As a regular reader you know how much I love blogging.
My blog is a major factor in achieving financial freedom as early as I did. While the financial rewards have been life changing, the other amazing benefit of starting the blog is the quality of new connections I’ve made over the years.
Normal people with a “super hero passion” to help others through their blog, podcast, or YouTube channel never gets old. I can listen to these stories non-stop!
One of these amazing success stories is Larry Ludwig who founded InvestorJunkie.com right around the time I started my blog.
Larry went on to sell his site for a cool $5.8 million in 2018 and is now on to his next project teaching others how to build a successful online business on his personal site LarryLudwig.com.
Larry recently made a hefty investment into an “alternative investment” and I wanted to bring him on the Good Financial Cents podcast to share his journey and what led him to choose the investment he did.
You can read the text version of the interview here or listen to the podcast here:
You started Investorjunkie.com back in 2009, is that correct? Then you sold that blog?
Yes. I started in 2009 and sold the blog in 2018 for 6 million.
6 million. – Just want to make sure everybody read that because for those that don’t think that you can make money blogging or you can’t start a blog and sell it for a premium, it is possible.
What got you into blogging and also what got you into the personal finance investing space?
I started developing websites back in 1993/94, and I actually worked for an ad agency creating some of the very first websites out there for a lot of the Fortune 500 companies.
I’ve been developing websites, both for other companies and for myself, for many years. In 2009 I was frustrated developing sites for other companies, seeing how they were making money off of them, seeing how they were profitable.
I was interested in investing and personal finance. So I put those together and said, “Why don’t I create a blog on investing”, because of really looking out there in the investment space blogs, there really weren’t that many that spoke to me both in terms of having decent sizeable assets already, and then something that was just wanting to review the various services out there.
This was kind of the start of FinTech really in 2009. I saw the opportunity just to mix all that together and create a blog and grew it from there.
I think a lot of people may suffer from imposter syndrome. Was it difficult for you when you first started? Did you ever have to work through those barriers?
Yes and no. I mean, I’m not going to lie. There’s definitely that imposter syndrome that went on a little bit with myself. Either you create a blog as an expert or you create a blog as a helpful tool for others. Let’s all go down this path, ourselves, this journey, and let’s figure this stuff out. I kind of went that second route. That’s not to say I didn’t talk about investing in what I knew.
I’m not an active day trader as an example, so I can’t speak about technical analysis and stuff like that, but I could talk about the fundamentals of asset allocation, just basics of investing, and could talk more intelligently than others out there. Because if really, I mean you know as well as I do that the lack of knowledge in personal finance is just pretty lacking and it’s not really taught anywhere, formally, or informally.
So where do you learn it? And it’s usually through friends and family. In my case, again, going back to the early nineties when I was still in school, in fact, my parents weren’t really great at finance and I really didn’t know anyone to speak about it.
So I really turned to books and radio programs to help educate myself. And nowadays it’s via blogs, and YouTube channels such as yourself. I mean, that’s really the key is people are looking in mass. I mean, same thing with TikTok, even. TikTok is huge now into personal finance investing. The reason is because people actively want to figure out how to get better at finance. And there’s really no good way to do it.
Was this your full-time gig at the time or did you have a full-time job?
No, I had my web hosting business, web development business besides that. So I started technically part-time as a side hustle. Initially I created the blog at minimum, again, I thought of the idea of affiliate marketing, be the way to monetize it. But I thought, at minimum, to showcase what I could do to others.
Here’s a blog that I was able to create and build and design. And therefore I could build one for yourself as well, meaning for other customers, not necessarily for affiliate marketing base, but for other corporate websites. Again, it really turned into a business on its own in about a year and a half where it started making more money than my web hosting business.
At what point were you done with the web hosting business and I’m ready to do this full time.
Around that year and a half, two years. I’ve had a few people ask me like how long does it really take before you get over that hump, so to speak, of building a blog, and building a website. It’s about, I think, one to two years, and from my experience and from others.
And a lot of other bloggers, I think give up honestly much earlier than that. I was at one point almost giving up myself, in that sense of, I didn’t really see it go anywhere. And it just takes a while. If you’re using SEO as the main way to drive traffic, it just takes about a year, two years before it really starts working for you. SEO is definitely a long game. It’s something that you couldn’t just build content or write content. And the next day it just ranks in Google. It doesn’t work that way.
It takes a long time for Google to figure things out. You have to be constantly writing on whatever your niche SEO is definitely something that you have to understand, not necessarily to try to game Google, and how to trick Google to rank for your content, but better, what can you do to make sure your writing content to facilitate for the, not only the users, but Google as well?
