This is a guide I have put together after spending the past few months on flippa.com looking to buy some websites:
1.) Never buy a website off Flippa.Com without seeing proper Google Analytics from the past 3 months. I know many of the sellers use fake proxy bots to surge the amount of fake traffic being sent to the website in order to claim higher than usual traffic. Rule number 1 is you MUST look at the bounce rates for the past 3 months. All fake traffic sent to a website will bounce. If the seller is claiming that he/she gets 100,000 visitors to the website a day, but the bounce rate is something like 90% this is a red flag. Be suspicious that this site mainly consists of fake traffic.
2.) Check how old the website is. 90% of the websites being sold are only a few weeks old. Always treat these sites as being suspicious. I have found that many of these sites have numerous duplicates being sold, minus a different domain name and banner. For example, a guy selling a voucher site the other day for $70, was also selling 20+ versions of the exact same site. It wasn’t searchable via flippa.com but when I copy and pasted the voucher site he was selling into copyscape.com it came back with a list of sites owned by the same guy that were a carbon copy, minus a different colour scheme, name, and banner. Never buy these sites; this is why sites that are only a few months old should be avoided.
3.) If the seller is claiming revenue of $2,000 a month, but the buy it now price is only $500 be very suspicious. If it’s too good to be true it generally is. I’m sorry but if you are making 2k a month from a site why would you sell it for a couple hundred bucks? All because they “don’t have enough time”. Stay well clear of these!
4.) Stay well clear of the automated websites. If an automated website was making money, why would you sell it? Think about it.. A website that requires no work, updates itself, yet you don’t want it anymore? Red flag! Stay clear. Google is cracking down on low quality, automated sites so my advice would be to stay well clear of these unless the site is adding value besides scraping duplicate content of rss feeds.
5.) Sellers claim that the websites are ranking for particular keyphrases. Check them as I have found that most of these claims are false. For example, the seller will claim the website is ranking 1st in Google for “outdoor furniture”. They could be ranking for this in India, but if the site is designed for Americans, yet they rank on page 20 in Google America then there really isn’t a point to this. In conclusion, if they claim positions in Google, double check it.. Also find out in which countries have such rankings as every country is different.
6.) The amount of times a keyword in Google is searched is not a selling point. For example, the seller might claim something to the likes of “Did you know ‘Golf’ is searched 60,000,000 times a month”. Big deal as I’m sure there are millions of golf sites out there. If someone says soemthing like this be sure to raise the red flag. If they claim that ‘Golf’ is searched 68,000,000 times a month in Google and they are ranking 1st.. Well that’s a completely different story and you should probably buy it ASAP.
7.) Look at the site, not the domain name.
8.) Backlinks in Google don’t mean a thing. It is quite common for sellers to claim that the website they are selling on Flippa has 5,000 backlinks in Google. Don’t bother looking into this as they could be 5,000 auto generated spam links.
9.) Pagerank does matter. What is the pagerank of the site being sold? If the seller claims they have thousands of great backlinks in Google yet the pagerank for the website is 0 then I would approach this very cautiously, particularly if the website has a few years under its belt.
10.) Protect yourself, always use ESCROW. This is to protect yourself from fraudsters. Basically you pay ESCROW and they pay the seller once the handover has been completed successfully. Do you want to pay 10k for a site and risk losing all your money without ever receiving the site? I don’t want to sound negative, but if the seller refuses to use ESCROW then this has to be a red flag.
11.) Be suspicious of sellers that repeatedly lower the buy it now price as means to get a sale done quickly. Never feel pressured, if the seller is offering more value for quick sales, eg it’s not uncommon for them to offer a websites facebook page as part of the sale if you hurry up and buy the website now. Demand that the facebook page be included and stick to your guns, rule number 11 is NEVER feel pressured by the seller.
12.) Send a private message to the seller asking where the website is hosted. Never give up access to your websites control panel so the seller can transfer the website for you. If you are not sure on how to transfer the website over to your web host, contact your web host and ask them. I know 90% of web hosts will pretty much do this for you if you ask. If the buyer and seller are with the same hosting company eg Bluehost, Hostgator then they will do it for you. Handing over the keys to your web host means the seller has access to your credit card details which are often stored in the billing section of your hosting panel. Don’t risk it.
13.) Sellers will claim the site has been appraised by www.urlappraisal.net . Red flag! URLAppraisal.net is not an accurate estimation of the websites worth. It is typically extremely inaccurate. Stay well clear of this.
14.) If the seller is claiming the site earns a particular amount in revenue per month ask to see the Google Adsense reports for the past 6 months; if they refuse, don’t buy the website. If they show you screenshots of money paid into their Paypal account run for the hills. If they show you their Adsense earning for 1 month, run for the hills.
15.) Where does the traffic come from? Did they get a giant spike from a referral link, or is it consistent organic natural traffic from Google?
16.) Has the site been banned by Google Adsense? I have seen this many times. Websites can be banned for violating Adsense terms and conditions. Now realising they no longer have an income source they decide to sell the website. Always ask and remember that a ban from Google Adsense is for life and less than 3% of banned accounts get reinstated.
17.) How much is the webmaster currently paying in hosting fees? Do they use shared hosting or a dedicated server? Most sites with a high amount of traffic will require dedicated hosting which costs around $100 a month or more. This is fine if the site is generating income, but if they have been banned from Adsense and have large server costs make sure you have a revenue plan before you start bidding.
18.) Active members VS members. I came close to buying an NCAA fan forum a few month back. The advertiser claimed the site had 20,000+ members and was ranking well in Google. Everything checked out okay until I checked how many active members there were – to my horror there were less than 20! Members don’t mean anything as 90% of the members could be spammed accounts, solook for active member numbers. If you are buying a forum always check how many threads/ topics/ discussions were started and replied to in the past 24 hours. If you have to go back 3 weeks to see any activity be very cautious.
19.) Look for genuine sales pages that seem legitimate as opposed to flashy sales pages which look far too generic and arouse suspicion. Read the background story because genuine owners will want to tell you how it all started, how it went, and why they are selling. Con artists will use flashy words, have no background as to why they are selling, or any emotion whatsoever. I hate to say it but look for the sites where the owners are sad to be selling.
20.) Domain age vs website age. Important as I have seen sellers buy old domains that are 10+ years old then put a website on it and claim that the site is 10 years old. Don’t be fooled. Use the wayback machine to check the history of the website as old sites generally sell for more.
Presto! If you have made it through this list and are still interested in buying then you have a real winner on your hands. The objective of this blog wasn’t to discourage people from buying websites but to alert you to the dangers that can come with it. If you have a website on your radar and are interested in buying it, feel free to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Google. Shoot me some links and I’ll give you my opinion.