had the chance to talk to Mushfiq Sarker, one of the top website flippers on earth, with a track record of 215+ exits, 1000s of online businesses reviewed and multiple 6-figures generated.
Mushfiq to give us an overview on what it takes to buy, grow and resell websites for a profit in 2023, how to avoid the mistakes he made, and what opportunities he sees in the near future for aspiring website investors.
Who is Mushfiq Sarker? How did you get into site flipping?
I actually stumbled into it when I was in college. In 2008 I ran into some websites talking about SEO and built my first website around the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) niche because it interested me. I sold the site to Slashdot Media for $25,000 in 2010, which was game-changing for a 20 year old college student!
At that point I was hooked, and learned all I could about SEO, building new sites, ranking them, and repeating the flipping process. With these skills I learned how to buy undervalued or under monetized websites, build them up quickly, then flip them for a profit. I kept working to make my model better and more profitable, and this remains my current business model.
What factors do you consider to identify undervalued websites with potential?
I have a large worksheet of “easy wins” whenever I remake a site, and I’m looking for websites where a lot of those actions haven’t been taken by the site owner.
These quick fixes can boost your growth FAST:
- Taking a website on a bad hosting plan and upgrading to a better host
- Changing ads from AdSense to a higher earning ad platform like Ezoic or Mediavine
- Adding keyword-based H2 and H3 headers in existing content
- Adding internal links to related articles to improve topical authority
The short version is that I’m looking for sites that are killing it in one way such as great content, expertise, great backlinks, but then poorly optimized in other important ways.
For example, if a site is finding some success while ignoring major parts of SEO or good content creation, then I can probably get great results from some simple changes.
Some of the best potential undervalued sites are:
- Hobby sites by experts who don’t know anything about SEO or online optimization but have written years’ worth of in-depth content
- Sites with good keyword research and writing but terrible SEO work
- Sites with good writing and backlinks, but terrible technical SEO
- Sites with a lot of traffic using very basic monetization like AdSense
I have bought sites where simple on page formatting of the top traffic articles and upgrading to better hosting was enough to see a massive surge in traffic. I’m always looking for sites with a lot of these easy wins.
How To Value A Website’s Worth: 9 Factors You Need To Know
- Is the domain aged and brandable?
- Backlink profile (you need an SEO tool for this. Best ones are Ahrefs and Semrush)
- Traffic history and sources
- Revenue sources
- Monthly profit and loss statements (P&L)
- Seller’s identity information
- Why is he selling the site?
- The website’s techstack (theme, sitebuilder, plugins etc. )
- Operational costs
What’s your general strategy to grow a website?
The first thing I do is fix any foundational issues
. Make sure the site has good hosting, a good theme, overall site SEO like sitemaps, etc are set up properly.I like versatile themes like GeneratePress or Astra that load quickly, run smoothly, and allow a lot of customization.
For hosting, Cloudways is good for beginners, whereas Big Scoots is what I suggest to more savvy advanced users
. If you’re on a budget, cheap shared hosting can work for a while, but you want to upgrade to something more dedicated on at least a VPS level when you can afford it. Cheap shared hosting like HostGator or GoDaddy can work, but also tend to come with major problems, especially as your site grows, so I would avoid the hassle.
The Best Tools To Create, Grow and Monetize Websites
- Web Hosting: Cloudways
- Theme: Generatepress Pro + GenerateBlocks
- Caching: WP Rocket
- Image Optimization: ShortPixel
- SEO: RankMath
- Tables: Ninja Tables Pro
- Multi-site Management: ManageWP
- Ad Management: Ad Inserter Pro
- Amazon affiliate links: AAWP
- Internal Linking: LinkWhisper
- Security: Wordfence
Then, I want to make sure the on-page SEO is optimized on the top performing articles, improve and optimize monetization immediately across the site, and fix the easy wins that can have an immediate positive impact on how Google and other search engines view the site.
Longer-term and more work-intensive fixes come next, while I’ll push for a big content push on keywords I’ve researched and picked. More traffic and better monetization equals more money and a higher value for the website.
How do you identify potential buyers, and what strategies do you use to sell them effectively?
