Are you one of those lucky people with a knack for spotting the next up and coming trend? Have you got a great idea but aren’t sure exactly what to do with it? Websites and blogs can not only give you a creative outlet to share your ideas, but you can make money from them, too.
Once you figure out what your niche is and who the audience is that you’re trying to reach, you need to figure out how to monetize that to ensure all this hard work pays off. And then when the fad fades or your interest moves on to something else, what do you do with the successful site that you’ve created and spent so much time building up?
Chrystie Vachon has successfully launched, built up and sold for profit multiple websites in the financial and pop culture lifestyle spaces. Her gift for trendspotting, coupled with her content marketing and social skills, have made her a successful and savvy entrepreneur.
Rich: Chrystie Vacon is a digital trendspotter, social media strategist and blogging entrepreneur. She started blogging in 2005, and has used her content marketing and social strategies to create 4 popular websites in the financial and pop culture lifestyle space, which she has sold for profit. She also likes margaritas and blackjack, a lot.
She was also my partner for the precursor of Agents Of Change which was a little event we called Social Media FTW, and we ran it successfully with our friend Jaica, for 3 years. So Chrystie, welcome to the show.
Chrystie: Thank you very much. You forgot that we actually started the Maine tweetups together, too.
Rich: How could I forget that we started the Maine tweetups? That’s absolutely true. Until you bailed on me.
Chrystie: It’s because it was forever ago, that’s why.
Rich: I know. I’m still doing it, though.
Chrystie: I know you are, and it’s still successful, people love it. You’re so good.
Rich: Thank you. Alright, so let’s talk about you, though. As I said in the intro, you’ve run, built up and sold 4 websites over the years. So give us a little background. How did you get into that business and what are some of the sites that you’ve run out there?
Chrystie: I never got into the business with the idea that I’m going to “flip” websites. That was not even a possibility, I didn’t even know that existed when I started blogging back in 2005. But what I did know at the time was that celebrity gossip was really hot. This was about the same time that Perez Hilton was coming out, so there were a few celebrity gossip bloggers out there. Of course I loved it as well, so I thought why don’t I start a website.
So I started a website, blogged day and night about celebrity gossip. I’d find news online and report it and then it got to the point where people were sending me tips, and I built the website in a year to just about a half a million visitors a month. And then it came to the point where I had my second child and I could no longer do this, I needed to unload it. That’s when I found out about selling websites.
At the time in 2006/07 is when I sold the first website, which was called Hot Mama Gossip, by the way. There was a site called SitePoint, and that’s where you essentially went to sell your websites. It works very much like ebay where it’s an auction system and the highest bidder wins. That was my first foray into flipping a site, and from there I went on to do Hollywood Heartbreaker and Celebrity Starbucks – both were the same thing – they weren’t as popular as Hot Mama Gossip, but I was able to flip them.
Rich: Alright, cool. So outside of this, I know that you’ve done some stuff more recently – built up some brands more recently – we were talking about beforehand. What was the one about the breakfast?
Chrystie: Oh yeah, so one of my latest websites – and one that I still own and intend to own for a while – is called Mason Jar Breakfast. I don’t know if you’re on Pinterest at all, but you cannot visit Pinterest without seeing some sort of mason jar meal. I’m a big yogurt/parfait kind of breakfast eater, so one day I’m eating my breakfast and I’m thinking, “I wonder if masonjarbreakfast.com is available on GoDaddy?” So of course I went ahead and saw the domain name was available and instantly bought it and thought, “This is going to be a great niche to be in.”
And so what I do is every so often – not even on a monthly basis at this point – is just put up a recipe for one of the breakfasts that I eat or that I’ve tried, and it’s been received quite well. My content has been featured on Buzzfeed, Women’s Health Magazine and Shape Magazine, just because it’s this hyper nice that’s very popular right now.
Rich: Alright, so this is interesting to me. It sounds like the first time you just stumbled upon your niche, it was something you were already interested in. And maybe you’ve been interested in all these things, but how do you find your niche? Is there research that you do to do this? Like, do you determine that there’s enough interest in something that you could actually build something up?
Chrystie: It’s just a lot of observation. I spend a lot of time on Facebook and YouTube and Pinterest and I just look at what’s popular and trending and then just kind of go from there. It’s not something that I consciously do, I’m never consciously searching for a niche. I would say that it more “comes” to me, like when I can’t sleep at night or something. It’s like, “Oh wow, that could be good. I’ve seen a lot of that recently.” And so I’ll go ahead and grab a domain name.
One of my most recent ones – and I don’t know if I told you about this – my son is really into this video game called Five Nights At Freddy’s, and he’s always on YouTube looking for strategies and cheat codes and all that. So it’s abbreviated, FNAF, so we went ahead and started a website called FNAFCheats, and what we do is promote all of the latest cheats and strategies and YouTube videos that come out. So that’s a little niche site that I’ve created with my son.
Rich: Well that’s a wonderful bonding experience that you have with your children. They’re already turning into mini entrepreneurs.
