Justin Cooke

July 21, 2011

While in college, I was fascinated with stories of stay-at-home mothers making thousands of dollars each month. These power sellers had learned the value of online auctions and the idea of making some extra cash was really appealing to me.

At the time, I was playing an online game called Star Wars Galaxies.  (Yeah, I know…dorky)  I found a way to quickly make in-game money that I could then turn into real life cash and around 90 minutes of “work” could earn me anywhere from $60 – $80.  This later led to selling other items and this strategy eventually earned enough to happily keep our beer supply flowing and even take a trip to Vegas every once in a while.

While I never turned my eBay business into much more than that, some of the same principles I learned there apply extremely well to flipping websites and website flipping on Flippa specifically.

If you’re selling something of value, let the market determine the price

If you have a website that people truly want, you might feel it’s safer to include a reserve, start the bidding at a higher dollar amount, etc.  If the site is earning, this is probably a bad idea.

By starting your website sale off at $1 without a reserve, potential buyers will appreciate your confidence, love the idea of getting a fantastic deal, and will bid accordingly.  Starting the bidding off low will get your auction a ton of interest early on that it wouldn’t have otherwise

Golden Trifecta of placement for flipping websites: Featured, Most Active, and New Listing/Ending Soon

Starting off your auction at $1 is bound to draw some early interest when initially listed from people reviewing the “New Listings” section.  This may get you a few bids early on as the early bidders show some interest.  You’ll want these bids to be for lower dollar amounts so that they stack up the bids without reaching too high of an early price.

Towards the middle of the auction, there will be a lull when you’re no longer viewable in the “New Listings” section and this is also the time you’ll get contacted by buyers, hoping you’ll sell short.  (Resist!  You’ll get more bids later, for sure!)  Hopefully, you’ll get enough bids to get your site seen on the first page of the “Most Active” section, a very high-traffic area and important to strategic website selling.  (This usually requires 12-18 bids, depending on the particular day)

Now that you’re in one high traffic area, let’s go for another.  Within 24 hours of your auction ending, go ahead and go for the “Featured” offer on Flippa.

This will put your auction on the first page of Flippa.com with quite a few bids and less than 24 hours left.  This will create a sense of urgency in potential bidders, the social proof will be there with the number of bids, and they still have enough time to do their due diligence on your site(s) to make sure they like what you have to offer and everything is on the up and up.  This should get you placed on the high traffic areas and get you the exposure you need to sell your auction for the best price.

Make sure your previous buyers are aware of your auction and get a chance to bid

If you deliver fabulous post-sale service to your buyers on your website flipping, they’ll confidently bid on your auctions again earning you repeat buyers.  This is great for them because they know what they’re getting with you and are confident with your offers.  This is great for you because you know there will be no problem with payment or worries that come with brand new bidders.  You can build a list with Aweber for cheap or just maintain a list of your previous buyers and email them directly.

Overdeliver on content.  Some buyers won’t care while others LOVE to dig through it

While some buyers won’t bother with all of your screenshots, content, etc.  (One of our buyers made an impulse buy from an iPhone on the golf course) others will want ALL the details and if you don’t post them, they’ll ask for them in the comments.  If they have to ask for this, that, and the other because you didn’t include originally it might turn other buyers off because it looks like you’re hiding something.

In addition to screenshots, videos, etc. also make sure that the written content is plentiful as well, giving you a better chance to get seen through Flippa’s search function.  Check here for some great examples of titles for your Flippa auction.

If there’s something that seems a little odd with your website or auction, mention it directly and honestly.  This keeps someone from having to bring it up later and wonder why you didn’t mention it and also, honestly, you’re not going to want to deal with a buyer that was tricked through omission into purchasing your site…it’s just not worth it or worth your reputation.

Finally, give them EVERYTHING they could want to know about you.  We include our LinkedIn pages, our business website, AdSenseFlippers, our full names…everything.  Think about it from their perspective…would you want to buy from someone who is intentionally hiding their identity or a site flipper who gives you everything and probably has a reputation to protect?

Break from the usual suspects and recruit website buyers outside of Flippa

Whenever we have a new website at auction on Flippa, we make a few changes on various sites.  First, we put a link to the auction on Empire Flippers above the fold.  Second we change our signature on sites like the WarriorForum to include a link to our auction on every one of our previous posts.

We’ll then search for related topics and answer questions that are related to a similar monetization method, buying websites, etc. to get additional exposure.  This can get you traffic that’s outside of Flippa regulars and ensure you’ll get top dollar for your site flipping.  Make sure you’re not spamming…delivering quality answers and content to people will tend to drum up more interest in your signature, anyway.

