The most complicated part of buying an existing website is determining the value of the site. Website values are wildly unpredictable, but the closest estimator tool I found is: siteworthtraffic.com. After you determine what you’re willing to pay for an existing site, contact the owner and come to an agreement. For all the details, see our step-by-step guide to buying an existing site.
Buying a website is like finding a job — if you find a job via a massive online job board, everyone and their dog has applied for the position. Not only is it hard to get, it’s also probably not very good. As they say, the best jobs are never advertised. Same goes for buying websites. Using a small website broker is fine. That person simply finds sites for you and gets a royalty for finding them, which can be helpful since finding a website to buy can take ages. Just avoid brokers with a 100,000 person mailing list. It’s pretty hard to fathom that out of 100,000 people, you’ll be the one to get an amazing deal.
So, I just bought another personal finance blog. I bought the site as-is through a private sale. I have a few things to update/change before I let you know the URL. The site is nearly nine years old, so although I’ve been changing a lot, there’s still a lot of prettying up to do before I show ‘er off. (I believe the site was running on its original theme!)
How to Buy an Existing Website
Step 1: Determine Its Worth
Once you find a site (another post, perhaps), you need to determine how much its worth. Don’t waste your time dreaming about a site if it’s out of your league. When you Google phrases like “what’s a site worth,” “worth of a site,” and “how to determine what a site is worth,” you’ll get some pretty horrible results. Reason being, it’s very difficult to determine the price of a website. Remember, the internet is still in its Wild West days. There are a million ways to make money with a website. Therefore, you can’t simply price it like a simple offline business that cuts grass, for instance. If you buy a grass-cutting business, you’re buying a business that has the capabilities (at this point) to pretty much just cut grass. But with a website, there are tons of ways to take that one asset and monetize it.
If you ask Google for an answer, you may run across Worth of Web. Don’t even consider using the site’s worth calculator. The site gets its numbers largely based off of Alexa Rank. When I was trying to improve my Alexa Rank standing, Worth of Web valued First Quarter Finance at just over $75,000! Hot dang! I should be charging you guys for this content!
The tool I prefer is siteworthtraffic.com. This site provides the closest estimates to what I’ve seen real websites sell for in the past. Other website worth estimator tools are just really over-inflated. Some base their estimates on silly factors like Alexa Rank, while this tool takes a more holistic approach. What I did to determine its accuracy is I ran a few sites that I’ve personally been a part of buying and selling. This calculator is the most accurate as to what was actually paid. But websites are still wildly unpredictable. There are just too many different ways to monetize them and websites are worth different amounts for different reasons. A virgin website can be worth millions just because the domain is great. Or a blog may be worth $100,000 because someone knows of a new way to monetize it and the current statistics don’t mean much. It’s all very tricky.
After you determine a monthly income number that’s fairly accurate, multiply it by anywhere from 10 to 20. That’s your offer. If the site is already making all the money I think it can, my offer will be closer to 10x its monthly income. If I think I can ramp up its income in a big way, I’ll offer closer to 20x its current value.
Step 2: Contact the Owner and Come to an Agreement
Contact the owner and show you’re serious about buying the site. You can do this via the “contact” page, social media accounts, or information gleaned from a “Whois” profile. Settle on a number you are both comfortable with.
Step 3: Exchange Multiple Forms of Communication
Do this as a precaution. I was actually conversing with the site owner via an email hosted on the domain I was buying. Once she unassigned the account from the host, we lost communication. Having a backup form of communication would have been helpful.
Step 4: Have the Owner Send You All Files and the Database
You now have everything you need except the domain name itself. I like this step because it shows the seller is serious. And it’s not like you can do anything with this information without the domain name. (Reposting the content would result in duplicate content penalties by Google.)
Step 5: Pay via Escrow.com
This is a trusted name and cheaper than PayPal. This way you have buyer and seller protection. I do love using Venmo for all my other online transactions though since it’s free for both parties.
Step 6: Have the Owner Unlock, Unassign the Domain
Step 7: Ask the Owner for the EPP Code and Log-on Credentials for the CMS
Step 8: Add the Site to Your Host, Use the EPP Code to Snatch up the Domain
Step 9: Lock the Domain
This is basically a code that allows you to make the handoff. You want to be sure you know how to get into the site’s CMS. Locking the domain prevents anyone who knows the EPP code from taking the domain away from you.
Step 10: Update the Whois Information
It’s illegal not to. You can do this through the control panel of your host.
Step 11: Make Sure Their Ads Are off the Site
Step 12: Be Given the Google Analytics Account or Create a New One
Remove the previous owner’s code and add your new code. Then, begin tracking.
Step 13: Ask for Any Social Media Login Credentials, Subscriber Lists
This will give you something to work with.
Step 14: Once All Is Working, Release Final Payment
The domain registration is tied to the domain. If the previous owner paid out three years for registration, that means you get three years already paid; same with the URL.
I bought this new website because starting another blog is very time-consuming. A new site is just not worthy for a while. Google didn’t begin caring about First Quarter Finance until it was about six or seven months old. That’s a long time to write without getting any search engine traffic. The site is now about a year old and, finally, my search engine traffic is ramping up. I don’t regret building this site from scratch. However, buying an existing site is like fast-forwarding in time. And we all know time is our most valuable asset.