Website flipping
how to buy and sell websites

INTRO

Website flipping is a pure digital real estate.

Could you imagine selling a website for hundreds of thousands of dollars? Right, this is possible. In fact, this is a real business and it occurs every single day. And yes, this also applies to anyone with the right skills and time to put in the hard work.

How can you benefit from it? You could be the builder that creates the online business and then sells it to an investor or you could be the investor, who acquire the website, improve it and then resells it at a higher price.

As a web designer, I thought that the only source of income available was agency work or freelance work, helping clients to succeed online and getting paid for it.

But once I started to learn about marketing and business I realised that buying and selling websites was a very solid business model for designers. Freelance work is just one source of income among many other business opportunities.

I am going to reveal the secrets behind website flipping, but first let me show you with the following analogy and what this practice really means.

I am going to compare a physical 4 bedroom property in London with a website that ranks in the first page of Google, with high volume of searches and is very competitive for advertisers (this is pure gold).

Both assets are investment opportunities, but what is the main difference between them?

The main difference is that you can create an online business website with a minimum financial investment (hosting, SEO software, etc.) but with a lot of hard work and time invested. So the cost of starting is minimal.

I am going to reveal all the details about this business, first from a seller perspective and then from an investor perspective.

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ONLINE BUSINESSES: HOW TO BUILD AND SELL THEM

Building and selling online businesses is and will be a very lucrative business model for designers, developers and marketers.

I would consider this business as an investment opportunity, rather than a get rich quick aspiration. You are investing your time for a future revenue.

What I really love about this business model is that you are creating a real digital property, just as it could be a real estate property in the off-line business world.

One of the most profitable businesses you can build and sell are affiliate websites.

With affiliate websites you can promote products from other companies and get commission for every sale you make through your affiliate link. In some scenarios you can also combine affiliate products with other advertisement programs such as Google Adsense.

The secret to success is to build an audience and provide them with a huge amount of value. Helping them to solve their problems with valuable information and promoting products or services that you know are going to help them to achieve their goals.

The more you help your audience, the more it will benefit your business. So this must be a win win relationship.

Steps to build an affiliate website

1. Keyword research/Niche finder: Finding blog niche ideas

Keyword research is an essential practice in the success of your business. If you skip this step you could spend months or even years providing information about topics that are too competitive or just don’t have enough demand.

First of all you have to find a niche that either you are very familiar with or you are very interested in.

Being an expert is absolutely not required, but being interested really is, as you’ll spend a long time researching, writing and building a website about that particular topic.

In general terms keyword research consists in finding keywords to write your content. In order to make the content profitable you will need keywords with a considerable large number of monthly searches and relatively low competition.

Thankfully there are tools that make this process very easy. I use KWFinder [ Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for KWFinder.] to conduct keyword research. The important metrics that you should consider in order to pick the right keywords are:

Search volume is the total number of searches on Google for one particular keyword. I would recommend a minimum of 500 searches per month for each keyword. If you are in a competitive market where you sell high ticket products this amount could be lower.

CPC is the estimated cost per click when running a pay per click advertising campaign. It is a very good indicator of how profitable the keyword is. 

If advertisers are confident to pay more this is because obviously there are interesting commercial opportunities.

Keyword difficulty score is an indicator of how difficult it is to rank with a given keyword on Google, considering the analysis of your competitors. It is beneficial to target keywords with a difficulty of 30 or less.

Keyword research  example for "dental care"

This is a very useful guide to do your keyword research the right way.

I would advise you to create an Excel document before starting, indicating the keywords you are targeting associated with these important metrics.

Important metrics to find the right niche

This will help you to have enough keywords and content ideas for a while and to clearly focus on your content marketing strategy, increasing the chances of your business success.

Below you can start looking now for keywords related to topics that you are interested in.

Affiliate link.

2. Buy a website domain

I purchase and park my domain names at GoDaddy, and I use powerful providers like Webflow to host my websites.[ Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for Webflow.]

One cool feature in Go Daddy, especially if you also are interested in trading domain names, is its Domain Name Value & Appraisal.

Domain name value tool

With this valuation tool you can find the availability of the domain name that you are looking for, its current price, and also an estimated value of the domain.

