Week 12: Mathematical Proof I Will Sell For $500k


Welcome to Week 12 of my $20k to $500k in 1 Year Challenge. Past weeks can be read here.

It’s day 81, and that sounds like a good time to reflect and ask myself:

Can I really pull this off? In Mid-September 2023, will I have a half a million dollar website?

Today, I’m diving into all the numbers to find out. With the help of everyone’s best friend, math, we can determine if there’s a clear path.

In Today’s Email

  • But first, we need to talk about hooks.
  • Facebook and Email by the numbers.
  • Exactly how I can compound to a $500k sale.
  • The unknown can be brutal. 🙁
  • But the unknown can be great. 🙂
  • Why I think a buyer will want the site.
  • Gotta go, bye.

Before we go to math class…

I continue to ask myself a question: what separates great content creators from average ones?

There are plenty of variables, but it primarily comes down to just one thing.

You need to deeply understand hooks.

I don’t know the “official” way marketers define it, but, to me, there are two parts of a good hook:

  • The “holy f**king s**t” (HFS) part of the content/story.
  • How the headline effectively captures that part.

I don’t decide on an article idea and then ask myself, “How can I bait people into thinking this is worth clicking?”

Instead, I specifically seek a content idea that naturally lends itself to a headline that’s impossible to ignore.

An idea that has that HFS factor. Once you find that, the rest is easy.

Here’s a real example from just last week: my Week 11 email had the highest open rate since Week 2.

It wasn’t because everyone magically became more interested in this challenge. It was because of the subject line:

Week 11: How I Made $439,234.96 In A Month

I didn’t need to bait a boring story with an overhyped subject line. Because the story itself already had the HFS factor – someone making a stupid amount of money in one month.

Then the headline wrote itself.

So when it comes to your content, start every article by first pinpointing the single hook that your audience simply won’t be able to ignore. Then catch them with your headline.

If you’re about to write something that has literally nothing in it that will blow your audience’s mind, then you can expect the same in return: lackluster results.

Note: the above mostly applies to social and email content. Informational search-friendly content is a different beast, but elements of the above still apply.

Okay, we’re off to math class.

So far I have spent $12,350 out of the $20,000, but I’m not worried.

Just look at all this revenue:

I’m not sweating. You’re sweating.

In all seriousness, I do feel (mostly) confident.

It’s numbers like those above that can easily turn someone off and make them give up.

If I walked up to a stranger and said I’ve spent over $12k and nearly 3 months of my time on a project, and it has made $90.92, they’d laugh and give me a wedgie.

But there are so many intangibles at play: an increasing understanding of my audience, a firmer grasp on what content works, and seeing the clear path to snowballing traffic and revenue.

Patience is really tough when your time, energy, and money are being spent, but it’s vital.

Let’s use math, strategy, and speculation to show exactly how I can complete this challenge successfully.

First, the Facebook Page.

It’s still sitting at 112,000 followers, and I’m alternating photos and links. Here’s what that looks like:

ranted on Twitter about this reality, but it is what it is: Facebook massively throttles link reach, so just factor that into your calculations.

So where do I stand?

By the numbers:

  • Spent $4,930 on the Like campaigns.
  • Links reach ~12% of the audience.
  • 8-10% of them click the link, resulting in ~1,000 visits daily.
  • $15 Ad RPM = $15 in earnings (earnings per thousand visits).
  • $450/month or $5,400/year.
  • Annual ROI = 110%

Not bad. Especially when you put it beside the stock market… or FTX.

The above numbers insinuate doing nothing else, but that’s why it starts getting exciting.

Now, the same numbers for my newsletter.

I decided yesterday to drastically decrease my budget until after the holidays. It’s just too expensive right now.

But there was some great growth – some of it organically – recently.

By the numbers:

  • List size: 8,283.
  • Spent $3,099 on Facebook lead generation ads.
  • Open rate is ~25%.
  • Click through rate is ~8% (of total subscribers).
  • 650 daily visits.
  • At $15 Ad RPM, $300/mo or $3,600/year.
  • Annual ROI: 116%.

With Facebook and Email being the core of my advertising efforts, the numbers above equate to an $8,029 investment generating a projected $9,000 per year.

Of course, there are unlimited variables that could affect it either way.

Algorithms change. Ad prices fluctuate. Macro-economic factors. The list goes on and on.

But we’re creating rock solid quality content here, so let’s look at the positive side.

I haven’t counted Google yet.

Yesterday, along with my writer, we managed to publish six articles to the site. This isn’t the norm, but I believe we’re publishing far too much good content to not see Google traffic down the road.

I don’t know if that’ll be in a month or six months, but it’s coming.

Because I’m focusing on what I can predict, I’m leaving it out of the calculations. It’s just important to remember Google traffic could very well blow away other sources.

After all, for many website owners, search traffic is their only strategy.

RPMs will improve in two ways.

First: I’m using a $15 RPM (earnings per thousand visits) in my monetization calculations. Without even trying, I’m getting around that, but it is admittedly the highest paying time of the year.

That said, my implementation is weak because I haven’t optimized it yet. I’m still just running Adsense Auto Ads. Whether through optimizations of my own or getting into a premiere ad network, a $20 ongoing RPM is doable for my niche.

That would be a 25% jump in earnings alone.

