How to Buy and Sell Websites - Websites For Sale

First Impressions - How to Buy and Sell Websites

by Larry Neal Gowdy - Updated October 07, 2013

Buying a Website

Website For Sale - Sporting Goods

For sale with good SEO advantages.

I can understand why a corporation would want to pay billions of dollars for a mega-site like Google® or Bing®, but I have not yet understood why some people pay tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for little unknown websites. My current best guess is that some buyers might be under the belief that if a website exists then the website must somehow automatically be worth buying. I hope that this article will help dismiss some of those beliefs.

If you are not experienced with the upkeep of a website then I strongly recommend that you hire a website designer for a couple of hours to thoroughly investigate the website that you are considering buying. The web professional can research traffic, website coding, hosting setup, and the dozens of other items that are necessary to know before buying a website. There is a very large quantity of dishonest individuals online who are working hard to sell you a worthless website.

The website that you are interested in ought to have been coded by a professional website designer, and the website should not be a free open source content management system (CMS) like WordPress®, Joomla®, and others. WordPress and Joomla are very good for a lot of purposes, but rarely are they good enough to be worth selling.

What is the domain name? Is the domain name a gimmick-name or is it legit? Take a look at search engines and give attention to the domains listed in the top-ten of your keywords. Gimmick domain names are fortunately relatively uncommon in the top-ten ranks, perhaps because the owners thought that they could make a zillion dollars off of the site, but after discovering that the sites earned no income the owners then chose to not renew the domains. A gimmick domain name should immediately raise a red flag of caution.

A lot of people try to get rich quick by selling gimmick domain names, and it appears that some people (and some hosting companies) might actually sell some of the 'premium' domain names for several thousand dollars to unsuspecting victims. Ensure that the website that you are interested in buying has a well ranked legitimate domain name and that the domain can be transferred to your registrar. Web page code can be fixed; domain names cannot be fixed.

Visit the website and critique the text for spelling, grammar, and topic relativity. If the English is broken and poorly presented, then the site is likely owned by someone who lives in a non-English speaking country, and the site might be a scam. Everyone makes mistakes, and all websites will have errors, but the percentage of mistakes in the site's wording should be very low.

Five Reasons Why to Buy an Existing Website

(1) The website has been online for over two years. Existing websites often have the advantages of already having visitors and being well established in search engines.

(2) The website is already ranked well on search engines, or at least the site was ranked well while the current owner maintained the site. Unless you are only wanting a website for private use that is not intended for public viewing, then you will want a website that has good search engine ranking. A site that is already ranked well is worth many times the original cost of the website itself.

(3) The website has the same topic as the topic that you want a website for.

(4) The website was created by a professional web designer. Websites made with automated website creation software are almost always of a poor quality and cost the owner unnecessary loss of time and money.

(5) The website is currently owned by one of your competitors. It really doesn't matter if the website is good or bad; if you can eliminate online competition then you will increase your own online presence.

Five Reasons to Avoid Buying an Existing Website

(1) The website is not ranked well on search engines. Most new websites usually require months to a year or more to begin earning good search engine rankings. If a website has been online for two years and still doesn't rank well on search engines then there is something wrong with the site. Most websites can be search engine optimized to increase ranks, but the SEO work will add substantially to the website's costs.

(2) The website's coding has too many errors. An easy way to check for errors is to open the website within Microsoft's® Internet Explorer®, press F12, choose the "Validation" tab, and then click on "HTML" to have the web page validated by W3C. Repeat the validation with the "CSS" tab. The web page can usually always be easily updated if the page has a few minor errors or warnings, but if there are many errors then the site may need extensive rework. I have seen sites that had hundreds to over a thousand serious HTML errors on each page (CSS warnings are usually minor items like color differences that are primarily only important if the site is to be used for disabled individuals). Some websites are so riddled with errors that it would be better and less expensive to simply create a new website from scratch.

