Whenever people talk about wealth building, someone usually ends up saying “you should invest in real estate.” But I think there’s a better investment for you – virtual real estate, or websites.
With few exceptions, it’s cheaper to invest your money (and time) in income generating websites than in real estate.
And the ROI is often infinitely higher when flipping websites for profit as opposed to flipping houses or other physical real estate.
Where else can you invest $5,000 – $10,000 and turn that into $20,000 or more within 12 – 18 months? Maybe crypto, if you’d gotten lucky a few years ago!
Creating income generating websites with the intention of flipping the sites for profit is the core of my business model, and has been for several years now. If you’re interested in making money selling websites like I do, then I’ll cover the basics how you can do the same.
This post contains some affiliate links to products that I use and love. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.
How To Get The Income Generating Website
If you’re completely new to this business model, then you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on one of these websites. Well, you have two options:
- Create the website yourself (or outsource it)
- Buy an existing website
For me, I’d say that 99.9% of my sites are those that I started myself. I do buy websites from time to time, but more often than not I’m buying niched down sites that I can fold into existing sites.
Obviously starting out from scratch means a lower initial investment. However, there is a skillset required here. Of course, you can learn how to do all of this (I have a course, as do many other successful site builders).
Buying an existing website requires a larger upfront investment, but it typically means that you can flip for a profit quicker than with a from-scratch website. That’s because you really only need to improve or grow the site’s income in order to have a profitable flip.
If You Want To Create The Site…
Do you already know how to create a content or affiliate site? If so, you’re ahead of most people. If not, then that’s something that you’ll want to learn.
I’m not going to include all the steps here on how to make your own site. As previously mentioned, I have a course as do other people, or you can soak up all the free info on the internet and figure it out on your own.
I will say that you should definitely create your site using WordPress as your platform (self-hosted, not the freebie option). This is important because you need to have a site that potential buyers can edit and update and self-hosted WordPress is the industry standard.
If You Want to Buy The Site…
For those of you who don’t want to start from scratch and play the long waiting game of getting a new site to ranking like a beast, then buying an existing site is a great time saver.
There are actually a few different types of sites that you can buy:
- Pre-made niche sites – these typically aren’t earning anything or even ranking for anything, but they let you hit the ground running. The cost of this type of site is usually under $1,000.
- Aged sites – these sites are usually at least six months old, with some rankings and possibly even some earnings (though not always). These sites are often sold with the benefit of “skipping the sandbox.” The cost of this type of site varies but is often around a couple thousand dollars.
- Already earning sites – these are the sites that you typically see listed in the marketplaces of the brokers. The lowest monthly earnings you will see is $500 monthly, which means that your investment can be considerable.
The skillset that you’ll need for a site that’s already live and out there is not only being able to maintain the earnings, but to also grow them. This can come from conversion rate optimization (CRO) or just adding more content and links to improve/grow rankings.
What Types Of Websites Can You Flip For Profit?
When I first started flipping websites back in 2014, you really only saw people selling affiliate sites and AdSense sites. But today there are a lot more site models in the marketplaces.
While I’m not claiming to know every type of site you can sell, these are the types that I commonly see:
- Affiliate sites (monetized by affiliate offers)
- Content sites (monetized by display ads)
- Content sites (no monetization, only sold based on content value)
- Directory sites (monetized by ads and/or paid directory listings)
- SaaS sites (monetized by selling some software, like WordPress themes)
- Digital Service sites (monetized by selling a service, like SEO or graphic design)
- Digital non-sites (things like Amazon KDP ebook account or Amazon Merch t-shirt accounts)
One thing to keep in mind is that it is a LOT more difficult to sell sites that are not in English. Likewise, it’s also easier to sell sites that target the USA market simply because there are more potential buyers shopping for these types of sites.
Should My Site Be Niched Down Or Cover A Broad Topic?
Honestly, I’m not sure there is a correct answer for this.
The easiest answer to look in the SERPs – does it seem easier to rank for kayaks or for water sports? Go with whichever offers the quickest route to profits.
Personally, I tend to niche down a bit, but not too narrow. So, instead of kayaks or water sports I might go with the topic of paddle sports or river sports.
I find that it is easier and quicker to rank a somewhat narrow site since topical authority is easy to achieve. And the faster that site starts earning, the sooner you can flip it for profit.
I’ve sold a LOT of sites in recent years and most of them have been somewhat niched down. However, my single biggest site sale was a broad category site. So, take that as you will 🙂
5 Important Things To Know Before Flipping Websites
Before you get started on your site, I feel like there are a few tips I need to share with you now to prevent any unhappy surprises later on.
1) Amazon Sites Are The Most Common Type Of Affiliate Flip (and Easiest)
I think it goes with out saying that most of the sites you’ll find in the broker marketplaces are monetized via Amazon Associates (the Amazon affiliate program).
