Buying a Website: 30+ Experts Share their SEO Tips to Buy a Website
You’re probably here because you’re looking to buy a website or you’d like more information about how to expand a site you’ve already purchased.
Before you make any purchases you need to ensure you’re getting a great deal, know what to avoid, and most importantly – how to take the website to the next level.
Guess what? We’ve rounded up some of the top experts to help you figure it out!
Specifically, we asked them:
If you were to buy or looking to buy a website:
A) What would you look for in terms of the SEO done to site? (What works? What would you avoid?)
B) What quick wins would you implement after purchase for expansion/growth?
The answers we received are pretty incredible.
Enjoy the read and please share this expert roundup with everybody you think will appreciate the gold nuggets herein.
~ I’m an entrepreneur who likes to blog. I have started two SaaS analytics companies, @CrazyEgg and @KISSmetrics with @hnshah. I love all things business.
When I look to purchase a website, ideally I don’t want the site owner to have done any SEO. Why? Because that means there is more potential for growth, assuming I implement proper search optimization strategies.
When you are buying a site you want to avoid buying sites that are fully fine-tuned. Those types typically have less opportunity for potential growth and you’ll notice that their quarterly or yearly growth rate won’t be as high.
Often, when I purchase a website, I look for low hanging fruit first. This usually involves either traffic generation or conversion optimization.
From installing Hellobar on the site to running A/B tests using Crazy Egg and Optimizely, I continually test different elements on a web page in order to maximize conversions.
From a traffic generation standpoint I usually optimize the site for search engines by following the steps in this guide.
I focus on content websies based on WordPress, and as such the first thing I check for is how the site is structured and what’s in the google index.
If there are no hub pages set up (i.e. the owner is still using the standard category pages) then that’s an opportunity to rank for some big keywords. Likewise if there is a load of thin or no-value pages dumped into the google index then you’ll likely get a boost cleaning that up. On the flip side, I therefore avoid sites where site structure and on-page SEO is set up well. I only like to get involved in sites as the operator where I know that adding my skill set will generate upside.
A few quick wins I look to implement as a website operator after purchase is cleaning up keyword cannibalisation, where multiple pages are competing in the SERPs for the same keywords. You can find these keywords easily in Ahrefs by clicking the ’Show History Chart’ in the Organic Keywords section of Site Explorer. I will find the page that ranks highest, copy over content from competing pages and then delete those and add a 301 redirect.
I get a lot of upside from this kind of content pruning and improving internal linking to funnel the maximum amount of link juice to the site’s most important pages
I’ve found that operators can be incredibly skilled, in the trenches in this industry but often don’t exactly have the capital resources yet to take their business to the next level. That is why I’ve brought together both my investing and operating experience into one place to help create a matchmaking service. If you’re an operator looking to partner with an investor so you can implement these kind of quick wins, then check out my operator application here.
~ Adam is an advanced SEO, affiliate marketing and digital strategy consultant.
When buying a used/aged domain, I always pull the history. You need to know why the person abandoned it. Some URLs are built with spammy links or thin content and get penalized. Other times the owner got tired and let it go.
Look at archives.org, run a backlink scan, and mention scan to see what happened to it.
You’ll also want to pull a traffic history report to see if it got a penalization and what type it was. You can do this by referencing the larger search marketing blogs that have calendars and archives with algorithm changes and dates.
If the SEO neighborhood is bad, I may reject depending on how much work a reconsideration request or disavow would need.
You can check out my blog for what an SEO neighborhood is by using the search box for SEO neighborhood.
Once the domain is activated, I add pages back to where the quality links point, or redirect them to a new and better page that is still content relevant.
This may help to gain the link juice and authority from the quality links. If there were images that had quality social sharing I try to find the original owner and ask for the ability to use them.
Once live, I get my content calendar going, create the proper social channels, and launch.
The main things I look for when buying websites which are reliant on organic traffic are:
1. Check for any signs of previous penalties. During the due diligence phase I would be asking the seller lots of questions around any noticeable dips in traffic in the Analytics accounts.
Often there may be seasonal fluctuations, so digging in and asking the seller is important here. There are tools such as FE International’s Penalty Checker or the Penguin Tool which can help here.
2. Check the link profile of the website – mainly for the usual Penguin-style links e.g. low quality PBN’s, high volumes of directory links, or links using exact match anchor text etc.
I’m not adverse to buying websites with risky link profiles, but it will be a big factor on determining my offer on the site if I need to build new links.
3. Content – the two main things here are low quality content which might be a Panda issue, and the high quality content assets which could be used for outreach.
Finding useful and quality content means I don’t need to spend time or money building out new content assets for link-building.
Well rather than tell you what I do with most purchases, I’ll show you what I did with a recent small 5-figure purchase at the end of April on a lead gen site:
1. Downloaded the top pages report from the Search Analytics section in Google Webmaster tools.
2. Ran this list through URL Profiler which gave me the titles, title length, meta descriptions, content length, link metrics and bounce rate for all the URL’s in that report.
3. Sorted the list based on the pages with the highest number of impressions.
4. Looked to see if I can re-write the titles and meta descriptions to improve them if they were too long or too short etc, on the pages which show that they have low CTRs
5. Added schema.org/review to six product review pages. This task probably took me a couple of hours, to analyse the data, and make the necessary edits to the pages.
6. Moved the hosting to a dedicated WordPress hosting environment running on a VPS. As you can see, Google was able to download my web pages faster, which leads to an improved crawl rate for my site too.
Overall these two tasks have lead to a 100% increase in organic traffic and an 85% improvement in earnings in the past few days – almost doubling the value of my investment.
Not bad for a couple of hours work, while sitting, watching Netflix.
I personally prefer sites where very little SEO has been done to them. This is for two main reasons:
1) Most agencies stink at SEO so they might have created ‘cleanup’ work for the buyer.
2) I have a strong grasp of SEO and would see it as a great way to really increase the traffic and ROI on the site.
If there has been SEO done to the site though…
First, I would look at the metrics to make sure the Majestic Trust Flow and Citation Flow are decent and consistent. I would also look at the Moz Domain Authority, Ahrefs Domain Rank.
If these numbers are too low or inconsistent (e.g. high Trust Flow but low Citation Flow), I would be extra careful. Also, I make sure it’s indexed in Google, and is at least a few years old.
Then, I would look at the backlink profile.
The backlink profile is by far the most important metric.
Spammy backlinks can hurt you these days if pointed directly to the main website, while a great quality link can be gold! I would make sure the website has some high quality links (which would justify the metrics) and doesn’t have too many poor quality links, i.e. links placed on websites with very low metrics, with exotic TLDs, etc.
Look at the anchor text cloud, to make sure it was not spammed: with luxury brand names, cheap pharmaceuticals, adult terms etc. This is also where you would check to make sure there is not an ‘over optimized’ backlink profile.
There are ways to ‘water down’ the backlink profile, if it has been spammed, but you are increasing the chance that the domain has had a penalty.
This leads to another interesting point: Is the site’s traffic from the engines (search traffic, don’t worry about referral or direct so much when evaluating the sites SEO position) increasing or decreasing? This could be another sign of a potential algorithm penalty.
Finally, I would look at the on-page SEO, to see what’s been done and what can be improved. I’m referring to page titles, meta descriptions, permalinks, inbound/outbound links, sitemaps, etc.
You can learn a lot about a website by just looking at it. It’s just a matter of taking the time to do it properly. If you fail to do this, you put yourself at risk of overpaying, buying something you actually don’t want, or missing on a great opportunity…
It sounds like a lot of work right? Would you believe me if I tell you I do it in just a few minutes? I use the tools provided here
I would make sure the optin/purchase process works smoothly, and optimize monetization methods… do some A/B testing, until you find a formula that works better than others.
This can be on the optin forms as a main focus: growing a ‘tribe’ is the most important thing, reaching them all over is the next most important.
With that in mind…
I would also make sure it has a strong social presence: a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and other social platforms.
