There is a learning curve involved in buying and selling websites and domains and if you haven't been involved in the world of web design and development then it can be significant. I encourage you educate yourself as much as possible before you dive into buying and selling. Education wise, you're in the right place, SitePoint is full of great learning resources (free and paid).
If you do know a thing or two about hosting, DNS, CMS and other TLA's (three letter acronyms) and you're considering buying and selling on Flippa, following are a few tips that will help your sale or purchase go smoothly.
Tips for Sellers
Capitalize domains names in your listing - This helps people identify keyword domain names such as LongKeywordDomains.com.
List everything that's included in the sale - if your website sale includes physical stock, then include that information. If you're also including other social media profiles, list them.
Supply stats - Google Analytics is generally the preferred default stats format for buyers.
Suggest other monetization strategies - if you know you've fallen short on monetizing your traffic, then suggest what could be improved. Don't speculate about future revenue however.
List the keywords you site ranks for - list your top 10 keywords that are generating traffic and how many monthly searches these receive per week. Use Google's keyword tool to find out search volumes.
Detail the CMS or publish platform being used - explain if your site is using Joomla, Drupal or Wordpress (etc) and why you chose that platform.
Explain why you're selling - be honest about why you're selling. It usually comes down to i) I need the money ii) I don't have time to maintain it or iii) I buy and sell websites for the money.
Use Escrow for transaction over $1000 - Even though it's not foolproof, Escrow is safer than PayPal .
If you use PayPal, post a CD containing all the files and database to the buyer - this way you have proof you posted the goods if the buyer tried to do a charge-back on PayPal.
Do your due diligence on bidders - some people believe due diligence is only for buyers, but to reduce your risk, find out as much as you can about the person(s) bidding on your website auction.
Provide a video walk-through - you can use Jing (free and available at http://www.jingproject.com/) to do a screencast showing revenue statements, CMS, email lists etc
List revenue and profit details month by month
List your costs - hosting, PPC campaigns, outsourcing
- Detail the time required to maintain the site
- Above all - be open and honest about all facets of your sale
Tips for Buyers
Use SEMrush.com for keyword research - the free version of this will show you the top 10 keywords a site is ranking for and some approximate traffic. You can cross check this against any stats that are provided by the seller.
Request for access to Google Analytics - not all seller will provide this - but it's a great place to start your due diligence
Do your keyword research - if the site is targeted at particular keywords but not already ranking well, find out what the competition's like in the search results - how hard is it going to be to rank for these keywords. Take a look at the SEOQuake Firefox plugin.
Check the Wayback Machine - this will show you a history of the site. Make sure you're not buying something with a dark past!
Check the backlink profile - SEOmoz's Open Site Explorer is a great tool for checking out the quality of a website's backlinks.
- If the seller hasn't included any of the points in the Seller Tips section above, ask for them.
- Ask how the site will be transferred to your hosting account, are you expected to manage the transfer or will the seller help you. Will you be given cPanels access (for example).
Custom designed sites - if the site your purchasing doesn't use an open source CMS, ask the seller what provision there is for support.
Check where the traffic's coming from - if most of the traffic is PPC or if it's coming from other websites the seller owns, you want to make sure you know!
Check for trademark infringement on the domain name - use uspto.gov for an initial check. Also, if you're Wayback Machine check suggests the site was owned by someone else in the past, make sure you do a very thorough trademark check
Make sure content is original - use Copyscape.com to check this.
Finally, for both buyers and seller, if you're taking a significant level of risk (i.e. spending your retirement fund or equivalent) consider getting the lawyers involved and draw up a contract of sale.
Nice post, Luke. Useful information.
The tips for new buyers are good but, of course, you can never have an exhaustive list. For every 10 new buyers making a purchase 9 are likely going to lose money as sellers have become a very slick lot and very good at passing rubbish off as worthy investments.
My #1 advice to new buyers is to check for profit. If the site doesn't have a history of regular profit - don't buy it. It's hugely difficult to make money with a new site. Much more difficult than most sellers will have you believe. If you're new to this restrict your purchasing to a site that's got a proven business model.
My #2 advice: Don't trust claims of "potential". And don't take the seller's opinion on anything. I did an interview with Canada's biggest newspaper this week in which I said that one of the most common mistakes newbies make is not separating fact from seller opinion. It's a business decision - get the facts, not a glossed up version of them.
Google Analytics can be easily faked. Video is a doodle to doctor - he can simply change his hosts file and all the video is being fed from his PC rather than the Adsense or Analytics site. Backlinks checks etc., don't take into account who owns the linking sites - they could be seller owned and the links could disappear overnight. And it's not easy to do due diligence on traffic stats if you haven't got some experience in it already. Being a buyer is a bit like being the security staff of a US president. You need to be always alert. The terrorist needs to get lucky just once. And when it comes to valuing sites, I've written [an article for Sitepoint that may be worth reading (short version [URL="http://experienced-people.net/forums/showthread.php/4-How-to-Value-a-Website-or-Blog"]here](http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/web-site-valuation-guide)). It wouldn't be wise to rely on a value that the seller gives you, particularly if he got it off some online valuation tool (any online valuation tool, even mine).
But your tips are a good starting point, Luke. I've got more information on things like transfering sites to a new hosting account on my site. We discuss more advanced site selling and site buying matters at the forum in my signature and everyone's welcome.
If you're looking to buy a website for the sake of passive income, the sure, only buy a site that has a history of profits. But taking this one step back, define your buying criteria.
There are lots of reasons why people buy websites and it really comes down to what you're good at and what you like doing.
Before you buy a website decide what your buyer profile is. Are you:
- Good at SEO but crap at design - find a well designed website that needs to be SEO'ed.
- Great at monetization strategy - find a site with solid consistent traffic but little monthly revenue.
- Awesome Designer - find a site that looks bad, has good rankings for targeted keywords and some revenue, give it a spit and polish.
- A product development person - find a site that's got good traffic and targeted keyword rankings but is only ticking over a small about of AdSense revenue. There could be a good opportunity here to make a product suited to the audience.
- Website investor - you have access to a team of people that can do all or most of the above - find sites with solid monthly revenue and continue to build the online business.
I appreciate your advice is targeted at just people who are buying in Flippa, but I would categorise it slightly differently.
You're either looking for sites that you know are making money or sites that the seller claims will make money in the future.
If you're looking to buy a website for the sake of passive income, the sure, only buy a site that has a history of profits.
Passive income is a red herring. When people buy an established business they're not usually looking to sit back and do nothing, they want to continue to develop it. Your post seems to be addressed to first time buyers and my advice to them is that it's a lot easier to continue building an established business than it is to start from scratch with a pretty site but one that has no proven business model and no history of profit.
If you do know a thing or two about hosting, DNS, CMS and other...
I do have a website buying and selling glossary here if anyone's interested.
The thread that used to be the sticky here had several pieces of excellent advice for sellers including that any action/inaction that's within the seller's control - and that can have a detrimental effect on site value subsequent to sale - is best disclosed at the start.
It's two below this one...
Just an update to this. We've released Escrow integration so you can now instigate an Escrow transaction form within Flippa and receive a discount on the normal Escrow fees.