Should You Buy an Established Website?

Written by Zac Johnson
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Over the years I’ve had my fair share of web site purchases. Some were good, and some were bad. Search any website forum or auction site and you are sure to find a handful of web sites that wet your appetite. Buying an established web site is a great way to expand your business outside of continually adding more ad campaigns, and can continue to generate revenue over a long period of time. Before you place that bid and jump into buying an established website, you should ask yourself a few questions. Just because it looks like a good deal, it might not be right for you.

Do You Know Anything about this Niche?
As much as we like to think we are gods of marketing and can make money with anything, it’s always best to stick with what you are good at. Just because you see a web site for sale that is making money and they are doing a crappy job, you may not want to pick something up that you have no experience with. On the flip side, focus your efforts on finding what you do know well and expand upon any sites you might find for sale.

Other important questions to ask yourself before buying:
– What type of competition, keyword traffic and costs are associated in this niche?
– How long will it take to make this new purchase profitable?
– Is this business scalable and how much time and effort will it require?
– Do I really want to take on a new project?

This site makes $500 a month and the “Buy It Now” is $2,000!
I see this all the time. Unfortunately it’s almost never true. The average price for a web business is in the 12-24 months revenue area. Why in the world would someone sell a web site that’s making X dollars a month for only 4 times that amount. You will also usually find a short blurb in the listing stating, “I’m selling this site because I need money to go back to school, or pay bills“. If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. There is a lot of junky web sites that are thrown together just to make a quick sale. Don’t be fooled.

The Numbers Don’t Lie
As much as we’d like to believe everyone is honest, some people are out there to get you. The numbers may not lie, but the person putting that nice sales chart together might be. A lot of auction sites are upping their standards and making “verified” stats a requirement. If Google Analytics and other high value stats aren’t available, always make sure to request screenshots of stats/ad campaigns and even what the site backend might look like. Also don’t be afraid to search resources like Copyscape, Alexa and Way Back Machine to see what the history of your possible purchase is.

Why Would they Sell such a Great Site?
If you search the forums and auction sites enough, you will probably come across a gem every once in a while. The site has a ton of backlinks, all of the revenue / profit numbers work out, and it’s a perfect fit for your business. Everything checks out and you are so confident about the site, you contact the seller to make a possible buy out. I did this a couple months ago and offered up a high 5 figures for a site. The buyer said he wanted to wait til the end of the auction, which wasn’t part of my deal. The auction ended, never hit what I offered and the site was still never sold. It seems a lot of sites want to see what they are worth and just want to throw themselves out there to see what happens. It’s unfortunate for the buyers, but it happens. So next time you see a site for sale that seems perfect, it might also be too good to be true… or may cost you a bit more than expected!

Paypal, Check or Cash
This is a two way street. If you are the seller of a web site, you would much prefer to have cash, check or a money order. If you are the buyer, you DEFINITELY want to pay through PAYPAL or using a credit card like American Express. The seller wants cash/check to save on fees, while the buyer wants paypal/credit card to offer security. It’s in the best interest of both parties to agree on a solid payment method. If you are determined to pay with a credit card or through paypal, offer to split the difference in fees, while keeping your sense of security.

There are a lot of web sites out there that offer established web sites for sale. The important thing is focus on due diligence and finding what’s right for you.

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58 Replies to “Should You Buy an Established Website?”

  1. Two other methods to protect the buyer is:

    1) Escrow.com (or a similar service) which protects both the buyer and seller.

    2) If you use PayPal and as the buyer, ALWAYS insist that you receive a copy of the HTML code on CD. This way, if the seller does not meet up all the claims, you a legitimate dispute since the transaction contains tangible property exchanged.

    I found this site to be helpful regardless if you're a buyer, seller or website flipper:

    Where to Buy Websites and Sell Websites

    Kudos Zac on another informative blog post.

  2. <a class="replyTo" href="#comment-112046" rel="nofollow">@Dean Saliba: I'm very clingy with my sites and actually have never sold any. Though I imagine it's a great feeling to release the burden of maintenance on them for a nice lump of cash! Congrats on the sales!

  3. Hey Zac,

    Nice tips. This post reminded me to do some more checking for another site to buy in my niche! Exciting stuff!

  4. <blockquote cite="The average price for a web business is in the 12-24 months revenue area.">

    Wrong, Zac. It's 7-10 months. It's pretty common knowledge amongst the website flipping crowd. Head over to Flippa and look in the "Just Sold" category, you'll see.

  5. Zac, have you ever been glad to sell a site or blog?

    I recently sold my collection of blogs to someone I know and I have not been happier. 🙂

    I found myself spending almost every waking hour at my computer working on my blogs and it sucked the life out of me.

