How to Buy an Existing Website: A Step-by-Step Guide

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

get logon credentials before buying site

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

Final Notes

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.

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14 comments

    • Hillary M. Miller says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Varun,

      “Pending from delete” is the last status before the domain will become open again. The domain will stay in this status for 5 days before it’s made available. I hope this helps!

  • I am looking at buying an existing website and just came across your article. Very helpful! The FreeIPinfo site doesn’t work anymore though…any recommendation on how else to value a site? Thanks!

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Drats! Okay, I’ve updated that part of the post with a new recommendation. No tool is fantastic so you really must get a pulse on the niche before making an offer. Thanks for reaching out!

  • Selina @ Financial Buddha says:

    This is a great tutorial, thank you. I’ve been considering starting research on how to buy websites, so this is a huge help and great starting point. I’m no longer stuck at the very first step!

  • Will,

    Interesting article! I had never thought of buying up an existing website to build your internet presence before. Haven’t had any offers for my website either! 😉

    Looking forward to see your new website and give it a spin some time soon.

    Best wishes,
    NMW

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      There are a ton of factors to consider when buying an existing site. For all you know, the audience may run for the hills when you come to town. Or the site may have some wonky stuff going on behind the scenes that will take you days of frustration to solve. But it can turn out pretty swell. It’s much faster than starting a website from scratch. I don’t think I mentioned it but this site I just bought came with 1,111 published posts. That would take me years to complete.t.

  • Wow, that’s awesome news, Will! I can’t wait to see the site! It sounds pretty complicated buying a site, but I like the step-by-step! Would definitely like to see a post on how you find a website, and how you even know it’s for sale? Personally, I’d be like, wtf Will, no I’m not selling you my website, if you asked me (not that you would, bc my site is nearly brand new lol). So how do you ask someone to sell you their site without offending them?

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      I look for sites that are basically brain dead. That usually means the owners have fallen out of love with them. Sometimes the bloggers are even happy someone else is interested in carrying on their site. I’ve never had anyone get mad but way more people ignore my inquiries than respond to them. I get about 1 response for every 10 inquiries.

  • Congrats man, we are looking forward to seeing it. I have not bought any websites myself but I have done plenty of due diligence on websites my company as bought for millions of dollars.

    Whatever you do, you want to make sure that certain things are not totally destroyed (link profile comes to mind) and that it wont take more work to fix than to start over.