Up to this point on webmaster.ninja blog, I only wrote about starting a brand new website from scratch and how to start making money online. Although that approach has some advantages, there are also various risks and problems involved. For example, how do you make sure there’s already demand for that type of product you decided to build? How do you know if you are going to be able to rank for those keywords? Will you have enough money to get the venture of the ground? How long will you have to wait before you start making any money? How much money and time will you have to invest to get the website up and running? So why not check this list of marketplaces where you can buy and sell established websites?
We will go deep into this topic on a later date, but I wanted to scratch the surface today because of two things. 1. I got the chance to interact with a professional website investor and broker, and 2. I just found out an exciting opportunity in a relatively new website marketplace. An established brand in the E-commerce industry launched a new marketplace for buying and selling websites. But, first things, first.
Websites for sale?
Yes, you can buy and sell your website. There are blogs, e-commerce shops, small SAAS businesses, dropshipping businesses and websites that use other ways of monetizing your traffic. If it is a website that is making money (or not), it might be a good idea to purchase it. You can do it either to increase your market share, to cross-sell, to increase your revenue or for any other reason. But the questions I will attempt to answer with this post is, where do you find such websites?
Flippa has been the go-to place for years for finding good profitable and established websites for sale. Like any other marketplace, there are sneaky people (let’s call them criminals) who will try to trick and scam you. Flippa is getting better and better in tracking them down. Also, buyers are now more sophisticated then they were when Flippa just started out. There are some great websites with a solid track record that you can find on Flippa. Budget starts from as low as $500 or even $100 for a starter site, all the way up to $1,000,000.
Unlike some other marketplaces, Flippa doesn’t have an official vetting process, meaning, everybody can list anything. This is where your experience as an investor comes into play. You may see an “Editor’s choice”, but that doesn’t mean you should let someone else do the due diligence. On the screenshot below you can see the Editor’s choice icon or just click here to see all the latest editor’s choice picks. Couple more important things to note. Flippa is a marketplace that also sells domain names, apps and e-commerce websites like Amazon FBA and Shopify stores. Furthermore, it is an auction-based (like eBay) marketplace. This means that buyers are bidding against each other, the seller can set a reserve (minimum price for which he intends to sell his asset (website)).
We have a long way to go (as you can see below), so I don’t have time to go into specifics of how exactly this auction-based marketplace works, how you can buy the website for BIN (Buy it now) price and how to spot a scam. Hopefuly I will be able to do this in the future, and certainly you can ask me anything in the comment section.
Speaking of Shopify stores, back in Nobember 2017 Shopify officially launched Exchange after testing the model on their website (subdomain exchange.shopify.com to be exact). Model is very simple in this marketplace. You can buy established stores and starter stores that are based only on Shopify. So if you are into dropshipping, for example, this could be the perfect gateway! Why? In these listings you already have almost everything laid out, and in some cases, even the inventory is stocked up!
Although you can theoretically get your foot in the door by buying a low-value store with $500, and there are a few stores priced that low. I wouldn’t recommend it. Usually, what I’ve seen, stores that make some sense are priced at $7,000, all the way up to $2.5 million (highest I’ve seen on the time of creation of this post). Out of all the marketplaces listed here, this one is the newest.
Through the Exchange app, merchants can list their online stores for sale, including information like traffic and revenue data pulled directly from Shopify. Sellers can’t edit this data, which means interested buyers can feel secure knowing that what they see is what they get. Exchange takes only whitelisted sales into account when generating the sales graphs in listings. — Source
Word of advice. Just like with Flippa, this doesn’t mean you should let someone else do your due diligence. You would be shocked how far a criminal will go to scam you. Here’s an example listing on Exchange of a store that is selling Thuggies. You can see their average revenue, sessions per month, average profit per month and inventory value. The owner is asking a 23X multiple on the profit (not on the revenue) + full inventory value.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of droppshiping because I think there’s more work involved compared to affiliate marketing. You can call me lazy, but I don’t see a point in doing something I am not passionate about or don’t have the necessary level of experience / contacts, etc. Furthermore, why work on something when you can use a lever.
Another word of advice I can give regarding scamming. If you buy a website and then you get several lousy reviews on your product, or Google changes their algorithm and your traffic disappears over night, there’s a chance you weren’t scammed it’s just that the market conditions have changed! You bought a small a business! Someone might tell you this is “passive income”, or that there’s no work involved and other bedtime stories. Make no mistake about it, if it is not growing, it is dying and like everything else. Your website needs your attention.
