seos guide to flipping intro image

An SEO’s Guide to Flipping Websites: 9 Essential Steps


How would you like to collect 25 months of your website’s income right now?  Sounds pretty sweet, right?

You can potentially cash-in on over two years of net income from your website and all you have to do is sell that website.

You might be wondering… why would I sell a website when it is almost completely hands off? After all, at the end of the day, SEO can be pretty passive once you have the content, the web design, and the profitable rankings to support your site.

So why would you let something like this go?  Let’s explore that.

We’re about to take a look at the benefits of selling websites and by the end of this article, I’m going to make sure you know how to make sure you get the maximum value from your flips.

1) Find Your Reason to Sell: What is Your Goal?

Goal #1: Build an Affiliate Website Empire

When you first started in SEO, you most likely didn’t have a ton of capital to grow out your affiliate sites. This meant you had to focus on easier niches to rank with lower barriers to entry. Probably the reason these niches were easier to conquer was that they were not so profitable. But what if you had a little war chest full of funds which allowed you to compete in those more lucrative, competitive spaces?

When you sell off your website, you can effectively raise capital for increasingly lucrative projects. As I’ve mentioned before, it is important to periodically 80-20 your website inventory – sell off the 80% that are making you the lowest amount of money, keep the 20% that are creating 80% of your income, and use the capital you get from selling the previous sites to absolutely explode your affiliate empire.

real estateGoal #2: Investment

If you have a website doing $5,000 per month in net profit, it would not be unreasonable to sell it for $110,000. In the USA, that is often enough to buy a house free and clear depending on the location.

You could easily become a debt free landlord in just a few months of hard work in the SEO game, by converting your digital profit machines into real estate cash flow assets – without ever having to worry about a mortgage.

Goal #3: Risk Mitigation

Every business has its own set of inherent risks and SEO is no different. If the next Google algorithm update doesn’t go your way, all your cash cows can get slaughtered in a single night. The same effect can happen if a competitor negative SEOs you and pushes their own properties to page 1 of Google, leaving yours in the dust.

When you sell your website, you remove those risk factors completely. You jump in a time machine and warp 20-30 months into the future and collect all that income today, regardless of what capricious search engines might have in store for everyone else.

Goal #4: It’s Time to Move On

You might sell your website if you simply don’t see the growth potential anymore. You may feel like you have explored all the profitable avenues you could. Tunnel vision can set in after months of working so close with a project and the ability to see any new directions for the site can be lost.

That’s okay.

Buyers with a myriad of alternate experiences and skill sets might look at your site and see a potential gold mine to be brought to life if they could get the chance to apply their expertise to the site.

Goal #5: Life Happened and You Need Some Cash

The last factor is life itself. Sometimes you need an injection of cash, whether you’re adopting a baby or going through a divorce. You never know what can happen, and it is nice to rest assured that you have the ability to sell off your digital assets in times of need.

Objection: What about my recurring, passive income?

baby crying

A lot of SEOs love that affiliate paycheck that comes in whether or not you are sleeping or working on other projects. I understand. I love it too. Here’s the thing… you can still collect a passive income check from these websites even after you sell them.

If you own and use PBN’s like me, the sites you are selling rank in Google because of your PBN links. When a new buyer comes along who is interested in purchasing your website, you can sell them on paying a monthly maintenance fee to keep all the links active. As long as the seller keeps paying, you keep the PBN links just as they are.

Boom, you are not only collecting months of income upfront, but you are also creating a little stream of side income on what would had been dead space on your PBN.

2. Find the Right Platform to Sell Your Site

I have a lot of projects going on in both my business and personal life. Time is my most precious resource. The last thing I want is extra work – even if that extra work nets me a large upfront payment.

This is why I prefer using a website broker like Empire Flippers. They’re a turnkey solution meaning that they handle 90% of the process for you. Tasks like:

  • empire flippers logoSeller communication
  • Listing
  • Valuation (determining the price for your site)
  • Marketing of your business
  • Switching over affiliate accounts and migrating your website to the new owner (this is an extremely tedious process if you’ve never done it yourself)
  • And a ton more

Another benefit of using their service is their deposit system. By requiring an upfront deposit they remove a vast majority of buyers that are out to scam sellers like us.

In terms of website valuation, Empire Flippers gets you the best price on the open market for your site. This isn’t because they’re overvaluing sites. They actually sell these sites at these big prices with 20-30x multiples of monthly profit.

One reason they are able to pull this off is the sheer volume of buyers they are in contact with.  Their email list is a bit over 30,000 subscribers and their site receives around 50,000 views a month.

