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The $16,000 Mistake: Lessons Learned From a Successful Website Flipper

The other day I did an interview with Michael, the seller of EbookReaderGuide.com. I titled the interview, “The $14,000 Flip,” because that was the amount of money Michael grossed on the deal. As I learned more about the sale, I felt compelled to interview Missy, the original owner of the site.

I wanted to interview her because much of the website’s success was because of her initial SEO and marketing efforts. And after looking at her Flippa profile, chicagocubsfan, she was obviously a reputable and successful website flipper so I figured she could provide some useful information to other inspiring flippers.

I also wanted to interview her to find out why she sold EbookReaderGuide.com so cheap. Michael was able to buy it from her for only $1,850 just four months prior to selling the site himself for a cool $16,000! In this interview she explains how that happened but more importantly, she provides some great insights and what it takes to build and sell websites successfully. Enjoy:)

FW: Missy, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I know you’re busy these days so I appreciate your time. How long have you been flipping websites?

I come from the Bryan Clark school of flipping, which is where a group of us, got our start including SuiteJ and others. Good interview with him by the way. He’s a nut, but a good guy.

We all joined his Blog Flipping Blueprint membership class and learned the ins and outs of the trade. This was back in 2008. I’m a slow learner. lol.

The thing is Clark sold the site and class shortly thereafter. This is before I knew that a site flipper sells EVERYTHING. Which reminds me of the comedic article I need to write entitled, “How Do You Know You’re With A Site Flipper? Because He’s About to Sell Whatever Site You’re On,” lol.

After Clark sold it all off, we (the students) were without a teacher. Well, I was. I still had a lot to learn and had many questions but nowhere to go. After that I just learned on my own by still keeping in contact with other up and coming site flippers.

My biggest flip at the time was a Twilight Movie site I created, which surpassed my expectations with quick steady revenue from the get go. I sold it for $800. From there on I was hooked on website flipping and through trial and error I have learned how to flip websites.

FW: I know you didn’t actual start your Internet Marketing career as a flipper so tell me how you got started with all this online craziness?

In March 2007, I became a vegetarian and decided to chronicle my journey online so I created my very first site, a blog on Blogger. In April 2007 I was hired by green mattress online retailer, Keetsa, to write newsy-type articles. I’m still with them to this day. They are very nice people to work with.

Over time, I just learned about everything to do with blogs. In July 2007, I ventured into WordPress and created Groovy Vegetarian, which since has become the #1 vegetarian blog in Google. As of this writing, it still holds that top spot. Yay!

My biggest achievement, revenue wise, has been a blog I created in October 2009, yes – the now infamous EbookReaderGuide.com. That site just blew through the roof in revenue. Each day it was payday from Amazon. I had not seen anything like it with any other site or blog I had created.

It was created as a flip. I always intended on selling it. I planned to sell it right before Christmas, as I knew the revenue would be high – plus Kindle was the big boy in town then and was getting lots of good press – not too mention at the time I was cash strapped. I needed to sell it.

I created a major goof, however. I sold it for too low a price.

FW: Yes, that site was definitely a success in more ways than one. Now the obvious (and painful question), why did you sell it for such a low price?

Essentially what happened is that I didn’t want to oversell so I undersold it. I thought most of the revenue I was making was on the high side because of Christmas. I figured after the holidays it would die down some so I priced the site at $200 a month revenue as that was what I had made so far with the site when I initially listed it for sale on Flippa November 20th, 2009.

When the auction ended several weeks later, the buyer flaked out on me and wanted to only pay via PayPal, which I would not accept. If you look at the comment area of my INITIAL listing from November, you will notice the revenue updates I provided – by that time it was more than $200.

On December I relisted the site, but I chose to list it with the previous listed monthly revenue of $200.

BIG MISTAKE!

Michael and I had been in communication from the first sale. He wanted to buy the site, but the other bidder won. When I relisted the 2nd time which was now December 14th, Michael sent me a message right away and stated he was still interested so I sold it to him that day. If you notice, there was only one bidder.

After all was said and done in the month of November 2009 I had made over $500 in revenue, and for the month of December 2009 I made over $900 in revenue from the Amazon affiliate program.

Not only did the revenue NOT die down some after Christmas, it increased – to the tune of $900 again in January 2010 and $1,400 in February 2010.

So yes – I’m kicking myself in the arse for letting that site go for $1,850! A big loss for me! But we live and learn.

FW: Ouch. I know the feeling. I undersold one of my sites one time as well. I still kick myself in the arse on that one too. But you’re right – you live and learn and you move on. Well I don’t want to beat a dead horse here so let’s talk about the things you do to make these sites so successful. What do you do to promote your websites?

I’ve learned that internet marketing is basically this:

Find a highly searched for term…
That you can compete with in the serps…
That pays well…
That (has some degree of) longevity…
That people buy

That’s it. That is what affiliate marketing is to me.

I tend to gravitate towards organic search engine traffic as my preferred method of online marketing. It’s what I know and apparently have a knack for so I stick with it.

FW: That about sums it up in a nutshell. That’s basically what I’ve been doing as well over the years. It’s a simple formula but it works! How about site monetization? What do you typically do there?

It depends on the niche but I quite like Amazon because it’s well known, has a HUGE inventory, and I love their affiliate options such as the immensely helpful, “Site Stripe“. I love that tool. They do a good job with their affiliate program – as in they make it easy for us to promote them. (IMHO)

FW: That’s interesting because so many people complain that Amazon doesn’t pay out that well (myself being one of those complainers) but Amazon can definitely be lucrative – and is definitely a quick and easy way to monetize a site (even if the revenue isn’t that great at times). Speaking of money, I have to twist your arm about these “money pages” that you referred to in your recent comments on my blog. You said you wouldn’t tell me what these were but can you throw me a bone?

