Investing in Online Business: Where To Buy Websites
Starting and operating, or buying and selling a business is nothing new. It has been done, in one form or another, for millennia. And, with the digital revolution, investing in online business and websites has emerged as a new asset class. The internet age has changed everything, including how businesses are built, operated and invested in.
Much is written about how best to start or grow a business online, but less is discussed about how to invest in online businesses and where to buy websites. Let’s discuss the benefits of online business investment and where to buy websites. This growing market and asset class offers wide open windows of opportunity to people at every stage of their investing journey.
Is Buying a Website a Good Investment?
Like any investment, cost and profit opportunity, and potential ROI are core considerations. Whether building or buying a website, many business investment considerations are the same. But some factors become critical much more quickly when buying an existing business (versus starting new). These include market or logistical risks, technical requirements, and operational demands.
But the rapid emergence of digital businesses as an asset class has come with impressive investment potential. David Fairley, of business broker Website Properties, estimates that these assets are “generating ROI of 20-35% annually, versus investments in equities, Real estate, precious metals etc.”
“The interest in online businesses and digital assets is exploding.” – David Fairley, owner and founder of Website Properties
Some key factors and considerations related to online business and website investing (relative to other investment types) include the following.
Income and Growth Potential
Online businesses naturally have greater market access since they are usually not bound by geographic or physical limitations. This implies a dramatically higher ceiling on potential revenue growth, which also results in greater assessed resale value.
And professional investors are starting to ‘get wise’ to this powerful combination of a borderless market and low operational costs. These factors are explored in more detail below.
Margins & Scale
In relative terms, online and digital businesses also have lower overhead, higher margins and are far more scalable. A content website can realistically be started with less than US$100 and some sweat equity, and be earning money in less than 6 months. It will not be much money, and it can take much longer, but it can definitely be done.
The low relative costs and high margins of many such businesses are rare in the traditional investment world.
If one person with a few dollars and some time and effort can do this (and there are many such examples), then consider what a more experienced operator or better funded investor can accomplish. This type of low relative cost and high margin is rare in the traditional investment world. And applying more capital in the right places can create serious leverage (and magnified returns).
Increasing Liquidity and Multiples
Buying businesses, including website investing, falls into the alternative investment category. And most alternative investments, at least in relative terms, are considered illiquid. This means it is harder to ‘cash out’ of such investments than it is with stocks, index funds, etc. There is no single, public marketplace – like a stock exchange – to buy and sell online businesses so finding buyers (liquidity) has, historically, taken time.
But all that is changing. There are more and more established market platforms and business brokers catering to this asset class. And this has attracted more (and better funded) investors. The result is that liquidity in the online business investment space has never been better, with 6- and 7-figure deals sometimes closing in just days.
…two years later and multiples have expanded another 10%. Despite market weakness in other assets, buyer demand for income-generating businesses remains strong.
With more motivated buyers comes buying pressure, and that leads to expanding multiples. On Empire Flippers, one of the largest business brokerage platforms, the average TTM (trailing twelve month) sales multiple in June 2022 was 38.3X, meaning the average business sold for ~38X the monthly profit. That number was 34.8X in 2020, a year of explosive growth for online businesses of every type. So, two years later and multiples have expanded another 10%. Despite market weakness in other assets, buyer demand for income-generating businesses remains strong.
Low Risk, High Flexibility
As with any investment, considering one’s own goals and risk tolerance, and doing appropriate research and due diligence is essential. While it is still early days, many private equity shops and hedge funds have already discovered the green field opportunities that these online businesses can offer.
So, there is little question that investing in websites or other online businesses can generate income and capital appreciation well in excess of many other investment options today.
In addition to the income+appreciation aspect and the low overhead/high margins, these professional investors are also attracted to the operational flexibility such businesses have. This lends itself to “roll-up” strategies, which focus on integrating multiple, similar businesses in order to achieve better scale and efficiency. But these characteristics, taken together, also result in a relatively low and attractive risk profile.
So, there is little question that investing in websites or other online businesses can generate income and capital appreciation well in excess of many other investment options today.
Investing in Online Business for Income vs Growth
This is always an important consideration for investors. Just as one’s time horizon is critical to investing decisions, so too is determining one’s preferred components of return. This is just a fancy way of talking about investment income (dividend payouts, distributions, etc) versus capital appreciation (growth in the underlying asset).
