Easy Website Wins: Marketing and Monetization Lessons From 175 Website Flips


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Mushfiq

Today we’re diving into the easy wins — the quick updates you can make to your websites to drive more traffic and sales.

To help me out on that topic is Mushfiq S., a side hustler who has been building, buying, growing, and selling websites since 2008, all on the side from his full-time career.

During that time he’s done over 175 transactions and has a wealth of knowledge on what it takes to make money and build equity online.

You can think of it a little like flipping houses — trying to find these undervalued fixer-upper projects, and making ’em shine.

Only it’s better suited to those who are more comfortable creating content than they are replacing countertops and cabinets — and your upfront costs may be a lot lower too.

You can find out more about Mushfiq over at TheWebsiteFlip.com and EasyWins.io where you can buy a copy of his “easy wins” spreadsheet listing the things he does to fix up sites he purchases.

Tune in to The Side Hustle Show interview to learn:

  • where Mushfiq finds “distressed assets” he knows he can fix up and flip for a profit
  • the buying criteria he uses to find the best deals
  • some of his best “quick wins” that have the biggest impact on a site’s revenue

Getting Into Selling/Flipping Websites

Mushfiq said that while he was in college, he decided to learn how to build websites to see if he could earn some extra income.

He started the site, started adding content to it, learned about SEO so he could drive more traffic to the site, and got to the point where he was earning between $1,000-2,000 per month.

Then in around 2008/9 Mushfiq said he was randomly approached by a company that wanted to buy his website.

This is what made him first realize that he could build a website that was worth something within a couple of years and sell it.

Mushfiq sold his site for $25,000 and set his sights on replicating this process.

Not by building sites from scratch though. Mushfiq started buying sites that were already established and looked to apply “easy wins” to increase the value of the sites and flip them within 12-18 months for a profit.

How Good Is the ROI on Flipping Sites?

One of the best things about websites and digital assets in general – particularly when you’re comparing them to physical assets – is the low overhead costs.

If you don’t have much of a budget to spend on improving a website, Mushfiq said you can pretty much do 99% of the work yourself by putting in the time.

That’s what he did with his first site, time was pretty much all he did have when he was a student. Nowadays, Mushfiq has processes in place and outsources a lot of the work he has done to his sites.

Mushfiq said the current going rate you can expect to get when selling a site is around 30-35x the monthly profits of the site.

Where to Shop for Websites?

Mushfiq finds most of his deals on online brokerage sites and marketplaces.

A few of the broker sites he uses are:

Mushfiq said he finds his best deals on Flippa.com, which he described as the “eBay of online businesses.”

Flippa works a bit differently from the above brokers. Anyone can list a business on Flippa, and the sites aren’t independently verified or valued by brokers.

Buying Criteria When Finding Deals on Flippa

Mushfiq shared some of his best tips and the filters he uses for finding a good deal on Flipper:

Age – Look for sites that are at least 6 months old to remove all of those early, unproven starter sites.

Google Analytics –  Make sure Google Analytics is already installed on the site. The seller can then add you and allow you to verify the traffic is real.

Look at the price not the multiple – Mushfiq only looks at sites that have a sale price below $50,000. He doesn’t pay as much attention to the monthly multiple, as he knows he’s only going to buy ‘‘distressed assets’’ that he’s able to optimize and improve the earnings for.

Mushfiq said there are hundreds of new sites being added to Flippa daily and no shortage of good deals.

He’s been doing this a while now and knows exactly what he’s looking for, so it only takes him 30-60 minutes a day to scan all the new sites.

Monetization Methods

There are various ways a website can be monetized. Two of the most common methods are; affiliate marketing and display advertising.

Affiliate sites earn money by recommending products and collecting a commission on each sale. While display ad sites earn money for every visitor that comes to the site by displaying ads.

Mushfiq said he is an expert in affiliate marketing, specifically applying conversion rate optimization (CRO). So, he’s typically looking for sites that have affiliate opportunities, or can clearly be better optimized for affiliate offers.

