Recently I listed another one of my Amazon niche sites up for sale over at Empire Flippers. This was not the first time that I’ve used them to sell one of my sites, with the first time being June 2014.
A lot of the process with them has changed since my previous sales, 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.
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.
I’ve been flipping sites for years and back in 2014 when I was looking for Flippa alternatives, 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, in addition to a few other places where you can sell sites). 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
Listing a site with Empire Flippers 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.
One of the first of the sites that I sold with Empire Flippers a few years ago 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.
With the site of mine referenced above, 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?
My Listing Experience in 2019
During Q1 2019 I listed one of my sites for sale with Empire Flippers and had a truly great experience. A lot has changed in their process since the last time that I sold with them, all for the better I think.
This time for me, there was no Skype call after submitting the site to them. Instead, I got a list of questions to answer about the state of the site and I was assigned a vetting specialist.
And let me tell you, I feel bad for anyone who thinks they are going to pull one over on these guys! They are super thorough on vetting your site and it’s backlinks.
Like anyone running a successful site these days, you end up with shitty links pointed at your site that you didn’t create. I’m no exception to that and I got asked about one of those links specifically several times. So, if you’re doing shady shit and trying to hide it, well, good luck to you cause you’re probably not getting into the EF marketplace.
Anyways, after you get your vetting specialist and they go over your site’s income, you get a preliminary P&L to go over. They use this to come up with your valuation, so you definitely want to make sure everything on it is accurate.
The vetting specialist lets you know what your valuation and list price will be, if your site is approved to be listed with EF. And the final step is identity verification. You have to show proof that you own the domain and proof of who you are (copy of identification and social media handles).
Additionally, you have to fill out your availability in an online calendar for potential calls with interested buyers.
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. (this was for a sale in 2015) 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.
My 2019 Live Listing Experience
Like all the previous times I’d sold with EF, a rush of depositors came in once the listing went live in the marketplace. And with those depositors comes questions and the granting of Google Analytics access.
I don’t recall getting any ridiculous questions from depositors this time. Most of the questions I got were related to a penalty that the site I was selling had gotten the year before. So, pretty basic stuff that I’d expect a potential buyer to be concerned about.
I also some some specific questions about links to the site, which I cannot reveal without disclosing some information about the site I sold.
I also did a few calls with interested buyers, which was a great experience. I feel like this really helped me to get a quick sale at a decent multiple. EF staff also made the calls super easy for me since they prepped me before each call and then stayed on afterwards with me to discuss how it went with the potential buyer.
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 (when I sold in 2015).
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.
My 2019 Accepting An Offer On My Site Experience
This time I got a super lowball offer on my site, however it was the rock bottom that I would accept for the site. After discussing the offer with the EF rep, I decided to accept it since they then let all other depositors know that I’ve accepted an offer – and they give them all 24 hours to beat that offer.
Pretty cool way of doing things, huh?
Fortunately, there was another interested depositor who made an offer in that 24 hour period, so I did get more for the site than my rock bottom price. However, I don’t think that I can share any real numbers like that for the deal. (sorry!)
Once a sale is agreed on, a migrations specialist from EF takes over. Since EF moves the sites, this is usually a pretty simple process. I tried to make things easier by moving the site to its own hosting package thinking that the buyer could just take it over. But, the buyer ended up getting their own hosting and EF moved the site for them.
As for how long things took once a sale price was agreed on, I accepted the final offer on February 12th and the payout was on March 14th – though, I did miss their initial email about the payout since I was in the process of moving! So, it could have been paid out a couple of days earlier.
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: FEI doesn’t require access to your Amazon account when you sell with them.)
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)
My Thoughts On Selling With Empire Flippers in 2019
Honestly, I kinda regret being so hard on Empire Flippers back when I originally wrote this article in 2015. I have a less critical review of them that I wrote in 2016, but I still think I was a bit too hard on them originally.
Truthfully, I had a great experience with them this year. They have made a lot of improvements in the process for sellers, and as a seller, I truly appreciate that.
Their process for calls with potential buyers is the best that I have encountered in this industry. Even though EF is a broker that works for both sellers and buyers, this step in the process left me feeling like they truly want the best for both parties involved.
The response times from staff is good, no matter what time I sent them something. I always felt like I knew what was going on, and no one was ever too busy to answer questions that I had for them.
At the end of the day, I feel like Empire Flippers truly earns the 15% fee that they take from the site sale…..even if I do wish that it was a smaller amount! 🙂 And I say this as someone who flips sites as a business model – and I have sold sites with other brokers and via private sales.
And just for clarity, no one is paying me to say this. I have zero affiliation with Empire Flippers other than selling several sites with them. (I’ve also looked at some sites to buy from them, but never successfully gotten one that I’ve been interested in.)
At the end of the day, I have to say that if you’re going to use a broker to sell your site, then I do recommend using Empire Flippers.
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