We’ve talked about trademarks on the Flippa blog before. While there is inherent risk of a DMCA takedown notice when buying a potentially trademarked domain, some buyers aren’t troubled by this possibility, and some domains that contain a trademark can be used under a fair use policy.
As always, we don’t attempt to police potential trademark breaches on behalf of trademark holders but actively work with them when they bring breaches to our attention.
As a result of recently working with a number of these trademark owners, we have developed measures that will now block some specific trademarked URLs from being sold on Flippa.
This list currently includes some frequently-used trademarked names such as Twitter, Google and Facebook and will grow over time upon request by trademark holders.
If a site listed on Flippa infringes on a trademark you own, you can report the listing through our DMCA Procedure (pdf).
Does this guarantee that there won’t ever be trademarked domains on Flippa?
Not quite. While we’re now blocking certain trademarks from being listed at all, this only applies to a defined list of trademarks. It’s still up to trademark owners to defend their intellectual property by reporting infringement. If you’re purchasing a website or domain name listing on Flippa, then we encourage you to run a trademark search via the United States Patent and Trademark office, or at Trademarkia. particularly for .com, .net, .org and .info domains.
Apologies in advance to the owner of FacebookTwitterGoogle.com …
Robert Birming isn’t one to shy from adventure. So when the bricklayer-turned-musician-turned-web entrepreneur received requests to create an English-language version of his Swedish site Smidigt, he jumped right in. Little did he know that decision would ultimately lead to his first experience as a website seller.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” Robert explains. “Many of the major blogs posted about the fact that an English version of Smidigt, GeekAlerts.com, had been launched. I planned to run it for a long time and had no thoughts whatsoever to sell it.”
He loved all aspects of the new site—“everything from searching for cool stuff to write about to following up on comments,” he says. “I guess I spent around five hours a day on it during the busiest periods.”
That was fine, until a project Robert and his business partner were working on started to require more and more time. He decided to offload the site by selling it.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, since this was my first time as a website seller,” Robert reveals. “I asked around about where one could sell websites and almost everyone answered that Flippa was the way to go.”
Just 14 bids and a matter of days later, he’d sold GeekAlerts.com for $52,000.
Robert had no trouble building up trust with potential buyers, or trusting them himself. He was happy to post statistics, revenue figures, and more as prospects sought more information, and really enjoyed the sales process.
“My advice to anyone who’s planning on selling a website would be: devote a fair amount of time to the sale process,” says Robert. “Be active and follow up on everything. It’s well worth it!”
“I was happy with the price and—equally important—I was very happy with the buyer,“ Robert explains. Given all the work he’d done through the sales process, it’s no surprise that the transaction went without a hitch.
These days, he says, “I love the way the site is being run. They are doing a great job with it. GeekAlerts still has the same spirit and I’m sure the readers are very happy with the new owner.”
As you might expect, Robert’s entrepreneurial passions didn’t end with the sale of GeekAlerts. He and his partner are currently working on a real-time group chat web service called Qvaq, and developing new features for popular Swedish social news website Pusha.
“We have a brand new project that we are very excited about in the pipeline,” Robert adds. “It’s still very hush-hush, but I can say that it will be something unique and very useful for bloggers (and others).” We’ll be intrigued to see it launch in early 2012.
This is a guest post by Dave Hermansen, the seller in the recent PitchingMachinesNow.com case study and an all-round whiz on buying and selling ecommerce websites.
Back in 2005, I built a little e-commerce store that sold bird cages. My site ranked “okay” in Google and I was turning a decent profit, but certainly not enough to quit my day job over. I liked the bird cage market and knew it well, but to get to the next level I knew I needed a site that got more traffic than mine did.
I knew in time I could greatly improve my rankings and traffic volume. However, I’m not really the patient type, so I decided to look around and see if there were any “high ranking” websites for sale within the bird cage market. I found a site that ranked #2 in Google (much higher than my site ranked) for the phrase ‘bird cages’. I knew that with a site ranking that high, I would be KILLING IT! I bought the site for $1,800, spent a year and a half “fixing it up” (and making a lot of profit during that time), and then sold it on Flippa (still SitePoint Marketplace) for $173,000!