I would set up some Facebook ads, to promote the Facebook page and then some retargeting, to direct people back to the website.
Finally I would work on making the website ‘sticky’, and by that I mean give people a reason to come back and hang around.
There is a time to learn and there is a time to do. You can be the most knowledgeable person in the world, if you don’t take action, your knowledge is useless. Learn, do, repeat.
If I were buying a website, the first thing I would look into is the quality of the on-site SEO.
Are all of the proper headings there? Do all of the images have alt tags? How are the inner pages linked? I would also judge the site based on how well the information architecture is organized.
Is the site user friendly and easy to use, or is it confusing?
Second, I would take a look at the history of the domain name in the Wayback Machine. Be on the lookout for spammy looking versions of the site in the history. You want websites that have a clean history.
Third, I would take a look at the off-site SEO including how many backlinks it has, where they are coming from, and the quality of them.
I want to buy a site that has some SEO accomplished already, but is not too heavily backlinked. It’s a lot easier to conduct more SEO in my preferred way, than to undo bad SEO that has already been done.
One last thing I would want in a site is to find one that has decent traffic, earnings, rankings, and SEO – but also has room for improvement.
If I buy a site, I want to make sure that I am able to make improvements that have a positive effect on earnings quickly, so I could make my money back as soon as possible. The faster I make my investment back, the less risk in losing my investment.
The number one thing I would do after purchase is use the Google Tag Managerto add event tracking tags so I could find out exactly how the site visitors are using the website.
Using Event Tracking, I can track everything that people click on in the website to really see what works and what doesn’t.
Then after I collected some data in Google Analytics over a few weeks, I would take a look at the event data in Google Analytics and see what parts of the site are working well, and what parts are not working well, and then make some optimizations based off this data rather than guesswork.
Example #1 of how event tracking can help me (and you!):
If after 500 visits nobody has clicked a single thing in my sidebars, then I know that the sidebars are not doing anything useful in their current state and I could try out some different sidebar content to see what actually gets some interaction from the site visitors.
Maybe I need bigger CTAs or a different style of email submit box, or maybe I don’t really need a sidebar at all!
Example #2 of how event tracking can help me (and you!):
Event tracking can also show me exactly what links people click on, and ones they don’t.
With this data in Google Analytics, I can tell what links are working for me and which ones are just taking up space.
If this is a product review site, I can tell exactly what product links people are clicking on (what ones they are interested in).
Once I know this, I can optimize my site by putting the most clicked on products in the most clicked on positions in the page, and also by adding more products like the popular ones.
This can often have an immediate effect on the site’s earnings.
By setting up event tracking with the Google Tag Manager, I no longer have to guess at what’s working on my site and what is not.
I get cold hard data right in my Google Analytics account to study, pick apart, and base optimization decisions on.
I believe that this is the most underused free tool available for internet marketers to help make optimizations based off real data, not just guesswork or your own opinions.
If you want to take your event tracking even one step further, you can set up Goals in Analytics based on the events you are tracking, and really get a high level view of whether your website and optimizations are working or not.
NinjaOutreach.com // Twitter
~ Cofounder of NinjaOutreach, an innovative new Blogger Outreach software for marketers. He writes about business and entrepreneurship @ SelfMadeBusinessman. Enjoys travel.
If I were buying a site, I would be checking the backlink profile to make sure nothing scammy had been done.
Outside of that I am not looking for any particular SEO to have been done to the site – in fact, I would say the less the better.
It means there is more opportunity for me to make improvements to the site, and less to worry about in the event that something blackhat was done.
Hey everyone, Greg here!
I just wanted to update this post to reflect that Dave Schneider is no longer running Ninja Outreach and Self Made Business Man. However, he is still very much in the online business game. If you want to reach out to him, you can find him at his new projects lesschurn.io and daveschneider.me
These all depend on the context. In most cases I would be looking at the design and see if it can be optimized more.
For example, we recently changed the design of our pricing page to make it a lot simpler, and it has nearly doubled conversions.
We don’t have a lot of traffic, but this is still a big win for us. In Rob Walling’s presentation at MicroConf, he similarly mentioned that a quick win for HitTail was changing the design and improving the copywriting.
I think it depends on what type of site I was looking to buy. For a site that needs improvement, I’d look for one that had some SEO done to it, but nothing particularly special. This could be a site that was getting most of its traffic from one or two keywords.
Then, I’d be able to apply some of the quick win tactics mentioned below to improve its fortunes.
As for what I’d avoid, there is quite a long list.
I wouldn’t touch anything with spammy backlinks. This means backlinks from questionable, unrelated, poor quality sites. It also means having a poor anchor text profile.
A lot of people will send too many keyword-anchor text links to their sites, which is asking for a Penguin penalty.
Out of all the penalties that hit sites these days, Penguin seems to be the most common.
As for the site itself, I’d avoid anything with too much duplicate content or a poor user experience. While this is not strictly SEO related, I think having a poor quality site will ultimately be reflected in poor rankings.
To summarize, a site wouldn’t have to be perfect, because there’s always room for improvement and I think space to improve is actually a plus. What’s more important is that the site has a clean, relevant backlink profile.
Please note that I wouldn’t rule out a site with PBN links, as long as it was a decent quality PBN and I’d have some control over those links going forward.
I build a lot of Amazon affiliate sites for myself and my customers, and one thing I’ve found is that PBN links are still working in moderation, and it can be hard to organically build links to an Amazon site anyway.
Most likely I would build out more content, improve existing content, add more links, and consider doing some social media work as well. The precise work I’d do depends on the site itself, but I’ll outline some strategies below.
For content, the first thing I’d do is enter the domain into semrush.com, check out competitors, and see if there are articles/keywords they’re ranking that my site doesn’t have content for.
If those keywords aren’t too competitive, I’d get content built out for them right away, then add it slowly to the site over the next couple of weeks/months.
I would also check out the top ten trafficked pages in Google Analytics, and see if I could improve their conversion rates, or link them to money pages better. I’ve outlined how I did this previously and increased a site’s income by 300% with less than an hour’s work in this post here.
For links, it would be a case of figuring out which pages were on page 2 or 3, but had the potential to bring in good traffic and income should they hit page 1. I’d slowly start dripping PBN links and maybe a package from The Hoth to these pages to get them to page 1 in Google.
For social media, I wouldn’t pursue this too aggressively as it’s not really my forte, but I would make sure the site had at least a basic social media presence and some social signals, such as Facebook likes, tweets, Google Plus ones, etc. addmefast.comoffers a cheap way of automating this, but I definitely wouldn’t do much.
I would have a thorough look at the SEO – both on page and off page factors.
I would audit all the content on the site for accurate meta titles and descriptions. All the pages & posts should have those fields populated.
The keyword density should be audited too – we want to make sure that there is not any keyword stuffing.
That means most keywords should only be used about 1 – 2 times per 100 words. If it is a keyword that is 2 words or more then the usage should be even more conservative.
I would look at the anchor text density off the bat. If the anchor text is overused, then it is a big red flag. I would use all the resources available – Majestic SEO, ahrefs, and MOZ – to check on the backlinks and anchor text.
Next, I would look for the use of private blog networks. Using PBNs is fine and they work extremely well when you keep them private.
You need to ensure that the PBN is truly private, and you can take steps to limit the risk of using a PBN, too.
Lastly, I would look for any bad links – spammy comments, forum profiles, and generally low quality backlinks. If there are more than a few bad backlinks, I would steer clear.
I would have a good look at the site as it is – basically, I would audit the whole site and make sure that all the monetized links work.
Let’s assume that it is an Amazon Associate site. We need to make sure all the products are still for sale on Amazon.
That would be the easiest way to boost the revenue since most site owners are not diligent about ongoing maintenance.