This is so convenient if you also are trading domain names, as this tool provides you with an estimated price for the future sale of the domain. Keep in mind that this is just an estimation based on the comparison with historic transactions on related domains.

3. Design and development

If you are a designer or developer and you wish to create your own unique brand from scratch and to have control over all the design of the website I strongly recommend Webflow.[ Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for Webflow.]

At Webflow University you can find many courses to start with web design for free.

Webflow is pure visual code, I fell in love with it. You have visual control over all html and css elements of the site. In fact, this website is designed and hosted with Webflow.

On the other hand, you can also use Wordpress. There are many Wordpress templates for sale and thousands of plugins available.

If you have never used Wordpress before I find this youtube tutorial very clear and straight to the point to start getting familiar with Wordpress.

Choosing one tool over another depends on the project and your preferences. Personally, as a designer, I prefer to use Webflow because I like to have full control over the code and 100% flexibility to implement and develop my designs.

4. Content strategy: 2 simple and effective steps

Content is king. Content is the skeleton of your website and your key for success. If your content is weak and it doesn't provide value to your audience your business will fail.

Basically, there are two essential actions you should take to leverage your content and rank your page on Google:

1 Try to reach 1800+ words of unique and helpful content on every article you write. It is not about how often you publish, it is instead about the quality and length of every article.

2 Analyse what your competitors are posting for your target keywords and improve it. The most efficient tool in the market to analyse your competitors is Semrush.

5. What is on page SEO

On page SEO is the process of working on the source code of the page to optimise it for Google. It could seem complicated, but it is not.

On every page you publish you will perform technical tasks such as optimising the meta data, alt images, url, speed of the site, etc.

You can follow this checklist of tasks provided by Mangools blog. This will help you to not get lost when you optimise your page for Google ranks.

6. Link building

Having links pointing to your website from trustworthy websites is crucial to position your site. There are many other factors to rank but this is one of the most important. You need links, quality links.

Moz explains very well how link building works in this useful guide. If you are new to SEO I really recommend that you have a look at it and start working on link building.

Definitely the combination of quality content and a healthy link profile can dramatically improve your search results.

When to sell your website

A good time to sell a website is when you are losing the excitement and passion for the project and you really feel like focusing on a new promising project.

So if for any circumstances, you think you can’t put in the time needed to keep growing your business, or you think you have reached the max revenue, it is probably the right time to sell.

How much can you earn selling websites

It depends on the type of business, but on average an affiliate website could range between 20x and 30x+ of its monthly revenue.

So if for example you are earning $2000 you could earn around $60K with the transaction.

If you already own a website you can find an estimate of its value with Flippa valuation calculator.

valuation tool to find out the value of your website.

THE TRUTH ABOUT BUYING WEBSITES

I would like to be 100% clear. The idea of buying a website without the required knowledge and being able to sit on the beach while you observe how the business works and grows with the minimum effort is just fake.

Buying websites is not for everyone. In order to succeed in this business, you need technical skills.

But not having those skills can be an opportunity. You can acquire those skills. The information is accessible for everyone. You need to learn and practice.

In general terms you will need to understand Web Design, SEO, content marketing and social media marketing. And it would be a very good idea to get really good at one of those skills, that is when the opportunities come.

Let me explain. Let's say for example that you are very good at SEO and you find a website for sale. After analysing the SEO of the website you may realise that you can increase the value of the business by implementing SEO technical changes, for example, improving the speed of the site, or implementing a link building campaign.

You know that you could increase the number of visits to the page and the value of the site by applying your SEO skills.

This is applicable to any other technical skill such as marketing on Facebook, conversion optimisation, or content marketing among others.

If you find room to improve it, then you can decide to buy, increase the value of it and then resell the website.

This is the reason why specialisation is a massive investment in yourself and your business, and also this is the core of the business, buying websites and improving them by leveraging your skills, in order to increase their value in the market.

Advantages of buying websites

1 When you buy a website they already have an established audience so you don't have to start from scratch to acquire visitors to your site.

2 When you start a new business, there is a lot of work in terms of link building and general SEO. When you acquire a business this part should already be done.