3. Empire Flippers
After listing Flippa (a marketplace where I am most active) and Exchange (newest marketplace) it’s time to start mentioning more serious and reputable marketplaces. In order to list your website on Empire Flippers, the website needs to be making a minimum of $500 per month for 12 straight months. Besides this raised bar, there is a vetting process that a broker from Empire Flippers conducts. You absolutely have to have Google Analytics, and they double check your revenue numbers and proof.Once you have 12 months where your average net profit is above the $500 per month range, you can submit your business with Empire Flippers.Click To Tweet
One very important thing you need to know as a buyer is that you only get limited info from their website. If you are interested more, you need to make a 5% refundable deposit. For example, if the list price is $26,555 you need to make a refundable deposit of $1,328. Unlike Flippa, you don’t see an exact domain name of the website being sold. You get a general niche and monetization methods.
- Niche: Sports. Monetization: Advertising, Affiliate.
- Niche: Package: Technology. Monetization: Amazon Associates
On the other hand, if you are interested in selling your website, or want to learn how Empire Flippers can automatically evaluate your website, check their website valuation tool and see what numbers come out. Bonus tip. If you are a SAAS business and want a second opinion there’s this calculator that can help you get a better perspective. In both cases, have in mind that calculators are prone to errors.
I’ve reached out to Empire Flippers and asked them why website owners should turn to them with so many available options. Here’s what they had to say:
“Empire Flippers is a pretty disruptive marketplace. We take the best of being a broker and a marketplace and get rid of the negative. Instead of having one guy that walks you through the sales process, we have a dedicated highly skilled team for each step of the way, from marketing and sales to migrating the actual business over to the new owner.
Selling at the volume we do, we have the data to back up our claims and the experience to handle even the most unique edge case businesses. We actually just launched a scoreboard of sorts where you can see real data of the deals we’ve done and read more about why we are a bit different than others over at EmpireFlippers.com/scoreboard“. — Joseph Magnotti and Greg Elfrink (Special thanks to Spencer Haws for making the intro.)
One last thing I’d like to mention about Empire Flippers. Greg recently posted some findings on a huge research they conducted. You can see what is the DNA behind several six-figure affiliate websites they brokered on their marketplace. Things like how much content, how many backlinks which niches were they in… Check it out here.
4. FE International
As for FE International, I’ll start by saying that the cheapest website I found on their marketplace was listed for $27,300. So in that respect, FE International is probably not a good place for newbie website investors to start their website investing journey. Sure, the possibility of getting scammed is lower, but you will have to be ready to shell out $30k, $40k or more for your first deal. I am not sure that’s a great idea unless you have money laying around and want to have fun.
Last time I checked with FE International (2017), in order to get the information on a listing, you need to sign an NDA with them. You fill out a form (example below), and they email you to review and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. If you are serious, this shouldn’t pose as a problem, and the listing itself is enough to tickle your mind. I am hesitant to notice that multiples are higher on FE International compared to Empire Flippers because many factors come into play and a more serious comparison between the two is necessary.
They have “only” 72 listings, but these are all pre-vetted established and profitable online businesses! A website I’ve seen listed in October 2018 sells for $13.500 (lowest), all the way up to $18 million USD. In order to see the details of the listings, you need to sign up on their website. The sign up is free, but you have to sign an NDA. As soon as I signed up a broker reached out to me (same day), so compared to other services I got more of a “concierge” kind of feeling and approach. I explained my position (I bought a few smaller sites, but the reason for my sign up was this review). What happened next was more of a surprise than the broker reaching out to me. Rick Latona himself emailed me, and wanted to make sure his service is reviewed in the right way.
Well, if they handle their clients the same way they handled this “out of the blue email”, they are doing a great job! You can read on old 2009, but an in-depth interview with one of the co-founders Rick Latona, here. As you can see, Latona’s broker business is not his first rodeo. Here’s Rick’s take on what differentiates them from other brokers and marketplaces for buying and selling websites.
6. Other services
Website Broker – I quickly looked at a few websites being sold here, and I don’t plan to return here looking for more. Income numbers are projections but listed as facts, some websites look illegal (selling books for $1), and so on. The overall design looks really dated and they have only 33 websites listed.
URL: Website Broker
Biz Broker 24 – For a company that is allegedly the “largest E-Business Merger & Acquisition Company in the world listing over $100 Million in businesses”, they have a nice looking website, but with errors, without SSL and with limited information. On the homepage there are logos of “NYT, TEDx, BBC and Forbes”, but when you click here to see the proof, you actually get media appearances at “Cyberchimps, addicted2success and SB Wire”. The person giving a testimonial on their Facebook page had a generic Windows background on his computer (to me this is screaming Fiverr review), and other weird details. Website listed for sale include: legal online casino, website for escort agencies, service for selling Instagram followers.
URL: Biz Broker 24
We Buy Websites – Is a broker company. You have to signup to their newsletter in order to see the deal flow. But, if you do that, you get an error 500 (12th October). I’ll try again in the future and report back here. As you can see from the screenshot on the left, they have a simple website with limited information.