What Types of Sites Sell Well on Empire Flippers?

Affiliate Sites

In particular, Amazon affiliate sites sell extremely well since most buyers are fairly familiar with this program.

I reached out to Justin Cooke, one of the founders of Empire Flippers, and asked him for his feedback on this topic. Here is what he had to say when it comes to what kind of sites sell well:

Using well-known and widely-used affiliates like the Amazon affiliate program ensures a wider audience of potential buyers to purchase the site. Having more potential buyers helps to both sell quickly and for a higher valuation.

Lead Generation Sites

Another monetization model that sells well on Empire Flippers is leadgen.  In the last couple of years, leadgen has become a huge movement in of itself in the SEO community. Here’s Justin on the sell-ability of leadgen sites:

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen significant interest in lead generation sites, particularly those in the education space. For-profit vocational schools are willing to pay top dollar for student leads, typically working through 3rd party affiliates like Campus Explorer or Quinstreet.

Will your Niche Be Protected after you List your Site?

donald trump memeA common objection when it comes to selling off a website is that once your niche is listed publicly, competition might come in and steal it.

This style of copycat marketing definitely happens and if you are selling on a place like Flippa… well, I fear there is a very strong chance that this could happen.

Empire Flippers’ marketplace has protections in place that help mitigate risks like this.

I asked Justin what he says to sellers with this concern:

We get this objection quite a bit from sellers, but it’s really the buyers who should be worried! After all, the sellers are letting go of the website – it’s the buyers who will have to deal with the increased competition from copycats. To solve this problem, we limit the exposure of the exact niche and URL to those who have paid a deposit. The process isn’t perfect, but it does weed out those who are less serious or don’t have access to some amount of capital.

3. Maximize Your Sale Price

Increase Profit

You can find out what your site would sell for with some simple math.

Sales price = Sales Multiple x Monthly Net Profit

Currently, the industry standard multiple for a sale price is between 20x-30x of net income profits. This means that if you’re making $1,000 profit per month, you can expect to sell for $20,000 to $30,000.

The single greatest impact on your sales price will be improving your net monthly profit. You can do this by growing top-line revenue while cutting expenses, especially those that are unnecessary. (Exploratory marketing, hardly-used software, etc.)

Obviously, do everything you can to increase your top-line by increasing your monthly revenue.  Rank higher, collect more traffic, and optimize for conversion.

Many people ignore the gains in sale price you can achieve by reducing bottom line expenses.  Some suggestions for reducing monthly expenses before a sale:

  • Swap out rental links for permanent links or guest posts
  • Pre-order content for multiple months in advance (and perhaps getting a bulk order discount for that) and get these fresh content posts queued up to publish in WordPress.

Increase Your Sales Multiple

Right now, the average multiple being used is 22 times the net profit, though this could change depending on where the industry goes.

Obviously, we want to get to the 30x multiple or as close to it as possible. There are some solid strategies we can put in place that can help here, most of them having their greatest impact if they’re taken in consideration when you’re first starting your site.

The best way to really increase the multiple is to adopt the mindset that you’re building this site to sell it.  Even if you don’t sell it, your processes will be much more organized and you’ll set goals that you might otherwise not have considered, goals that significantly help the overall income of the project.

Here is what Justin had to say on what improves multiples for sites:

After that, you’re looking to improve your multiple. We can’t tie any of these directly to multiple improvements (i.e. diversified traffic will sell for 28X vs. 24X for singular traffic). Still, there are some clear cut differences:

  1. Recurring Revenue > On-off Revenue
  2. Less Work Required > More Work Required
  3. White Hat SEO tactics > Black Hat SEO tactics
  4. Branded Sales > Non-branded Sales
  5. WordPress > Custom CMS
  6. General skills required > Technical/Specific knowledge required

What Else Can You Do to Increase the Sales Price?

There are a few additional steps you can take to prepare your site to get the maximum list price. One of my recommendations is to simply start an email list.

Having an email list is a huge differentiator from your average affiliate site, and a savvy veteran buyer will take note of this.

If you have an email list of a 1,000 people, even if it is not monetized, a smart buyer will view that as an additional asset and recognize the opportunity to create a new monetization stream for the site.

In addition, it’s always a good idea to diversify your traffic sources. That said, it is important to spend your time and energy on maximizing traffic from sources that are already working for you.  Play to your strengths.

Nonetheless, but diversifying traffic is still a good idea.

