Website Flipping: How to Buy and Sell Websites for Profit

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There are many different ways to make money online, but not all provide the same income potential. Website flipping is especially attractive because it’s possible to make serious money. You can start small on the side of a full-time job and work your way into a significant monthly income with the chance for a large financial windfall in the not-too-distant future.

👉 If you have experience blogging, managing a website, creating original content for social media, or optimizing content for search engines, you have significant experience that could be put to good use as a website flipper. 

Online entrepreneur with a cup of coffee

What Is Website Flipping?

Website flipping involves buying an existing website or blog (digital real estate), improving it, increasing its profit, and selling it for more than you paid. Aside from the selling price, you’ll also ideally make money while you own the site. Some flippers aim for a fast turnaround, while others plan to hold the site for several years or more before selling.

Typically, it’s necessary to own the site for at least a few months if you want to make improvements. Not only does it take time to do the work involved with improving the site, but you’ll also need to allow time for those changes to impact the site’s revenue and grow the average monthly profit (I’ll talk more about valuations in a minute).

Starting a new site from scratch is possible if you don’t have the money to buy an existing site. You can create a new site for less than $100, but you’ll need to put in a lot of work to grow the site’s traffic. The main advantage of buying an existing site is eliminating the initial grind of starting a new site from scratch.

Does Website Flipping Really Work?

Yes, website flipping does work. Of course, there are no guarantees you’ll make money with these digital assets. However, it’s a legit business model proven to create wealth for many people.

I started my first website in 2007 and sold my first site in 2010. Since 2010, I’ve sold several sites for a combined total of about $2.2 million, including 6 different six-figure exits. My sites have earned up to $25,000 per month in profit, so they’ve also earned a decent income while I owned them. 

Most of my experience involves starting sites from scratch. However, I have bought some sites within the past few years. In 2021, I paid $100,000 for an established blog, and in 2022, I paid about $12,000 for another blog. Both were flipped successfully in 2023 (I can’t share too many details because of confidentiality agreements).

Based on my experience and the results from many other people I know, I can confidently say that website flipping does work, although it involves risk (more on that later in the article). 

Who Is Website Flipping Ideal For?

You’ll need some specific skills to flip a website successfully. If you don’t have the needed skills or experience, it’s still possible, but it’s wise to start small and limit your risk. Here are some of the most important skills for flippers:

  • Website management. You’ll need to understand the basics of operating and managing a website. Most content-based websites today are built with WordPress, so familiarity with WordPress is ideal. You don’t need to be a web developer. If you have experience with your own blog and web hosting, you probably already have the basic skills required here.
  • Quick learning. The best website flippers enjoy learning new things and pick up on things quickly. There’s always more to learn.
  • Familiarity with website monetization. You should understand the basics of how websites make money. Most sites are monetized with display ads, affiliate marketing, sponsorships, or by selling products/services.
  • Team management. While it’s possible to do the work on your own, most flippers eventually outsource basic tasks. You may need to hire and manage virtual assistants, writers, editors, or other freelancers.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). Organic search traffic is the holy grail. Many sites get most of their traffic from Google searches, so it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of SEO. 

Most successful website flippers have previous experience owning and operating their own sites. I always advise people to start and grow a site from scratch before jumping into website flipping. However, I know a few people who didn’t have any experience or success with their own sites but have had incredible success buying and growing sites.

Aside from the skills, you’ll also need some money to buy an existing site unless you’ve got a partner or investor who will provide the cash. I suggest having at least $10,000 – $20,000 if you want to buy a profitable website that allows you to skip the step of getting the site off the ground. You can buy sites for less, but they’re usually in the very early stages, or they’re not making anything significant, so you’re almost starting from scratch.

If you don’t have the budget to invest in an established site, you can start a new site from scratch. It will require more time and effort, but it’s far cheaper. Also, you’ll learn more along the way.

Buy and Sell Online Businesses
Investors Club

Investors Club stands out from other marketplaces and brokers by focusing on websites with a listing price between $25,000 to $200,000 (they also offer some higher-priced sites). Investors Club also charges low fees so sellers keep more of the money.

