How Mike Donovan Sold His 3-Year-Old Tech Blog For High 6 Figures

Last updated: Jun 30, 2023

This video is about Mike Donovan's experience of selling his 3-year-old tech blog for a high six-figure amount, despite facing challenges such as a deal falling through and receiving a manual action from Google.

This video by Niche Pursuits was published on Mar 15, 2023.
Video length: 01:05:10.

This video is about Mike Donovan, who sold his 3-year-old tech blog for a high six-figure amount.

The video discusses the process he went through to sell the site, including challenges such as a deal falling through and receiving a manual action from Google.

Despite these obstacles, Mike was able to successfully sell the site and shares his story in the interview.

  • Mike Donovan sold his 3-year-old tech blog for a high six-figure amount.
  • He faced challenges such as a deal falling through and receiving a manual action from Google.
  • Mike navigated through the challenges to successfully sell his site.
  • Mike started the website in early 2020 with little knowledge of SEO and content sites.
  • The tech blog started earning $20,000 a month, mostly from display ads.
  • The site was eventually sold for a high six-figure amount.
  • There were several reasons for selling the site.
  • The last few months of the journey were a valuable learning experience.
  • Received feedback from others suggesting to sell based on income report.

How Mike Donovan Sold His 3-Year-Old Tech Blog For High 6 Figures - YouTube

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Introduction

  • Mike Donovan sold his 3-year-old tech blog for a high six-figure amount.
  • He faced challenges such as a deal falling through and receiving a manual action from Google.
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Challenges Faced

  • Deal falling through.
  • Received a manual action from Google.
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Selling the Site

  • Mike navigated through the challenges to successfully sell his site.
  • The sale was very successful for him.
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How Mike Donovan Sold His 3-Year-Old Tech Blog For High 6 Figures - YouTube

Summary of Mike's Journey

  • Mike started the website in early 2020 with little knowledge of SEO and content sites.
  • It took about six months before he earned his first dollar with the site.
  • By the time of the interview, the site was making just under $20,000 per month.
  • Mike slowly built up the site by publishing more content over time.
  • The site continued to grow for many months after the interview.
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Site Growth and Monetization

  • The tech blog started earning $20,000 a month, mostly from display ads.
  • The revenue and page views grew exponentially over time.
  • At the end of year one, it was making $51,000 in one month.
  • By the end of year two, it reached $350,000 page views and $17,000 in one month.
  • Four months later, it was making $46,000 a month.
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Selling the Site

  • The site was eventually sold for a high six-figure amount.
  • There was a seven-figure deal that fell through.
  • The outcome was still considered great in the end.
  • The first two years were the "Goldilocks period" for SEO.
  • The last few months of the journey were a condensed lesson in the realities of the business.
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Reasons for Selling

  • There were several reasons for selling the site.
  • The site continued to grow, but the decision to sell was made.
  • Some of the reasons included personal circumstances and the desire to move on to new projects.
  • The interest in selling the site was sparked during the last few months of the journey.
  • The decision to sell was ultimately a positive outcome.
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Lessons Learned

  • The last few months of the journey were a valuable learning experience.
  • Some lessons can only be learned through personal experience.
  • The experience taught valuable lessons about the business.
  • Despite challenges and setbacks, the overall outcome was considered successful.
  • The journey was a lifelong lesson in a condensed period of time.
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Reasons for considering selling

  • Received feedback from others suggesting to sell based on income report
  • Reached out to Quiet Light to get everything ready for a potential sale
  • Someone on Twitter reached out persistently, prompting further conversations about selling
  • Personal reasons such as having another baby and needing more time commitment
  • Need for cash on hand for a down payment on a new house
  • Increased frequency of algorithm updates and uncertainty in the niche website space
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Factors influencing the decision to sell

  • Personal circumstances such as having another baby and needing more time commitment
  • Need for cash on hand for a down payment on a new house
  • Increased frequency of algorithm updates and uncertainty in the niche website space
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Challenges and considerations

