Have you ever thought about selling your blog or online business, or maybe you’ve even considered buying a digital asset from someone else, but you’re kind of uncertain about how it all works?
Well, this week on the podcast, I’m chatting with Greg Elfrink Head of marketing at empire flippers, an online marketplace where people can buy and sell their websites.
Greg has tons of helpful information to share, including why you might want to sell or buy a website, how to know how much your website is worth, the three biggest things that make your website attractive to a potential buyer, what the buying and selling process looks like, and lots of fun examples of people who have bought or sold websites with great success. We even chat about where Greg sees the future of online business heading in the next few years and what this might mean for you.
So if you have a food, nutrition, or wellness website and have ever thought about selling or buying, definitely give this episode a listen. You might be shocked at the opportunity out there.
Let’s dive in.
Erica Julson: Hi, Greg. I’m so thrilled that you are coming on the podcast today. I can’t believe I haven’t had anyone on the podcast yet to talk about buying and selling websites. So you are like the perfect person. So thanks for giving us your time today.
Greg Elfrink: Thank you for having me. Hopefully I’ll be able to add value to the audience.
Erica Julson: Yeah, definitely. So I always like to start out by learning a little bit more about my guests. So could you tell us more about your background and how you ended up getting involved with marketing for empire flippers?
Greg Elfrink: Sure. So I used to work in a very similar industry known as the oil field oil field roughneck in Alaska is where I’m from, uh, hated it.
So I sought other avenues. I taught myself internet marketing, bought a bunch of courses, courses like what you sell, right? That taught me content, marketing, SEO, blogging, and long story short. I tried a lot of different things that I failed. And then I, uh, started freelance writing and I’ve built up a huge portfolio and that led me to empire flippers.
And I was just always obsessed with internet marketing. I have this, uh, sounds weird, but I like to identify as like an artist and I view marketing as like the most applied form of art there is like, if you were really good at it. And, uh, I always knew this world existed. So I reached out to empire flippers when they had the job opening and I started off as the blogger.
So, uh, that was almost six years ago. And now I’m the head of marketing. And what we do is we’re the largest curated marketplace in the world for buying and selling online businesses, profitable online businesses.
Erica Julson: Sweet. And had you sold any websites before you started working with them or are you just like dove right in,
Greg Elfrink: yeah.
Good question. So, when I was still doing freelance writing on the side of the oil rich. I, uh, decided to, you know what, I’m going to do this. I’m going to. Don’t care if it kills me, I’m going to make this affiliate site work at this affiliate site I was working on and I had reached out to EF, uh, like, Hey, well, how should I go about like, preparing this to sell?
And surprisingly, we didn’t have a lot of content back then, you know, very small team. I was employee number four and now we’re over a hundred employees, times have changed. But yeah, so I was in the process of building one. When I, uh, got the job when I saw the job opening and I applied and then they brought me in, I moved to Vietnam, I’m in Bangkok right now.
And yeah, it’s history from there. I never picked up the affiliate site again. I’ve just been obsessed with this cause I just find it so much fun.
Erica Julson: Well I don’t think everyone listening to this podcast is familiar with the idea of buying and selling websites. So maybe let’s start there, on one side, why might someone want to sell a website?
And then on the other side, why might someone want to buy a website?
Greg Elfrink: So this is a question, a lot of people ask at the beginning of their journey. You know, like if I have a site that’s spitting off, say 2, 5, 8 grand a month, why would I ever sell my golden goose? Right. Like, it doesn’t make sense for people.
Sometimes. So, the reason though, it comes down to two different reasons. Usually it’s so personal and business reasons, right? So let’s say you had a, a blog making $10,000 a month in revenue or net profit. And that is valued at say a 300, $400,000. In terms of evaluation, you know, you might want to sell that if it gets you closer to your personal and business goals, which is what I always tell people like to, how to consider it.
Like if that $400,000 leads you through what I call the doors of possibilities, because when you sell your business, either your stores, the possibilities open, because you often get the biggest life changing capital or biggest sum of capital you’ve ever gotten at one time. Right. Which is usually fairly life changing.
So that $400,000 might then go be used in say, real estate investing, stock investing or crypto, if you’re more risky, I guess. Right. So there’s all sorts of different opportunities. A lot of times sellers sell to get capital to become buyers. So they’ll like sell that $400,000 site for instance, and then they’ll come back to us.
So buy a few smaller sites that they now have the skills, like they’l buy a site that’s earlier on in the journey that they know exactly the roadmap of how to grow it. And they’re creating a whole assembly line of just selling, buying, selling, and buying. Right. Which is where the flippers part of our name comes from people flipping businesses.
Erica Julson: Kind of like real estate, lots of parallels.
Greg Elfrink: Exactly. So that’s some of the sales stuff right on the buy side. There’s a lot of different reasons why to buy. I think the biggest, one of the biggest reasons is like, if you want to go fast and making money online, I think this is the absolute fastest way.
It’s the capital intensive. Sure. You have to put out money for it, but you’re buying a business. That’s making money from day one. It already has proven product market fit, which is where most businesses fail. To be honest, right. They come up with a great idea or a great concept. And for whatever reason, the market just doesn’t like it, or it doesn’t take to it.
Or maybe they did the traffic wrong. There’s just an insane amount of variable. It’s why that business may never have taken off. Right. Versus when you buy a business that has historical profits, the market has already said, we liked this, right. We like what we’re seeing here. So it gives you, an advantage from that.
And you also have a lot of data to work with. So if your audience is familiar with things like, conversion rate optimization, for example, CRO if I’m starting a business from scratch, I can put like the best practices of CRO on there. We get the highest conversions of people like clicking my affiliate links with display ads.
Right. But it doesn’t really matter that much because I don’t have any traffic versus if I buy a business already has traffic, but then I do CRO I could literally, you know, increase revenue and increase net profit by 20, even 40% relatively quickly, because I am already working with a known entity, if that makes sense.
Erica Julson: Yep. Yep. I also would say, I agree with you that, that first like year or two of starting an online business or website or whatever it is like the slog, you know,
if you can jump over that if you have the money, I can definitely see why that would be an attractive choice. So let’s see. Let’s pretend somebody has been blogging.
