How to Buy and Sell Websites – Where to Go and What to Do

In addition to be used for commerce, websites themselves are commonly bought and sold online. Whether you just want to sell off a site you are no longer interested in or are considering flipping websites for profit, the following will help you with how and where to buy and sell websites.

Flipping websites
Just as people buy property and make improvements in hopes of selling it at a profit, entrepreneurs buy digital properties with the intent of sprucing them up for a better sell price later.  The time and effort put into these improvements can range for a couple of days to years.

Proceed with caution
It is easy to pay too much for a site or sell it for less than it’s worth. Whatever your reasons or intentions, keep informed and be careful not to jump the gun when buying or selling. There are certain steps you should follow.

Where to buy and sell websites
It is first important to look at the various places to buy and sell sites to get an idea of how it is done and find the one that is best for you. There are a number of different auction sites and forums where websites can be bought and sold to include the following:

  • BuySellWebsite While very simplistic in its layout, it offers useful tools for measuring the worth of sites.
  • DealASite It is well organized by category and other rankings.
  • Flippa Clearly the largest and most popular place to buy websites on auction.
  • WebsiteBroker A good site with lots of useful tutorials in addition to escrow and other services.

In addition, eBay and various internet marketing forums to include Warrior Forum and Digitalpoint also are places to buy and sell.

Valuating websites
websiteThe toughest part of buying and selling sites for most people is valuating them. This is no exact formula, but the following are the most important factors to consider:

  1.  Traffic: Nothing ads determines a website’s value more than its traffic. As most website traffic can be monetized in some way, a history of consistent traffic is a valuable asset. Always look for proof of how many visitors a site is receiving. Be very skeptical of new sites as their traffic numbers may be a fluke and can sometimes be faked. For example, the traffic may be paid, from bad sources or be dependent on the owner’s social network or other tools that might be lost when the site is sold. On the other hand, older sites with consistent traffic patterns are much more reassuring.
  2. Long-term potential: Is the idea behind the site or the keywords that bring in traffic based on trends that are likely to last? Can the topic be expanded on or is the niche too narrow?
  3. How much work will it take to manage the site? For example, site that can run mostly on autopilot Adsense ads is worth more than one that requires shipping products, even if the revenue is the same.
  4. Is the content original, useful or able to attract links and people in some way?

All of these will affect valuation. The general rule is that smaller and less established sites sell for six to ten times their monthly profit. Sites with track records of several years or longer may sell for three times annual earnings or more. You need to take a look at what other similar sites are selling for a better estimate.

A site making less than $50 a month is probably not worth going through the bother of selling. Websites are usually not valued on their unrealized potential.

Providing data
Anyone can make claims about a site’s traffic and profits, so it will be necessary to provide and examine data when buying and selling. Statistics from Google Analytics and Alexa.com are the minimum for most sales. For larger sales, a complete accounting package will probably be needed. In addition to proof of traffic (particularly unique visitors) and revenue, important measures include the number and quality of backlinks, keyword rankings, expenses, likes and other social networking data and any marketing lists.

Optimizing auction listings
While it is important to highlight a site’s strengths, avoid hype as this will make a listing look untrustworthy. Make the listing as understandable and accurate as possible and include the following in addition to traffic and other data:

  • Explain why the site is being sold.
  • Be clear as to exactly what support you will offer after the sale.
  • Don’t clutter the listing with needless data but let buyers know what you can show them.
  • Detail payment terms and how the transfer will take place.
  • Answer all buyer questions as soon as you can.
  • Be upfront about any problems.
  • Look at successful listings of related websites for ideas.

Investigating sites you are thinking of buying
Remember that building a decent site and getting visitors to it do not always go hand in hand. Never be rushed into buying and always research the site first. Some things you can do include:

  • Looking up information about the site, particularly for comments on forums and elsewhere.
  • Look over the site for good structure and check for problems or errors with online tools. For example, Google Page Speed uncovers site seed and other issues; the SEO Doctor Firefox extension will inform you of SEO issues, and the Wayback Machine can show you how a site has changed over time.
  • Again, be careful about the traffic sources. Make sure it is not from a paid source or dependent on some outside factor such as the owner’s social network.
  • Use Copyscape to find out if the content is original.
  • Be sure you understand exactly where the money is coming from.
  • Ensure the site does not have a lot of junk links.
  • Check to see if you can handle any technical aspects of the site.
  • Be wary. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For example, if the claimed revenue of a website is enough to make back the purchase price in a short period of time, why wouldn’t the owner just hang onto the site?

Ways to increase a site’s value  
If you are flipping a site or seeking to get a higher value for your site, keep in mind that earnings and traffic will always be the primary determiners of value, although a site’s potential value is sometimes a factor.

Those who are experienced in monetizing sites can sometimes significantly increase revenue rapidly by changing the types of monetization and where ads are placed. Changing the design of a site and adding content also can boost value.

Significantly increasing the value of a website usually requires a longer-term commitment. The most obvious techniques are on-page and off-page SEO to boost traffic and earnings over time.

Adding videos, ebooks and other content, especially when done on conjunction with email marketing, are also effective techniques. Most deals go with partial payment with the balance paid after transfer is complete.

Transferring and making sure everything is in order
When buying a website on Flippa and other major sites, there are usually escrow accounts and other services to help make the process of receiving payment and transferring ownership easier and more secure.

Flippa’s blog has a section on how to transfer ownership here.  Basically, it consists of transferring ownership of the domain to the buyer with the registrar you bought the domain from and then transferring the files to the new hosting. Some things you need to make sure of include:

  • Ensuring you have a complete backup of all site data. Email lists are especially important if the site has one. Be sure to change all affiliate information.
  • Any contract should include how much support the previous owner will give and prohibiting them from starting competing websites.
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Working full time from home, I am interested in blogging, online marketing, financial topics and technology. My aim is to constantly build my knowledge of affiliate marketing and related topics while help others in the process by creating online resources that enlighten and inform.

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