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The Financial Blogger – Best of the Best Blogger Series

by on November 12, 2011

The Financial Blogger - Best of The Best Blogger SeriesIn our 24th edition of our Best of the Best Blogger series, we sat down with Mike, aka The Financial Blogger.

Mike is a married, 30-something father of two who works in the financial industry during the day and moonlights running his online company, M-35, in his spare time.

With TheFinancialBlogger.com as the anchor web site, Mike and his partner have developed M-35 into a thriving online business. He and his partner launched the company back in 2008 and have established themselves within a very unique segment of online marketing – buying and selling personal finance blogs.

As of today, M-35 owns more than 100 unique web properties. While M-35 as a whole is segmented into 3 different divisions, the primary income generating mechanism for M-35 has been, and continues to be, the income derived from the personal finance blogs. Mike is considered somewhat of a pioneer in the blog brokering business and was one of the first to commit significant capital and premium cash prices to relatively unknown online properties.

Virtual real estate development is a hot new growth area and financial lead generation companies like Bankrate and Quinstreet have paid handsome sums for web properties in the personal finance category for several years now. Bankrate paid a staggering $15 million dollars for Bankaholic.com back in 2008, which had the personal finance blogosphere wagging its tongues.

While Mike’s valuation model hasn’t reached that scale just yet, the bottom line is this: he’s making a handsome living doing what he’s doing and investors have really started to take notice of this burgeoning new business opportunity.

We sat down with Mike recently to talk about how he got started, how he values sites and what’s next on the horizon for his budding empire.

Q: What was your inspiration behind launching TheFinancialBlogger.com (TFB)?

A: I first started The Financial Blogger (TFB) back in 2006 because I really liked writing and personal finance. Being a financial planner by day, I’ve noticed that many people didn’t know much about personal finance and I wanted to share my knowledge and passion about finance to them.

Later on, we (my partner and I) realized that we could make money out of personal finance websites and this is how we started buying personal finance blogs and running an online business.

Gradually, TFB became more like an entrepreneur/personal finance/make money online blog. This year, I am focusing more on how I manage my business and grow my online “empire” into a 6 figure sideline.

Today, my inspiration comes from the hope to reach financial independence throughout my blogs and I share my projects through TFB.

Q: TFB is one of several blogs owned and managed within a portfolio of blogs by your parent company M-35. What is your biggest challenge in successfully managing a blog portfolio like M-35?

A: Challenges evolve as the company grows. For example, in 2010, our biggest challenge was organization. We were having a hard time managing all our websites at the same time. We started hiring writers, creating other websites and we were having issues keeping track of everything. As the company’s income grew significantly, we decided to hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) that helps us in our day-to-day management. We now have 2 VA’s doing keyword research, SEO, writers management, promotion and writing. We have now built a solid team and we are able to manage our growth without forgetting anything!

In 2011, our biggest challenge was different. Each year, my partner and I leave for a 2 days meeting where we plan our next year. Since our team was ready and we have a good cash flow coming in every months, we started a bunch of new projects (niche websites, blogs, eBooks, newsletters, etc).

The problem we are facing right now is that we didn’t have priorities set. Therefore, each projects were slowly starting but nothing was properly done in a timely manner.

Recently, after going at The Financial Blogger Conference in Chicago at the beginning of October, we have decided to place priority by quarters. This helps us to focus on a couple of projects at a time. We hope to be able to give birth to more project this way ;-) .

Q: What are 2-3 of the most important considerations when you’re looking to buy a website or a blog for your portfolio?

A: The 3 most important things we look at before buying a blog are the following:

Traffic:
We want well-diversified traffic sources. This include direct traffic, referring traffic (from other websites) and search engine traffic. The most important is search engine traffic as it is the hardest to get in my opinion. If the site ranks well for a few great keywords, then it becomes interesting. We also look for site with over 10,000 visits per month. With the resource we have in place, it’s not hard for us to create a website getting 5,000 visits per month. When we buy a website, we first want to buy time. It requires a lot of time and effort to reach 10,000 visits per month.

Content:
Obviously, we are looking for original content. But more importantly, we are looking for topics that we enjoy. For example, I would have never bought The Dividend Guy Blog if I wasn’t interested in dividend investing. On the other side, I would never buy a “frugal” blog as I’m not interested in frugal topics and they don’t pay well in term of advertising ;-) .

Income sources:
I like to see some diversification among income sources. This includes private advertising, affiliate programs and Adsense. The ideal blog shows equal shares of each revenue sources so you are not dependent on a specific ad provider.

Q: How important of a role does content strategy play within your overall business model?

A: I think that there are tons of good blogs you can read but only a few of them are great. The different between a good blog and a great one is the content. I personally write on a weekly basis on TFB and The Dividend Guy Blog and I try to bring the best content possible.

In order to keep all my ideas, I put everything on a USB key that I always have with me. When I can’t write my idea right away, I simply send myself an email.

I receive a lot of emails from my readers asking me questions. Most of the time, I reply through a blog post instead of just sending an email. I figure that if one reader has this questions, chances are that other readers may have the same one. This is how you can create great content.

Q: What’s your stance on credit cards? Useful? Or the root of all evil?

A: I think credit card is the root of all evil if you can’t control yourself! However, personally, I pay everything with my credit card (it has a reward points system). I pay my card in full on a monthly basis so I don’t pay interest and I make money of my purchases. The key is to treat your credit card as your own cash so you don’t spend more simply because you don’t see the amount going out of your bank account right away. I carefully watch my credit card balance to make sure I can pay it off at the end of the month ;-) .

My sincere thanks goes out to Mike and his partner at M-35 for sharing their story and their budding virtual real estate empire.  We’re really looking forward to hearing about his next big blog purchase (or sale).

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