When you started looking at your current portfolio, what was it about buying a blog as an investment? Why did you think this was something that you should look at?
Multiple reasons. I think the first and foremost, and it’s interesting on Investor Junkie, I always considered investing to be much more holistic. I consider investing more than just purely the traditional asset classes, meaning owning a business as well.
I’ve always considered owning a business is something that definitely has advantages compared to other types of asset classes, and other types of investments in that you have ultimate control over success, and/or failure. The skill sets in yourself obviously have the ability to grow, or make that business a huge failure.
The overall markets are not cheap by any historical standards. So, it’s like, where do you get the best bang for your buck as a value play. That’s something where you’re looking… Where can you get the best return for that money. Stocks, bonds and real estate, honestly, at least for me right now are not it. And that’s where it kind of goes into a business.
*Here's Larry's case study on Buying His Blog. It's a great read if you're interested in crunching the numbers.
I’m kind of curious, if we’re talking about holistic investing, was there a certain percentage that you didn’t want to go over investing into the website, a blog, or a nontraditional investment?
Yeah. I mean, I had a certain dollar amount for this blog, and I talked about the dollar amount that paid for the blog. It came out to be 180,000. So, I guess, from my end, I was looking at a low six figure blog. It’s not the first business I’ve acquired, but it’s the first blog I’ve acquired, and I wanted to make sure that’s not the same in the future.
I may do more, actually, but for now I wanted to start with this one. It was a decent size blog, a decent established blog, but I didn’t necessarily want to go to seven figures or higher six figures. I just didn’t think I wanted to take a risk at the moment. So not purely asset allocation, but how much the opportunity was as well. In other words, if you look at it as like a house, that’s the analogy I use, right?
If you buy a house that’s just really dilapidated and needs a lot of work, what’s the opportunity perhaps to grow that business, or in this case real estate over multiple years? So it was something that I did.
What do you think, when you put a big chunk of money in, are some of the potential things that could happen?
Every investment, every business has risk. For me, it was obvious that the current rankings of the content could go literally to zero. Let’s say there’s something the seller didn’t reveal about the back links, or just overall setup of the site. And Google decides to just ban it outright.
Most of the traffic is coming from search, so that could go to zero. The affiliates could just all dry up, and disappear. Unlikely for this space because they’ve been around for many years, in some cases as early as the web. The niche on the blog I bought is in web hosting and reviews in comparison of various services out there.
The chances of the affiliate marketing for that space to disappear, and dry up is kind of unlikely. I mean, there are other spaces, ironically, the previous space with investing I was in, had a lot of FinTech startups and there were venture capital startups, and they were not profitable.
So those can and had disappeared over many years, as you probably well know, too, is there are definitely businesses that were very successful with the affiliate marketing programs that had just literally dried up overnight. So that’s definitely another risk. Outside of that just comes down to really ultimately my skill sets and my incompetence or my hubris of thinking, I could build it better and ultimately increase the rankings in Google, which I think I can, because of my background has shown that.
In addition to the investment side of this, it’s exciting for you as well, right? This is like a challenge. Like you want to see what you can do with this?
Yeah. You want to… It’s somewhat of an ego thing that you want to see if it was a fluke the first time you did it? Was it something that you could build out on another site? I mean, it’s also something to keep, obviously, see I’m at a point financially where I could just say, I’m not going to do anything, which I think is silly. I don’t consider myself ever wanting to formally retire, right? But it’s something you want to keep actively engaged in.
And this is something that’s, it’s not a passion project in the sense of there’s no revenue to generate from it, but I’m not… I’m looking at building a business. And it’s… The analogy I always used is the adult form of Lego. So I’m building a business and from that let’s see what happens with it.
Tell me a little bit about how the site owner used that price, what their valuation was and then how you were able to determine what you felt a good valuation was.
That’s a good question. Ultimately with any business, it’s what people are willing to pay for in the end. I mean, you could say your site is worth 10X, and yet the market says otherwise. So the marketplace determines what you can get. In the current marketplace for blogs, not only is it very liquid, there’s definitely a lot of marketplaces for buying and selling blogs. I didn’t realize how liquid this market is. So they’re constantly hundreds of blogs being sold on a regular basis. And that being said, the multiples really vary.
So, the question, again, comes down to what other options can you put that money into?
And again, with the money I had literally sitting in a savings account was earning 0.6% interest rates, right? It’s not even covering the annual rate of inflation we have right now. So, where can you get a business that has more, or less a 33% return, or a stock for that matter. Where it can get a 33% return, even if it has, let’s say I majorly screw up the site and it generates half the income that originally was discussed previously for the blog.
