7 Tips For Building & Flipping Sites From A Six-Figure Team Of One
When I lost my job as a financial analyst in 2008, I figured it was the perfect time to go all-in on building websites. At the time, my goal was to build up some regular AdSense income so that I didn’t have to go back to a cubicle.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was starting down the exciting path of building and flipping sites for a living.
After years of many failures and disappointments, I got good at building affiliate sites. Back then, I just kept the sites and lived off the income. It wasn’t until 2014 that I sold my first site with Empire Flippers. At the time, the multiple was just 20x, but that was enough to get me hooked on building sites to flip.
Since that first sale, I’ve sold over 30 sites that I built myself, in addition to some that I bought and flipped. While you hear a lot about SEOs managing teams and cranking out sites to flip, I do almost everything by myself, only occasionally outsourcing some content and link building.
7 Tips for Solo Site Builders
As a site-building team of one, I regularly get inquiries regarding how my success can be replicated. If you’re wondering the same, let me give you some tips and strategies I’ve learned along the way that have allowed me to develop a successful build and flip model that doesn’t require managing a team.
1. Start with the End in Mind
When I start a new affiliate or content site, I completely map out the site’s architecture, monetization options, traffic growth options, as well as my flipping goals in a spreadsheet. I think of this as my roadmap because it tells me where I’m going and how I’m getting there. You can make a copy of my template here.
For my site architecture plan, I come up with top-level categories for the site and do keyword research to compile at least 100 topics for those categories. Even when I’m creating an affiliate site, I prefer to start with an informational content foundation.
For my monetization plan, I determine every possible way to monetize the site. Typically, I only focus on affiliate marketing, display ads, private ad sales, and info products. However, I create a complete list of all monetization options so I can refer back it to when a potential buyer wants to know how I’d grow the site.
For my traffic growth plan, I explore all the possibilities for creating new traffic streams to the site. I prefer not to rely solely on Google to send traffic to a website, so I find out where my target audience hangs out so I can target them in those locations. Those locations can be anywhere from Pinterest to Reddit.
For my flipping goals, I choose both a timeline and an income amount, and I flip the site based on whichever comes first. This prevents me from procrastinating or holding onto a website for too long.
2. Break Down the Project into Phases
In my experience, the easiest way to grow and scale a site is to break the process down into smaller phases. Breaking up tasks makes them seem more achievable and prevents the feeling that you’re biting off more than you can chew. I work through a total of three stages for each site that I build with the intent to achieve a quick flip.
Phase one covers the first three months of a site’s life, and that stage focuses on content creation. I do a content sprint where I publish 100 posts as quickly as possible. New content for the site still gets published after reaching 100 live articles, but not with as much urgency.
Phase two covers months four through six of a site’s life, and that stage focuses on traffic growth. In this phase, I plant the seeds to grow traffic streams beyond Google. I’m often interested in traffic streams from platforms like Pinterest and Facebook, and if it makes sense for the site, I start building an email list that I can market to at any time.
Phase three covers months seven through to the sale of the site. Typically, this happens sometime between month 18 and month 24. This stage focuses on leveling up and making sure everything is ready for a sale. I typically audit the site to see if there’s anything I need to do, such as building more links, adding more content, looking for better monetization, or devoting more time to growing other traffic streams.
3. Know Your Limits
It’s essential to recognize your strengths and weaknesses; otherwise, you’ll end up with unnecessary bottlenecks in your process.
For me, guest post outreach is not one of my strengths. When I try to do it myself, it creates a bottleneck in my process. I find it very time-consuming, which is why I outsource all guest post outreach.
I prefer outsourcing as needed compared to hiring a team member. This way, I don’t end up spending too much time or money on something that’s not going to boost the site’s value.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Look for New Ways
As a team of one, I often look for new (and easier) ways to do things. I like to call this the “Team Lazy” way, and Team Lazy is all about high ROI and low effort.
Based on my testing within my portfolio of sites, I discovered years ago that one internal link is as valuable as three guest post links (at least in my niches). This is the perfect example of a Team Lazy win because internal links are not only easier and faster to get, but they’re cheaper since I pay for guest post links.
Building on quality, aged domains is another Team Lazy shortcut that results in high ROI for low effort. I’ve been slowly building out a new site on an aged domain for my Project Tartarus case study at Skipblast, and it’s grown to 20,000 visitors monthly in just five months.
5. Resist the Urge to Build Too Many Sites
With the current site multiples at more than 30x, and sometimes more than 40x, it is tempting to build ten or more sites at once to flip. You may start daydreaming about all those big sales, and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed with more work than you can handle.
I only build one to three sites each quarter because I know that anything more than that is too much as a one-woman operation. For someone just starting, I recommend no more than one or two sites per year until you get into a regular rhythm of cranking out sites.
6. Avoid Distractions
If you’re part of as many SEO groups and forums as I am, then you already know how often some shiny new tool, service, or method gets mentioned.
You don’t need them. Any of them.
So, take yourself off that AppSumo mailing list now because no matter how sweet that deal is, whatever is on sale for a lifetime account is likely not going to boost the value of your site.
Find a collection of tools, software, and services that get the job done and avoid everything else. I don’t even pay for a rank tracker because it’s just a distraction.
7. Organization is Key
There is no way that I could manage my portfolio of sites without being super organized. Without that organization, I think my productivity would plummet.
In addition to having a master spreadsheet for each site, as mentioned above, I use Dynalist to create master to-do lists for each website. This enables me to refer to Dynalist at any time to get a top-level view of where I’m at with my site.
I also have a Moleskine notebook where I keep track of what I’m working on during the week for each site. This notebook stays by my keyboard for easy reference.
Mistakes I’ve Made along the Way
In the more than six years that I’ve been building and flipping sites as a business model, I’ve made many mistakes along the way.
Of those mistakes, I’ve selected the top three that I think held me back early on in this process.
1. Going into Seasonal Niches
Seasonal niches, like water sports, sound like a fantastic idea since the gear often has a high price. I’ve made the mistake of going into these niches more than once.
During peak season, these niches are crazy profitable, but they’re generally pathetic for the rest of the year (except for the holidays). When I’ve sold sites in seasonal niches, they’ve also been slower to move than sites in evergreen niches.
If you’ve got a domain name that allows you to move into non-seasonal shoulder niches or niches that peak during other times of the year, then you can counter this problem.
2. Going into Fad Niches
Remember several years ago when 3D video cameras and TV came out and were popular? Yeah, that only lasted for a minute.
But that was long enough for me to foolishly build a site in the niche. That’s time that I’ll never get back because that site was a failure.
There’s a reason you see so many sites on topics like recipes, DIY, general home, gardening, etc. Those are proven niches that aren’t going anywhere.
3. Going for the Cheapest Price with Content
I know that many SEOs hire writers for under $0.02 per word, and the quality is acceptable. And you can rank just fine with cheap content.
But following the build and flip model isn’t just about ranking with the cheapest possible content. I need to be able to sell my websites at the highest possible valuation.
If a potential buyer sees content that they’ll have to rewrite, that reduces the price they’re willing to pay for the site. I find that paying more for high-quality content results not only in websites that sell quickly but also in sites that attract buyers who are more willing to pay the asking price.
Turning This into a Business
If you want to start building and flipping sites as a business model, I suggest that you start slow and master one part of it first. After you master one, then move on to another.
Once you can do everything the right way, then start scaling up your production.
As you get into the rhythm of doing this regularly, you’ll get quicker at many tasks. Before you know it, you’ll have a well-oiled machine cranking out sites to flip. And the best part is you don’t have to spend any time managing people.