  • Algorithm updates and the impact on rankings and business
  • Google's control over search results and the unpredictability of changes
  • The need for cash flow versus the value of cash on hand
  • The potential risk of losing income by selling the site
  • The desire to sell while the site was still performing well
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Final decision to sell

  • Personal circumstances such as having another baby and needing more time commitment
  • Need for cash on hand for a down payment on a new house
  • Opportunity to sell at a high six-figure amount based on the site's performance
  • Desire to be prepared and have all necessary information ready for a potential sale
  • Engagement with potential buyers on Twitter and through a broker
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Risk and Volatility in the Online Business Space

  • The volatility in online business results can be significant.
  • There is a risk of a plateau in growth and potential decline in revenue.
  • As a business grows, the risk of losing more becomes greater.
  • Having a large asset as a percentage of overall net worth increases the need to consider de-risking or selling.
  • The rise of AI and chatbots can push websites further down search engine results and steal clicks.
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Factors Influencing the Decision to Sell

  • The potential loss of a valuable asset becomes a concern when it represents a significant portion of overall net worth.
  • Having more financial stability and comfort can be achieved by selling the asset.
  • The impact of AI and content creators on the traditional niche site model is a real and unknown risk.
  • The margin in the traditional niche site model may be wearing thin.
  • Multiple factors, including AI, volatility, and risk, played a role in the decision to sell.
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Applying Principles to Websites of Any Value

  • The principles of evaluating ROI, ongoing risk, and taking money off the table apply to websites of any value.
  • Getting a win and achieving financial stability are important factors in the decision to sell.
  • Emotionally and physically, selling a website can provide a sense of relief and validation.
  • Financial stability and the ability to pay for expenses without working are significant benefits of selling.
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Section 1: The Importance of Selling the Tech Blog

  • Selling the tech blog allowed Mike Donovan to have peace of mind and financial security.
  • He now has several years of runway to pay his mortgage and live comfortably.
  • The sale freed him up to pursue other projects without the pressure of needing them to be successful.
  • His primary driver for selling the blog was money, not passion.
  • Getting an early win in selling a site is important for future success.
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Section 2: Listing the Site and Learning from the Process

  • Mike learned from Joe Valley's book, "The Exit Preneurs," and found it helpful in preparing to sell his site.
  • He advises keeping monthly financial records to make the selling process easier.
  • For a content site, the main numbers to track are earnings and expenses.
  • Mike's expenses were primarily hosting and a keyword research tool.
  • He had to rework some of the financials to align with the buyer's preferences.
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Section 3: Dealing with Emotional Anguish and SBA Involvement

  • The emotional anguish of selling a site can be challenging, especially when dealing with significant offers.
  • Mike's first offer was in the seven figures and involved SBA qualification.
  • Involving the SBA can significantly impact the timeline of the sale.
  • The timing of a Google penalty coincided with the first offer, complicating the process.
  • The penalty was a manual action for unnatural inbound links to some pages.
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Section 4: Learning from a Google Penalty

  • Mike learned a lot from the Google penalty experience and hopes others can avoid similar issues.
  • The penalty specifically targeted unnatural inbound links to certain pages.
  • There is a distinction between an algorithm update and a manual penalty.
  • Receiving a manual penalty involves a human at Google reviewing the site.
  • The penalty affected specific pages, not the entire site.
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Challenges with Google Penalty

  • Received a manual action from Google for his tech blog.
  • Google did not provide specific information about the penalty.
  • Had to prove that he resolved the issue to have the penalty removed.
  • Had never done traditional link building for over two and a half years on his site.
  • Decided to hire a company called linkbuilder.io to improve the authority of his site.
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Issues with Link Building

  • Paid linkbuilder.io $3,000 per month for their services.
  • Linkbuilder.io provided low-quality links from bad websites.
  • Links had a negative impact on the site's authority.
  • Requested linkbuilder.io to remove the links and received a full refund.
  • Speculation that toxic links and quick removal may have triggered the Google penalty.
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Resolving the Google Penalty

