Flipping websites is a very real business venture.
Some people like to refer to flipping websites as buying and selling “virtual real estate”. While there are some similarities between the fixing and flipping aspect of real estate, buying and selling websites for profit brings it's own set of unique opportunities and challenges.
Like any type of business or investing in the stock market, the process and outcomes can vary greatly from tiny sites to extremely large sites, or very small earning sites to exceptionally profitable sites.
In the website buying game, there are opportunities for all levels of risk and reward.
As someone who has been involved in dozens of transactions, I can tell you that there is a very healthy market for both buying and selling online assets (content sites, ecommerce websites, and more).
Today, I'm going to give you the ultimate crash course on what website flipping is all about (including the risks involved) and then the best place to look for sites to buy and the optimal marketplaces to sell your sites.
- What is Flipping Websites?
- Understanding the Opportunity
- The General Business Model
- Flipping Website Examples
- Where to Find Websites to Buy?
- The 5 Step Growth Plan for Quick Flips
- Where to Sell Websites?
- Risks of Flipping Websites
What is Flipping Websites?
Website flipping is the process of buying a website with the intention of selling the website in the future for a higher price.
It's essentially the old adage of “buy low and sell high”. However, the time frame of how long you actually hold the website can vary greatly.
In some cases you might be able to almost immediately sell your site after buying it for a higher price (if you are able to line up off market deals). In other cases, the “flip” might be a site that you hold, grow, and optimize for years.
So, when I refer to “flipping websites”, I don't necessary mean something that is immediately passed along to the next buyer like a hot potato. Sometimes you can hold onto these revenue generating assets for much longer periods of time as you enjoy the cash flow.
Understanding the Opportunity
Before I jump into the process of buying and selling sites, let's first take a look at the economics behind it. In other words, what's a realistic amount of money that you can make by jumping into this business venture?
The price of a website is typically derived by a multiplier (the “multiple“) of net earnings from the site.
So, if a site has revenue of $1000 per month, but has expenses of $300 a month, then the net profit from the site would be $700 a month.
The $700 a month is then multiplied by some amount to determine a fair selling price. The “fair” multiple is really up to you and the seller.
However, now that the market for buying and selling websites has matured a bit over the years, there are some fairly standard ranges for multiples.
A fairly typical multiple range is somewhere around 24 to 32 times monthly earnings. (Please note this is a monthly multiple that is typically used on smaller assets, as you get to multi-million dollar assets, you would typically use an annual multiple).
Sometimes sites can be bought and sold for multiples lower than 24 or higher than 32, but again the range I'm giving is sort of the normal bell curve of where most sites are bought and sold.
The multiple is typically based on the average of the last 6 to 12 months or earnings.
So, in our example, the purchase price of a site making $700 a month would lie somewhere in the range of $16,800 to $22,400.
Sure, you might be able to squeeze a little profit out of a quick flip if you can buy on the low end and sell on the high end, but the real big money can be made by making slight improvements and increasing the earnings of a site.
So, instead imagine holding onto our example website for 6 months. After making some improvements that increase how much traffic the site gets, adding some content, and optimizing the earnings, you take it to a net income of $1,200 a month.
The site is now worth somewhere between $28,800 and $38,400.
If you were able to buy on the lower end at close to $18k and then sell at the higher end at $38k, you'll have made a cool $20k…over double your money in just 6 months!
Then if you have the money and appetite for it, you can just 10x the numbers in the example to see what happens if you were to buy larger assets or grow the earnings by 10x of a smaller purchase.
The General Business Model
In general the model is buy low and sell high. But there can be alot that happens in between.
Generally, someone that is buying websites will also be interested in improving that website – and this is key if you want to maximize your revenue potential. I'll share some the quick strategies that you can follow to improve a website in a bit, but here are some of the key activities you'll want to think about:
- Perform an SEO audit to figure out what errors or SEO improvements can be made.
- Tweak the site structure and internal linking to better optimize the site.
- Improve how the site is making money, which might include changing the income source.
- Find new traffic sources
- Perform off-page SEO (i.e. link building)
The most common model to flip websites is:
- Buy low.
- Make improvements to the site (as listed above).
- Work on growing the site for 6 months to 2 years.
- Sell the site for a higher multiple than you paid.
The time period, the price, and the improvements made can all vary greatly depending on the site operator (you!), but the above is a general model that most website flippers follow.
Flipping Website Examples
I know I personally like to see examples to give me a little motivation. So, I have 2 examples of websites that were purchased, grown, and sold (at least one of them).
The above screenshot is from a website that I purchased in April 2018 (I won't be revealing the domain names). You can see the “start” Amazon Associates earnings was approximately $768 per month (the previous couple of months were actually closer to $600).
