Buying a website is one way of jumping into a business quickly. However, as with any business, it isn’t just a matter of looking at the bottom line. There are many aspects about websites that need to be considered to assess their overall health and potential.

Rather than looking at buying a site from purely a commercial point of view, you need to look at it from other perspectives. The amount of SEO, design, and web development effort which have been put into a site should greatly influence the sales potential. 

This will give you a better idea about not just immediate value, but how much effort needs to be put in to grow it.

1. Value of Existing Content

The traffic volume and value of these two sites show that not all traffic is worth the price

One of the most important sources of website traffic is content. Search engines like Google place heavy emphasis on how well content meets search intent, no matter what the nature of the site is. However, you need to be aware that not all traffic is valuable traffic.

As an example of this, some sites may have a high traffic volume with very little actual commercial value. 

For existing content, try to analyze a few pieces and see how well they match Google’s E-A-T principles. The articles in general should demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness to fulfill some basic requirements.

Important Note: Be extremely cautious about websites with YMYL content. YMYL, or Your Money or Your Life, is any content which attempts to touch on subject matters pertaining to health, happiness, and wealth.

This type of content is tightly monitored by Google because it can have a profound impact on individuals.

2. Technical Aspects

Some tools like the one WHSR offers lets you easily check the technologies that drive a website

Once you buy a site, you’ll need to be able to run and maintain it. Is the site built on a platform that you can manage? If not, you might have to hire someone to handle that for you, which is additional operational cost in the future.

You also need to take into consideration if the technologies behind the site are current and competitive. Some older technologies may take up more resources than necessary, which again, can lead to higher operational costs.

Migrating an existing site, particularly an older one, can lead to pretty hefty bills which should influence the price you pay for the site. Aside from potential problems with older technologies, you also need to factor in the competition.

Use the Web Hosting Secret Revealed Tool Tool to assess the site and a few competitors to see how they match up. This will give you greater insight to the technology that drives the different properties, then consider why.

Keep an eye on:

  • What platform drives the site (e.g. WordPress, Drupal, Etc)
  • Widgets or plugins used
  • Analytics and advertising software used
  • Content delivery network (CDN) used
  • Security protection 
  • Fonts and scripts needed
  • Potential cost of outsourcing work

3. Traffic and Sources

Having visitors to a site is one thing, but you need to look beyond the here and now towards a more strategic perspective. Unsteady flows of traffic can be a cause of alarm and indicate inorganic methods of traffic building.

Look at the flow of traffic over time and consider:

  • Has the increase in traffic been gradual?
  • How quickly has it grown and why?
  • Is the flow steady over 12-month periods?

Besides volume, you also need to take into account where the traffic is from. Organic traffic is the most desirable and should contribute the bulk of any website’s traffic profile. Always be cautious of social media traffic and be sure to verify how that has been obtained.

As a whole, it is good if you can get an idea of what marketing strategies the owner employs. This can give you a better idea of what you may need to do to either change, or maintain the type and volume of traffic.

4. Know the Demographics

If you have a target market in mind, make sure that you match the demographics of a site with your current target market. Sites tend to attract different crowds and even similar niches may have their own distinct ‘flavor’ of traffic.

For example, if you’re going to build on a tech site, make sure your intended direction of development matches the existing traffic demographics. Taking over a site that’s catering to server enthusiasts will likely not end well if you’re moving towards gadgets or mobile.

Example – SimilarWeb allows you to identify website audience for free. Plug in a website URL to see where traffic comes from, where users go before or after visiting the website and their topic of interest. Image shows audience interests for Flippa.com (see actual result page).

5. Domain Age and History 

Traditionally, websites grow from nothing and take some time to reach maturity. That’s why people don’t generally buy new sites.The age of a domain is a factor of consideration since (generally speaking) search engines do take that into account.

The longer a domain has been established, the better it’s reputation is likely to be with Google. This makes aged domains valuable for resale in many cases. Always take this into account when you’re looking to buy a site.

6. Potential SEO Problems

With so many ways to build SEO these days, it isn’t an easy task. Unfortunately, this has led to some website owners trying to take shortcuts to the top of the SEO charts. This is something to look out for, especially if the site sees a meteoric rise in web traffic over a very short amount of time.

That isn’t the only problem though. If a site’s traffic has been stagnant for a period of time despite having solid content and performance, it might be due to underlying issues. For example, updates in Google’s algorithms can lead to old content that underperforms.

If this is the case, you may have to spend more time and resources on fixing problems rather than simply moving forward. Some issues may be easy to resolve, but others not so much.

Some causes of SEO penalties to look out for include:

  • Link cloaking
  • Spammy link profiles
  • Previously hacked websites
  • Stolen or duplicate content

Stay Focused on Link Quality

Traffic can come at a high price and part of it is the time the website owner spends in building backlinks. Search engines like Google use backlinks as one of the indicators of the trustworthiness and authority of the site. 

This means that you need to look at not just the number of backlinks and links, but also their quality. A site can have 1,000 backlinks of very low quality and not match up to one with a handful or strong backlinks. 

There is no real way to assess this easily unless you use a commercial tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush.

7. Website Design

Yes, this was placed well down here for a reason – but it does remain one. Although you should generally favor performance over aesthetics, website design needs to be taken into consideration as well.

This is particularly true if you are buying a well-established site or one which has a load of existing content and graphic elements. The concepts of user interface (UI) design evolve over time, and new technologies tend to affect things as well.

A website that’s been around for ten years might be in need of a revamp, for example, to update graphic content (ie. icons, infographics, etc) or include mobile-friendliness and website response speed. Sites which are badly in need of a revamp may incur high cost to do so.

Landmines for Newbies

Seasoned website buyers are well aware of not just what to look out for, but also what might go wrong. If you’re looking to buy a website for the first time, you need to be aware of what might go badly as well. 

Avoid making these rookie mistakes:

Missing Due Diligence

Aside from factors I’ve described above, you need to make sure the financials of the site are in order. This is the most basic tenet of buying a website and should guide the surface of any purchase.

Working Outside a Reputable Website Selling Platform

If you’re new to the business, under no circumstance try to go at it alone. Platforms like Flippa exist for a reason – to help ensure your financial safety. They also perform basic due diligence of their own, helping guide you towards safer sales.

Some also have extended features which can provide invaluable, like valuation tools. These can provide extended levels of guidance that might surprise you.

Getting Greedy

Always start small and treat your first purchase as a highly valued experiment. Look at it from the perspective of a learning experience and don’t worry too much about how much you’ll potentially earn. Always keep your eyes out for red flags rather than only the silver lining.

Giving Up

Following on closely on the heels of getting greedy, one bad experience doesn’t mean the end of the world. That’s the reason I mentioned to start small and treat it like a learning experience. It paves the way for your next (and hopefully successful) purchase.

Conclusion: Dollars can be Blinding

By now you can probably tell that the money trail you see may not always give you a complete picture. Buying a website needs a lot more background work than simply looking at financial data.

Even if you’re buying a site to re-sell later on, the foundation needs to be strong enough for you to get real long-term value. There are also pitfalls to be aware of, especially if you’re new to website buying and selling.

Jerry Low

Jerry Low

Jerry Low is a geek dad with more than 15 years experience in digital marketing and SEO. His company WebRevenue has helped hundreds of online businesses take the next step forward towards greater success.