Income and Capital Appreciation
The average stock market investor will be familiar with the idea that certain stocks pay high dividends but don’t move much in terms of price. Other companies, sometimes called growth stocks, pay no dividend (and might not even be profitable). Investors typically hold these stocks in hope that the price will go up (and they can sell it at a gain). It is rare that stock pays a great dividend and also sees big price gains.
This combination of income potential and significant gains upon exiting or flipping the business is a key feature of this asset class.
This is not the case with profitable websites and online businesses. Like any business, profits can and often are reinvested to further grow the business. But, for the owners of and investors in such businesses it is also quite common to take monthly or quarterly distributions.
And as long as revenue expands and profitability continues, the value of the underlying asset also grows. This combination of income potential and significant gains upon exiting or flipping the business is a key feature of this asset class.
How Websites Make Money
So, online businesses are considered great investment assets by everyone from individual operators to private equity firms, and everyone in between. Unlike many investment types, they typically generate cash flow and appreciate in value, both. The way these online businesses make money can vary widely, in both profit potential and risk profile. And this means greater opportunity and flexibility.
Here is an overview of how websites and online businesses typically generate revenue.
Affiliate marketing is where you partner with companies who offer products and services that you can promote in exchange for a commission or a fee. This is one of the easiest ways to make money because it doesn’t require any upfront investment and doesn’t take too much time to get started.
Advertising & Sponsorship
Advertising through display ads or sponsorships is another online business model that can be used to generate revenue. Advertising using an ad network is a very common and convenient way for online businesses to monetize their traffic. Sponsorship deals can be more integrated into the content and potentially can generate more revenue.
Digital products (including software and apps) can offer businesses high margins and recurring revenue opportunities. These run the gamut from small, niche info products like ebooks and mini-trainings to full-blown courses, software and apps and productized services. Incorporating a membership model with ongoing consultation and an online community can blow out margins and explode revenue.
Other Revenue Models…
There are other variations, including lead generation, software-as-a-service (SaaS), other subscription-based services, Amazon FBA, Dropshipping and Amazon KDP, among others. They all have advantages and disadvantages (which is beyond the scope of this already long article).
For instance, e-commerce is typically associated with direct merchandising (an online store), which can be on a stand-alone website or Shopify site, or on an e-commerce platform like Amazon. Margins and profits can be good, but the model requires all sourcing and support of products, buying and holding inventory, and (usually) paying traffic to the product pages. Paid advertising is required because Google rarely will rank such sites and send organic traffic.
Tried and True Business Models
In fact, none of these business types are actually new. They are really online-enabled variations on tried and true old revenue models. This is a good thing, in my view. An easy to understand, start and operate business is right up my alley.
This approach has the lowest startup cost and overhead, and has lower exposure to supply chain and platform risks. And…the margins can (still) be great.
This is why I focus on publishing businesses — content sites — which are monetized through affiliate marketing, display ads and digital products (in that order). This approach has the lowest startup cost and overhead, and has lower exposure to supply chain and platform risks. And, depending on the niche, the margins can (still) be great. These types of businesses also command consistently high multiples in the aftermarket.
Leading M&A advisor and broker, FE International, recently reported that the split of primary revenue models for content businesses sold in 2021 were 50% affiliate, 29% digital products/services and 21% display/direct advertising.
The wide range of niche markets in which high value, profitable businesses are being built (and sold) is also a strong positive indicator that there is significant growth potential across many consumer and business verticals.
Website Buying vs Building
This article is about website investing, and most folks will be here to learn if they can buy profitable websites or online businesses, and potentially grow or flip them later. But building websites is a form of investment too. Let’s briefly look at the pros and cons of building versus buying an online business.
Building Websites / the DIY approach
There are no shortcuts here. It’s not even a race, it’s a game of survival. But, for many that do not have the capital to invest in a cash flowing business, building a website from scratch is the only option. And for folks with a clear vision or special skills or expertise, this approach is often the best.
As usual, time is on one side of the scale and money is on the other.
On the plus side, it gives you total control over the content and design, and the overall focus of the business. The downside is that there’s a lot to know. If not already familiar with basic web publishing tech, like hosting and page builders, then it will be a challenge. This is in addition to the niche/subject matter itself.
