house numbers homepage (home equity management software)

in Blog, Finance

3 Growth Strategies that Turned a $1K Website Investment into a $3.75M Fintech Startup

“Companies are bought, not sold,” as the saying goes. In other words, successful acquisitions are when a buyer recognizes value in a company and actively pursues the acquisition rather than the company needing to market or “sell” itself aggressively.

But how exactly does one grow their business to become an acquisition target? In this post, I will explain exactly how I did it, and I’ll cover the steps I took to grow (OFP) from a failing content website into a popular homeowner website that now generates hundreds of qualified leads for my fintech startup, House Numbers. The buyer — and now co-founders — executed this rollup strategy with the plan to provide us with a unique acquisition source of homeowners.

To give some background, I purchased OFP on Flippa in 2020 for about $1,000. I originally planned to fix it up for a quick sale, but my plans changed when I was approached by a good friend, and now co-founder, about rolling up my site into a larger venture-backed business targeting homeowners. It was the perfect merger because I have years of experience building and growing websites, and my cofounders had a great idea to help homeowners with their finances but didn’t have digital marketing experience. This post is about how we leveraged a simple Flippa acquisition to raise over $3.75 million from Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists. I’ll walk you through how we rebuilt OFP from the ground up and started generating hundreds of leads for our startup. I bucket my strategies into one of three growth buckets:

  1. Design
  2. Content
  3. Backlinks

I’m excited to walk you through my journey with OFP… keep reading to learn more!

1. Website Redesign & Restructure

Building a profitable website always starts with a great design. Unlike Craigslist or Wikipedia, the rest of us operate in a reality where looks do matter. For me, that meant designing and deploying a layout that not only converted readers into subscribers but also was an asset my co-founders felt was worth acquiring. Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer — what exactly are they purchasing? If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, most buyers do not want a fixer-upper. They want a beautiful, trustworthy, income-producing website. Applying what I know about real estate and curb appeal, nothing adds more value for little effort than aesthetic upgrades.

And that’s exactly what I did as a first step after acquiring OFP — a simple design audit and update. Nothing too expensive or complex, but some cosmetic work that added a ton of value.

Here is what the website looked like before I acquired it:

our family place website homepage before ux upgrade

And here is what it looked like after:

our family place website homepage after upgrade

Three Immediate Benefits I Saw After Our Website Redesign

Redesigning my site’s user experience (UX) had more benefits than I initially anticipated. The first was obvious: great UX led to more trust and authority with my visitors. As readers scan our content, they look for signals that we, the owner, are a source of authoritative information. Whether we like to admit it or not, as humans, we tend to put more trust into well-presented sources and people (ever wonder why politicians are dressed so nicely!). As a result, we saw a jump in engagement (time on site, pages per session, etc).

The second reason I started with a website redesign is that, according to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, content should be created with a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), which is especially important for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages that could potentially impact the health, financial stability, or safety of users. The design and user experience of the website contribute to its perceived trustworthiness, with a clear, user-friendly layout being beneficial.

Almost immediately after redesigning my site and cleaning up the content (more on this below), I saw a significant lift in rankings and traffic. As a result, I now implement a redesign every time I buy a new website.

google analytics engagement metrics before vs after our family place website ux upgrades

Lastly, a delightful surprise (that makes so much sense in hindsight) was that it was insanely easier to gather backlinks after my website upgrade. As I discuss below, outbound backlinking campaigns take much time and effort. You spend weeks emailing website owners for a guest post, and very few respond positively. Do you know what I learned about this process? My success rate increased after I updated the website! More details below, but remember this is an unintended benefit during your redesign.

So put your best foot forward with a brand facelift, and you’ll thank me later!

How to Easily Redesign Your Website

A website redesign doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. For my website redesign, I chose Thrive WordPress themes, but there are so many different WP themes that you can choose one that suits you best.

