I acquired a new website! The website is in the lucrative VPN niche and will be a 100% public case study open to all! You can follow along with exactly what I am doing each month.
The VPN niche is one of the toughest niches with big players. The majority of case studies done by niche website builders are in low-competition niches. I tend to shy away from that and target high-competition, lucrative keywords, as I’ve already done in the dating niche.
Now, I am going after the VPN niche.
In this first write-up, I will be covering the following:
- Acquisition details (summary, revenues, purchase price)
- Due diligence process at a glance
- Why I purchased the site
- Improvements in February 2022
- Plans for March 2022
- [Exclusive] Site Teardown by Charles Floate
Let’s get into it!
📊 Website Summary, Revenues, Purchase Price
Here is a high-level summary of the acquired website:
- Purchase price: $33,000, off-market through a referral
- Niche: Technology
- AHREFS DR: 51
- Referring Domains: 1,970
- Backlinks: 6,450
- Monetization: affiliate programs
- Age: August 2001, site live in 2019
- Rebranded from TopVPNCanada.com to generic VPNOnline.com
This website is focused on all things related to VPNs. It educates the audience on which VPN is best, how to set it up, how to protect your privacy, and other related topics.
The domain itself is aged since August 2001. In the traditional sense, it’s not an “aged domain with existing backlinks“. The domain was purchased fresh from a domain investor and then a website was built on it.
Revenue Breakdown By Source
The website 5 different revenue streams from different VPN providers. Here is the breakdown over the last 7 months:
NordVPN brings in the majority of the revenues, with Surfshark and ExpressVPN at a close second.
Acquired at 25X Monthly Multiple for $33,000
As for revenues, the numbers were as follows when purchased:
- L1M (January 2022): $881
- L3M: $1,317
- L6M: $1,328
I paid $33,000 for this site. We used the L6M average.
The VPN niche, in general, peaks in Q3 and Q4 of each year due to the extensive amounts of discounts given by the VPN brands. The earnings are much lower in Q1 and Q2 of each year.
The seller was adamant to use an L6M average to capture the higher-earning months only. Even with that, I was able to get the multiple down to cover for the risk in the off-season months.
There are two levers you can pull when negotiating: (1) multiple, and (2) and time period of average earnings.
Traffic Overview: Last 12 Months
The site used Clicky analytics as opposed to Google Analytics. The traffic metrics over the last 12-months are shown below:
Here is the Google Search Console snapshot:
👉 The Due Diligence Process
My detailed due diligence framework explains exactly what I look for when buying a website. Here is an overview the framework applied to this site.
High-Level Due Diligence Questions
Here are some of the questions I think about when I look at a deal.
- Website URL: Is the URL brandable? Are there any trademark/copyright issues?
- Traffic Trend: Which direction is traffic trending? Stable, upwards, or downwards?
- Toxic Links: Any easy-to-spot toxic links?
- Monetization Sources: What are the monetization sources? Are they scalable?
- Top traffic pages: is traffic diversified throughout various pages?
- Niche seasonality: is the niche seasonal leading to cash flow seasonality?
For this site, the URL was nicely branded with no trademark issues. The traffic trend was stable and somewhat growing. There were no toxic links. The monetization sources are diversified and with lucrative terms.
Due Diligence Red Flags
There were red flags though with this site that would usually force me to rethink. They are:
- Top pages gets 80% of traffic
- Exact mach 301 redirect to a silo page (TopVPNCanada.com goes to /ca/best-vpn/ page)
- No Google Analytics, seller used Clicky analytics
With that said, I still bought it, and here’s why.
The page that gets 80%+ traffic does not drive actual sales. It’s a roundup post that’s not buyer intent. The revenue is generated mostly from the other guides that get significantly less traffic. This was a plus point. It showed me that small amounts of traffic in this niche can be lucrative.
The exact match 301 was done nicely. The previous owner had a Canadian VPN site. Then he bought VPNOnline to cover other markets. He redirected the Canadian site to a silo page on VPNOnline. It’s been live for 2 years now and doing well.
Not having Google Analytics is a pain because I cannot just integrate it with my EasyDiligence.io dashboard. The seller was using Clicky analytics so it took me extra time to look through the numbers. Not a deal-breaker but just a hassle.
🙋 Why Was This Site Purchased?
As stated earlier, not many easy wins on this site where I could 10X my revenues immediately. I bought this site because of the long-term value and high payouts.
Branded Traffic With Main Keywords, “VPN Online”
The domain, VPNOnline, is a keyword match with the keyword, “VPN Online”. The homepage ranks in the top 5 for this keyword.
Here is the AHREFs snapshot for this keyword showing a 3,700 search volume monthly:
Over the last 28 days, Google Search Console shows the term “VPN online” bringing in around 4,000 clicks. Check out the screenshot:
This keyword is lucrative and only possible due to the strong brandable domain.