And they’re thinking about selling their site. How does empire flippers come into play there? How do they help make the process easier?
Greg Elfrink: Sure. So I always tell entrepreneurs, when you go to sell your business, it’s a, it’s what I call a highlight event, right? It’s not something entrepreneurs are doing all the time.
Like even the most prolific entrepreneurs, which, you know, we have multiple different projects at any given time. They mightsell one, maybe two businesses every two years. If that. Cause it takes time to build it up, like what you just said, the long slog, right? Like, all right. I will see you in like 30 months when I have something new.
So it takes a while because of the. It’s very easy to fall into all sorts of bad traps when you go to sell your business. So that’s the key one is not knowing what you’re worth. Right. cause again, why would you? Like you don’t do look at valuations every single day, right? So that’s the first thing we help with is knowing what you’re worth and whether you use us or not.
Right. that’s something I really passionate about. Cause I’ve seen a lot of my friends sell their businesses for far less than what they could have gotten and, like significantly less, because they didn’t like get about going to get a proper valuation. Right. So that’s the first thing we help you with.
The other thing we’ll help you with is organizing your business, put it in a presentable package, make it look good. And usually this is, one of the more tedious aspects as it will be helping you build like your profit and loss statement. For example, a lot of entrepreneurs, especially in our space, they’re more like big vision, but very bad with the numbers.
So the P&L side, which I’m one of them, I’m a marketer, I’m a high creative, so I’m bad with numbers too. But, so that is something we help you build. And then once you are through our actual process, we have an entire, our vetting process is what we call it. Once you get listed on the actual marketplace.
My team goes out to our buyer network. We have an email list of over a hundred thousand people, a buyer network of $5 billion of liquidity ready to be deployed. And our sales team helps you actually sell that business, help you negotiate the deals, all that kind of stuff. Make sure you don’t fall for any of the common traps there.
So that’s just some of the stuff we do. We’re a, we’re a marketplace, but we’re also like a full service M and a brokerage. Right? So whether you have a $30,000 website or like we just listed at $30 million business, we’re selling right now.
Oh, by the way, a plug for SEO on that, because I know you sell the SEO, of course, that $30 million business came in from an SEO article. I wrote back in 2017. Wow. Yeah. SEO is a gift that keeps on giving
Erica Julson: Right? Like literally years and years on. So then does empire flippers take a cut of the sale? How does that work?.
Greg Elfrink: Yeah. Yeah. So our fiduciary responsibility is to the seller, right? To get you get the seller at the most amount of money. So that’s also where we get paid. So if a buyer uses our marketplace, it’s basically a free service for them. Only the seller pays and our commission, it ranges like you’re a valuation is a million dollars or less.
We’re looking at probably right around 15%, depending on how close you are to that million dollars. And then it starts going down from there. If your audience does have a site, they want to see how much they would pay in commission. They could get, just use our valuation tool and then get an estimate evaluation and then put it into our, commission calculator, which is just empire flippers.com/fees.
And you can find out what it is. We used to have at this tier structure. So it was much easier for me to tell you what it was worth, but it was a bit unfair because. Like, if, you know, if you had a, a business worth $989,000, that’s less than a million. Right. But like at our old system, you’d be forced to pay the 15% but now it’s a sliding scale.
So it’s a lot more fair. Cool.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I can put a link to that in the show notes. So anyone listening to, if, if they’re not at their computer right now, you can also find [email protected]. Just look for this podcast episode. Also, is there an aspect of, cause I’m imagining if you weren’t going through empire flippers and you were like, just dealing with some random person on the internet who maybe like reach out to you and asked you if you wanted to sell there’s, there seems like there’s some risks there.
Like yeah, you don’t have to pay the brokerage fee, but you know, who’s to stop this person from just like running away with your website before you get paid, that type of thing. So I’m assuming there’s some, some benefit there.
Greg Elfrink: Yes. Uh, unfortunately websites like content websites are probably the most ripe where the badness or like that stuff can happen, like versus like an e-commerce store.
For example, it’d be much harder for someone to do that. Like, oh, I got your website. Like, okay, well, you don’t have my inventory. You know, what are you going to do with it? Right. So the content site, you’ve got to be extra careful. And I would say almost all the scammy action happens in the, like less than a hundred thousand dollars valuation.
That’s typically where you’re going to find both on the buy and the sell side, the little more unscrupulous people. But yeah, if you go private, I would say definitely use an escrow service. They’re not perfect, but better than nothing to hold the money in between while you’re transferring. And even if you go private, you should still use something like our valuation tool or some tool like that, to give you an idea of what you’re worth.
Cause there’s, there’s two problems. , I see often when it comes to selling privately one is not knowing what you’re worth, but the other thing is what I call emotional equity. So as you build up your business, Your business has the potential to do amazing stuff for you, right? Like I saw some of your podcasts with some of the episode titles with people, making some amazing money in short periods, right.
And that can radically change your life in a positive way. So when it comes to actually selling your business, a seller will often have an outsized view of what their business is worth thinking is worth way more. Than it actually is worth because, you know, maybe it let someone stay at home with their kids or travel the world or all this cool stuff.
Right. Then investors will start low-balling them in a private, situation. Right. And what that leads to is this disparity between the two, your price being very high, their offers being very, very low. His seller gets frustrated and just worn out and like fine. Yeah, of course. Okay. I’ll take it for that.
But the thing is that’s a buyer strategy is to keep going low because they know they’re going to wear you out and they know no one’s going to pay the huge price you’re asking for. So they know they got time on their side to wear you out. Right. Versus if you knew your actual valuation, it’s much, much easier for you to sell that privately.
So those are two things along with the escrow thing you’re going to sell privately.
Erica Julson: And what type of people would be buying a site? Is it just like regular entrepreneurs? Is it like businesses? Who would you potentially be dealing with if you were selling.
Greg Elfrink: Sure. So it depends on your price range.
As you get into like seven figures and up in terms of your valuation, you’re dealing with more, not exactly private equity, but what I would call like a less fancy version of a search fund, or sometimes you’re dealing with an ultra high net worth individual or a bootstrap entrepreneur that’s built a bigger business, but usually those are the kinds of people you’d be dealing with up there.
