Please note that affiliate links may be included in some posts.
The first website I ever bought was a dog bed affiliate site started by a husband and wife team.
It was a dinky, exact-match-domain.
I bought it for ~$500 off of Flippa back in 2016.
I still remember the immense anxiety I felt negotiating the site transfer.
I even got on the phone with the site owners to hash out the site migration.
Once I had the site, I decided to convert it to a Wayfair affiliate site, thinking it made sense to diversify away from Amazon.
I spent a week slamming the site with content- upgrading old posts, ferreting out new keywords in this rather narrow niche.
Buying A Dog Bed Site
It wasn't a bad earner- I probably got it up to ~$500/month from Amazon and Wayfair.
Then Wayfair left ShareASale and all the Wayfair links broke.
And then Amazon decided to upgrade my primary affiliate site's commissions.
I decided to deactivate the site to minimize my exposure to Amazon Associate TOS violations.
It wasn't getting a ton of traffic and all the broken ShareASale links would be a huge nuisance to fix.
I've bought one other site- that one was a much more sustained success.
I've spent A LOT of time on website auction sites.
I'm going to discuss some of my favorite places to buy and sell websites, examining how they compare, and introduce a new option, MotionInvest*.
*I am an affiliate for MotionInvest, so if you end up purchasing one of their sites, I would receive a commission.
Historically, my favorite broker sites, in order have been:
- Flippa: big, public marketplace of free-to-browse, lightly vetted/unvetted website listings. Lots of useful features like custom email notifications, auction commenting, direct buyer/seller messaging, but rife with spam/deceptive listings that can trick a novice into a disastrous purchase. Has the most auction listings at any one time- nearly 4,000 at the time of this writing. Best for budget buys and deals in the affiliate / display / eCommerce and drop shipping space.
- FE International: high-end website brokerage, much more 'old world' than other listings. It's free to join the Buyer Network. Once you request a prospectus, they'll email you a detailed business summary of the website. Harder to find 'steals' because everything is so vetted, but it's significantly less risky purchasing from them than Flippa, especially if you are a novice. Has about 50 sites for sale right now. Best for vetted, higher-end (i.e. 6-figure+) affiliate / display / eCommerce and drop shipping acquisitions.
- Empire Flippers: a curated marketplace, bit more modern than FE International. Again, not a great place to find undervalued assets. You need to pay a refundable deposit to view the site URL. Has about 50 sites for sale right now. Best for vetted, higher-end (i.e. 6-figure+) affiliate / display / eCommerce and drop shipping acquisitions.
A New Option:
MotionInvest: a new option with an alternative approach to website sales. MotionInvest has actually purchased the sites sites that they are selling.
This means that they have significant skin in the game- none of the other auction sites actually own the properties.
They're targeting the purchase and sale of sites that are earning under $2k a month.
Additionally, they offer coaching and support to help you grow the site(s) you purchase.
According to one of the founders, Jon Gillham, MotionInvest intends to "sell your content site and buy content sites directly from us in the underserved <~$2000/month/site range."
"The sites for sale are at or below industry standard multiples, typically we are selling sites below 3x the average earnings. Coaching and ongoing support after you buy the site is an option, we want to ensure people are getting quality sites with the tools they need to succeed." (Source)
Best for vetted, lower-priced ($4-5 figure), value acquisitions of affiliate sites.
How They Compare
|Free to use?||Comments?||Interact With Seller?||Number Of Listings (11/19)|
|Flippa||Yes (sometimes NDA required)||Yes||Yes||~5,000|
|Empire Flippers||Requires refundable deposit to view URL||No||No||~50|
|FE International||Free to join buyer network and request prospectus||No||No||~50|
Thoughts On Buying Sites
I've spent countless hours searching for sites to buy. I've only bought 2.
Only 1 of those sites is still active. I've been really happy with the purchase and earned my money back on it several times over.
However, a recent Google algorithm update significantly impacted the site's traffic- around 40%, about a week ago.
I think that it will recover, somewhat- mainly because the information is good and there aren't that many competitors, but only time will tell...
Google has recently (9/19 and 11/19) been releasing core algorithm updates that have significantly reduced many sites' organic website traffic.
I'm much leerier of purchasing a site nowadays, even if it has a stellar record of organic traffic growth, because the next Google update could, inexplicably, decimate its rankings.
When purchasing a site, most people are looking for organic rankings- it's the best equity a site can have because, historically, once a site has achieved some decent organic rankings, it generally maintains/grows keyword rankings over time.
However, these core algorithm updates, combined with Google increasingly cramming its own products into the SERPs, pushing websites further and further below the fold, create a worrying trend.
