Case Study: Selling an Old Website at a Huge Loss

It is common for those who work online to share their successes with the world.

Whether it be a successful launch of a new product, a new sales record or a new social media milestone, people who work online do like to pay themselves on the back to demonstrate social proof.

I did this earlier this year when I wrote about my technology YouTube channel hitting the 10,000 subscriber milestone. A big yay for me!!!

Publishing your successful milestones can give the world a false impression that you are always hitting home runs.

As you can imagine, that is not the case.

Whether you work online alone or manage a large company, you are going to make many mistakes along the way.

In the interest of transparency, I would like to speak about my sale of MartialArtsVideos.com, a website which I sold at a huge loss.

What Went Wrong with Martial Arts Videos?

Martial Arts Videos was a website I launched in 2012.

The website published top lists of martial arts films and video clips.

It proved to be quite popular at the beginning and was generating good traffic and decent Google Adsense revenue, therefore I made the decision to invest more money in the project.

Martial Arts Videos Home Page

How Martial Arts Videos looked in 2013.

The website originally launched under the domain name MartialArtsVidz.com, but I soon picked up the domain name MartialArtsVideos.com for $7,100 and MartialArtsVideo.com for $1,000.

That’s over $8,100 for the domain names alone and a few hundred dollars more if you add eight additional years of domain renewal years.

Another $12,000 was invested in Facebook Ads and I paid writers to write articles for the website for a year or so too.

So in total, I suspect my total costs for the website were over $22,000 and I only brought in a few thousand dollars back in ad revenue.

Income During 2012
Martial Arts Videos made over £1,000 in Google Adsense revenue in just a few months.

The amount I invested in Facebook sounds a little crazy today, but this strategy was actually working well initially as after the initial investment, the page started growing organically on its own quickly.

I had over 65,000 Facebook followers at one point and frequent post updates on Facebook helped send lots of traffic to the website.

Unfortunately, I had all my eggs in the Facebook basket and in one fell swoop, my traffic was decimated by a major change in Facebook’s page publishing policy.

Facebook previously delivered post updates to 100% of the people who subscribed to a page, but they then made the decision to reduce this to less than 5%. Sometimes it was as low as 1%.

Previously, when I had 50,000 followers, an update about a new article was previously shown on the home page feed of all 50,000 followers.

After the change, an update was only shown to 1,000 to 2,000 people at most.

Before Facebook had implemented this change, I was on track to break even with my investment in three to six months due to the growth of the Facebook page, but that completely fell apart when Facebook decided to only deliver updates to a small number of followers.

New Martial Arts Videos Article Page
The website was incredibly popular at one point.

Despite this, the website still had a huge amount of potential.

It has one of the best domain names available for that niche, the Google Adsense page RPM was relatively high and the website was easy to update.

That is why I spent time relaunching the website in 2013, which I documented in my case study “The Relaunch of Martial Arts Videos“.

I encourage you to read the article to get a better understanding of how I was trying to make the website profitable again.

Selling Martial Arts Videos on Flippa

Six months ago, I made the decision to sell MartialArtsVideos.com.

I had =listed it for sale on Flippa a few years ago, however I had not received a bid I was happy with.

This time, I set the reserve at $3,000, with the expectation that I would get at least $5,000 for it.

In the end, I accepted $4,500 for it, which worked out at $4,255 after Flippa and Escrow fees.

Martial Arts Videos
Martial Arts Videos would have sold for much more several years ago.

I am one of the oldest members of Flippa.

Flippa states that my account is 19 years old, but I had been selling websites on SitePoint’s marketplace since 2000, before the marketplace was transformed into the Flippa marketplace we all know today.

The overall experience of selling on Flippa can be frustrating due to the large number of time-wasters who participate in website trading.

I got dozens of messages from people asking about Martial Arts Videos.

  • Many would ask questions that were already answered in the sales thread
  • Many would ask for access to Google Analytics, despite the fact they had zero trades (i.e. a large percentage were just nosy)
  • Many would ask question after question, then say their budget is only $250

Before a serious bid came in, I was leaning towards pulling the sale of the website as responding to messages was taking up so much of my time.

Thankfully, the person who bought the website was professional, placing a bid shortly after I answered a couple of questions.

Less than a few months later, the buyer abandoned the website and redirected it to another martial arts website they owned. This sounds bizarre, however it is more common than you think. Even websites I sold for tens of thousands of dollars were quickly dropped or redirected to another website.

It’s testament to the fact that a lot of website traders have money to invest in websites, but do not know how to maintain them or develop them further.

Understanding the Mistakes You Make

I still strongly believe that MartialArtsVideos.com had great potential.

Eight years later after I launched the website, I was still receiving dozens of messages from martial artists who wanted to publish their videos there, which is testament to the fact there is a market for that type of website.

So why was it not a success?

I could give you many valid reasons, and many excuses, as to why Martial Arts Videos was not successful, however the biggest reason was time.

There is only so many hours that you can spend working every week. I was dividing my time between this blog, YouTube and several other website projects.

I was always reluctant to commit the time that the project needed as it was not making good money. Additionally, at the back of my mind, I was always concerned that I was throwing money away as there were safer projects I could have invested in.

Time Management
Managing time effectively is an essential ingredient of working online.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

It is easy to underestimate the time and energy that is required to not only develop a website, but maintain it. This is especially true if your time is divided between many different projects.

You can, of course, bring people in to help you. This is easy to justify when a website makes money, but difficult when it has been running at a loss for years.

In over 20 years of working online, one of the mistakes I have repeatedly made is to not sell a website when I had no time to take it forward.

Instead of selling MartialArtsVideos, I did nothing. Slowly, but surely, the website became stagnant and traffic reduced over time.

Selling a website that has not met its potential means you have to accept selling it at a lower price. It can be difficult to accept this initially, however if you have no plans to develop the website further, you need to sell it.

Moving forward, I plan on addressing this problem and selling several older projects that I have.

Doing this means accepting that I will not get a great price for those websites, but it also means that I will be losing dead weight and freeing up more time to work on projects that matter.

Final Thoughts

I hope you have enjoyed this look at my sale of MartialArtsVideos.com. The website is one of many websites that I hope to sell over the next year so that I can focus 100% on active projects.

I am confident of increasing my income significantly over the next few years, but make no qualms about it, I will still make mistakes along the way.

That is the price you pay for taking risks.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin

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