How To Buy Websites, Monetize Them, and Run Them While Working Full Time

buy monetize websitesOwning a website has become a lucrative way for people to make money online.  However, it’s not as simple as just buying a site, throwing up some advertising, and watching the money roll in…  I wish it was.

I’ve bought three websites over the last year, and I’ve learned a few lessons along the way I want to share with you.  If you read my last income report, you’ll noticed that I added another website to my portfolio.

The biggest, and overarching theme of my online website buying strategy is that I view online property similar to how real estate investors view physical property – and you should treat each and every website you own, or want to buy, the same way.

This is a long article, but you can navigate to the sections below if you wish:

 

Different Ways to Look at Online Real Estate

Just like in real life, there are a lot of different ways to look at online real estate.  In real life, you have your home, you could own a multifamily complex, you could buy a condo to rent, or you could even own a huge apartment complex.   Online, you would equate this to your own website, owning a small portfolio of sites, or owning hundreds of different sites.

And just like offline, there are different ways to manage your online real estate – you could go high-end, middle class, or low end.  For example, Chris Guthrie buys more high-end websites, and pays over $10,000 per site.  On the other hand, I buy middle-class websites, and am willing to pay up to $2,000.  If you want to buy low-end websites, check out Flippa.com, where you can find cheap sites for less than $100.

Finally, location matters – just like real life.  Online, your niche makes a huge difference, and your content matters.  Once again, look at the different levels of content and how it might play out offline:

  • High End Content – 1,000 to 2,000 Words – Luxury
  • Middle Class Content – 500 to 1,000 Words – Middle Class
  • Low End Content – Spammy, Less Than 500 Words – Slumlord

Now, just like in real life, all of these strategies can make you money.  The choice is yours about what you want to be.

 

Why Buy a Website vs. Building a Website From Scratch

So, now the question is this: why buy a website and spend $1,000 when you could simply buy a domain and hosting for $50 per year.  The reason?  Time. 

You can start a new website from scratch.  But with every new website, it takes a little bit of time to gain traction, be indexed in search, and gain some type of following.  It also takes time to gain rankings.  If you want to make money with your website you need targeted traffic, or at least 2 of the 3 the following:

  • Page Rank
  • MozRank
  • Domain Authority

If you start a new site, chances are you have no traffic, no page rank, no MozRank, and no Domain Authority.  You can get traffic, MozRank, and Domain Authority, but they all take time.  Even the best web masters I know can’t get all of this quickly.  It takes them several months at best – it took me years.

Let me share with you two stories. The story of Entrepreneurship Life, and the story of Cult of Money.

I started Entrepreneurship Life in October of 2011.  I didn’t make any money on the site until March 2012, when I made $110.  In 2012, I made $3,208.54 on Entrepreneurship Life.  Of that amount, $1,235 was from direct advertising and $1,973.54 came from affiliate earnings.  How did I make that?  Well, in 2012 I had several articles start receiving targeted traffic of about 50-100 visits per day.  And I also got my Page Rank from Google.  Those two in combination helped foster those earnings.  However, it took 15 months to make $3,200 – and a lot of time and effort.

Now, let’s look at Cult of Money.  I bought Cult of Money in June 2013 – a little over six months ago.  I bought the site for $2,400 – the most I’ve paid for any website to date.  In the six months I’ve owned the site, I’ve already made $4,335.30.  That’s a net gain in six months of over $1,900.  The revenue in six months is already higher than the revenue I earned on Entrepreneurship Life in 15 months.  Why the difference?  Well, when I bought Cult of Money, it already had targeted traffic, and it already had a Page Rank, MozRank, and Domain Authority.  The end result?  It was much, much easier to monetize in a much shorter period of time. 

What To Look For When Buying a Website

Now that you know why I like buying websites, you need to look for certain things in buying a website: traffic, Page Rank, MozRank, Domain Authority.

First, traffic.  There is no “right” level of traffic for a website.  Rather, you want targeted traffic.  When I buy a site for traffic reasons, on average the site gets 100 pageviews per day.  But, 1-2 articles typically receive all of those pageviews.  That’s targeted traffic.  The question is, can you monetize that traffic?  If so, the website could be a good buy.

If the site doesn’t have traffic, it can still be valuable for it’s Page Rank, MozRank, or Domain Authority.  Once again, there is no right answer, but I won’t pay over $500 for a Page Rank 1 site and over $1,000 for a Page Rank 2 site.   The reason is direct advertisers don’t like low stat sites.  Unless there is a lot of targeted traffic or something else very compelling, these low metric sites aren’t worth much.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy them.  Maybe they have potential.

