When NZ-based seller, who wishes to remain anonymous, bid $9,000 for a domain AllAboutCookies.org in 2008, he never anticipated selling it for $5.2 million dollars 14 years later.
Despite his incredible success, curveballs were thrown—including the time Google put a complete ban on his Adsense account.
We sat down with the seller to understand his journey with buying, building, and selling AllAboutCookies.org.
About the Business
AllAboutCookies.org is–you guessed it– a website all about cookies.
But we’re not talking about the edible kind, we’re referring to browser cookies or tracking cookies. They are small often encrypted text files located in browser directories.
They are used by web developers to help users navigate their websites efficiently and perform certain functions. The site is focused on general data privacy regulation compliance (GDPR), privacy, and web security.
So, how did a website all about cookies become a multi-million dollar success?
You’re about to find out.
The Beginning of the Cookie Revolution
Domain names are big business where a lot of money is at stake—but this wasn’t always the case.
In the early 2000s, the seller realised expired domains were selling cheap. “You could pick them up for their registration price at $8-$10,” he explains, “so I started buying a few of these.”
At the time, the seller was driving taxis for a living. With his first child on the way, he wanted to find other lucrative ways to build up his nest egg.
The seller said he didn’t know much about computers before he got started, and his first was a Commodore 64.
It wasn’t until 2005 that the registries started waking up to fact that they were sitting on a gold mine with these expired domains.
“The owners were letting these sites expire and forgetting the fact that they still held a lot of value. Many had legitimate websites on them, and a healthy backlink profile to drive organic traffic,” the seller explains.
So instead of letting them expire and scooped up by the next buyer for chump change, the registries began auctioning off expired domains to make some profit.
Allaboutcookies.org was one such domain.
“It had a website on it previously, owned by a media privacy company based in Europe. They let it expire, possibly because they thought cookies lost their relevance at the time,” he explains.
The starting bid was $60. With cookies still being relevant in the seller’s eyes, he made the bold (and winning) bid of $9,000 to secure this domain.
Interestingly, the same company that let it expire tried to buy it back once they clued onto the growing success and potential of AllAboutCookies.org once the seller took over.
Early Signs of Success
The seller leveraged the website’s previous content and put it into a number of different European languages.
This was before The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effective as a regulation in 2018.
“I got a lot of links that way. When Google had page rank, it turned out AllAboutCookies.org was a page rank of 9 out of 10, nearly as important as Google itself!”
Even to this day, the domain analysis for AllAboutCookies.org looks strong. Source
And the links kept growing.
“I had a small amount of Adsense on it at the time, but I wasn’t trying to commercialise it. It never really made a lot of money in the beginning—maybe around $100 a day,” the seller explains.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
Two Google Bans & One Account Suspension Later
After a while, the seller was notified of a high number of invalid traffic pointing to the website.
It was coming from a US Fortune 500 company that created a bunch of spammy sites linking to AllAboutCookies.org.
After Google issued a warning, the seller managed to block the invalid traffic.
But it kept happening. A month later, they suspended him again.
Once the US began introducing cookie policies, more fake sites appeared and linked to AllAboutCookies.org. This resulted in more invalid traffic.
For the third and final time, Google completely banned the account.
Refusing to give up without a fight, the seller got in contact with experts in analytics and security to help him devise a plan to protest Google’s ban.
Together, they worked out what they could do to control the invalid traffic. This plan was proposed to Google and about a week later, Google accepted the proposal and AllAboutCookies.org was back in business.
What the seller didn’t know at the time, was that the silver lining was just around the corner.
What was the silver lining? (Hint: money) Photo by Simone Viani on Unsplash
The Unexpected Silver Lining
Although the seller experienced a large decline in traffic, he started to make more money than he was before.
“The funny thing is, although the traffic dropped, the price per click for the ads was increasing,” the seller explains. “It turned out the advertisers could now see this was real human traffic so they were bidding more! The US were paying up to $12NZD per click.”
His income went from $20,000NZD per month to $50,000NZD per month.
After 6-8 months of continual growth, he began conversations with Flippa.
“I have a Moz Top 500 website and I’m looking to sell it”
All About Cookies stats at the time of sale:
- Passive in nature
- An average of $56.8K monthly
- 267,000 monthly page views
- 100% Adsense (with substantial optimization opportunity)
- 92% margin
- 50.8M organically acquired backlinks I 321K referring domains
- Strong Search Engine Rankings Position (SERP) but with limited reliance given the enormous referrer traffic
For the seller, it was time to relax and unwind.
“The stress of coping with all this invalid traffic was enough,” he explained, “it still has potential but I wasn’t doing anything new. I was just checking the stats and counting the money. But there was always room for improvement.”
Unsurprisingly, the hard work certainly paid off. AllAboutCookies.org had serious business appeal.
During the time of sale, here are some of the impressive results:
When the website was acquired, it was generating over $300 per thousand page views consistently. In 2011, the website was averaging about $5 page RPM and around $400 RPM at the time of sale.
To add even more credibility, the AdSense site is referred by big-name sites like NYT.com, Linkedin, Spotify.com, Amnesty.org, and Samsung.com.
The buyer is a US based publisher with an excellent portfolio of rich content sites and will be optimizing the website for revenue. There’s optimal opportunities for continual growth, given that cookie regulatory policy is commonplace and the site is the single most relevant reference point for cookie-related information.
“The Professionalism from Flippa with the proposed buyer and arranging Zoom meetings is a testament to this great result,” the seller explains. “If I decide on selling any further of my domains I own, I’ll definitely use Flippa.”
As for the seller, this sale has opened up opportunities to use the money for something good. He explained he will be using the money to go towards developing a small island in Vanuatu where his partner is from and enjoy life as a retiree.
Out of 600,000 monthly searches AdSense sites are still number one on Flippa, searched more often than any other asset type or business model.
Inspired by this story? Read up on others who have successfully bought and sold their businesses here.
If you’re ready to sell, check out our First Time Seller’s Guide.
Like this buyer and seller, you too can master proper buyer and seller communications etiquette. We’ll show you how to that here.