Now on the lower end, say, uh, you know, in the, 50,000 to a hundred thousand dollars range, especially for content sites, you’re looking at a lot of different SEOs usually, or affiliate marketers, so very good at what they do. And they would be looking at your, at your website too. If you are below, say.
Yeah below, I’d say below $200,000. You’re looking at most likely an all cash offer. You get above $200,000. You’re going to most likely have to do seller financing, because there’s no financing in our industry, right? You can’t go into say your local Wells Fargo. Like, Hey, I want to buy this, $300,000 dog bowl affiliate site.
They’re like, what are you talking about get outta here? Right. So, usually as a seller, you’ve got to be a little bit flexible as you move up there, but you’re mostly going to be dealing with bootstrapped entrepreneurs, you know, mid-management folk who are trying to get into the online business world.
For instance, we had a business, I think it was around $400,000. Maybe, maybe a little bit more, that this couple bought. And their whole story was they worked at this big media company and they had a child that was born with a mental disability basically. And had to go to a school, a special school, the exact opposite way of their commute.
So they just spent all day commuting. By the time they got home, they had like no time with their kid. So they bought this business, which was a big purchase for them. I mean, they were like mid-level management, so big $400,000 is big for the average person. Right. So I followed up with them a year later and everything went super great.
They sold their house. Now they live five minutes, like walking distance to that school, quit their jobs and just run that business. So that’s an example of the diversity of buyers from bootstrap entrepreneurs, mid management to maybe even oilfield rough necks like me. Right.
Erica Julson: Awesome. So I know on the listings, so cause some people might be worried.
Oh, you know, if I’m going to list my site, couldn’t someone just go and see, oh, This site’s for sale in this niche. I’m just going to kind of like copy it kind of or something like that. , so it’s typically anonymous, right?
Greg Elfrink: Yeah. So you bring up a very, yeah. Pseudo anonymous. So you bring up a very good point and that is something to be very careful
on if you’re selling privately. Cause that does happen. Cause content sites have what I call a thinner moat. So they’re easier to copy, you know, the deeper your moat is the harder it is for someone to reproduce your business. Now of course, with SEO, it’s going to take them a long time to duplicate your business.
Right. So there’s that added benefit. But yes. So if someone lists it with us, your listing would be private like on the public marketplace, they could see like what you’re earning like a generic niche. So like if you’re selling a, you know, dog medicine, we might say it’s in a niche about pets, right?
It’s like very, very broad in order for someone to see the more intimate details of your business, they have to one register an account with us, prove, who they are, like what their actual identity. Then they also have to prove they have the liquidity to go buy your business. And an example of that $400,000 business, the only person would be able to do what we call unlocking the business.
Did they have to show us, they have at least $400,000 to go and buy that business. They have the wherewithal to actually buy it. So you’re only dealing with people who are comfortable enough to let us know how much money they have, which a lot of people aren’t right. And you’re only dealing with people that prove proven to us.
at least that they have the money to buy your business. So that gets rid of a lot of the scammers for sure.
Erica Julson: My husband’s a real estate agent. So it’s just so funny how similar it is. Oh, your proof of funds, you know,
Greg Elfrink: Yeah exactly. My, dad’s also a real estate agent that is very, very similar
Erica Julson: I actually asked my audience before this interview, what some of their questions were about this whole process.
And there were a lot of questions about like, what is actually happening on like legal side? Like, am I selling my business? Am I just selling my website? And then, you know, am I also giving people my email list? Or, you know, how does that all work?
Greg Elfrink: Good question. So on the legal side of things, it’s actually a very simple process.
Like it’s more complex to go buy a car than it is to buy or sell a business. It’s funny enough, at least in this price ranges. So you would do what is called an asset purchase agreement. So if you had like a, your website in an LLC, for example, you wouldn’t be selling that LLC you’d be selling the asset, which is the website, as far as your email goes.
So, like I say, you got an email lists that you’re doing marketing to, that would be considered part of that asset, right? Unless you want to devalue your valuation by not including it for whatever reason, which I wouldn’t advise. Cause I’d be weird to keep the email after the brand is sold. So that would be, that would go with the buyer as well.
So it is an asset purchase agreement. They’re not purchasing any kind of liabilities, that you may have incurred with your company, which most people in this business have none. So it was just a pure APA.
Erica Julson: And then how does the actual transfer process work?
Greg Elfrink: Hm. So there’s multiple ways you can do it the way we do it is the, probably the more annoying, but least risky way.
So let’s say you had a WPX hosting. It’s just throwing a name out there as you’re hosting. And you have the golden plan because, you know, you have tons of different websites underneath it, right. But if you go to sell that website with us, our migration team, so we have an entire team dedicated to transferring over the asset to the owner.
They would force that person to sign up at the same exact hosting plan level, get the same exact domain registrar account. So if you’re using GoDaddy, for example, they have to use GoDaddy, not like Namecheap or name silo. It all has to be exactly identical. And it sounds weird cause like maybe the buyer doesn’t have any website.
They can actually use the cheapest, package that WPX hosting has, but we’ve transferred hundreds of websites at this point. And there is sometimes a noticeable difference in the earnings and the kind of service you get. Even if the hosting company says no, there’s no difference at all. Right. So there is, we’ve seen it.
So that’s something we do. During this time, During the migration time, that’s when the money is being held in escrow or with us, whichever way you’re going with it. Right. And it wouldn’t be fully released to the seller until the buyer has more or less full control of it. Now us as the broker will usually hold onto the domain name so that we can always pull that back.
If the buyer doesn’t do what they’re going to say, they’re going to do, which is very rare by the way. It used to be a lot more common back in 2016, where this was like an actual fight, but nowadays our audience is trained pretty well on how to use us. So it’s a lot, lot smoother, but, the process is once everything is transferred minus the domain, the buyer will then look at the, traffic and revenue.
And as long as it’s making over 50% of what was advertised. Then they are good to release the money and once that’s done that’s a two week period. So it is what we call the inspection period. It’s just our last buyer safety net, which sellers don’t like, but buyers love, to make sure that we didn’t miss anything when we were vetting, which is possible.
