on page and increased page views per visitor by more than 10%.
Getting onto a CDN definitely helped our site speed, but we’re still not passing web core vitals and have some work cut out for us to pass, which we are confident will increase rankings and conversions even more.
Overall, we’re very pleased with the growth of the site. We have more than doubled the revenue of the site and grown it in a very healthy and sustainable fashion, adding an additional $150K+ in value. However, we’re not quite satisfied yet.
We are still investing heavily into the site as the niche is huge and leading competitors are still more than 5x the size of this size. With our heavy content strategy, continued on-page SEO, and strategic link building we’re aiming to capture more market share for this website to turn into a recognized brand within the space.