He also looks for sites that are not currently monetized with display ads, as adding ads to a site is another easy win in terms of revenue.

Doing Due Diligence Before Buying a Site

When Mushfiq sees a site that meets his criteria he starts what he calls his “two-phase due diligence.”

The first phase is a quick check of some basic things, such as the branding, historical traffic, quality of the content, and some other things that can easily be looked at in 5 minutes.

If Mushfiq likes the look and feel of the site, the second phase is a more detailed due diligence check.

He starts by asking the seller to add him to Google Analytics for the site. This enables him to take a deep dive into the pages that are driving traffic.

Some of the things Mushfiq looks at to verify a site is legit and is going to be a good purchase are:

Traffic Sources

He looks at where the traffic is coming from. Specifically the countries the traffic is coming from, as well as the individual pages that are performing well.

Content Quality

He takes a closer look at the quality of the content. Mushfiq also uses WaybackMachine to see what the site looked like going back in time.

Backlink Profile

Mushfiq uses tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush to take a look at the backlink profile for the site. He checks the quality of the links, making sure there are no toxic or spammy links, paid links on private networks, or any other shady tactics.

Once he’s happy with those checks, Mushfiq then starts probing the seller with a lot of questions about the site. He asks questions like why they’re selling, and gets more information on specific revenue streams, etc.

If he’s interested in buying the site, Mushfiq doesn’t like going back and forth more than he has to. He starts out by directly asking the seller how much they want for the site.

Mushfiq will then do some negotiating to get to a price he is happy with. If they reach that point, the funds are transferred via Escrow.com and Mushfiq handles the migration.

This also means Mushfiq is able to buy sites without having to wait for the auction period to end. He’s also able to close most deals in less than a week.

Using Aged Domains

If you’re thinking about starting a site from scratch, a popular thing to do right now is to buy an aged domain instead of registering a brand new domain.

By doing so, you get to start with a domain that already has trust and authority in Google’s eyes, primarily due to already having backlinks.

This enables you to skip — or at least speed up — the the so-called Google “sandbox” period. This is the first 6-9 months that are typically very slow while you’re waiting for new content to index.

Mushfiq said you have to be careful, as some aged domains will turn out to be “dud”. But as long as you keep the content relevant to what the previous site content was, you have a good chance of building a site up quicker.

Mushfiq mostly uses aged domains himself for redirecting to his existing sites. He said this is a quicker way to give his sites a boost in authority than doing manual outreach for links.

Mushfiq said he treats this as a business acquisition. He even creates a news article on his site saying they’ve acquired the other site and will be redirecting it to the current domain.

The main marketplaces he uses to find aged domains are Odys.Global and GoDaddy Auctions.

Some “Quick Wins” to Improve the Revenue of a Website

Mushfiq has a list of quick wins he runs through when he buys a site to increase the site’s revenue and sale value for when he flips it.

An example he shared was a site in the outdoor niche he bought for $23,000. Mushfiq paid a 75x multiple for the site, which is well above the 30-35x average.

But he did so because he could see that the site was only making $300/mo from 100,000 visitors. Mushfiq knew he could apply some quick wins and improve the revenue of the site.

He has been able to increase that site’s monthly earnings to $6,000, and he’s planning to sell it early next year.

Mushfiq shared some of his top quick win tips he’s able to apply to most sites:

Optimizing the Top 10-15 Articles

Mushfiq said the 80/20 rule applies to websites. By this, he means that 80% of the traffic to a site is usually going to 20% of the pages.

So, he starts by taking a closer look at the top 10-15 pages on a site. He looks at what tweaks he can make to those pages that will have the biggest impact on revenue.

For his outdoor site, those top pages were commercial pages. But they were not well optimized and were lacking comparison tables, call-out boxes, and other elements that Mushfiq knows convert well.

Just adding these elements and more contextual links took the site from $300/mo to $3,000/mo.

Improving the On-Page SEO

Sites that aren’t well-optimized for revenue usually aren’t well-optimized for SEO either.

He can usually make changes to the structure of the content, add better title tags, add more internal links, and make other on-page SEO changes that will bring more traffic to the site in the long term.

