Interview on Doug Cunnington Show: How To Buy and Sell Sites

mushfiq sarker

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Doug Cunnington, who runs The Doug Show. I share how I buy and sell sites, my investment criteria, tactics, and much more.

Check it out!

Interview Video

You can view the video here on YouTube.

Interview Show Notes

In this episode of the Doug Show, Mushfiq discusses buying, selling, and building websites profitably. As a buyer, he discusses the criteria he uses when looking to purchase a website, the monetization methods he uses to predict growth potential and increase revenue, how he acquires sites, and the methods of negotiating as a buyer.

Subsequently, Mushfiq turns his attention to website selling where he explains the best places to sell, how to negotiate as a seller, finalizing transactions, and website transfers. Lastly, he discusses important elements of building a website such as mistakes to avoid, the pitfalls of PBNs, link building, strategic guest posting, aged and expired domains, domain redirects, affiliate programs, and email marketing.

Introduction (0:00-7:35)

Basic Criteria for Purchasing a Website (7:36-11:13)

  • Maximum purchase price: $50,000
  • Minimum monthly revenue: $500-$1,000
  • High rates of organic traffic
  • Undermonitized (High rates of traffic are disproportional to low monthly revenue)
  • Developed by hobbyists not professionals

Read this guide on determining your investment criteria.

Monetization Methods Mushfiq Avoids and Implements (11:14-20:19)

  • Mushfiq avoids selling leads and instead focuses on affiliate programs and selling digital products.
  • When examining a site, he looks at the top 10-15 traffic generating pages to see if there are certain revenue generating elements present, including a mobile responsive comparison table at the top of the page, a second more detailed comparison table at the end of the page, affiliate linked images, brightly colored and properly placed call-to-action buttons in affiliate reviews, and contextual affiliate links within content.
  • The success of the features depends on the type of the article (promotional vs informational).
  • Mushfiq used to own many sites (up to 18 at one point) but now limits his portfolio to a maximum of five authoritative sites so that he can better focus on growing each of his assets.

Criteria for Keeping a Website (20:20-21:45)

  • Well aged
  • Authoritative pillar site in a respective niche
  • High levels of monthly revenue
  • High levels of organic traffic
  • High revenue generating affiliate programs

How Mushfiq Acquires Sites (21:46-23:23)

  • Flippa is where Mushfiq acquires the majority of his sites.
  • Facebook groups are his secondary source.
  • Mushfiq also manages a private network of around 2,500 website buyers and sellers through his newsletter

Negotiating as a Buyer (23:24-26:00)

  • Mushfiq first determines a reasonable monthly revenue multiple for purchase, which he does not share with the seller.
  • Mushfiq then tries to isolate what it is that the current website owner is doing wrong and what could be changed to easily increase monthly revenue. This information is shared with the seller in a data-driven list in order to justify a lower price.
  • Some buyers simply offer a lower bid without explanation, but Mushfiq prefers to offer reasonable justifications to the seller for the offer he is making as it helps to develop an initial, positive rapport.
  • Mushfiq tries to understand the seller’s experience and meet them in the middle to reduce the challenges they might otherwise face with another buyer.

Where to Mushfiq Prefers to Sell (26:01-29:52)

  • Within his private network
  • On private Facebook groups
  • As a broker
  • Flippa: A good place to sell sites valued at under $50,000 (optimally between $30,000 and $50,000)
  • Empire Flippers or Investors Club: Better than Flippa for selling websites with a valuation of $100,000 or greater

Negotiating as a Seller (29:53-31:11)

  • Mushfiq will accept up to 5x lower than the site’s valuation.
  • This helps develop positive rapport with the buyer.
  • Positive rapport can help facilitate customer retention. Mushfiq notes that after building positive rapport, some buyers have purchased up to 5 or 6 sites from him.

Finalizing Transactions and Making Purchases (31:49-32:21)

  • Mushfiq uses when buying or selling a website.
  • Additionally, Mushfiq has had a generic sales contract written up by a lawyer which he presents to buyers, but he is willing to allow the buyer to draft up a more specific contract for the particular sale if that is desired.

Transferring the Website (32:22-33:30)

  • Prior to closing, determine whether the buyer or seller will be doing the transfer.
  • Only one party should do the transfer.
  • Set the expectations of the sale upfront.

Mushfiq’s “Spectacular Mistakes” (33:31-35:40)

  • Doug asks Mushfiq to discuss some of his biggest flops and most spectacular mistakes.
  • Mushfiq says that early in his career, he made mistakes purchasing a Private Blog Network website and, hence, has made the decision not to become involved with PBNs.

