Website Flipping: 9 Things to Know About Buying and Selling Websites

selling websites

Interested in buying and selling websites, AKA flipping? The concept of flipping is deceptively simple: buy something, make it better, sell it for profit. But have you ever really thought about doing that with a website?

How to Profit from Website Flipping

Buying and selling websites for profit is real estatement investment for the 21st century. Whether you’re just getting into it and have your eye on a good domain, or are looking to scale up your business operations, buying and selling digital assets is lucrative and relatively low-risk. Depending on the market and your specific niche, you could be onto something big.
At the same time, making a profit from website flipping means putting in lots of work and plenty of digital heavy lifting, like web development and auditing. Here are nine things you need to know about website flipping in order to succeed and make a healthy profit, as well as some pro-tips for those first time buyers out there.

1. Know when it’s time to move on

Many people hold onto their web assets for way too long, allowing them to decay and wither, when someone else might have been able to take on the business and drive it towards success. In order to succeed in business, you need to be all-in. You need to be out there innovating, thinking, and doing research to secure your website’s future. If you are not motivated about the direction your website and online brand are headed, then you won’t be doing anyone a favor by clinging on. Digital businesses are especially reliant on founders being forward-thinking and innovative: the industry is constantly changing and you need to keep up with the times.

Some good reasons to move on:

  • New projects taking up your time/you want to explore a new direction
  • You have permanently lost your mojo and can’t see yourself leading the brand anymore
  • You have accomplished what you set out to do/things have plateaued
  • You need the cash injection, without the stresses of running a business
  • Personal reasons

Discuss your reasons for moving on with any business partners or associates, and be transparent about your reasons when asked. At the same time, you have to make the right decision for you, whether or not people like it. For example, Rand Fishkin recently left Moz, the company he founded! Big decisions are never easy to take, but sometimes it’s important that you step down and move on.

If you’re sure that selling is the right thing for you, then go all-out in trying to get the best possible price for your business – you owe it to yourself! Spend a good few months tying up any loose ends and whipping your web asset into shape.

2. Selling websites? Buyers aren’t likely to be sympathetic.

Buyers are in it for the money. Sorry, but it’s true. They are there because they’re hoping to make a profit from the purchase of your website, so you need to ensure that everything from start to finish is 100% professional. Even if you’re struggling to juggle website management with other commitments like family, or if the site has become an emotional issue, try not to bring that into the conversation, as it will only cloud the seller’s judgment.

They are looking for a good deal and will be asking you a ton of tough questions, so make sure you have gathered plenty of documentation, and be prepared for conference calls and emails. Buyers may be pushy if they see something they really want, so make sure that you are able to stand your ground and negotiate effectively.

3. You need proof when buying or selling websites.

There’s a lot of data taken into account during a website sale. You need to be transparent and open about your site metrics, sales data, social media engagement rates, supplier fees, and a ton of other things like sales tax, staff costs – the list goes on and on. If you’re buying a website, make sure you have access to absolutely everything, and get experts in to interpret the data.

Be especially careful about any SEO work that’s been done to the site, as you may be inheriting other people’s bad habits! Ensure that the site you are buying has a good backlink portfolio, with healthy rankings and traffic levels.

4. Find out the REAL seller reasons (if you can).

Some reasons for selling are deeply personal, but it could be that the very reason the seller wants out is the same reason why the business will fail. Is the brand concept flawed? Has the site been penalized by Google? Is there a lot of negative brand press kicking about?

If someone is selling a site to you, try to probe and have an open conversation with them about why they are selling now. It may be that after talking things out with them, you’ll find it easier to decide whether something is (or isn’t) right for you.

5. Selling websites: Broker vs. DIY.

There are many different ways to find good websites for sale, but the main two methods are using an internet broker, or going DIY. Think carefully about how much you value your time and money, and whether a broker is going to be able to significantly help you during your search.

Website brokers are an easy and reputable way to go, but they may not have all the sites available for sale as they operate with curated lists, and you’ll have to pay a fee for their services.

Using social media and free site forums like Exchange is an option for those who are brave enough to go out and do things on their own – just make sure you have a good rapport with the seller before signing on the dotted line. A phased takeover or sale may help ease any transition anxiety.

6. The niche may be crashing out.

Fidget spinners are everywhere right now, but how long until that niche crashes out? It can be tempting to jump on the latest bandwagon and buy up relevant domains, but investing in fads can be a risky business. On the other hand, if you are willing to take the risk and can afford to direct a ton of paid traffic the site’s way, a relevant niche site could be a gold mine.

It’s important to look at competitors rising up through a niche as well – it might be a sign that the website is on the way out. People often sell once they know/feel that a niche is not going to be around for much longer, so watch out for this if you’re buying.

7. Great content wins the battle.

When you’re buying a website and thinking of ways to improve it, 99% of the time that’s going to involve creating a boat-load of fresh content, which means spending a lot of money on talented freelancers, or training up people in-house to take on the content. Without great content, a site is going to struggle to rank or capture an audience: the very things that are needed in order for it to be valuable during re-sale.

Long-time website flippers know that great content and a re-design are often needed to take a site to the next level. Don’t think that you’ll just get away with throwing up some cheap, spun articles – you need to have loads of high-quality, flagship content. Speak to influencers and writers in the niche, and commission some awesome sponsored content.

8. Think about niche potential & interest.

When buying a website (and indeed, when selling one), you need to carefully consider how a niche is likely to develop in the future. Don’t just look at the site for what it is today, but think about where there might be some cool potential for crossover and growth.

Niche accessories and supplies always sell well, and there are loads of ways to monetize great content in a growing market with affiliate marketing and sponsorships.

9. When selling websites, extras sweeten the deal.

Website sales rarely include just the website – they include a whole host of extras like supplier contacts, stock, brand assets, tech files, hosting contracts, etc.

If you are buying, make sure you’re negotiating a good deal for yourself. If you are selling, think about how little extras (like paying for the first year of subscriptions or sending over some content) can help tip the balance in your favor and get you a good price.

The experience of buying a new website is exhilarating. It’s a great moment when you finally sit down with your new site and start to build it all out. At the same time, making money from a website sale is a great feeling too: it can leave you relieved and reassured that your site is now in the right hands.

Ready to check out website flipping? Share your go or no-go thoughts and concerns in the comments below.

Gareth Simpson

Gareth Simpson has worked as an SEO for almost a decade now and has recently started freelancing as a technical SEO in Bristol, UK. His SEO specialties are content and blogger outreach...and he likes green tea.

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Gareth Simpson