Next, I would refer to the niche site process (See the whole niche site process here) and ensure that all the elements of my process are included. You can get the main points by looking at this flow chart:
The main points are to pay attention to are related to these main phases:
- Select a Niche or Market
- Build Out the Framework
- Develop a Content Management Plan
- Execute a Link Building Campaign
- Execute an Outreach & Promotion Campaign
- Execute an Email Marketing Campaign (if desired)
- Continue Growing the Niche Site or Transition to an Authority Site (if desired)
Most of the steps will be done to some extent while others may have been omitted. The point is that you can find gaps and areas for opportunity.
Sometimes these are HUGE gaps can lead to big gains in a very short period of time.
Two major areas that can almost always be improved on are keyword research and content management. In plain words it means you can uncover a lot of long tail keywords and have content written for them.
It can pay off big by driving a great deal of traffic.
I’ve bought several sites before and I’m always on the lookout for more. So here are the steps I go through when I want to check the SEO done to a site
Step 1: Check to see if the content looks natural and make sure that it doesn’t contain duplicate content. You can check for duplicate content with Copyscape.com.
Step 2: Check SEMRush for keywords ranked in Google. This will give me an idea if some keywords are already ranked. It will also show me whether the rankings are in an upward trend or a downward trend.
Obviously, if the trends look like they are going down, then you may want to wait and examine whether or not the site will recover before purchasing the site.
Step 3: Check Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) on OpenSiteExplorer.com.
This is something that I’ve gotten into the habit of doing since PA and DA have direct relevance on whether or not a site can rank and continue to rank well on Google.
A site with a Domain Authority of at least 25 is a good sign.
Step 4: Check Majestic SEO to see if the site has a natural link profile. I like to see Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF) of 20+. I also like to see natural and evenly spread anchor text.
On top of that, I’ll actually look at specific backlinks that the site has. I want to make sure that the strongest links on the site will likely be permanent.
This is very important because if a site loses some of its strongest links, then it could mean a drop in rankings.
If the site passes all of these steps, then I can generally buy it with confidence.
After purchasing a site, I’ll typically try to optimize the pages that are making the most money.
I use a program called Long Tail Platinum as well as SEMRush, to help me find long tail keywords to add to the page.
I use my personal Private Blog Network to build links to the site. I may also purchase some links from relevant blogs.
Another thing I might do is restructure the site so that it better highlights the products that are being sold.
Just doing these three things is enough to drastically improve a websites earnings.
There are two types of SEO: on-page SEO and link building. I would preferably like to see the site have terrible on-page SEO and no link building done.
Well, because if there is zero SEO work done, then that means I could come in and improve the site very easily with some basic SEO.
Even though it is best to find a site that doesn’t have any SEO done to it, you will have a hard time finding sites like that anymore. Most of the time you will find people have built some sort of links to the site.
I do not mind buying a site with backlinks built to it as long as they are well done and of high quality.
I would stay away from sites that have had low quality or spammy links built because that will often get you penalized at some point.
Many people (including myself) use private blog networks (PBN’s) to rank their websites, and that isn’t a bad thing as long as they know what they are doing.
There are certain things that you have to do to make sure that your PBN sites are safe, and stays away from being penalized by Google.
Many people do not know these things and that is why I would be cautious. I am very careful with a site when I know the owner has used PBN sites to rank the site. I make sure to do my due diligence and ensure that they have built the PBN sites properly.
I WOULD stay away from sites that have PBN links from a service of some sort or from someone that sells PBN links, because they often get penalized by Google.
Overall, I prefer to find sites that have no SEO work done because it will be very easy for me to come and apply basic SEO to improve the site.
I don’t mind some SEO done to the site such as high quality/natural links or properly built PBN links. I would stay away from sites with spammy links or low quality PBN links.
The quickest and easiest way to improve a site after you buy it is to optimize the monetization methods.
For example, let’s say that a site is making $100 from adsense, but you know that you can find advertisers for the site that will pay $300 a month to have a banner on your site.
That is a very easy and quick way to improve the earnings of the site.
I also like to find sites that are ranking for keywords with high monthly searches but are sitting on the second page of Google for this search term.
So let’s say that the site is ranking 14th in Google for a keyword that gets 2,200 monthly searches.
I know that with a link or two from my PBN I could easily get the site to the first page of Google, which will greatly increase the traffic to the site. This is a very easy way to improve traffic to the site after you buy it.
You can find these keywords by plugging the URL of the website into Semrush. This will tell you all of the keywords that the site is ranking for and the position on Google and is a great way to see how well the site is ranking in Google.
Another quick win that you can implement on a new site is to improve conversions.
You can do this by changing the layout of the site, the theme of the site, the colors, what you are trying to sell, how you sell it, or just about anything else..
No matter what you choose, it is usually pretty easy to increase conversions after you do some tests to see what works vs. what doesn’t.
An example would be if I bought an Amazon niche site that sold lawn mowers and the page on the site that sold them was very basic.
I could add things that I know from experience, improve the CTR to Amazon, as well as the conversions. I could add a comparison table, more images, videos, better call to actions, and add more links.
All of those things I know for a fact will improve the CTR to Amazon and conversion rates and they are very easily to implement.
To wrap it up, the ways that I would look for a quick win on a new site would to optimize or change the monetization method, try to get keywords ranking on the second page to the first page, and to improve the CTR and conversions.
All of those things are easy to change and can have dramatic effects on your site.
Julian A. Thomas
CloudFortunes.com // Twitter
~ Internet Marketer, SEO strategist, runs from spiders
In most cases, I’m usually on the other end of the equation when it comes to buying websites. However, I’ve played both roles, so I have some insights to offer.
Honestly – I could write an entire book on these two questions alone.
The mainstream techniques used for SEO to rank websites in the search engines, primarily Google, change so often that you would almost need to reassess your answers to these questions at least every six months.
I do believe there are some constant ones that I will always look for when buying a site. Before answering any of these questions, I think you need to consider what you’ll be doing with the site.
Buying and Growing Quickly
If your strategy is to buy a site and quickly grow it to milk it for as much money as possible, I wouldn’t be as strict when looking at the site’s content, backlinks and business model.
The end goal would be to get very aggressive with link building and content creation for the site. I would want to increase the site’s earnings as quickly as possible to get as much ROI out of it as possible.
Since I wouldn’t worry too much about the links to the site and existing content, the site has a far greater chance of getting hit by a future Google algorithm, so I would want to get as much money as possible from it.
Some people might even go the route of buying this type of site, aggressively building links to it, increasing its earnings and flipping it.
Buying and Sticking It Out
If I was planning to buy a site and add it to my long-term portfolio, I would pay far more attention to the specifics. I would look at the strategies used to build links to the site, the design, content and business model closely.
For example – you see many sites, whether sold in private or through brokers, being link built with private link networks. While I know from experience this is a very powerful technique, it’s also a very risky one.
In my opinion, it’s one of the MOST risky, if not THE riskiest link building tactic available.
On my ‘risk’ scale, I would say link networks – those built using revived expired domains – is just a notch below the practice of building links with software like GSA search engine ranker and similar types of software.
To be honest, with PBN links, it’s not a matter of if the site will be hit – it’s when. Therefore, for a long-term portfolio site, I would like to see a ‘natural’ link profile, or at the very few links from a link network.
Let’s talk about content.
At the very least, it should be obvious the content was written by someone who speaks perfect English.
If the content seems to be written by a ‘professional’, both in terms of grammatical prowess and knowledge on the subject, that would be the ideal situation.
Also, more content could be great – assuming it’s in-depth factually and grammatically correct.
What to Avoid
What would I avoid in terms of SEO? Well, for starters, I would avoid sites that seem like they had links built to them with automated software.
I would check for obvious comment spam. I would avoid sites that rely too heavily on link networks unless I really didn’t care what happens to the site in the near future.
I would check the usual things like anchor text of the links and where they’re coming from.
I would avoid sites that have too much exact-match anchor text because this would put the site as risk for getting slapped by the Google Penguin algorithm.
I would avoid sites that have a lot of flawed content. By this, I mean content that puts the site at risk for a Panda penalty – such as too many keywords in the content, articles that are too short and content that doesn’t have proper formatting.