  • Curated marketplace with verified listings
  • 7% success fee (among the industry's lowest)
  • Free escrow, legal docs, and migration

Overview of Website Valuations

It’s essential to understand how website valuations work before jumping into flipping. Like any other asset, a website or online business is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. However, some general principles and guidelines are commonly used in the industry to determine value.

Average monthly profit is the most significant factor in determining a website or online business’s value. Typically, after the average monthly profit is calculated, it will be multiplied by a certain number (referred to as the “multiple”). 

For example, if a website earns an average monthly profit of $5,000 per month and the multiple is 36x, the website’s value is $180,000 ($5,000 x 36). 

Website valuations and the typical multiples have varied over time. Currently, a multiple of 24-42x monthly profit is the common range for most content or e-commerce websites. Other types of sites may have higher or lower multiples. For example, dropshipping businesses tend to have lower multiples, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses tend to have much higher multiples. 

Get a Free Valuation in Minutes!
How Much Is Your Site Worth?

Empire Flippers offers an excellent (and free) website or business valuation tool. It only takes a few minutes to enter the details of your business, and you'll get a report on the estimated value. You don't even have to talk to anyone! It's my favorite tool for online business valuations.

The past 3, 6, or 12 months may be used to calculate the average monthly profit. The trailing twelve months are typically used for well-established or larger businesses. The previous six months are often used for most smaller websites (those valued at less than $100,000). The average of the last three months is only used when the site is new, or profit is significantly increasing or decreasing.

As a website flipper, the goal is to buy low and sell high. Most successful flippers have different standards for the multiples they want as a buyer and seller. You might look to buy a site at 24x monthly profit and sell it at 36x.

💡 Website flipping works because you can significantly increase a site’s value by making modest improvements in monthly profit. If a multiple of 36x is used for the valuation, every $1,000 of additional monthly profit you generate will add $36,000 to the valuation. As you can see, there’s potential to make a lot of money if you’re good at improving websites.

Buying an Existing Site vs. Starting from Scratch

Website flipping typically implies buying an existing site and then reselling it. However, you can also make money by starting sites from scratch, growing them to profitability, and then selling them. There are advantages to each approach.

Advantages of Starting a New Website from Scratch:

  • Significantly lower upfront investment. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on an established site, you can start for less than $100.
  • Reduced risk. The lower financial investment means you have less financial risk.
  • Freedom to start the site of your choice. You’re not limited to the sites available for sale.  
  • Start at any time. You don’t have to wait until you find a site you want to buy.
  • Better for learning and developing skills. Growing a site from scratch is hard, but you’ll learn a lot through the process.

Advantages of Buying an Existing Site: 

  • Immediate cash flow. Skip the grind and start generating income from day one.
  • Minimize your time investment. Instead of spending a year or more growing a site to profitability, you can skip ahead on the timeline.
  • Established audience and traffic. Building an audience from scratch is very difficult. You’ll benefit from the existing audience and traffic by purchasing an existing site.
  • Existing content. Creating helpful content requires time and/or money. If you buy a content-based website like a blog or niche site, the content alone has value.
  • SEO and backlink advantages. Established websites already have links from other sites, which is one of the most critical factors for SEO. A strong link profile makes it easier to get more traffic to new content or by improving existing content.

Please read my article Buy or Build for a more detailed look at the subject.

💡 It really comes down to time vs. money. Do you have more time or money available? If you have lots of time but not much money to invest, starting from scratch may be the better option. But if you have some money to invest and you’re looking for faster results, buying an existing site could be the better choice.

Quick Flips vs. Buy and Hold

How long should you hold onto a website after buying it? Some flippers aim for quick results and look to sell the site in 6-12 months. Others plan to hold the site for several years to maximize potential profit.

Neither approach is right or wrong. It just depends on your goals and personal situation. However, I prefer to work on sites for a few years before selling. If the site is profitable, you’ll make money while you own it, so holding onto the site longer allows you to make more from it. It also gives you more time to grow the income and increase the value before selling.

The downside of holding a site for a few years is that it increases the risk of its value dropping. Quicker flips allow you to exit and lock in the profit now rather than waiting to see what the future holds. 

You’ll need to decide which approach is right for you. You could also start with a target valuation in mind and then look to sell the site whenever you’ve reached that valuation.

How to Make Money Flipping Websites for Profit

Now, let’s look at the steps in the process.