Have any website selling secrets you’d like to share?  Let us know in the comments below!  Happy site flipping!

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  1. Michal says:

    You do a great job in those auctions. I’m on your buyer’s list and always bid, but your prices always climb to unbelievable values.
    My limit is buying websites for 12x monthly earnings and I do well with this strategy. But your portfolios sell always for 20-24x … freaking unbelievable, have not seen any other seller on flippa with such premium as you have.

    Goog job, though! I’ve read all your posts and will try to implement in my own niche site building.

    • We’re a bit impressed by it too, which is why we don’t offer sites or services directly at this time. I think the real reason we’re getting such high multipliers is our honesty, openness and post sale service. We literally walk the customer through he entire process answer all questions, etc. We give out our personal contact info, including Skype information and do calls on a regular basis. When you win one of our auction, it’s like getting multiple one-on-one SEO consulting sessions along with the sites.

  2. Great post as usual, partner! Love the golden triangle analogy too!

    Allowing smaller bids to stack up early is a key piece of advice to getting on the most active page. It’s genius, but just anther great tip we are giving away for free!

  3. Justin says:

    One of the things I didn’t get into in the post was whether to use a Buy It Now (BIN) or not. We made the mistake early of setting a BIN on our auctions…and once even convinced a buyer during the lull period to drop the BIN down! Sites we would have sold for around 3K now we gave away at the low price of $1,500!

    What we’ve realized is that, for us, the additional exposure is huge for this site and for adding subscribers. The additional exposure we get from having the Flippa auctions run their entire course is completely worth the listing fee on Flippa.

    I do wonder if by adding a BIN you can stretch people a little further to purchase the auction and earn a bit more from each…I’m not sure. Either way, if you have any question as to what the site is worth or are new at selling sites on Flippa, you should probably avoid the BIN and work on getting as many eyeballs on your auction as possible, earning you maximum value.

  4. Tipjar says:

    Hey guys,

    another question from me…and I don’t mean to be blunt.. but.. what kind of backlinking do you do for your sites? I remember you said $6 was the cost – is there a Fiverr gig that you use for these?

    • Justin says:

      We order original content from Fiverr and submit to EzineArticles with backlinks in the resource box. We then spin that article and submit to SubmitYourArticle, which will send a spun version of that article out to a ton of additional article directories, blogs, etc.

      We’ve just started testing out BuildMyRank backlinks as a potential answer to underperforming or slow-to-rank sites. (That’s not included in our previous laid-out costs) We won’t have an answer to the effectiveness there for some time, but will update as it continues along.

      We also do some blog commenting and (in the beginning) do some social bookmarking through OnlyWire which is quite cheap and easy to get started. We’ve done profile links in the past, but gave up on it as we questioned the effectiveness.

      • Tipjar says:

        As usual, excellent reply – thanks Justin!

      • josh says:

        Is that really all the back-linking you do ?

        • Justin says:

          Yep, that’s it! We put quite a bit of effort/time/energy into keyword research so that we don’t have to do a ton of backlinks. We’re not trying to rank for “criminal law” here or anything, hehe.

      • peter says:

        thank you very much Justin! I will try this out :) personally I have been pushing my links out with mixed success..anyways 99.99% of the time, as an IM’er myself, I never buy anything through an aff. link (CB or anything else) but have no problem doing so (will try out article submit your article) for you because you have helped so much. Thanks alot :)

        • Justin says:

          Yeah, I used to try to avoid buying things through affiliate links myself. I don’t know why…just thought it would be better to go to the source, I guess. Since I started actually putting affiliate links up, though, I’ve bought a few things through affiliates. I guess my thinking was that if I’m going to have affiliate links I should at least be willing to purchase stuff through others, right? Hehe

          We’ve had a few people buy Market Samurai through our links and some looks at SubmitYourArticle. Really not much, though, and our honest feedback on the stuff we use, we think, is way more important to you and to us than the few dollars we make from purchases.

          • peter says:

            well I signed up for an eza account so once my first article gets approved I’ll register at Submityourarticle. I’m guessing you did the $67 option right? hopefully it works, for right now ive just doing linkpushing but like I said mixed results. I know I should be diversifying my linkbuilding but It seems like I’m already paying a couple hundred bucks a month just for backlinking…

  5. Michael says:

    Thanks for the nice tips!