Do I suggest you do an Amazon site for your flip? Yes, because they are the easiest sites to flip.
Flipping your Amazon affiliate site is a very straightforward process. The buyer has to have their own Amazon Associates account and all you have to supply is the site you’re selling.
2) If You Use Paid Traffic, Then You Have To Sell The Ads Account With The Site
Though it’s not super common, sometimes people end up selling sites where they use paid traffic (like AdWords) to bring in more traffic (and conversions).
Even if you’re doing this with an Amazon affiliate site, you must be prepared to part with that ad-buying account when you sell the site.
This is only a problem if you’re using the account to run ads for other sites.
So, if you want to run paid traffic to multiple sites, then you need to have them on separate ad-buying accounts.
3) If You Use Other Affiliates, Then You Should Include Those Accounts With The Site
Though I’ve managed to get out of this requirement successfully in the past, if you are using affiliate programs other than Amazon on your site, you have to include those accounts with the site.
Here’s an example – you have an affiliate site promoting web hosting and you earn via Siteground and WPEngine. When you sell the site, you have to hand over the Siteground affiliate account and the WPEngine account…..unless you can work out something with the buyer to avoid doing that.
In my case, I used a program that was in Shareasale, but I used other programs in Shareasale with other sites. Luckily, I was able to avoid giving up that Shareasale account!
You might be thinking, but what about all the pending payout monies in my affiliate account? Honestly, I’m not sure how the brokers handle this. I assume you just hope for the best and don’t piss off the buyer until you get the pending monies.
4) You’ll Probably Have To Sign A Non-Compete
When you sell your site, the contract will likely include a non-compete clause. Based on my experiences, the length of this can range between one year and four years.
Yes, it means that you can’t compete directly with the site that you sold. I think this is done to prevent sellers from making a carbon copy of the site they’re selling and going after all the same keywords.
Yes, non-competes suck, especially if they are longer than a year. But, luckily there are tons of niches out there….as long as you’re not selling a site that covers a bunch of niches!
So, when it’s time to sell your site, if you have sites covering the same stuff, then you’ll need to package them together with the one you’re selling. Or, take it down for the non-compete period.
5) Including Hosting Can Speed Up The Process
Once you agree on a sales price with a buyer, the process of getting the site to them can seem like it takes forever. One way to speed up the process is to put the site on it’s own hosting account and just give it to the buyer as well.
Just don’t be a jerk about it and put the site on a cheapo hosting package. If you’re selling a site that’s hosted with WPX, then move it to it’s own package on WPX. (You can sign up for a monthly package so that you’re not paying for a year of hosting for them!)
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to make things quick and speedy, you’ll have a buyer who insists on getting their own hosting. So, just expect that possibility and try not to be too annoyed when it happens.
Is Website Flipping Still Profitable In 2019?
Personally, I love this question because it probably means that whoever is asking it will likely not end up taking action and that’s just more opportunity for me!
So, yes, website flipping is still extremely profitable here in 2019 and probably for several years going forward. As long as people can make money from websites, then flipping sites will be a profitable endeavor.
When I first started flipping sites back in 2014, the average multiple for a sale was around 18x-20x the monthly income. And the last site that I sold in Q2 2019 got a 34x multiple of the monthly income.
In the first two quarters of 2019 alone I got six figures for flipping sites….and one of those sites was a partnership site where I only got a third of the money.
Where Can You Sell (or Buy) Websites?
The same places that offer websites for sale also buy sites, so you can end up using the same broker for everything, if you want.
The places where I have sold and bought websites are:
Other places where you can buy and sell websites include:
I’m sure there are plenty of others out there that I don’t know about, so if you’ve used someplace else to sell or buy a site, then feel free to leave it in the comments.
For the brokers that I have used, I can tell you to expect to give them 15% of the sales price for their commission. Yes, that’s a lot but it’s the industry standard so you gotta suck it up.
Why Sell A Successful Website?
I see this a lot in SEO groups – someone asking why on Earth people would ever want to sell a website that is bringing in money each month?
I can’t tell you why other people sell their sites, but I can give you my reasons.
- It frees up capital to invest in other projects. Sometimes I get bored with a site and want to put the cash into another site. Or sometimes I want to try something other than an affiliate site.
- It minimizes risk. We’re all one Google update away from a tanked website….or even just a closed affiliate account or change in terms of an affiliate account.
- Boredom. I don’t always start sites on topics that I enjoy. And there’s really only so much writing about baby gear that you can take before you start to go crazy.
Are those good reasons? They are for me, but you decide on what’s right for you. At least get a valuation to see what your site is worth.
Hey, I’m Shawna. I make a living working from my laptop in places like London, Sydney, Dubai, Rome, Oslo, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. I share how I do some of that on this website.