I’ve been building websites, buying, and selling websites since 2005. I’ve been scammed a quite few times myself and they are worthy life lessons. I see scams every single day at website marketplaces such as flippa and digitalpoint. I can’t go around warning buyers at every website listing, so I will make this blog post here and hopefully prevent some of you guys from making the same mistakes and getting scammed.
Here are the rules I go by when looking to buy an established money making website.
1) If it’s too good to be true, then stay the hell away from it. For example, a website making $2k/month in passive income is never going to be sold for $2k – $5K just because the seller needs money quickly for a new project. You hear this all of the time from sellers, “I’m bored with this easy money making website or I want to move on to something else”.
Why would anyone sell a website that requires ZERO work and make passive income in the $1k+ / month range for dirt cheap all because they are bored? It’s just not realistic, would you ever sell a site that requires zero work that makes good money? Why would you or anyone?
So stay away from passive income generating websites that are asking for way too cheap.
2) Nothing lasts forever. There’s always a valid reason why someone would sell a money making website and it’s almost never because they needed money quickly for a new project, or that can’t really be the main reason why. It’s probably because the site is going downhill and they want out. So don’t buy a site that’s going downhill unless you have experiences with flipping websites. Here’s an example, this site’s earnings is decreasing and seller wants out.
3) Screenshots of traffic and revenue can be faked. Don’t always trust screenshot proofs. Paypal screenshots for instance can easily be faked. Plus you just can’t tell if the Paypal payments received are for exactly what the seller claims anyways. The same goes for adsense income, especially if they show you a total account earnings; this total earnings can be made up of all of the seller’s websites and not just the one he’s trying to sell. Also, showing proof on video is better than with image proof.
Traffic and revenue normally goes together. If traffic is up, earnings should be up. If a site has a lot of traffic say 1+ million visitors a month and only making $1k / month, this doesn’t look right. Vice versa, if the site gets low traffic such as 100 visitors a month and makes $1k / month, this too looks suspicious.
It really depends on how the website makes money: adsense, selling a product, selling a service, affiliate sales, leads, etc.
Having a pagerank and good alexa ranking is also a good indication that the website has good traffic. For example, this site here HowToWebmaster.com have an alexa ranking of 150k, I get about 5k-10k visitors a month. Another site that I run gets about 25k visitors a month and has alexa ranking of 50k. Alexa ranking isn’t perfect but it’s a good way to look at a site to see if it’s truthful sometimes. For instance, if a seller claims their site for sell 300k visitors a month, but alexa ranking shows 500k+, then this doesn’t look right. Or if alexa ranking jumps up too quickly or down too quickly, then this will tell you that something is wrong.
So generally, if a site shows crazy unrealistic numbers, it’s best to stay away from buying this website.
4) Website history is super important. I never look at any websites that doesn’t have at least 6 months of traffic and revenue stats.
A lot of scammy sellers build a new site, send traffic to it, make a lot of money with adsense, then sell the website quickly. Someone buys the site, then a couple weeks later the traffic dries up. Now no more adsense income, the buyer gets screwed! This scammy site flipping strategy is called pump and dump.
Anyways, Adsense will banned sites and accounts that sends traffic artificially to websites that display adsense ads. But before the adsense team could find out, the seller have have already sold the money making site to a new buyer.
Here’s an example of a pump and dump where the seller makes $1k+ in a couple of months and is now dumping this site on flippa hoping for a clueless buyer to bite:
The longer the history or stats of a site with at least 6+ months, the better. Also consistent earnings and traffic is usually a good sign. Like in this example, a site with almost 1 year of earnings stats, stayed consistent, and even rising. This is a worthy site with a more realistic monthly earning stats:
However, even with a long history of stats, if it has wild ups and downs, it’s usually unstable and I wouldn’t recommend buying a site with this kind of stats seen below:
Some months this site makes over $1k+ and some ZERO? Crazy!
5) A Seller’s history is very important. Always check the seller’s ratings and history of his websites for sale. If the seller is new, then be careful and just ask the seller for references or proof showing that this seller can be trusted. For instance, most webmasters or sellers belong to a webmaster forum such as warriorforum or digitalpoint. Ask for the seller’s username so that you can view his posts and any buying/selling done at the forums. If he’s an asshole at the forums, then he’s gonna treat you the same way after buying the site.
So use some common sense and ask questions. If the seller is shying away from legit questions, he’s not someone you can trust and you should just move on.
You’re looking for a trustworthy seller that can support and work with you when buying and transferring the site without much headaches.
6) So you want to buy a money making website, but which kind? Don’t buy anything that requires work that you can’t do or update. A lot of the time this will eat up your income and can cost you even more money. For example, buying a software selling website. Okay selling a profitable software can make a lot of money each month, but nothing lasts forever, remember? How are you going to update the software or add new features? Who’s gonna answer the technical questions? If you outsource to someone else, this can be expensive and your earnings will be less, or even negative.
So when buying a website, don’t let the money blind you. You should think about the cost of maintaining the site, updating it, and growing it. Never buy a site and expect it to just sit there and make money for you forever without doing any work!
Don’t trust a seller when he says “Oh this site is super easy to maintain, it only takes 2 hours per month to maintain, and that’s all, super easy, so you’re actually making $500 per hour!”.
Oh yeah, if it’s really that easy, why the hell is this seller dumping this 2 hour passive income site on flippa for!?
Again, use common sense. When something doesn’t seem right with either the seller or the website, just move on to the next site.
7) Use Escrow. Any deals over $500, you should always use escrow. I’ve been burned a couple of times where the seller has perfect ratings, we’ve even talked on the phone, and he seems genuinely like a nice person. Then I would send him the money via western union. And then guess what? He doesn’t deliver, no phone calls, no emails, just nothing.
That’s life folks. I’ve been burned. Now I know not to trust anyone online no matter how nice they seem.
So any deals over $500, I would recommend you to use escrow. There are many escrow services for buying and selling websites & domain names. I mostly use escrow.com. I’ve done over $100,000 on there, and it works beautifully!
I would estimate only 5% – 15% of websites listed at Flippa and digitalpoint are of good quality. The rest are pump and dump sites, cookie cutters, no income, dead sites, illegal sites, and just plain scams.
Leon’s Website Consultation Service
If you’re looking to buy a website or domain name and need some help determining if it’s a good buy, I can evaluate it for a flat fee of just $20. Contact me.
If you need help selling a quality website, I have some established seller’s accounts at multiple marketplaces with 100% ratings and can help broker your website/domain for a small fee. Again, contact me here.
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Do you have any experience with buying or selling a website? Share a comment. Thank you!