I also didn’t want to spend hours tweaking each UI detail, so I hired a contractor on Upwork to do the work for me. I could write an entire post about hiring and managing virtual assistants (VA) but let me save you the time — I hired Saaransh Daga to convert my crappy, old WordPress website into a new look using Thrive themes. Saaransh was super responsive and made sure the final product was in line with my vision. If you DM him, tell him Ben sent you!

2. Content Audit and Refresh

When acquiring a new website, you may find many useless posts and irrelevant content. It’s not uncommon to see a site with hundreds of pages, but only a few pages account for most of the traffic. Buyers hate this because it’s a liability — as soon as that page is downgraded, traffic will start to slip.

That’s exactly what happened to me. The site I acquired had over 300 blog posts, but 10 of them accounted for almost 80% of the overall traffic! To make matters worse, I could tell many were guest posts or built for the sole purpose of creating a backlink for someone else!

google analytics showing that majority of traffic to our family place website came from less than 3% of our pages

Reducing the number of useless pages on your website is great for SEO. Google and other search engines allocate a crawl budget for each website. If your site has too many useless pages, you will eventually expend all your budget on content that doesn’t matter. If search engine spiders are not crawling your most important pages often enough, they will miss important updates or content refreshes.

Page Pruning and Content Cleanup

After I kicked off our website redesign, I started to go through each page on the site. I used ScreamingFrogSEO and Siteliner to scan my website. I then exported the results into a spreadsheet and manually went through each and every page to decide which pages to keep and which to kill. I also asked my VA to help. She reviewed each page as well, then marked “keep,” “kill,” or “maybe” — I checked her work and then made decisions on the “maybe” pages.  

As I deleted pages, I also had to set up 301 redirects. If there was any traffic going to the deleted pages, albeit small, or if any external backlinks were pointing to these pages, I didn’t want them to hit 404 errors. Additionally, I had to update the internal linking structure because many of these pages had links pointing to them. More on this later.

My goal was to shed between ⅓ to ½ of the pages. I wanted the future buyer to know that each page was on the website for a reason. Each page served a purpose and was unique and original content. In the end, I went from 357 pages down to 215 pages — good enough for a first pass!

Internal Linking Strategy

I could spend an entire post on internal linking, but this topic has already been blogged about ad nauseam, so suffice it to say, I wanted to make sure my important pages had the most internal links pointing to them. I wanted my website laid out like a grocery store: similar items situated near each other and complementary items cross-promoted alongside each other.

The first step in creating an SEO-friendly internal linking structure was to understand which pages were important to my business and which were simply supportive or irrelevant. What I did was choose the top 25 to 50 pages that I wanted to rank and listed out the keywords for each.

Next, I used ScreamingFrogSEO to visualize the internal linking structure of my site (after the scan runs, click the Internal tab, then sort by link count). I exported the output into a spreadsheet. I also did the same with Google Analytics for my traffic levels over the past 90 days.

Now that I had both the internal link counts and traffic levels exported into a spreadsheet, I was able to confirm whether my most important pages had the most internal links. If I found a page with insufficient links, I asked my VA to build up the link count. For example, notice how on this page for mortgage refinance to pay off debt, I also linked to articles on debt consolidation and mortgage refinance. Building a multitiered internal linking strategy sends the message to Google which pages are most important around a specific topic.

I also checked the keywords that were being used for the internal links, and if they were off-topic, then I asked her to update the link anchor text.

In the end, we added over 250 links and updated almost 200 anchor text links. The whole process took about three weeks, but we started to see a traffic increase for the linked pages within just a month.

3. Backlinking Campaign and Strategy

Backlinking is my favorite part of preparing a website for sale. I also hate it at the same time. It’s like going to the gym — dreading the experience walking in, but feels great on the way out.

Why are backlinks important as you prepare to sell your website? Because more links = better rankings = more traffic! As most know, backlinks are a key component in search engine rankings. Furthermore, most buyers want to purchase a rising star, not a falling knife. The buyer will do their due diligence, and if they see the number of referring domains decreasing, they may be spooked and interpret that as a website in neglect.