Also, a cold start like this on a new website will take time (from 6-18 months to start seeing serious traffic). Of course, with paid traffic and some other methods that lead time can be shortened. As usual, time is on one side of the scale and money is on the other.
Buying Websites & Online Businesses
Buying a business that already has customers (visitor traffic) and revenue offers major advantages. A site that is already generating cash flow (and is hopefully profitable) has validated it’s approach and the business/market opportunity.
Buying a website is usually an easier and faster way to start earning online. This is a good option if you want to get started quickly and don’t have the time or skills to build one yourself. In a best case scenario, once transferred over all you need to do is keep operating it in order to start receiving income.
Buying (vs building) is not a cheat code, it’s simply a way to use more money than time, in order to speed up some early steps in the process.
But before you can even think about running the business you need to perform thorough due diligence to ensure it’s what you expect. If additional resources are required to help you operate the business then considering the projected P&L in light of expenses (and any other assumptions) is also essential, in order to assess the potential ROI.
Some of that same tech knowledge noted above may also be required to continue smoothly operating the technical side of the business. Likewise, if you are not a niche subject matter expert then you will probably need one (or a team) in order to successfully grow the content side of the business. Buying (vs building) is not a cheat code, it’s simply a way to use more money than time, in order to speed up some early steps in the process. Most of the underlying and ongoing requirements are the same in both cases.
How To Invest In Websites
If you have read up to this point you will have gathered that there are a variety of ways to invest in an online business. For many, it is direct experience with building and operating websites that reveals the broader opportunities in the space. The first two methods below are the more common ones (and that’s also the focus of this article).
But direct ownership (active or passive) is not the only approach. Here are four ways to invest in websites and online businesses.
…you will be investing time and attention on managing your business either way.
Direct ownership/operation (build or buy)
Whether you build a site or other digital business from the ground up, or buy a mature online business, this is an active investment. You may spend less money and more time to build, or more money upfront (with less time) to buy…but you will be investing time and attention on managing your business either way.
…you get all the profits, and the big payoff when you exit. But you carry all the pressure and stress as well.
Direct ownership is a double-edged sword. With complete control and responsibility for both sides of the balance sheet you get all the profits, and the big payoff when you exit. But you carry all the pressure and stress as well.
Passive ownership w/outsourced operation
A less common approach but no less viable is to buy the asset and then engage an outside operator to manage it. These site operators will usually consult with you to ensure your goals and expectations are understood, and in line with the growth and profit potential of the asset.
Of course, this service comes at a price. Some companies offer a fixed fee service (with special projects costing additional $) and others will draw a smaller management fee but also take a % of profit or growth, as an incentive for good, ongoing work.
The investing time horizon here is typically 3-10 years, and the objective is usually a combination of income and growth.
Fractional ownership/passive investment
This sort of investment is quite common, but it is not widely advertised due to the nature of such investments. Think of a group of investors pooling capital along with a professional operator (similar to the above), and buying one or more large, cash flowing businesses.
The investing time horizon here is typically 3-10 years, and the objective is usually a combination of income and growth. The legal structures can vary (JVs, LPs) but the investments are usually only available to accredited investors.
Investment Funds and Holding Companies
The structure here is a more familiar one, with investors putting capital into a fund and the fund manager making all the investment decisions. Over time the fund may buy, grow and sell multiple assets, and may have latitude in terms of business type.
This is also a strength of the fund model: with a dozen or more investments, a fund will offer far more diversification.
There might even be multiple operators involved. Of course, as in the traditional finance world, fund management isn’t free. And outside operators would add to that cost.
In the above scenario, the investor pool has a stake in a specific asset or bundle of assets. Fund investors are seeking a return on the overall performance of the fund. This is also a strength of the fund model: with a dozen or more investments, a fund will offer far more diversification.
Where To Buy Websites: Brokers & Marketplace Platforms
With the rapid expansion of the overall market, there has also been a growth in business brokers and marketplace platforms catering to online business and profitable websites. And these cater to investors of all types and experience levels.
Here are just some of the places to buy profitable websites, whether you are looking for a small buy and flip opportunity or a large, income-generating business to grow for the long term.
