There is definitely something addictive about looking through the site listings on Flippa and other site buying/selling websites. I’ve long been a fan of the concept of buying a flipped site and growing my income portfolio that way.
In some ways it’s a lot easier than starting from scratch, especially if you are buying an already established site that just needs some maintenance and content updating. Even buying a “failing” site can often be a great move, as you could turn the fortunes around in less time than starting a new site from scratch and establishing it. It all depends on your skill level.
Still, there’s a mass of junk on offer.
Like everything “make money” orientated on the Internet, Flippa attracts its share of scammers, dreamers, and junk. Some people might not actually be aware that they are buying/selling junk, but others out there definitely know what they’re doing.
To make life a lot easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of five things for you to consider with any site listing, so that you can really tell how to do your due diligence. Flippa does try to make it easier for you, but unfortunately, some of their statistics are just as much junk as the sites on sale.
I’ll talk about those statistics now, before we look at the other five considerations.
Alexa rank, MajesticSEO inbound links, and even Google pagerank are to most extent, irrelevant. Yes, a lot of people highlight these statistics if they are good and use it as more incentive for you to buy their site, but really these statistics tell you nothing about the site’s ability to make you money.
Pagerank, inbound links and Alexa rank are not used anymore (if they ever were) to contribute to a website’s rank in Google and other search results, so there’s no point wasting your time thinking that great stats here will point to a great site. Ignore these stats, and move on.
With that said, here are five things to consider…
Consideration #1: The Seller’s History
Flippa makes this pretty easy to do. You can see how much the seller has sold in the past (total sales), what percentage of their listings sell, what percentage of their feedback is good, if they are linked to any other sellers (multiple accounts), and other useful information.
If a seller has low feedback, or their recent feedback has been poor, that’s usually a sign of something suspicious. In their defense, some BUYERS are the ones who didn’t know their stuff, and leave negative feedback which isn’t fair, so don’t let one or two negative feedbacks put you off, just be cautious about it.
Where I am usually more wary is if the seller is linked to another account. There are several Flippa users who have multiple accounts. If you find one of these, click through to the linked account and take a look at some of their listings.
Usually they are selling the same trash again and again and again using the same tired old pitches and promises. Even worse is when their previous accounts were banned by Flippa.
Generally if someone keeps changing account, I’m not going to consider them to be very reputable.
Consideration #2: The Site Itself
How does it make money? What’s the model? What’s the business plan? If you can’t immediately figure it out, either you don’t know much about making money online (and you should read this), or the site has a bad business model and probably doesn’t make any money.
Also, you MUST look at the site’s category. Is it a topic you know anything about? You’ll find many sites that are supposedly automated and “no experience required”, but that’s just a sales pitch. If you don’t understand the topic of your site, there’s no chance you’re going to succeed.
Too many people just buy a site on good faith that they will succeed with it. The abundance of people buying “SEO service” sites and “Twitter followers” outsourcing sites shows this. These sites are duplicated and sold over and over again, they’ll only get traffic if you buy it from advertising or spam the site over social networks, so make sure you understand how a site will work before you buy it.
Is the site indexed? Type the URL into Google and see if it shows up. Also pick a few posts/pages from the site and do the same thing. Some sites don’t get indexed because they are duplicate or spammy or have done something else wrong. You don’t want to buy one of these.
Consideration #3: Traffic
Does the site get any visitors? Has it been verified by Flippa? (it usually hasn’t). Where does the traffic come from?
Usually a site that only gets traffic from paid advertising is something to avoid. It doesn’t mean you can’t make money with it, but do you want to spend money on advertising while you are learning the ropes? Go for a site that is ranking in search engines, and do some of your own research.
When a site has traffic, here’s what you can do to find out whether it could be worth buying:
1. Message the buyer and ask them to give you access to the site’s Google Analytics.
If they refuse or say they haven’t set it up, walk away. Anyone who claims a site is getting traffic but doesn’t use Google Analytics (or won’t let you access it) is too suspicious in my book. There might be exceptions, but it’s highly unlikely based on my experiences.
When in Analytics, go to the Acquisition section and look at traffic sources. Ideally it will be at least 50% organic, depending on the niche and age of the site. Also check which pages are getting the most visitors, and where those pages rank in the search results.
2. Go to semrush.com and type in the website address.
It might not show up, but if it does, you can do some investigating. Don’t look at the traffic stats; semrush doesn’t report them accurately to free users. Instead you want to scroll down and look at the keyword information. If the site has some good keyword rankings (see below), then you can feel more assured about the traffic sources and site’s standing with Google.