Check out a search like "DIY desk". You can see that there are Google ads, then Google Images, then YouTube videos, before the first search engine result is served:
So, even if you're not losing 'rankings', per say, your website is probably losing SERP visibility, and therefore clicks.
If I were buying a site, I'd be looking for big-time blindspots I can quickly correct.
Whether that's improving affiliate/ad monetization, social media traffic, Conversion Rate Optimization, technical SEO (site speed, etc.), building/monetizing an email list.
The faster you can make your money back on the site purchase the better- especially if the next Google algorithm update decides to gut your keyword rankings.
In my opinion, it's riskier to merely buy and hold a profitable website, expecting it to steadily earn back your investment into eventual profit.
I'd recommend only buying website whose revenue you are confident you can pretty quickly '10x', given your skill set.
I Almost Bought A Wiccan Website
Several years a go I was thisclose to purchasing a Wiccan website.
The site had good traffic, underleveraged SEO opportunities, a big email list and an active community.
I agonized about it for awhile, but ultimately didn't purchase it.
I'm glad I didn't.
Looking back on it, I realize that I wouldn't have been comfortable managing a site about witchcraft and spells.
It would have required a ton of email marketing optimization to improve earnings.
I don't enjoy emailing people or writing sales copy.
And God only knows what type of affiliate products I would have had to promote.
There would also have been a lot of ongoing community management responsibilities, something I have zero interest in.
This is all to say, it's a good idea to have a clear sense of your strengths and weaknesses as an internet marketer.
And then evaluate those abilities against the leverage opportunities.
Read More Of My Niche Reports
How They Compare
I'll compare the auction sites across a range of different criteria, from finding deals to price and listing volume.
When it comes to 'deals', I'm evaluating sites based on their:
- Profit Multiple: purchasing sites below a 36x monthly net profit multiple
- 'Leverageability': purchasing sites that I can quickly, dependably improve by substantively increasing traffic/earnings
There are sites that, to me, are good deals if they can be purchased below the standard 36x profit multiple.
But there are also sites that might be selling at a 36x+ profit multiple that are good deals because I know I can improve earnings and traffic.
For example, there are sites that have underleveraged email lists, or no email lists at all.
Maybe they're using a low-earning ad network.
Maybe there's some Conversion Rate Optimization you can do: improve/add calls to action, clean up poor text formatting, increase site speed, etc.
Remember- if you hate email marketing, don't buy a site planning to 'leverage' email marketing.
While this sounds pretty obvious- you want to be sure you have the required skill and passion to actually leverage the asset.
If you're looking to find a deal, as I define it, Flippa is the best place to go. While there's a lot of spammy and deceptive listings, all of that clutter helps obscure true gems.
Below is a good example of a suspicious Flippa listing.
You can tell just from how the blog's marketed as an automated, passive income "cash machine" that it should be avoided at all costs.
Besides the gimmicky, over-hyped listing title, the auction page doesn't provide traffic statistics and the seller is deleting comments right and left: avoid!
That said, there are a bunch of website filters you can use to narrow down their inventory to find quality listings at reasonable valuations.
Say you want a site that gets 25,000 uniques a month but is only earning less than $200- their filtering is easy to use.
Flippa really doesn't police the listings- which means it's up to you to do your own due diligence on the site.
A lot of times I've seen them side with/ignore flagrantly deceptive website auctions.
For example, sites that claim big organic traffic numbers, but are unsubstantiated after a quick Ahrefs Site Analysis.
Empire Flippers and FE International
Empire Flippers and FE International- you're really not getting any 'Profit Multiple' deals. They're heavily curated marketplaces.
They spend a lot of time vetting the sites and producing custom-written auction listings.
You're generally guaranteed to be paying at least a 30x monthly profit multiple. If not a 36x+ multiple.
That doesn't mean it's not a good deal- especially if you have a solid 'Leverage' plan to increase traffic/earnings.
But, it's rare that you're seeing listings below the 6-figure range. And you're not stumbling across an overlooked Flippa website that you can scoop up for a bargain Buy It Now price.
At the time of this writing, there has only been one site available or sold that's making over $1,000 a month.
There are two active listings- one making $300 and the other making $559 a month. These are pretty sweet-spot deals for buyers like myself.
Once sites begin hitting $1,000 in monthly earnings, you can expect to be paying 30-36x for them.
There's obviously a big difference between buying a site for $36,000 ($1,000 x 36) and buying the $300/month site, which is currently priced at $8,000.
I'd much rather buy websites when they're earning below $1,000 a month, and showing some upward mobility, than investing in a site that's already earning over $1,000. The multiple adds up pretty aggressively once a site is earning in the 4-figure range.
