If you want to run a successful internet-marketing business but don’t want the monetary and time investment to build a site from scratch, there is an alternative.
Buy an already working site, and capitalise on it!
The advantages are obvious. Someone else has done the hard work for you, identified a niche, bought a domain name, and built a site around it.
All kinds of sites are available, for all budgets. You’ll find content sites, game sites, web 2.0 sites, retail sites, and more.
You’ll even find unique one-off products and services.
There are a number of ways to find these sites, and quite a few pitfalls you need to avoid.
Finding A Site For Sale.
1. Try contacting the site owner of a site you are interested in directly. Sometimes, you will find “site for sale” notices on sites you come across, but these are rare. Many “for sale” notices are just on parked domains, and therefore you are only buying the domain name.
Older, less-updated sites are the obvious candidates for a purchase. Try looking through Dmoz or the Google Directory as there are many sites like this there.
Remember to ask for and verify current and historical traffic levels.
2. Look on dedicated “Business For Sale” sites. Be aware that the kinds of sites available here may be at a premium. On the plus side, if you have the capital, you will be buying an A+, professionaly developed website. These sites and truly ready-to-go and you should get a lot of help from the current owners during the transitional period when you take it over.
Some sites include:
3. Look on eBay. A lot of people sell cheap websites here, but make sure you read “What To Avoid” below first. You can also try classified sites such as Loot and Craigslist.
4. Use the Digital Point forums. There are hundreds of websites traded here, and since these are marketing based forums they are traded on their current or projected profitability. These sites will usually contain information on the traffic, such as hits per month, google page ranking, and any directories the site is listed in. They may also contain details on the sites current income per month, if applicable.
What To Look For
1. A useful, keyword based domain name. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a cheap site with a premium name that is worth more than the actually website content. Sometimes it’s a good start for some strong SEO tactics, and sometimes a name will just leap out at you and generate possibilities on it’s own. One word, .com domains should be snapped up. Hyphens, numbers, and less used TLD’s should be avoided.
Of course some of the most popular domains around, like ebay.com, yahoo.com, and google.com don’t actually mean anything, so always keep potential branding possibilities in mind, too.
BUYMOTORCYCLES.com is good
BUY-A-MOTORCYCLE.info is not. There is potential, especially if it’s already receiving traffic, but in general avoid.
2. Current traffic. There are a number of ways to show the level of traffic a site has, the most common being hits per month. Proof of this is usually through the websites log, a screenshot of a popular site stats program such as “AWStats”, or a link to a third party tracker operating on the site, such as Googles Analytics or SiteMeter.
Be aware that raw hits may not mean anything, as it’s relatively easy to purchase say 10,000 hits to a site when all that site is doing to gain the traffic is appearing as a pop-under to another site, showing as a redirection from a dead site, or worse being automatically refreshed by a computer program 10,000 times.
Be especially wary of sudden jumps in traffic, such as an old site that has wavered around the 1000 hits mark and suddenly gets many multiples of that in the month or two before it’s listed for sale! The next tip might be a better indication.
3. Listings in directories and search engines. Ask for, and verify, details of where a site is listed. Search for the site name in popular search engines, as well as for useful keywords that should show the site. Don’t buy a site on a promise of a top 10 ranking if that ranking is for some obscure three or four word term. Check Alexa for a rough indication of the sites ranking, and check directories such as Dmoz to see if it’s listed.
If you search for a site and find it hasn’t got a good ranking, but the site is linked from many articles, specialised directories, and forums it may still be a good buy.
In Google you can use specialised search terms such as “Links:DomainName.com” or “site:DomainName.com” to show sites that link to a domain, and all pages in a domain respectively.
4. Current Income. If a site is making an income then the sales price will reflect that. Sometimes a site is sold for only 10 or 12 times its monthly income, which is a bargain – especially if you can grow that income! Sites usually make an income from direct sales, advertising space, or affiliate links. Ask for proof of each such as a Google Adsense report, ClickBank Affiliate account, PayPal proof etc.
5. Other perks, such as hosting. If site offers a years free hosting, that could save you the hassle of finding your own host and moving the site immediately. Basically, it’s good to go right away. If the owner offers to help your for a month or two, that’s great. And if the site comes as a backup on CD, that’s also very useful. There are many perks a seller might throw in, and it depends a great deal on the type of site.
6. Site Content. If the site has many, many pages then that’s an especially good reason to buy it, but you should ensure you are also going to own the copyright to this content. For example, be aware a site full of photographs sourced from the web or articles “scraped” from other sites may land you in deep water down the line. If the content is easily updated, through some kind of front-end, then that makes it all so much easier to operate.
Specialised scripts are also sometimes worth more than that the site itself, but again – ensure you actually own this script or you have a licence to run it. An overly complicated script may also cause you problems if you don’t know what you are doing – this is another situation where having support from the seller can be invaluable.