3. Analyse whether the site’s traffic could be improved.
Does it have a few posts on page 2 or 3 of Google and more frequent posting could improve its rank? Are there some big keywords that it isn’t ranking for? Your experience level will dictate whether or not you can really do this thoroughly, so if you don’t know how you might IMPROVE a site, then skip this part.
Basically, you want to figure out if the site’s traffic is what the seller claims it is, and whether or not it is free.
When a site is new or has no traffic, you need to figure out whether or not it has the potential to get any. If you have no idea how sites get ranked in search engines and you’ve never gone through the process of ranking a site yourself, this might be too difficult for you and you’ll want to avoid a site without established traffic.
Additional tip: I never really focus on HOW MUCH traffic a site is getting; you could earn money with 100 visitors a month with the right website or earn no money with 10,000 visitors with the wrong site (something I learned the hard way).
Consideration #4: Income
Bear in mind, the more income a site has, the more you’ll have to pay for it, 10 times (or more) monthly income is usually a good average. What you want to really consider is how it earns income, and whether or not that is sustainable.
Sometimes it is tricky for a site owner to really verify their earnings, but don’t rely solely on screenshots. The best thing to do is ask lots of questions to the site owner.
How long has it been earning for? Have the earnings fluctuated (good or bad) at all over the past few months? Is the income evergreen? I owned a site that made good money in November and December, but almost nothing for the rest of the year. This is definitely something you want to consider.
Remember, if you don’t understand how it earns, it’s not a site for you.
I tend not to express much interest in a site that is just earning via Adsense, because I’m not a huge fan of this model. I know a lot of people earn good incomes from adverts, and the passive side of it, coupled with the fact you don’t need to do any “selling” on your site attracts a lot of people.
If an Adsense site is your thing, definitely make sure they show you proof of earnings, and make sure it is minimum three months’ worth. No way do you want a site that has “earned $500 in the last 10 days”.
They could be gaming the stats and the site is about to get banned from Adsense etc. Make sure it is established income.
Consideration #5: The Pitch
There are plenty of ghastly pitches and plenty of empty pitches for sites. What I tend to use as a benchmark is “Does this sound like BS?” Some people love their sites and spend ages telling you how good they are. Other people fill their pitches with bonuses (I saw one with twenty seven bonuses once). Generally, all I care about is “Are you lying?” and “Are you hiding anything?”
The due diligence strategies I mentioned earlier will help you determine this, and you definitely want to message them with one or two questions to see how they respond.
That said, there are some pitches that I will close down almost immediately, and they always have several or all of the following traits:
- Too much highlighting
- Too many exclamation marks!!!!!
- Focus on the domain name and monthly searches for that term pulled out of the not-accurate-at-all Google Adwords tool (I really don’t see how this is going to guarantee a site’s success anyway, but people focus on it so much)
- Highlighting a site’s Alexa Rank, backlinks, or number of articles included as a reason to buy it. (I could write a whole other article on why these stats mean nothing, but this post is already getting too long. Just trust me)
- The seller is condescending or thinks I’m an idiot. (You don’t have to talk to me like I’m 15 if you want my business!)
Ready-Made Starter Sites
There are a LOT of these on Flippa and elsewhere and lots of beginners get bitten by buying junk ones. Most of them are junk in fact. Usually they make claims of how you WILL earn $XXX without doing any work, (and focus on the domain name) and wow you with stats about the site category or commissions that you WILL earn.
There’s absolutely no way to guarantee how a site will perform, and there’s definitely no way to succeed on autopilot. Especially not for $197 (the most popular Buy-It-Now price on Flippa).
The real reason for them being junk:
Most of these sites are cookie-cutters and clones of one another using duplicated content. They won’t rank in Google or the other search engines, and you’ll be stuck with a site that doesn’t get indexed, won’t get traffic without you buying ads for it, and will just be a waste of your time.
Still, buying a ready-made “startup” site is an attractive option – it’s a lot cheaper than buying an established site, it’s a lot quicker and more professional than doing it yourself from scratch, and you’ve usually got a much higher chance of success.
If you really want to buy a ready-made site that is explained honestly and comes with a full marketing plan and training, then you should read more about niche websites here and you’ll see it explained in more detail.
Dom Wells creates ready-made internet marketing websites for beginners looking to get started. You can find him over at HumanProofDesigns.com