Interview with Business Blogger Steven Snell on His Recent 50k Blog Sale
Steven Snell is a professional blogger who also runs a design business. He is the man behind Vandelay Design, DesignM.ag and Traffikd. Especially his two flagship design blogs have been very succesful in the past both by the sheer numbers as well as financially.
A few days ago he has sold one of his design blogs, DesignM.ag. I asked Steven a few questions about the blog, the sale, his overall business and blogging of course. The interview was conducted by email.
Tad Chef of SEO 2.0: Hello Steven, congratulations on your recent blog sale. You sold Designm.ag for 50k US $. Are you satisfied with the outcome of the auction?
Steven Snell of Designm.ag: Thanks Tad. First, for clarification, the winning bidder on Flippa actually wasn't able to buy the site for personal reasons, but I was able to find another buyer at almost exactly the same price. I have mixed feelings about the outcome of the auction. I don't have experience buying or selling established sites, so when I was planning to sell I reached out to some friends that I know are pretty active in that field. The feedback I got was that it could sell for a good bit more than what it did, but of course it all just depends on finding the right buyer. So honestly,
I wasn't that excited about the price, but I'm confident that it was the fair market value
because I had about 4 people who were seriously interested and all were right around the same price. I'm really excited to be able to move on and have some time in my schedule now to be able to do some different things, but it will be weird not to be working on DesignM.ag anymore.
Tad Chef: You own/ed and lead/led at least 3 flagship blogs Designm.ag, the Vandelay Design Blog and Traffikd. Did I miss one? How did you choose which blog to sell?
Steven Snell: I have a few gallery sites, but yes, those are my three blogs. The decision to sell DesignM.ag was made because it took a significant portion of my time to manage on a continual basis and because I thought it had some value and would be of interest to buyers.
Tad Chef: It took you two years to sell Designm.ag - How long does it take for a blog to make sense financially in your opinion? Are 6 months of daily work enough?
Steven Snell: I think the amount of time it would take depends on the type of blog. For small niche blogs that are mostly set up to make money with AdSense or affiliate products you could probably sell at any point, assuming your able to make money with it. For the first year of DesignM.ag's existence it really wasn't monetized very aggressively,
my focus was on establishing a reputation and sustainable traffic.
A few months ago once those things had been accomplished I started to pursue some new monetization methods to increase the value of the site. For a blog that takes a similar approach (I guess you could call it an "authority blog"), it seems to me that you would want to wait at least a year before selling. I'm sure you could sell it earlier, but the early days of establishing a blog like this take a lot of work and usually generate only small amounts of income. So if you sell early I don't think you'll be maximizing what you can get for it.
Tad Chef: Of course not all blogs succeed inspite of the time (and money) invested. What were the most important factors for your business blogging success? Can you name them?
Steven Snell: I think one of the keys to DesignM.ag's growth over the past two years was consistency. There were no gaps of more than a couple of days without new content and I was always working on new posts and new ideas.
I approached the site as a business and was willing to invest time without making much money in the early months.
The other big factor is the community aspect. When I launched the site I wanted it to be more than just a blog. The community news section has always been of interest to a lot of people, especially other design bloggers that are looking for some exposure. At the time I launched the site I thought that feature would be somewhat unique (CSS Globe and Noupe had news sections at that time) but in the past two years countless design blogs have added news sections, so it's really not unique at all.
Tad Chef: Traffikd seems to be for some reason the least popular of your blogs. Why is that the case? Or is it just the obvious numbers and it earns much money behind the scenes?
Steven Snell: Traffikd is definitely the least popular, I think for a few reasons. First, it gets almost no attention. When I launched Traffikd I had been blogging actively at Vandelay Design for about six months and I'd learned a lot about blogging and social media. I was very active with social media at that point and I wanted to have a place to share some of the things I was learning.
Over time I've become less active with social media and now my efforts for promoting my blogs is just to focus on content.