    One more thing that I would like to add is flippa trust points. If I am looking to buy some website on flippa, I always research the given data by seller and check his trust points. If the statistics looks fishy of feels like there is some hidden rock then reputation of +12 will erase my worries but reputation of -2 or + 2 won’t give trustworthy information

    • Justin says:

      Hey Michael,

      While Flippa Trust is definitely something to consider, I would put it pretty far down the list. As a seller/buyer, it’s actually pretty easy to get a high trust factor. (Verfied phone number, FB, and LinkedIn give you 9 points) Their feedback system is not nearly as robust as eBay’s, for example. Obviously, if their feedback is particularly low, they’re suspended, etc. that’s something to take note of, but as far as I’m aware most of the scammers come back with new fake profiles anyway…so it’s not like they’re trying to scam people from the same username over and over again.

  6. peter says:

    amazing post as always, thank you!

  7. Steve says:

    That’s no Golden Triangle. That’s a TRIFORCE!

    • Justin says:

      Lol, Steve.

      We were contacted by a bidder who put in a bid way higher than normal bids would go really early in the auction. He asked us why we hadn’t approved his bid yet and that prompted this post. I explained it in detail and then sent him here.

      He said it makes sense now, but the reason he bid so high was to avoid exactly what we’re trying to do which is spur more bids/action. He understood why it was good for us, but was hoping to throw it off by bidding high. As a bidder, it’s a completely fair strategy and, as a seller, something does feel wrong about not accepting an awfully high bid so early…

      Do you think the strategy is wrong or bad in any way?

    • Justin says:

      Speaking of which…right now we have an auction up and placed:

      #1 on front page of Flippa with Featured Listing option
      #3 on Most Active section and climbing
      Bouncing in and out of first page for Ending Soon

      Sweet!

  8. Really awesome post. I’m about to sell off some old sites, and while they aren’t really earning much of anything, I’m going to get as much out of them as I can, then put that money into building sites that actually earn. The great info in this article will help me get my auctions up and earning as much as possible. I’ve had pretty good luck with Flippa in the past and try to be as transparent as possible. I’ve sold sites much higher than I thought I would at times and I feel like it’s because of that.

  9. […] a few questions as to why we do so well with our auctions and decided to write a post about our site flipping secrets that’s been pretty […]

  10. Adam says:

    Good tips for selling on Flippa. My question is: is it difficult to transfer a wordpress site to the winning bidder? I noticed you offer to continue to host for a year or transfer. Do most have you transfer the sites? Thanks.

    • Justin says:

      Adam,

      Great question…thanks for visiting! To be honest, I really don’t have any idea…Joe handles that for us. I know that he’s talking about a post from both the transferer and the transferee perspective and should have something out about that in the next few weeks.

      Most do have us transfer the sites, yes. I’m assuming it’s pretty easy once you get the process down, but it does seem to take a few hours. It’s much easier GoDaddy to GoDaddy, though.

  11. Really helpful information, I just had a quick question in regards to selling websites on Flippa.

    I know your focus in on Adsense sites, do you remove Adsense codes from a site before listing them so as not to get a lot of ‘invalid’ clicks and jeopardize your account? or is that something we don’t really need to worry about?

    • Joe says:

      Good questions Thomas. Flippa automatically blanks out the ads for your for the primary site you are selling. For the other sites, the small spike in traffic is not enough to justify removing the ads, IMHO. We’ve found the Flippa community we sell to is generally well behaved and knows not to click on the ads.

      If someone did get click happy, Google would recognize it and deduct any revenue from your account. If they had a problem with it, the AdSense team would contact you through your AdSense account and indicate that you should remove the ads. The idea that they would simply suspend or ban your account without warning is hogwash.

      • That is good to know, there are so many stories going around about people getting banned with no warning – but I always got the idea that these people were not telling the whole story.

        Congratulations on your latest Flippa sale, I just checked it out and that was a great result!

        • Justin says:

          Thanks, Thomas!

          If you read many of the stories about people getting banned from AdSense it’s usually when they’re just starting off or they’ve made VERY little in AdSense income. (Often, they haven’t even received their first pay-out yet and are quite angry about it) The rest are just echoing what they’ve read from those people…there are very few that had a large amount of income with AdSense and then found themselves banned.

          From what we’ve read and experienced, there are a few main reasons people get kicked out of the program:

          1. They were clicking on their own ads or using networks that would do it for them.
          2. Using very questionable traffic share programs that send untargeted traffic to sites.
          3. Tricking people into clicking ads by heavy manipulation on the pages.
          4. Were previously banned and signed up for another account. (Through a different name, sister’s name, etc.)