3 The website is already set so your job will be to improve it. It saves a lot of time.

Disadvantages of buying websites

The investor will assume some risks associated that are out of their control.

For instance, Google could update its algorithm and this can have a direct impact on the rankings, or an affiliate website could work for a company that changes their terms and commissions.

It is important to keep this in mind if you buy businesses to flip them.

What to check before buying an online business

There are some factors that I would advise you to consider before buying the website.

Revenue: Find out what is the source of income. If you buy the asset you could introduce an additional source of income to increase its revenue.

For example, if the website is running Adsense, you may introduce another advertisement network or any affiliate product.

It is crucial for the health of the business to diversify the source of income. You may wonder why. Well, this is going to minimise financial risk to your business. If one source fails,  you will still count with other income channels. 

Quality of content: Check the extent of the articles, are they deep in quality content? If the articles or pages have an average of 1500-2500 words, that is a very good sign. You can use this free website to count words.

You also need to check that the content is unique, and that it is not copied from other sites, this would really diminish the changes of ranking on Google. Keep an eye on it.

Stiliner is a free website to check the uniqueness of the content of any website. It is very handy.

Website age: The website and domain age is an important factor to consider. As a general rule, it is better to purchase websites with domain names older than 1 year. This will help with the search engine ranks.

Quality of backlinks: Semrush is a powerful tool to analyse the competition, in particular the links pointing to any website. You will have to consider both quantity and quality of those links. You can try Semrush for free. [ Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for Semrush.]

Backlinks should come from trusted websites instead of dodgy or spammy sites. The more reputable the websites are, the more chances to rank.

Competitors: Also with Semrush you can study the competitors in depth. Find out what keywords the competitors are ranking for, and consider if you could rank for the same keyword bringing in new and improved content.

The secret is to study the competitors and publish better content.

MARKETPLACES FOR BUYING AND SELLING SITES ONLINE

Flippa

Flippa is a website flipping online service that helps buyers and sellers to trade websites.

Flippa has more than 3000 websites, apps and business for sale and also manages domain transactions.

Website flipping online service

What I really like about this place is how all the businesses are classified by price, age of the business and category. This helps you quickly to find the type of business you wish to buy.

Flippa filter categories

It is also very simple to upload your digital property for sale and start getting offers from different investors. This works like a bidding system.

Flippa charges a fixed price for listing your business on its site.

Listing fees

Their fees for successful transactions rank from 5% to 15%, depending on the price of the final sale.

If you ever want to get deep into this business model Flippa also offers very helpful webinars, especially for newbies on website flipping.

Empire Flippers

Empire flippers is a very solid and reputable company. They claim 92% of the websites sold and a total of $123,870,510 sales overall. They are definitely big players in this industry. They manage many million online businesses.

Empire flippers home page

It operates as a bidding system where the seller sets an initial price and  starts getting offers from potential buyers. They ask for exclusivity so if you decide to work with them you couldn’t list your website with any other company.

They provide valuable information for buyers about the businesses listed, they give details about the risks and opportunities of acquiring the digital asset.

They host a very interesting podcast about online business, this can really inspire you to frame and execute your business ideas. 

They also offer a valuation tool to provide an estimated value of your business. You can also schedule a call to discuss the details.

Website valuation tool

This is a very reputable and trustworthy company with a large experience in the industry.

Free Market

Free market home page website

Free Market has less experience in this market compared with their big competitors Flippa and Empire Flippers.

But they have two very attractive, competitive advantages. First is its slow commission of 5% per sale and second, listing the website for sale is completely free and they just charge when the website is successfully sold.

Digital Point Forum

Digital Point Forum is a generic forum about web design, development and marketing. One of the sections is about trading digital assets, including websites.

This could be an option for those interested in research and flipping websites on their own without a third party involved in the process.

CONCLUSION

Client work is just one business model among many others, it is not the only one. Think about Adsense websites, affiliate businesses, e-commerce websites, amazon websites, saas, domain flipping…

Stick to one, learn as much as you can, focus primarily on bringing value and help your audience. This will make your business grow.

If you are a designer, inspiring designer or marketer, flipping websites is definitely worth considering.

 The business opportunities are huge. This is just amazing.

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