Editor’s Note: Mo and I met a year via email as we chatted back and forth about website investing and flipping. Fast forward 12 months, and he has now successfully flipped a website for 10x the purchase price. Mo’s post contains some great tips and is all around inspiring. Mo, take it away!
Hi, I’m Mo, I started up a new business in the niche site flipping industry almost exactly 1 year ago today. This is my story of how I managed to flip a business purchased for $2,700 in September 2019 and Flipped for $24,000 in September 2020.
- Buy a website and try to get it at the best possible price. (Makes the gains better)
- Do most of the work myself and keep all costs low.
- Write all (or MOST) of the content myself to reinvest more revenue into site growth.
- Get “STUCK IN” with manual white hat outreach and formulate a system that I could replicate over and over again to gather more high-quality links.
- Increase traffic and conversions to sell in the low five-figure range after 12 – 18 months (Ideally after Christmas 2020, to take advantage of the seasonal boost, enabling a higher overall exit price)
For the most part, buying and selling a website is not advertised as a “get rich quick” business. The process takes weeks and weeks of research, months and months of content planning and a fine-tooth comb approach to many processes and systems, including link building.
I’ve explored a variety of different business models, including Amazon FBA, Drop shipping, and an Ecommerce store, just to name a few. I first stumbled across the idea of buying and selling websites in Mid 2019.
After watching a few YouTube video’s on how to make money blogging, one particular case study caught my eye. It explained in meticulous detail the approach of buying an established website, adding value to it and then having the intention to sell it on to a buyer in a set time frame.
For me, this was an interesting business model. All business is risky but knowing that people are waiting to buy starter sites, established sites, and sites of all kinds, made this industry a very lucrative one.
After researching the different marketplaces that already have thriving communities who buy and sell websites daily, my entrepreneur juices started to flow.
I took a few months to research and investigate all the elements of what a successful website looked like, including niche selection, site design, content creation, link building and different monetization methods. It was an extremely big learning curve that relied heavily on obtaining traffic from SEO, at least initially.
Building a website from scratch takes a very long time to rank in Google and I couldn’t wait for 6-12 months for my site to start getting small amounts traffic and eventually conversions.
I decided the best course of action was to purchase a business already ranking in the SERPS, with established content and importantly had a track record of affiliate sales.
The Buying Process
I started to join all the website marketplaces. Initially, I wanted to buy a large business from Empire Flippers, but many of these businesses sold incredibly fast and the minimum buy-in was usually around $25k.
This being my first investment, I thought that would be too risky, as I didn’t have enough experience vetting websites, and this could lead to me losing a significant portion of my upfront capital.
On top of that, I saw and heard horror stories about other marketplaces like Flippa, so I decided to avoid buying a business above $10k as it was too risky as a newbie.
*Note Flippa has significantly cleaned up their listing and require a lot more verification then they did last year.
Seeing a gap in the market, many services have opened up to cater for website buyers with smaller budgets. Marketplaces like Motion Invest, Investor Club and Money Nomad Marketplace accommodate many more investors with different budgets.
However, last year was a different landscape and the only other place to buy small websites were private Facebook groups. Although they are not vetted, you can link up with like-minded people, ask questions, and get a real sense of how the how the process of building, buying and flipping websites really work.
Importantly, there are Facebook groups whose sole purpose is to buy and sell websites. I found one, became heavily involved for a few weeks, and then took the plunge.
I hadn’t done much niche research, preferring to keep my options open. I knew the pet industry was lucrative by researching all the different affiliate programs available and preferred to build a business in an evergreen niche.
I found a seller who had a large portfolio and wanted to get rid of a few smaller websites.
After reviewing a few of his smaller sites, one pet website stood out to me. I carried out as much due diligence as I could and after we negotiated a fair price. I purchased it with the help of Escrow.com.
Disaster Struck – Migration & Website issues
The website was making around $150 – $200 per month, so with the current market valuation it should have been valued in the $5 $6k range. However, I managed to negation the seller down to $2700!
At the time I thought it was BARGAIN, at 30X, I had secured the deal for almost half of its value. Importantly, it meant that I could add content and links and raise the asset with fairly little work before I flipped it.
What I didn’t know was that the websites traffic and revenue were declining steeply. Being my first buying experience, I hadn’t noticed the severity of the issue and tried to paper over the cracks. My due diligence wasn’t broad enough and I had unwittingly purchased a business going into decline.
After going through a rather long 4-week migration period, I noticed the site traffic slipping significantly. One of the main pages had plunged by 20% and other similar pages followed.
Within 45 days of buying, the entire site dropped by almost 40% and conversions fell off a cliff… my heart sunk. While I’ve now realized this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at the time it felt like a real kick in the teeth.
However, (AND THIS IS A BIG HOWEVER) this was a blessing in disguise. As this was my first acquisition, the best time for disaster to strike is right at the beginning.