          Some of them have come out and admitted as much while others…well…you’ll just never know. On the other hand, we’ve gotten templated messages from the AdSense team in our account telling us the sites where we could add MORE ads and make more money.

          By the way, I checked out your blog…it looks pretty good! I particularly liked your posts on how to build a more effective list and the 80/20 rule. I can see you’re a big 4HWW fan, as am I. (I swear that book had much to do with my setting up a plan to ultimately move halfway around the world, hehe)

          • I’ve received similar emails from Adsense myself (about adding MORE ads).

            The Four Hour Workweek definitely changed the way I run my sites, but I think a lot of thoughts in the book you have to take with a grain of salt.

          • thinkster says:

            Adsense can be unfair sometimes. I had a 24 hours heads up on the winners of Greenpeace’s “Rebrand the BP logo contest” from my creative director buddy, i had the winners and the art with permission to post. I notified my server host to expect a spike in traffic. My ecolofy site had a dozen or two hits a day, but in one day went over a million uniques, then 1.5 million and the CTR was about 1.8%. Google told me i had “invalid click activity” and then said they were refunding advertisers money and just gave me credit for the usual 1 click a day during those three days. No appeal, they took my income I worked for and provided no proof that they actually refunded anyone. Yea, monopolies!

          • Justin Cooke says:

            Ack…wow. That’s a pretty unique case. I see why they would suspect the traffic to be suspicious, of course…but that seems to be an awfully legitimate reason. Did you appeal? You can appeal and (maybe in this rare instance) they would take a look and reinstate?

          • thinkster says:

            I did write back, no reply, then some googlette girl on the forums said “you must have been doing something wrong, or google would have never done that”. I got the same response when I caught them out for freezing my account a couple years ago. They said I had content on singapore.thinkexpats.com which violated the sexual content rule. It turned out it was the a phrase along the lines, “while the area is famous for prostitutes, there is much, much more to the complex than that”. I got no replies from google, and so I searched the text of the letter they sent me and found a forum post from a handful of others who had gotten it and were asking about it; a titanic info website (too many instances of the word ‘tit’), a raw foods site (they were notified ‘raw’ is a sexual term) and plastic toys site (sex toys) and the largest golf online shop, for too many XXXS and XXXL sized items. Here’s where I caught google cheating me out of my money for sure. About 6 months earlier, google had mailed me a check instead of the usual direct deposit. Being in europe, cashing checks are expensive. They told me to wait until the check expired without cashing it, and the money would go back into my balance. Well, during the 6 weeks my site was off adsense as we made a lot of forum noise about it, (and my account had about 15 euros in it before the cut off), the money came back into my account. So then the next payment was issued electronically, and google DEDUCTED 22 euros for “invalid click activity” adjustment (every payment they had seemed to be deducting 5 to 25 euros). Now here’s the rub; that money was money that had already had the invalid click adjustment tax, and I had not earned an additional 22 euros during the freezing period, so they were basically lying and stealing my money. I brought this up, and got a shruggy “well, you must have been doing something bad”.

          • Justin Cooke says:

            It’s hard not to take things like this personally…I do understand that.

            Still, claims that Google is “lying and stealing” are a bit over the top…and seem to imply some sort of conspiracy against you.

            I think the truth is that Google is a massively large company and they have to put rules and triggers in place that protect the bulk of the community. Because of these rules/triggers (that are required with such a massive program) in place…there are instances where people get caught up in issues that really aren’t nefarious or bad…but just happened to pop some trigger or alert.

            They’re appealing and supporting the majority, but those on the fringe and with “odd” situations and circumstance can take a pretty massive hit because of it, I think.

          • thinkster says:

            I don’t take it personally, i think this part of their earnings strategy is just part of their system. In the case of the new puritanical robot that banned me and my fellow publsihers who got the same suspension for “sexy words” I totally understand sometimes its just system flukes. As for them taking 5 to 25 euros out of my payment every month for “invalid click activity” – after they were caught out taking money during a month when earnings were not as high as the penalty and only a recrediting of my check put me over the invalid click amount, that “skimming” (which is just what it was) tells me it is a more intentional part of their earnings activities. Especially because ever since I wrote them a few dozen times demanding answers or an explanation (finally only getting a single “well, you must have been doing something wrong” reply from a google forum staffer), in the almost two years IMMEDIATELY following those complaints, not 1 penny has been deducted for “invalid click activity”. I find that to not be some cold script code making decisions, but a human hand. I’m just one small publisher losing 5-25 euros a month, how many of those adds up to a billion euros?

