Last year I decided I was going to expand this blog beyond just me as a writer and add some other inspiring and talented people. As I expected, easier said than done. If there’s one thing I’ve learned running Bold Metrics it’s that hiring is hard, and finding great people that don’t just have the skills, but also have the right attitude is critical.
So, after quite a search I’m excited to say I have my first new addition to the writing team at MorganLinton.com, his name is Mushfiq, he lives in Chicago, runs thewebsiteflip.com and buys and sells websites, lots of them.
To start with Mushfiq will be writing a monthly column about website flipping and we’ll let it evolve from there. I’m a big believer in starting small and learning over time. And to kick things off I thought it would be a good idea to do a little interview with Mushfiq so all of you can learn more about him. Enjoy and welcome Mushfiq!
1) When did you start buying and selling websites?
I stumbled upon search engine optimization (SEO) in 2008 while a freshman in college. I wanted to earn some money on the side. I built up my first website, CheapestVOIPCalls.net, in the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) niche. I worked on it for 2 years while in college and then received an email that someone wanted to buy it. I had no idea that websites could be sold; it was the wild west back then.
I threw out a number that made sense to me (not knowing what the multiples were back then) of $25,000. The buyer agreed. We set up the transaction via Escrow.com, I handed over the assets, and that was it. The company that acquired it was Slashdot Media, which owns many sites in the VoIP vertical (including mine) to this day.
Fast forward more than a decade, my team and I have been buying, growing, and selling sites as a side-business with many 6-figure exits. To date, we’ve done 175 website transactions on the buy, sell, and broker side.
2) What are your go-to marketplaces for buying and selling websites?
I love to buy websites from the Flippa marketplace. Being an open platform, anyone can list any business for sale with as little or as much information about the business as they please. This naturally leads to poor deals. However, if you know what you are looking for, you can find quality sites built up by “hobby bloggers”, who write excellent content and start generating organic/social traffic but lack the expertise to monetize that traffic effectively.
Other marketplaces that I always monitor is Motion Invest, Investors.club, and Empire Flippers. These marketplaces ensure all listings pass basic website due diligence (e.g., no shady SEO techniques, verified traffic, verified revenues).
Some of my best deals have been found through my private network that I’ve built up over the years. Some people in my network want quick liquidity and are willing to reduce valuations to achieve that.
I can either acquire the websites to add to my portfolio for a long-term hold, or I perform the easy wins to increase revenues and then flip within a 6-12 month period, or I can broker it out to my network for a commission fee (usually 10% or lower).
For further reading, I did a detailed deep-dive into the top website brokers in the website investing space in this write-up.
3) Can you share one or two qualities you look for in a potential flip?
I have 8 in-depth website investment criteria that I look for. The two big ones I look for are (1) organic search traffic and (2) the number of content articles.
The reason I look for organic traffic is that traffic leads to revenue. Any traffic can be monetized via different revenue streams, such as display advertisements, lead generation, affiliate marketing, sponsorships, among others. Furthermore, content is the key that brings in that traffic.
Often, if traffic is low on a site but there is a lot of content, small on-page tweaks may lead to more traffic over time.
Think of these as two major levers to a business. You can take the existing traffic and do conversion rate optimization (CRO) to improve the earnings, and/or you can improve the content from an on-page SEO perspective to increase traffic over time.
In practice, both of these tactics are done simultaneously to an acquisition to fuel the growth.
4) What advice would you give to people who want to get into website flipping?
Learn due diligence. In other words, learn how to spot the red flags. I always go into the diligence phase of acquiring a website with a mindset that I am not looking for the positives, but I am looking for that red flag that allows me to reject the deal.
Every seller will shine a light on their business as if it’s the best, most profitable, and perfect business for a buyer. That’s seldom the case.
Learn how to do proper due diligence to spot those red flags on websites.
5) Did you notice any changes to the website flipping market in 2020?
Oh yes! Sales multiples rose rapidly as more and more private equity, and large pooled fund buyers entered the marketplace. Furthermore, quality deals sell quickly. If I list a site for sale, I can usually get a fair market value offer within 24-48 hours and a closing within 7-10 days.
Empire Flippers, one of the top marketplaces, has increased website valuations to multiples of 40-50 times monthly average profits throughout 2020. Before that, multiples were in the 30-37 times range.
Experts in the industry opinionated that the high valuations would slow down buying. However, that has not been the case. More and more buyers are scooping up websites at these higher multiples.
This also has incentivized many sellers to sell at these multiples to take “chips off the table”.
Overall, a win-win for the industry.
6) Anything you can share on any changes to your strategy in 2021?
Most website investors and flippers misunderstand the true value of their content sites. I see my sites as a media brand with human visitors. I control the user experience. This is valuable.
Large brands are willing to partner with the right websites on a long-term basis if the value can be created.
Often, website investors take the easy way out by slapping on advertisements, affiliate products, etc, and calling it good. I am guilty of this as well. However, in 2021, my focus is to build out true authority brands in the space that provide value not only via content on the site, but through email marketing, social media presence, and more.
This will allow my portfolio of sites to build meaningful long-term relationships with brands as opposed to the one-off sales commission.
7) Last but not least, can you share one fun fact about Mushfiq that people might not know?
I can try. I am a dull individual!
I’ve lived in Bangladesh, Japan, and Belgium throughout my early childhood. I was fluent in French while going to school in Brussels, Belgium until moving to the U.S. I no longer remember any French; very sad about that.