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The Amazing Art of Flipping Websites

Recently I have looked at expanding my internet empire. I have all sorts of ideas and never enough time – so I thought I would see if I could buy some websites relatively cheaply, improve them, and then either flip them, or profit from them because of the benefit they bring.

Flipping

Website Flipping? What’s That?

I don’t know how commonly known the phrase is – but essentially ‘flipping a website’ involves selling a website. The types of people who flip websites generally fall into 3 camps.

  1. Creators: people who build a website purely with the intention of selling it.
  2. Buyers: people who buy the created websites.
  3. Flippers: people who buy created websites, improve them further, and then sell them for a profit.

I fall into camp 2 or 3. I’ve not yet sold a website, but I like the idea of doing it and may try it in the future. So far, however, I have purchased 2 sites – and I’ll mention them below.

How Do I Flip a Website Then?

Since I’ve only done the purchasing side so far I can only comment on this. There are many places online that let you advertise and sell your website but the most popular seems to be Flippa.com – and that’s where I bought my first 2 sites.

I signed up to the site years ago – but it’s only recently that I started looking seriously. Late last year I signed in and had a look into how I could find websites that interest me. I found out that they have a system for sending you daily emails of new sites that come on the market – so I entered my details, selected the categories that interest me (web design and entertainment), and then waited for the first message.

I now get one email a day from Flippa telling me the latest deals in my chosen categories. Normally there’s only 5 or 6 sites – and I just ignore them all because they don’t sound relevant or interesting. But, about 2 or 3 times a week something catches my eye so I click-through to the listing page and have a look.

How Do I Chose What to Buy

In the email there’s a few bits of basic info about each site, things like page rank, traffic, income, and the asking price of the site. Generally if all the numbers are 0 I ignore that site. If the numbers are higher, and the topic sounds interesting then I take a look.

Often the starting bid (set by the seller) is crazy high. They seem to think that because their site has a page rank of 3, and no income or traffic, that it’s worth $5000 – that’s clearly not the case so I ignore these. If the starting bid is 0, and I’m interested in the subject matter, then I will watch the auction and make a bid towards the end if there’s been no interest.

Since I am not in this to profit, it’s more of a learning experience for me, I don’t worry about how much money the site is earning – but I like it to be getting some traffic since it makes things a bit easier.

And that’s what led me to buying 2 websites on Flippa.

2 Websites?

Yep – I have purchased 2 sites – one for $40 and one for $35 – in both cases I was purchasing more for the domain than anything else. They were sites around topics I am interested in, and that I thought I could bring some value to.

HTML5Directory.com

http://html5directory.com

The first site I bought was HTML5Directory.com – it’s a gallery site for html5 sites.

So far, besides updating WordPress and rejigging the theme I haven’t done much to it. In fact the content is still the same as when I first bought it as well. I plan to do more though – introducing new articles and showcasing more sites. The problem I have with it currently is I am not sure how to promote it but I’ll start by updating it and see what happens organically.

I also want to do a bit more with it from a design point of view, but it’s nice and clean now so I don’t think there’s any hurry.

ThemesHunt.com

http://themeshunt.com

The second site I bought is a WordPress site called ThemesHunt.com. The original site was an autoblog – using the WPRobot plugin to fill the site with spammy auto generated text that sounds like it was written by someone who has only just started to speak English.

I am now using the site as an experiment to see how much I can do with a WordPress site without doing any programming – everything on the site is controlled with free themes and plugins.

I am using a standard WordPress theme (from WordPress.org) – and a variety of plugins. I’ve not touched a line of code – besides the Content Aggregator plugin that I am slowly preparing for a public release. Any theme customisations are happening through the Jetpack plugin with it’s built in css editing module.

Tips For Flipping Websites

Below are a few things I have learnt that might help when buying sites on Flippa.

  1. Don’t buy anything immediately. Watch the site for a week or so and get an idea of the types of sites being sold. You’ll find their are patterns and certain types of sites keep being build by people who want to make a quick buck.
  2. Don’t worry about being sniped. If someone puts in a bid at the last minute then the auction gets extended. This means that you have an extra hour or two to go back in and up your bid if you want.
  3. Pick a budget and stick to it. Like all auctions you should have a maximum bid in mind and not go over it without good reason.
  4. Pick sites where you can add value. Don’t buy sites because you think they are pretty or interesting. You should be able to improve them in some way else they won’t get the attention they need and so won’t offer you any return on your investment.
  5. Make sure to check the stats properly. Check things like the page rank, and copyscape stats to make sure the site has some sort of visibility in the wider world – and more importantly – that it’s not a direct copy of another website.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sellers want to make as much money as possible to feel free to ask them to clarify things and they generally will.

Any More?

I don’t yet know what I will do with the websites above. I will continue developing and updating them for the foreseeable but I may well try selling them as a further experiment in the art of flipping websites. I suspect I will end up buying another site or 2 in the future as well.

Have you bought any sites like this? What did you do with them? Did you make any profit from the purchase? Would love to hear your experiences.

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7 Comments »

  1. Great post Ben,
    Buying websites is exciting and can be a great investment!
    I’m working on building a portfolio of money making websites right now.
    I bought both via Flippa and direct contact with webmasters
    Of course I did all the beginner mistakes and overpaid a few but now I’m getting a good grip on due diligence.

    About html5directory, you could try to monetize targeting the Web developer looking to advertise their html5 skills.
    Just an idea, but great domain indeed… Till html5 will be the standard default :)

    Ciao

  2. Great post Ben,
    This is something I have thought about as well. I like it much more than domain name flipping because you are actually adding value to the domain name instead of degrading it’s value with adverts.

  3. Good article, I’ve been looking at flippa.com just recently as well (came to it from looking at the domain name business) and it’s a nice idea to buy a site, improve it and then sell it on, but I think in practice that’s very hard to do for lots of reasons.

    First is that most of the prices of the sites on flippa are beyond a joke, there are sites on there with no traffic, no income, basically just a wordpress installation and a domain name and they still want a small fortune. And if you do find a decent site which you could actually do something with (for example this one https://flippa.com/2921294-pr-5-iphone-app-site-with-23-000-uniques-mo-making-500-mo ), then of course about a 1000 other people realise the same thing and they all bid for it, these other people are usually experts in this area and already have lots of money to spend, therefore pricing you out of the situation anyway.

    2nd, is getting traffic to anything these days is incredibly difficult, unless (and I’ll get to this in a bit) you already have an established network that can push traffic in one direction or another. The web is full of great sites and great content but nobody ever knows about it, because traffic = money (usually), and user acquisition is not cheap.

    3rd, and this is the biggest issue I have with the flippa concept, what’s stopping someone from using a network that they already own sending lots of traffic to a site, to bump up it’s visitor count, you then buy the site, the traffic get’s re-directed and you end up with a site that has no income again. Yes you can perhaps get as much data about the sites traffic as possible but I still think this is a danger.

    So I would say Flippa is great if you a) have money to throw away and don’t mind a gamble, or b) are an expert in promotional techniques and already have a network to drive traffic to the new site c) Genuinely want to spend years on a specific site idea that you want to invest all your time/energy into to build into something, but that to me goes against the whole buy/sell websites idea, which is a quick(ish) turn around.

    Otherwise it’s probably best to resist joining in the fun.

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