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When I started my first online business in 2007, very few people were buying or selling websites. Of course, there were some high-profile acquisitions, like Google buying YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion, but websites and online businesses weren’t as highly valued by smaller investors and entrepreneurs.
I remember blog sales in the $10,000 – $20,000 range creating a lot of buzz because they were noteworthy and somewhat unusual. But over the last 15+ years, more and more investors and companies have seen the potential of online businesses, even on a small scale.
Today, many online business brokers and marketplaces have databases of buyers with tens of thousands of subscribers who want to buy websites. And Facebook Groups for buying and selling websites also have thousands of members and plenty of activity.
Overall, the demand for online businesses has skyrocketed, and the number of available sites has also increased as more sellers are looking to cash in. Financing options, like SBA loans, that were difficult in the past are now available. Individuals and businesses of all sizes can jump into the market, with online businesses available from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of millions (and more).
While I have more experience selling websites I’ve built from scratch, I’ve also bought a few sites over the years. The sites I’ve purchased have been some of the best investments I’ve ever made, and I’ll probably buy more in the future.
If you’re interested in buying a website or online business, this guide walks you through the process.
Why Buy an Existing Website or Online Business?
You have two options if you want to run an online business. You can either build one from scratch or buy an existing business. While buying an existing website or business requires a financial investment, some significant advantages exist.
- Immediate cash flow. If the website or online business is already generating revenue, you can start earning money from day one, which is usually impossible when starting from scratch.
- Minimize your time investment. Building a successful online business from scratch takes a lot of time. In many cases, it can take a few years, and success is never guaranteed. You can buy a profitable business and completely skip the early grind.
- Established audience and traffic. Getting the initial traffic is usually the hardest part of building a profitable website. Established and profitable websites have an existing audience that you can reach immediately.
- Established branding and reputation. Building a strong brand and reputation takes considerable time and effort. With an existing site, you inherit an established brand image.
- Existing content. When you buy a website, you get ownership of the content. Creating content takes a lot of time, energy, and money. Rather than spending years building up a site’s content, you can acquire it all at once.
- SEO and backlink advantages. Established websites often have existing backlinks from reputable sites, contributing to better search engine rankings and increased online visibility. These backlinks can help to increase the visibility of the content you add to the site in the future.
- Access to customer data. An existing business will likely have a database of past and current customers (or an email list), allowing you to engage with them and potentially upsell or cross-sell products or services.
On top of these advantages, you also have the chance to earn significant profits by improving and eventually reselling the website or online business. As the site’s profit increases, so will its value (generally speaking). If you’re able to improve the site, the purchase could turn out to be an outstanding investment that produces massive returns.
Of course, it’s important to note that buying any website or online business comes with risk. Even sites with a history of success can drop in value. In fact, this happens with many online businesses that are sold. However, you can increase your chances of success by taking a careful approach and buying a website strategically rather than buying based on emotions.
Empire Flippers is a full-service brokerage and one of the leading marketplaces for buying and selling websites and online businesses.
- More than $450 million of online businesses sold
- Large marketplace with many active listings
- Huge audience of buyers and investors
How Much Money Do I Need to Purchase a Website?
The cost of buying a website can range considerably. You can find websites for sale in any price range. The cost depends on the value of the business and how much profit it generates. Of course, there are exceptions (Google bought YouTube before it was profitable), but those situations are few and far between.
There’s no specific amount of money that you need to buy a website. However, your budget will impact the type of site you can purchase and the amount of profit you’re likely to make in the very near future. For example, you can buy a site with a budget of $500. But it will be a starter site either making nothing or very little. You’ll have to work to build it up.
If you have a budget of $100,000, you can buy a site already bringing in a few thousand dollars of profit each month. And as your budget goes up from there, you can get even more profitable sites.
Types of Websites to Buy
There are many different types of sites you can buy. Many investors have one or two preferred business models, including:
- Content sites (blogs and niche websites)
- E-commerce websites
- Amazon FBA businesses
- SaaS (software as a service)
- Membership sites
- Lead generation sites
- Email newsletters
Many investors prefer content-based sites because they’re generally easy to manage, and you can follow a similar approach, regardless of the niche or industry. These sites are often monetized with ads and affiliate programs, so the owner can focus on creating content and attracting visitors.
E-commerce websites can be more involved because of inventory, order fulfillment, and customer service. SaaS and membership sites may require more technical skills or knowledge to succeed.
Overall, if you’re just getting started, content websites are a good option due to their simplicity. However, if you have specialized experience or knowledge, the other business models offer significant upside potential.
Motion Invest is one of the best places to buy or sell content-based sites. Most brokers ignore businesses worth less than $100,000, but not Motion Invest. You'll find starter sites and established sites priced in the 4-5 figure range.
- 97% success rate
- Active marketplace with new listings each week
- More than 1,000 sites sold
Where to Find Websites to Buy
There are a few ways to find websites and online businesses to buy:
- Privately. You reach out directly to the website owners about the possibility of purchasing their site or business.