Now it's been about a year and a half and I've implemented several of the steps that I discuss below for improving a site. In Dec. 2019, it earned over $3,400 from Amazon Associates.
That's a over a 4x increase in a year and a half!
Granted, December earnings are usually a bit higher. The average earnings over the past 12 months have been closer to $2,400, which is still a 3x increase in earnings.
I still own the site as I see more growth potential, and I don't mind collecting the cash flow from earnings. However, I do expect to flip this site in the next 12 to 18 months.
The second example I have to share is from Jon Gillham. He purchased a site for $53k and then sold it for $334k just 8 months later!
He was able to buy a niche site that was monetized with Amazon Associates. Then he actually developed, manufactured, and started selling one of the best selling items on his site. So, instead of referring traffic to Amazon as an affiliate (and make 4 to 6% commissions), he was able to send traffic to his own Amazon FBA listings and make significantly more on each sale.
Then of course, he also generated lots of sales directly from Amazon and this dramatically increased the value of the traffic. He was able to build his own funnel to collect email addresses which further built his list he was able to market to.
Here's a quick screenshot showing how he built his email/sales funnel:
Overall, it's a pretty incredible story of flipping an online business with tremendous success!
Where to Find Websites to Buy?
The reality is that there are hundreds of millions of websites on the internet and so there is not just 1 place you can go to buy websites. There are LOTS of places you can go to buy an internet business.
Here is a list of some of my favorite or most well-known places to buy websites:
You can reach out to websites individually and potentially find great deals. This is a TON of work though because you have to reach out to sites one at a time.
So, it's more work, but you can potentially find better deals. In addition, by using a combination of tools many people and companies have found ways to mass contact websites that they might be interested in in an automated fashion.
Flippa is perhaps the most well-known place where people go to…flip websites. Flippa.com has been around for a long time, but it's also a place you need to be cautious. While good deals can be found, you will need to sift through a TON of listings before you find a hidden gem.
The income is not always verified, so it's possible to buy a lemon if you are not savvy enough to detect fraud. You can read more about the risks vs. rewards of Flippa here.
Another marketplace with a variation of “flipping” in the name! Empire Flippers is a great place to buy vetted content, affiliate, eCommerce, and FBA businesses. Most of the deals here are in the $100k to $1 million range (with some deals from time to time less or more).
The great thing about Empire Flippers is that you get deals that have passed their income verification and other vetted requirements to make sure the deal is “legit”. I've personally both bought and sold deals on Empire Flippers and think it's a great option.
Motion Invest is a place you can go to either buy or sell small content websites (typically making between $50 to $1,000 a month). This is a business that a couple of partners and I formed to fill a gap that we noticed in the marketplace.
We are not a broker. We actually buy lots of websites off-market or directly from our website visitors. So, we do all the vetting enough that we are comfortable buying the sites with our own money out-right. We also list sites for sale sites from our own portfolio that can be purchased.
We focus exclusively on content affiliate websites (often monetized with Amazon Associates and display ads). If you are interested in either buying or selling smaller content sites, you can check out MotionInvest.com.
So, if you are interested in buying a dropshipping store or an ecommerce website that sells physical products, Exchange Marketplace is a great way to go. Shopify is the leading platform for eCommerce stores and there appears to be a very healthy market for people both buying and selling stores of all sizes.
Quiet Light Brokerage
Quiet Light Brokerage is a higher end brokerage firm focusing on sites over 7 figures. Yes, they do have some listings that cost less than $1,000,000, but their main focus is on the higher end deals.
I know the owners and several of the brokers at Quiet Light, and I highly recommend them for their honesty, quality of service, and overall expertise in the industry. If you are ready to buy a larger business or sell a business that you've built up to the appropriate size, Quiet Light Brokerage is a great place to look.
FEInternational is another higher end brokerage that could be a good place to go if you are looking to buy or sell a 7-figure website. While FEI does sell all types of online businesses, they try to focus more heavily on SaaS companies.
So, if you want to move beyond flipping content affiliate sites, you can consider FEI as a place to find a SaaS business for sale.
Falcon River is not a broker or a marketplace. Instead, you can hire Falcon River to find an off-market deal for you. They've developed their own process for reaching out to websites and finding potential sellers for you. (They also have a similar process of finding you a buyer if you are looking to sell).
This is a fairly unique service that can be used to find off-market deals without you doing all the legwork yourself.
Centurica is not actually a place to buy or sell websites. Their core business is providing due diligence for you as a buyer to ensure that you don't make a bad purchase. So, if you want a 3rd party of REALLY smart people looking at your potential acquisition to help with due-diligence, I highly recommend them (I know Chris Yates and Brian Diener personally).
