5 Key Takeaways from My Non-Success Story

5 Key Takeaways from My Non-Success Story

How You Can Learn From These Mistakes!

I don’t know about you, but I love reading success stories. 

It’s captivating, even inspiring, to think that, one day, with a bit of hard work and consistent effort – that could be you next. 

But what happens when we’re faced with our own non-success story? Ouch!

This, unfortunately, is always on the cards. You run a risk of failure in anything in life, but in this realm of buying and selling websites, a failure like I experienced, can almost entirely be avoided.

Let’s learn from my mistakes.

The Mistake, Context & A Bit of Background

For the past few years I have been dabbling in affiliate marketing, web development, search engine optimization and combining knowledge within these areas with the acquisition and growth of websites.

On a day-to-day basis, I use Flippa’s filters and email alerts to stay updated on the latest additions to the marketplace. I have a very particular criteria so it’s easy to get excited when I get pinged “New Website” alerts for these.

I came across a fantastic-looking site that was quickly growing in a unique niche, and I felt confident I could handle content, SEO, and other miscellaneous tasks to develop. So I jumped the gun:

The listing originally was an auction starting from $10k. The attractive elements to me were:

  1. The organic traction (keywords and traffic in the organic channel). This is my bread and butter as an SEO expert.
  2. Brandability (beautiful site, beautiful name, clean).
  3. Content marketing was superb (lots of original, unique existing content).

Also, from my perspective – it was under-monetised and a high-risk but potential high-reward move (cosplay events during covid, all cancelled – but could return in 2021, 2022) – I knew it would always be a waiting game, but I was willing to give it a go.

I subsequently put in a bid for $15k. But I wanted to stifle the competition and ensure I won the auction, so I got impulsive and offered the buyer $20k BIN and he agreed.

And so I added website number 12 to my portfolio. And on that note, let’s move on to…

Mistake #1: Purchasing A Website Based on Emotion & Gut Feel

I purchased the website on a whim. I think it’s safe to say that this is the #1 mistake you can make when looking to buy websites.

When it comes down to it, there are 2 types of people who have been successful in buying and selling websites: those who use their emotions and gut feelings to guide them, and then there’s the ones who are highly analytical – using copious amounts of data to base their decision on. Be the latter, use business acumen.

Once you get excited and jump onto a website purchase, it’s so easy to go with the flow of emotions and convince yourself that it’ll work out. I didn’t have time to do my due diligence on this website, so I made an impulsive decision. An expensive one!

Key Takeaway: Don’t get impulsive or emotional about investments. Put emotion to the side and get out the spreadsheets. Do your due diligence.

Mistake #2: Made An Impulsive Direct Offer On The Website

There’s a reason why Flippa has the live auction feature, it’s to allow for negotiation to take place. I should have taken advantage of this, but, instead I psyched myself into thinking that this was “too good to be true”, it was going to be snapped up and I made a direct offer to the seller.

No doubt, this can work in your favor sometimes. But make sure you still do your due diligence and the website is in a niche you’re extremely comfortable with growing.

Key Takeaway: Use time to your advantage. Be patient. Come back to the deal in 24 hours, if it gets snapped up – move on. There will be more relevant opportunities in the future.

Mistake #3: I attempted to predict the future. And didn’t plan ahead.

This particular niche and situation is more complicated that I’m making it seem. For example, at the time of purchasing the site (March 2021) the situation with the pandemic was still unclear and that directly affected the niche of the website – cosplay.

There were lots of risks with this site. But I was betting against them. Would conventions be a thing this year and next? Would Halloween be able to “go ahead”?

The optimist in me assumed that everything would be fine and the year ahead would be a boom year, to make up for the lack of previous activity in this industry.

Note to self, I am not a prophet nor a fortune teller. You aren’t either.

Key Takeaway: Leave guesswork out of the equation. This, again, is an investment and you need to accurately predict the state of the market ahead.

Mistake #4: Absolutely nothing constructive was done. I did nothing!

This, in a way, wasn’t my fault. My business model completely pivoted from 100% affiliate marketing for my own websites to creating a search marketing service which I provide for clients.

And my client base grew to the neglect of my affiliate portfolio. As a result, I did next to nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I knew exactly what to do in order to grow the site, I had the SOP’s, the plans (in my head) and the strategy all worked out. But I became 1. time poor, 2. frankly, a bit lazy and 3. uninterested.

Read into shiny object syndrome. It hits hard sometimes. This was a shiny object that I was excited about at first but 1 month later, that feeling had long dissipated.

Key Takeaway: Don’t invest in something that requires your input if you imagine yourself being distracted throughout the year. Acquiring a website is a medium to long term endeavour (in my experience, unless you flip fast).

Mistake #5: Picking a niche that I had zero experience or enthusiasm in.

Look, I’ve established that I bought the website for the wrong reasons from an investment standpoint. But I also didn’t think about the road ahead and was going against my previous advice (I’ve written about this exact point before).

I picked a website in the cosplay niche. And I’ve never cosplayed. In fact, the first costume I’ve ever bought was this year:

And I forgot to wear it! But I promise I will next year, for the kids.

Anyway, learn from me. Stick to your expertise, be a subject matter expert and leverage this in your affiliate marketing efforts.

Key Takeaway: Get involved in industries or niches that you have a real passion for. Buy a website that gets you excited to write about and research for.

So What Exactly Happened?

From an SEO standpoint, the site was a success but this is mostly due to the content that existed before. Here’s a look at the traffic value.

Even organic traffic increased:

To be fair to myself, I did keep the website updated, ran SEO campaigns and did all of my usual SEO based activities. However, from a content standpoint, nothing was done.

In the end, I realised it was a bad investment and wanted to cut my losses. So, I rushed the process and now am in the middle of selling the website in question for a 4-figure loss. 

Bonus key takeaway: Have an exit strategy when buying websites. 

Conclusion and Wrap Up

My advice to you is, don’t let it turn into this. Let this be your failure therapy and learn.

If you’ve acquired a website, dedicate yourself to it. No excuses will fly here. Treat it as an investment and not another stream of income or passive activity that requires little effort from your end.

It’s a medium-long term endeavour and if an opportunity presents itself, you should be ready to act on it.

And finally, when starting out in affiliate marketing or buying websites in general, seek advice from people who are experienced in the field. It will save you a lot of trouble.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve found some value here. Feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to connect.

    Jamie is the Director and Search Marketing expert of Straight Up Search, successfully driving organic growth for my own websites and clients since 2016. One of my most recent case studies delivered year on year organic growth of 310% (achieved via the 4 pillars of SEO - KW research, off-page, on-page and content strategy). Plus a sprinkling of Digital PR 🤫.

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