          • thinkster says:

            But I will say, having used them since the early 2000s, those being the only 2 issues makes me very happy with them indeed.

  12. […] We’ve noticed a few sellers have been copying our auctions recently, hoping to get the same results.  While we encourage people to consider Flippa as their marketplace of choice, we have asked them not to copy our auctions word for word.  (Aside from the fact it’s against Flippa ToS, it’s just kind of a shitty thing to do)  We give away freely what we think are the keys to success anyway and it’s NOT the exact wording of the auctions!  Check that post out here. […]

  13. Ray says:

    Have you tested with an extremely high or outrageous Buy It Now amount? I wonder if it increases the perceived value or increases the bid amount.

    • We have tried in excess of 25x and it did not work. Also, putting the BIN that high buts you in a different class of buyers who are much smaller than the $1,500-$3,000 buyers. This is a sweet spot for us.

  14. Tom says:

    I am curious to know how to PIMP a regular Flippa listing. My listing look so BORING compared to others…any resources that show how to do this (colored headlines, bolded headlines and sub headlines, etc etc)…Thanks. Tom

  15. […] have the option of flipping your sites to focus on the […]

  16. […] Website Selling Secrets – Our BEST tips for selling websites for a premium on sites like Flippa.com. […]

  17. […] you’d get if you would have listed on Flippa in the first place.  As a seller, there are few secrets to selling websites that will help you get top dollar when selling on […]

  18. Adam Struve says:

    Do you ever sell a group or collection of web sites together in a single auction or do you always split them up?

  19. Nat says:

    Hi, very excited about what is happening here. I came across this site accidentally, I believe its God leading me to greener pastures. I am in West Africa, in a country called Ghana. I have read all about your site flipping and flopping and very ready to take action. Do you think my profile as a newbie and also from Africa will affect my sales in any way?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Nat!

      Only one way to find out, right? This does happen to be one of those things you can do from anywhere in the world, of course. I do think it helps to have an understanding of Western culture or US culture if you’re looking to attract traffic from the US. You’ll have a better idea regarding the keywords, content, etc…but I don’t think it’s a requirement.

  20. […] the other hand, we also write and talk about buying and selling sites and cover topics like how to sell your websites for a premium, discuss marketplaces like Flippa, etc.  This content is valuable for more experienced publishers […]

  21. […] We really appreciate Ophelie taking the time to answer our questions.  Check out more about our tips for selling on Flippa here. […]

  22. […] Our strategy in selling websites – Use it against the sellers to buy on Flippa! […]

  23. […] houses other than Flippa, but you’re not likely to find a buyer.  As a seller, there are few secrets to selling websites that will help you get top dollar when selling on […]

  24. Jennifer says:

    I just sold my first site on Flippa about 2 months ago and the most significant factor that seemed to keep the price from going higher was the amount of effort needed to keep the site going and making money. I had done all of the work on the site myself, but almost every potential buyer was not able to do the work and was interested in outsourcing, which of course means less profit and a lower bid as a result. So in addition to your tips in this post I would add that you should consider how you can make the maintenance of the site as hands free as possible to ease concerns of some potential buyers. For example, I could have put more effort into finding freelance writers ahead of time, which could have shown a more stable transition plan.

  25. […] the other hand, we also write and talk about buying and selling sites and cover topics like how to sell your websites for a premium, discuss marketplaces like Flippa, etc.  This content is valuable for more experienced publishers […]

  26. I have tried selling a starter blog with hardly any traffic and no income. I sold it at the bin price of $250.
    I think its all about the domain name and content. They don’t care much about design. I was using a ready made template.
    They know, domain and content are much more important and can change the design later on.
    If you do not have a good domain, the next thing they check for is earnings and traffic.

  27. […] For the first month in quite a while, we didn’t run any Flippa auctions in this month. With our Buy Our Sites page up and running, we wanted to test the effectiveness of just selling directly the same types of sites we would have included in a Flippa auction. We are planning to run at least one Flippa auction in November and we’ll be sending out an email to our subscriber list when that’s up and running. As always, we’ll be starting the auction off at $1.00 with No Reserve.  Click here for some awesome sales tricks on Flippa. […]

  28. sreejan says:

    Right now the prices and options to make your listing stand out have changed. They charge $99 for “Flippa Homepage Feature listing ” where your site gets listed at flippa.com and $49 for “Websites Homepage Featured listing” where your site gets listed at flippa.com/websites.

    Do you think that they make any significant difference?

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