I’m still earning 15, 16% annually. So it’s still something decent. My goal is obviously to try to increase it more than that, but who knows? Like you said part of the risks are what happens if it halves? That’s questions that you have to kind of ask yourself with any business like this. It’s pretty easy to buy another blog.
I totally don’t recommend this for someone who’s never done a blog before. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could literally screw it up. We’ve seen some examples in the personal finance space that literally imploded the blog and went from generating decent revenue, to literally zero.
I recorded a video a where I took a stance that starting a blog with the intent of building a business is better than getting an MBA. I learned so much more, things like networking and sending emails. So curious to your thoughts on that stance, that starting a blog as a business, do you feel that that is better than getting the MBA?
For context here’s the video I’m referring to on Blogging Vs. MBA:
I think you can spend a few thousand dollars and go the route of hard knocks, and do much better, because you definitely have to learn, you kind of alluded to it as well, marketing, you have to really understand good copywriting. Things that we’re taught formally, for how to write… It’s ironic how to write for school, it’s completely different from copywriting for the web. The only way to learn that stuff is really by understanding how people react to the content you create.
I mean, a lot of psychology, a lot of marketing comes into building a blog because ultimately be it your own product or someone else’s through affiliate marketing, you have to understand what motivates that person to want to buy your product.
Listening to features of a product doesn’t necessarily motivate a person to buy. No one looks for a drill. They look for a hole. They want to drill a hole. So that’s why they buy a drill. That has the ability of variable speeds and reverse capability, and having all these drill bits, they want to be able to put a hole in their wall. So you have to understand with marketing and good copywriting, what motivates a person to do what they want to do?
I’ve seen so many business owners fail at that. With my web hosting business, I sold features. I sold the amount of disk space and amount of bandwidth and amount of whatever. No one cared about that. They cared about can I create a blog or a website through your service and not have it fail? And that’s really where the light bulb kind of went off after a few years.
Looking over your case study here, you mentioned some of the different places you can go to buy a blog. Some of the different marketplaces, Flippa, Empire Flippers, Investors Club, Website Flip, which one did you go through?
I bought mine on Empire Flippers.
When you finally found a domain that you were interested in, what was the timeline of making that offer them accepting, and then you having control of the site where you start making money?
After finding this blog in August, I made the offer. I actually contacted the agent at Empire Flippers. And initially I went for 2X and it was just like, no way. They’re not going to go for that amount, because we just initially reject offers because the marketplace is demanding, I think a minimum of 3X. So I went for 3X and they accepted it. I took about four weeks to finally acquire the blog completely.
It really depends on the blog and it depends on the business. With Empire Flippers, they kind of handhold you, which is actually one of the nice things, if you’re really the first acquisition. They actually walk you through the process of making sure all the things are documented, making sure there’s no issues along the way. So they’re actually pretty good in that respect. But if you let’s say go to Flippa and actually buy a blog there, you’re pretty much on your own.
I was on a call with you last week, that’s when you shared that you bought this domain, as of right now you’re not making the domain public, but what I found humorous was that you didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the site.
Yeah, eventually the goal is to merge this website with my own personal brand. I’m doing my own personal brand and building out that as being the web hosting expert, and overall blog expert, and discussing various things like SEO, affiliate marketing, what have you. And I don’t have any desire to sell, but if I were to sell, I would probably create a separate brand.
I just want to share that because you can also spend a lot of money on a business that’s going to make you money and you don’t have to be able to pronounce it. That’s my big takeaway.
In the end the domain name, without mentioning the domain name, is not an easy to remember domain name, and it really is tied to the other person’s name, sort of. It has part of his name and the last name and the domain name. So it’s not ideal. It’s like having my name, it would be Ludwig hosts or something like that. It’s just not really appropriate.
From my end, I was buying because it had good backlinks, it had good affiliate relationships, it had good traffic, it has a lot of stuff in place. What it needs is just an overhaul, again, going back to an analogy of a house it’s got good bones, it just needs a lot of work.
Is there anything that you’ve learned going through this process now that if you do this again, you would do differently?
Good question. Probably would not do Empire Flippers just because again, the pricing, unless they get a really good deal there. I guess for future purchases, I would go for something with a lower multiple, but it’s very hard to find lower multiples in this day and age.
Larry, I appreciate you coming on sharing your experience and just this whole process. For those that want to learn more about what you’ve got, where can they check you out?
My personal site, LarryLudwig.com.