For example – the content shouldn’t be large walls of text. I would check to make sure the site isn’t at risk for any other major Google spam-fighting algorithms.
Lastly, I would personally avoid sites that have too much of a complex business model. Obviously, this is different for everybody.
I would avoid ecommerce sites, but only because I have zero experience with that business model. This type of site could be perfect for others who have experience.
Generally, I look for sites that have a simple monetization system, such as AdSense or Amazon.
These business models are great because they’re simple, but they’re also great because they leave room for potential growth by product creation or other forms of monetization.
Like the first question, this can vary greatly from one type of site to the next. If the site has some decent links pointing at it and age, I would add more content. In my opinion, I have two major paths I can take when I buy a site.
I can either grow the content or links. However, you can obviously do both at the same time, but I prefer to do one or the other. For example, I might focus exclusively on growing new content for a few months.
After that, I will switch to link building for a few months. I choose the path based on the site’s current profile. I do a test run with about 20 articles to gauge the site’s current authority.
If the articles start getting traffic and ranking quickly, I usually grow the site with lots of content. If they don’t, I focus on building up the site’s authority with quality links obtained through outreach.
A simple quick win – I would focus on involve optimizing the monetization. If it’s AdSense, I would try to quickly find the highest-converting ad setup and implement it.
If the monetization is Amazon Associates, I would make sure there are calls to action at the right places.
For example – I always make sure my Amazon-monetized articles have a clear call to action after the very first paragraph of the article.
I might say something like: “skip this review and see the best product right here.” With Amazon, you make the most money by sending clicks. As long as you’re targeting the right keywords, it’s all a numbers game.
The more clicks you send to Amazon – the more money you make. If it’s a responsive niche, I would quickly set up an opt-in form and a simple lead magnet, and start building an email list.
As a side note – I would almost never bother trying to collect emails if the site is strictly an Amazon review site.
When you buy a site, it’s all about the ROI, so my quick wins would consist of scanning the site and implementing any small changes that would quickly increase the site’s revenue, which would give me a better ROI.
Maybe this isn’t technically SEO, but I would look for profitable paid traffic campaigns such as Google Pay Per Click or Facebook Ads.
The unpredictable nature of Google and Bing makes them a difficult source of customer acquisition, and a threat to your business if you rely on it too heavily. However, it’s not just about the instability.
Sites that rely on search traffic are notoriously difficult to scale.
Everyone knows some SEO – just like everyone in the 80s thought they knew a little Kung Fu – but improving rankings is notoriously difficult in most industries.
The exceptions are keywords or niches where there is little traffic or competition.
Traffic that you’ve paid for is reliable, scalable, easy to split test with, and most importantly, something you as the owner control.
As long as there’s a financial relationship in place, there’s little need to worry about that traffic source drying up one day, or that link being replaced or getting lost as people inevitably stop sharing it.
You will always receive traffic as long as you’re prepared to pay.
This makes websites that already have a profitable paid campaign in place valuable for me personally, as the owner has already answered the questions of:
- Will paid traffic convert at a good enough rate to make a profit?
- Are my profit margins high enough to support paid traffic?
- What tweaks or changes do I need to make on the site and in my campaigns to make this campaign profitable?
At one point many years ago everyone was like “go Design” and spent lots of money on fancy logos and expensive web designers.
Then, a few years after we went through a weird anti-design renaissance where the whole world decided that ugly design converts, so wasting time on design doesn’t matter.
For me, the best quick win is usually through design and aesthetics, assuming the site has enough visitors to make it worth doing.
By design, I don’t mean design for design’s sake. I mean finding out what the audience value such as speed, trust or uniqueness and redesigning for that specific purpose.
On some sites I’ve purchased, especially eCommerce, a redesign has managed to lift conversions by upwards of 60% and in most cases took less than two weeks to complete.
This acts as a lever, giving you a better ROI when you start ramping up the number of visitors.
When looking for a website to buy, my main intention is to look for something that can be further developed into a much stronger asset.
As I am a search engine optimizer by trade, I like to use my experience and look for weaknesses that I can exploit.
If the site has used a PBN, I want to make sure that it was a privately owned one and not public or at least something that is tightly controlled, and is run by someone I know or have heard of before.
I have seen lots of sites for sale that are using a package or service that is no longer available to join.
For me this is a big red flag because you are not guaranteed to get in simply by purchasing the site, and you may lose existing rankings once the site changes hands.
So it’s a good idea to investigate the existing link packages used and if they are on going, ask yourself, “Can I continue with this package or service myself?”
Some of the obvious quick wins are to add an email newsletter to the site sidebar and also a horizontal featured header opt-in. Along with adding more content, that is where most people stop.
What I like to do is perform a ton of long tail keyword research to find those hidden gems that are being underserved in the SERPS and by the website I am interested in buying.
First up LongTailPro is a good option, however that limits you to what keywords are returned and it is well known that the Google Keyword Tool doesn’t bring back everything, and shows questionable search volumes at best.
My favourite research technique is to dive into some related forums and blogs, and look for the terminology specific to that niche or industry.
You can then take those phrases and keywords into your favourite tool (I suggest using UberSuggest) and let it throw out a ton of keywords and phrase variations.
Some examples of quick wins I like to use include:
Best [PRODUCT] Under $XXX
Best [PRODUCT] for the money
Does [PRODUCT] actually work?
The last example is especially effective as it highlights a great way to rank your content for leading questions that would be asked for a user who is in buying mode.
Think about it, they have highlighted the product and done their research, now they won’t have someone to tell them if it actually works. That person can be you if you use some of these methods.
Another way to expand on the site would be to look for any other verticals in that niche. Does the product lend itself well to cross promotion? Are they used in conjunction with anything else?
For more ideas, I head over to Amazon (for physical product sites) and look at the comments or any questions that have been asked. You will often find things like:
“Will this work well with [PRODUCT]”
Here potential buyers want to know if it is suitable for their needs with another product or for a certain use, you can use this to your advantage.
Last of all we have PBN’s. They are commonplace now, whereas just two years ago were unheard of, and a great way to rank a site. I still use them and they do still work, despite what the doom and gloom ‘experts’ may say.
If the site you are interested in is ranking well without a PBN, then you will be able to tackle some of the more competitive keywords by building a very niche specific private blog network with just a handful (5-15) of domains, that have age and existing backlinks.
Personally, I would prefer not to see a lot of SEO done on a site that I am considering buying.
All of the Google link building penalties over the past few years definitely make it important to be sure that you are not buying a site that has taken any excessive risks in their own link-building.
I would ask the seller if they have ever purchased or sold links, and I would also browse through the site’s link profile to make sure there are no red flags like spammy-looking links.
I prefer to see good diversity in traffic instead of relying on Google searches for 80% of a site’s traffic.
Having a really high percentage of traffic coming from Google is not the most reliable, especially since, as a buyer I wouldn’t know for sure what the previous owner did with the site, and it’s possible that a penalty or even an algorithm change could significantly impact the traffic.
The best thing I could see in terms of SEO would be good on-page optimization (including solid page titles) and a few links from high-quality sites and blogs.
It would depend on the situation and the specific site, but I think many sites are under-performing in terms of email marketing, optimizing older posts/pages that attract the most traffic, and promoting products (whether it be affiliate products or your own products).
If the site wasn’t maximizing its potential with an email list, my first priority would be to create a good bonus/bribe to encourage subscribers, and then make that offer stand out on the site.
This could be done with popups, header bars, in-content forms, end of content forms, and sidebar forms.
I would also probably set up an autoresponder sequence that goes out to new subscribers to funnel them back to important content on the site, and promote relevant products.
If the site has some pages that consistently get a decent amount of traffic (usually this is search traffic) I would look for ways to improve the effectiveness of this page.
That could include updating and improving content, adding a content upgrade to get more subscribers, adding some sort of call-to-action to encourage social sharing, promotion of an affiliate product within the content, or possibly create my own product that could be promoted on the page.
Many people decide to sell their website before it reaches its potential, so if you can buy a website that isn’t performing as well you may wind up with a very good deal.