    Much happier now. 🙂

  6. <a class="replyTo" href="#comment-112053" rel="nofollow">@Kiley:

    I agree most sites will sell for 7-10 months, but for the larger and more legit site sales, I quite often seen much higher figures of 12+ months.

  7. I myself wanted to buy an established website on Flippa, but I was afraid of being cheated. Yeah, this is a big problem to ensure a seller is honest though they have certain rate on Flippa. So anyone knows what the secret is of determining honest sellers?

    Thank you for the post!

    Quality PLR Articles

  8. <a class="replyTo" href="#comment-112055" rel="nofollow">@Khanum:

    Flippa does a good job of rating users and keeping them legit. Unfortunately I bought a gaming site years ago for $2k. In the sales listing it had promises of monthly revenue and tracking, but once in my hands, it was pretty much crap. This purchase was through a forum, but Flippa and other auction sites have now much improved with seller details and more legitimate sites for sale.

  9. @Zac Johnson:

    Yeah something similar happened to me recently. Bought a site that claimed to have 100+ visits / day, but when the site was transferred to me, it ended up being around 10.

    They showed proof via a screenshot of google analytics. I think it may have been photoshopped.

  10. <a class="replyTo" href="#comment-112071" rel="nofollow">@zap oyun:

    I haven't had any experience in this area, and I think most auction/sales site limit the use of "adult" site listings.

  11. I have never bought an established website before, domains yes, but not established websites. For me, it is not about the money, but more about the joy of building something.

  12. @Zac Johnson:

    I agree that the higher value / turnover sites generally sell for more than the 7 – 10 months worth which is definitely the norm for determining the value of lesser websites however.

  13. I've never sold or bought a site. I'm not too great of a marketer so it would probably be a good idea to purchase an already established blog or site. But then again the fun part sometimes is in starting your own blog and watching it grow into becoming a success. Most importantly to just keep pushing through with the content. But I like what you've mentioned. I'm trying to get rid of my sites right now but besides putting it on one site to help me sell it, I haven't really been pushing it out there enough.

  14. Most websites for sale are not worth buying. If it were that good a site, the owner would keep it to make more money in the long run. Such sites usually have some type of underlying problem. So take your time and really research the website carefully. You don't want to waste money on a website only to realize that it is doomed from the start. The best websites to buy are the ones that are underperforming and you recognize exactly what can be done to fix it.

  15. Buying sites is a great way to jump into a new category for experience bloggers.

    However, for new bloggers, buying a site isn't a shortcut to success. I believe everyone should work through the process of starting one up and learn the hard lessons that are dished out daily. That experience can't be bought.

  16. Great tips Zach. Sometimes, we tend to buy anything that is pleasing to the eye, but, in reality, there is no value within it.

    It pays to pay attention on why does that a certain site is for sale if it makes those figures stated.

  17. Pretty interesting post, I've never really thought about selling my website. I guess it's different in real estate as often the brand is the realtor. Maybe one day I will choose to purchase a site and use this advice.

    Daniel Kepka – Calgary Property For Sale

  18. Buying an establish site good idea and profitable too which specially connected with demanded niche market. In current situation hard to find out establish website which running good business and driving health traffic. Fairly agree on verifying truth of visits or lead statics from google analytics. it would creates secure feelings.

  19. I have heard a bunch of times that when you buy an etablished website, the pagerank (if any) will drop a lot shortly after. Not excatly sure the reason for this, but surely something to take into consideration if there is anything about it..

  20. I am always looking to buy established sites that earn good monthly and flippa is the best source to find them. Nice post thanks for the info!

  21. As you said, there are a lot of sites for sale everyday in many market places and webmaster forums, but the problem is there is only a few quality ones.. All the websites available for sale are sites without traffic and revenue and running in a niche with high competition where it is almost impossible to make a success..

    My advice is to think twice before trying to buy a website, look for revenue and traffic proof and don't pay over than X12 of monthly revenue..

  22. I am thinking of buying a site but I am not going to buy a well established site. Instead I am going to buy a abandoned domain that has been up for a number of years. This will alow me to rank in the search engines faster than if I would purchase a new domain.

  23. hmm, buying a well established sites is good but it could be coming from trusted provider. On my own thing just make a new site and then established it and by that you will know many things.

  24. You stated not to trust sellers who claim they need to sell their websites because of school or because they are in need of money. I guess that's why my network bringing in over $500+ USD a month didn't selll even with all the verified stats and proof of earnings. It also has over 1K double optin newsletter subscribers using Aweber.

    Check it out:
    http://flippa.com/auctions/77471

    What would you recommend I change if i were to relist this network?

