At the end of 2013, EmpireFlippers ran a special where they would build sites for you using their team and their methods. According to the sales copy, you would be able to look over their shoulder and learn their methods. I thought that seemed like a good idea, after all, they’re a successful and reputable organization that I could definitely learn something from, so I bought the package – Empire PreSold Sites: Basic for $897. For the money you get:
- 5 Brand New Niche Sites From Categories Selected
- 10 Additional Secondary KW’s Researched Per Site
- 2 additional pieces of content per site (Content ONLY)
- Empire Keyword Research PRO Package
That was November 20th, 2013. They finished the sites on February 6th, 2014. So far, I’m not very happy with my purchase. =(
Choosing a Site and Keyword Research
I was able to choose three categories that I wanted my new sites to be in, I chose Insurance, Home and Garden, and Occasions and Gifts. I received 4 of 5 from Home and Garden and 1 from Gifts. Ok, that’s not a big problem, I didn’t really think they could do anything with insurance but I thought I’d give it a shot. However, when they purchased the EMD’s none of them were .coms, and the secondary keywords in many instances did not relate very closely to the primary keyword. I.E. Primary keyword is “Dog Training” and the secondary keyword I received was “pet stores”. Sure, they are both in the pet niche but they don’t really belong on the same site. When I asked about the keyword research and how these keywords were selected, I received platitudes:
Regarding your queries about the URLs, I will have our KW Researcher answer your questions. But I would like to remind you that these URLs were meticulously chosen based on our standards which worked for our own sites. The process that the KW Researchers use are proven to be working for us. The same with the secondary keywords chosen, there is a tested and proven method/process that we follow to come up with them.
Awesome right? I asked HOW and WHY they chose these keywords and I get “we use a process”. I know you use a process, but I don’t know what that process is!
Here’s what the KW researcher said:
Where we got your kw from category 1 and 2. We tried to search for the insurance and had gone through a lot of kw. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find kw that would pass our standards. so we decided to go through category 1 and 2. As my colleague has explained that these kw has gone through a lot of checks and double checks which has proven to be successful. I hope this clarify things.
And here’s what I said:
Actually no. Not a single one of you has clarified anything, all that you have said is “trust us”. I don’t mean to be a pain, but here’s what the sales copy says:
All of these sites will be created specifically for you and the process will be completely hands-off after purchase and filling out the order form. You’ll be able to watch us as we, step-by-step, go through the entire site creation process start to finish.
Here are the details:
All sites built from the ground up
You’re able to select up to 3 broader categories for these sites
KW research and selection by us (with explanation)
I haven’t seen any step-by-step, nor have I received any explanation of why these keywords were chosen.
The whole point of purchasing from this special offer was to learn what criteria EmpireFlippers uses and how they go about their research, otherwise, I could have bought the cheaper packages that include multiple low-earners. As it stands right now, each of these websites needs to earn about $10/mth in order to pay for themselves in a 2 year period. And I have no explanation as to why you think they will do that; they certainly do not appear to be winners to me.
After I wrote that, I received a nice reply from Justin Cooke, but unfortunately it didn’t explain anything either.
I get what you’re saying regarding the non-related secondary – these things happen from time to time due to a misunderstanding of related keywords.
Still – this is the same process we use to create all of our niche sites. (The same people/team, in fact)
I’m not going to bore you any further with the rest of my ranting, but suffice it to say that no one ever actually explained why they chose these keywords, and why the secondary keywords were chosen when they don’t even seem to relate to the primaries. Eventually, on January 13th, 2014 Justin sent me links to their EmpireFlippers guide, (it’s a good guide!), and to some two year old posts about how they do their keyword research.
I read them, and the primary keywords do meet their criteria for the amount of searches and cpc value. I still have no idea why they picked the secondary’s that don’t match, and I’m not confident that these primary keywords really have any value, but I guess time will tell….
Content and Site Setup
The content that I received was adequate. I’d say it’s on par with the better odesk providers. I’d probably pay $5 – $7 for 500 words. It needs some minor revision for grammar and punctuation, and some words aren’t correct for the context they are placed in, but overall it’s very minor stuff.
Site setup was completely hand’s off once I had setup the cpanel accounts. They took care of setting up WP, and placed their own intellitheme theme on the site, (I do own a copy of it although I’ve never used it yet). I can’t say I’m too pleased with the layout; it looks kind of spammy to me. Four of the five use this layout:
It’s very busy and contains a LOT of ads above the fold.
And one site, for no apparent reason uses this layout:
It’s a little less spammy looking, but not much.
(* edit * The intellitheme does layout rotation, or split-testing on its own. That’s why the layouts are different)
Permalinks were set as /%postname%. and each site came with 5 pieces of content, 4 of the articles were set as pages and one was set as a post on the front page. I have no idea why they set things up that way…. Normally all content is set as a post, and only things like “About Us” are pages. When I asked them why they’d set it up that way they replied with:
That is the way how we set up our own sites and so far it works well on us. The reason why the secondary content were added us pages was because we want to primarily optimize the main keyword of the main post. We find it more effective to have its supporting content added as page.
(* edit * I asked for further clarification on adding future content and was told that they add all content as pages)
Each site was also setup with some plugins, all-in-one-seo, contact form 7, date exclusion seo, (removes dates from posts/pages), really simple captcha, and xml sitemap. All of the pages with content and the one post were fully setup in All-in-one-SEO with the proper SEO info. The akismet plugin had been deleted, but comments were turned off for all pages and posts so there won’t be any need for it either. Speaking of deleted, they went to the trouble of deleting the akismet plugin, but left behind all the default themes, the default wp-config-sample, readme, and license files. That just seems sloppy to me.
They also left the default table prefix but I’ll take care of that when I add my usual security plugins. Overall, the backend site setup was decently done.
It’s too early to tell if any of these sites are going to be worth the money I paid for them, let alone turn a profit. I can however, tell you how much they NEED to earn in order to be profitable.
The original purchase price of $897 included $197 for the pro keyword research package. (Pro Keyword Research: 3 keywords that match our very strict keyword selection criteria, 3 exact-match domains, and 12 (4 per site) secondary keywords researched for you! Price: $197). If I take that money off the top, $897 – $197 = $700 and divide it by the 5 sites. $700 / 5 = $140. So each site cost me $140. In order for them to break even, they need to make about $7 a month, (I’m not including hosting costs or annual registration fee, that would add another $1.80 a month). How did I get this figure? Well, most of the time you can purchase an existing adsense site for around 20 times monthly earnings. That means these sites need to earn at least that much to break even.
Like I said before, I’m not very happy or impressed with these sites. I will say that all the communications that I’ve had with Justin and his team have been professional and courteous and I am very happy with them personally, just not necessarily the product I received. Of course, I’m hoping that these sites will make lots of money in the coming months and change my mind. =)
My plan moving forward is to setup the sites with backup and security plugins, add the “bonus” content that came with the package, and then leave the sites completely alone for the first three months. I want to see how well they do au natural before I start to make any changes. That means no SEO either, I also want to see how well they rank naturally from just the kw research and how they were built.
I will post an update at the end of every month on how well they are doing financially.
Have you purchased from EmpireFlippers before? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.