Buying a new website can be a great way to improve your online presence, generate income, or direct traffic to a site that you’ve already got up and running. But no matter your reason for buying a new site, it’s important to do your due diligence and investigate potential websites before placing a purchase.
If you don’t investigate a potential website thoroughly before buying, you run the risk of getting a bad piece of Internet property and wasting time and money. Follow this checklist and you’ll be able to make sure a website is a good deal before placing the winning bid.
What Platform is the Site Built On?
First and foremost, consider what kind of platform the website you want to bid for is built on. This includes any website tech used to construct the site and its pages, as well as any tools on the platform that will let you make changes once it’s yours.
Understanding the technology and platform that a site uses to operate will help you understand how much it will cost to run the site and how easy it will be to make changes or update the site as time goes on. The platform of a website will define how you can shape the site in the direction you desire.
BuiltWith is a great resource to profile the technology stack or stacks used by a given website. They can also let you trace how many sites might use a given technology to help you determine if that tech will be right for your site’s adjustments going forward.
While you’re checking out the infrastructure of the website, it’s a good idea to click through between 20 or 30 of the included links on the pages and see if they all work. While you’re at it, you can analyze the backlinks of the site to help gauge the site’s effectiveness and interlinking quality so far.
These factors can give you some idea as to the work that you’ll need to put into the site after finalizing the purchase.
What’s the Site’s Reputation, and the Seller’s?
Buying a website from someone involves checking the reputation of both the seller and their site. This doesn’t necessarily mean word of mouth. Instead, it pertains mostly to the digital statistics and performance of the site in the past.
If you know the seller’s name, checking social network profiles, such as those on Facebook or LinkedIn, can give you some idea as to their business morality and their past website success. Individuals that look untrustworthy on their social media pages or who bounce from job to job without much success are worth some suspicion.
Of course, you should also run a flat Google search for the website and its owner in addition to all other advanced investigative methods. Google can dredge up interesting information on each which might not be easy to see during the transaction. You’ll be able to find any positive or negative reviews of the site or its owner, and possibly see if the site has gone through transitions in ownership before. The public record is just that: public, and often informative.
One of the biggest ways to investigate a site’s reputation is the check the traffic sources for the site. You’ll need to make sure that any traffic flowing into the site is sustainable and make sense for your content or business model. Sometimes it’s possible to co-op existing traffic from the site before it was put up for sale, but not always.
However, even when you need to generate new traffic yourself, you can use the traffic source history of a site to see what worked best for it in the past. This can give you ideas to generate your own traffic or help you boost your initial traffic early on by copying earlier growth methods.
Check Other Site Metrics
Google Analytics is your friend. You should always request access to the analysis tools of the site before finalizing a purchase. A trustworthy seller will offer this information freely and let you take a peek at the advanced stats of the site. This, again, can give you some idea as to how much the site is worth and whether it’s worth your time.
Along with reputation, you should also be concerned with the security of the site. We would recommend requesting access to the site’s Google Search Console. This access will let you open the “Security Issues” of the site and investigate any potential security warnings.
You’ll also be able to find any search engine penalties or any website compromising that occurred in the past. All of these can give you an idea as to the security of the site as a whole and even some idea as to the traffic that the site draws from across the web.
What Will be the Cost of Maintenance and Expenses?
Every active site comes with certain maintenance costs that need to be accounted for before you place a bid for a new website. Along with domain registry fees and monthly or yearly maintenance costs, be prepared to take other more hidden expenses into account.
For instance, it’s likely that you’ll need to modify the site to fit your requirements in one way or another. This can involve coding, writing articles, registry work, or SEO research. While you might have the skills to accomplish one or all of these tasks on your own, it’s also likely that you’ll need to outsource some of this labor to contractors or other companies.
Those costs can add up once you combine them with your site’s repetitive maintenance costs. These are your total expenses, and they’re on top of the price that you’ll bid for the website in the first place. Once again, this is why it’s important to do your due diligence before purchasing a new website; it can be quite a financial endeavor even in the best circumstances.
What’s the Potential Revenue?
Any site worth buying needs to either be bringing in revenue at the time of selling or have high revenue potential to make it worth your while. Since the site is being sold, it’s more likely to be the latter case for your theoretical purchase.
It’s important to compare the overall costs of maintenance and expenses when thinking about revenue. You not only need to make enough revenue to continue the site’s operations, but also to make a profit.
Checking the revenue of the site involves investigating how it is monetized and which methods are showing the most growth. You may need to change the monetization method if the site’s revenue potential is high, but its previous revenue hasn’t reached an acceptable mark. If possible, check to see if the monetization method used by the site has changed recently.
Finally, you’ll always want to verify the ownership of any site that you’re preparing to bid for. It won’t do you any good to place a bid on an excellent website if the person getting your money isn’t actually the site’s owner. Fortunately, there are a number of tools you can use to verify ownership of the site and check the ownership history of a domain. These can help you form a kind of digital paper trail and ensure that you’re dealing with a domain’s legal owner.
One of the best tools to use is whois.domaintools.com. Their site allows you to search for any domain that you are bidding for and view the history. Whois typically has extensive records for most domains. They can tell you if the owner has changed in the recent past when the domain was initially registered or created, and the original registrant organization.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to track which organizations are connected to one another in case the domain is owned by a larger site or media group.
Sometimes you’ll find domains that are more private, however. In this case, you’ll still be able to check the hosting history for the domain. The hosting history will let you determine if there have been any changes in the IP address, domain registrar, or the hosting provider. If all three of these aspects have changed within a 3-day period or so, it’s likely that the owner of the site changed during that time, as well.
One other tip is to use the wayback machine. This digital Internet archive has recorded pages of sites from all across the internet. You can use wayback to verify claims from the site seller and compare information between what they give you and information found on whois. While wayback isn’t perfect for detecting fabrications by itself, it’s still an excellent tool to lay to rest any suspicions that might be lingering.
So long as you perform your due diligence, you’ll be able to find the right website to buy no matter which market you use. You’ll also avoid being scammed into a website that leaks time and money like a sinking ship. Follow the above tips, and you’ll be set up for success. These tips are the same ones we at Landocs PE follow, after all. If you have a great site in need of a buyer, contact us and let’s get started!