I’ll never tell. lol. Basically “money pages” is just a wacky term I have coined to affiliate pages on my sites. That’s it. Maybe I will build extra backlinks to them or promote them in other ways. But they’re laced with affiliate links. Pretty simple stuff, really!

FW: Now I can sleep tonight…lol. Thanks for finally solving the mystery for me. Let’s talk about niches. How do you determine what niches you’re going to build websites around?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on hot product niches – consumer oriented items that sell well and are sort of expensive (which translates into nice affiliate commissions). There are loads of niches out there. I’m focusing on things I have an interest in and or find entertaining as I want to have fun as much as make money.

If it isn’t fun, I will most definitely lose interest and lose interest fast so I am really looking into things I personally enjoy.

FW: You and I think alike. I know some simply chase the money but I can’t do that. If I don’t have at least “some” interest in the niche, I’ll never get motivated to give it 100%. I know your expertise is primarily in building websites to flip, but do you ever buy websites to fix up to flip?

That’s a really great question. I did buy a site from another flipper last year – it was a PLR site. I still have it but I haven’t done a thing with it. It’s just been on the back burner, but I did buy it to resell it. It has a neat design to it as the seller is known for her spiffy high quality designs so it’s on my to do list.

FW: I’m all too familiar with the infamous “To Do” list. You should see all the lists on my desk right now…lol. My final question for you is this – what advice would you give buyers of websites? What sorts of things should they look out for?

Know what you’re buying. Is it an affiliate site? An AdSense site? An Ebook site? And do you know how to promote or grow it? Look at the niche and do your research on the niche. What serp position does the site rank for? How’s competition? What about monetization – how does the site make money? If via Amazon, do you have an Amazon account?

Look at everything within the scope of online marketing as it relates to the site in question, and get to know the site. Ask questions, do your due diligence. Have a plan of action. Then go for it! Online marketing is hard work, but it can also be great fun. Learn the process, take action, and enjoy the ride!

FW: Great words of advice! Thanks Missy so much for your time. I wish you all the website flipping success. Speaking of success, I see your most recent auction is doing very well:) Congrats…

Be sure to check out Missy’s blog at g34Media.com and if you’re a buyer and want to be on her V.I.P. list, sign up here. It’s free and will give you the inside track to the sites she has for sale.

About Travis Van Slooten

Travis is an affiliate marketer and website flipper who ran FlipWebsites.com until the Fall of 2010.

This entry was posted in Selling Websites and tagged .

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  • nero

    @travis:i just stumbled upon this blog and i loved it,i first time realized how fun it is to read like minded people,

    @missy: congrats on your success with the new ipad auction.things happen,we should learn and move on,that was good lesson to me too,i am now re-considering about 2 of my blogs .i think some patience and hard work will pay off.

    “site flipper sells EVERYTHING” :spot on.sounds like pretty much my mentality,this is going to be the most used catch phrase around soon. dont you guys think the same way? every time i start a new site,the first thing i evaluate is “how much i can make if i sell this site”? (offcourse in case it goes flop)

    • TravisVS

      Nero:

      Glad you like the site! I always assume that any website I buy or build will eventually be sold. I can’t imagine holding a website for more than 4-5 years. Even this website that I’m very passionate about will likely be available for sale someday. Granted, it may be several years, but it will eventually be sold. I just can’t imagine sticking with one project (i.e. one site) for more than 5 years.

      Travis

  • http://www.mikeroosa.com Mike Roosa

    Really enjoying the site. Great interview and like the weekly updates.

    • Travis

      Mike:

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your kind words! I appreciate it. If there is any information I’m not providing that you’d like to see on this site, let me know! I’m all ears:)

      Travis

  • http://www.flippingawesome.com Ian Anderson

    What a story Missy! Thanks for the great ideas! We have to get better and creating and HOLDING a site! We’re so quick to flip it the same day, we have to hold some!

    Ian

    • http://www.g34media.com Missy

      Hey, Ian:

      You guys are doing pretty good, man. Cool tag team both you and Amy. Everyone flips differently, but as long as there’s success – that’s all that matters.

      p.s. Love your “Flipping Awesome” site. Good stuff!

  • Ryan

    Missy – great interview, great story, and this flip case study provides a valuable lesson for all flippers, experienced and newbies.

    I’ve also undersold sites, and only a true flipper knows the emotional roller coaster of a Flippa (formerly sitepoint) auction! With Private offers coming in, live bids going up, deals being made…ahh, it is quite the thrill!

    Anyway, Missy is going to rock the site flipping world for a long time to come, and I wish her nothing but the best.

    - Ryan

    • http://www.g34media.com Missy

      You rock, too Ryan. Thanxs for the good words!

  • http://Www.flipfilter.com Flipfilter

    Hi Travis & Missy

    It’s great for beginners to read interviews like this and realise that there is no magic to site flipping – just hardwork and common sense.

    Best of luck with the next flip Missy

    Justin

    • http://www.g34media.com Missy

      Magic? lol. None that I know of. Creativity, hard work and resourcefulness are my trademark.

      Thanks for the support on my next flip!

      Cheers,
      Missy

  • http://www.g34media.com Missy

    Beat a dead horse is right. Ouch! That one still hurts. lol. Hopefully I will make up for it, with my next flip.

    Thank you for taking the time to send me the questions, and getting the story straight from me. Love your blog!

    Cheers,
    Missy

    • Travis

      Missy:

      Well you’re already have way there with your iPad cover site:) I have no doubt you’ll more than make up for the loss.

      I enjoyed getting to learn more about your business. Thanks again for the interview!

      Travis