Quiet Light Brokerage – Is another high-end brokerage company. The cheapest website was listed at $30,000 USD, while the most expensive was being sold for $15 million USD. Listings on the website have only basic data, so you need to contact the broker in charge to find out everything you need about the listing. For example domain name, product, traffic numbers and other crucial information are not listed. Like several others in this space, they mention doing more than $100,000,000 in website deals. Unlike their competitors, they have educational podcasts, videos and guides which is definitely a plus. I am looking forward to checking them out again in the future! Their blog is also very informative, packed with posts such as this “Step-by-step guide to performing a financial trend analysis”
URL: QuietLight Brokerage
We Sell Your Site – like many before mentioned, We Sell Your Site also has listed on their website that they’ve sold over $100,000,000 in website deals. Well, at least unlike BizBroker24 they have an SSL certificate installed and no errors on their website but only two blog posts (October 2018). More importantly, their listings are pretty empty, only 2 websites listed for sale, so you have to sign up to their newsletter in order to get new listings in your inbox. On the website screenshot you can see media mentions on Forbes and Entrepreneur, but if you click on those nothing happens, so you can’t actually see the articles. I tried Googling those appearances but wasn’t able to find them.
Domain Magnate – Nearly last, but certainly not the least favorite, Domain Magnate is run by Michael Bereslavsky. According to an interview with Flippa he manages more than 100 websites and has sold websites for as much as $165k on Flippa. I signed up on Michael’s newsletter a year ago, and he sends new deals every once in a while in your inbox. Just like other premium brokers, Michael is interested only in serious buyers, and legitimate owners selling their businesses and websites. Here’s a word from Michael himself!
URL: Domain Magnate
Businesses for sale – Is not a website marketplace by definition, and certainly, the name is descriptive, but there are websites for sale as well. The thing that caught my attention were overpriced starter sites like these. If you take that same budget and go to Exchange, you are going to get a far better deal. I feel sorry for the baby boomers which this seller (Pure Ecommerce) is clearly targeting on their website. That’s the problem with marketplaces, you get one bad seller, and you lose faith in the entire marketplace. Now I will be extra careful when sourcing deals from Bussinesses For Sale, as I comb through descriptions such as: “Start a fully automated Amazon affiliate website, 100% Passive Income from affiliate links. Potential to make a profit of $150-$200 per week within 6 months, and $500 per week within year 1.”
6. Various Forums
For me personally, this has so far been a very good source of deals. I am Croatian (yes, that’s why my English isn’t like the one you find on Wall Street Journal), but the added benefit is I can also work in a Croatian speaking market (Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian to be exact). One of the places is an old webmaster forum where other webmasters from that region often post websites for sale. These are both starter and established websites. Mostly in one of the regional languages, but also in English. You still have to do the due diligence, but since it’s an active community, other users also comment which forum user provided a positive experience, and which provided a bad experience. Sometimes, like in every other forum users are banned for bad behavior or for scamming somebody.
I understand that the majority of the readers here aren’t from Croatia, but surely you can look around and there is probably a forum dedicated to buying and selling websites in your local community. Also, I’d thought I’d list a few English based forums where you can look for deals.
- Digital point marketplace
- WebHostingTalk (only web hosting businesses)
- DNTrade (Australian forum, you have to register)
7. Other options
Yes, even after all those options I’ve listed earlier, there are even more options you can try. The marketplaces, the brokers, the forums, and still there are other ways you can buy and sell websites. One may start to suspect certain website investing arbitrage is possible where you buy from one location, and sell via a different avenue. Anyway, here are 3 more options.
- Ebay is a marketplace, but after seeing some very shady websites listed, I decided not pay more attention to it.
- Freemarket – I saw a website being sold on Freemarket that on its second month had 150,000 pageviews, and currently being sold for $100. Be cautious of such offers.
- Individual website investors – There are people, myself included, that often buy websites. Reach out to them directly. This is by far the best alternative option, but you should pick very carefully who you are working with.
Talk about scratching the surface. If it took a while for you to go through this guide, imagine how much time I’ve spent creating it! I feel that I’ve done some injustice to the marketplaces and brokers listed here, so I do apologize and promise to do my best next time when I dive deeper into each of this options separately. I’d love to do that, but it will probably take me a week just to review one of them. As I’ve mentioned earlier, some of these require newsletter subscriptions, then you have to wait for them to send you their deal flow, and then you can do a proper evaluation. After all, this is what it boils down to, what is the quality of the websites being sold, and what multiple you are being charged.
Put yourself in the marketplace’s shoes. You want to promise great multiples (on the seller monthly profit), but that might turn away some buyers. It is a double-sided marketplace where you have to attract both buyers and sellers! So although I do mention website design, speed, SSL certificates in my review, it is not the most important factor. It sure helps to create that positive first impression. But, if I can buy a website that is making great money for a long time and is being sold for a low multiple… that’s the thing that’s going to keep me coming back.