I bought my last site, Before You Invest, because it had potential.  It is a Page Rank 1 site, but it has potential in terms of targeted traffic and with some consistent posting, it will probably increase in rankings very quickly.  Plus, it fit into my network very well.

So, don’t just dismiss a site because it doesn’t have something.  The question you should ask is how easily can I make up for what it doesn’t have?

 

Where To Find Websites to Buy

So, where have I found my websites to buy?  Well, most of them have just come to me and asked if I was interested.  The biggest thing I can recommend you do is network with other bloggers, because a blogger is more likely to sell directly to another blogger before going to a site like Flippa.  Instead, I’ve found most bloggers simply let their sites die than sell – which is a waste!  Instead, network with bloggers (especially new bloggers), and if you notice that they stop posting, reach out.

Another trick I use, that you can apply across various niches, is to go to List Sites, like Technorati or in the personal finance space, the Wise Bread list.  On these list pages, go to the last page, and start seeing if the bloggers are still active.  Many times, you can find sites with good stats, but haven’t been updated in a year.  When I bought Cult of Money, this is the exact strategy I used.  I sent about 100 emails to different sites, and got responses from about 20.  I was able to buy Cult of Money for a good price from this simple exchange.

 

How To Actually Buy The Website

When it comes time to actually buy the website and transfer it over, this gets tricky.  It’s also the point where I’ve lost several deals, but if the seller doesn’t want to allow me to do due diligence, the deal probably wasn’t worth it anyway.

After making the original offer, I make it contingent on the following things:

  1. Allowing my developer and me access to the site do we can check for malware and other potential technical problems
  2. Proof of traffic stats through Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools (I actually like Webmaster Tools better because it shows the search terms the site ranks for)
  3. A document showing past advertising on the site (this is important to make sure the site wasn’t selling spam links, and if they were, you know where to find them to get rid of them)

Once I’m satisfied, I offer to pay 50% upfront and then 50% upon completion of the move.

Transferring the site can be a hassle, but here is a GoDaddy Tutorial on it.  Don’t forget to take over the social media accounts for the site as well (Facebook, Twitter, Google+).

Finally, once you own the site on your own host, don’t forget to setup a new email address, and use it for all of your social media accounts.  Otherwise, people may be contacting the old owner if you don’t change this.

 

How To Make Money With An Existing Website

So, now that you own the site and have full control, it’s time to start making money.  Here’s where to start:

  1. Change Amazon links over to your username.  The easiest way to do this is to install the Search and Replace plugin, then search for the old owner’s username and replace with your username.
  2. Change over AdSense code.  The same tactic as above applies – simply change their advertiser account number to your account number.
  3. Find existing affiliate programs and change over to your name.  This is tougher, but I always start with the top traffic posts and go from there.

After you change over the existing stuff, it’s time to make money going forward.  A strategy I use is to ping my list of advertisers from my other websites and let them know I have a new site.  Since I’ve been doing this for several years, I have a list of several hundred advertisers.  I simply send them all an email that says “Hey, I have a new site, you interested in advertising on it?”  I typically get a response from a few advertisers immediately and this helps monetize the site very quickly.

 

How Do You Keep Multiple Sites Running

When I first started blogging, having one site was hard enough to run – let alone having multiple sites.  So, what tricks are there for running multiple sites?  Here’s my favorites.

First, hire staff writers.  Remember, these sites are like apartments, they’re not your house (unless you’re buying one to make it your primary site).  As a result, voice doesn’t matter as much.  Remember, I think of this as the difference between blogging and online publishing.  When you buy websites, you’re really getting into the online publishing business – which is all about content creation and advertising.  Whenever I buy a site, I find a staff writer that is willing to contribute weekly content.

I typically always do weekly content, unless the site is becoming successful, then you can up it to 2 or 3 times per week.  Over time I’ve found that once per week is the sweet spot, though, when looking at costs of staff writing versus revenue you can earn.

Second, leverage automation where ever possible.  I’m a big fan of Hootsuite, which has a great tool that can help you automate your social media – you can pull from RSS feeds to send messages.  I’m also currently using a different tool, which I’m going to write a review about next week, and I’m really loving it.

Finally, you can hire a virtual assistant to help you manage the other sites.  If you have a blog marketing plan, you can simply have your virtual assistant  help execute it for you.  Also, a big task of managing staff writers is editing the posts and making them web ready.  If your writers don’t do this for you, you can have your virtual assistant become the editor for you.   You can check out my Virtual Assistant Guide for more tips on how to leverage a virtual assistant to help you manage multiple sites.

