In my last post I talked about 3 ways you can setup your first website. In the 3rd example I talk about buying pre-owned websites on Flippa that are established with existing traffic and revenue. I really like this method because it makes it easy to plug-right-into a website that can immediately make money online. At least that’s the idea.
The hardest part about purchasing a website on Flippa, especially for newbies and first timers, is knowing how to spot and avoid the mine-field of scams. I briefly hit on this subject in my last post, but after thinking about it, I realized the subject needed a more detailed article exposing the various types of false claims & scams abundantly found on Flippa.com.
In my opinion at least 85% of the websites for sale on flippa are complete crap & worthless, full of false claims or misleading. It’s just the nature of the product. That being said, among the remaining 15%, some real gems can be found, if you know what to look for, or even more importantly, if you know what to avoid.
Now don’t get me wrong, I really love Flippa and consider it an amazing resource. I actually scan it every week, because you never know when an amazing opportunity might show up. I have personally purchased multiple websites on Flippa and have even uncovered some unscrupulous practices with some of the sites that I bought.
Types of Websites for sale on Flippa
Ok lets jump right into it. Basically there are 3 types of webistes that sell on Flippa. Within each of these 3 categories are things to be aware of.
Domain names – This is referring to the selling of just the name, no content or pages. There are 3 types of domain-names most commonly for sale on Flippa.
- Aged domains: Aged names are considered more valuable since it is believed that whatever past authority they had, to a degree will carry over to a new website as well as any preexisting back-links.
- Exact match domain: These are names that exactly match a Google search query that receive monthly traffic according to the Google key-word tool. Not too long ago it was well known that exact match domain-names were much easier to rank than a domain without the key-words in it. Post penguin update, exact match domains now carry considerable less authority weight, however many people still believe they have built in automatic value.
- Short Domains: Most Short catchy & short key-word .com names have already been registered, so its also common to find these types for sale on Flippa, many times with ridiculous price tags.
Things to be aware of when buying a pre-owned domain name:
- Google Banned or black-listed domain-names: If a domain-name is banned you don’t want to have anything to do with it. No matter how catchy, short or how old the domain-name is, if it was banned it is worthless. Basically this means it wont be indexed by Google, and will have zero organic traffic. You can use this free tool to check if a domain is banned iwebtool.com/google_banned
- Penalized or sandboxed domain-names: A domain name that was once well ranked but fell out of grace with Google. A penalized domain-name will be difficult to rank.
- Names that violate trademarks: Domain-names with popular trademark keywords in them. Scammers know that these can many times rank well relatively fast under the radar, then sell them quickly with traffic. Problem is they can be shut down at anytime and even be accompanied by a lawsuit.
- Old domain-name with new website: One method commonly used amongst domain sellers is to purchase domain-names that have recently expired (The previous owner may have just let it go or shut down their site and stopped paying the annual registration. After a certain grace period they become up for grabs). Sometimes these expired names will have a decent page-rank based on the previous website. The new owner will slap a quick new website together with the aged domain-name then sell it on Flippa with the high PR before the page rankings are updated, and drop-back to zero. Page Rank is only updated a few times a year. If there is any history on the domain-name, you can usually dig it up by searching the domain in Google and looking for any past references to it.
Cloned sites & autoblogs – These are probably the majority of the sites you will find for sale on Flippa. A clone site is basically an exact copy of a previously desinged website, but with a different domain-name and maybe slightly different look, but for the most part a clone. They use a push button script to clone the site then change the url and logo. These are very common with niche sites and so called web businesses in box sites(common examples include websites that sell fake, facebook likes, twitter followers, and internet traffic).
Flippa sellers are turning these clones out by the hundreds every month. They usually look impressively designed and flashy. There is nothing wrong with these types of sites, and I actually think it can be a great way to start a new website, however you should know there may be hundreds or even thousands just like it. Be prepared to edit existing content or create new content all together as well as build traffic and market the site from scratch.
You can usually tell these because they will have recently registered domain-names with less then 3 months online and will primarily advertise the POTENTIAL EARNINGS or POTENTIAL TRAFFIC.
