Interview On The Side Hustle Show: Lessons From 175 Website Flips

mushfiq sarker

It was an honor to be featured on the Side Hustle Nation podcast. In the podcast, I discussed many aspects of website flipping, including my strategies, how I do due diligence, and more.

Interview Podcast

Interview Show Notes

Nick Loper hosts Mushfiq on the Side Hustle Show podcast. Mushfiq discusses his strategies for getting easy wins – updates that can increase revenue and traffic quickly on a newly acquired site. For Mushfiq, the “easiest of easy wins” is to include display ads on a website. Subsequently, performing simple CRO and SEO techniques can further increase revenue and traffic. In addition to these easy wins, Mushfiq discusses his primary strategy for website flipping, criteria for buying, the importance of performing due diligence, the downfalls of website brokers, the utility of Flippa, his tech stack, and much more.

Introduction (0:00-1:26)

Mushfiq’s Basic Strategy (1:26-4:32)

While in college, Mushfiq began building websites as a hobby. In 2008 or 2009, he sold his first website for $25,000. Based on this success, Mushfiq designed a three-part strategy for flipping websites, which he continues using to this day:

  • Buy a distressed website.
  • Apply easy wins, which can be outsourced or done in-house
  • Selling 12-18 months later for 30-35x monthly profits

Buying the Best Sites (4:33-9:32)

Websites can be purchased on private content site brokerages, including Empire Flippers, Motion Invest, and Investor’s Club. However, Mushfiq recommends using Flippa to sites with the easiest wins. 

Before purchasing from Flippa or elsewhere, it is crucial to define criteria for purchase. Here are Mushfiq’s criteria: 

  • Age: At least six months old
  • Google Analytics Integrated: To verify traffic
  • Under $50,000 sale price: Independent of monthly revenue multiple
  • Distressed asset: The website is generating low revenue despite high traffic and high-quality content
  • Affiliate Opportunities or missing affiliate opportunities: Mushfiq’s preferred monetisation method is through conversion rate optimised affiliate linking
  • Existing Affiliate Partnerships not optimised for conversions

Thoughts about Amazon Associates (9:36-10:46)

  • Given the cut in affiliate conversion rates over the last several years, Mushfiq and others have moved away from Amazon.
  • In 2018, Mushfiq generated approximately 80% of his revenue through Amazon Associates, but now only about 25% is Amazon-based.
  • Part of Mushfiq’s strategy involves diversifying existing affiliate partnerships toward other e-commerce platforms. If this is not possible, he does not purchase the website.

Selling with Due Diligence (10:47-17:01)

When purchasing a website, Mushfiq uses two phases of due diligence:

  1. Quick due diligence involves looking over a site quickly to determine whether or not more critical due diligence is worthwhile. This usually takes less than five minutes.
  2. Critical due diligence involves contacting the site owner to gain guest Google Analytics access to verify traffic trends, the popularity of articles, geo-location of traffic, backlink profile, history of the site, and content quality. 

Once due diligence is performed, Mushfiq asks the seller how much they want for the site, attempts to negotiate a lower price, settles, and begins the transfer process. Mushfiq never makes the first offer during negotiations, nor does he participate in auctions.

More on Brokers (17:02-18:30)

Sites on brokerage sites are often valued higher than on Flippa and offer less potential for easy wins. However, the potential for easy wins differs on the broker:

  • Motion Invest is likely to have the highest number of under-valued sites with the most easy wins compared to other brokers.
  • Empire Flippers typically has very few under-valued sites and less potential for easy wins; however, good sites can be found on Empire Flippers from time to time.

More on Buying and Selling (18:31-20:33)

  • “Unicorn websites” offer the potential for 10-20x monthly revenue, come around 1-2 a year, and are kept in Mushfiq’s portfolio “for life.”
  • 80% of sites Mushfiq buys have the potential for monthly revenue to double or triple within a few months. He finds around 1-2 of these sites a week out of the 100 or more he reviews per week. 
  • In addition, Mushfiq brokers deals to a private network of website flippers. 

