Recently I listed one of my Amazon niche sites up for sale over at Empire Flippers. This was actually the second time that I’ve used them to sell one of my sites, with the first time being last June. A lot of the process with them has changed since my previous sale, some for the better and some for the worse. They remain one of the best places to sell websites, especially those that are only earning a few hundred bucks per month. But I’d be lying if I said that my experience with them this time was awesome.
Why Use Empire Flippers?
EF has built a pretty solid brand when it comes to selling websites. I used to follow them back when they were the AdSense Flippers and I suspect that a lot of other people did too, which is probably part of how they’ve built such a strong reputation in the market.
Until recently, I thought that EF was the only place that you could sell websites under six figures. (I’ve since learned that FE International will take sites making a little as $500 per month for their marketplace). I also like that after the first listing, you get a discounted listing fee of $99.
Time saving is another big factor in why I have used EF more than once. I don’t want to have to deal with transferring a sold site and EF takes care of that for sellers (but not always as I learned this time). And I don’t like having my time wasted so their promise of getting rid of “tire kickers” is another benefit. (see screen grab below)
Not having to deal with PayPal or escrow on your own is another good reason to use a broker like EF instead of selling the site by yourself.
Plus, everyone in the niche site space knows about the EF marketplace. And let’s face it, if you want to sell a site then you probably want to move it pretty quickly. For me, I was ready to get started in either doing some Amazon FBA or starting an ecommerce site and I knew that I could flip my site reasonably fast with EF.
Listing Your Site With Empire Flippers
The site that I sold with EF was about 11 months old and bringing in around $3,000/month at the time of listing. The niche is seasonal and I listed it during the high time in hopes that a buyer would want to jump on it and profit off that high period. It ended up taking about a month from when I submitted the site until it sold.
Listing a site with EF is really easy. You fill out the form on their site, pay the listing fee and wait to get contacted. They have a staff member who sets up a Skype call with you to ask a few questions about the site before the final decision is made on whether or not they will list you in their marketplace. I assume that as long as you’re not doing blackhat stuff to rank the site, then you’ll have no issues getting into their marketplace. With my site, there was some initial concern of the niche seasonality and the limited income data (it had only been earning for 6 months when listed). But in the end, I made it to the marketplace.
At this point, you have to give EF access to your site’s Google Analytics and Amazon Associates account (and probably any other monetization method that you’re using). They do this to verify that everything you’re saying about traffic and earnings is true. It’s important to note that you have to leave this access for them throughout the duration of the marketplace listing. I assume that this is required so that they can update the listing with current data each month if it doesn’t sell quickly (as well as run reports for depositors).
The site was listed for sale at an amount that was based on the previous 90 days average earning. I knew that this was a little high since the site was in it’s hottest months for the niche, so I fully expected some negotiations and to get less than the asking price. I think that some negotiating is always expected though, right?
What Happens After Your Listing Goes Live
It didn’t take long for the marketplace listing to get depositors. When this happens, you have to give the depositor access to the site’s Google Analytics account. However, you do not have to give the depositors access to your Amazon Associates account (this wasn’t the case the first time I used EF, so kudos to them for making that change). And then the questions start.
This is the point where my experience with EF began to turn sour. You see, the first time that I used them, the questions that I got about my site were reasonable ones on things like the link building that I’d done. That was not the case this time. In fact, I began to wonder if some of these depositors were trolling me because why the hell would someone consider buying a $30K site without knowing anything about affiliate sites. Let me show you some examples because they’re almost too crazy to believe.
The person above clearly had no idea how the Amazon Associates program works. He/she thought that my Amazon account might come with the site!?
But the questions get worse (see below). And honestly, only question #4 below should have been sent to me. I mean, they sent me someone wanting me to educate them on making niche sites, really?!?
I don’t even…
So much fucking time wasted answering idiotic questions that, quite honestly, should never have been sent to me. I think that EF should have intercepted those questions and only sent me the ones like #4 above.
At one point, I also got a request from a depositor to do a Skype call, which was kinda odd. The request came in on a Saturday morning and I replied that I could do it on Monday at 1pm and inquired if one of the EF staff would be on the call (cause I wanted that in they had questions I couldn’t answer). Monday came and went and later I was told that the call didn’t need to happen. Not sure if Skype calls with depositors is the norm now or what.
There were actually several instances when I would send EF support a message and not hear back for days. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect their staff to just be sitting around waiting for people like me to contact them. However, I am paying them both a listing fee and commission for their “service” so is it really too much to ask for a 24 hour response time? Maybe they were dealing an office crisis or maybe there was a holiday in the Philippines. Or maybe not.
