Size Doesn’t Always Matter, Authority Does.

Authority and User Engagement Can Lead to Millions

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Bankaholic is a one-man WordPress blog run by 22-year-old Johns Wu, who just got the deal of a lifetime when he sold it to BankRate for $15 million, proving that blogging dreams really can come true.

I talked to Wu and got to know him a little better. We found out that he’s a young man who lives in an apartment, and lives on Subway and weekend drinking. I can relate to that. When I was 22 I had a similar lifestyle, except you could replace Subway with McDonald’s and $15 million with basically broke.

Yes, Wu certainly did something right. But what was it that he did so well as to net him such an astonishing amount of money for a blog that he had only been running for a little over 2 years? What was so enticing about Bankaholic that BankRate was willing to plunk down $15 million?


I talked not only to Wu, but to hugley successful blogger Jeremy Schoemaker of Shoemoney (see our video interview with Schoemaker at BlogWorld) as well. I asked Schoemaker why he thought Wu had gotten such a great deal, to which he replied, "Simple. It was an authority in the banking industry.  Especially with all the banking news going on, now those keywords are hotter then ever."

There’s no question that the keywords Bankaholic ranks for played a role in the acquisition. Bankrate even talked about the hot keyword traffic in the press release, but was that the sole motivation for BankRate to pay such an expensive price for the blog? 

Wu himself said that Bankrate was a "traffic hungry financial powerhouse looking to broaden their portfolio of online properties." We at WebProNews have speculated that perhaps they were looking for a property to allow for more user engagement. When you look at Bankrate.com, there is not much of a community or social element, a blog is the most obvious way to engage readers, and when you have a blog that can bring in such a good amount of  organic traffic, the potential for opening up that engagement increases tremendously.

Schoemaker didn’t really think that the engagement factor was integral to Wu’s deal with Bankrate. When I asked him if he thought it played a particularly big role, he said, "In this case I do not think so.  I think the most important factor was that it was an authority in a very highly competitive niche." That’s not to say that Schoemaker was downplaying the importance of engagement in general. In fact, he places a "huge amount" of importance on it when it comes to the success of a site. "There are millions of blogs out there that never have any direct interaction with their audience," he says. "You can set yourself apart by doing this." He cites responding to commentators and meeting users at shows specifically.

Responding to commentators is huge indeed. I’ve talked about this at SmallBusinessNewz before. You should treat your blog like your own social network. Wu does this. It is not uncommon for a post at Bankaholic to have over 40 comments, and within those comment sections, Wu is actively participating. He’s engaging his readers in conversation.

Engagement tends to come natural when you love what you do though. Wu doesn’t seem too concerned about retiring just yet. He’s going to continue blogging at Bankaholic. "I like blogging, so I don’t mind," he says. "Especially right now, with the financial world in total chaos, there’s no shortage of topics to write about. This is history in the making, and it’s fun to document it." He will remain blogging at the site for an undetermined amount of time, but he said that if he were BankRate, he would hire additional writers as well, so it’s hard to say if he is looking at this as a permanent gig.

Authority leads to engagement.

If you can become an authoritative source for information as a content site in your particular niche, engagement will naturally follow if you allow for it to do so. Enable commentary from your readers. Participate in discussion with them, so they know you are involved. It’s amazing the amount of discussion that can be generated, and not only will this benefit those involved in the discussion itself, but it will be there for all readers to read and learn from, which is why I still consider new media to be a legitimate source for information.

Advertisers will also be drawn to a site that is seen as an authority in its niche, particularly when that is evident by the level of user engagement. If a site has a lot of legitimate comments, advertisers will see this basically as a community of professionals in the target market they are interested in. With enough authority and user engagement, a site is likely to attract offers from potential buyers as well. Just ask Johns Wu.

What are your thoughts on the combination of authority and user engagement? Is this the recipe for success?

Update: I’ve posted a follow-up interview with Wu. It was originally supposed to be included as part of this article, but due to conflicting schedules, we were unable to get it together. He talks about negotiation, and engagement.

Size Doesn’t Always Matter, Authority Does.
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  • http://authorityblogger.com/ Chris Garrett

    I love this article, and not just because I have a course called Authority Blogger :)

    Fact is in any market there will be the top dog, one or two who want to be the top dog, and everyone else.

    You have to stand out, you have to provide consistant value, and increasingly online, you have to provide real, authentic, tools or useful content.