Here are the 4 most common traffic sources you can explore with your sites:

  • Organic
  • Social
  • Email
  • PPC

4. Preparing for the Sale

As I mentioned earlier, you should build every site with the thought that you will sell it. That means you should do everything you can from the very start to build up as much persuasive evidence for why a buyer would want to purchase your site.

The first thing you should do is start tracking traffic. The longer track record of traffic you have, the better.

You can use Google Analytics or Clicky to do this.  Both are solid options but I prefer Clicky as it’s not tied into Google.

When to Sell?

time to sell

Declining revenue or decreasing traffic are never good telltale signs for a buyer. You want to sell on an upward or preferably a flat trend, not a downwards one.

When your net income stabilizes from month-to-month, it is potentially a good time to list your site for sale. More often than not, increasing trend in revenue doesn’t look good for a buyer.  Skeptical eyes might attribute the upswing to a seasonal uptick or an artificial increase in traffic due to unmentioned marketing.

One trick you can use is to sell your site before it hits #1 in Google for its most profitable keywords. This gives the buyer a feeling there is room for growth.  Justin comments on this strategy:

To some buyers this matters, but not all. Selling in the #1 position maximizes value for YOU as the seller, though.

While we would all love to sell $100-200k websites and collect some nice dough, the real sweet spot for selling websites is right around $50k or less. Websites priced around this range or lower typically sell instantly. A lot less communication is required between yourself and the buyer, less due diligence is needed, and the overall process simply happens faster.

Put your Site on Autopilot

One of the biggest allures to buying an affiliate or leadgen website is that they are mainly hands off. This is extremely attractive to an investment-oriented buyer – someone who wants to manage a portfolio of income producing websites.

There are a few steps you can take to ensure your site is as passive as possible, and thus more attractive.

First, have a common CMS such as WordPress. Almost everyone knows and understands WordPress or at least has heard of it.

As mentioned earlier, schedule out several months of blog posts to be used as fresh content for your site. Having prescheduled posts is a great differentiator for a buyer trying to decide why they should buy your site over someone else’s.

Pre-schedule incoming backlinks to keep up the next couple of months of link velocity (you can simply use the “schedule” function on your WordPress PBNs to automate this).

Push off as many of your own tasks as possible to VAs.  Here is something worth noting that Justin had to say about website automation and how it affects multiples:

Some sellers are scared to pay for the VA’s or 3rd party services that automate the business, thinking their net profit will be decreased and they’ll get less in a sale. Typically, they will lose some net profit but will gain more back on the multiple. (Also, gives them a better chance to sell the business at all)

Justin mentioned Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) as being super important, and I absolutely agree.

Going beyond the multiple, having Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) in place can be the difference between a sellable and non-sellable business.  Have an easy-to-transfer format and layout for SOP’s to ensure a smooth transition to the buyer. This will help establish confidence during the sales process and can be used as leverage against lower offers.

5. Make Your Offsite SEO Game Solid

Since most of you reading this article will likely be doing SEO as your main strategy, I urge you to make you sure you have solid offsite SEO before engaging in a sale.

Monitor your link velocity and removal rate. Spikes in incoming links or removals definitely looks fishy to a buyer.

Avoid 301 redirects at all costs. These look super sketchy to the buyer, and even if you believe they can benefit you, avoid them when it comes to ranking a site you want to sell.

go away penguinPenguin Proof Yourself

Make sure you have a balanced anchor text profile.  Over-optimized anchor text distributions like the one to the right are just asking for a Penguin banhammer.

You also want a solid source of quality backlinks. This could mean a few things depending on what your linking strategy really is.

Avoid link types that are just downright shady. Examples of this would be:

  • Having a large mass of directory links
  • Using comment spam for your target anchors
  • GSA to the money site
  • Link exchanges
  • SAPE

If you want to learn about the links that I’ll typically avoid at all costs, check out this article where I discuss “Class C Links.”

If you’re using a PBN

  • Hide it from the crawlers (Majestic, Moz, Ahrefs, etc)
  • Disconnect all deindexed PBNs

If you really want to up your website’s value and you’re using PBNs or other grey/black hat strategies, consider transitioning the site over to white hat.  For example, slowly start replacing your PBN links with solid white hat guest posts.

While the number of links it takes to replace your PBN links with guest posts is still an unknown to me (currently testing this and I will be releasing a study soon), removing the PBN links eliminates the possibility of a site getting slapped if Google happens to discover your PBNs.  As a result, this removes buyer risk and thus increases the overall value of the website.

Recently, I removed the PBN links to one of money websites. This niche used to be a cash cow but has de-trended to the point where the links were better used somewhere else.