I would focus on quality of the content, engagement from the community, shares in social media, and also site data from Google Analytics such as time spent on site and sources of traffic.
A well optimized site (even well optimized for SEO) should have these areas covered in my opinion.
I would not put much emphasis on, and will in majority of cases ignore, all sites that have done any “traditional” SEO work such as link buying, keyword stuffed, and robot written articles and such.
There are very few quick wins. (If any at all)
If one or more of the areas above are not all up to speed, I would work on getting them sorted, such as optimizing and improving the quality of content archives.
These things take time though, and cannot be expected to result in quick wins.
The quickest win
I would focus on is putting some money behind social media by advertising on Facebook and Twitter which should provide new visitors, subscribers, engagement, and social media shares fairly quickly.
Depending on the quality of content you push, social ads can actually be efficient and cost effective way to get a “quick win”.
I’ve talked about website acquisition as a great SEO strategy in the past and have been involved in a lot of these types of deals, so the most important thing for me is the link profile.
It’s fairly common within website auction sites to come across a domain that looks too good to be true – unfortunately it’s often the case.
The first thing that I do is run the domain through Majestic to get a download of the backlinks pointing to the website. It’s pretty easy to see at this stage whether there’s a lot of spam links pointing to the domain or not.
Inevitably, there will always be some suspicious links, but these shouldn’t equate to more than 5-8% of the total link profile.
Another thing that I check for immediately within the link profile is anchor text diversity.
I don’t mind if there are some links with keyword-rich anchor text, but if they equate to even 5% of the anchor text profile then there’s too much risk for me at this stage.
Once I’ve checked, I’d look at the Google Analytics reports to spot any traffic drops that correlate with major Google updates. The last thing you want is to purchase a website with a Google penalty.
If all of this checks out then the big buying motivators for me are that the site has a healthy number of visits coming from organic search and that there are some links coming from powerful domains.
I don’t mind if the content isn’t optimised or isn’t that great, because that’s a far easier fix, than earning links from top tier websites.
The first thing that I do with any new website acquisition is to do a full audit of the content.
There’s always ways to improve on the content of a website, whether it’s about the volume of content, structure or markup, you’ll always be able to get some quick wins here.
My advice to make the best use of your time here would be to go into Google Analytics and find the top 20 pages that refers search traffic (by monthly visits) and then go through and check the following:
- Are there any more semantically similar keywords that each of these pages could be targeting? (do some quick keyword research).
- Could you build some more relevance to the keywords within body content?
- Has the page title got the main keyword within it and could it be improved for CTR?
- Where in the site architecture are each of these pages? If they’re low, could you add some more internal links to boost the flow of PageRank?
- Have you got an opportunity to add any rich data markup, for example, Schema.org code.
After a few of these changes, you should start to see some wins coming through over the next month.
From there you’ll want to address any architecture issues within the website, start building out more content, and look at developing a sustainable link building strategy.
This is a great question, because it’s a tricky question for me. That’s because, for the websites I build, I use gray-hat link-building. Specifically, I still use PBNs to rank my sites, and despite the hysteria that took place last Fall when Google de-indexed all those PBN sites, the fact of the matter is that they still work incredibly well.
Where it gets tricky, of course, is that PBNs also carry some risk. Your site can absolutely get penalized.
If you’re looking to buy a site, do you want to purchase one that’s a good earner, but one that’s been built with PBN links? What if the site you just bought gets penalized one month later? It’s certainly a risk proposition.
So I think my approach would be to target newer, smaller sites for sale, that are only earning $300-$400 per month or so, and only have a couple dozen, relatively clean PBN links pointed at it.
Then, you can manage the link profile, while trying to grow the site into a $1,000+ per month earner.
That’s what has worked for me. PBNs still get the job done. Just make sure you do your proper due diligence before buying.
If I were to buy a site, I would be looking for potential; not a site that has already reached its peak earnings. Most likely this would be targeted by analyzing the on-page SEO and overall content. Nine times out of ten, it can be greatly improved.
In addition to content, most niche sites aren’t optimized very well. Remember, and the end of the day, the goal is to get our visitors to click over to our affiliates. So conversion optimization would be a big focus.
Lastly, I would work on the SEO, by slowly adding more PBN links to the site. The best way I’ve found to grow a site isn’t through better content or better optimization, it’s with better rankings via backlinks.
If I were looking to purchase a website today, there are a few things that I would check out first. Especially in terms of SEO, since a lot of websites and website owners rely on organic traffic coming to their site and making money off of that traffic.
First I would run the site through Moz OSE, Ahrefs, Majestic, and also do a Moz Crawl Test.
Running the site through Moz, Ahrefs and Majestic will give you a good idea of what kind of SEO has been done to the site. The reason to run it through multiple platforms is to ensure you catch most things, since not anyone crawls or tracks everything.
This will help you get an idea if it’s been strictly White Hat or crossed over and had Black Hat SEO done to it.
Moz OSE is great because it will give you a quick picture of what kind of metrics the site has, to include Metrics for Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.
Ahrefs is considered one of the better backlink checkers, and it provides a good chart that helps to easily spot out how fast or slow the backlinking has been happening.
Majestic is great to check out what the citation and trust flow look like. This is really important these days, and can help you spot low quality backlinking into which you can then dive deeper to check.
They also give you a pie chart of the Anchor Texts along with percentages. This is very important to check out, because you do not want to have an overly optimized Anchor Text ratio, or you risk getting hit with a penalty.
Lastly, I run the Moz Crawl Test. I like to run this when looking into sites since it will give you the lowdown on the structure of the site. It shows you 404 errors, and what the Title Tags and Meta Descriptions are.
This is just a few things that the Crawl Test will show you.
Now onto some quick wins, you’ll be taking all the information gathered from all our data. The first quick win that I would look to cash in on is dealing with Anchor Text.
If the Anchor Text profile is well rounded and not overly optimized then I would use some PBN or buy some links using specific Anchor text to help boost ranking in turn gaining more traffic from the SERPS.
The next quick win that I would do is taking a look at the Moz Crawl Test. A lot of times improvements can be made to the websites Title Tags and Meta Descriptions.
Optimizing your Title Tags can help improve your rankings, but there is a fine line to walk to make sure you don’t over optimize things.
With your Meta Descriptions they don’t directly affect rankings, but they can help improve your CTR (Click Through Rate).
So if you notice that the Meta Descriptions aren’t catchy or wouldn’t draw people in from the SERPS, it is a golden opportunity for you to get a quick win once you purchase the site.
I hope this helps you make a sound decision when evaluating a site for purchase, and whether or not you’ll be able to make improvements and increase the overall value
Feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions or just want to chat @nathan_rossow.
~ Helping you build job-free income streams
I’d actually be wary of sites that have had a lot of systematic, intentional, or artificial optimization done to them.
It seems like the life-span of so many of the more aggressive SEO tactics is getting shorter and shorter, and I don’t want to be the one left holding the bag when the dozens of PhDs at Google catch on, change the algorithm, and wipe your site into obscurity.
I bought a site last year that relied heavily on PBN links for its rankings, and all it took was one algorithm update to take it from being a consistent earner to search engine no man’s land.
This may not be the most quantitative measure of SEO, but I’d take a look at the first-page SERP competition and ask myself if the site I’m evaluating is genuinely the best resource for that query. If it’s not, odds are it won’t be ranking there for long.
One of my favorite channels lately is video, and that comes in two flavors.
First, I’d look for relevant videos to embed on the site, because if someone is going to stick around and watch even just a 2-3 minute video, that’s an extra 2-3 minutes they might not otherwise have spent on the site.
I believe that time-on-site metric is a ranking signal that shows Google visitors are really engaged with the content.
The second area of opportunity with video is to re-purpose or expand some of the existing content into video format for YouTube.
It gives you a completely new channel for discoverability, and another avenue to drive visibility and traffic that the competition might not be taking advantage of.