More About Private Blog Networks (PBNs) (35:41-37:53)

  • PBNs used to be very popular and were very easy to spot.
  • PBNs are now more difficult to discover because they are masked as “mini-niche sites.”
  • Guest posts are often being purchased by the same big networks.
  • Over time, if the same people keep purchasing from the same networks, a PBN will eventually become a PBN.
  • Mushfiq notes that he sees large brokers selling PBNs without providing the PBN network with the site which is a “big red flag” because there’s nothing that requires the seller to link back to the network unless it is included in the contract.

Approach for Link Building and Strategic Guest Posting (37:54-39:42)

  • Mushfiq doesn’t do any mass outreach or cold calling.
  • When he acquires a site, he focuses on buying sites with a lot of backlink authority
  • After accelerating the growth of a site and increasing its backlink authority, he strategically reaches out to e-commerce brands that he’s promoting, offering to allow his team of expert writers to write an article for their e-commerce blog.
  • In terms of SEO, this is more powerful than writing a guest post on a random blog because Google favors e-commerce sites over non-e-commerce blogs.
  • The best way to land a guest post is to plainly ask to write a guest post. This is especially effective if you’ve developed previous relationships with the website owners.
  • A second approach is to offer a trade such as a social media shout-out or an email blast.
  • A third approach is to offer a mutual: “where I’m giving them a guest post, but I’m also doing a product review of one of the e-commerce products” (40:40-40:45).

Aged and Expired Domains: Mushfiq’s Strategy (41:20-44:01)

  • By focusing on pillar niches, Mushfiq is able to choose sites with aged or expired domains and grow the site by 1) Using his team of expert writers to generate high-quality content and 2) use already known and proven high-ranking keywords within the respective niche.
  • Other criteria Mushfiq considers before purchasing an expired domain include ensuring that the site has a minimum of 50 backlinks of which at least 5 are not easily acquirable (e.g., backlinks to the New York Times or CNN), historical topical relevance to the niche, and the domain profile.

About Redirecting Purchased Domains to Already Owned Sites (44:02-46:34)

  • Mushfiq expresses reluctance about redirecting purchased sites to ones he already owns: “I don’t co-mingle assets” (45:01-45:02).
  • Mushfiq prefers keeping his sites separated and building each one up on its own.
  • Because Mushfiq has a large network and developed long-time rapport as a successful website flipper, he has certain competitive advantages that allow him to realize higher growth potential for websites purchased compared to the average competitor. This allows him to purchase websites at a higher multiple and guarantees increases in organic traffic and revenue generation more effectively than those with less time and experience website-flipping.

About Affiliate Programs: Mushfiq’s Strategy for Diversifying from Amazon (46:37-50:36)

Though the majority of his sales revenue for affiliates is initially generated through Amazon, Mushfiq has developed a strategy to diversify from Amazon in order to increase revenue and spread risk:

  • First, Mushfiq researches Amazon associate reports to determine the top revenue-generating products.
  • Then he reaches out directly to the brand selling those products to inform them that he will send them sales if they will create a unique affiliate ID through which he will be able to track the sales he makes for the company on his websites in return for a 20% commission on those sales.
  • The success rate of this pitch is currently around 40%.
  • This deal appears beneficial to companies because Mushfiq’s website is authoritative and high-quality.
  • Mushfiq pitches this deal to one company at a time and avoids trying to pit companies against each other.
  • Examples of affiliate networks and marketplaces used by Mushfiq: ShareASale, Commission Junction, Impact Radius, and AvantLink

About Email Marketing (50:37-52:22)

  • Email marketing can be used successfully on some websites but not for others.
  • Determining whether or not an email list can be successful often depends on the total number of products or services for sale.
  • In the dating niche, a buyer is typically going to make one subscription purchase, so it is more pragmatic to attempt to initiate the sale on the site rather than trying to sell the subscription via email.
  • In the outdoor niche, there are many items for sale, so it makes sense to use email as a marketing tool to raise awareness among customers about what new products and services are for sale.

Parting Words from Mushfiq (52:23-53:09)

  • Do due diligence before purchasing a site.
  • Someone new to website flipping should start by building their own site first in order to understand the process before purchasing their first website.

Concluding Remarks and Promotions (After Interview Has Concluded) (53:10-End)

mushfiq sarker

Analyzed by Mushfiq Sarker

Mushfiq has been buying, growing, and selling website assets since 2008. His first exit was in 2010. Since then, he has done 218+ website flips with multiple 6-figure exits. He is the founder of The Website Flip. Check out all Mushfiq's articles, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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