Online Business Brokers: Small-Medium Deal Size
These business brokers and marketplace platforms will be best suited to buyers and sellers of assets under $100K in value, or in the low 6-figure range. Of course, some larger businesses will be listed and sold on these platforms too.
But most websites valued in the higher 6-figures and above will seek out brokers that have the diligence process and buyer pool suited to these larger deals. See the next section for more on this.
Flippa has been around for a long time. The range of assets listed run the gamut, from low cost starter sites to 6-figure, highly profitable businesses. In years past the site was known for lower value and sometimes sketchy sellers but the current management has really changed things up, and the results are notable.
The Flippa platform of today is very different from before. It claims the mantle of #1 marketplace, which is certainly true if measured by the total number of deals closed and total market participants. Regardless, Flippa is a major player and should not be ignored.
No matter what size investor you are, Flippa is a great resource and option. Even beginner investors can learn a lot by tracking the activity on Flippa.
Their verification process (both for buyers and sellers) went a long way to clearing out the bad actors. They also integrate directly with Escrow.com (using some sort of escrow solution is always advisable). The platform also forces sellers to disclose much more data related to the business than previously was the case. And that data is also open for all to see (which makes Flippa a great place to learn about the flipping process).
For sellers they offer low listing fees and competitive commissions (10% for smaller businesses). These come with some great perks, like discounts on Eskrow.com, contract templates and buyer vetting. I’m aware of one seller that found a buyer outside the platform but had them go through Flippa verification for security and convenience. No matter what size investor you are, Flippa is a great resource and option. Even beginner investors can learn a lot by tracking the activity on Flippa.
Blogs For Sale
Chelsea Clarke and her awesome team address a real sweet spot in the space. Chelsea is a successful site owner and flipper with multiple exits. Over time, she has attracted a community of folks seeking the same. With Blogs For Sale she now helps investors acquire online businesses, and then successfully grow and exit from those businesses.
Chelsea is focused on cultivating a buyer/builder community, and is more aligned with the acquirer side.
She’s not a traditional broker and her site is not really a marketplace platform. Rather, she focuses on helping potential business buyers find success as investors. Blogs For Sale is sort of an extension of that mission, and usually has a nice variety of small to medium sized sites available. They also have a free buyer’s deal alert, where you can set buyer preferences for site type, price, etc.
Most brokers will, by nature, represent the sellers (and try to maximize the sales price). My sense is that Chelsea is focused on cultivating a buyer/builder community, and is more aligned with the acquirer side. I am a fan and regular consumer of her content. Blogs For Sale is highly recommended!
Motion Invest caters to online business buyers and sellers in a somewhat unique way. The founders, Spencer Haws and Jon Gillham, are well-respected members of the community that go way back (so they know their stuff when it comes to profit-generating websites).
Because they are not traditional brokers the sites usually sell at current industry-standard multiples.
Although Motion Invest may look like a typical marketplace site, most of the businesses for sale are actually part of the owners’ portfolio. Their model from the start was to buy businesses that are undervalued or under-developed, and build them out. Buyers can then purchase profitable sites straight from the trusted and capable hands of Gillham and Haws. This is great for beginners and investors new to the space.
Their focus is on lower-priced websites making between $50 – $2000 per month. Because they are not traditional brokers the sites usually sell at current industry-standard multiples. You aren’t buying at a discount but you’re not over-paying either. And you avoid the risks of buying from an unknown seller. And Motion Invest is available to buyers for questions and feedback even after the deal is complete. Along with CEO Kelley Richard, they have also expanded the platform to include non-portfolio listings, which means we can expect more well-vetted assets to be listed going forward from Motion Invest.
Money Nomad Marketplace
The marketplace pages at Money Nomad have been around for a few years now, but are less well known than some other places. But it’s a good addition to the market landscape for smaller investors or new buyers. Similar to some other deal curators listed here, Zach Zorn and his team have sourced a wide range of businesses selling in the $1K-$100K range.
In contrast to some others, the variety of business types here goes beyond content sites with affiliate and display ad monetization.
In contrast to some others, the variety of business types here goes beyond content sites with affiliate and display ad monetization. One of the major market participants in the space, Empire Flippers (discussed below), saw the early promise in what Zach was doing, and took a minority stake in Money Nomad Marketplace.
