I personally have never bought any website before, but I have developed few sites from ground up. So I am neither an expert nor aware of the intricate details or procedures to assess the value of another website accurately. This article is the result of a chat I had with one of my long term client and a friend, who is NOT a novice in the online business field. But that did not help him from getting his hands burned in a recent deal. When I heard of it, I felt it could have been easily avoided if he did check few basic stuff. So I thought I will write it up so it may help someone else in future.
So he recently purchased a blog site on a reputed website marketplace called Flippa. The blog site he bought deals with tech niche. The tech niche has got great number of audience and has got good scope to bring in great adsense revenue. The seller of the site claimed it is currently generating around $1400 per month and provided screenshot proofs to substantiate it. My client gave his adsense code to place it on the seller site for a day for verification and found results that backed the seller’s claim. So the sale went through for a good deal of money. But after the ownership has exchanged the traffic and adsense revenue from the site plummeted and the seller just disappeared.
Yes, it was a textbook scam. How did my client fall for it? It is because he assumed the data provided by the seller on the marketplace was verified and true. The single day adsense revenue from the sellers site sealed his belief. Now what he could have, or anyone else could have done differently to prevent this? Lets list them out.
1. Reputation of the site
Google is your friend. Cannot stress it enough. When you are planning to buy a site, just Google it. To my surprise when I did a Google search with the domain name of the site without TLD , it did not show up in the first 3 pages of results, where as I expected it to show up as the very first entry. If the domain name search does not return a 2 year old site on Google search, it indicates something wrong. So I did another Google search with the domain name plus TLD, this time it returned the site on first page, but interestingly it returned a result that pointed to an old sale listing of the same site on the same market place few months earlier, which was abandoned and seller was banned. This alone could have saved my client had he done a Google search beforehand.
2. Community behind the site
I am interested in tech stuff and I follow many tech sites. So if a tech site that is generating 4 figure adsense revenue in the first year, that means it has accumulated a large community following. How can you check this? actually very simple, just check the comments section of their articles. If you see genuine and organic discussions about the article in the comments section, that is a positive sign. It is not about the quantity of comments but the quality of comments that matter. Poorly managed blogs can accumulate thousands of spam comments from spam bots which amounts to nothing. Community comments on the site in question? Zero
3. Social media presence of the site
It is vital for every website to maintain an active and engaging social media presence. Let that be Twitter, Facebook, Google plus, RSS feed subscribers or anything. The number of social media followers can give you a picture about the site’s popularity. Now this could be tricky if you just go by numbers alone. I say it because it is possible now to purchase facebook likes, tweets, subscribers etc. So spend a little time to analyse the nature of the social media community of the particualr site. See if the followers are real accounts with activity. The social media presence of that site was non existent.
4. Age of the site
Wine gets better with age. But website does not get any better only because it is old. But if a website been actively producing quality content over a long period of time, it will naturally become a good purchase. Because in that duration of activity it would improve its PR rank, Alexa rank and other analytic benchmarks, and develop many relevant and organic back-links . This may not be possible for a younger site. The age of that particular website was one year old and it was a PR 2 domain. So if a seller claims a great adsense revenue from a very young site, but cannot back it with traffic / earning data accumulated over its course of growth, dont believe it.
5. Verify the analytics and revenue data
When it comes to verifying such data, never trust screenshots. You dont even need Photoshop these days to whip up an authentic looking analytics report or paypal page screenshot. Insist to get access to the live data and check the nature of the traffic and revenue. Check if it shows an organic pattern and see if the traffic is natural. A high bounce rate, short page session time etc are indicators to paid traffic. Look for the keywords that brings in the traffic and look for traffic sources. There are many means and services available now to fake traffic and adsense clicks. A scammer can manipulate traffic and adsense revenue for a short duration with black-hat methods before his site or adsense get blocked. Never come to conclusion based on the traffic data of 1 or 2 months, always check for atleast a year or minimum 6 months back. This can show you the stability of the traffic if it exists.
6. Know your seller
This may not be easy as the professional scammers do a good job in covering their tracks. Most of them will come with great recommendations and feedbacks. But it is worth to make an attempt to identify if the seller is genuine. Dont be shy to get a bit nosy. Ask questions about past deals and get contacts, let the seller know that you wont move a dime until you are fully convinced.
These are just few things that came into my mind. Of course they are not bulletproof methods, but they will serve as a good start to verify the authenticity of the claims made by your seller. If you know other methods or tools that can help website buyers to make smart and informed decisions, please do share them here.