Quinton E. Hamp
Unlike a lot of buyers, I don’t mind seeing some PRIVATE Blog Network links coming into a site – especially if those sites will be included in the sale.
However, there is nothing that can send me running faster than links that have been purchased from a public blog network.
Of course, sites that have a well-diversified backlink profile are ideal. So I love seeing a combination that includes guest-posting to respectable blogs (or interviews!) and a frequently-maintained social profile (yes, social does seem to help SEO!).
Before purchasing a site, I look for some simple on-site changes that will boost conversion rates.
Can I make the hyperlinks larger? Is it easy for folks to find the buy button? The shopping cart? These are quick improvements we can implement the first week to increase sales.
For example, right now we are switching all of our sites to a new layout that start with a large, 800×600 photo at the top of the article, followed by a Call-To-Action link in X-Large font. (For an affiliate site, that link will likely read “Click Here To See The Best-Selling XYZ Widgets”.)
That one change – A photo followed by an immediate call-to-action – is dramatically boosting the click-through rates and sales are up by as much as 40% on some of these properties.
I also research the niche to see if there are new suppliers or affiliate programs that can be incorporated.
Sometimes by moving away from the big affiliate programs (Such as Amazon), you can find niche programs who are willing to pay a higher commission to have you send them traffic.
For drop-ship sites, I like to make sure that we have plenty of suppliers to pull from (preferably more than ten, although I have worked with as few as five before).
Finally, I like to do some keyword research and make sure that the site can be greatly expanded (more of a long-term strategy).
RegPaq.com // Twitter
~ Inbound Marketing Specialist at EYEMAGINE working with ecommerce clients. When not at the office, he spends his time snapchatting, building niche sites on the side, and writing on his blog and Medium.
First thing I would look for is the link profile
How was the previous webmaster getting links? Is it obvious they used private blog networks or paid for links? Or did they create good content that got links naturally? If I’m going to invest in a site, I’d want all the links to be acquired naturally.
Not only does this make me feel safe, it also shows how readers perceive the site and how willing they are to share content.
If I can clearly identify paid links, I would avoid purchasing the site altogether. If that’s the type of strategy they used to build up the site, then it would also have me question why they are selling the site in the first place.
On site SEO isn’t really a factor to me.
Of course it’s super important, but that can be fixed on my end to what I know works. Content is the biggest thing. Why are people coming to the site?
How are people finding value in the content? If the site built its reputation and brand on content and value then I’m actually buying an asset, instead of a web property that’s just sitting there manipulating the search engines.
If I see the onsite SEO was done poorly, then that presents a great opportunity to quickly increase rankings.
Even if the onsite SEO was decently done, I would add to it as much as I could, and create even more of a solid foundation to work off of.
Next I would look up my topic on popular content submission sites (ex. Reddit, BuzzFeed) and see what’s trending and how my site’s topic can be relevant in viral content.
I’d also use AHREF’s Content Explorer tool to find the most shared content around my topic, and create the same kind of content that got the high shares but make it better.
I could go even further by looking at who’s linking to them and reach out to them to let them know about my better piece of content.
You are the only personal responsible for your success in life, and the only way forward is to take bold action!
If I were looking to buy a website today, I think it’d likely be an information site and with that in mind – here’s what I’d be looking for in terms of SEO on the site.
After communicating with the buyer and establishing what keywords the site is ranking for, I’d be looking for a site that hits most, if not all, of the following SEO best-practices. Here are the questions I’d be asking:
Clear topic/niche: Is it clear what the site is about, especially in the eyes of a new visitor? Is it congruent with the keywords the visitor used to find the site, or was the context of the backlink in a related niche?
Siloing/site structure: If the content is broken up using page/post categories, how well are they set up? Does it help funnel traffic and link juice appropriately?
Basic page elements: Are the title and heading tags (H1, H2 etc) used well to target the keywords appropriately, without being spammy? Are there related images with alt and title tags set up?
URL structure: Do the site’s URLs contain the category and page titles? I.e. http://www.site.com/category/post-about-great-content.
Links: What’s the internal linking structure like? Does the content of the site link back to other content on the site? Are the relevant, outbound links to other authority sites and resources?
Content: Is it actually good quality content? I’d want to see well-written articles, not cheap, hardly-English content, and of decent length where appropriate. 500 words plus.
Is the content unique? I’d run a sample of the content through a tool like Copyscape to ensure it wasn’t just stolen content from any other site.
Avoid: Poor English, spun, or plagiarised content.
Backlinks: How many backlinks are there? Where are the links from? Were there, or are there spammy backlinks? Does the current site owner, also own those backlinks, and will they remain after I’ve purchased the site?
Avoid: spammy backlinks and poor quality PBNs that even your grandmother would see through.
Social: Are there any social profiles linked to the site? If there are, great! How many followers/likes? And who is maintaining the social media (a VA?)
If there aren’t any social profiles – maybe there’s a good reason why. Not such a big deal, depending on what the intention of the site is.
Domain: Is the domain well branded? How old is the domain? I’d like to see a domain that is aged, two or three years ideally (really depends on the age of the site).
Avoid: A domain that was created less than the apparent age of the site. Smells fishy.
Indexing/Google Webmaster Tools warnings: Is the site indexed? Has the site been penalized at any stage?
The quick wins I’d love to see on a new site would be a simple as this:
- I’d establish a mailing list, then start capturing email addresses using Leadpages, with a call-to-action that visitors to this site would find appealing.
- Create digital products that can be sold directly through the site, and can be advertised on the site and promoted to the mailing list.
- I’d find more content that can be created and ranked for, using Long Tail Pro.
- I’d most definitely establish some more powerful backlinks by building a PBN related to the new site’s niche.
To find the domains I’d be using my own expired domain crawler at PBN Lab, which is quickest and easiest way to find your own expired domains.
It’s as simple as entering some keywords, and within minutes you’ve got a list of expired domains related to your niche, domains that nobody else even knows about, complete with their Moz and Majestic metrics.
This will help increase the authority of the site in general, and allow me to juice up the pages to increase the site’s ad revenue or convert more visitors to customers.
Will definitely look at the backlinks.
If it’s dirty – meaning there’s lots of dubious links with exact-match anchor text, then it’s out the window. There are lots of tools to do this.
I personally use Cognitive SEO because of its ability to weed out bad links with less false positives.
Next, I’ll check if any of its title tags are ranking in Google. If not, that’s a bad sign.
Lastly, I’ll check out if its code is search-friendly or not (is it using iFrame, AJAX, Flash, etc.) If it has too much code that Google has a hard time indexing, that will make it a bad buy.
If it’s good to go and I bought it, first thing I’d do is build links to it from relevant sites that I own so it’d rank better.
Next, I’ll assign a content writer I have in my roster to shed out a good content strategy for the blog and execute. That should keep it going.
Servando S. Silva
Buying a website isn’t something to take lightly. Get a good one and you’ll get passive income for months or years. Get a bad one, and you’ll get tons of headaches and problems with it.
When I’m looking for a website I like to do research to make sure the domain or the site haven’t been penalized. I also check the quantity AND quality of the backlinks.
If the site is new and it’s got hundreds or thousands of backlinks from different domains it raises a red flag in my mind, and I need to dig deeper to see what’s going on.
I also check if the site has redirects or something black hat that could either trigger a penalty or just rank the website for a few months before sending it to the sandbox.
This is something you can see using a few tools because some people try to increase the DA/PA overall with black hat techniques to flip the site as fast as possible and then just disappear.
Now, depending on the nature of the website, I like to check the social signals too. If the content is shareable or has comments it also helps, and a few good backlinks from other niche related websites are always a plus.
As for on-page SEO, I try to read some articles or pages to see if the writing looks (and is) natural. I check if the links are indexed with the desired keywords because changing the internal linking structure is always difficult.
Finally, I check a few basic things like the number of indexed pages, domain age and if the site has been banned from services like Adsense; something that could make me think there’s something suspicious behind the seller.