Because EF targets much larger deals this platform now benefits from their deal flow, by getting referrals of smaller assets. With a regular stream of these quality properties Money Nomad is worth keeping on your radar.
Investors Club takes a more curated approach to sourcing deals and managing their members-only marketplace. The platform was launched in 2019 by Andrej Ilisin, a long-time leader in the online business investment sector. They put a focus on helping market participants buy and sell online businesses privately.
Investors Club performs a full inspection after purchase as well, and can also provide transition and training assistance.
They provide 100% exclusive listings, with a focus on quality versus quantity. That comes with a well-structured and thorough asset vetting process (a detailed sample of their template is on the site). A distinguishing feature of Investors Club are the done-for-you legal docs (contracts, APAs, etc). No limit escrow means the buyer and seller are both fully protected even on small sized deals.
On the buyer side, there is a membership step that helps in better matching liquidity with deal flow. Buyers pay no fees for transfers, inspections or escrow. Investors Club performs a full inspection after purchase as well, and can also provide transition and training assistance. They also offer a Deals Concierge managed service, to assist with sourcing and matching deals to the needs of the buyer.
Offerings range from low 5 figures to 6-figure properties. As of this writing they had 52 listings with 9 priced over 6-figures. A recent 3-month sampling of 8 closed deals totaled ~$1.3M in value. So, the Investors Club is clearly working, for both buyers and sellers.
The Website Flip – Finders Fee Brokerage
The Website Flip is hard to describe in just a few lines. It has grown from a business blog to a central hub of rich data and information about the online business and website buying market. And its founder, Mushfiq Sarker, is a mainstay in the space. He is a prolific builder/investor that has completed nearly 200 online business flips with a focus on content websites. And one of his business lines is business brokerage.
Sellers that work through him benefit from inclusion in his deal feed, and exposure to the aggregated buyer pool that regularly use it.
He offers one of the lowest commissions in the industry, with a flat 3% success fee. But Mushfiq is an active builder and flipper, himself. His vantage point and experience will help inform both packaging and pricing decisions for sellers that work with him. It also means he’s connected to a vast network of expert buyers and brokers.
Also, his Deal Feed product, discussed further below, aggregates deal details from across multiple brokers and marketplaces. Sellers that leverage The Website Flip brokerage will benefit from inclusion in his deal feed, and exposure to the aggregated buyer pool that regularly use it.
Online Business Brokers: Larger Deal Size
These business brokers cater to buyers and sellers of assets over $100K in value, and even that is too small for some. These brokers and platforms act as match-makers for buyers and sellers of online or digital-first businesses valued in the high 6-, 7- and 8-figure range and above.
Their buyers will be large individual investors as well as private equity first and hedge funds. Because such investors have larger amounts of money to deploy they must focus on businesses generating more revenue and profits.
Website Properties launched in 2002 which makes it one of the oldest player in the space.
As with a few others on this list, they focus on larger deals (6 figure and above). And they offer all the usual appraisal, vetting and listing support expected from an established, full-service broker.
Their buyer pool numbers in the hundreds, but given that they have closed over 500 deals worth over $200M in transaction value they clearly have the right kind of buyers.
The business was founded by David Fairley, a 20 year veteran of the industry, who still leads the team today. Listings can range widely, from $250k to $25 million, and the average deal size as of 2022 is ~$1M. The types of business they handle also varies, including eCommerce, Content, Saas, and Amazon FBA. Given their average deal size it’s no surprise that they maintain fairly high standards, turning down 80% or more of companies seeking to list.
Their buyer pool numbers in the hundreds, but given that they have closed over 500 deals worth over $200M in transaction value they clearly have the right kind of buyers. For business sellers it’s also worth noting that their typical commission is in the 8-10% range, with lower rates for much larger deals. This is well below some of the other brokers listed here. Website Properties is a leading broker that deserves to be on your short list.
As noted above, Empire Flippers operates one of the biggest brokerage and marketplace platforms. They have become a cornerstone of the industry and focus, these days, on 6-7 figure deals and higher. But they recently launched an adjacent ‘marketplace’ platform, which may not get a broker’s special handling, but smaller sellers will certainly benefit from the big buyer pool. There are other brokers that handle smaller and even larger deals but EF, in many ways, is responsible for much of the market’s growth in the last 5 years.
These folks are top notch and I learned a bunch from them. Would-be buyers can do the same by signing up for free and exploring the many listings.