Step 1: Determine Your Budget

First, you must decide how much money you’re willing to invest. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll probably need at least $10,000 – $20,000 to get an established site that’s already making some money (about $300 – $600 per month). Even if you have a lot more to invest, I recommend starting in this range to get some experience and minimize your financial risk.

If you don’t have that much money to invest, your options are:

  1. Look for sites at a lower price. These sites will probably be less established, so you’ll need to put in more effort to grow them.
  2. Start a new site instead of buying an existing site. This involves a lot more work to get the site off the ground, but it saves thousands of dollars.
  3. Find an investor or partner. You might know someone interested in a passive investment that could provide the cash while you do the work.

Step 2: Evaluate Websites for Sale

Once you know your budget, you can start looking for a website to flip. There are many different types of sites you could purchase, but content-based sites are a common choice for flippers. The transition process is pretty simple with a content site compared to an e-commerce site where inventory is involved.

Where to Find Websites for Sale

Most brokers only deal with businesses valued at six figures or more, but there are some website marketplaces that include lower-priced listings. Here are a few places to start:

Motion Invest and Investors Club both perform some basic due diligence on the sites they list, but you should still do your own due diligence as well. Most of the sites listed at Flippa (the largest marketplace) have not been vetted, so proceed with caution and verify all of the seller’s claims.

Marketplace for Content Sites
Motion Invest

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

Facebook Groups can also be great for finding smaller, lower-priced sites for sale. Here are a few of the most active groups:

No one has vetted the deals listed in these Facebook Groups, so it’s essential to do your own due diligence before you buy websites.

👉 Download our free due diligence checklists from The Vault. We have separate checklists for content-based websites, e-commerce websites, and Amazon FBA businesses.

Potential Red Flags

As you evaluate sites for sale, look for a site with a solid foundation (no major functionality issues with the site — it looks and works okay) but with some room for improvement. Here are some potential red flags that could indicate the site is not a good option for flipping.

  • Declining traffic and/or monthly earnings (you’ll need access to Google Analytics). A small decline might be okay, but you don’t want to buy a site that has lost a lot of traffic or monthly revenue.
  • Questionable history. Use the Wayback Machine to check the site’s history. Make sure that the site has always been similar to what it is now in terms of the published content. It’s a red flag if you notice that the site used to be about a completely different topic.
  • Trendy or based on a fad. You should invest in evergreen websites covering topics that will remain relevant for the foreseeable future.
  • PBNs or toxic backlinks. Ask the seller if they have ever bought or sold links or used a private blog network (PBN). These kinds of shady links can lead to a penalty from Google. You should also check the site’s inbound links yourself by using a tool like Semrush. Look for links from questionable sites or those that seem unnatural.
  • Potential copyright or trademark issues. Be sure the site only uses properly licensed images and other resources. Also, make sure the site doesn’t violate another company’s trademark. For example, if the site’s URL is bestnikesneakers.com, that could be a trademark violation. 

That’s a quick look at potential red flags. Please see my due diligence checklist for content sites for a more detailed look.

Identifying Quick Wins

The best sites for flipping provide growth potential and ways to improve revenue and profit quickly. These quick wins allow you to recoup your investment faster and raise the site’s value for when you sell it. 

Here are a few examples of quick wins for website investors:

  • Put display ads on the site.  If the site is only monetized with affiliate programs, you could start using ads to immediately increase revenue.
  • Start using affiliate programs.  If the site is only monetized with ads, you can find relevant affiliate programs and add promotions/links to the site’s content without impacting the advertising revenue.
  • Add promo boxes to the content. Use a plugin like Lasso or Affiliatable to add eye-catching promo boxes that get more clicks for affiliate links.
  • Add product comparison tables. Use Lasso or Affiliatable to create helpful tables that compare the features of affiliate products.
  • Add more calls to action. Add more affiliate buttons or links with a call-to-action (get more visibility for affiliate links).
  • Join additional affiliate programs. Is the site only monetized with one affiliate program (for example, Amazon)? Join additional programs to offer more options for readers.

This list includes a few examples, but there are many other possibilities. Look at the site and see what can be done better to improve revenue and profit.