Red Flags in the Backlink Profile (20:34-22:44)

When performing due diligence, Mushfiq analyses the backlink profile for red flags, including:

  • Toxic backlinks, such as those to Russian or Chinese sites, adult links, casino links, pharmaceutical links, etc.
  • Private blog networks: Mushfiq refuses to buy sites affiliated with private blog networks due to bad experiences in the past.

Benefits of Aged Domains (23:31-26:35)

While aged domains come with some risks, they have a lot of benefits, including:

  • Long-established topical relevancy within a specific niche
  • An extended backlink portfolio with high authority sites
  • Instantaneous traffic flow from an already existing audience
  • Saves money on backlinking
  • Traffic can be redirected to another site to build authority there

Other Easy Wins (27:09-33:29)

  • Follow the 80/20 rules: 80% of traffic will come from 20% of pages. Optimise the top 10-15 articles after acquisition to quickly boost monthly revenue and traffic.
  • Insert Affiliate Links on Commercial Pages: Create comparison tables, call-out boxes, and contextual links to increase conversions.
  • Insert SEO elements: Headers, internal links, proper structure, and other SEO elements should be included where relevant to optimise the website pages for search engines.
  • Redesign The Site: A complete redesign of a website removes outdated or non-functioning plugins and replicates website designs that have proven successful in the past.

About Mushfiq’s WordPress Tech Stack (33:30-34:27)

Elements of Mushfiq’s WordPress tech stack include:

  • GeneratePress Pro Version WordPress Plugin: For website theme design
  • GenerateBlocks Plugin for GeneratePress: For website and webpage design
  • WPRocket WordPress Plugin: For caching to make the site run faster
  • AAWP WordPress Plugin: For Amazon Affiliate marketing
  • ManageWP WordPress Plugin: For managing multiple websites from a central dashboard

Use of Display Ads (34:28-36:45)

  • Mushfiq states that “the easiest of easy wins is to just add display ads to increase revenue almost overnight and then you can do other things to [the website]” (36:00-36:10).
  • Display ads generate revenue immediately but do not significantly affect affiliate revenues.
  • Research is suggesting that readers correlate the presence of display ads with a site’s authority. 

Stay Away from PBNs! A Case Study (36:46-39:43)

  • Several years ago, Mushfiq bought a website that looked like an easy flip. However, the site was part of a private blog network (PBN) and received a manual penalty from Google.
  • Empire Flippers provided a list of 300 sites that were part of the original buyer’s PBN after the penalty, and Mushfiq had to send a disavow file to request that those links be removed. At the time, Empire Flippers did not report whether a listed site was part of a PBN before sale. They now make this known.
  • The links were never removed. But Mushfiq recovered and pledged never to buy, broker, or recommend a site with PBN links.

What To Keep and What to Sell (39:44-44:32)

  • When buying a site, Mushfiq aims for “hockey stick growth” – massive growth in a short amount of time.
  • If a site has hockey stick growth, Mushfiq waits six to nine months before deciding to hold or sell.  Sites with a strong, non-replicable backlink profile are held for longer than the initial six to nine months. These sites may be kept for up to five years, but they will eventually be sold.
  • The majority of sites that Mushfiq buys, he tests for long-term potential during the first one to two months. If they aren’t appealing, he sells them within his private network of buyers.

Concluding Remarks (44:32-End)

  • In his concluding remarks, Mushfiq discusses his full-time job working in the renewable energy space. Despite his success over the last 12 years, website flipping is Mushfiq’s side hustle. 
  • Additionally, Mushfiq discusses one of his sites: Here, Mushfiq hosts a newsletter where website flippers can learn about the industry, building a portfolio, and monetising websites.
  • Both Nick and Mushfiq stress that people entering the website flipping industry should start by building their own website before purchasing one.

mushfiq sarker

Analyzed by Mushfiq Sarker

Mushfiq has been buying, growing, and selling website assets since 2008. His first exit was in 2010. Since then, he has done 218+ website flips with multiple 6-figure exits. He is the founder of The Website Flip. Check out all Mushfiq's articles, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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