  • Hired Chris from penaltyhammer.com to conduct a link audit and disavow spammy links.
  • Waited four months to hear back from Google after submitting the disavow file.
  • The penalty was successfully removed two days after listing the site for sale.
  • The timing of the penalty removal generated more interest from potential buyers.
  • Penalty removal sparked more interest from potential buyers.
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Importance of Digital PR Links

  • Search Intelligence sponsored the video.
  • Search Intelligence helps build digital PR links for clients.
  • Example of a digital PR campaign that generated backlinks from publications.
  • Used Instagram followers and earnings calculator to create a press release.
  • Sent the press release to relevant journalists and obtained backlinks.
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Effects on Traffic and Earnings

  • The site peaked at 780,000 pages in August and then leveled out at around 761,000 pages the following month.
  • In October, when the penalty came, the site still had 709,000 pages.
  • After the penalty hit, traffic started to decline each month, with a 50% drop between October and January.
  • There wasn't a single day where the traffic dropped significantly, indicating that it was not due to a specific algorithm update.
  • The decline in traffic and earnings cannot be solely attributed to the penalty, as there were other factors at play.
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Handling the Penalty

  • Mike hired Penalty Hammer to handle the penalty recovery process.
  • Penalty Hammer conducted a deep dive into the site's link profile to identify potentially unnatural links.
  • They removed low-quality links and disavowed them through Google's disavow tool.
  • Efforts were made to reach out to webmasters and request the removal of certain links.
  • A package of all the actions taken was submitted to Google, but the response time from Google is unpredictable.
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Challenges and Uncertainty

  • Dealing with a penalty is challenging because there is no clear communication or timeline from Google.
  • It can take multiple attempts to have a penalty lifted, and the waiting period can range from weeks to months.
  • There is a lack of transparency in understanding the specific factors that led to the penalty.
  • SEO is a complex field, and there are varying opinions on the effectiveness of disavowing spammy links.
  • Mike acknowledged that he is not an authority on the topic and relied on experts to handle the penalty recovery process.
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Context and Other Factors

  • The decline in traffic and earnings cannot be solely attributed to the penalty, as the site was already plateauing at around 700,000 pages before the penalty hit.
  • There were likely other factors, such as changes in Google's algorithm or competition, that contributed to the decline.
  • Comparing the decline in traffic to competitors' sites, it was evident that there were algorithm updates affecting the industry as a whole.
  • Determining the specific effects of the penalty versus other factors is challenging due to the complexity of SEO and the lack of clear data.
  • Overall, the penalty had a negative impact on the site's traffic and earnings, but it was not the sole determining factor.
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Site Traffic Decline

  • The site's traffic gradually declined over a four-month period from August to February.
  • There was no specific day or event that caused a sudden drop in traffic.
  • Factors that may have contributed to the decline include a manual action from Google, updates related to link spam, and outdated content.
  • Refreshing content on a few pages may have helped with a 15% rebound in traffic after the penalty was lifted.
  • Multiple factors likely played a role in the site's decline, rather than just a penalty from Google.
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Impact on Site Traffic

  • After the penalty was lifted, the site's traffic did bounce back, but not to its previous levels.
  • It is common for traffic to gradually increase over several months after a penalty is lifted, rather than immediately returning to previous levels.
  • Other factors, such as algorithm updates and aging content, may have also contributed to the decline in traffic.
  • The site was still earning five figures in revenue, but it was no longer valued at its original seven-figure evaluation.
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Offer and Penalty

  • The site was not publicly listed for sale, but a potential buyer reached out on Twitter.
  • An accepted offer was made, but shortly after, the site received a manual action penalty from Google.
  • The potential buyers were still interested in purchasing the site, but they were concerned about the penalty.
  • They pursued an SBA loan for funding, which required proving the value of the business and backing up the loan.
  • The terms of the SBA loan were favorable, including not requiring a personal guarantee.
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Outcome and Valuation