Of course, you should also look for a site with quality content, assuming you’re buying a content-based website. If the content isn’t good, improving the site will take more time and effort.

Step 3: Buy a Website

Once you’ve found a site in your budget that doesn’t have any major red flags and offers some options for quick wins, you can move forward with the purchase. The process will vary depending on how you’re buying the site. Most online marketplaces allow you to make an offer below the list price if you think the asking price is too high. If it’s a reasonable price, the seller may accept the offer.

Motion Invest and Investors Club both provide an escrow service and transition assistance, which makes the process safer and easier.

If you’re buying from the seller directly (for example, through a Facebook Group), you’ll need to work out those details with the seller. You can use escrow.com for deals of any size, but the fees become more significant on smaller transactions.

If you need help transferring the site to your own hosting account, you can find a freelancer on Fiverr or Upwork to handle it for a very reasonable fee.

Step 4: Increase the Profit

Once you own the site, it’s time to get to work. 

Start With Quick Wins

Quick wins are the ideal starting point because they won’t take much of your time and they can have immediate results. Spending a few hours to create some promo boxes may increase the site’s revenue immediately, and it can have an ongoing effect.

Work through any and all of the quick wins you’ve identified as soon as possible. The faster you increase the site’s revenue, the faster you can increase its value.

Make Any Necessary Technical Improvements

Next, address any technical issues. This includes things like slow-loading pages, broken links, errors, etc. Use a tool like Semrush to run a site audit and identify issues that should be resolved.

Regarding page speed, I recommend hosting the site with Rocket.net and using the WP Rocket caching plugin (two unrelated companies with similar names). Rocket.net’s support reps will help you optimize WP Rocket’s settings for the best results. I’ve used about 20 different hosts over the years, and Rocket.net is easily the best in both performance and customer service.

Best WordPress Host
Rocket.net: Fast, Reliable Hosting
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FlipMySite.com is hosted by Rocket.net, and I highly recommend them for any WordPress-powered website. I've used more than 20 different hosts over the years, and Rocket.net is easily the best.

  • Lightning-fast WordPress hosting
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  • Affordable pricing
  • Unlimited free migrations

If there are other technical issues that you can’t fix yourself, you can hire a developer on Upwork to fix them for you.

Add New Revenue Streams

One of the best ways to increase the value of a site is to add a new revenue stream with profit potential. Some sites that are sold only use one monetization method (usually ads or affiliate programs). Almost every site can use both of those without having a negative impact on the other, as long as the ads aren’t excessive.

You can also look to join new affiliate programs or promote a wider range of products from the existing affiliate programs.

Creating and selling digital products is another excellent option. This sounds complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Products like printables, spreadsheets, checklists, cheat sheets, templates, and more are pretty quick and easy to create (you can also hire someone on Upwork or Fiverr to create them). Then, you can sell them with ThriveCart or something similar.

If you plan to hold the site for a while, you can work to build an email list. Building an email list takes time, but email marketing is an excellent way to improve a site and increase its value.

Improve Conversions

If the site is currently monetized with affiliate programs or its own products, increasing conversion rates will have a dramatic impact on revenue and profit. Several of the quick wins (promo boxes, comparison tables, calls to action) will help with conversions, but there are other options as well.

You can do A/B testing on details like button text or color to see what converts the best. You can also work on improving the copy. Another option is to add an exit-intent popup to promote a product more aggressively. 

Basically, look for ways to make more sales or affiliate conversions with the same level of traffic.

Increase Traffic

Increasing website traffic is often the first focus of flippers, but I think it makes sense to focus on the other details first. Increasing conversions will have a bigger impact on revenue and profit than increasing traffic. And if you’ve improved conversions first, the results will be even better when you start adding more traffic.

Most flippers focus on organic search traffic. You could update and improve existing content on the site, or create new content to target specific keywords and phrases. You may find a content gap that needs to be filled (relevant topics that aren’t already covered on the site). Semrush is a helpful tool for finding content gaps.

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NeuronWriter: Create Content That Ranks
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NeuronWriter is my go-to tool for optimizing content for Google. You can use it to write new content or update existing content. NeuronWriter uses natural language processing (NLP) to help you plan, write, and optimize content.

  • Easy and fast to use
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  • Can be used by teams or with freelancers
  • Gets results!

