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The Anatomy of a Successful Sale at Flippa

Posted on 10.31.2013

When the new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) arrive on the Web in the next few months, what are you going to do with your existing domain portfolio? If you're like a majority of Internet professionals and digital media mavens, you'll probably want to lighten the load a bit to make room for these new assets. So where will you turn your attention?

There are only a handful of Web destinations where domain names can be sold (several of which - including Sedo and Ebay - were referenced in Website Magazine's recent article on the subject). One of the more interesting and exciting venues (which also happened to be mentioned by my colleague Amberly Dressler) of the past few years has been that of Flippa.

Flippa has received its fair share of mentions here at Website Magazine and elsewhere in the business media and for good reason - selling on the platform is easy, inexpensive and most importantly effective (at least in my own experience). I've personally sold three domains on the platform (out of five listed) and in each and every case it's been a (relatively) simple and straightforward experience.

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The first two domains I sold were more than 18 months ago at what I would argue was Flippa's height of popularity. After creating a seller profile and providing details and descriptions of the domains, all that was left was the nominal listing fee. After going live, each of the listings received numerous (hundreds of views) and both received some heated bidding. Both of the domains sold quickly and the transfer process was without any digital hiccups whatsoever. That's not always the case however - as evident in my most recent (near) sale.

Let's take a step back, however, and walk you through the anatomy of a successful sale at Flippa. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Flippa is that sellers aren't restricted to selling domain names exclusively. The site is one of the only available to list websites, domain names or iOS apps. That opens up a world of possibilities for both professional domainers and those that build websites as well.

The fees on the whole are rather modest. New websites (those created in the last few weeks) can create a listing for $9, while listing fees for established websites and domain names that are being sold without any website/content cost $29. Premium listing are available (which is $250 for additional promotional opportunities), but I've never actually used one.

Also note that there is a success fee involved when an asset is sold. New websites will pay 15 percent of the final price while established websites, domains and iOS apps pay just 5 percent. In each case, the success fee is capped at $3,000. Where Flippa really separates itself from its competitors is in the detail it requests from sellers about the assets being listed. Sellers must indicate what kind site it is (blog, review, content, directory, forum, e-commerce, services, app), indicate what monetization methods are used (Adsense, Clickbank, Amazon, subscription, Ad Sales, etc.), and then develop a short description that will be seen in the search results and additional details for the profile page. This description can explain history, growth potential, etc. This is arguably one of the most important steps for a successful sale at Flippa so great care should be taken at this point in the listing process. 

Another equally important part of the listing process is the section on the sale process (bids and length of the auction). Sellers must set an opening bid and a reserve price. There are numerous theories on how to do that, but I tend to sell based on what I believe domains names are worth and balancing that with what I believe they will sell for and what others are currently being sold for as it tends to produce the best results (fastest sale). Another way that Flippa differentiates itself is letting the seller determine how long an individual listing should run. One particular feature that I really appreciate about the platform is that it enables sellers to accept bids from buyers rather than automatically accepting them. This really puts the power in the hands of the seller (or at least makes it more equal) as sellers can determine which buyers are serious and which are not.

The last step before launching a website listing is consequently where Flippa likely makes it money. While the standard listing for a new website is just $9, Flippa makes one more effort to get an enhanced listing out its sellers, offering up screenshots next to listings, and bolded/highlighted listings in the search results. That will provide higher visibility and additional views but with little more than 1,000 open listings at the time of sale; I don't believe it to be necessary whatsoever. A featured listing on the homepage or an individual tweet to Flippa's followers however ($50 and $80 respectively) could help generate some initial awareness of your listing.

At this point, I feel it's only fair to share my own personal story of my last sale at Flippa. After working on a website for a few weeks (as a personal development project) and completing it (in all its lackluster digital glory), the idea to list the domain and its website/content emerged based on that recent article in Website Magazine about where to sell domains in 2014 before the new gTLD rush. It was the perfect opportunity to list - so that's exactly what I did. The details I've provided above were followed pretty much exactly - taking care to list with a sufficient duration to allow buyer’s time to research the project, writing a detailed description and setting the price just right.

All was well with the listing at launch, and the activity up until the last few days was exceptional. I answered questions from prospective buyers, even managed to do a little promotion to my personal network to ramp up the activity. In the end however, just one bid was received. It was welcomed, of course, but the problem was that I automatically accepted the bid (which if you recall was part of the initial listing process). In most cases I assume this would not present a problem, but in my case it most definitely did.

The buyer to which I sold the domain was actually banned by Flippa. I of course contacted the Flippa support staff immediately, but they were simply unable to provide any information on why the buyer was banned or provide any information on how to complete the sale - transferring the assets, etc. My fear was that since the sale could not be completed through the Flippa platform, after accepting payment and transferring the domain/website to the new buyer, the buyer might ultimately contend the payment and I would be out not just the money, but the website and domain as well. The situation at the time of writing is still up in the air, but do let this act serve as a warning to take that option to manually accept bids from Flippa buyers very seriously.

On the whole, I would absolutely recommend selling a domain, website or iOS app on Flippa. The service provides an exceptional experience - far better than its competitors in my opinion - and the ratio of sales to listings is rather high all things considered.

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