After purchasing a website, much of your time, in the beginning, is spent towards, fixing, altering and upgrading the old site to make it faster, cleaner and more optimized for conversions.
I picked myself up and decided I had to go all in, no matter what!
Month’s 1 – 3. Audit Heaven!
For the first 3 months I got stuck right into every type of audit you could think of:
- Links Audit: I disavowed spammy looking links to clean up the link profile.
- Site Audit: I put the entire website through a site audit (AHREFS) and cleaned up any site issues. (like redirects, no index pages, no follow pages, cleaned up tags and titles etc) A good portion of my time was spent here to give the website a clean start
- Content Audit: I removed any page that had been around for over 6 months and didn’t receive enough traffic. I consolidated similar pages, remove pages that were irrelevant and 301 redirected pages with links to other pages to keep some link juice.
- Theme / Plugin Audit: I focused on optimizing theme and site layouts to speed up the website and removed any unnecessary plugins or coding that slowed the website down. I also add WP rocket for cache and general website optimization.
- Lastly, I hopped over to GSC and tried to fix any Google display or breadcrumb issues.
All in all, it took at least 6 weeks to get all these problems sorted out. It was strenuous but if the website wasn’t failing, I wouldn’t have done it.
Months 3 – 6. Slow and Steady Wins the Race!
On Page SEO (Surfer)
Now the website was lean and mean, I was ready to start optimizing content. The website had around 75 articles and I wanted to figure out why those articles weren’t generating more traffic. I split the process into pages that would have the most impact with any onsite SEO changes and those that would not.
Any page that was in the top 10 traffic bracket according to GA would get a disproportionate amount of my attention as if I could get a 10 – 30% increase in the top 10 pages the entire site should see a big step up in the right direction.
I researched a few tools, but the one that came out on top was Surfer SEO. It was clean, didn’t have too many bells and whistle, easy to use and was very budget-friendly. On-Page takes time, so I realized I wouldn’t see any real changes for a few weeks, and in some cases months, depending on the competition.
I did 2 rounds of On-Page SEO. The first round I took a few pages from the top 10 and a few from the top 25. I wanted to test the power of on-page SEO before I rolled it out site wide.
Plus, I hadn’t done it before so modifying all my pages at once risked me losing more traffic.
Once the first round proved successfully, I rolled out the changes to the top 25 pages and any other’s that I thought had the keyword volume and low competition.
Additional SEO – Internal Linking
The next absolute goldmine for on-page SEO was internal linking. I had read some fascinating stories about how useful internal linking content was and it only made sense that Google, and my readers, would find it more relevant to have pages that had similar ideas, concepts and keywords all linking to each other.
I initially set out to do all the internal linking myself but having 75+ articles meant going into each one and trying to find a relevant part that I could link to another post. It was extremely time consuming and more importantly sometimes impractical as I wasn’t able to pull up relevant links all the time.
I aimed to keep revenue high and profits high, meaning investing in as little plugins, software or tools as possible.
I picked up Link Whisper and learned how to use it straight away. I added at least 2 interlinks to every post retrospectively and any new post I created. This was one of the most useful plugins I purchased and proved to be the catalyst to growth.
Lastly, in Months 3 – 6, I figured out what content hubs were and started to implement them. This pet site wasn’t fixed on one type of breed or animal so I could very easily create content hubs around one pet and then interlink it correctly to a money post.
When Google crawled the info pages and the money page, they would see that the money page was more relevant as it had all these juicy info posts pointing to it via internal links. Score!
Between smart content hubs and keyword research, a detailed modification of on page seo changes, and intelligent internal link placements, my website started to feel very well optimized.
Now it was time for link building!
Months’ 6 – 9 – White Hat Outreach
The previous months I had tried some basic link building tactics, but nothing really worked. I needed a solid strategy that I could use to significantly increase my chances of gathering quality backlinks.
I signed up to a variety of free training courses on how to obtain quality backlinks. I wanted to lean away from PBN’s as it seemed too risky and outside of my current risk strategy. Also, I felt like a cleaner website would attract more buyers.
Link building is difficult, and I learned there aren’t any short cuts. I tried some basic manual outreach by clicking through each relevant pet website in my niche, finding the contact details, writing a personalized email to each webmaster and then waiting for the response.
The result was a TON of time and very little replies (let alone links). I decided that it was time to re-invest some revenue and pay for an outreach tool. After researching I decided to go with Hunter.io for obtaining email address and Mailshake outreach tool (I later changed to Gmass as it was cheaper and more user friendly)
I knew the best link building campaigns were automated and data heavy. So, I created a master spreadsheet with as many data points as I could. Name, Email Address, Email Template used, email response, skyscraper or shotgun approach etc
The database had a duplication rule set within it, so that after I obtained the email address from hunter.io I wouldn’t send the same messages out to existing leads.