I have sold many sites on Flippa, and other online brokers depending on the size and style of the website. I’m very comfortable on Flippa since I have bought and sold sites on there for over a decade, but it is an open marketplace so that’s not the best spot for inexperienced beginners. On the other hand, Flippa is great to find undervalued sites built by enthusiasts and not professional website flippers.
Empire Flippers and curated marketplaces are great for deals six figures and over, and places like Motion Invest are great for beginners who haven’t gone through the buy/sell process before and need to learn how the ropes work.
The best Websites Marketplaces (based on 215+ Website flips):
Flippa: great for everyone except for beginners
Motion Invest: perfect for newbies
Empire Flippers: best for 6-figures deals or higher
In my case because of experience, I’ll also reach out to previous buyers, or look for companies who have a portfolio of similar sites to gauge interest. If you spend enough time making good deals in the space you do pick up contacts over time who will negotiate directly or may even help you make contact with a potential buyer.
Beginning to prepare for the sale a month or two beforehand makes it much easier to sell the site effectively for a higher rate.
I always have detailed profit and loss statements, evidence of traffic and income, and a prepared business summary for potential buyers that highlights all the positives of the website for sale. This report includes things like major backlinks from authoritative websites, various income streams, or number/variety of traffic sources.
How do you determine the value of a website before selling it? What metrics/factors do you consider?
The markets tend to set an average price based on monthly earnings. A content-based niche site might be 32-40 times monthly average income while an ecommerce site might be 12-20 times monthly average income. This varies based on the monetization and markets, but that gives a starting range that most sites are going.
The average net monthly income (NOT gross) is always the main determining factor of a website’s value on the open market.
Getting to the higher side of market average or even above that involves preparing the site for sale, being able to point to valuable hard to get backlinks, information products for sale, email lists, anything extra that can add demonstrable value to a potential buyer.
Can you discuss any mistakes or failures in your site flipping career and what lessons you learned from them?
There was a site in the health/medical niche that I consider a failure. It was technically a profitable site after figuring out expenses, but it was only a few thousand and not worth the time and work investment. The high profitability of the niche initially attracted my attention, but I lost interest before too long and spent my time on other more interesting projects.
There were a few big lessons I learned from that. One was to be careful when entering a competitive niche that you are not that interested in.
When it takes more work to rank in a very competitive niche, especially one that is considered YMYL by Google, you need to be in it for the long haul.
This also taught me to not get drawn in by RPMs alone, and look at the larger picture
. If Niche 1 has 40% the RPM as another niche, but I can get 4x the traffic because it’s much less competitive, then that is likely the better use of my time. Especially if my interest between the two sites is around the same.
The other lesson is to always keep refining your system
. I had dozens of successes at that point, and while that was a failure to me, it also helped me further refine my systems, see what mistakes I made, and avoid similar ones in the future.
What niches or types of online businesses are particularly lucrative for flipping right now?
This depends more on the individual website than the niche or business type in most cases. There’s plenty of opportunity out there. The marketplace for affiliate and display ad sites has jumped notably the last few years, and e-commerce provides excellent opportunities for a high cash flow level many niche sites with display ads will struggle to match.
My suggestion for beginners is to look at niches you know and can provide expert insight on
, or to pick a niche you want to learn about
since that interest can carry you a long way in the process. On the other hand, also take into consideration that if a niche is interesting to you, it is probably interesting for a lot of people (more competition). This is typical with hobby niches. On the other hand, there are quite a few boring niches with low competition.
If you know niche sites with ads/affiliate setups, don’t leap all-in to ecommerce sites. If you know how to build a successful ecommerce site, it’s easier to replicate that than to learn an entirely new skill set for a different website type.
Google Search is going to be something totally different soon. What challenges and opportunities do you see with the advent of SGE?
We won’t honestly know until it rolls out and we see the full impact. There are always new challenges and new opportunities. No one knows the actual effects of SGE until it rolls out and we see the real world data.
It’s impossible to say what niches will be affected, but ANY content site that just straight up answers questions like “How many calories in chocolate” will lose against SGE. That’s a one-sentence answer that SGE will answer faster and possibly better.
I’m in no hurry to change my business model. Especially before we know what the new online landscape will look like.