  25. These are all great tips for buying websites. "If its too good to be true, than it usually isnt" applies to almost anything that you buy online. Many people out there will sell a site that claims to make lots of money but sometimes that isn't the truth.

  26. You're absolutely right Zac: "If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. There is a lot of junky web sites that are thrown together just to make a quick sale. Don’t be fooled"… I saw a lot of this dirty trick, thanks for your sharing

  27. Buying an established website has many benefits. Obviously, it saves time that would otherwise be spent building a new site. Since even a well built new site may have difficulty in a competitive market, buying an established site eliminates the risk that your site won't do well in the search engines. An established site has already proven it can perform at a certain level in the search engines. This allows you to focus on taking that site to the next level and increasing its profits rather than merely focusing on getting it established.

  28. Selling domains to a party who may make more money out of it is a good idea. More so since they can pay a lot more for it. For example, I once owned an affiliate website for payday loans. Now, affiliates can only make x money per loan while lenders get much more. I was paid 25 months revenue + 20%. Great deal.

  29. You know I really like this post because I have had a ton of experience with auctions on sitepoint and flippa. I have sold 50 or so websites and I have bought a few here and there. My overall take from this is quite simple. Look at Warren Buffet, this guy knows how to buy up business's but what does he have that you or anyone else doesn't? Capital of course, but the know how to buy a business that he knows he can profit from. Buffets a cash flow guy. He likes having a ton of cash generating resources. Really like talking about buying established business's because its an interesting strategy, it can really create a shortcut for you, or really lose you some money.

  30. Ready to buy a site can sometimes be very risky. usually purchased all of the site's connection is broken

  31. Nice tips. This post reminded me to do some more checking for another site to buy in my niche! Exciting stuff!

  32. nice information zac, really great tips for me, but the profile seller is important, see the profile if trusted you can buy from that's seller but if not you must thinking again to buy from that's seller….

    i really enjoy in here many tips and information i got in this blog, thank's zac

  33. I already have an established website that is currently on the world wide web, and im using html to do all the editing. I would like to include a blog on it, where i can type in information directly on the internet and it will be directly published. any suggestions?

  34. I'd recommend you buy blogs not sites, as usually they rank in Google faster and it looks like people prefer SEO ranked blogs VS sales letters type of sites where the product owner got an army of affiliates that brough 10k in sales and 20k in visitors, but next month won't bring any traffic/income at all.

    So watch carefully what type of income/traffic claims or proof they're showing up.

  35. I believe revenues per month must not be the only criteria… we see each days huge sales of domain names that have very little traffic and revenues and are being paid a lot only because of their premium names… so if you have such a domain name and start create some content even if you don't make a lot of money out of it it is still worth (at least) the intrinsic domain name value…

  36. Really, really good post. nice one mate. I bought one site for $300 didn't work out very well but i has led onto other better things. Also gained a bit of experience!

  37. Number one tip to buying an established site is the age old saying "If it is too good to be true it probably is." Someone will not sell their site that they worked so hard on for only 5 months or less earnings. Expect to pay around 12 months earnings if you play to buy an established site.

  38. Congrats on purchasing BloggingTips.com.

    That's a great site and Kevin Muldoon have done a great job with it.

    I'm sure you will take the site to new heights 🙂

  39. Buying an established site includes many things to take in consideration before actually buying the site. But great info! Thanks for sharing.

  40. Obviously, it saves time that would otherwise be spent building a new site. Since even a well built new site may have difficulty in a competitive market, buying an established site eliminates the risk that your site won’t do well in the search engines. An established site has already proven it can perform at a certain level in the search engines. This way, if the seller does not meet up all the claims, you a legitimate dispute since the transaction contains tangible property exchanged.I found this site to be helpful regardless if you’re a buyer, seller or website flipper.

  41. I have already started reading some of your articles. i found great articles here. And I will get back here. I just added your blog to my bookmark sites. thanks.

  42. Ready to buy a site can sometimes be very risky. usually purchased all of the site’s connection is broken

  43. If you do your due diligence and choose the right sites, the risk is minimal. I have a near perfect track record with about 25 site purchases over the last few years ranging from $200-$40,000. I still run most of these sites to this day!

  44. should think first, because right now many sites that have features or have heavy traffic is only temporary (in the time period specified) after that site back like a newborn. That tactic sellers in selling their sites.

  45. I am looking to buy a domain with the word "clutter" in the title. If anyone knows of one let me know as I have been unable to find anything so far

  46. im actively looking and its tough to find sites that make sense by the numbers. seems to be a wide gap between sites in low 4 figures with not much behind them- then a huge jump into the mid 6 figures for "real" www businesses…

  47. if anyone is selling or knows of someone selling a drop-ship site, this would be ideal
    My recent post Market Samurai

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