Why was the previous owner crazy enough to sell it for only $1,800? And how was I able to turn around and sell the same site for $173,000? Read on, and I’ll tell you.
When it comes to making money with an online store, profitability really comes down to 3 things:
- Traffic – obviously, you need to have visitors coming to your site.
- Profit Margin – there needs to be a decent-sized gap between what your customers pay you and what you pay your supplier
- Conversion rate – the number of visitors you “convert” into paying customers. Visitors are worthless to you unless they actually place an order.
If you take away any 1 of these 3 things, a site’s profitability AND VALUE goes way down.
Finding Sites with Traffic
So why was the previous owner of this bird cage site willing to let it go for so little? You guessed it, 1 of the 3 factors was missing. The site had high rankings and got a ton of traffic; that wasn’t the problem. And, being in the bird cage market, I knew the profit margins were good. The problem was that the site’s conversion rate was in the toilet. Even though the site had a ton of visitors, very few of them placed an order! Low SALES means low PROFITABILITY which means low VALUE. That’s why I was able to snatch it up for only $1,800.
That’s STEP 1 of this little website-flipping formula: find a website that ranks well and gets a lot of traffic but isn’t very profitable because of its LOW CONVERSION RATE.
Of the three factors, conversion rate is the easiest to fix. It takes a lot of work, time and patience to improve your rankings in Google. But you can easily double or triple (or more) your conversion rate overnight!
Take this bird cage website I bought, for example. No offense intended to the previous owner, but the site looked awful! It honestly looked like a 7th grader had made it for her website design class project. It just didn’t build visitors’ trust and confidence to persuade them to pull out their credit card. And then, even for the few customers who were ready to buy, they couldn’t even make payment online. They had to mail in their order! Very awkward!
Focus on Conversions
That brings us to STEP 2 of the formula: make improvements to the website to boost your conversion rate. A higher CONVERSION RATE means more SALES which means more PROFIT which means more VALUE. That’s all I did! I made the site professional-looking. I made it easier for customers to find what they wanted. I re-wrote product descriptions. I did everything I could to build visitors’ trust in the site and the products I offered. And I allowed customers to pay by credit card on-site.
There are all kinds of different ways to boost a store’s conversion rate, but there are two big keys. First, put your store on a first-rate, cutting-edge, professional shopping cart platform. Using the right store software makes all the difference in the world. And second, always accept credit cards right on your website.
Cash in Your Work
STEP 3 of my site-flipping formula is to sell the site on Flippa, which I can honestly say is the ONLY place I’d consider selling a website. After boosting my bird cage site’s conversion rate, profits soared (and I made a lot of money)! After showing consistent profits for several months (to establish an ongoing track record), I listed the site for sale on Flippa and ended up getting $173,000 for it.
So to re-cap, here’s my 3-step formula:
- Find & buy a site that gets a lot of traffic but isn’t very profitable because of its low conversion rate.
- Make improvements to the website to boost its conversion rate, which in turn boosts its profitability and value.
- Once you’ve established a good track record of consistent profits, sell the site for a huge profit on Flippa.
Dave Hermansen is an ecommerce expert who has been involved in over 50 successful ecommerce stores. His success in ecommerce led to him being interviewed on Fox News and featured in an article about ‘website flipping’ in The New York Times. Dave’s free ecommerce training course at StoreCoach.com teaches people how to make serious money in ecommerce!
Boise-based Dave Hermansen, with brothers Kevin and Mike, didn’t plan to sell their online business PitchingMachinesNow.com when they built it. These brothers have the process of building, launching, and monetizing ecommerce sites “down to an art”—they’ve created more than 50 stores over the last few years.
Yet the promise of a new venture convinced the brothers to sell the site. Just 24 hours later, it was listed on Flippa.
And within days, the site had sold for the Buy It Now price of $149,000.
“We really only use Flippa for selling websites at this point. It’s the highest exposure you can get for a website auction online,” Dave explains, and indeed, that expectation paid off.
“We set our BIN at the maximum amount we thought we could possibly get,” he reveals. Three potential buyers offered that price.
Among them was aspiring entrepreneur Matt Caldwell, who showed the listing to his dad, Randall.