    The days where you could game a site to the top of the rankings but have a user experience that sucks are either dying or already over.


  • http://webfeast.biz Imelda O. Suzara

    I think the name of the site Bankaholic is catchy and maybe a lot of bankers are drinkers.  It’s inspiring to hear this great news since I blog/vlog online.  Is Wu a banker btw?

    • Chris Crum

      He did not mention anything about being a banker to me. He said that after he finished college, he worked for a couple months at an online jewelry e-tailer and then began working on Bankaholic full time.

  • http://www.e1jobs-blog.com Robin

    Being a sole authority writer within a niche must have been a great help and engaging content is also essential.

    Why anyone would pay $15 million is beyond me. It would be hard to justify on a cost-benefit analysis and return on investment analysis. Had the bank offered him $500,000 he may have taken it … definitely a time to start low and work up rather than start high and work down.

    He’s very lucky to have struck a chord with the bank and I wish him all the best with his new found wealth.


    All About Jobs Blog


    PS: My blog’s for sale $500,000 will do (just jokin)



  • http://www.BuyUsedWebsites.com Michael Cruz

    There’s no dount it’s a powerful site and glad to see he sold it for a pretty penny. Congratulations.

  • http://www.customcraftedkeywords.com Tim

    Wow… that is a blogging dream come true.  I wonder how many banking blogs will be launched, effective immediately?  Thanks for the heads up, enjoy getting the updates.

  • http://bankaholic.blogspot.com/ Heartlander

    A very innovative viral marketing ploy by BankRate.

    They are counting on all of us to write about it, thus promoting those keywords and their corporate identity even further.

    A little more ingenuity:


  • http://www.finance-maker.com john lowthian

    It nice to hear stories like that.

  • http://www.tingmo.com John the rich

    All I can say is wow mr wu. He did it, now it is someone else’s turn.

  • http://www.yomi11.com Olatokunbo Gbolade

    Yes indeed i believe authority definetely has something to do with his success,i wish him more of it as he moves forward.

  • http://www.blockbusterbooks.co.uk/1.html DrBlockbuster

    Yes …. what a great feel good schtory there! Well done to Johns Wu! 

    Robin below made a very pertinent point … why did they offer $15 million when surely Johns Wu would have excepted 500,000?  This is indeed very true, but hey-ho some of the bankers have not been making the best of investments of late … hahahahah.  Never mind … lucky Johns Wu !

    Dr Blockbuster has spent nearly 5 years on a plethora of sites and forums, but I have never been overkeen on writing a blog … why? … well, who’s interested in knowing that I was playing tennis earlier or what bran of beer I had afterwards. :smiles:  However,  AUTHORITATIVE CONTENT with a WORTHY name certainly cranks up the $ value.

    I have to say that although I live in Scotland, I  saw the Saints against the Vikings last night and that 2 punt-return. However, measure the value of that last sentence with the next one.>>> I saw the New Orleans Saints defeated by the Minnesota Vikings 30-27, despite the record breaking 2 punt-return touchdowns by Reggie Bush.  :smiles:  My tip for content is to never say "Reggie" when with that additional word,  "Reggie Bush"  brings many more readers and quite right toooooooo. Incidentally, wasn’t Reggie Bush unlucky not to get a third touchdown?

    So,  following the style of Britiish chef Gordoin Ramsey, we need to have good content to create an impressive finished dish. So to this post, we sprinkle in some Donald Trump success, Sir Sean Connery’s biography, Changeling with Angelina Jolie, and this great new film, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People with that fantastically funny British actor, Simon Pegg. In this case, not very AUTHORITATIVE, but certainly meaningful content that will pump up alerts and bring readers, here, soon. :roflmAo:

    Nuff said.  Congratulations to Johns Wu again.


    Dr Blockbuster



  • http://www.xsitewebsite.com Manu

    What a wonderful story of David selling to Goliath. I am inspired now to aff the very best content to my own blogs knowing that I am building an asset.

    Thank you for your inspiring post.


  • http://www.bankaholic.com/ Johns Wu

    LOL it’s funny that you talked to Shoemoney. I have Shoemoney to thank for getting me into web publishing in the first place.

    I was in college when Shoemoney’s famous Adsense check picture was circulating around the web. When I saw it, I was like DAMN, I wanna be like that guy!