I had assumed this would totally kill the site’s rankings. Instead, the site is still ranking 8 months later, far after the reports of any ghost links. The only links remaining for the site are press release links and natural white hat links that the site gathered on its own just from being in the #1 position and getting traffic exposure.

More on this to come.

6. Listing Your Site – Getting Buyers to Buy You

First things first, be believable in everything you do here. You want to be as authentic as possible. Trust me, it shows.

You’re required to answer a series of questions in order to list on Empire Flippers, such as, why are you getting out of the niche?  Be completely honest.  Here’s some examples of Justin calling out complete bullshit:

  • The “I want money for other projects” is lame. Give more detail about the actual project you’re going into. Your story will seem much more real and relatable.
  • Sellers trying to hide the fact that their niche/product was recently banned/removed from Amazon. Why waste our time? It will be found in either the vetting or the due diligence process and you’ll look like you’re hiding much more.”
  • Sellers want to list their site making $3K per month but “can’t afford” the $297 listing fee. ..wait 3 days?

Be honest about if you have other sites in the niche with the intent of dominating it. Some people won’t buy the site knowing they are competing with you, especially since they know you already have experience in the niche. And trust me, they’ll find out if you are lying.

What I prefer to do is to sell all my sites in the same niche as a package deal. Even if some the websites are barely profitable, people are willing to pay higher multiples for a package of sites that covers an entire niche that they can use to dominate it themselves.

Showcase Your Site Automation

High maintenance begets high frustration. Sites that are not automated do not usually sell very easily.  Ecommerce sites, for example, where you are personally packing and shipping items out, are not going to generate much buyer interest.

First remove yourself completely from the operations of the site and, during the sale, flaunt how automated the income is.

Of course, it is not always about how hands-off your business is if you are going to convince a buyer to actually buy from you. Sometimes you just got to…

Make Them Feel Safe

mike seo tyson

Buying a business can be an intimidating and scary experience for a buyer. If you want to make the sale, sell your site in such a way that the buyer’s fears are sequentially eliminated until they wire you the cash.

Ensure them the links will stay in place

A primary concern that most buyers have is whether or not the links will stay in place after a site is sold.  Offer to keep the links in place for a rental fee. This makes the buyer feel more comfortable that you aren’t going to pull a fast one on them the moment the site is transferred over.

If your site is making $2,000 a month, you could say $500 of that goes into PBN fees. You’ll take the hit of only getting a multiple on the $1,500 net profit, but you will have $500 coming in per a month to offset that in passive income, which isn’t a terrible trade off, especially since it could make the difference between selling your site or not.

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a site that uses a PBN unless the seller charged me a rental fee. Otherwise, where is the incentive for them to keep those links live?

Offer post-sale support

Offer them support going forward after the sale is made. Usually, the kind of sites we are building take minimal maintenance and work, so this support will likely be fairly limited.

The typical support that sellers offer buyers is email correspondence for 30 days for most SEO affiliate sites and 60-90 days for more complicated businesses (such as ecommerce businesses). If you are worried a buyer might try to abuse your support by nagging at all hours of the day, you could bake into the agreement a per hour rate above and beyond a fixed allocation of support hours.

Consider taking installments

Another “safety feature” you could use to make a buyer feel more comfortable is to take payments in installments. You might take 70% of the listing price upfront and 30% over six months on condition that the site is still bringing in the same revenue.

While this isn’t ideal for sites underneath $50,000 month, these kind of stipulations are often negotiated on deals in the $80,000+ range where people are less likely to have tens of thousands of dollars lying around in their bank account.

7. Showcase the Upside Potential to the Buyer

While you never want to sell hard on your site’s potential (as this could limit your ability to effectively negotiate), there is nothing wrong pointing out solid things a buyer can look forward to with their new business purchase.

For example, you can point out lack of conversion rate optimization (CRO) on the site. Someone that is good with CRO might be able to take this site from $2,000 a month to $4,000 a month after a round of A/B testing.

Alternatively, you could mention the un-monetized email list as a potential income stream.

Bottom line… be upfront and truthful.

Here is something Justin mentioned about showcasing upside potential to a buyer:

Just be honest. If you’re a pro at paid traffic and have used it, state that. If you were a noob and just testing out paid traffic, state that too. By just being honest and transparent, you’re much more likely to get the wheels turning in the buyer’s head about the opportunities. The upside the buyer comes up with on their own will be much better than anything you could state explicitly.