Pinterest can also be a good traffic source, especially in certain niches like food/recipes, DIY, crafts, home, and travel.

Step 5: Sell the Website

When you’re ready to move on, you can sell the site. It’s a good idea to use a valuation tool or consult with a broker to see what the site is worth before moving forward. Hopefully, you’ve increased the site’s profit, which will likely increase its value as well. You may want to flip it quickly, or you could choose to hold on to it for a while before selling. Both approaches can work.

There are three basic ways to sell a website or online business:

  1. Use a broker
  2. List it on a marketplace
  3. Sell it on your own

Quality brokers are excellent at getting exposure to potential buyers and selling for the highest price possible, and they help you through the acquisition process, but the site will need to reach a certain threshold before most brokers will consider listing it. They focus on high-value websites because they earn a percentage of the sale as a commission fee. My recommendations are:

  • Quiet Light is best for sites making at least $5,000 per month
  • Empire Flippers works with sites making at least $2,000 per month

Both of those brokers have excellent reputations, and I’ve personally used Quiet Light for two of my exits.

There are still some good options if the site makes less than $2,000 per month. 

  • Investors Club is a broker and marketplace that lists profitable sites making at least $500 per month.
  • Motion Invest is a marketplace that sells content sites with any amount of revenue, including starter sites.

You can also use the Facebook Groups listed above if you want to sell it without the help of a broker or marketplace. Generally, I would recommend the brokers and marketplaces above over Facebook Groups because they get exposure because they’re safer for both buyers and sellers and they reduce the risk of fraud.

Once you sell it for a profit, you can invest the money into another site and repeat the process.

Best for Sites Making at Least $5k Per Month

Quiet Light

  • Content sites, e-commerce, FBA, SaaS, and more.

  • Over 85% of listings sell within 90 days or less.

  • 47% of listings sell at or above asking price.

Best for Sites Making at Least $2k Per Month

Empire Flippers

  • Content sites, e-commerce, FBA, SaaS, and more.

  • Has sold more than $450 million worth of online businesses.

  • Free migration service (transferring the site to the buyer).

Best for Sites Making Less Than $2k Per Month

Motion Invest

  • Focuses exclusively on content-based websites.

  • One of the only marketplaces that's ideal for small sites.

  • Incredible 97% success rate.

The Risks of Flipping Websites

It’s essential to understand that website flipping involves risk. If you’re buying an existing site, there’s a chance you might lose your investment, and bad acquisitions happen all the time. The site could tank after the sale and lose its value very quickly. 

Here are a few specific risks you should be aware of before buying and selling websites.

Seller Misrepresentation

Unfortunately, not all sellers are 100% honest. They may overstate the site’s traffic or revenue to make it more attractive to buyers. They may also hide flaws of the site or the niche. Before you purchase a website, be sure to do your own due diligence and verify any claims made by the seller.

Google Algorithm Updates

Google’s algorithm is constantly changing, and updates can sometimes significantly impact organic traffic. Even if you buy a site that’s been performing well for months or years, there’s always the risk of an update that could cause a drop in traffic.

For this reason, websites that have diversified traffic sources tend to be more valuable than those that get almost all of their traffic from Google.

Overpaying

If you pay too much for a site, it may take longer to recoup your investment. Be sure to do thorough research and consider the potential for growth before making an offer. Don’t make an emotional purchase. Be willing to walk away if the price is too high.

Industry Changes

Some industries or niches can experience significant changes over time that could impact the site’s value. For example, Amazon cutting affiliate commissions. Consider the potential for long-term viability before investing.

Underestimating the Needed Maintenance

Owning and managing a website takes time. Website flipping is not passive income. Be sure to consider the amount of work that will be required after you purchase the site. Underestimating this could lead to burnout or neglect of the site, resulting in a loss of value.

Final Thoughts on How to Flip a Website

Flipping websites for profit can be an exciting business venture. By acquiring, improving, and selling virtual real estate, you can generate a nice profit and make a living from it.

However, as with any investment opportunity, there are risks involved. Be sure to do thorough research and due diligence before making any purchase. And remember that the most successful flippers understand how to add value to a site and are willing to put in the work. With the right knowledge and skills, you can succeed in this competitive market.