Right. And after that, the money is released to the seller minus our commission.
Erica Julson: So exciting. Yeah. This is something I’m considering dabbling in moving forward, but I’m not there yet, but I have a couple of like small sites burning right now that maybe in the future I could sell.
Greg Elfrink: It’s a, it’s a great way to, uh, go fast.
You know, if you have a bunch of websites giving you that capital, there’s so much cool stuff.
Erica Julson: Yeah, I know we just moved from the LA area back up to the bay area to be closer to family because we just had our first kid and now I’m like, okay, got to come up with some fancy ways to get this down payment for a house.
Greg Elfrink: Oh, that’s a rough spot. Congratulations. By the way, I was just stuck. I was just stuck in San Francisco for three weeks, trying to get back to Asia. So like, Ooh, this hotel is really through my budget. Yeah.
Erica Julson: It’s pricey. But you know, being near family. is everything. Sure we don’t regret it. But let’s talk a bit now about like the exciting stuff that people are probably interested in, like how much a website might be worth.
So I heard you say earlier, it sounded like maybe a 30 to 40 X, range in your first example, but how do people figure out what their website might be worth like? What’s a ballpark range.
Greg Elfrink: Sure. So, I mean, quick napkin math, if you just wanted like a number that you can apply to your last. So it was based off your last 12 months, right?
Your last 12 months, average net profit. And you just want a number to get a super conservative, valuation. Just times that by 30 though, 30 X, uh, and that’s, uh, w like, I, I am so bad at math. The 30 divided by 12 would be the annual EBITDA. We use monthly EBITDA. But that would give you a very conservative valuation.
I always like to be conservative. So that way I’m more impressed when I go to sell, right? Like, oh, this is what I was way more, but, we’ve sold sites upwards of, I think our biggest one I want to say was 63 X. and that was, that was in the finance niche. And those ones tend to get higher valuations, but those are the ranges that you’re looking at between 30 and 45 X right now is where the market is currently sitting at.
Erica Julson: Right. Right. So for the math challenged, I’ll just give an example. That means like hypothetically, this is going to be a very easy example. Let’s say your website after you take into account all of your expenses, you’re making the easiest math possible, a thousand dollars a month in profit. Then you could estimate that that site might be worth that 1000 times 30 on the low end.
So $30,000 is what you could potentially list it for and get for it. That’s the very easiest example. Or if you’re making 10,000, then
Greg Elfrink: maybe 300,000. I will say, as you go up your value, like you go up in terms of your average net profit, your valuation is also going to go up like a really good framework to think about valuations is how risky is my business.
If the more riskier businesses, the less valuable it is because people aren’t as willing to pay a premium for risk, right? They’re looking for a, buyer’s looking for an income machine that they can scale, not for a very risky job or a sinking ship right now. Don’t get me wrong. Some buyers are looking for that because they know how to fix ships and they’ll be able to.
Do amazing stuff, but they’re not going to pay a premium price for it. So the more premium your valuation is, that means the less risky or businesses and there’s things you can do. A traffic diversity, for example, getting your traffic from SEO, social, meaningful traffic, where, it’s actually like coming in.
Like you don’t want like, oh, I’m getting 99% of my traffic from organic Google at 1% from social, like that won’t really like, do much for your evaluation, but it was like 20% that now that we’re talking right. Because it mitigates. What happens during a Google update my site goes away. I have no organic traffic.
Do I still even have a business? Right. Which is why I’m a big fan of people building email lists because it checks so many boxes. There is a common misconception on email. Like I have some friends like, Hey, I have an email list of 50,000 people. How much does that add to my valuation? And I’ll ask them, well, how much does the email add to your revenue?
Like, well, nothing. I know I don’t send any emails. Like, okay, well it’s actually hurting your valuation, but they’re like, you need to use it. But email is great because it’s a traffic, it counts as traffic diversity. Right? You have another traffic channel that can’t really be taken away from. And you can use it to increase your revenue, increase your, Goodwill of your brand and even explore and launch brand new things.
From an affiliate marketing perspective, I know some people who have affiliate programs, they only allow you, you as the affiliate to promote via email, because they don’t actually want you competing with them on SEO or their paid traffic. Right. So like, yeah. Promote to your email. Don’t talk about us anywhere else.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Email is super powerful. That’s my number one marketing channel by far. So it, especially if you’re selling, I guess if you’re doing like, you know, just ad revenue or something can give you extra page views, but I’m always a fan of diversity.
Greg Elfrink: I, so there’s this website. I can’t talk about the niche, but we sold it and it was, it was pretty high end.
So it was, I think it was like 1.3 million con uh, one, $1.3 million dollare content site if. I remember. Right. And they had this really interesting thing. They were mainly display ads, but if you joined their email, list they offered, like I think if you pay them like five or $10 a month or something like that, you can have an ad free experience on the website and they’ll give you like a little deeper dive pieces about, you know, their niche.
They had a recurring revenue from that, which is crazy. They had like a significant amount, of monthly recurring revenue from that. Gotta
Erica Julson: get creative man,
Greg Elfrink: for sure.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I’ve had, I had a membership site now that I’m talking to you, I’m like, maybe I should just like sold it. I just stopped running it at some point.
It was in the nutrition niche, but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll pick it back up and try to sell it again, but, um, yeah, similar, where it was the monthly recurring fee for paywall content. What about, how long does it take to sell a website on average? Like, is it, oh, I throw my website up and then I get offers tomorrow or, you know, is it like a couple months from now?
Greg Elfrink: What’s what’s the average. Yeah. So your audience is in a really good position to go fast. So content sites out of any business model where we saw. So we sell a lot of different kinds of businesses, right? From content SAS, e-commerce Amazon FBA. We do, we do it all, or we’ve even sold like iPhone apps. But content sites go very quickly.
If you look at the average days on market, across our marketplace on all listings and all sizes and all like all business falls about 27 days. But content sites, like I have a friend, he had a million dollar content site in the pet niche. He sold literally that day, all cash offers. Was very weird. I wasn’t expecting that.
