This is the first part of a short series on buying websites. I’m not going to talk about “flipping” sites. This is meant for those who want to kickstart their writing empires by building on an existing site that already has content and traffic.
In this post, we’re going to talk about finding sites (and this can include blogs) to make offers on. First, though I want to mention something obvious that I ignored with the first couple sites I bought:
It’s much easier to write content on a topic you know something about, preferably something you enjoy writing about.
Novel idea, hunh?
The problem with buying websites is that it isn’t like going to Walmart and just browsing down the aisle you want. The sites that come up for sale aren’t necessarily in your niche (in fact, they probably won’t be).
There’s a lot of crapola out there people are trying to sell, so when you do see a good one, it’s easy to get excited. You just know you can do a better job monetizing it and building links to it than the previous owner did. You just know that making your money back will be a piece of your favorite cake with loads of icing on it.
The problem? You usually write about diet and fitness and this most excellent site up for sale is on woodworking. Aside from the pencils you’ve sharpened in your life, you know nothing about woodworking.
But you could learn, right? You’ve built up a couple sites that make money, and you’re sure you could turn this one into a money maker…
I’m not going to tell you not to do it (I did it myself), but you’ll probably find that your money is better spent investing in a site focused on a topic you’re already knowledgeable about or you’re at least interested in learning about. It may mean waiting longer, or looking harder, to find a site worth buying, but in the long run, you’ll be more likely to make your money back (and then some).
Interest in the subject isn’t quite enough however. You want to make sure you get a site that’s worth something.
What to look for in a site you’re going to buy
Ideally we want a site that has original content, a domain name at least a year old (older is better), traffic coming in from the search engines, and aged links pointing to the front and deep pages of the site.
In the best case scenario, the site will be under-monetized as well, and you’ll know that just by switching around the Adsense layout or incorporating some affiliate links or adding some sponsored text links, etc., you’ll be able to increase the monthly earnings right off the bat.
In the next post, we’re going to look at how to research sites and make sure they’re as good as they sound, but first let’s cover finding sites that are for sale.
Where to look for websites
There are two main ways to shop for websites: go to a marketplace where people buy and sell sites or make an offer on a site that isn’t for sale.
As far as I know, there aren’t any really good (highly populated) dedicated marketplaces for buying and selling sites, but some webmaster forums have sections devoted to this, and there’s quite a bit of activity there.
I like Sitepoint because people have to pay to list their sites, so you’re less likely to encounter junk. Also sites are divided into turnkey and established/premium. If you’re hungry for more sites than you find on Sitepoint, you may want to browse the other forum as well (warning: it’s easy to get addicted to surfing these places and watching for sites for sale when you should be working on the sites you already have).
There’s little point in buying a two month old (or less) turnkey site, unless you wanted to start something new anyway (you may like the design/topic and want to get the seller to install it on your web hosting space for you). Generally we’re more interested in established sites that are already getting visitors from the search engines.
You’ll find that established content-based sites with incoming links and decent traffic are on the rare side, and that when they do come up, they get jumped on quickly.
Most people on these forums (people trying to get good deals) will state that 10x monthly earnings is a fair price, but you’ll often see established content sites (the kind that don’t require a lot of work and will do well with Adsense) going for 18x-24x monthly earnings or even more.
Paying 2 years’ worth of earnings isn’t necessarily a bad thing–if the site is right for you. That’s especially true if you could see yourself growing the site, building new links, adding content, etc. Also, if the current owner is under-monetizing it (i.e. poor placement of Adsense ads), then you may be able to significantly shave off the time it takes to earn back your initial investment.
Hunting for sites on your own
Honestly, this is the way to get a good deal and find a quality site. The downside is that it’s a lot more work than simply monitoring those forums, and you’ll probably have to make a lot of offers on a lot of sites before finding someone willing to sell.
The upside is that you can sometimes get a site for less than 18x or even 10x monthly earnings. Someone who knows about Sitepoint and knows where to go to sell a site is going to be a little savvier about valuing a site than someone who started a blog as a hobby, stuck some Adsense ads down in the corner, and then got busy and stopped posting a few months back. The original owner might never even have attempted to monetize the site.
You’ll probably have the best luck making offers on sites that haven’t been updated for a while. This tends to mean the original owner has lost interest, life has gotten busy, etc.
I’m not a bargain hunter extraordinaire (I don’t even like to shop places where the prices aren’t on sticker tags), so I won’t suggest how much you should offer or how to negotiate. Just make sure you don’t offer more than you’re comfortable you can make back in the foreseeable future.
As for finding these sites, you can do a lot just with Google (if you’re looking for a blog to take over, maybe try topic + blog). I like to browse the Yahoo and DMOZ directories myself since sites that have made it into there are almost always going to be established and you know they’ve got at least one link pointing to them!