    That’s what inspired me to launch my "Future Young Millionaires" site which eventually led to Bankaholic.

    I have some Bankaholic T shirts lying around… I think I’ll mail him one for his Free Shirt Fridays.



    • Chris Crum

      That’s great, Johns, I’m sure Jeremy would enjoy that story. Thanks for stopping by to comment and “engage” in our conversation.

  • http://www.fxuniqlo.com fxuniqlo.com

    what a lucky guy…. your 2 years income worth it for 15 millions

  • http://gatewaytosuccess.blogspot.com Orikinla Osinachi

    If only other corporations have been wiser they would have invested in similar blogs as Bankaholic.

  • http://gatewaytosuccess.blogspot.com Orikinla Osinachi

     Bankaholic is a pointer to the future of niche blogs, because as we all know that an interactive niche blog will definitely increase the mileage and patronage of any corporation than the office address.

  • Doug

     I am always first to congratulate someone for doing good or landing that big payday, so my hat is off to Mr. Wu for getting it done.

    With that said, for the life of me, I do not know what Bank Rate was thinking. There is no way that blog was worth $15 million. I looked at it and it is an unremarkable site from the content on it.

    I have worked in the financial journalism area and I know that keywords in banking do pay high ppc so I guess they could justify it long term from that standpoint, maybe. I also think the brand name was a good one, but when I look at the content there was nothing compelling that made me want to go back to that site and from the stats I saw they were not that impressive considering the price paid. And some here are saying that this was just some guy who had no financial expertise, so he was making a pure keyword play (smart guy).

    I have to wonder what financial writers at Bank Rate who I am sure are grossly under paid, but churn out useful content on a daily basis must think about this deal? I would have a hard time cranking out that next article without a raise. It seems to me that Bank Rate could have unleashed some of their in house talent and started blogs around those journalists and produced better blogs with more compelling content from industry experts for a fraction of the cost and generated the PR authority to drive their ppc traffic. It seems to me from a business standpoint that Bank Rate could have gotten more bank for their buck by following that strategy than acquiring an existing property of dubious long-term value.

    • Chris Crum

      You’re definitely right about the brand name. There’s no question it’s a solid domain and brand, and that may have been a very enticing factor for Bankrate.

    • Guest

      how much revenue would this site have to crank out to justify a 15mil price tag?

      • Guest

        I use the same affiliate network he used to use and my affiliate manager told me that he was pulling in over $600,000 a month in affiliate commissions… not to mention any adsense revenue.

        Identity Theft Protection Company

  • http://www.namesnamer.com/ NamesNamerDotCom

    I doubt blogging can really make a person millionaire but I’m wrong.

  • http://www.thewebtechreviews.com Mobius

    This should be very motivational for those with bank related blogs or soon to have bank related blogs :)

    Hopefully someday game or software companies will buy out my game / tech blog as well. I’m happy with 10 million lol



    • http://www.muchfreetime.com 93civEJ1@muchfreetime.com

      Wow, some people just get a break in life. I guess this was his! amazing.

  • http://www.blockbusterbooks.co.uk/movie-sir-seanconnery.html Dr Blockbuster

    Hmmm … Dr Blockbuster has congratulated Johns Wu beloooooow.

    I was thinking … should I continue with Books or Burgers?  :roflmAo:

    I think I’ll go and check to see if MacDonalds want to know about the Clan heritage … then decide …haha …  Perhaps they might bite on a MacDonald tartan burger blog. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Time for my medication …again!





  • http://lamdar.com lamdar

    This gives bloggers all something to strive for.

  • http://rowanlandscaping.com/NC/ nc landscaping

    great article.

    • Chris Crum

      Thank you!

  • http://www.blackberryvsiphone.com Dave

    This is a great story, and something for all bloggers to look forward to.  Blogging is work despite what some believe, and the work of Johns Wu has definitely paid off in this case.  Nice job, Johns! 

    Press on!


  • http://www.fourthfloormarketing.com Jim Spinosa

    Well clearly we could all learn a bit from his business model.  A blog selling for $15 million is absolutely phenomenol, especially at that age.  I am 19 myself so I still have 3 years ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • http://www.sourcesurge.com SEO web design

    15 million!!! Wow. I have to admit I was jealous when I read this post. I need to start posting on my own personal blog again. I would be happy with 10 bucks to be honest with you.