I was expecting to at least take a month, but , I got an email or a Facebook message like, oh man, you changed my life. Like what happened? You must’ve got a really good offer. Like, oh, like the deal’s already done. So we can go very fast. Sites are less than a hundred thousand dollars on our marketplace are very rare.
Like if they’re a quality site is very rare that they’re on our site by the, by the end of the week through usually they’re sold much sooner, often within a couple of days. So we have, we have. They’re actually sending money, , as credit on file with us. So that way they can’t be beaten by someone else’s bank wire, getting there, getting to us first, and they have these due diligence systems that make them go super, super quick to make decisions because they know how competitive that spaces.
And they’ll buy a hundred thousand, $200,000 a website and just a few hours of looking at it. Right. Because they know the value of it. So not saying like your audience goes to sell with us and that it’s going to be sold within an hour. Right. It’s just content sites in general move very quickly. Especially on the lower end of the valuation price.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I used to write for authority nutrition, like around the time when they got bought by Healthline. I know I’m like I’m familiar with, you know, the value because basically Healthline acquired authority, nutrition, and then took that, which was already a really high performing nutrition website. And this was before.
Your money or life like debacle with Google,
Greg Elfrink: but they found that
Erica Julson: yeah. Um, they, they bought that and then just like took the whole website and made it like a sub section of their website. And then Healthline went, washoooo, you know, they got great results,
Greg Elfrink: so I’ll give you a, I’ll give you, or your audience a tip. You might actually know this since you do SEO, but, there’s a strategy I’ve seen sellers use to build up websites very quickly.
We sold one of my friend’s sites, I think for 250, $250,000. And it was only a little bit over a year old, which is unheard of in the SEO world, like brand new domain only a little bit over a year old, over a little bit over a year old. So what he did was he went and found, went to the second page of Google.
and found all the hobbyists and passion bloggers on the subject, but basically just given up on their blog. You know, they, maybe they committed for a few months, but you know how it is, most people would give up cause they don’t want to wait like 24 months to make $30. Right. So, uh, he went and reached out to them and he would just buy their sites that made no money.
And he spent anywhere between a, you know, a hundred bucks, I think upwards to five grand was his biggest purchase. And then he would take those sites and he would 3 0 1 them to his website. So if you had like a. You know, a, pudding cake recipe article that comes from this hobbyist website, you could recreate that blog post on your site and you 3 0 1 it to that individual URL.
And then all the other content that you can’t use, like say they have pictures of them with the dog. Like, obviously you’re not going to use that. Why would you, you just redirect that to the homepage of your website? And he was able to get massive amounts of back links and content really cheap doing that.
Obviously you have to edit it and massage it a bit, but yeah, that was a really good strategy for a similar to Healthline buying authority, uh, authority, nutrition, maybe thinking of
Erica Julson: that. That’s definitely, I think that was the strategy behind it, for sure. Because, I mean, especially all those backlinks that you could get doing that so valuable
Greg Elfrink: way, way cheaper than buy them or building them yourself for sure.
Erica Julson: So what is a buyer looking for when they’re purchasing a website? Like what are like the top three things they want to see?
Greg Elfrink: Sure. So, like I mentioned earlier, they’re buying a, an income machine, right?
They’re looking for something scalable. So if you’re working like 80 hours a week to maintain your business, and especially if it’s a low value, low valuation business, like they’re probably not interested. Right. They’re looking for something that already has some systems deliberation. The beautiful thing with content sites is SEO is like one of the most passive traffic sources you can get once you, once it’s actually coming to you, right.
You don’t have to do much to maintain it. So that’s already a huge plus for, for people in your audience, but buyers are also looking for growth potential. So, and this sometimes trips up sellers, cause they’re like, oh, I need to sell them on all the potential growth of my website, which is actually usually a terrible.
The better way to sell a buyer on the potential of your business is by telling them all the bad things about your business. A lot of sellers, they like, no, don’t look, don’t look at all this, all these mistakes I’ve made over here. Right. But that’s actually good. Cause like, if a buyer sees like, oh, they don’t use a content silos or topic clusters at all, uh, they don’t do any internal linking um, oh, they’ve never done any CRO.
Cause they don’t understand how to do one of those tests. Like this is all opportunity to the buyer, right? They’re like, yes. Tell me more about your failure. Because like your site is already making all this money despite the failures and mistakes. Right. So, and the buyer’s going to figure it out anyways.
So you might as well be honest and use it to your advantage. So those are some of the stuff buyers will be looking at it. Ironically, if your website is super optimized, like in every single way, like I’ve, I’ve a good friend. He’s. Crazy good SEO, like insanely good SEO. And every time he tries to sell a website with us, despite how good and clean his website is, he struggles because he’s just so optimized that buyers don’t know what they can even do.
Right. Like they, like, they need to grow it somehow. Right. So it like that, that’s part of what buyers are looking for that growth, that potential. Is it risky? Is it not? One thing I would say is like, if you get all of your traffic to your website on one page, that’s a lot riskier than say having a hundred different pages bringing traffic, right.
If you’re like all your power’s coming from one referring domain, also a risk factor versus like say a good healthy amount, like a hundred, 150 referring domain, stuff like that. So they’re going to be measuring you on those kinds of factors. Those are just some of the stuff they’re looking for. Of course, every buyer, it could be radically different from each other, right?
Like I mentioned earlier, so that what they’re looking for might be a bit different, but some people might love a fully optimized site. Like we sold my friend site. I was just talking about, because for them it’s a buy and hold strategy where they do nothing. They just like lay a little bio, hold it and let the business grow by itself without really even touching it sometimes versus other people wanting to go hard and really grow their acquisition.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I’ve seen that in the food blogging space too. People buy up sort of like you were talking about earlier sort of abandoned food blogs who maybe half their posts. They weren’t even using a recipe card plugin or something. So there’s no recipe schema. And they’re like, oh, well that’s an easy win. Just go in there and fix that up.
Is there like a bottom line price range or, you know, traffic range that somebody would maybe need to aspire to in order to even start thinking about selling.
Greg Elfrink: So the threshold was pretty small, to be honest. So with us, you have to show us that the over the last 12 months, your average net profit is over $500 and that’s pretty much it.