Chrystie: Yeah, exactly.
Rich: And out of curiosity, are you monetizing that blog?
Chrystie: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I would never, ever start a website if I didn’t think I was going to monetize it. My biggest recommendation to anyone who starts anything – a blog, a website – it is to monetize it as soon as you can, because listen, ain’t nobody got time to work for free. It’s all about the money. I tell my husband I only have hobbies that make me money.
Rich: Interesting, that’s pretty funny. Alright, so you find something – whether it’s Five Nights At Freddy’s or mason jar breakfasts – and for you it’s less about the research than you being alert to what’s going on. Once you’ve created this you buy the domain name, you set something up – I’m guessing on WordPress – how do you start to attract an audience that’s interested in Five Nights At Freddy’s and then having a mason jar breakfast the next morning?
Chrystie: They’re completely different audiences. Everytime I start a site I sort of make a buyer persona who is my ideal reader for this, and then I go out and usually in the beginning it’s a lot of paid Facebook ads. Very targeted Facebook ads. And I have a great example for you that I just ran.
So I also have another website – I have a lot of websites – called The Box Mom.
Rich: You are a serial entrepreneur, and that’s what I love about you.
Chrystie: I’m a serial website starter, that’s what I am. But I have a website called BoxMom.com, and it’s all about subscription boxes. So essentially I review subscription boxes. There are hundreds and hundreds of boxes out there and I review them. But you know, I’ve done this since November and it hasn’t had any pick up. It’s been slow going and I wasn’t finding my groove. So this is what I did, I created that buyer persona, who do I want to come to the site. I want people like me. It’s called Box Mom, it’s for moms, I want people like me.
So I went ahead and I created a blog post called 15 Beauty Products That Every 80’s Girl Had In Her Caboodle. So this kind of still ties in to my boxes because a lot of the boxes that I get are beauty products and whatnot. So I did that blog post on boxmom.com, I spent $20 to promote it on Facebook a week ago, and I think it got 6,000 reads and over 100 shares. For $20 that was amazing.
Rich: That is amazing.
Chrystie: I didn’t anticipate it actually going viral. I woke up on Saturday morning and looked at my Google analytics and there were currently 850 people on that page at that moment. And I though, “Ok, something’s happening.” So I went to Facebook and it was just being shared like crazy. As of yesterday, it had a reach of 1.2 million on Facebook. And that’s been very good to me in terms of Google adsense.
So now I’m rethinking my strategy for Box Mom and I’m going to start incorporating more of those viral, shareable, Buzzfeed-type articles to get people to the website. And in that time I also sold a great deal of subscription boxes, so it kinda worked out.
Rich: So it sounds like you have 2 main monetization schemes, or revenue streams, for this particular site. One being advertising and the other one being affiliate sales for these box products as well.
Chrystie: Yes. I would say all of my websites are monetized in both those ways, both through advertising and affiliate marketing. Just because with every site that you have there is some way to work in some sort of product.
I also have another website called Money Saving Sisters where I do recipes and DIY stuff, but it’s a very easy affiliate marketing play because I can say, “Oh, this is the porcelain egg crate that I use and you can buy it at sears.com.”
Rich: Plus, all of these things you’re buying you can write off as business expenses, can’t you?
Chrystie: You know what, I don’t know. I haven’t in the past because I did use them for personal use, too.
Rich: Oh, you have to.
Chrystie: I’ve been avoiding my taxes this year, so when I meet with my accountant I’ll have to ask her.
Rich: Alright, that’s a free tip from me to you. We talked about finding your niche and attracting an audience, now I know that some of these websites that you’ve done and sold, you’ve built up quite a bit. What are some of the challenges that you faced in building up a website? It sounds like you’re running a lot of websites, how do you find the time, do you hire people? I know specifically one example I’m thinking of is I know that when you were doing – before it was Coupon Karma – it was I Love To Gossip, and you started bringing in some additional writers. What was that like?
Chrystie: So when I started I Love To Gossip/Coupon Karma, it was a couponing site. And believe it or not, couponing is kind of like breaking news. If there is a new coupon that comes out I want my readers to know, so we got to a point where once it got to a level of popularity I realized I could no longer be chained to my computer 24/, it was just not working for my family. So I went ahead and hired several VA’s that worked there from all over the United States and they were responsible for several blog posts and today they’re responsible for posting over on Facebook. It just became very obvious very quickly that I need help.
That’s really the only site that I’ve had to hire help for just because of the sheer mass at the amount of blog posts that needed to go on that site required just a lot more. All my other sites I’ve been able to manage myself. My husband’s a web developer and graphic designer, so I have him doing that kind of stuff, and then I’m the content producer.
Rich: That was very strategic of you, by the way, to marry a web developer. I like how you planned that.
Chrystie: You know what’s funny, I always said that I should have married either a tattoo artist or a mechanic. But now I think web developer/graphic designer was also a good choice.