From the SEO side I think that’s what I’d check. Of course, I’m also interested on monetization methods as I’d rather use CPA and affiliate programs if I see the opportunity, but that’s something external to SEO overall.
This one is easy for me. If I see potential on a website I like to squeeze it fast. First things I’d try is to take off the Adsense form, and replace it with a few affiliate links.
Those links can be either to Amazon or any other affiliate program, but I also love to monetize them via CPA offers, which means I got a lot more conversions per lead instead of per purchase.
I love retargeting too. So I’ll try to quickly pull in Facebook and Adwords pixels to start building a list and after I’ve grown it to 10,000 or more, target my visitors with new articles, a landing page for email list building or simply a very targeted article they were looking for.
Something I also do is try different type of ads.
Many people use banners or link ads, but I like to try pop ups/unders, redirects, interstitials and many types of non conventional adsthat most webmasters haven’t heard of.
Also, if possible, I’ll try to sell ad space to brands which can add a few hundreds or thousands of dollars per month according to the value of the visitor.
The best things is that many webmasters just try to put Adsense or Amazon monetization in their ranked websites and they’re losing out big on other monetization methods. That’s something I like to take advantage of.
After being burnt purchasing a site which had extensive SEO work done to it, I would be very nervous of any off site SEO work that had been done. Usually those sites which rely on public PBN’s are going to at one point get wiped out.
I’d be sure to carefully check all the backlinks to ensure that they were completely genuine, and not manufactured links that might be likely to cause an issue later down the line.
If the site was ranked with a truly private blog network (i.e. niche specific, high quality sites that only linked to a single money site) then I would be happy as long as the PBN was included in the sale.
I’d take a three pronged approach, and this roundup is very well timed, a few months ago I posted on my site Texfly about my recent renovation project – you can read the full article here including how I got over 275,000 visitors in under 24 hours…
Any Low Hanging Keywords? Are there any keywords that we are languishing on the second page of Google for? If we looked at the on page SEO a little closer, could we perhaps move up to page one?
I’d also look to build a couple of PBN sites out for any keywords like this to bump them into the top three rankings in the SERPs.
This could drive a healthy amount more traffic to the site.
On Page SEO Fixes? Any on page SEO work that could be done to increase traffic?
There are common on page SEO best practices that should be followed, simple things like a single H1 tag, keyword in that H1 tag, title tags that are click inducing, well-structured pages (with markup) etc that are super easy to implement but can make a big difference.
Here’s an example, a site I bought from Flippa which had particularly poor on-page SEO – a few hours fixing the template and you can easily see the difference in traffic from Google.
Even with the spike of traffic on May 7th 2014 (when the site was linked from another popular blog) didn’t get above just a regular day’s traffic when the on page SEO was fixed.
I built no links, I didn’t do anything apart from follow best practices – and yet I managed to triple my traffic.
What is the current conversion rate of the site, can I easily increase this by split testing graphics, buttons, calls to action etc.
Would ensure that any images used in a product review type site were affiliate links, it’s crazy how many people click on static images. Turn that click into dollars by redirecting to an appropriate product or offer.
Increasing your customer value is an absolutely solid way to provide value. By looking at how well the existing site is monetized, it may be possible to significantly increase this by building an email list, and creating a really solid auto responder series.
If you aren’t building a list, you only get one chance to sell to that person. If you build a list, you can sell to them again and again.
Now, no-one likes being sold to (apart from my wife it seems) – so you need to provide significant value to your visitors, and build a relationship so you don’t have to sell to them.
You simply provide them with solutions to problems that they have.
I’d look for a site that wasn’t reliant in any major way on SEO traffic as we all know SEO traffic can disappear instantly if Google makes an algorithm update.
I’d want to see other traffic sources that can be easily continued by myself without any major effort or work (paid traffic for example) because if I have to be hustling 40hrs a week to get traffic to the site, that’s no use either.
This would totally depend on where the site’s at. If there was no email list I’d be starting to build one instantly with problem solving lead magnets and content upgrades.
The primary things I’d be looking for is whether the SEO done to the site is likely to survive the next Google update.
Essentially buying a site means that you’re making an investment into the future cash flow that the site will generate. If the site crashes and burns with the next Google update, you can kiss that investment goodbye almost immediately.
The first thing I would do is pop the domain into Ahrefs and look at the link profile and look at a number of things:
1. Anchor Text – Does the anchor text of the site look natural or do 80% of the links use the same anchor text?
2. Quality of Sites Linking In – What is the quality of the sites that are linking in?
Are they all spammy sites, or are they high quality domains? Is it natural linking, or are PBNs being used?
I would avoid PBNs when buying a site since we know that Google doesn’t like them and it would feel risky sinking a lot of money into a site that has used them.
3. Types of Links – What are types of links are coming in? Are they contextual backlinks, or does it look like they are coming from link farms? I’d be looking for a good diversity of link types – not just one.
Initially I’d be looking at any way I could optimize the site to get the most out of the link-juice that is already flowing to the site.
In other words, are there any quick improvements I can make in terms of On-Page SEO or internal linking that would help push the site up in the SERPs?
The second question is based on how I will treat the site. If it’s one for which there is limited scope for expansion, I would likely try to treat it like a cash cow.
This means implementing Google adwords, optimizing calls to action, incorporating affiliate links, and thinking of other revenue generators that I could incorporate.
If it is a site that has potential to grow into a larger authority site, I would likely use it as a launching pad to grow it into something bigger.
I would likely hire a team to develop the site further in terms of content – link building through outreach – so that I can reach a greater audience and expand on my monetization potential.
If it looks like this I would run:
If it looks like this grab it while you can!
Most healthy sites though will look mostly unchanged over time though, which is just fine.
After that, I look at all of the ranking keywords in SEMrush. I really like to see lots and lots of little longtail keywords ranking, especially over lots of different inner pages.
This is a great sign of the health of a website. If lots of inner pages are ranking, then more times than not there are not any current Panda problems.
Things I like to see:
Branding! I love seeing lots of legit “brand name” backlinks pointing to a site. It’s a sign of responsible link building, most likely strong user engagement, and someone who took the time to build links the right way.
If a site gets branded in Google it’s much more likely to stand the test of time.
I get a little nervous when a site has a majority of pure “money keywords”. If the user engagement is great, then this might not be a problem, but I would have to do a deep dive to be sure.
Also anytime I see a Fiverr gig pointing straight to the site… yikes
When I buy websites (see what I did there?), I love to see a site with lots and lots of little keywords ranking around the #7 – #12 range. When this happens it frequently means there is a ton of growth opportunity.
All a site might possibly need is just some more on-page optimization or a few killer backlinks for all of those to jump to the top positions.
Since the #3 spot gets at least 6x the traffic of the #9 spot you can quickly see your profits skyrocket in no time. See the below (outdated) click through chart to get an overview in your head.
I always aim to buy sites with that kind of potential. Also, most people do keyword research all wrong so I would immediately start focusing on bringing up the “buying keywords” that have a higher commercial intent.
First, I would immediately put the site into SEMrush to check two things:
- What keywords it is ranking for?
- Is the organic search stable or even going up?
If everything looks good, I will turn to Ahrefs and check the backlink profile. I generally look for:
- A diversified anchor profile focusing on brand name, site URL or author name instead of just the main keywords.
- No links from low quality resources like blog comments, web 2.0, article directories with spun content. Real blog comments and some quality web 2.0 won’t hurt.
- PBN links are not necessarily bad, but I will check the quality of the PBN sites. I also try to buy out their PBN so I can have more control over the links.
If the site passed this step, I will look at the content and site structure to identify any improvement I can make.
Also, I tend to avoid young sites (less than 6 month old), with less than 30 pages of quality content indexed.
Definitely to gather the data and make some calculation first:
- Unique Visitors (UV)
- Page Views (PV)
- Earnings (E)
- Visitor Value (VV) = E / UV
- Revenue per 1000 Impressions (RPM) = (E / PV) * 1000
What to implement varies per type of site, but usually most sites have these common problems:
- Low quality pages indexed – Check using this query “site:domain.com” and look for results with weird titles and descriptions. Also fix pages with short content < 300 words.