    • http://www.seochester.co.uk/search-engine-optimisation.html SEO Portfolio

      LOL, 10 bucks won’t go far! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • http://www.yourtrustedtradesmen.com ytt12

    I say well done to him if someone is willing to pay that ammount for a blog

    you take it quick and run. I am sure we will here a lot more him in the future.

    Cheers Mick Uk



  • http://dreambizarre.blogspot.com Aaron

    Yep definaetly a nice payday that was,jus shows that your passions and or hobbies could really payoff”.

    My own advice for everyone would be,do what u do and do it well. Be an innovator and not an immitator,but first and foremost u really need to enjoy what u do”.

    I’m sure this story will motivate people in the wrong direction by putting up bank/finance related blogs/websites which is a subject they might have no interest in whatsoever’.

  • http://www.greenandchic.com/blog Carla
    Though my blog is worlds away from being acquired for any kind of money, this is still motivation for me to keep writing to become a better blogger/writer.


  • http://www.cikepong.blogspot.com cikepong

    good for him.If my blog have offer like that i’m take that money too.Then make other’s blog.


    come visit my blog  cikepong

  • http://ipod.onlinedownloads.org/ cher k markov

    This is really amazing. It will definitely motiovate us. Thanx for bringing this story.

  • http://24sevenads.com/classifieds Marquita

    Congratulations to Johns Wu! 

    After the bank’s mortgage meltdown and the $700B bailout that ensued, they have been using the taxpayers money to invest in other businesses.  Johns Wu’s web property is one such intellectual real estate to benefit from this new trend.

    The brand name and its authority on the brand is what captured Bankrate’s imagination enough that they were willing to fork out big bucks. It has relevance to their own brand so it makes business sense.

    It is always good news when a young entrepreneur benefits from the fruits of his labor, isn’t that the ultimate goal in life?


  • http://www.ashwinrocks.com Ashwin

    yea….he is a lucky fella

  • http://web.monitoring-central.com/ Alexander Ivanoff

    He is not just lucky. Wu worked a lot to make his blog so popular. Wanna have 15 mln? Work as much as we has ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • http://cutewriting.blogspot.com Lenin Nair

    Checking out Wu’s blog I was amazed. Weird blog. I mean positively. A 22 year old can have such a huge blog? It’s really wonderful.

  • http://www.infinitytungsten.com Stewart G

    I think that what Wu has done is admirable. Obviously not many people will enjoy such a payoff, however it does go to show that hard work and constant dedication can lead to great results. Too many people enter the online world looking for a quick path to wealth, but it is the hard working John Wu’s of the Internet that make it work for them because they are in it for the right reasons. I doubt Wu envisioned a 15 million payout in the begining but because of his pursuit of making a great site he netted a great gain.

    • http://youtube-cash-cow.blogspot.com siridra

      I think the reason he was offered the deal was because of his domain name. We can have a crappy blog contents, but if the domain name is right, it will attract traffic.

  • http://app2u.blogspot.com/ ILLIYAS ISMAIL

    This is a really good achievement…who’s say internet blogger cannot be a millionaire??

    congratz to him..sure will spend the money with superb brand and maybe making another web and sell it..

    just for 2 years.. =15 million…

    is like 1 year annual profit = 7.5 million

    and for 1 month = 625K a month


    ———Visit me———–

  • http://www.thepromoshop.com/store/discount-polo-shirts/ discount polo shirts

    I love the article title. So I guess what worked for him was that his site had authority and thus that made users get engaged, am I right?

  • http://ezrealestatemarketing.com real estate internet marketing

    That’s a good point. The more authoritative you are in a subject, I’m sure the more that people want to engage in a discussion. If I’m just some yahoo spouting off information, it might be good to read but not to necessarily get engaged.


  • http://www.magicvisionz.com batista

    who says dreams dont come true so people i say dream and dream big and work hard n pray to GOD he will make it true…!

  • http://DebtConsolidationGains.com Debt Consolidation

    No matter what the pessimists think, this is a pretty darn good deal. No doubts about it – it’s going to be very difficult to easily replicate what Bankaholic has done. Do a search and you will see the staggering backlinks he has built over the years. Well done, Johns and good for Bankrate for seeing what a real GEM your blog is.

  • http://www.plantingdollars.com Ryan @ Planting Dollars

    I do wonder how he went about researching the majority of his information and he became an expert in a niche that he hadn’t previously worked in. Either way, smart guy.

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