October 19 0 201

I sold 39 Websites: Here Is What You Can Learn From Me

Digital real estate is one of the last great frontiers on this earth. Dealing with websites and digital platforms can make you a fortune. In this article, we are sharing insights from Mushfiq Sarker, the founder of The Website Flip who has been able to successfully buy, grow and successfully sell websites since 2008.

He has done 135 transactions on both the buy and sell-side with Flippa and 76 private transactions via Escrow, Paypal, or other third-party brokerages. Which makes it more than 200 transactions.

Mushfiq has been able to sell 39 websites from 2018 to now and we are going to analyze the insights he shares from his experience of buying these websites, growing them, and then finally selling them for profit. The insights include:

  • The best monetization sources
  • The niches that sell quick
  • The common bargain rates
  • Types of deal structures he has done as both a seller and a broker
  • Common reasons why sellers sell
  • Actionable tips to position a website for sale

Sales Insights from 39 Transactions from 2018

Before we get into the insights, here are the average highlights of the closed deals:

  • Final Sale Multiple: 25 times (i.e., 25X)
  • Listing to Close Time: 7.12 days
  • Listing to Offer Acceptance Time: 2.58 days
  • AHREFs Domain Rating: 9
  • AHREFs URL Rating: 9.8
  • Referring Domains: 132
  • Backlinks: 3 025
  • Final Sale Price to List Price Ratio: 0.910 (expect a 9% reduction after listing due to buyer negotiations or adjustments)

The ideas shared by Mushfiq are mainly valid for the under $50 000 range of content sites. For anything higher than that, he suggests that it should be left for brokerages like Empire Flippers, Investors Club, FE International, etc. The breakdown of all the deals can be found here: View Data on all 39 Deals.

Let's get into the insights.

What Is the Common Monetization Source?

Answer: Amazon Associates

Of all the deals that Mushfiq has come across, more than 80% are monetized with Amazon Associates. Out of the 39 deals he has closed, 30 of them had Amazon Associates as a primary source of revenue.

Why is this? It’s historically been easy to monetize with Amazon. Slap on a few Amazon links and send traffic. They are the king of conversion rates so you are bound to make money.

What Was the Highest Website Sale Multiples by Monetization Source?

Answer: not Amazon Associates

Mushfiq points out that Amazon Associate focused sites had an average sale multiple of 24x. Whereas, Display Ad sites and other private affiliate-focused sites had larger multiples upwards of 30x. 

This means that websites monetized with display ads and other affiliate programs other than Amazon’s had bigger returns on selling.

What Are the Niches that Sell Quick?

Answer: Kitchen, Home, Sports, Technology, Automotive, Pets

Most consumer goods-focused niches sell quickly. Most of these niches are also monetized via Amazon Associates, to begin with. However, going forward with the major Amazon changes, we may potentially see a shift where other non-traditional niches take the helm.

9% Bargain on the Listing Price

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Buyers will always want to negotiate down unless it's a very clear winner.

On average, from the initial listing price, around 9% of the sale price was reduced through either buyer negotiations or adjustments.

Insights Into His Exit Strategies

There are four exit strategies Mushfiq has used in the deals he’s been involved with:

  1. Buy, Grow, and Flip (BGF)
  2. Buy, Grow, and Partner (BGP)
  3. Buy and Flip (BF)
  4. Broker (BR)

Each of these has different characteristics and benefits and somehow relates to the real estate industry which most people are familiar with.

Buy, Grow, and Flip Strategy (BGF)

This is the kind of deal whereby you purchase a site with the potential to grow, pump up its content, rankings, and earnings for about 12 - 24 months, and then sell it at a higher price. This is by far Mushfiq’s favorite strategy but also the one he’s done the least number of deals with because these deals tie up funds for a long period.

Mushfiq prefers this strategy only if he truly believes in the website. This means it has to be an authority site (or expired domain) with excellent backlinks and must have the potential for multiple monetization opportunities, among other factors.