Even though they don't sell websites, the do have a compilation of websites currently for sale on a bunch of other brokerages. You can check out the Centurica Marketwatch to see all the listings currently for sale.
The reality is that there are a TON of other brokers selling websites that you could potentially check out. I've listed some of my personal favorites and some of the more established ones above.
However, there are lots of other brokers that you can find if you do some searching. Each broker will have their own listings, which means that potentially good deals can be found on any of them.
In addition to other off-market places to buy or sell sites, you can find several Facebook groups dedicated to flipping websites. The types of deals that can be found here are typically on the smaller end and range wildly from really really sketchy deals to extremely solid websites.
The 5 Step Growth Plan for Quick Flips
An immediate flip can be done, but can be difficult for a lot of reasons. Most brokers will not sell a website for you if you have not owned it for a least 6 months.
So, in most cases you should plan on holding and growing your website for a minimum of 6 months before trying to sell it. Six months also just happens to be a enough time to grow a website after implementing some improvements.
The great thing about websites that skew to the lower end (under $100k purchase price), is that it's not out of the realm of possibility to double the earnings of a site after 6 to 12 months.
But what are some of the “quick” strategies that you should try to implement when you first buy a site? Below you will find a list of things you should be looking at to immediately improve a website after purchase.
If you want a more in-depth guide on how to grow a website, you can download the Minimum Viable Growth plan by Motion Invest right here.
Fix Site Issues
An important first step after buying a site is to perform an audit. Fortunately, Google Search Console is a free tool that can be looked at immediately to see what errors Google is telling you the site has. Fix those errors :).
Other ways to audit and fix issues for your site:
- Use tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush to do a deeper audit.
- Use Google Analytics
- Perform a site speed test with Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom, or other tools.
This is an often overlooked step. Performing a full-audit to note the errors and issues is a great way to improve a site quickly.
This can be both on-page and off-page SEO. However, I always like to start with any on-site issues that can be fixed or optimized.
A few things that should be looked at:
- Improve Internal Linking structure
- Build internal links to any orphaned pages (if possible). You can use Link Whisper to quickly find orphaned content and build internal links.
- Fix outdated titles (2018 vs. 2020, etc).
- Add meta descriptions and alt tags to images to better keyword optimize content.
You should also consider building links if the site needs an authority boost. I won't go into the full-details of what's involved in building links; however, you can get training on how to build links right here.
Oftentimes, there is low hanging fruit that you can grab to make a site earn more money. For example, if a site is getting 50,000 visitors a month, but it's only monetized by Amazon Associates, a quick way to boost the earnings would be to add Mediavine or Google Adsense ads.
People often forget (or don't want to) put display ads on their site, so this is a “quick win” for you when you buy the site. A site with 50,000 visitors a month could earn as much as $1,000 extra per month by just adding display ads.
You also might consider testing Ezoic display ads vs Google Adsense or other types of ads. A different ad provider might earn more.
Is the site monetized with Amazon Associates? Perhaps you could earn more by simply working directly with a brand, rather than going through Amazon. Or think of different ways that you can monetize the existing traffic with new affiliate products or other revenue streams.
Adding new content may not be a way that you can increase the earnings overnight, but it can be a way to increase earnings over a few months. If you are willing to invest a little bit of your time or money having new content produced, you just might start ranking for new keywords.
Depending on the site you've purchased, it might already have good authority in the eyes of Google. Targeting new low competition keywords through keyword research is definitely a way to use that authority to your advantage.
Update Top Content
Another quick win for improving a website can be updating old content. Sometimes a site might have content that is ranking near the bottom of page 1 or the top of page 2 in Google and some minor tweaks can help push it to the top of Google.
Where to Sell Websites?
As with buying websites, there are dozens of brokers that will be happy to help you sell your website. So, you can take a look at the list above for where to buy a website and you will find that most of those places will also help you sell your website.
Unfortunately, it's even harder to sell a website off-market than it is to buy one off-market. If you don't have your own list of potential buyers, you will likely need to go with a broker or other service that helps you sell your site.
If you are looking to sell a content site making $50 to $2,000 a month, you might consider Motion Invest. My partners and I are always looking for sites to buy and we can have you an offer usually within 48 hours.
Risks of Flipping Websites
Overall, flipping websites is a super interesting business model and one that I and many others have found success with. The venture is obviously not immune to risk, but the potential returns can be significant.
I would recommend proceeding with caution before buying a website to ensure that you truly are aware of all the red flags and potential points of failure in the business. A website can quickly lose value with a Google algorithm update, an Amazon associates account closure, or many other potential weaknesses.
However, if you have some experience in the game or are able to make some calculated investments that are appropriate to what you are willing to risk, the potential returns can be enticing.