Learning how to flip websites can be lucrative if you know what you’re doing but can also be risky if you don’t follow an established process.
Through 215+ acquisitions and flips at The Website Flip, I have established a clear process for identifying “quality” websites, acquiring and growing them, and then ultimately selling them to another buyer.
At a glance, here are the 7 steps to flip websites
- Find a website to buy (deal flow)
- Perform due diligence to catch red flags
- Close the transaction via Escrow service with the seller
- Grow the website over a certain period of time (ideally 6-18 mo)
- Position the website to be flipped
- Find a buyer
- Close the transaction via Escrow service with the buyer
Let’s get into it.
What Is Website Flipping?
Website flipping is the practice of acquiring an existing website, growing it, and selling it for (hopefully) a higher price. Typically buyers will find a website for sale that is under-monetized and use their knowledge to grow revenue.
The process can be compared to flipping a house.
Prospective house flippers will identify a property that has potential, go in & renovate the property, and then list it for sale at a higher price.
Website flipping is no different in terms of the financial model. However, operationally, it’s significantly easier due to less legalities leading to quicker transactions.
How Much Money Can You Make Flipping Websites?
Website flipping can be profitable if you know the process and techniques. By applying easy wins to an existing site, a smart operator can rapidly grow revenue and increase their return on investment.
I cover a set of real-life examples of websites I’ve flipped below.
Website Flipping Examples
Health Site: Bought for $5,650 and sold for $30,100 within 5 months
This site was bought in July 2020 and utilized a website operator to operate and grow the business. This reduced the time commitment of my staff to almost zero. Within the first couple of months, earnings grew 3x and the valuation of the site grew 6x.
This resulted in a total return of investment of 6x – not including the revenue generated by the site during ownership.
Outdoor Site: Bought for $23,000 and sold for $175,000
This website was purchased from Flippa in April 2020. At the time of purchase, it was making an average $300/month.
Within 1 month, I was able to increase earnings by approximately 10x taking the website from $300/month to $3,666/month. During the course of my ownership, the website generated net revenue of $100,938 and we spent $37,582 to grow the site. With the sale, the total net profit for this flip came out to be $238,356 (a rough 5x on money invested in just under 2 years)
Dating Site: From $896/month to $14,440/month in revenue
This site was purchased from Flippa in April 2019 for $36,000. In the first 8 months of ownership, we grew revenue from $896/month to an average $6,000/month.
At that point, 75% of the equity in the site was sold to a private operator while my team continued to manage the asset.
The website as of Q4 2022 currently makes on average ~$11,000 in profit per month.
Should You Build or Buy Websites To Flip?
The decision to build or buy a website comes down to a few major factors.
Without an aged domain or strong backlinks, new websites often take 6 to 9 months+ to start ranking in Google. If building on a brand new domain, most websites will not receive significant organic traffic for the better part of a year.
Do you have the time to wait? This is one major reason why I buy over building from scratch. Time is an extremely valuable asset and if I can find quality websites to buy, then it’s a no-brainer for me.
However, if you are a beginner with a limited budget and/or experience, you should build from scratch to understand the process first.
At its minimum, a website consists of a hosting plan and a content management system (Wordpress), and a theme such as GeneratePress. Altogether, you can start a website for under $100.
If you’re looking to buy a website, that can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $200,000+. As can be seen in the examples above, you can acquire high-quality websites in the $5,000 to $50,000 range that can be great flips.
Most people who do not have experience running a website before should build their own before risking their capital to buy a website. While building a website takes longer, doing it entirely yourself the first time will teach you how to operate a site and allow you to make mistakes without risking a large amount of capital.
There can be multiple red flags when buying a website that only becomes apparent as you get more experience running your own sites.
Most people without experience in the space or capital they are willing to lose should build their first website. However, there are some exceptions.
If you are an individual who is willing to learn fast, sometimes it is best to buy an existing website. This “trial by fire” will shortcut your learning process.
Characteristics of a Profitable Website Acquisition
There are multiple characteristics that make a website acquisition successful ranging from easy wins to the available monetization options in the niche.
Plenty of Easy Wins
The most important factor for a profitable website flip is evaluating the number of easy wins. This can be done by looking at the site in general and then browsing through some of the top-trafficked pages. Are there affiliate links above the fold? Is the site using a display advertising network in addition to affiliate links? Is there a sidebar ad?