- Slow loading time – Check using gtmetrix and google pagespeed. Then try to improve following this tutorial
- No clear Call To Action above the fold – Fixing this alone could result in a 20-30% increase in earnings.
After this, I will pull out Semrush again and download all the keywords the site is ranking for, and analyze competition for each keyword.
I will focus on 2-3 pages that are getting the most traffic first and optimize them for keywords that have high volume, high commercial intent and are sitting on page 2..
First, I’ll check to see if the website has links from PBN and Web 2.0 blogs. If it does, then I need to check the PBN and make sure it’s perfect, and seller will sell PBN as well with the website. If not, then I will avoid this sale.
Then I will use Ahref and MajesticSEO to check all backlinks. I will look for:
- Backlinks located in content of articles
- Anchor text spread out correctly
- No spammy links
- Do-follow/no-follow backlinks ratio
- Links on edu/gov websites is a bonus
- Reference domains and referring IP Addresses. More is better
- TF and CF metrics
Another thing I will check is SEMRush to look over the organic traffic and keywords ranking. Why? It’s another way to verify organic traffic. I will check competition websites, and see if I can bypass them and improve ranking.
Also, if the website has social profiles with real fans. This will be a nice bonus.
First, I will go ahead and fill/improve all the gaps on the website that I discovered before buying it and improve conversion rate.
Then it all depends on what my goal is.
A) If I would like to quickly improve the website, flip it and make a quick buck, then I will create some Web 2.0 related blogs. Add some tier 2 links to these Web 2.0 properties and link back to the website.
I also will invest into building small blog network of related blogs (PBN) and link back to the website.
B) If I would keep the website, then I will increase traffic and improve monetization with white hat technique.
This will include:
- Blog commenting
- Participation on answers websites
- Acquire links in Wikipedia
- Dead links building for old and new content
- Outreach to Bloggers, webmaster and ask for reference link to the website in related articles content
- Skyscraper technique
- Build social profiles like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest
SEO is great, but it can also be a double edged sword in the process. If you don’t know what to look for, it could come back to hurt you later on.
When looking for a site to buy, SEO should always be on your radar, because what might look like a good purchase on the outside, might be a nightmare waiting for you after the sale takes place.
This is why it’s important for potential site buyers to look at:
- How backlinks were built (anchor texts and the quality of sites they are on)
- How long the site has consistently ranked in the search results for it’s best keywords
- How much of the site’s revenue and lead generation is based on the site’s organic search traffic.
I would also prefer to purchase as site that is running off the WordPress platform, as it’s one of the best ways to not only create content, but also to tweak content, improve site performance and have better control over your SEO and on-site engagement.
Existing site owners can follow these simple SEO tips to improve their sites before trying to sell them, or potential buyers can also implement these tips after buying a site as well.
With all of that said about SEO and rankings…I would want to find a site that fell into these areas, as it would likely provide a much higher growth opportunity, while not heavily priced.
– The site should a decent amount of organic links, but mostly keywords ranking in the second and third page of Google (this would allow me to work on the content, links and SEO to get main page rankings)
– Monetizing the site through generic methods like Google Adsense on on-site Ads (meaning I could then create my own campaigns, products or services to increase profit margins and earnings).
– Finding a site that is relevant to a niche I’m already working in would be gold. (I could use my own resources and connections to quickly build out the site, versus being in an industry I’m not as familiar with).
– Social media and industry outreach (all industries are different, but there are always going to be top sites, authorities and references).
Using these same tactics I would create round up posts, infographics and guides to establish the site as an authority in it’s space.
With over six figures in web site transaction, I have a decent amount of experience in this space. If you can find a web site for sale that is already profitable and fits into the majority of these guidelines, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to grow and scale it over time.
In addition to SEO, there are many other things you should be looking for when buying a siteor blog, such as its earnings/buy price ratio and verified stats tracking through Google Analytics.
No matter who, what or where you are buying from, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Do your due diligence.
NickLeRoy.com // Twitter
~ Nick LeRoy is the Sr SEO at Ovative/group where he works with enterprise level SEO clients. When he’s not building organic search visibility for large brands, he’s building affiliate/lead generation websites on the side – primarily in the auto insurance niche.
If I was to buy a website I would look for a site that has authoritative content. This wouldn’t just be quantity or length of content, but quality and is of value add to my sites audience.
I would do a very in depth analysis of of the URLs history (was it a dropped domain? what type of work was done previously but removed) and what type of links the site has.
I’m much less interested in a website that has private blog network links compared to one that has them editorially placed.
Assuming the website is generating revenue I would also want to know the monthly income for the past 12 months or so. Any website can generate cash over a few months – I’m interested in sites that have grown over time.
Assuming the website is already generating revenue – I would look at what pages are the best performers and look to A/B test in order to squeeze extra value.
I would also look into keyword rankings for the various pages on the site with a tool like SEMrush and prioritize work around pages that are almost in traffic driving ranking position (bottom of first page or second page of Google).
I would also do a fair amount of research into my new sites direct competitors. In many instances – there will be link opportunities that I can easily replicate.
Finally, I would build a content calendar around industry trends and long tail keywords to grow the traffic to the website. The last win sure isn’t “quick” though. 😉
The interesting thing when you asked me the question is that I was more worried about what I would like NOT to see on a website purchased. Here’s what I’d like to avoid:
- PBN Links
There is no doubt that PBN’s do work for a time when you use them, they can help you rank higher for several years even but the truth is, the more time passes, the more the chances of getting caught increase as we’ve seen with people like Spencer Haws and having a site relying on those would make me incredibly nervous if I just spent 6 figures acquiring it.
- Thin Content
For a long time you could do ok with SEO using generic 500 words articles bought for $5-10.
These articles were not really helpful but they were good enough to trick search engines if you were targeting long tail keywords.
A lot of older sites still have a ton of that content and it does more harm than good these days.
- A complex CMS
I’m having an internal debate on whether sliced bread is now the 2nd best invention after WordPress but seriously, nobody likes to be blocked by technicalities and WordPress is the easiest way to manage a website by far.
Plus, the vast plugin library allows you to add functionalities in minutes and for cheap and it’s an amazing CMS For SEO, especially with WordPress SEO.
Now for what I’d be looking at:
- Community Activity
Blog comments, social shares, editorial mention.
A sign that people don’t just land on the site but also interact with it. This is the ultimate sign of quality. If a site gets traffic but zero interaction, I’d think twice before acquiring it.
- A Quality Content Creation Process
If I acquire a site and want to grow it’s SEO profile, I’m going to need some content.
Considering the site is already built I’d expect the seller to give me the contact details of qualified and trained content creators so that I don’t have to run a recruiting campaign.
- Established social profiles
Social media is awesome to generate traffic and activity to your site. It also generated minor signals that help your content rank in Google.
But building a social following can take a long time. If I buy a site, I’d really like to NOT be starting from scratch there. Plus, large social following are huge social proof (opening a lot of marketing doors).
- Product Development
Many sites rely on affiliates or advertising to generate the bulk of their income but the reality is, product development is where the bulk of the money is. I’d use my knowledge of product creation to build a brand with it’s own products.
- List Building
This then allows us to have an audience we can sell our products to via email marketing.
- Epic content
Many people could probably do it but few people actually do.
Outside of the Internet marketing niche, creating huge pieces of content can attract a lot of attention and links.
2 or 3 such pieces can boost the organic rankings of your entire site making the purchase profitable fairly quickly.
Wrapping It Up
There are no easy answers when it comes to finding the right site to purchase and expanding sites post-purchase. There isn’t a success blueprint or scalable Standard Operating Proceedure (SOP) you can use.
There are tips from experts, borne out of experience – and that’s exactly what we wanted to share with you today.
The best advise we can offer is to take these tips and create guidelines that work for you.
What are some of your purchasing strategies and clear red flags? We’d love to hear from you.