“Matt will be attending college in the Fall of 2012 and is planning to major in Entrepreneurship,” Randall explains.
“The plan was to loan Matt the money to buy the business and use the profits to pay back the loan, with interest, and pay for college.” It’s an experience Randall hopes will give his son a real-world education in “sales, internet marketing, customer service, order processing, inventory mgmt, accounting and more.”
Randall used his 20-year career in sales and commercial real estate investment to guide Matt in finding a good opportunity.
“Matt searched multiple market places … and sifted through hundreds of listings over a year,” Randall says. “The goal was to find a business that had a track record, and cash flow over $3,000 per month (to cover the cost of the loan and college).”
The pair’s other requirements—which included price-to-profit ratios, margins, search rank and scalability—were also covered in the comprehensive PitchingNachinesNow.com listing.
Most importantly, says Randall, the site “was a good fit—something that he could get excited about selling.”
Both families found each other credible—a big factor in the smoothness of the sale, which took just one day, from due diligence to the wire transfer of payment.
But that personal touch mattered long after the sale was complete.
Says Dave, “They’ve picked my brain a lot and I’ve tried to give them good advice on how to grow the online business to maximum potential.” Randall explains that, as well as expanding the product mix to include additional pitching machines, batting cages, and mounds, the Caldwells are thinking outside the box to build the business.
“PitchingMachinesNow recently partnered with Cal Ripken Amateur Baseball,” says Randall, “and has established a retail presence … in Aberdeen, MD. We’re also in discussion with some of our suppliers about becoming an East Coast distributor for their particular products.”
The sale of their online business allowed Dave and his brothers to focus on the launch of StoreCoach.com, a community dedicated to helping ecommerce site owners to build and run profitable ecommerce stores, with free training, exclusive tools, forums, and an SEO center.
And not surprisingly, Randall and Matt are Store Coach members.
It looks like this family alliance is set to last for some time.
Designer/developer Calvin Froedge might have built his business, Creative Logic Media, on a base of great web projects, but by the time he landed a large programming gig in 2010, he knew what he wanted.
“I started Creative Logic Media over the summer when I was 16 … selling websites to local businesses,” he says. He built the business over the next few years, but when he landed the programming gig, he decided to sell up.
“I had no expectations,” he says of his Flippa sale, which netted over $100,000 and featured in the A-List premium website review newsletter.
The buyer, Adam Radly, is a serial internet entrepreneur and investor. “I’ve bought approximately 15 large business priced at more than $1 million and countless micro businesses priced below $100K,” he explains.
“I was planning on starting a new business to offer these services but came across this business on Flippa and decided to buy it instead.”
Given his history, it’s no surprise that Adam needed what he describes as “a lot more info” than most site sellers usually provide—even on Flippa. Adam admits that Calvin “spent months working on straightening up the books, auditing the financial statements, etc. to make all of the accounting more professional.”
“It was a big eye opener to how the business world expects you to do business,” Calvin adds. While he had a great portfolio and loyal clients, it was the financials that really sealed the deal. With the additional information in hand, Adam felt comfortable with the business’s position.
Building trust was an important part of the process for both parties. “The sale process was fine,” Adam explains, “because the seller and I took control of the situation and addressed each other’s concerns.”
For Calvin, one of those concerns was around the fact that this was his baby—a business he’d worked to build with real, live clients, over a period of years. But, he says, “I wanted and needed to let go in order to move onto other things I was more interested in.”
Today, Calvin’s pleased with the way things have turned out. Adam’s just hired a team member to run the business, and has plans to grow Creative Logic Media to include online video production, SEO, and social media management services.
And both have other projects on the boil. “I’m working on two other startups,” Adam reveals. “One is an ecommerce business focused on the “green” world, and another will be a major review site.”
For Calvin, a regular income as a programmer hasn’t stopped his aspirations as an internet entrepreneur. “I just built LumberHandling.com to help my family market their lumber handling equipment,” he says, adding that he’s also built a payments system for the CodeIgniter web framework, which allows users to use one API to communicate with multiple payment systems.
“You can find out more at calvinfroedge.com,” he says. “I’m also working on MangoReservations.com … and People2Remember.com.”
Sounds like we’ll be seeing more from both of these internet entrepreneurs real soon.