Upgrading the Tech Stack

“99% of people that are beginners don’t have an idea of what they’re doing,” Mushfiq said, talking about the tech people use to build sites.

He said he often sees sites with dozens of unnecessary plugins, slow themes, and other tools that aren’t needed and are harming the foundations of the site.

His standard high-level tech stack he uses on all of his sites is:

Adding Display Ads

Adding display ads to a site adds another revenue stream and will instantly increase the amount of revenue a site is making.

Mushfiq said there has been some hesitation in the past to add display ads to affiliate sites as it was assumed the ads would get in the way of affiliate offers and harm conversion rates.

However, Mushfiq said there have been studies that have proved that display ads do not significantly harm affiliate revenue. Adding display ads to a site is one of his “easiest of easy wins” that increases the overall revenue of a site.

Any Bad Purchases/Flips That Didn’t Go As Planned?

There is always risk involved when buying websites, which is why Mushfiq does such thorough due diligence.

Mushfiq explained that there are typically phases or cycles where new tactics come out within the SEO world that you always have to be on the lookout for.

Currently, Mushfiq said AI content is the big thing site owners are trying to take advantage of. Back when he started buying sites, PBNs (Private Blog Networks) were a popular tactic people used to add “link juice” or authority to sites.

Mushfiq said he bought a site from EmpireFlippers in 2015 for around $10,000 not knowing it had PBN links pointing to it. Shortly after buying the site, he saw he had a manual penalty in his Google Search Console.

EmpireFlippers helped out by giving him a list of 300 or so domains the seller was using to interlink all of his sites. Mushfiq submitted a disavow request to Google to ignore all of those links, but unfortunately, the site never recovered.

That made Mushfiq hyper-aware of sites that look like they’re using PBN links and he’s avoided them from that day on.

Deciding Which Sites to Sell and Which to Keep

Mushfiq said he loves to see “hockey stick growth” on a site. Which is the term used to describe a sharp traffic increase in a short time period.

If he’s not able to get that kind of growth from applying his easy wins, he will often sell a site.

If he does see hockey stick growth, he will wait for 6-12 months after the growth slows to get stable average earnings for the sale multiple to be calculated on.

Mushfiq also looks at the backlink profile of a site and how it does across several Google updates. If it has a strong profile and isn’t hugely affected by updates, he’s more inclined to keep the site as it’s going to be a good monthly earner for him.

When selling a site, Mushfiq doesn’t use any of the brokers or sites where he buys his sites. Instead, he leverages his network of contacts he’s built up over the years and sends an email out to his list.

He said this is a win-win, as he is able to sell the site for a lower multiple as he does not have to pay broker fees which are around 15-20%.

Do You See This Becoming a Full-Time Thing?

Mushfiq admits that his website flipping business probably should be a full-time gig for him looking at how well it’s going.

He does have a long-term goal in mind to get there. Mushfiq said he is interested in the renewable energy space and wants to build up a portfolio of sites in this field.

Once he has that, he can see himself going full-time and creating a media company in the renewable energy industry.

What’s Next?

You can catch up with Mushfiq and follow along with some of his site purchases and how he improves the traffic and revenue on his sites at TheWebsiteFlip.com.

His goal over there is to provide a “one-stop-shop for everything you need to understand how to buy and sell websites.”

He’s currently working on a “deal feed.” This tool will essentially aggregate deals from various brokers and provide all of them in one place to save you time shopping around for a good deal.

Mushfiq’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation

“Build your own site first.”

Here’s my free video series on how to start a blog of your own.

Links and Resources from this Episode

Sponsors

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  • ODYS – Get $100 off your first premium, aged domain when you mention Side Hustle Nation!

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ODYS is a platform that curates premium aged domains. It helps affiliate marketers and online business owners gain a head start over the competition. The premium aged domains from ODYS can save you years of building authority and help you kickstart your digital presence.

Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes video of the marketplace. (You may have to request to join the Side Hustle Nation FB group to see it.)

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