So it’s not ridiculously big. And like, you can go like, that’s the smallest for us, but you could go even smaller. Like I have SEO friends, they’ll buy sites are making 20, 30 bucks a month, you know, and to them, that’s a really good sign that it’s out of the sandbox and they have their whole SEO infrastructure set up.
Ready to pour the gasoline on the fire once they acquire you. Right. So content sites, and this is really only a content site thing. You can sell content sites that you built that don’t even make money and people will buy them for a reasonable price sometimes. Right. So yeah, you can, you can sell some quite small sites.
I wouldn’t say there’s any threshold way in terms of, is it worth it? I would suggest unless you’re planning on giving up, like for whatever reason, like you just hate it. I would, I wouldn’t sell a site till you’re making at least say two or four grand a month or ideally five grand a month, because I’m a big believer you should sell businesses when it gets you in some shape or form significantly closer to your personal or business goals.
And that, that amount of money is a decent sum to help people on their journey. Yeah. And
Erica Julson: it’s, it is harder to get to that first 1000 than it is to go from 1000 to like 4,000.
Greg Elfrink: Absolutely. Absolutely. So that’s another reason, like I tell people. Uh, you know, who get demotivated month, 24, making $30, like keep going.
Don’t let up the gas. Cause I promise you by month 34 or 37, you are going to love it. And it gets even better. I have a, I have a friend. I met him years and years ago when I first joined him at EF, uh, he had a gardening website. That was just your basic run of the mill affiliate website that made nothing for, I think, close to two years, maybe a little bit shorter, but, as of last week, that little gardening website has now earned, him, uh, 17 and a half million dollars.
And this is over a period of six years. He got a 17 and a half million dollar raise. Now he did a lot more than just becoming an affiliate website. He started off as an affiliate website, but use that as a base to grow into his own eCommerce store, his own brand he’s on TV, talking about gardening, all sorts of stuff that he’s done, but he used a content site as the kernel for this amazing business.
Something I tell content site owners all the time to do. Very few will ever listen to me. He’s like, no, I just want to rank and bank and forget about the whole thing, you know, like, but this is the most valuable traffic in the world, right? So you can do amazing stuff with it, but you’re absolutely right. Zero to a thousand dollars is wicked hard.
It is a super big grind. And that’s why I suggest don’t sell to you’re a little bit further ahead. And most of the time when you get further and you realize, wait, okay, Now I can do all this stuff and go from five grand to eight grand so much quicker. And you have all that other content that’s now starting to rank because you never let up on the gas.
It’s like I’ve often seen sites go from, you know, 0, 0, 0 to $30 a month, then $80 a month. And then fast forward, six months, your $500 now on month eight suddenly you’re making four grand, like there’s huge jump just from all the content ranking. Right?
Erica Julson: Yeah. I know. It’s so much fun to watch,
Greg Elfrink: especially. It’s awesome.
Yeah. It’s very fun.
Erica Julson: I’m a few months into a new site and it’s just starting to get the little, like the little bump of traffic. Obviously there’s still a long way to go, but even just the little beginning, a rise in the right direction is super motivating. Uh, and then I had a question that’s probably relevant specifically to my audience.
Does it matter if your brand is a brand name or a personal brand when you’re selling.
Greg Elfrink: Very good question. I think for the people in your audience that create courses, this is especially important. So, when you go to sell a business, you have to like, if I, if I have a fitness website and let’s say I have an 8 pack, which I definitely, don’t definitely not, but let’s say I did.
And I’m doing like all these YouTube videos of like showing you how to do the workout exercises. Right. And I go to sell that business, the like say a 65 year old, person who maybe it’s a woman. I was buying the business. She is not him. Right? Like, that would be a very difficult thing for her to take over that business.
Versus if that person had instead employed someone to be the star of those videos, who is an employee of the business. Now that’s 65 year old woman can take over the business. No problem. Cause the system is there, right. There’s a system there. So I always tell people, your website should always be a brand name, unless you’re doing like consulting or something, which is, uh, you know, a business you can’t really sell anyways cause you’re selling time.
Right. But I would say it’s always should be a brand name. When you first started out. There’s a lot of advantages of being the face of the brand because people resonate with that more than say a logo. So I think when you’re first starting off, it can really help you to make a lot more money quicker, get you like expert status in your niche faster, but over time you want to remove yourself.
Like it shouldn’t be the Erica show or the Greg show, right. It should be my employee’s show and the brand show, ideally not even my employees should be the brand. Like they, when they think of that employee, they think of the brand, right? So that way it’s much easier for you to sell, but there’s always transition process, right?
You can start off with being faced first and then later on transition more into that brand over time, that is going to be much more powerful for you, whether you sell or not, and definitely going to help you when you go sell. Because if you sell with a personality brand, you’re going to get a very low, multiple, very low offers, going to be very difficult to say.
Erica Julson: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And as an example to flesh that out, for my audience, they might be familiar like this brand, the unconventional RD is like me basically. So I don’t really have any plans of selling this brand moving forward. But the example that I was talking about earlier with the membership site, that was a different brand, called the functional nutrition library.
And I basically did exactly what you said. Um, as my time. got taken up by other projects. I hired a writer to write for that site and I wasn’t really doing much of the content creation. And so technically I had a vehicle, a system that I could have sold, including a person willing to create the content. So that, that might give people a more fleshed out example in the nutrition space.
But it wasn’t like it was called the functional nutrition library. That was the URL. That was the brand. My picture wasn’t really anywhere, except for like the about page, you know, versus the unconventional RD is like more of a personal brand, um, with my, my stories and experiences and stuff. So yeah, you can, you can choose either way, but if your intention is to want to sell then yeah, definitely.
You have to think about that stuff
Greg Elfrink: for sure. I, I that’s awesome. You did that. You know, not many course creators I’ve known or info product creators I’ve known have ever done. And they just think it’s impossible, you know, like, ah, there’s, this is like, it has to be me. Like, no, it really does. It, it doesn’t have to be you at all.
When I first came on board with EF, it was the Justin and Joe show. Cause they’re the co-founders of the company and they headed up the podcast and then over a period of time now, sometimes people think I own the company, I’m doing all these podcasts and meeting people. I had this one guy he was trying to get on our podcast.
