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Buying a Website? 12 Elements You Need to Investigate

Once you’ve located a website that you’re genuinely interested in, it will be time to take a closer look. Below are 12 specific elements you want to verify before you decide to purchase a website. While the following are not the only criteria, these are considered the more important factors. Be sure to also check out the third-party resources (listed below) to ensure you’re getting an honest deal. This, of course, will reduce your risk and ensure the Seller is being honest about all the website’s claims.

1. Website Traffic. Anyone who has ever heard the saying ”build it and they will come” has never owned a website. Even over income, the most important factor is traffic because, without traffic, it’s difficult to generate revenue. Some may say that income should be listed first but with no traffic, a website is worthless.

Anyone serious about selling their site will always provide traffic statistics. They will typically contain a series of statistical metrics to help you analyze the site for sale. The two most important statistics are unique visitors and site referrers.

Let’s take a closer look at each one: You want to always focus on unique visitors and not “hits.” The differences between the two are easy. For example, if a webpage has six graphics and the webpage itself, it would be considered seven hits, one hit for each graphic and the HTML page. Unique visitors are just that, individuals who visit your website — this is what counts when looking at a website’s traffic statistics.

Site referrers, or referrals, indicate how a visitor found the site. For example, if someone came from Google, it will indicate as such and usually, the search phrase (also referred to as “keywords”) is used to locate the website. If other websites are linking to the site, it will usually display the web address (URL) where the visitor clicked to visit your site. The following are two examples…

From a search engine such as Google, you’ll notice that it indicates the search engine and the keywords used:|

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rlz=1B3GGGL_enUS235US235&q=allow+visitors+to

+leave+comments+on+website&start=10&sa=N

From a website where the link is embedded:

http://www.warriorforum.com/forum/pop_profile.asp?mode=display&id=76731

One thing to look out for is if the seller uses paid advertising such as Google AdWords or other search engine advertising. If nothing else, the seller must tell you if they use advertising. If they do not disclose this information, I consider it to be deceptive because who is to say they would not be honest in other areas when trying to sell their website. Luckily, it’s
rather obvious in the referrer section of a website’s traffic report. Here’s an example of a referral link from Google AdWords:

http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/ads

In another post,  Third-Party Resources, I discuss Alexa as another indicator regarding the amount of traffic an established website receives. While Alexa is not 100% accurate, it will help confirm traffic stats.

2. Website Income. The best way to prove income is for the seller to provide “screenshots” of the revenue. Whether it’s through PayPal, Google Checkout, Clickbank, or other income sources, you want to see proof of a money trail. The further back their history of sales they can provide, the better. Another method is to let a seller provide you access to their accounts.

Luckily, PayPal (provided they are the account owner), allows anyone authorized limited access to one’s account. This is another method to let you know if the Seller is being honest about the website’s income. One of the challenges is if the owner has multiple websites that are
controlled by one account. For example, when I was selling one of my beat-a-traffic-ticket websites, I had more than 12 other websites that I funneled income into one account. This would be a hindrance but you can usually sort transactions by the amount or email address.

3. Graphic/images. A very important issue is to make sure all the graphics are original. I’ve repeatedly heard horror stories of companies such as Getty Images claiming that a website used their graphics without authorization. Be sure all images are owned by the current website’s owner and not “borrowed” from another website.

4. Niche. Niche websites are typically small websites (usually less than 100 pages) that are focused on a corner of a particular market. They let you offer your target niche market a product or service that they can’t get from a larger more established supplier. The more specialized a website, the greater chances of receiving quality traffic and meeting a specific need. This is why niche websites are in demand. If you locate a niche website with a fast
return on your investment, they could be worthy of a closer examination.

5. Link popularity. This is the total number of websites that link to a site. According to LinkPopularity.com, “good link popularity can dramatically increase traffic to your website. Well-placed links are an excellent source of consistent and targeted traffic. And due to recent developments, they can even generate additional search engine traffic.”

Link popularity is a good indicator of how other website owners/webmasters feel about the website for sale. Referred to also as backlinks, these are important because you never want to be dependent on search engines to deliver traffic. The more backlinks, the better. You can conduct a link popularity check here. You can also search directly on Yahoo or Google by using this example: link:www.websiteforsale.com.

6. Energy. When I state this, it is a double-sided coin because there are two areas of energy: (a) the first is the amount of energy or hours you will need to expend to maintain the website. For example, it makes no sense to buy a website that generates $100/net if you have to spend 20 hours a week to maintain it. (b) The second area is the amount of cash you have to fork out to maintain a website. For example, a “proxy website”
uses tremendous amounts of bandwidth to remain online. This can add up to be an expensive deal if you’re not prepared, so keep this in mind.

7. Age of Website/Domain. This is a no-brainer, the older the domain/website, the better you’re off. They tend to have more credibility with search engines and better chances of other sites linking to the website for sale. You want to avoid a website that is typically under 6 months of age although this is not set in stone. Again, proven traffic and income may trump these criteria.

8. PageRank. I recognize that some potential buyers may be interested in knowing a website’s PageRank. I never really considered it a deal maker or breaker since it was the amount of traffic and income that were the most important factors. A few buyers consider PageRank as a virtual real estate appraiser and it could be an important factor if you plan to flip a website. I discuss PageRank further in the next section.

9. Domain Name. For some, the domain can be a key factor in deciding to buy a website. If it’s a strong domain name, this could increase the value of the website but an average domain typically does not affect the overall value. On the contrary, a bad domain name could hurt the value of a website’s purchase price. Here’s an example…

Good domain: WebmasterHelp.com
Average domain: Webmaster-help.com
Bad domain: Webmaster-help-2-assist-you.us

10. Monthly maintenance. Some websites operate on auto-pilot. They generate income day in and day out. Ideally, you want to buy a website that has minimal maintenance. This way it allows you to focus your energy on other areas such as internet marketing or buying more websites. Content sites tend to be the best for those who are first starting out. It makes no sense in buying a website that generates a $100 monthly net income if you have to spend 20 hours a month to maintain it. The best way is to ask the seller. You may also want to ask the seller if they will support you should you decide to purchase the website.

11. AdSense. Most websites typically use AdSense as one way of monetizing their website. If there are no AdSense ads placed on the site, you want to be sure that Google has not banned that website. If the seller does not have AdSense, make sure you know why. You can also use iWebTool.com’s AdSense checker by clicking here.

12. Custom coding. Some website owners will have custom programming done to their site. It may be because they offer more features than standard “out-of-the-box” software and thus could increase the value of a website. If a website has custom coding, you want to be sure the programming is solid and will not cause potential problems in the future. Also, ask if there are any server requirements such as a MySQL database or other needs to operate the script or program.

Of course, these are not the only factors when considering buying a website. By using Third-Party Resources, you might be able to locate additional information that may assist in your quest to evaluate a site in its entirety.

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