Buying a website is a great way to get your hands on a quality domain fast. (You’ve probably noticed that all the best ones are always taken).
Rather than go through the process of building a website from scratch, buying one means that you will be able to take advantage of all that existing brand equity and authority. An aged website is also trusted by search engines, and you’ll probably be getting a lot of great content thrown in with the deal.
What’s not to love? Here is our beginner’s guide to buying a website so that you don’t get caught out.
Why buying may be better than building
Buying a website is a bit like recycling — you get to hold onto all that acquired website authority and business equity, rather than start from scratch.
We all know how long it can take to make a name for yourself online, so a ready-made website that has trust signals, regular traffic, and an engaged audience can be worth its weight in gold.
Another reason to buy? You already have proof of concept. The website was built, launched, and the metrics speak for themselves. It’s a good way to offload some of the risk of a website launch onto someone else (and their bank account).
But buying a website is not without its challenges. You will have to negotiate a good deal with the seller, and run lots of due diligence checks. If you are buying a site in an auction, nothing is ever certain, and you may end up getting your hopes up for nothing. Finding the right website can also take its time — this is not something to rush into.
What you need to do before you buy
In order to not get distracted by the process of website shopping, it’s a good idea to have a solid idea of what you need before you head out to marketplace sites and auctions. It will help you refine your searches, and ensure that you’re not wasting time out there.
- Decide whether you want to mainly monetize through content, or sell products — those are the main two website models to choose from. Each have their pros and cons, and the best websites probably do a bit of both.
- Choose a budget range that reflects your current bank balance and abilities. There is no point buying an expensive website, and then having 0 money to run it or do anything with it for six months. At the same time, buying a super cheap site that’s riddle with technical problems or spammy marketing tactics is not a good idea either!
- Have a rough idea of how much time you have to devote to fine tuning and fixing up the site, and don’t underestimate the amount of man hours it will take. If you are going to need to hire developers, designers, and copywriters, start putting some feelers out to gauge prices.
Figure out how DIY you want to be
You can do the whole website purchase process yourself if you like, but there are also brokerage sites and consultants who can help you through the tricky bits. If you want to just test things out at first, doing things yourself makes sense, as brokers charge high commission fees and won’t get involved with the sale of smaller sites.
As well as the usual online marketplaces like Ebay, there are dedicated and niche-specific sites selling only websites (like this ecommerce one). They are a good place to start looking, as you can easily get a feel for the market, demand, and competition. Read the on-site customer reviews and snoop around on social media to see if you can spot any investment-worthy brands.
Another place to look is social media and reddit — a lot of sellers market their sites on there, and you will be able to quickly get in touch and move the conversation forwards. Just don’t start negotiating in a public arena!
If you are looking to invest some serious money, FEInternational may be the place for you — check out their due diligence checklist first.
Profit potential vs. price
You need to balance the asking price with the profit potential of the site. Yes, revenue is important too — but actual profits tell you how much you will be left with after all the costs have been deducted.
Profit potential can be a difficult thing to quantify, but some simple calculations that take into account current sales and traffic figures (and how they could evolve) is a good place to start. But you will also want to think about profitability in a much larger sense — like whether an ecommerce idea is likely to make money in the long term. The best business ideas are ones that are embedded in the current market, but also have future potential. Don’t get caught up in a gimmick, but equally — don’t dismiss current pop culture trends. On the internet, it pays to be cool.
Maintenance costs for website management are usually pretty low (hosting, updates, premium plugins), but other business models like dropshipping may have significant outgoings.
This is where your negotiation skills will come in handy — try to get a good deal by showing the seller that you’re a serious buyer and that you know what you’re talking about.
Reading the small print
Even though you aren’t legally allowed to buy social media profiles, they often get thrown into the business deal. But always check — don’t assume. A powerful, branded social media account could make all the difference during your first year of running the business.
Financial security for both you and the seller is paramount, so use a secure payment portal. Always be wary about paying for anything up front, and always get agreements in writing. Too many sellers disappear off the face of the earth after a sale has been made.
Transferring asset ownership means sorting out a lot of background admin, and it can take its time. Make sure that you understand the transfer protocol so that you know exactly when the site becomes fully yours.
How to ‘relaunch’ your new business
As a new website owner, it’s now your responsibility to steer the business in a positive direction. From introductory offers to a new content strategy, make sure that you shout about the changes to your audience. This is the perfect time to implement some changes to how the business is run and managed as well.
One crucial angle to consider is whether you can automate elements of the business further. Perhaps the old owner grew complacent with how things had ‘always been done’ — but you have the energy to shake things up.