I asked him like, Hey, why weren’t you on? And he’s like, man, that guy that works for you, uh, Justin, he really grilled me hard. Like what do you mean? We’re sort of, you’re like, yeah, he’s, you’re like employee runs your podcasts, right? Like no no, I’m HIS employee,
like you like that transition will happen over time where your audience recognizes the brand more so than say, Erica, so this isn’t something you have to do right away in your business. You have time, you have time on your side. If you’re planning on selling and say 36 months from now, you have plenty of time to transition.
Erica Julson: And what about niche? So as you know, a lot of the people listening, run nutrition, food, or wellness sites. So, obviously food is not so much, uh, your money or life site that requires a lot of specialized expertise, but nutrition is. So how does your niche impact your ability to sell.
Greg Elfrink: Yeah. So I think your money or your life stuff might turn away some buyers, mostly people who aren’t super savvy about it.
Right. But with that said your money or your life niches are extremely popular. So we have buyers who only buy those kinds of websites. That’s what they want. And they love the fact that this update happened because it scared away a lot of other people who wanted to get into what is a pretty lucrative niches, right.
You know, nutrition and diet, especially very, very, uh, lucrative niches. So I don’t think as a seller, you have to worry about that the right buyers are going to come to you anyways. And then there’s also, people just don’t care, right? Like, say I I’m a say I’m a dietician. I don’t really know anything about SEO, but like, Hey, this is right up my alley.
Like I, I’m not going to care so much about the, your money or your lifestyle. I like, it might scare me a little bit, but like, I will, I am an expert, literally what I do already, you know, like, like it’s, I guess I qualify past Google’s like sniff test.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I was going to say if you’re at the point probably where you’re eligible to even sell, you’ve probably already sort of like created a site and an ecosystem.
That’s performing in a way that Google likes, if you’re
Greg Elfrink: getting ranked, Google already is approved.
Erica Julson: And then what about monetization methods? How does that impact selling? Do people want to see more passive stuff or when you said you sell different types of sites, so what, what’s your perception?
Greg Elfrink: Yeah. So, for content sites.
Usually the main monetization is going to be display ads and affiliate links. That’s the bread and butter. Sometimes there might be an info course of some store, informational product of some store. I’ve seen some content sites even sell SAS businesses or not SAS businesses. They create a SAS product within their niche, or like I said, a transform their content site into an e-commerce store.
So all of these things are fine by buyers. Some of the stuff that isn’t fine. Is the more active style of monetization. So I, I believe on your questions, you gave me, uh, it was about sponsored content, right? So that is a great cashflow play. And I should, I definitely think affiliate site owners, content owners should take advantage of sponsored content, but when it comes to selling your business, like most of the time that income’s going to be discounted because it’s unreliable, right?
It’s a quote, unquote unreliable. Even if you have a really good system for it, most buyers are just not interested in it. So you kind of have to position it as a extra on top, versus looking at it, affecting your evaluation.
Erica Julson: And do you say it’s better to have a site where maybe you employ some freelance writers to create content for you or do some people prefer it where, you know, the owners making all the content, does that impact.
Greg Elfrink: Good question. So most of the time, there might be one writer that comes along with the website. But most of the time, not even that. So usually what would happen is the contents like creator. Most of the ones that we saw, at least they’ll be using like an agency, like a content creation agency of some sort.
And they’ll give like, like they’ll have their whole system, how they do the briefs and now they do their keyword research. And that’s really like the SOP is you as the buyer buying is like how they do that, how they structured it. And then usually they just go and start using that same content agency.
Right. Or they use the one that they prefer. There are times like bigger websites that are more, you know, expert driven. They might have a small team of writers that are like, you know, more or less in-house they might still be on freelance contracting, work, but they primarily work for this website.
And in that case, they’ll usually go with the website typically, not always, but usually they’ll go with the website to the new owner and the new owner will have that too. I personally think. Yeah, it depends on the size of your business, but if you have a good solid team that is going along with the business, that will tend to increase your valuation.
Because even though that takes away from your net profit, that also makes your business more of the income machine, right? It’s actual system of leverage. And I always tell entrepreneurs, like, if you, like, if you want to get the absolute best valuation, make yourself completely useless to the business.
Like you should be the most useless person in your business because your team is doing it all for you. Or like you’re, they’re growing it without you. And that’s like the dream, right? Like creating the system and buyers love that. So, if you have something like that, that will probably increase your valuation and make you look very attractive.
Erica Julson: Right. Cause they could just slot themselves in your spot and take it from there
Greg Elfrink: easily transferable. Right. Right.
Erica Julson: And then what about if people rely a lot on paid advertising or something like that? Is that good or bad or what are people looking for in terms of traffic sources and maybe even location of traffic to
Greg Elfrink: sure.
So SEO is definitely the most valuable, uh, Uh, SEO email, I should say emails, number one, but you need something to make the emails so SEO. But those are the most valuable, uh, content sites. Usually don’t we don’t see a lot of paid media, obviously for, uh, info courses we would right, but paid media isn’t bad or good.
It’s neutral. So it’s kind of similar to what I was saying earlier about traffic diversity, right? So let’s say you have, a info product course, and you’re a hundred percent of your traffic is coming through Facebook ads. And what happens if your Facebook ad account goes down or Facebook doesn’t allow ads and that changes their terms of service or whatever, right?
You don’t have a business anymore. Very similar to the Google update issue. Like if you lost all your organic traffic, do you still have a business? So it would be looked at in that same way now from a buyer perspective, SEO is the most attractive form because it also means like you can bolster all of that with paid media.
So there’s all of that. But that’s the way it would look at who would be looking at it’s more of a neutral thing versus bad or good. I think for content sites, most buyers would want SEO, but if they can see like, whoa, this content sites making money with paid media, which is a rare thing, like one, the niche must be very good margins and two, like, that’s amazing the measure of what I’m going to be able to do with SEO.