An auto-blog is basically the same cloned principle but a website with a built in script that scrapes content from various locations on the web then re-posts it on the blog. The idea sounds awesome, you just set it up and leave it on autopilot. I have personally experimented with these, and can say from my experience they straight SUCK. Google hates automated duplicate content and does everything in their power to stomp it out.
Pre-owned websites – Existing or aged websites are currently the only type of websites that interest me on Flippa. When I do a search on Flippa I filter and only look at websites that have at least 1 year minimum online.
Finding an established website with existing traffic and revenue can save you years of time that it might take to develop a website from scratch. A great method to get a jump start on a business idea is to find a preexisting website that resembles your subject & business idea, then remodel it. There are some great opportunities that show up here and there on Flippa, you just need to know how to sift through the 80%-90% of crap to find them.
Things to be aware of when purchasing a niche, clone or pre-owned website.
- Everything from buying a pre-owned domain: Applies to niche, clone and pre-owned websites
- Duplicate content: The bottom line is, that if you acquire a website with all duplicate content you will never rank well in the search engines. Before you buy a site or articles you can double check for duplicate content here for FREE http://www.copyscape.com/
- Fake Traffic: Flippa has a feature called verified Google Analytics. The problem is the only thing it verifies is that it is a true unaltered screen-shot of your account. What this doesn’t tell you, is where the traffic is coming from. It is very easy to buy fake traffic in the form of isp bots. There are even companies that sell fake manual traffic for cheap. They can randomize things like origin, key-words & duration.
- This is a common practice with sites that are less then 6 months old. The scammer will build a website, build fake traffic for 2-4 months then list it for sale. They will be loaded with all kinds of bullshit excuses why they need to sell or cant setup a payment solution on the site; which is their loss but your gain. The solution to this is to request they share their Google analytics(read only) with you. This way you can check details like traffic origin, key-words used, bounce rate, landing pages, number of pages visited, exit pages, referrals, etc. If a website only has a couple months of analytical history or the seller refuses to share Analytics, PROCEED WITH EXREME CAUTION.
- Fake revenue: Showing revenue Is considered the most important indicator of value, so as you can imagine faking or lying about a websites revenue is very popular amongst Flippa scammers. Flippa has a feature called “verified Google adsense”, so you know an adsense screen-shot is legit. however usually when a site is claiming a significant income the majority income will be from other revenue sources such as affiliate accounts, Paypal processing, or credit card payment gateways.
The truth is that it can be very difficult to 100% verify a websites true revenue, since there are so many ways to lie about it, such as photoshoping a screen-shots, showing income statements from something else but claiming it’s from the website. If the site is only showing a few months or less of revenue assume there is some form of trickery going on.
- Deliberately excluding costs: These include, but are not limited to, traffic generating Pay-per-click Adword costs, banner & text advertising, and paid forum & directory listings. Many of these can be discovered by viewing their Google Analyitcs – traffic sources – referrals.
- Tampered or malicious code: An example of this that I uncovered was a seller who was selling niche websites with all the Adsense, amazon, and other affiliate ads and wigets in place using wordpress plugins. He would sell the site with instructions on how to swap out your Adsnese and affiliate ID’s. What he did not disclose, was that the PHP code had been altered in the plugins to force sharing a percentage of all commissions earned, with his own ID’s.
- New seller: Beware of new sellers with no ratings/reviews selling a high priced website.
- If it sounds to good & cheap to be true it probably is: A website that claims a monthly revenue of $1500 yet the reserve is set at $1000 and the buy- it-now is set at $2500 should raise a red flag.
Buying and selling websites is becoming big business. The industry is still in its infancy. Unlike a brick and mortar business websites can be set up in a flash for almost no cost, and because of the purley digital nature, scammers are an apparent problem.
My philosophy: When looking at purchasing a website on flippa, assume that every listing is hiding something or misleading. It’s our job as the buyer to find out what. Do your due diligence and if your gut is telling you something is off, just walk.
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