5 Active Revenue Streams
The site has the following revenue streams that actively generate revenue:
- Private Internet Access (PIA)
There are other revenue possibilities from VPN services like PureVPN, Ivacy, ProtonVPN, TunnelBear, Hotspot Shield, VyprVPN, and more. These bring in revenue here and there but not consistently.
Lucrative Cost-Per-Action (CPA) Payouts
The amazing aspect of the VPN industry is all brands pay on a CPA model. This means the affiliate gets a fixed payment for driving a sale. This is similar to my dating site case study where I get paid anywhere from $60 to $160 per sale.
VPN payouts range from $30 to $90 per sale depending on the brand.
This allows a site with minimal traffic to generate significant revenue.
Well Designed Website
The website is extremely well-designed. It has high-converting templates with comparison tables, popups, sidebar CTAs, and much more.
While there are small things I will be doing to improve conversions, the majority of the work has been done by the previous owners.
Significant Amount of Keywords Available
The VPN niche has a significant amount of keywords and volume. This is not only a US market but worldwide. The other major benefit is that the VPN providers pay equally for international vs tier 1 country customers.
This means my site can target low-competition keywords that are in other geographic and get paid the same as the high-competition geographies (like the US).
Quality Backlinks Through HARO Outreach
A large HARO outreach campaign was done by the previous owner. They’ve obtained links from LegalZoom, Databox, Lifewire, BambooHR, Money, and much more.
However, there are a handful of links that are low-quality and need to be replaced. I will be building replacement links.
In short, the high DR of 50+ has been obtained with these authority links from HARO. That is allowing this site to rank for high-difficulty keywords.
💸 Improvements Done in February 2022
February was the first almost full month I’ve managed the site. Google Analytics was installed on February 2nd. Here is the last 30 days traffic:
The goal is to increase pageviews, but also to improve the average session duration. This can be done by introducing internal links and improving content quality.
Revenues & Costs Update
The revenues and costs were as follows:
- Revenues: $959
- Costs: $2,340
- Profit: -$1,331
The cost breakdown was as follows:
- Content Updates & Editing: $1,600
- New content: $340
- VPN service subscriptions: $100
- SEO specialist: $300
I have one writer that works on this project at $40/hour to do content updates. He also writes content at $40 per article fixed. My SEO specialist builds outlines for new content, content audits, keyword research, and more for $30/hour.
4 New Major Hires
For this website, I received a few employee contacts who worked on this from the previous owner and also brought on board my team.
The original team that was working on this site included:
- Original VA: $6/hour
- HARO specialists: $6/pitch
I brought on my team as follows:
- Tech Writer: $40/article, or $40/hour for edits, software testing, etc.
- SEO specialist: $30/hour
The original VA was the same person who designed this entire website, did content formatting, popups, CTAs, etc. He is someone I will keep long-term on my team as he has been trained by the previous owner over a 5-year time frame.
The HARO specialists are still being onboarded. Two of them built links to this site and they charge per pitch. I will be using them for this site plus my other ones. My SEO specialist works on my entire portfolio.
Hand-Tested 12 VPN Services
As a first step, I wanted my technical writer to understand the ins and outs of each VPN. His process was a follows:
- Signup to each VPN service covered on the site (total of 12)
- Test them all through the trial period (usually 7 days)
- Update each individual service review articles with up-to-date features, new pricing, etc.
Now my writing is a true expert on each VPN and how to use them. He was able to use his knowledge gained during testing to thoroughly update each review.
Updated 45 Existing Buying Guides
After testing the VPNs and updating review content, my writer updated 45 buying guides on the site. This included the following:
- Rewrite content if the grammar was poor
- Add new subsections like FAQs
- Update pricing, features, and statistics of each VPN covered in the guides
- Add external links to high-quality references
This entire process took him the entire month of February.
Revamped 98 Title Tags
The previous owners did not do a good job of writing good titles for the different articles.
My SEO specialist did an audit and shortlisted 98 articles where title tags could be improved. Here is what he did to improve:
- Reduce unncessary filler words (e.g., “the”, “and”)
- Added main high-volume keywords
- Add numbers to titles
- Add date (e.g., 2022)
- Keep the title within the character count required by Google
Performed Keyword Research
My SEO specialist did keyword research to pinpoint low-competition keywords. February was primarily for updating existing content so we were not able to focus a ton on new content.
Here is a snapshot of the spreadsheet he created to keep track of new keywords we will target over time:
🆕 Growth Plans for March 2022
Here are my plans for March:
- Content updates: 48 articles remaining that need to be updated
- New Content: Add 10 new articles
- Redesign: VA will design a Footer and About Us page
- Redesign: VA will improve call-to-actions to “stand out” more
- New Backlinks: I will work with my SEO specialist to source new backlinks (at least 3-4 links)
- Add Link Tracking: migrate to a proper affiliate link software like Clickmagick to track where sales are generate
👉 Site Teardown by Charles Floate
Charles Floate, a 14-year veteran in SEO and an “internet” friend, did a detailed 20-min live teardown of this website. He provides a ton of excellent tips that I will be implementing.