Erica Julson: And then what about things like, having a lot of backlinks or really good domain authority. Do people look at that or not so
Greg Elfrink: much? Oh, a hundred percent. Yeah. I would say, the super veteran SEOs, they don’t, they’re not going to look at your DR necessarily. Cause this agent literally just like put, see the referring domains, the anchor text ratios, all that kind of stuff.
and just know. But other buyers who may be a little less savvy, they’d be looking at like the domain rating and all that kind of stuff. And they would be checking your backlink profile, making sure it’s not spammy, like, huh, weird. She has 20 referring domains, but 2 million backlinks what’s going on here.
Right. You know, things like that. They’d be checking that out for sure. And we actually provide an ahrefs report for our content sites when they sell with us for that reason. So as a, like just a convenience for the buyers
Erica Julson: I would say most of my audience is on a self hosted WordPress website. If they’re trying to, you know, blog, but there’s a segment maybe of people who are still on Squarespace or Wix, and maybe they’re thinking of transferring over, but they’re not sure.
Do they have to be on WordPress to sell or can they sell if they’re on a platform like Squarespace or Wix.
Greg Elfrink: So as long as it’s self hosted, so it’s not like the free version of Wix or the free version Squarespace, which I’m not sure if squarespace has no Wix does, but, uh, as long as it’s not the free version, then yes, you can sell it.
Now I would say I would, I would move you to switch to WordPress because that is where the vast majority of these sites are built on. And you don’t want to run into e-commerce stores run into this issue too. So like, let’s say I’m an e-commerce store owner. And I built a on Magento, still a fairly popular, platform, but most people are using Shopify and WooCommerce and WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, right.
Basically that WordPress plugin. So you don’t want to. Narrow your buyer pool because of your custom platform or because you’re using a different platform. I just don’t see the benefit of it. So if I was looking to sell, I would switch it over to WordPress. Like you’ll probably wish you had done it sooner.
Once he realized how much better it is versus versus the other two from an SEO perspective. And it just a user management. But with that said, we have sold really weird ones. Like there’s a CMS called ghost. I think, I think it’s called ghost. And that is like insanely fast. So a very technical SEO is a love it because it makes your site speed.
So insanely quick. And we sold websites are built on ghosts, so it’s not an impossibility.
Erica Julson: And as we wrap up here, do you have any predictions about, trends maybe in the buying and selling space moving forward, in the next year or so?
Greg Elfrink: Sure. I think a lot of what we’ve seen in the last two years is going to continue to happen, which is just a huge surge of interest, you know, with everything that happened with COVID, for instance, there was so many people that were staying in the commercial real estate space who owned these like strip malls or apartment buildings.
They’re like, oh my God, I’m not making any yield, like the safest investment in the world. Uh, so a lot of them sold all of their real estate and came over to us and started buying digital assets. So I think we’re going to see a surge of new interest, both from the buyer and seller side. I think with, remote work now being a mainstay and people like, why?
Yeah. Why am I, why would I go back to commuting? You’re gunna see a lot more people start, you know, businesses, I think last year, in 2021 was the, the most ever LLCs filed. So like the year of the entrepreneur, which means that should be great for my business in three years with making profit, I want to sell.
So I think you’re going to see a lot more people coming to the space and I think that’s going to be good and bad. So the bad, obviously more competitive, right? A lot more competition. The word is out about all the amazing stuff you can do with the digital landscape, but on the good news, like as a seller buyer, there’s never been more people to buy a business, from you and as a seller or as a buyer, there’s never been more businesses for sale.
So you have so much opportunity in this space and I see. I think that’s going to continue to grow in 2022.
Erica Julson: And for everyone listening, you know, you’re probably, even if you feel like you’re still a relative beginner, if you are creating content online and you know about SEO, you’re, you’re actually like farther ahead than a lot of people out there.
Greg Elfrink: uh, for sure,
Erica Julson: I’m sure, like if you asked my mom about like how to create a blog, she’d be like, what? So, you know, there’s like, it’s one of those things where like the more, you know, the more you feel like you don’t know, but you actually are probably more knowledgeable than you might think. So, uh, yeah, I think just stick with it, have your strategy and your plan.
And if your goal is to sell, you know, that is a viable business opportunity. Like you could start a site even from day one with the intention of selling it eventually. So, you know, like the flipper model.
Yeah. So thank you so much for enlightening myself and my audience about how this whole process works. I hope, people go and check out empire flippers. What’s the website in case they want to check it out and it’s probably pretty obvious, but
Greg Elfrink: yeah, of course it’s empire flippers.com, anyone in the audience wants to reach out to me.
If you have any questions, it’s just [email protected] or you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m pretty active on both. And, I really enjoy helping entrepreneurs. So whether you use us or not, I’m happy to help you if I can or point you in the right direction, if I can’t help you. Great.
Erica Julson: Well, thank you so much for your time today and best of luck with the business, it sounds like it’s on a great trajectory for 2022.
Greg Elfrink: Thank you.
Okay. Wasn’t that episode. Awesome. I had so much fun chatting with Greg and learned a lot. So if you made it to the end of this episode and you’re like, heck yeah, I want to create a website with the intention of selling it. Then as you may have picked up on during the conversation, building your website with a solid SEO strategy from day.
One is the best way to bring traffic to your site. So you can create an actual, valuable asset that people would like to buy, because if you can grow a site to. To say maybe a hundred thousand monthly website visitors, which, you know, may take around two years or so, if you’re starting from absolute scratch.
You can then make maybe $3,000 a month from things like an ad network, affiliate income, maybe even a digital good layered on there. And that’s a pretty conservative income estimate. And then you have a website slash email list that could potentially sell for like 90 to 120 K. And that could be huge for so many things. Maybe you want to buy a house or set up a college fund for your child or pay off debt. Can you imagine putting in part-time work for a couple years and then getting a nice influx of cash like that?
It is totally possible. If you know what you’re doing and you build with strategy from the jump. And if you’re interested in learning how to do that, you’ll definitely want to add yourself to the wait list. For my course, SEO made simple, just go to SEO, weightless.com and sign up once you’re on the list, you’ll get a few emails from me and then be invited to watch my free masterclass that outlines exactly how SEO can help you grow a profitable online business on the class.
You’ll also get an invitation to join my course. So if you’re at all interested, that is the way to learn more and sign up again, just head to SEO, waitlist.com and add your name and email. To the list. See you next time.
Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.