Have recently been spending some time around the online world of website selling, or “flipping” as it’s called in the business. This is where someone has a site they own, usually with the objective to make some sort of income via Google Adsense or affiliate marketing, and have decided to sell it on to someone else, usually with the hope of making a nice little profit on the site.
I’ve spent the last couple of months researching online passive income methods, and while I try to put some of what I learn into action I am also looking at the possibility of buying mature sites that may already have some of the Google ranking benefits that can take a while to gain when starting from scratch. I’ve purchased three sites so far, only small sites with low to mid range traffic, but it’s a nice learning curve to be able to manage sites with a little maturity in terms of their Google ranking along with starting some other sites from scratch.
But back to the site “flipping” world… boy, there are some dodgy dealings going on here! Sure, there are obviously many legitimate sellers who are only after a fair price for their site (think of it like a small business, a “fair” sales price would be a combination of monthly income multiplied by x number of months), but boy oh boy there are a lot who are quite obviously trying to get a price that is far higher than what the site is actually worth from some naive buyer. Of which there are obviously a lot of those out there too. And try to shine a light on some of their bahaviour and you watch how you get attacked!
For those who might be looking to purchase a site themselves, or maybe just want a glimpse into this shady world, here are some of the common behaviours that should send anyone’s alarm bells ringing:
1. Not providing the site URL: Yep, believe it or not it happens. Some sales sites (such as flippa.com) force the seller to provide and display the URL (along with a other essential data), however other sites do not. It’s a little like a car sales website where the listings display the car registration number, as soon as a listing doesn’t display the site URL, I start wondering why.
2. Google Analytics data: Google Analytics is THE industry standard website statistics tool, it’s painstakingly simple to add to a site, and it provides a verifiable range of stats on site visitor numbers, traffic sources, and a range of other valuable information for judging the value of a site. As soon as someone says they don’t have GA installed on a site they’re selling, your first thought should be to walk away. Many will show you some data from software installed on their own server called “Awstats”. Let me repeat part of that: “on their own server”. Umm, yeah, hello? So you’re trying to tell me that data coming from software installed on your own server cannot be altered in any way?? Umm, right. I view this a little like fiddling with the odometer reading on a car: it happens, we all know it happens, so why cry foul when I question you on it. Oh, “you” don’t behave this way? I don’t know you from a piece of wood, why should I believe/trust you? You’re the one selling the site, YOU provide me with the information in order to be able to trust what you’re claiming. It’s not that hard to understand.
3. Organic search engine figures: One of the essential factors of a website’s value is the number and overall percentage of website visitors are “organic” search engine visitors. These are visitors who have done a search on Google, Bing or similar, and have then clicked through to the site as a result of it appearing in the search results. The two other types of visitors are “direct” and “referred”. “Direct” means visitors who have typed the URL directly into their web browser. “Referred” are visitors who have clicked on a link on another website. Both these latter two types of visitors are very easily “gamed” for a website. They can be either paid traffic, where the amount paid could be far more than the claimed earnings of the site, or they could even be a bunch of friends of the seller visiting the site over a sustained period in order to raise visitor number stats to help drive up the price. Again, one of those things that Google Analytics will clarify… again, it happens, we all know it happens, so once again, stop crying foul when I call you on it, and instead provide us with verifiable statistics.
4. Responding aggressively to legitimate due diligence questions: Asking for the above information from sellers has brought out some less than friendly responses from some. Alarm bells a’ringing! This is of course not just a site selling warning signal, but is true of any type of sales. As soon as someone starts to act offended, or responds aggressively, to legitimate due diligence questions, time to move on from that potential sale.
Seems to be a bit of a trend with online sales… previously I talked about SEO and snake oil salespeople, and now it’s site “flipping” and dodgy used car sales people. Do you see a trend?