(3) The current website's topics do not well match the topic that you want. A website that is known for promoting used cars may have a good ranking for used cars, but the site would not easily earn rankings for new tennis shoes. Simply make sure that the website's current topic is the same or very near to what you want to use the site for.

(4) If the current owner claims that he/she is making a ton of money from the website, then why is the owner selling? Over 99% of all websites do not earn enough to pay operating expenses, and more often than not website sellers are trying to make a buck off of selling a money-pit site. If you are not experienced with hosting service statistics then hire a web designer for an hour or two to personally investigate the website to ensure that the site is indeed receiving the hits that the seller is claiming. I will reemphasize the need to hire a web designer: if you are not experienced with HTML. CSS. JavaScript, PHP, and all other languages that might be used in the website, then you may very likely make a huge mistake by not letting an experienced coder take a look at the site before you buy it.

(5) Is the website priced high? Depending on the site's layout, a typical new website can be built from the ground up for around $1,000.00 to $10,000.00. Shopping carts and many other features for most sites are simple and fast to insert. Why pay $50,000.00 to $100,000.00 or more for a site that you could have a web designer build for less cost?

Selling a Website

If you currently have a website that you want to get rid of, first ask yourself why anyone would be interested in paying money for the site. The website obviously isn't making you rich or popular, else you would probably want to keep the site. Why then are you wanting to sell?

What is the search engine ranking? How long has the site been online? If the site has been online for a year or more and yet the site still isn't ranked in the top-ten on search engines for your keywords, then the site is not worth much. Yes, a lot of people have paid many thousands of dollars to have a website built, but most of the sites have no resale value.

If the site has good search engine ranking but the site is not a big money-maker, then the site still has value for individuals who want to promote products or topics that are similar to yours.

Is the primary value in the domain name or in the site's layout? Almost always the only true value in a website is in it having a well established domain name. Web page layouts come and go, get changed frequently, and are almost irrelevant, but the domain name is what determines a website's life and rankings. Generally it is often best to focus on selling the domain name's value, and to give little or no emphasis to the site's design.

How to Increase Search Engine Ranking

Straight to the point, hire a SEO professional. First research the SEO individual's results to ensure that his/her clients have indeed earned the top-ten ranks on search engines with organic search engine optimization, and not simply by paying for advertisements. If your domain name has value, then it is also worth promoting with SEO, and the higher that the domain is ranked so will the domain be valued higher.

Website For Sale

A previous customer of mine had me build the company's website (, and the site quickly earned the number one rank for its keywords. After two years of the site being online — and for reasons that I still do not understand — the site's owner repeatedly declined to pay the nine dollars to renew the domain name. Since the site was well ranked, and I thought that perhaps the owner would eventually wake up and realize that the site would not exist without a domain name, I chose to pay for the domain renewal myself so that I could retain ownership and have the domain in-hand if/when the previous owner wanted the site back.

It has now been three years since the previous owner dropped the site, and not once has the previous owner called or made an attempt to regain ownership of the domain. The search engine ranking for its primary keywords has also dropped due to my having changed all of the pages and my not having promoted the site. Bing still ranks the site in the top-ten for its previous main keywords, and Google still ranks the site as number one for its primary title, but the subtopics will require a bit of updating to regain top search engine ranks for all keywords.

At present I am running a couple of Google ads on the site. The ads earn enough to pay for the basic site expenses but not much more now that the site gets fewer visitors due to the lower rankings. For me the site's only value is for SEO purposes; the SEO value is insignificant for me personally, but valuable for someone else.

I have the website and domain up for sale for $2,600.00 to recover previous expenses (the coding and articles' copyrights remain my own if the new owner wants to reuse them). I could build a similar site for a customer for around $1,500.00, but the domain name is more valuable because it remains well ranked and has been online for about five years. I am currently so busy with other projects that I do not have time for the site, but if the website does not sell then I will later update all of the pages and aim for maximum search engine ranking and ad revenue. Contact me if you are interested in the site.

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