They have done this through consistent and quality education and outreach, as well as driving standards in the space. On the long list of positives EF is known for is their vetting process. They put sellers (and their properties) through a rigorous review process, to ensure that everything the seller claims is accurate. This includes site technicals, on-page and off-page, as well as store inventory and supply-chain factors (when applicable). And, importantly, the revenue history and profitability.
This focus on quality and accuracy is why their buyer pool is among the biggest in the industry, including private equity and hedge funds, along with many individual investors. This may also be why their standard commission is 15%, which is on the higher end of the range (deep liquidity comes at a price). As of this writing, their latest weekly email listed 6 new brokered offerings, totaling over $3M in value, priced from $86K to $798K. They closed $6M in transactions in just the last 30 days, and have done over $415M in lifetime transaction volume. They had 205 active listings. The smallest was under $15K and the largest business is priced at over $12.9M.
I had the pleasure of meeting Co-founder and CMO Justin Cooke and his team in 2019 at the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. These folks are top notch and I learned a bunch from them. Would-be buyers can do the same by signing up for free and exploring the many listings. Aspiring sellers should do as well, and if you are thinking of selling your business you should definitely reach out. Regardless of the outcome, you will learn a lot from the Empire Flipper audit process.
Quiet Light Brokerage
Founded by Mark Daoust in 2008, Quiet Light is one of the most well-established brokers in the space. That their brokers are, themselves, experienced entrepreneurs who have had exits is a feature they like to highlight. Quiet Light is, unapologetically, a seller’s broker.
This focus on a seller experience that is tailored to the needs and features of the business being sold, is a strength by design. The team is known for taking a very consultative approach, which should result in sellers getting the highest price possible for their business.
…strengths include having a large and active buyer pool, and almost half their deals close at above original listing price.
Buyers should understand, going into any deal, that brokers ultimately represent the seller (and want to maximize the sale price). Due diligence is a buyer’s responsibility in the end. But would-be acquirers of online businesses in this price range generally get it. So, don’t expect some of the buyer features available on platforms mentioned above. Having said that, Quiet Light offers some great learning resources and a podcast that I never miss.
They cover a wide range of business types and sizes, with recent sales ranging from low 5-figures up to 8-figure deals. They currently have 31 listings in the 6-8-figure range. They offer sellers a competitive rate of 10% in most cases (lower for larger deals). Their declared strengths include having a large and active buyer pool, and almost half their deals close at above original listing price. If you have or seek a business in this price tier, Quiet Light has to be on your list.
FE International is a boutique broker and mergers and acquisition advisor, and a leading player in the online business M&A space. Their overall focus and expertise is on SaaS, ecommerce and content businesses, and they are making a concerted effort to compete and lead in these areas. But SaaS seems to be their sweet spot, having led deals like the acquisition of Drip by Lead Pages.
In terms of deal size and overall breadth of service, FE International most closely resembles Empire Flippers. They provide a high level of service in keeping with the larger transaction size they are known for (6-, 7- and 8-figure deals or above). The team performs deep and thorough due diligence, and stays fully involved through closing and transfer of assets.
…they report a lifetime closed deal value of over $1B, the most of any broker listed here. There is clearly plenty of buyer demand still out there.
They also distinguish themselves by the depth of their buyer pool, boasting of a buyer network with $39B in capital. Like EF above, that deep liquidity commands a higher commission (15%). But they report a lifetime closed deal value of over $1B, the most of any broker listed here. There is clearly plenty of buyer demand still out there.
If your business is netting $10K or more in monthly profit and you are considering selling it, you should certainly speak with FE International. Likewise, if you are looking to buy a business generating this type of income (or more) then you should go through their process and get on their vetted buyer list.
There are many more places to buy websites and online businesses. The list above highlights some of the biggest and best for investors of all types. Of course, there are other options for folks that want to own a profitable online business.
DFY Services & Aged Domains
If buying a website with existing revenue is not a good fit for you, done-for-you websites might be. Done for you websites are an option for both beginners and experienced digital entrepreneurs. Beginners get the benefit of expert guidance and fast site setup. More experienced site operators may use these services as an extension of their own team, freeing them up to focus on other activities.