- Marketplace. You can browse marketplaces like Motion Invest, or use Facebook Groups for buying and selling sites. This allows you to find people who are actively trying to sell.
- Broker. Online business brokers provide listings of websites and businesses that are for sale. The broker represents the buyer and serves as a middleman facilitating the sale.
Buying through a broker allows you to find high-quality online businesses that are already established and profitable. You won’t waste much time, because brokers typically only list high-quality businesses. The downside is, you’re likely to pay more. Brokers are great at generating demand, which drives up the price. Additionally, sellers have to pay a fee to the broker, which increases the selling price they’ll need to get to take home the amount they’re looking for.
Finding a site or business privately may allow you to secure the best deal, especially if the seller is not actively engaged with other potential buyers. However, it takes much more time, and it may be challenging to find a quality site that the owner is willing to sell.
Browing a marketplace may provide a middle ground between the other two options. Prices on marketplaces often aren’t as high as what you’ll find by going through a broker. However, the listings on marketplaces are often not vetted, so you’ll need to be careful about what you buy (this is true even if you buy through a broker, but it’s especially true if no one else verifies income or vets the business.).
Overall, I recommend the following options for buying websites and online businesses:
- Motion Invest for sites from $1,000 – $50,000.
- Investors Club for sites less than $100,000.
- Empire Flippers for sites in the mid-five figures to mid-six figures.
- Quiet Light for sites in the six-to-eight-figure range.
Flippa can also be an excellent resource, but I only recommend it for experienced, savvy buyers. If you’ve never bought a site, be very careful when looking at businesses on Flippa or other similar marketplaces.
Best for Small Sites
Best for Medium-Sized Sites
Best for Well-Established Sites
7 Steps to Buying a Site
Now, let’s look at the process of buying a site. These are the specific steps you can take if you’re looking to invest in an established website or online business.
1. Clarify Your Purpose or Goals
First, you need to identify why you’re buying a website. Are you looking for a steady income stream, or an opportunity to invest in something that could scale and produce significant returns over time?
The purpose of your investment will determine the type of site you should be looking for. Generally speaking, if your goal is passive income, focus on buying sites that are already profitable and require minimal effort.
If you’re looking for long-term growth potential, you may consider buying a less established site with a higher potential upside. This may require you to invest more time and energy into growing it yourself but with the chance of a higher return on investment (ROI).
It’s also possible that you have a very specific purpose or goal that aligns with an existing business. For example, if you run an e-commerce business that sells travel-related products, you may want to find a site, like a travel blog, that allows you to reach a highly-targeted audience.
There are many types of sites available. If you know your goals, you can narrow your focus and avoid wasting time on possibilities that don’t align with your goals.
2. Determine Your Budget
The second step is to establish a budget for your purchase. Like buying a house, you need to know how much you have and what you’re willing to spend. Then, you can focus on sites within your budget.
Most sales below a few hundred thousand dollars are made in cash upfront, which means you’ll need to have the money on hand to make the purchase. It’s possible to get financing through a bank or the SBA sometimes, but many websites and online businesses won’t qualify. Options like Boopos are worth looking into.
It’s important to note that financing a purchase increases your risk. If the business fails, you’re still on the hook for the loan. Having cash on hand is preferable, but that’s not always possible.
Larger acquisitions, like those over a few hundred thousand dollars, often involve seller financing or some sort of agreement where payments are made over a period of time. The details will vary, and negotiation is possible. However, sellers typically want as much cash upfront as possible, so your chances of getting an offer accepted will drop if you want to pay the buyer over time.
3. Evaluate Available Sites
Once you clarify your purpose and determine your budget, it’s time to start looking for sites to buy. You can browse sites at marketplaces like Motion Invest and Flippa, check the listings of brokers like Quiet Light, Investors Club, and Empire Flippers, or identify sites you’d like to buy and reach out to the owners privately.
Finding and contacting buyers privately is the most time-consuming approach, so most buyers prefer to browse sites already listed for sale. Marketplaces and brokers will provide the industry, business model, revenue, profit, and traffic details. However, sometimes you must sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to see the site’s URL.
At this stage, you should look for sites that align with your specific goals and are within your budget. For example, at Empire Flippers, you can filter the listings by monetization method and price range to narrow the search.
You should consider the risks associated with a particular site or business. While every investment comes with risk, certain indicators can help you assess the level of risk involved. Does the site have a clear competitive advantage? Are they reliant on a single source of traffic? How many streams of income are there? These are all questions you want to consider before making an offer.
Some of your questions can be answered by details in the listing or marketing materials, or by your own research. But you may also be able to talk to the seller and ask any questions you have.
4. Identify Opportunities for Growth
Of course, the goal of buying a site is to increase your investment’s value, which requires growing the site. When evaluating potential sites, it’s essential to identify growth opportunities.