  • The potential buyers were unable to secure the SBA loan, leading to the deal falling through.
  • The site was repriced to reflect the penalty and the current traffic situation.
  • In its last month of ownership, the site was still earning five figures in revenue and had over 355,000 page views.
  • Despite the decline in traffic, the site was still considered a valuable asset, although not at its original seven-figure valuation.
  • The new owner's plans for the site are unknown, but the previous owner is excited to see what they do with it.
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Challenges with the first deal

  • The buyers had difficulty securing an SBA loan and had to switch banks.
  • The buyers were hesitant to move forward as traffic and earnings were declining.
  • The sellers put pressure on the buyers to make a decision, which ultimately led to the deal falling through.
  • The sellers and buyers both incurred expenses during the process.
  • The decline in traffic and the penalty from Google affected the emotional toll on the sellers.
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Reevaluating the sale

  • The sellers decided to reevaluate the sale due to the challenges and uncertainties.
  • They wanted all-cash buyers and no loans involved.
  • They listed the site for a high six-figure amount.
  • Despite the penalty, there was still significant interest in the site.
  • The penalty was lifted a few days later, which helped facilitate a quick sale.
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Multiple offers and a successful sale

  • The sellers received multiple offers above the asking price.
  • The final offer was 15% above asking price, resulting in a high six-figure sale.
  • The sellers reflected on the success of the sale, considering the initial seven-figure deal that fell through.
  • The site had generated over seven figures in profit during its lifetime.
  • The sellers valued their time and considered it a success overall.
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Mike Donovan's Experience of Selling His Tech Blog

  • Mike sold his 3-year-old tech blog for a high six-figure amount.
  • He had written around 320 posts on the site before selling it.
  • Despite facing challenges such as a deal falling through and receiving a manual action from Google, Mike had a great overall experience.
  • He learned about SEO and content sites during the three years of running the blog.
  • Mike experienced the ups and downs of website performance, penalties, and failed deals.
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Managing Emotions and Staying Focused

  • Mike admits that he didn't handle the emotional aspects of the challenges well.
  • He emphasizes the importance of sticking with it and not giving up when facing difficulties.
  • Mike knew when he was done working on the site and didn't let it drag on.
  • He acknowledges the need to balance emotions and maintain perspective during the ups and downs of running a website.
  • Mike suggests taking care of physical health and not neglecting personal well-being during challenging times.
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Starting a Second Site and Brand Swapping

  • Mike started a second site based on the concept of brand swapping that he had discussed previously.
  • He clarifies that he is not a guru but was sharing what was working for him at the time.
  • Mike believes that it's worth the effort to avoid using duplicate content and plans to update his site accordingly.
  • He sees this as an opportunity to reach a wider audience and share his experiences more publicly.
  • Mike acknowledges the uncertainty of what works and what doesn't in the ever-changing online world.
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Future Plans and Website Flipping

  • Mike's future plans involve continuing to build and grow websites.
  • He is interested in exploring website flipping as a potential business model.
  • Mike sees website flipping as a way to leverage his skills and experience in building and selling websites.
  • He is excited about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the online business world.
  • Mike is grateful for the time and freedom that selling his tech blog has provided him.
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Reasons for Rewriting Content

  • Mike Donovan emphasizes the importance of rewriting content for peace of mind and to avoid potential issues with duplicate content.
  • He believes that even if the answer is the same, it's worth the effort to reword the content from a unique standpoint.
  • Mike shares his decision to not work on his previous site anymore, as he only published 30 articles on it.
  • He explains that the site focused on long-tail keywords with low competition and medium volume.
  • Mike acknowledges the need for more than one platform and income stream, as relying solely on SEO can be challenging.
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Building Multiple Income Streams