7. A Site Audience. If the site has a popular forum and/or email list, then that’s a great reason to buy it. Some sites may even be list or board based themselves. However, ensure it’s not the current owners personality that makes the site what it is. Once he/she goes, the audience may go with them.
If you do buy a site with an extensive mailing list or popular forum it’s only fair to let the sites participants know of the change in owneship and introduce yourself. And if you can, try to copy their style, at least in the short term, and introduce changes slowly. Make sure you write/provide what the sites visitors expect.
What To Avoid
1. Template based websites. It’s all to easy to buy a domain name, stick a template on it or a turnkey-script, and sell it. These sites will look like hundreds of others, and should be avoided. eBay especially seems to offer a load of these. Common examples are auction sites, dating sites, ebook sites, blogs, gambling sites, etc.
2. Uncommon TLD’s such as .info. While it’s not a disaster, a strong .com domain name is much, much better than a .net, .org, or .info. A country specific site such as .co.uk can be fine, but only if you are intending to market that site in that country. Some domain names might look great at a first glance, but then you realise that the .cc name just doesn’t cut the mustard. Also beware premium TLDs that may cost you more money to register each year.
3. Locked in hosting “deals”. While a free hosting deal may look like an excellent perk you may find that after the first year/month/whatever you’re asked to pay a premium for it. You may also discover the free hosting is very basic, with a limited bandwidth and/or space available, that again costs you a premium to upgrade. Check the deal before you accept it. You might even be – gasp – entering into a contract where you are obliged to use the sellers hosting without realising it.
4. Short term increases in traffic and/or income. When checking traffic and income claims, please ensure they are genuine. It’s not too difficult to increase traffic short term before a sale as mentioned above, and you can even increase income artificially by, for example, purchasing a lot of Google Ads for the site before you sell it. While a $500 a month income might look attractive for the site (especially if you are planning to greatly build on this) it’s not so attractive when you realise the seller paid $450 for the ads to generate that income
Working With Your New Purchase
Congratulations, you’ve purchased a site. What now?
Firstly, make sure everything is registered to you. Have the domain name transfered to your account or your prefered system.
The easiest way to do this, if possible, is to have an account with the same registrar, so that the current owner can just transfer ownership to you. You can then alter the details for the domain. Most registrars now allow this.
Otherwise you have to initiate a domain transfer to you, a little more complicated and it will take time. If you can, use the first method.
Ensure the hosting is adequate for your needs, and the cost is reasonable. If you have to transfer the site to your own hosting account.
When transfering the files, use an FTP program to download the site contents. You’ll also need to backup any databases used by the site, and edit any scripts. If a site you’ve bought is just normal HTML you only need the files. However, many sites now run from scripts and copying these are not as straighforward.
There’s a great beginners guide to FTP here:
And a free FTP client here:
Some things to keep in mind: Most scripts have a config file, where you change the settings, or perhaps a front end you can access to do the same. Commonly, the domain name should be changed (if you’re moving it to a new domain) and the path. You may also need to edit paths to the cgi-bin on your own host, and perhaps the database username and password – if used.
You’ll also need to use the sites control panel a lot. Modern control panels such as cPanel allow to change all the sites details, and you can use this to access “PhpMyAdmin” to download any databases in use. This can be difficult for the novice, and unfortunately I’ve no room to go into the details here, but you can check this site for a good overview:
All this is where help from the current site owner can be invaluable!
Check where the traffic is coming from. Work with the sources. Look at the site logs for the current site, and if you see you are getting a lot of hits to, say, certain URLs try and figure out where they are referenced. You can build on this. If you have a lot of hits from AdSense ads, consider running the same campaigns the current user is using – if they’re profitable! And if you find a lot of traffic coming from forums and messageboards, try and frequent the same ones.
You’ll also of course want to find new traffic sources, but current traffic is always a good place to start.
Update the content and/or design. This can be as simple as using a new template, adding features such as pictures and videos, adding community aspects such as a forum, or just changing the colours and menu structure.
Add revenue streams. Of course, you want to make money here! Think about which pages could benefit from ads, either from a third party such as AdWords, or from affiliate programs you yourself have choosen. Add a subscription service if the content warrants it (pay for access). Add a mailing list if there isn’t one already. Or you could even go all out and add an automated page-content ad system such as Kontera or Chitika – but be aware I and many others find these intrusive.
There’s a good list of ad networks here:
For affiliate programs, look to CJ.Com, Trade Doubler, and Link Share. There are many more, search Google for them.
Now the fun begins… The back end is in place, the content is there, and the revenue streams are in place.
Track everything: You’ll want to know where your traffic comes from.
Know Conversions: You’ll want to know how much bang-per-buck you’re getting.
Update: Add content, try changing parts of the site for better SEO, and above all, strive to keep your visitors coming back.
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