 

Remember, These Aren’t Your Main Site

Remember, just like you treat your own home different than you would treat rental properties, you have to realize that you will (and must) treat websites that you buy different from your main blog.

I consider The College Investor my primary business, and I consider this site my personal brand site.  Why?  The College Investor is an online publishing platform (like a magazine), and this site is more personal and focused on my story.

With sites I buy, they are purely for making money.  Now, you still have to carve a niche and market accordingly, but it isn’t personal, and they most likely won’t develop into big brands.  Now, my site Kids Ain’t Cheap is actually starting to become it’s own brand for a variety of reasons, but that’s a different article.

So, now that you know how you can buy websites, monetize them, and run them, are you ready to start buying sites?  Share your thoughts below!

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Comments

  1. I’m definitely considering it. I have a few other things I want to take care of first before I get into this though, like killing the rest of my wife’s student loan debt! 🙂

  2. Earning from your blog or website really takes hard work, patience, and time. Just like a businessman investing and taking risks on putting up a new business. The same principle apply if you are planning to build a website and earn from it. Sometimes, it will cost you lots and sometimes less but if you have good plans and execute it properly then you’re on a good start!

  3. Nice guide to buy websites and make a profit by monetizing them and make them run while working full time. All in all the tips and takeaways you put forward was great.

    In addition, calm down a bit if you got excited about buying a website, you’ll get burned if you don’t have experience in this market and if you are not willing to do your homework.

    I found this post shared on Kingged.com, the Internet marketing content aggregator site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.

  4. A very important guide and one worthy of bookmarking ( I have done so already :D). Buying and monetization a website is a business model for many but its readily not everyone that is successful with it.

    Thankfully, this guide has described the how, what, where, why, and when to buy a website and make money from it. I am convinced that both newbies and professionals alike would take advantage of this information shared in this post.

    I have left the above comment in kingged.com, the content syndication website for Internet marketers where this post was shared.
    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

    http://kingged.com/how-to-buy-websites-monetize-them-and-run-them-while-working-full-time/

  5. I would love to do this full time. I just started my webpage about three months ago and have seen a huge jump in success lately, but I am still struggling with affiliate advertising. I’d love to pick your brain!

  6. I’ve purchased a few websites and started a few from scratch. The ones I’ve started from scratch are my babies, but the ones I’ve purchased I’m really trying to get off the ground so I can see some returns on my investment. I love websites. There’s something exhilarating about being able to grow websites by the fruits of your own labour.

  7. Excellent article Robert! I’ve gone back and forth between starting a new site and buying an existing one and have finally come down on the buying a site. You hit the nail on the head as to why – time. I understand the satisfaction out of growing a site from the ground up and seeing it grow, but I simply don’t have the time or patience to do that, even with a VA. I’ve been approached several times over the past few months to buy a site and nothing has stuck a cord with me yet, but it’s definitely in my plans for 2014. I may be reaching out with a question or two when I get closer to that as a reality. 🙂

  8. I just found this blog on Twitter and I am SO glad I did. I can’t wait to try this. I’ve been wanting to explore this for a while—thanks for breaking everything down and giving some actionable tips!

  9. P.S. I just joined your mailing list, Robert. Keep up the terrific work!

  10. Thanks for sharing this! I started my website this yer and like you said, it takes time! I finally got a PageRank from Google and I’m just now starting the make some money. There is certainly a learning curve so next time, I’ll save this article and reference it when I buy a webiste.

  11. Hey Robert,

    Thanks for the mention. Yah there is money to be made at all sides of the website buying scale from sub $10k sites to over $10k sites and beyond.

    I just sold another one of my sites that I bought for $15,000 less than two years ago for $42,000. Working on a blog post for that now (sadly can’t share the URL on that one though). But I also made about ~$30k while I owned it.

    Now if I could find deals like that every day I’d be a multi millionaire but obviously there is more to it than that hah and I’ve had a handful of buys go south as well.

    Cool blog, just found it. I’ll be a reader.

    Chris

  12. We are working on developing our blog, and I can attest that it takes an incredible amount of work to make any money with a website from scratch. I wonder, based on your experience would you recommend that someone have good experience running a website before they try to get into flipping websites? Also how do you know it is the right time to sell a website, what factors are you looking for?

    • You can do it without a good experience, but then you’ll just be learning on two sites instead of one site.

      For selling, it’s up to you. Maybe it’s time, maybe it’s that you’re ready to move on. Everyone sells for a different reason.

  13. There’s a big money online! I have many friends get rich and still on the process of getting richer through website marketing. They hire freelancers online with low rates and they save money than buying existing website, What’s good thing about this is that they can monitor their websites even if they are working full time!

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