It’s a very meticulous process, but after using AHREFS content explorer to find reputable pet websites, filtering them by DR and traffic, importing them into hunter.io, removing generic email addresses to focus on personal ones, adding them back into the master spreadsheet to remove duplicates and then into GMASS to assign to templated outreach email… I was ready to go! (*Breath*)
The first few emails were poorly written, didn’t have auto follows ups, didn’t get much replies and even caused a few mailing limit problems within Gmail.
However, with time the processes got more streamlined and it wasn’t long before I started to get positive responses back from reputable businesses and website owners who were in need of a pet guest post.
I carried on fine tuning the process and started to get quality links back to my website. This process repeated time and time again gets easier and as my domain ranking / domain authority improved, people would approach me to ask if I could write for them.
Instead of getting straight out “NO’s”, I started to get “Maybe’s” and “try again next month because we are full”.
The best part is the guest posts (all written by me to keep costs down) continually got positive feedback from webmasters who would then refer me on to their friends in the industry.
This accounted for a significant amount of links from QUAILTY domains that bypassed the usual outreach process. An invitation or referral from a friend will always lead to a higher backlink success rate.
It was time for some CRO optimization, so I decided to go over all my money post that received meaningful traffic and optimize the conversion buttons, layout and words.
I added clear call to action buttons, changed colors, and tested layouts until I was happy with the conversions. It isn’t a difficult process but CRO optimization is always important if you truly want to get as much revenue from your website as possible.
Also, at this time I decide to split test a second affiliate pet network. This proved to be a very smart decision that made a significant impact in overall revenue and the eventual exit price.
Extreme Revenue Growth
With a lean and optimized website, quality backlinks pouring in, CRO changes and more content being added, the website started to experience rapid growth. It was trending up 50% on traffic and revenue month after month. I knew that now was the time to diversify.
I already added a separate affiliate income partner into the top-ranking money pages and I decided to add display ads to my website as well.
Before month six, I didn’t receive enough visits to be accepted into most display ads (besides maybe AdSense) but at this point, traffic was hitting well over 10k sessions a month so now was a perfect time, so I applied and got accepted into Ezoic.
With an additional affiliate partner and a new ad network the revenue started to skyrocket.
Next, I added a few sponsored ads / posts to the monthly calendar and ensured that my amazon associates one link was working correctly to utilize commissions from outside of USA as well.
*Note in this period amazon did cut their associate fees and unfortunately, my niche was included in it. This was one of the main reasons I decided to diversify across as many income streams as possible.
It allowed me to pick back up the revenue that amazon cut and also keep ensure growth.
Month’s 9 – 12 – Steadying the Ship
As month’s 9 – 12 rolled in the website stabilized and revenue stabilized.
Unfortunately, Google rolled out an update that hit a wide variety of sites and traffic was cut by about 15 – 20% almost overnight.
To offset the loss of traffic I started another content push, but this time concentrating more on money posts. I planned to get the traffic back by creating new content hub in high traffic areas.
The website had significantly more info content vs money content, so my plan was to get back on track with low competitive pet keywords that had high commercial intent.
I did get my site valued once or twice and had a few interested buyers, but I felt as if the site had more juice left in it and a part of me wanted to continue to grow it to after the Christmas period, where online sales go up.
However, I received an email from an outreach partner. They were very impressed with the incoming links from very high DR and put me in contact with a website acquisition firm who had a wide variety of pet-related business online.
We had a call and I felt like the time was right. The buyer knew what he was doing, the timing, although slightly premature, was still in line with my strategy and importantly the price was right.
Within 7 days the contract was signed and within a few weeks the site was sold.
All in all, it was an emotional rollercoaster with extreme highs and lows. The biggest takeaway for me was the intricate details of all the moving parts that make buying and selling websites a real business.
Unless you have the skill set beforehand you have to learn everything as you go along. Although there is a ton of information available, mostly for free, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
My advice would be to find a course or mentor to learn with (if you are new) and set up one site at a time.
This was my primary site and was the reason I was able to get a nine times the value I paid within a year. If I had 3 websites, it’s unlikely this one would have got as much time as it did.
It’s just the beginning of my niche website flipping journey and I hope you’ve been able to pick up a few small tips to help you along the way to!!
Site Operator Service
Mo is offering a site operator service for anyone interested in a hands off approach to building their affiliate business.
This operator service is perfect for an investor who has picked up a website and is looking for a hands off investment and a great fit for a website portfolio owner who hasn’t got time to scale up 1 or more of their businesses.
The Site Operator service includes:
- Hands off Project Management
- Full On-Site SEO, including a full site audit.
- Full content audit and additional Keyword research,
- Finding Content, Formatting & Adding content
- Finding reputable links agency or webmasters & Ordering it
- Theme, Plugin & Site speed optimization
- Overall site maintenance & monitoring
- Full Scalability and growth plans
- CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) across all high traffic commercial & Info pages/posts.
- Premium Content & Premium Links (included with the premium package – please inquire for more details)
If you are interested and want to get more information about this service please feel free to reach out to Mo here:
Website: Niche Website Management