On a side note, I did learn something interesting during this process. Your listing with EF gives them total exclusivity. So, if you post about the site on your blog (like I did) and get a private offer, you still need to send that potential buyer through EF. While this might seem kinda lame at first, it’s actually a good thing because it gets rid of your risk in the case of potential scammers.
What Happens When Your Site Sells
Getting the email that EF has received the wire transfer for your site is always an exciting moment. Cause you never really know if the buyer is actually going to send the money when they say that they will. (I actually had one depositor do exactly that this time.) The first time I that sold through EF, I just gave them all the login details for the site and my hosting and they took care of transferring the site to the buyer – as well as changing out all the Amazon Associates ID tags. And I was able to get the domain to the buyer by them requesting it through their registrar. Once everything was transferred and the buyer had 24 hours to verify everything, the money was released to me. Only took three days, if I recall correctly.
It didn’t go quite like that this time.
This time the buyer insisted on transferring the site himself. His reason was that he didn’t have hosting with cPanel. I did not like this turn of events, but what can you do about it, right? Well, it turns out that this guy didn’t really know what he was doing. Somehow he managed to transfer the site to his web host and change out the Amazon Associates tags on the desktop version of the site but not the mobile version.
And, of course, he tells EF that site traffic/earnings don’t jive with the listing. Guess who figures out the problem? Me. More of my time wasted – time that I could have spent working on my other niche sites.
Then it came time for the buyer to transfer over the three PBN sites that I’d included with the sale. Suddenly, he’d forgotten how to transfer the domain names. At this point, I was beginning to think that the buyer was trying to pull something (what, I don’t know). Cause why would he act like he didn’t know how to do the domain transfer when he had just recently done one for the main site’s domain?
In the end, it took 8 days from the buyer’s confirmed wire transfer to EF (and start of site migration) to wire transfer to me for this sale to close. Though I will say that they are super quick when it comes to getting the money to you, which is nice.
Final Thoughts On Site Selling With Empire Flippers
If my first experience with EF had gone like this one, I’m not sure that I would have used them a second time. Overall, it was an incredibly frustrating experience because of the time-wasting depositor questions, the radio silence and the site transferring debacle. Of course, all of these things may be limited to just this one experience. Or, they might be part of a larger trend at EF that needs some tweaking for a better seller experience.
As previously mentioned, I’ve been following Joe and Justin since their days as the AdSense Flippers and they seem like pretty decent guys. Every interaction that I’ve had with the two of them has been good. However, there was one particular thing about this experience that made me question their company’s integrity.
One morning I logged into my Amazon Associates account and noticed that the tracking ID that was selected for reports (upper left side of your AA screen) was not for the site that I was selling. In fact, it was for my most profitable niche site. Until this point, the tracking ID that was selected had been the one for the site that I was selling. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes over there at EF, but I found this a bit odd simply because the tracking ID for the site that was for sale began with a “P” and the one for my top site begins with an “A” – so nowhere near each other in the drop-down. Seems a bit unlikely that it could have been selected by accident. Now, it’s possible that another seller was using a similar tracking ID that caused some confusion. Or, it’s possible that it’s just some bizarre fluke. Or, it’s possible that someone on the EF staff was digging for profitable niches. (Note: I hear that FEI doesn’t require access to your Amazon account when you sell with them, but I haven’t confirmed this.)
Since I was a little alarmed by this finding, I asked Justin about it. I kinda thought maybe they had a rogue employee who might be using the data access to make niche sites on the side. I got kind of a non-answer, which you can see below.
At the end of the day, I’m annoyed at all of the time wasting – from the bizarre depositor questions to letting the buyer do the site transfer (poorly and slowly). But, I am also grateful that places like Empire Flippers exist so that people like me don’t have to rely on marketplaces like Flippa to sell our niche sites.
I expect to sell three more niche sites sometime between November and February, and if I use Empire Flippers I’d hope for an experience closer to my first one with them.
- I’d like to see them do a better job of filtering out depositor questions like the one where I was asked to send links on how to build and grow niche sites (wtf?).
- I’d like for them to say “no” when someone insists on transferring a site on their own because it causes more stress and headaches for the seller when that buyer doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing in the end.
- I’d also like to see them strive for responses within 24 hours – and if there is a holiday or something else then maybe an automated response – but definitely not days for a response.
Honestly, I don’t think this is too much to ask for their listing fee and commission.
If you’re considering using EF to sell your site, then please keep in mind that this has been my experience and yours may be completely different. In fact, both times I’ve used them have been completely different.
Here’s a few other people’s experiences that I found with a quick search:
- Authority Website Income (from June 2014)
- No Hat Digital (from June 2014)
- Niche Pursuits (from November 2014)
- Matthew Paulson (from August 2014)
- Passion into Paychecks (from May 2015)