In terms of finding deals, if MotionInvest continues to source these types of lower-priced sites, I would rank it below Flippa but above Empire Flippers and FE International, in terms of 'deal' availability.
Though, it's important to remember: a site that's selling for 6 figures could still be a good deal. It just depends on your ability to extract and multiple value from it, relative to the purchase price.
If you're especially price sensitive, i.e. you're not equipped to spend deep into and above five figures on websites, Flippa and MotionInvest are your best buying options. FE International and Empire Flippers rarely have listings below 6 figures.
Flippa is the easiest to browse. Every so often you have to sign an NDA, more frequently with eCommerce listings, but for the most part the site URLs are available.
Flippa Pro Tip
Sometimes Flippa makes it uncessarily difficult to view the actual site websites' URL.
Currently, I'm seeing the URL all the way at the bottom of the listing page.
As long as the listing isn't hidden behind an NDA, another way to find the actual URL of the website for sale, click the BuiltWith or WhoIs links in the Site Info section and you'll see the URL.
With Empire Flippers, you're going to need to put down a refundable deposit to see the site URL for sale.
With FE International, once you sign up to receive auction updates, you'll get emailed the listings with a link to request a prospectus:
MotionInvest lets you see site URLs once you sign up, so up there with Flippa in terms of accessibility.
Flippa has the most sites available for sale at any time- almost 4,000 at the time of this writing.
MotionInvest currently has 2 sites available for sale- but as a new endeavor this will likely increase over time.
Here's where MotionInvest really shines.
Because they've purchased the sites they're selling, you can be pretty confident that they are structurally sound.
In addition, they also provide the most robust analytical information- incorporating Ahrefs, SEMRush and Majestic data so customers can get objective insights without paying for these pricey SEO tools.
As I mentioned, Flippa will require the most due diligence.
They do provide some information about traffic sources, site uniqueness and monetization, but these are frequently unreliable.
I'd never buy a site from Flippa without an Ahrefs subscription. Ahrefs will help you verify ranking keywords, the quality/quantity of its backlinks, and you can even conduct a techncial site audit to deep dive into its health.
EmpireFlippers and FE International both provide a lot of information- but neither provide Ahrefs/SEMrush data.
An EmpireFlippers auction listing includes a lot of data as well as an editorial write-up. Sometimes there's even an audio interview of the site owner available.
I can't reveal too much from FE International- but below you can see the table of contents of a prospectus I received. It outlines all the different information they provide:
MotionInvest provides screenshots from Google Analytics, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Majestic:
They also help interpret the data from these SEO tools. In terms of data transparency, I'd rank it #1, though FE International is best at editorializing the listings. Their writeups read like SEC disclosures.
Post Sale Support
You might also have questions for the previous owner. WordPress sites can be a tangled cord of interdependent plugins- you'll want to have a clear understanding of how the site was constructed.
For example, one of the sites I bought was using a redundant pair of SEO plugins.
I was hesitant for a long time to remove one or the other, unsure what the ramifications would be.
I'm not super technical- but one solution is to create a staging environment site, essentially a duplicate testing site, so you can experiment with site changes without destroying your site in the process.
Regardless, all of these auction sites, except MotionInvest, have seller clauses that commit them to some measure of 30-60-90 day after-sale support. How well that works, I don't know.
MotionInvest offers a unique upsell, providing paid coaching and support for the site you purchased.
Comments: another thing I like about Flippa- they allow comments on auctions. Really popular listings get vetted in the comment section and a lot of due diligence is done for you.
Plus, if you 'Watch' a listing, you'll get an automated email whenever someone comments on auction.
These can be tremendously entertaining as site owners and prospective buyers argue about site worth.
Direct Messaging: Flippa also lets you directly message the seller.
Other platforms don't do this- especially since more curated marketplaces have a lot more to lose if the buyer and seller conspire to take the transaction off-platform.
Since Flippa doesn't heavily police its auctions, and there are so many listings, it makes sense that they reduce transactional limitations.
Custom auction filters: Flippa, again, has a pretty useful feature here- I get emailed a curated list of site auctions based on criteria I set. For example, say I want a Content Site that's making $50-$250 a month. It's easy to do:
Purchasing a website can be an excellent opportunity to acquire 'something that works'.
That is to say, you can start a site from scratch and for reasons both inside and outside of your control it just never takes off.
When you buy a website, you remove a level of uncertainty about its viability.
Though, as we've seen with Google algorithm updates, organic traffic can be fickle.
The best advice I can offer: evaluate your marketing skills and invest in the assets you're confident you can leverage for quick returns.
Last Updated on March 13, 2021 by Ryan Nelson