Rich: Absolutely. Alright, so you definitely had some challenges, but you were able to grow these successfully. At some point you decided for certain sites that it’s time to sell these. I guess I’m curious, why if they’re making money did you decide to sell them? And then also, can you walk us through the process of selling a website and making it as attractive as possible to a potential buyer?
Chrystie: Sure. What I know about myself is that I’m a great starter of things, and I’m not a great finisher. You know what I mean?
Rich: Oh, I absolutely do. I’m the same way. I completely understand.
Chrystie: I have a million ideas that come to me every single day. I love starting new projects and launching them. But after a certain time, I just become sick and bored of them and I need to unload them. This latest website that I had and I sold called Coupon Karma, I had it for almost 5 years, which is ages and ages compared to the other sites that I’ve had. But you know what it was? It was making me great money on a weekly/monthly/annual basis and I thought I’d just hang on tight to this one for a while because it’s the most lucrative.
And then in the last year it was sucking the life out of me. Literally I would sit down in the morning and it was just I no longer had any passion for it and i hated it. I was resentful and it was causing me to be a grumpy person. And even still, I still hung on to it for longer than I should have because I thought, “No, I can’t give up my moneymaker, it’s paying the bills.” But at the end of the day I thought that if I don’t get rid of this, my husband is going to leave me and my kids are going to run away. So I just had to unload it and that’s what I did.
Even though it was a big decision to make, I’m so glad to be relieved. And it was the same thing for Hot Mama Gossip, when I was having my second child. When my family demands more time in my life, it no longer works for my life, then it’s time to move on.
Rich: Ok, that’s cool. Ok so now you decide that it’s time to unload a website, walk us through the process of what the steps were and how you basically make it as attractive as possible.
Chrystie: This time when I sold my website, I used a site called Flippa.com, and that’s like the standard now for selling websites. I don’t know if it’s about making it attractive as being brutally honest to your potential buyers about what they’re getting. So I had years of traffic analytics, I had years of income reports, and then apart from that I had details of what they were in for. I told them, “Listen, I write 10-15 blog posts myself every single day. Yes I have writers that are going to move on with you, but myself I’m still writing 10-15. It’s taking me 4-6 hours a day to manage this website.” So I try to be as brutally honest as possible.
And with that said, I put the site on sale. And they allow you to have a reserve price, so I put a reserve price, and you’re going to get tons of questions. I answered lots of questions from potential buyers. They want to see more, they have questions, and so it’s very important to be very active on that site and answer the questions truthfully. I had people skype me because they just wanted to meet me and ask more questions.
So in terms of being a successful blog flipper, I would say just be very honest about what the buyers are getting.
Rich: And what kind of things are they looking for? What’s important to somebody that they’re willing to pay a little more for a website?
Chrystie: The standard SEO stuff. If it’s got a great pagerank, that’s awesome. If it has an old domain age, that’s awesome. But apart from that, they do want to see traffic and they want to see monetization. They want to see revenue.
With that said, they also want to see if this is the type of site where they can set it and forget it and it’s a moneymaker, or will they have to invest time. Those are some of the things that the potential buyers are using to size up whether it’s a good deal or not.
Rich: Alright. Now I know that you were planning on going to a tweetup, and then you couldn’t because you were actually involved in the handoff of a website. Is that typical, or is that atypical when you’re in the middle of a sale process?
Chrystie: It’s pretty typical because the new buyer will want some sort of transition period where you’re essentially mentoring them on the backend of the website. And especially with a site like couponing, it has so many different rules and different things with different stores. My buyer was a little bit new to the couponing space so he literally had no idea. So I had to really break it down to him in very easy terms. So I stayed on with him for about a month after he bought the site just as a mentor for him.
And you know what, I was still on a skype call with him last week, too. So you can expect that if you sell your site to have some sort of overlap where you’re gonna need to help the new buyer for sure.
Rich: Good advice. Is there any other piece of advice you can give somebody who’s thinking of doing some of this website flipping?
Chrystie: Like I said, monetize from the beginning, learn what your audience likes and give it to them, because you want the traffic and the revenue. If I had to pick out 2 things, those are the two things that you want to concentrate on. But also the trend. If you can find a trend that you think people are excited about right now and you can get in early, that’s a great opportunity to jump right on it.
And one other thing. I would learn web development or graphic design or something, because having to not rely on someone that you have to pay for helps you flight these things a lot faster.
Rich: Alright, good advice. Chrystie, where can we follow you online?
Rich: Chrystie that was great. I appreciate all the advice you’ve given us today, and I’m literally thinking what can be my next niche product that I can build a website for and one day flip it. Thanks again.
Chrystie: No problem. Thanks for having me.
Chrystie’s current websites:
- Box Mom
- Money Saving Sisters
- Mason Jar Breakfast
- FNAF Cheats
- Looking to buy or sell a website, domain or mobile app? Then check out Flippa.
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Transcription for this podcast provided by Jennifer Scholz Transcription Services.