  • Mike emphasizes the importance of diversifying income streams beyond organic SEO traffic.
  • He mentions the need for newsletters, social media presence, and physical or digital products.
  • Mike believes that having more than one way to be seen online is crucial for long-term success.
  • He mentions Niche Pursuits as an example of building multiple income streams through interviews, social traffic, newsletters, and SEO.
  • Mike highlights the importance of becoming an authority in a niche and branching out in different ways.
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Lessons Learned and Future Plans

  • Mike reflects on his experience with his previous site and the lessons he learned.
  • He shares his plans for Niche Twins, a new website that focuses on building a social presence, SEO, newsletters, and high-quality content.
  • Mike mentions his wife's travel site, which has four articles and is generating a thousand pages a month.
  • He expresses the intention to work on the travel site and make it a brand that people would genuinely share.
  • Mike believes that sites that are not shareable may struggle to exist in the future.
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Building a Lasting Business

  • The goal is to build something great that will last long-term.
  • Putting out high-quality content and creating a unique brand is important.
  • Even with all the chaos, there are still opportunities to build a successful business.
  • Starting with a focus on making money quickly may not yield the same results as a slower, more strategic approach.
  • Building a brand is crucial for long-term success.
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The Power of Branding

  • Kevin Espiritu's success with Epic Gardening is an example of the power of branding.
  • Building a brand can take a business beyond the level of success achieved with SEO traffic alone.
  • Sharing your website or business publicly becomes more beneficial as you establish a strong brand.
  • There may be a period of vulnerability in the early stages of building a business, where outing yourself or your site could invite competition.
  • As your brand grows, sharing your business becomes a benefit to your brand.
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The Benefits and Risks of Sharing Your Business

  • Shining a light on your business can pose risks, but it also validates your business as a legitimate entity.
  • In the early stages, it may not be beneficial to share your website or business publicly, especially if you're focused on SEO and building an audience.
  • There is a period of vulnerability where competitors can steal your content and outrank you.
  • Once you have a targeted audience and have evolved your business, sharing it becomes more comfortable and beneficial.
  • Building a brand can make your business more resilient to competition.
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The Success of Epic Gardening

  • Kevin Espiritu's success with Epic Gardening is impressive and something to aspire to.
  • His brand has allowed him to expand into physical products and buying businesses.
  • Building a brand can make your business more resilient and less affected by competition.
  • Sharing your business publicly should be the ultimate goal.
  • Building a brand can lead to a point where you don't care about competition because your brand can handle it.
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Mike Donovan's experience of selling his 3-year-old tech blog

  • Mike sold his 3-year-old tech blog for a high six-figure amount.
  • He faced challenges such as a deal falling through and receiving a manual action from Google.
  • Despite these challenges, Mike considers the sale a big win and a great success.
  • He believes that the experience gained from running the blog is valuable.
  • Mike plans to write about the sale process in more depth and share his insights.
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Niche twins newsletter and website

  • Mike and Keith have started the Niche twins newsletter and website.
  • The website is nichetwins.com and Mike's Twitter account is Niche down.
  • Mike plans to focus on writing about the sale process and other topics related to niche websites.
  • The Niche twins newsletter will be released weekly on Friday mornings.
  • Mike and Keith are excited about this new venture and the opportunities it brings.
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Nichesites.com sponsorship

  • Nichesites.com is a sponsor of the video.
  • They offer a range of services to help with keyword research, link building, content writing, and more.
  • New customers can get 5,000 words of content for free with an order of 10,000+ traffic backlinks.
  • Listeners are encouraged to visit nichesites.com/trial to take advantage of this offer.
  • Nichesites.com has a portfolio of successful websites and over 700 satisfied clients.
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Search Intelligence sponsorship

  • Search Intelligence is another sponsor of the video.
  • They specialize in building digital PR links for clients.
  • They provide an example of how they built links for a client using Instagram data and press releases.
  • Listeners are encouraged to visit search-intelligence.co.uk to learn more about their services.
  • Search Intelligence offers customized link building and PR campaigns for websites.

Watch the video on YouTube:
How Mike Donovan Sold His 3-Year-Old Tech Blog For High 6 Figures - YouTube

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