DFY site setup usually includes some niche and keyword research, content writing and the launch of the site. All of the service providers below are reliable and trusted firms. Some of them combine the standard services with building on an aged domain, which means a pre-owned domain that may provide a headstart with Google. Some also have pre-made, aged sites already built (worth taking a look if you are interested).
Niche Website Builders
Niche Website Builders (NWB) has become a sort of Swiss army knife of digital marketing services. And they are currently one of the leading providers of done-for-you site services. This includes niche analysis and keyword research, content creation, site build-out, link building, and much more.
The firm was founded by Mark Mars and Adam Smith. They are prolific producers of educational content based on both their business and personal website portfolios. They are also active (and very approachable) on social media, so it’s easy to get to know and learn from them and their team.
They are especially well known for integration of aged domain consulting and selection into their DFY service.
They offer convenient and affordable packages, but offer a la carte services as well. They are especially well known for integration of aged domain consulting and selection into their DFY service. The video below is a great example of the deep-dive analysis they provide to prospective buyers; the associated expert analysis page on their site has more detail and is a great educational resource in its own right for site buyers/operators. This consultative approach, providing free initial onboarding discussions and regular follow up advice after sites are handed over, is a clear differentiator for Niche Website Builders.
Brand Builders Managed Website Services
BrandBuilders is a digital marketing services company operated by Jon Gillham and Spencer Haws, of Motion Invest above. There are certain business builders that are leading the way in this investment space, and these two are among them. In addition to offering operator services this company provides premade and done-for-you, custom sites for small businesses and folks looking to get started in site ownership.
In addition to the standard niche research they also offer product analysis for clients considering an eComm business…and will deliver a DFY site in less than 1 month.
BrandBuilders specializes in affiliate and ad content sites as well as eCommerce stores (for both Shopify/FBA and drop shipping). As with similar services, they can help with the full start to finish process. But they also provide buyers with a range of content templates, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and training material to help owners maximize success.
In addition to the standard niche research they can provide, they also offer product analysis on Amazon for clients considering an eComm business. They are also notable for their fast turn-around (they will deliver a DFY site in less than 1 month). Check out BrandBuilders.
Human Proof Designs
Human Proof Designs is another long-standing, trusted service provider in the industry. They have been offering done-for-you and premade site services longer than many other players. They provide the full range of content creation and site build-out services, and much more.
HPD does the vetting and identifies quality aged domains, and then will work with clients to build out content once they decide to buy.
Unlike some other site providers, HPD regularly monitors the domain after-market for exceptional aged domains, which are domains that were active in the past but have expired or been auctioned. They cost more because they usually have valuable, existing backlink profiles (which gives them a headstart with Google).
HPD does the vetting and identifies quality aged domains, and then will work with clients to build out content once they decide to buy. A quick look at their current listings and it’s clear that Human Proof Designs have some domains with great history and excellent branding potential.
Alpha Investors founder, Andrej Ilisin, is a long-time leader in the online biz dev space (and is also owner of Investors Club above). They are another quality provider of DFY site setup services. The firm provides a comparable range of services and resources to would-be operators, who also benefit from the deep expertise of Andrej and his team.
Alpha Investors also maintains a portfolio of live, revenue-generating sites that were already built on aged domains.
In addition to custom, on-demand site building services, Alpha Investors also have existing aged domain sites already generating income. So, aspiring buyer/operators can get a full site built on a brand new, fresh domain, or they could have the site built on an aged domain. But Alpha Investors also maintains a portfolio of live, revenue-generating sites that were already built on aged domains.
Like their competitors, Alpha Investors provides niche selection, keyword research and selection, content creation, and site build-out. They also make selecting among the many choices easier by bundling the essential parts with some extra options. They also include a variety of additional benefits that some other providers do not, bundling hosting, premium themes and plugins, and additional services and support. Alpha Investors has a reputation for delivering quality so give them a look.
Website Operators: Outsourcing Site Management
In addition to these done-for-you site building services and the consulting and support they provide, some of these companies also offer website operations and ongoing management. Website operators offer outsourced site management, and can take care of all monitoring and management activities, as well as continual growth activities.
…these website operators’ services usually take a consultative, collaborative approach, so you can tailor the service to your preference.
So, you can have them continually oversee technical and performance status, while also doing ongoing keyword research and content creation as well. But these website operators’ services usually take a consultative, collaborative approach, so you can tailor the service to your preference.