The best investments provide opportunities to improve the site and increase the profit relatively quickly. For example, the site may have a lot of traffic, but it lacks effective calls to action (CTAs). By improving the CTAs, you may be able to increase revenue and profit immediately.
Or, the site may be monetized only with display ads. Adding affiliate links to the site may allow you to increase revenue with the same amount of traffic.
Basically, you want to find ways to increase the site’s value — both in terms of revenue and profit — without significant investments.
Maybe you have specific experience or expertise that the current owner lacks, and you could improve the site as a result.
💡 While a really well-done and highly optimized website is attractive, the investments with the highest upside are often the sites that aren’t as well optimized that you can improve.
5. Valuation (How Much to Pay)
After identifying a site you’d like to buy, the next step is determining how much it’s worth to you and what you’re willing to pay.
There’s no exact method here, and every buyer will have their own approach. However, the most common method is multiplying the site’s average monthly profit by a specific amount. For example, you may be willing to pay 3 years (or 36 months) worth of profit.
In this case, you would multiply the average monthly profit by 36 to determine the site’s value. If the site is making $5,000+ monthly profit, the last 12 months are typically used to calculate the average monthly profit. Smaller sites may use the last 6 or even the last 3 months to determine the average monthly profit.
Keep in mind that this is a general guide, and you’ll need to determine what the site is worth to you. Overpaying is a mistake you should avoid.
Once you’ve determined what the site is worth to you, you can make an offer. If you’re using a marketplace like Motion Invest, you can buy the site immediately if the list price is equal to or less than what you’re willing to pay.
The seller may accept or decline your offer, or they might make a counteroffer. Once you and the seller have agreed to terms, you can move on to the next step.
6. Due Diligence
Now it’s time for the due diligence phase, where you can verify the seller’s claims and ensure that everything is in line. You’re looking for red flags or reasons not to move forward with the purchase.
The due diligence phase typically involves looking at financials, analytics data, traffic sources, contracts, and other documentation. You can review these documents yourself or hire a third party to do it for you.
The amount of due diligence may depend on the size of the purchase. Generally, due diligence will be far more involved for a $1 million sale than a $10,000 deal. The goal of this step is to make sure that you’re comfortable with finalizing the sale.
At this point, you should also read through the legal documents and get legal assistance if needed. You may want to hire an attorney to review the agreements, especially for larger transactions.
7. Complete the Purchase
The last step is closing the sale and transitioning the assets from the seller to yourself.
In most cases, the buyer and seller will agree to use escrow services. This way, the buyer’s funds are held in an account until all conditions of the sale have been met by both parties. Once everything is verified and approved by both sides, the funds will be released from escrow and transferred to the seller.
An escrow service protects both the buyer and seller, but it does come with a cost. The specific fees vary depending on the escrow company and the transaction amount, but the fees are typically split 50/50 between the buyer and seller.
Closing a deal can take anywhere from a few hours to several weeks, depending on the transaction’s complexity and the agreement’s details.
The domain name will need to be transferred, and the seller must provide access to all accounts related to running the sites. Some accounts may not be transferrable (like an Amazon Associates account), so you may need to set up a new account and make changes to the site as required.
FAQ About Buying Websites
Is it a good idea to buy a website?
It can be a great idea to buy a website if you have the right knowledge and resources. If you can improve the website, the purchase could be an excellent investment. However, risk is involved and you shouldn’t invest any money that you can’t afford to lose.
What is the best way to find websites for sale?
There are many online marketplaces and brokers where you can find websites for sale, including Empire Flippers, Quiet Light, and Motion Invest. In addition, you may be able to find private deals through networking or by contacting webmasters directly.
Should I buy through a broker or privately?
Neither approach is right or wrong. Buying through a broker can save you the time of finding a site to buy on your own. Most brokers also perform some level of verification or vetting before listing a business, although it’s critical to do your own due diligence as well.
Finding a site privately may allow you to spend less money because the seller won’t have to pay broker fees. However, it’s much more time-consuming and slightly higher risk.
How can I finance my website purchase?
Many buyers use their own savings, but you may also be able to obtain financing through a business loan or line of credit. Bank and Small Business Administration (SBA) loans may be an option for buying certain online businesses, but many businesses will not qualify. Lenders like Boopos present another option.
How much should I pay for a website?
The amount that you’re willing to pay will depend on your personal situation. Generally, buyers use a multiple of the site’s average monthly profit to determine a fair value for both parties. However, you need to determine how much the site is worth to you based on what you plan to do with the site and how much money you anticipate making with it in the future.
Final Thoughts on Buying a Website
Buying a website is an exciting way to build your business or diversify your investments. However, it’s important to do your due diligence and research so you can make the best decision possible while limiting your risk.
Focus on finding sites with growth potential and understand the risks of buying any online business. With the right information and resources, you can find success with your website purchase and turn it into an excellent investment. Good luck!