So that leaves me with less ideas to write about and less interest in the topics covered at Traffikd. I removed ads from the site a while ago so that I won't have the need to publish new content at any particular frequency.
Tad Chef: Working on so many high quality blogs wasn't the only thing you do, you also have a design business and client work. How do you manage to do all of this? 80h work week? Employees?
Steven Snell: My client work is pretty limited right now, that may change after selling DesignM.ag. I have a few clients that I manage on an on-going basis and I take new projects when there is a really good fit. I have been working really long hours for 2 or 3 years (not really sure about numbers of hours) but I'm hoping to cut back a little bit and get a better work/life balance. I have no employees and outsource very little. At this point I don't really have any desire to manage employees or deal with all that comes with it.
Tad Chef: Do you still have time to read other blogs and participate in social media beyond blogs? If yes, what bogs do you read, where are you most active on social media?
Steven Snell: I check a lot of blogs in my feed reader and on Twitter, but I mostly scan and wouldn't say that I spend a lot of time reading blogs. I stay up-to-date with other design blogs so I know what is going on in the industry, but I don't do as much reading as I would like. My activity with social media is also very limited. I get a lot of requests for votes on various sites, I post links on Twitter, and sometimes I submit my own posts to niche social media sites. A few years ago I used to spend much more time on social media sites, but now my voting is usually done from the blogs/sites I'm visiting, such as clicking on a Digg button or a Tweetmeme button.
Tad Chef: You are one of those bloggers who use lists/listicles extensively. It seems to have worked for you. On the other hand I notice that the Web is full f lists nobody can digest anymore. Are the days of successful lists over? What are the alternatives?
Steven Snell: You hear a lot of people say that they don't like lists, but if you have a good list that really is helpful you will get overwhelmingly positive comments. There are so many design blogs now, and most of them publish lists. It's definitely a challenge to keep the content original, but in my opinion there is still a place for lists.
There's a big difference between a list for the sake of having a list and a list that is well-researched and helpful to readers.
One of the reasons I've used more lists on Vandelay Design in the past year is because of the time that I was spending on DesignM.ag. Now that I'll have more time available I plan to diversify the posts a little more, although lists and inspiration posts will not be going away.
Tad Chef: I've noticed that you focus on church websites with your design agency. Are you a religious person? If yes, does being religious help you with being determined to succeed in the sense of the protestant work ethic? If not, why churches, accidentally or did you seek out a special niche like that?
Steven Snell: Yes, I am a Christian. I chose to focus on churches because it was an area of interest for me, and because there is a large market for church websites. I'm sure that my faith impacts my work ethic, I think it impacts all aspects of my life. Also, I'm a pretty competitive and stubborn person, so if I want to accomplish something I'll usually keep working at it even after failures and setbacks.
I'm certainly not the most talented person in the world, but I do work hard and I'm commited to being successful with my business,
and I hope to be able to do it in a way that pleases God.
Tad Chef: Do you have something to add, something you want the SEO 2.0 readers to know?
Steven Snell: I had a few people ask me if it was my plan all along to sell DesignM.ag. The answer to that is no, I planned to keep it for the foreseeable future and make it a major part of my business. However, in recent months I really wanted to make some changes in my daily work (managing two active design blogs can lead to burnout!) and also wanted to free up some time for other things. I did start DesignM.ag with the intent of making money, but honestly I thought I would sell my other sites before selling DesignM.ag. I chose not to sell Vandelay Design because it's really more of a business, whereas DesignM.ag is just a blog.
Steven started his blogging career around the same time I've started SEO 2.0 so I was able to watch him closely. We've been on he same social sites as well for a while. While I have focused on blogging for clients Steven has followed the path of independent flagship blogs. I think say it wasn't a bad move. What do you think?
- Was it worth it?
- Did he sell below market value?
- Is this a success story others can repeat?
Add your thoughts in the comment section below.