8. The Selling Process

Here is Justin on the actual nuts and bolts of the sales process that you should keep in mind when you are ready to list your website for sale:

  1. Perform a seller interview
    1. Depending on your selling price, the Content Manager may set one up with you.
    2. Be super honest.  Believability is much more important than sales skill.
  2. Be available and responsive to queries and chats.  People have missed out on deals simply because they’re not responding to Zendesk ticket questions.

As you get closer to a deal, make sure you’re responding to the final questions and offers quickly. Know that buyers are often looking at multiple other businesses and you can separate yourself from the other options by being available.

done dealRemember the sale is not complete until the money’s in your account. You must continue to run the business as usual until you’ve received the wire and fulfilled all your obligations. Letting the business decline at the very end can prompt buyers to want discounts or cancel the deal completely.

I can’t stress that last point enough… just because your site is listed to sell, does not mean it has sold! That means you need to keep working on it, doing the maintenance, adding fresh content or whatever your normal tasks are to keep that site alive. The last thing you want is to list a site for sale and have all of its revenue go to zero because you decided to stop working on it and bask in the sun with the fantasy that your business is already sold!

9. The Post Sale

After the sale is done, if you used a broker like Empire Flippers, you really don’t have much left to do. They switch over all the affiliate links, migrate the content/files to the new hosting, and verify that everything has switched over successfully.

At this point, all you need to do is make sure you live up to the support you offered the buyer in the sale contract. This is important from both an ethics and a business standpoint.

First, you should want the buyer to be as successful or even more successful than you were with the website.

Secondly, if you decide to flip more sites, building a solid relationship with a consistent buyer could enable you to sell more sites at much quicker speeds because you already have a strong relationship built on trust from previous deals.

As you can see, selling websites can result in some huge profits for your SEO enterprise.

Essentially, you take 2+ years of net income all at once, while not caring one bit about what Google is planning in the future.

This money can be used to explode your affiliate empire with new sites, or you can invest it into offline real estate or whatever other projects you want to see done.

I’ve been employing this strategy for the last few years and it’s been a huge enabler for my growth in this industry.

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  • Good stuff here.

    One thing I might add toward the value side of things that very few people think about is an image database for the buyer.

    One of my sites I flipped was an ‘exotic’ pets niche and it’s kind of difficult to get photos. So right from the beginning of the project I was taking pictures myself, collecting free to use pictures and putting the whole lot into a giant folder.

    When I sold the site I have 0 doubt that having > 2,000 images that they could use for the sites purposes helped immensely. Just thought it’s worth mentioning since it’s a small value add that can help increase the value or success of your flip.

    • Hey Samuel!

      For an eCommerce or dropshipping site (or any site with more moving pieces) we’re really looking for at least $500 per month in net profit. For AdSense or Amazon affiliate sites we’ll go a bit lower – $300 per month or so. Hope that helps!

  • nice man thx!
    about the real estate thing, interest rates are so low currently i highly recommend using a mortgage even if you don’t have to. With a 5k a month site selling at 110K you can get a 500k rental property.
    There is a little more potential downside to it yes. But there is way more upside as well.
    1. Income is waay higher
    2. You can get better deals with agencies that manage the property cause you have multiple appartments
    3. If the value of the house increases to 1 million over the next 20 years, that 500k increase goes straight to your pocket

    but yeah there’s a bit of a risk.

    Question: do you always disclose the fact that you are using a PBN?
    I’ve heard stories of people selling a site with a hidden PBN then remove all the PBN links once the
    sale is finished.

    • Great input about the real estate.

      Question: do you always disclose the fact that you are using a PBN?
      Answer: I’m always 100% honest and upfront when selling a site and in general in life.

    • Real estate is an interesting game. The growth factor with online businesses I say is much higher, but leveraging virtual real estate for physical real estate can be a smart move. We have several sellers on our marketplace that buy their properties outright without a mortgage.

      Though if you are buying multiple pieces of property and you sell a site for $500k, it could make sense to leverage mortgages as long as you structure the deal right. Then use the rent from each of those properties to feed into one mortgage until all of them are gone.

      Tons of ways to skin a cat as they say though 🙂

  • I can’t wait to sell my first one on Empire Flippers.
    I wonder if the buyers still get the same revenue after purchasing the websites since most of them are ranked with PBNs.


    • What we find is that many of our buyers that buy sites built off PBNs, are also often buying sites that accrued natural links in the process.

      While the PBNs might had been the initial way the sites ranked, once they were ranked and started getting traffic, they were shared and gained natural links from other websites as well.

      This helps stabilize a lot of the sites to maintain their rankings. Of course, each business is different, so any buyer should do proper due diligence before investing in a site to make sure they are comfortable with any risks.