Pros:

  • Buy low and sell high through value-addition
  • High-upside, 
  • The horizon is 12 - 24 months

Cons:

  • Low-value assets can be risky and volatile
  • Long term flip

Buy, Grow, and Partner Strategy (BGP)

This is like the BGF strategy above but here instead of flipping, Mushfiq finds a partner to take over the site operations for a profit share.

He does the BGP structure when he’s sure that a site still has more growth potential, but he'd like to cash out as a majority shareholder to diversify. In BGP, Mushfiq usually retains around 15-30% of the deal as seller-financing. The investor purchases the remaining equity.

Pros:

  • Buy low and sell high through value-addition
  • High-upside
  • Continued upside long-term

Cons:

  • Still holding equity in the asset after liquidating to partner

Buy and Flip Strategy (BF)

Cash is King. In the website investing world, this is even more true. In real estate, even if you have cash, transactions can take 30+ days for closing.

For web assets, Mushfiq can source a deal and find a buyer within 24-48 hours. Then as stated in the highlights, it can take 7 days to fully close.

There are two main reasons for cash being important:

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  • Quick close: Sometimes as quick as 24 hours to transfer assets, earnings screenshots, Google Analytics, website transfer, etc.
  • Negotiating power: Having cash on hand gives me negotiating power where I can push the seller to reduce multiples with the promise of quick funding and no inspection period.

Broker (BR)

As a broker, Mushfiq represents the sellers trying to find buyers and he receives a commission for each successful transaction. Most of his deal-flow is brokered. Mushfiq vets at least 25-30 deals a week and presents the best one to the buyers.

Why only one? Most websites do not pass his critical due diligence. They either use PBNs, have bad content that cannot be fixed, recently penalized algorithmically or manually, or are not in an easily monetized niche. His quality control standards are strict as they should be.

Insights on Why People Sell Sites

While vetting deals, Mushfiq gets to chat with many website creators. Some are just getting started and are looking to sell their first site. Others are experienced operators with portfolios. It's all across the board.

Here are the top reasons they sell their sites:

  • Seller needs funds
  • Website is growing fast
  • Seller is not "interested" in the niche
  • Potential has been maximized

Insights on Positioning a Site for Sale

According to Mushfiq, there are several ways to position a site for sale at maximum value. There are the obvious tips for positioning your site, but below are his insights that he’s found to provide the maximum ROI.

  1. Leave upside for the new buyer

If you have plans to sell in the next 6 months, don't tap into all potential sources for growth. Instead, document the strategy for the new owner.

A new owner will love to see that you didn’t optimize the top 10 pages for conversion rates, or that you didn’t target a handful of lucrative keywords, or you didn’t add display advertisements on your site. These are all quick wins for a new buyer.

  1. Make your site presentable

Avoid having a horrible theme design, a bad logo (or no logo), bad site structure, or bad content formatting. Seasoned website investors will see these as quick wins. However, another subgroup may see these as headaches.

The ROI for you’ll get for fixing these up before the sale is worth it.

  1. Analytics is key

Make sure you are tracking your traffic and revenue properly. Ensure your Google Analytics tracking ID is set up correctly. Ensure you are using unique affiliate ID tags per site.

These are easy fixes that will ensure quick due diligence by the buyer. It also ensures trust in your deal from the buyer's perspective.

  1. How much do you really need?

Sale multiple is a vanity metric. When exiting, think about how much you need financially. Listing a site at a peak multiple for the highest sale price will require you to wait for the right buyer. 

No one wants to buy anything at market value (period). If the amount of money you need to be satisfied means a lower multiple, then go for it. You will get a quick sale and it's a win-win for everyone involved. Don't chase the multiple!

Key Ideas to Learn from Mushfiq

Before purchasing a website, make sure to plan for one of the following:

  • Buy, Grow, and Flip
  • Buy and Flip
  • Buy, Grow, and Partner

If you have the right network, then you can choose to work as a broker.

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Conclusion

What about Buy, Grow, and Keep? Of course, you could buy websites, grow them, and keep them in your portfolio. However, you need to always be positioned for a sale. You never know what will happen either personally or in the market. Ensuring your site is always in a position for a Flip or Partnership means you are set up for success.

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