Rank in Google Instantly or Spend Years Building? SEO Reasons Behind Website Acquisition

My team analyzed 6,271 websites from the Flippa database to understand how long it takes for a startup to get traffic from Google and build an authoritative website that both clients and search engines will love. If you’re looking to rank in google, website acquisition can be a great way to save time on building a website’s presence.

Here is a Summary of Our Key Findings:

  1. Patience Pays Off: A new website typically takes around three years to gain momentum in traffic growth.
  2. Visibility Takes Time: A new website takes almost two years to appear in Google’s top 10 search results.
  3. The Top 10 Matters: Websites ranked beyond the top 10 receive less than 1% of the search traffic.
  4. Content and Backlinks are Key: The main ranking factors are a critical mass of high-quality content and backlinks from reputable websites.
  5. Avoid Shortcuts: Using AI for mass content production and buying backlinks can result in a penalty from Google.
  6. Consider buying: Acquiring an existing website gives immediate access to traffic and revenue and is a great way to save time and mitigate risks.


Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned investor, Flippa offers a world class technology platform and advisory team tailored to your business acquisition needs. Flippa has over 6,000 active business listings ranging from $5K to $50M.

Backstory – Most Startups Fail

I’ve started several businesses. Some of them failed. A few succeeded in making profits and eventually being sold. 

I’ve also bought websites, ranging from small purchases for my personal use to a multi-million-dollar deal for a publicly traded company. So, I’ve been doing both building and buying.

I have experienced that building and succeeding in a business is years of challenging work; even then, the chances are slim.

Statistics are not favorable for new business founders. On average, 70% of startups fail within the first five years. And only 18% of businesses launched by first-time founders succeed.

Building is usually cheaper than buying. But the founder pays in years of their life and plays against the odds to succeed.

On the other hand, buying a business is usually more expensive than building one. But it gives you immediate access to a proven business model, predictable cash flows, established marketing channels, reliable team members, contractors, suppliers, etc.

Profitable businesses have figured out most things that can lead startups to failure. It’s a lot of work.

Here are some stats about what may go wrong and how often:

Image credit – Exploding Topics.

In short, building a business is cheaper but requires years of work, and the odds are still low. Buying a business is costly, but the outcome is way more predictable.

Earning Google’s Loyalty

Regarding Internet businesses, another significant factor comes into play: the website performance in Google search results.

Here is the thing:

Google is “biased” in favor of older websites.

There’s plenty of data and research supporting this statement. For example, a recent study by Ahrefs shows that it takes nearly two years for a content page to rank at position ten and almost three years to rank at the top.

Image credit: Ahrefs

Why does it matter? Because less than 1% of users searching on Google click a result beyond the top 10. So, getting into the top 10 is vital. 

The above statistics align with our experiment results when we analyzed more than six thousand online businesses from the Flippa database. 

As the graph illustrates, organic traffic grows very slowly during the first three years, accelerates in years 3-4, and increases rapidly afterward. Websites typically rank in the top 10 with their content during this period.

Why Does Google Rarely Rank New Websites?

Google ranking factors are a vast topic. Answering this question in detail takes 50 pages of data and explanations – Semrush has recently completed the ranking factors study if you are interested in deep detail. 

If I have to explain in simple English, it all boils down to website authority – Google’s “trust” in content published on the exact domain.

Search engines aim to give the best answer to a user’s search query while keeping the search results clean from spam and manipulation. From this perspective, it’s safe to lean towards older websites with established reputations.

But how do you earn this reputation?

It takes time and effort. SEO is an upward spiral.

  1. You create unique content that is interesting and helpful for your website visitors.
  2. Google sends some traffic your way to measure “engagement signals” – whether people are reading your content deeply enough to consider it helpful.
  3. Other websites publish links to your content, giving Google additional signals that content is worth ranking higher.
  4. If you avoid trouble, your content slowly moves up in search results. I’ll cover the possible “troubles” part in a minute.
  5. You continue to produce content. Other websites continue to link to your site and content. Your website starts winning more and more trust from search engines. Eventually, your pages will start appearing in the top 10 results.
  6. Soap, rinse, and repeat for 2-3 years. Years of consistent effort and investment in SEO will result in a sustainable flow of “free” traffic.

It all boils down to:

A critical mass of high-quality content published over an extended period, plus links from other high-quality websites – determines the winners of the SEO “marathon.” This is how actual website authority is built.


Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned investor, Flippa offers a world class technology platform and advisory team tailored to your business acquisition needs. Flippa has over 6,000 active business listings ranging from $5K to $50M.

How do you benchmark website authority?

It’s always interesting to compare every business with peers in the same niche. Various SEO tools have different Domain “Authority” scores that allow to compare websites easily.

We took the 6,271 websites from Flippa and checked their Domain Authority Score—the Semrush metric that combines organic traffic from Google and backlink profile analysis. This metric is a simple way to evaluate a website’s performance in search engines.

Data credits: Flippa

As you can see, a median website takes five years to reach a two-digit authority score. Surpassing a score of 40 takes 10+ years, and websites with authority scores above 60 are generally more than 20 years old. You can check the Authority Score of any website using my website’s free Authority Score Checker.

What About Shortcuts?

But what if the website owner massively produces new content at scale and buys backlinks? 

Both options – mass content production and buying backlinks – are widely available and actively advertised. Following such a path is where troubles happen. Any shortcuts in SEO can only help in the short term.

Google fights with these shady tactics to keep the quality of search results high. 

AI content production and backlink purchases can lead to a complete traffic loss from Google.

Google can entirely remove such websites from their index due to an algorithm update or a manual penalty.

Below is a real example from the recent “helpful content update” in March 2024. The website with AI-generated content grew from zero to 9M (nine million!) monthly visitors in four months and back to zero within a few weeks:

Bottom Line

Buying existing online businesses provides immediate access to cash flow and helps mitigate all the uncertainty related to startups. It can save years of SEO effort.

A well-performing website that survived all Google algorithm updates will likely continue to perform well for years.

Qualified content marketers can revamp a website with excellent past performance in a few weeks. Because updating old content and getting back into the top 10 is much easier than reaching it for the first time.

Whether to build or buy, make your choice with these insights to speed up your journey to ROI from your investment.


Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned investor, Flippa offers a world class technology platform and advisory team tailored to your business acquisition needs. Flippa has over 6,000 active business listings ranging from $5K to $50M.

Max founded xamsor.com and now builds his Content Audit tool to help analyze, recover, and grow organic traffic on small business websites. Prior career includes SVP of Marketing at Semrush - the world’s most known SEO software and e-commerce director for a brick-and-mortar retailer where he built a $60M+ online business from scratch in 6 years. With a passion for SEO and content, Max loves to dig into data and write about his findings.

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