I employed three backlinking strategies to test which would perform better. They were:

  1. skyscraper content
  2. spray & pray
  3. beg/borrow/steal

Each time I buy or start a new site, I like to implement multiple backlinking strategies since each niche is different and it’s not one size fits all.

Skyscraper Technique

This famous backlinking strategy was popularized by Brian Dean of Backlinko. The strategy goes like this:

  • Write a long, authoritative piece on a very specific content. Do not make the article promotional in any way — it should be informative and value-add.
  • Do a massive cold outreach campaign to gather links to that piece. In your outbound, show off how authoritative the piece is.
  • [optional] If you haven’t already, after the outreach campaign is over, update the piece so you are linking to your most valuable articles.

For this backlinking strategy, we decided to outsource it. I’ve run these campaigns before, and they’re a lot of work. I wanted to experiment with using an agency. They took care of writing the piece, editing it, and posting it on our site. They also managed the entire outreach campaign, from researching which blogs to target and gathering their contact information to confirming the backlink was placed with the correct anchor text.

backlinking strategy using the skyscraper technique

Although it was a bit pricey, I think it was worth it, especially when you account for the hours I saved not having to do the work myself. In total, here are my results:

  • 160 hours saved (because I outsourced this)
  • 1 authority blog post (6,500+ word count)
  • 18 backlinks
  • $2,400 total spent

If you have the opportunity to outsource work like this, I highly recommend it (unfortunately, the firm I worked with is now out of business so I can’t make a recommendation). You don’t have to pay as much as I did, especially if you use a contractor instead of a firm.

Spray & Pray

For this backlinking strategy, I hired a VA to help gather 250+ websites in adjacent niches to mine. He added them to a spreadsheet along with their contact information or links to their “Contact Us” pages. I then did hrefs Batch Analysis to understand each domain’s backlink authority, which helped me prioritize the links and calculate my max willingness to pay. 

We then wrote a templated intro email, asking if they were interested in a guest blog post or would be open to updating an existing post to include a link back to my site.

Overall, I am happy with the results of this strategy. Of the three backlinking strategies I deployed, this one by far had the best ROI. It took the most attention and time, but the value of the links I got was the strongest, and I paid the least.

backlinking strategy individual outreach for blog owners' guest posts

In life, it’s always a tradeoff between time vs. money vs. quality, but overall, my results were:

  • 15 links gained
  • $25 average price per link
  • 37 average domain authority of link
  • $750 (links + content + VA time)

If you are on a budget or prefer to have 100% control over the process, this is the backlinking strategy for you. I was able to decide which links I wanted, and outsourcing the work helped me save time.

Beg, Borrow, and Steal

This is the kitchen sink strategy of backlicking. If you’ve been working in SEO or digital marketing long enough, you likely have friends and connections that may be open to partnering or working with you on links. For example, I reached out to a few SEO friends of mine and asked if they have any link opportunities (whether free or paid). A couple responded, and I picked up three 30-DA links!  In exchange, they received a high-quality blog post.

Another great example is if you have friends who own websites. In my case, my uncle’s friend owns a plumbing business. He got me in touch, and in exchange for me doing a couple of hours of website work for him (I updated WP plugins, fixed a couple of small bugs, etc), he allowed me to insert a link from his website to mine.

backlinking strategy outreach for friends and connections link opportunities

Using this strategy likely won’t give you huge wins, but it’s definitely a nice nudge in your backlinking efforts. Spend some time reviewing your rolodex and researching which of your friends may be open to working with you. At first, I too was hesitant but in hindsight, I picked up about 5 links from 3 different websites.

Bringing it all together

After hitting the trifecta of website growth — design, content, and backlinks — we were ready to complete the acquisition and start raising capital. In the process of doing this, we also launched lead capture forms and popups to funnel homeowners from OurFamilyPlace to House Numbers. Meantime, we were meeting with Venture Capitalists to raise our pre-seed funding. The investors loved our scrappiness and ingenuity. We eventually closed a $3.75 million funding round to help homeowners build more wealth.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Write a Comment



1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jonathan Park

Thank you ben for this quality contents!