Rapidly fixing these easy wins is how an experienced operator can quickly grow revenue by 50% or more within the first two months of ownership.
Stable or Upward Trending Earnings/Traffic
When evaluating a website for sale, you want to make sure the traffic and earnings are stable or increasing over the last 3, 6, and 9 months. With the prevalence of Google Algorithm Updates, any significant decrease in traffic is a cause for concern and something to be investigated further.
A website with rapidly increasing traffic and earnings will demand a higher multiple and a higher list price. However, these acquisitions are typically safer than a website with gradually declining traffic.
Niche and Market Size
One of the most important aspects of a site is to ensure it’s in a stable or growing niche. Even if you operate the site well, it can be extremely difficult to grow a site in a declining niche.
You can use tools such as Google Trends to measure whether or not the niche is growing, stable, or declining.
When evaluating the niche, use a tool such as Ahrefs to evaluate the competition. Are there a large number of low-competition keywords available to write about? If there is, you can push out content on these keywords and rapidly grow the site.
Available Monetization Opportunities
Websites in different niches have different available monetization options. If you are looking for a website to flip, look for niches where you can monetize with an ad network (such as Ezoic or Mediavine), affiliate marketing, and even digital courses.
One of the easiest ways to grow revenue when performing a website flip is to introduce ads on a site with high page views. By adding new monetization channels to the site, you can not only increase revenue but also diversify your earnings.
This will also increase your multiple when you go to sell the site.
How To Find Websites To Buy And Grow
There are multiple ways to find websites for sale. The options vary depending on your investment criteria and your budget.
Website brokers, such as Empire Flippers, offer numerous websites for sale. As a website broker, the platform will prepare a profit and loss statement for the website and a brief listing summarizing the details of the business. For the service, the seller has to pay a website broker fee which can range from 10% to 15% of the final sales price. Because of this, list prices on website brokers tend to be higher than when found elsewhere.
Most websites for sale on Empire Flippers range from $50,000 – $500,000+ so keep that in mind depending on your budget.
Here is a rigorous list of all major brokers compared.
|Category||Flippa||Empire Flippers||FE International||Motion Invest||Investors Club||Quiet Light||Micro Acquire|
|Sale Time||n/a||48 days||60 days||11.1 days||30 days||40-60 days||30 days|
|Price Range||All prices||>$50K||>$100K||<$20K||>$10K||>$100K||n/a|
|Pricing||Auction similar to eBay||Fixed Price||Fixed Price||Dutch Auction||Fixed Price||Fixed Price||Fixed Price|
|Success Fee||5-10%||2-15%||Seller = 10-15% Buyer = 2.5%||15-20%||5% or less||10% for < $1M||0%|
|Listing Fee||$49||$0||$0||$0||$0||$0||$0 ($290/yr)|
|Escrow Fee||0.89% – 3.25%||$0||1%||$0||$0||Discussed in initial contract||$0|
|Users||1.5M||195k||50K vetted buyers||n/a||4K||n/a||100K|
|Exclusivity||While listing is live||60 days||Revealed during representation agreement signing||31 days||45 days||Yes, binding until the site is sold or withdrawn from sale||None|
|Vetting||Only if you pay||Yes||Yes||Basic||Yes||Yes||Basic|
|Proof of Funds||No||Yes||Yes||n/a||Yes||Yes||N/A|
Website marketplaces such as Flippa are places where sellers will list their sites for sale. These are often open marketplaces which means little to no due diligence is done before the listing is publicly available.
Flippa is one of the oldest and largest marketplaces for websites for sale. As such, it has hundreds of listings of different websites. There is availability for all budgets from $1,000 – $100,000+.
Because of the large number of listings though, it’s important to perform extensive due diligence before placing an offer on a listing.
Private sales represent one of the best options for acquiring a profitable website at a below-market price. Because private sales do not go to a marketplace, they are not subject to bidding wars or are available to hundreds of potential buyers.
However, it can be difficult to negotiate a private sale without a public profile in the website space. Often, people will form a list of potential acquisition opportunities based on metrics from Ahrefs and perform cold outreach to start the conversation about selling.