Investing in Websites Through Funds
For investors that don’t have the time or expertise to build or buy their own site, there is an alternative. It is possible to allocate money to profitable websites and online businesses through a fund vehicle. The investment fund manager, then, handles the investment decisions and property management.
One key benefit of funds is the diversification they offer across multiple assets. The other is that funds are a truly passive investment method.
These kinds of funds accept investment from individuals and institutions, and then allocate that capital following a particular investment theme or thesis (and focused on certain revenue-generating digital assets). One key benefit of funds is the diversification they offer across multiple assets. The other is that funds are a truly passive investment method. This is not to say there is no risk, of course.
Investing in profitable websites and digital businesses through specialized investment funds is a major topic in itself. And it’s one that I will tackle in a dedicated post another time.
Website Flipping Course & Education
OK, this is a section of one, but it’s a big one. There is really just one widely acknowledged and comprehensive course on digital business and website flipping. Mushfiq from The Website Flip launched The Website Flipping Course in early 2021 and I jumped on it.
Website Flipping Course from The Website Flip
Mushfiq has been growing and exiting websites (over 200, some for six-figure exits) since 2008. In addition he has become a thought leader in the industry. He is a prolific flipper and many buyer/builders track and model his moves and methods.
I am very selective about the courses I buy, not just for the monetary cost but also the time-spend. The Website Flipping Course is fluff-free and packed with value.
Fortunately, he shares all his processes and many secrets in precise detail in this course. I happily paid for this course when it first came out, based on his reputation and the ton of value I had already gotten from him. It covers lots of ground beyond deal-making. The audit techniques, technical SEO guidelines and post-acquisition growth hacks are all helpful for everyday site management.
I am very selective about the courses I buy, not just for the monetary cost but also the time-spend. The Website Flipping Course is fluff-free and packed with value. It’s organized well to walk you through a full end-to-end training, but can just as easily be consumed one module at a time. His 4-step framework will give you a taste of what to expect from the full course. Highly recommended!
Finding The Best Websites For Sale
With so many different options, it might seem hard to keep up with all the website investment and digital business brokers and marketplaces. Fortunately, there are two excellent and open platforms that solve this problem.
These tracker sites provide near real time updates on the latest deals, including price, revenue and profit, niche details, revenue model and more.
You can easily search and track listings for nearly two dozen brokers and marketplaces. These tracker sites provide near real time updates on the latest deals, including price, revenue and profit, niche details, revenue model and more.
Centurica – MarketWatch
Centurica is an exceptional company, holding a unique place in the industry as the go-to buy side due diligence provider. This due diligence service is something that deserves a deep-dive all by itself, but it’s really best for larger deals. However…
Centrurica also provides Marketwatch. This free tool helps you search listings (470 total, at the time of this writing) between $20K and $5M, across 14 sources. Marketwatch also shows inventory assets for ecom businesses, when applicable.
The Website Flip – DealFeed
DealFeed is provided by The Website Flip (noted in the broker and course sections above). DealFeed currently scans for deal activity across 11 sources. This tool also offers a real differentiating feature, which is deal age.
Price transparency, volatility and liquidity are notoriously hard to track for these digital assets. That’s why DealFeed is such a game-changer.
DealFeed also does something very important: it updates existing deal records when the details (price, for instance) change. This becomes clear right on the main page. As of this writing the market summary on the main page showed 245 total deals (25 new in the last 7 days). It also notes that 81 deals had recent valuation changes, and 42 deals had recent changes in multiple.
Timely and accurate market data is not something I normally associate with alternative assets. Price transparency, volatility and liquidity are notoriously hard to track for these digital assets. That’s why DealFeed is such a game-changer. Bookmark it now!
While a few of the largest broker platforms are common to both of these tools, most of their deal updates come from unique sources. That means you should definitely monitor both of these excellent tools!
Likewise, all of the brokers, platforms and other services listed here are great resources for anyone looking to invest in online business or buy websites. Whether you are looking for where to buy websites or sell websites (if you already have a profitable online business), then there are great options for every level of investor.
Just remember that online business investment is exactly like other forms of investing in a very important way: education and proper due diligence is essential to long term success. Good luck in all your website buying, building and selling!