Second: for the same reason RPMs are so high now on the publisher end, they’re high on the advertiser end.

Which is why growing a newsletter through Facebook lead gen during the most expensive time of the year is difficult.

I can see as much as a 50% decrease in cost per lead when January rolls out, and this is going to be key.

So how does this turn into a $500k sale?

Well, it might not. But I think it easily can, and I’ll explain why based on everything I just outlined above.

Note: some of this is certainly speculation, but I lost my crystal ball.

Let’s jump to January and see what things could look like.

By the numbers:

  • $8,000 (of $20,000) remaining + $750 in December.
  • Monthly expenses, including writer: ~$1,750.
  • Begin lead gen campaigns again at 15 cents each on $200/day.
  • Use $6,000 in January to acquire 40,000 subscribers.
  • Total list size: ~50,000.
  • Remaining money goes to monthly expenses.

I’m broke.

Except not at all.

With the math I already went through, 50,000 email subscribers means 4,000 daily visits (+ Facebook’s 1,000). At a $20 RPM, this is $3,000 in earnings – or about $2,750 in profit beginning in February.

This is where the power of compounding comes in.

Here’s a spreadsheet that maps out what happens if I cut my writer expense and continuously reinvest profits back into the newsletter:

September is the 1 Year Mark.

It’s a little like that example where if you give someone a penny on Day 1, then double how much you give them every day for 30 days, they have like 92 quadrillion dollars.

(It’s actually $5,368,709.12 but on Day 15, you only have $163.84.)

And all of this math, at the very least, proves there is a path to “winning” this challenge.

But of course there are glaring problems.

By now I hope you trust that I’m not attempting to waste your time with false promises. If I am, then I’m actually the greatest victim because these emails take me a really, really, aburdly long time to write – and I lose money on them.

So let’s talk about the holes in my plan:

It assumes I can scale at 15 cents per lead.

My last business, which I sold in 2019, had 750,000 email subscribers. I bought about half of those and the average cost per lead over a year of advertising was less than 10 cents.

So far, I have not been able to come close to that. Partially it’s because of the time of the year, but I think it’s just straight up more expensive now. Maybe not, and I’ll continue to test and report on my results.

But it is certainly a mildly optimistic assumption that I can spend as much as $15k in a month on leads at 15 cents.

It assumes there are no unexpected platform changes.

There’s no way I can know if suddenly Gmail will decide to make some change that cuts open rates in half.

But similarly, I can’t know if they’ll make a change that actually highlights emails like mine. It’s very possible that personalized content-oriented emails rise above e-commerce. Perhaps they even should.

And there’s no way I can know if Facebook will decide to eliminate lead gen ads or make some other insane change.

It assumes I can sell a site that has technically made no profit.

I’m actually not concerned with this, but those of you who are well-versed in how much websites sell for are probably constantly assuming this is impossible.

Roughly speaking, a site can sell for about 4 years of profit. Last I checked 0 x 4 is $0, but take a look at the spreadsheet above again.

Then consider what’s for sale:

  • An email list with hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
  • Thousands of already-published articles on a now-aged domain.
  • A social media following well into the six figures.
  • A lean operation making over $20k/month that only requires hiring a couple of contractors.

If you showed me a website in that position tomorrow, I would be very interested in it.

The standard “sell a site for X years of profit” doesn’t apply (as much) when you’re on a clear growth trajectory with diversified traffic that is (mostly) not dependent on algorithms.

But it also doesn’t assume several things.

As briefly mentioned earlier, these numbers do not assume any Google traffic or Facebook growth. Two realities that are almost certainly not possible (knock on wood).

It also assumes no affiliate sales, no sponsored deals, and no other unforeseen breakthroughs.

So while it can be viewed as an optimistic outlook, you could equally argue it’s a pessimistic one.

And that, in a nutshell, is how I see a path to pulling off this ridiculous challenge.

I have a few notes if you’re building along with me.

These numbers heavily depend on you and your niche.

Different niches and different ad creatives won’t result in the same numbers above.

Every week, I try to give as many tips and insights as possible so that you can get the most bang for your buck on your own journey. But the reality is that it really will depend on your niche. And then, even more so, your execution.

These weekly emails shouldn’t be seen as paint by numbers. I have two decades of understanding audiences and advertising.

My goal is to provide insights and thoughts that make you think in a way you didn’t before, or learn something you didn’t know before. That’s how you’ll save years of time and thousands of dollars.

And now, I need to wrap up.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to thoroughly get to a whole slew of things I wanted to cover. I’m going out of town for the weekend, and there’s just no time.

This week’s update has been more of a gut check than anything else. In my journey as an entrepreneur, I actually do this a lot on my own. Taking a step back and really seeing where you are can go a long way.

Putting pen to paper, so to speak, gives you a clearer view of where you stand. Otherwise, vague negative feelings of defeat overwhelm you and distort the reality.

Then you end up pulling the plug based on emotion, not the truth. And that’s how we fail.

Have a great weekend. Thank you for reading!

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Scott DeLong

I'm an introvert who has built and sold multiple companies for millions of dollars - without funding or employees. I've been featured in BusinessWeek, Business Insider, Fortune, Inc, and more. I hope you find my site helpful to your own entrepreneurial journey.