For a budget range between $500 – $30,000, Facebook groups contain multiple listings of websites for sale. Facebook groups allow anybody to list their website for sale and negotiate through Facebook messenger. Some examples of Facebook groups are below:
When looking at a deal for sale in a Facebook group, make sure to verify all of the numbers and use a service such as Escrow.com for completing the transaction.
How To Perform In-Depth Due Diligence
Before buying a website, it is essential to perform a rigorous due diligence process to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and red flags in a potential acquisition.
Evaluate the Website/Domain
The first step in any due diligence process is to evaluate the domain. The ideal domain has no trademark/copyright issues, is brandable, and is aged.
One clear red flag is if there are any copyright or trademark issues with the domain. An example would be using the trademarked term “Lego” in the domain name.
Look at the performance of the website over multiple time frames. Is revenue steady/increasing or decreasing over the last 3,6, or 12 months? Is traffic steady or increasing?
A sudden traffic or revenue decline should be immediately flagged and investigated further.
Also, look at the breakdown of traffic by the different pages. If one page on the site accounts for the majority of traffic, this can be a potential risk to the site as a whole.
Content is the foundation of a successful website. When evaluating content, look at the author’s profiles. Are they established experts and knowledgeable in the niche? Every year, Google E-A-T is becoming more important for ranking highly in Google.
What is the ratio of buying guides to informational articles? While it varies by niche, a “safe” ratio for this metric would be 20% buying guides to 80% informational articles.
Use tools such as Ahrefs (my go-to) or SEMrush to evaluate the SEO of the site. Look at metrics such as Domain Rating (DR) to get an idea of how strong the domain is. When looking at the SEO of a site, aim to answer these questions:
- How many referring domains are there?
- How many indexed pages are there?
- Is the technical SEO strong? Use a tool such as ScreamingFrog to run this analysis
- Are there any spammy links?
The final step in due diligence is to determine an the right website valuation (i.e., price). Given what you’ve uncovered in the due diligence process, is the website priced fairly? Overpriced? Some website brokers tend to inflate list prices in order to get prospective sellers to list on their brokerage.
You can use any potential risks you’ve uncovered in your due diligence as negotiating points when determining an appropriate valuation and final sale price.
FAQs On How To Flip Websites
How to start flipping websites with a low budget?
To get started flipping websites on a low budget, look through Facebook groups and open marketplaces such as Flippa to find a potential acquisition that fits your budget.
After identifying a site, perform due diligence to understand if it meets your metrics and could be a profitable website flip. After agreeing with the seller on a final price, complete the transaction and start implementing the easy wins identified during due diligence.
As you complete your first website flip and sell it, you can gradually build up more capital to acquire bigger sites.
What web development skills are needed to flip websites?
Prospective buyers should know how to transfer a website from one owner to another and understand the basic architecture of the site (the role of the hosting service, database, etc). If using a website broker, oftentimes they will take care of the transfer. However, if you are buying a website from a Facebook group or through a private sale, you will have to conduct the transfer yourself.
Having knowledge of the inner workings of the site is important to troubleshoot any technical issues that may arise.
Are there any special technical skills or equipment required to buy and sell websites?
There are no special technical skills or equipment required to buy and sell websites besides a basic knowledge of Wordpress and HTML/CSS. Prospective buyers should understand how to use Wordpress and should have a basic understanding of HTML/CSS if they want to conduct a redesign of the site.
My Actionable Takeaways
Learning how to flip websites can be incredibly lucrative but also challenging if you are unsure of the process.
I started buying and selling sites in 2008. Just like anything, you need to get your “reps” in. This means analyzing sites for sale, performing due diligence, spotting the easy wins, and more. You can do these things without even buying a site; go to a broker’s listings and use it as a practicing group. This will get you experienced enough that when you are ready to buy, you can catch any and all red flags with the deal.
Here are my important takeaways for you:
- Website flipping is the practice of acquiring a website, growing revenue and flipping the site for a higher price
- The best sites to acquire have easy wins, are in a growing niche and have stable/uptrending traffic
- Establishing private deal flow is key to acquiring the best sites at a reasonable price
- Performing thorough due diligence can help you negotiate valuation and a final sale price
- Start with lower priced acquisitions initially and engage the use of experts to help you as you learn