Flippa can be a great online resource for buying and selling sites, it’s been around a very long time but I have to be honest, it does have a A LOT of junk and crappy sites for sale on it these days.
So, I decided to put together some helpful tips for first time/new buyers to try and give you some insight on what to avoid and what exactly to look for so you can get a step closer to buying a quality site and not a piece of junk that will get a Google penalty and lose your hard earned money.
I have learnt the hard way myself and putting my cards on the table, I have bought some complete junk sites in the past due to lack of knowledge so even if I can help a few people avoid making the same mistake then I will be happy with that, the more the merrier!
I have split the Article up to cover what I believe are important things to consider when you are about to jump into buying a site from Flippa. Grab a coffee as this is quite a long read.
1. Buy From Reputable Sellers With Good Feedback
I am not saying that any Flippa users without any feedback are untrustworthy but I do really recommend for your first few purchases that you stick with Flippa Sellers whom have a good track record of positive dealings and feedback (whether it be from selling or buying), this does always give some added confidence when you can see previous users have had a positive experience with them and are effectively recommending them.
How do I check someone’s feedback on Flippa?
When you view a listing on Flippa on the right hand side of the listing it will show a quick overview of the seller which includes; Username, Name, Feedback % and transactions total. There are also Watch Seller and Contact Seller buttons, the Watch Seller is so you can effectively track and be notified the next time that particular user lists a new auction.
If the Seller has previous feedback then it will be shown in green text under the ‘Seller name’ as shown below, it will also show how much in “$” worth of transactions the user has been involved with both buying and selling.
If a user sells very regularly and has consistent feedback then they could be shown as a Super Seller with a green ‘S’ next to their user ID, this is generally a good sign that you are dealing with an experienced seller.
Here is an example, you can see the feedback score in green.
If you click on the username then it will take you to the Sellers profile page and it will show all the written feedback from previous buyers and sellers that the user has dealt with, it’s always a good idea to read through these and even contact them directly if you feel it’s needed.
2. Avoid Listings With Very Brief And Unhelpful Descriptions
Would you buy a car from an advert that said: “Has all 4 wheels and steering works fine” with nothing else mentioned? NO, of course you wouldn’t so you certainly don’t want to be buying a site without having all the details.
If it’s a good quality site then the seller will (and should) spend time on the listing providing potential buyers with as much helpful information as possible, after all its within their interest to do so as they want to get the best possible price for their site.
I have seen a lot of listings where the seller provides very little information in the listing and even on replies, if they are not bothered at the listing stage then what are they going to be like when you need help transferring the site or after sale support? forget about it and please move onto a decent listing with a professional seller who is actually interested.
3. Ask The Seller Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you feel some information was missed out or if anything is not clear for you then you must ask the seller to explain and answer your questions.
It’s important to also do your own research instead of just relying on what the seller tells you, unfortunately there are some dishonest people out there so it’s best to do your own due diligence in parallel to be 100% sure. (I cover this further later on in the article).
Here Are Some Examples Of Questions You Might Ask;
Can you explain the traffic drop during ‘X’ month.
Can you explain the sudden increase in traffic?
Why is the bounce rate so high?
What SEO has been done? has only white hat methods been used?
Why is 80% of the traffic direct? Are you paying for traffic? (this has been quite common with some recent listings I have come across so be careful here).
Why are you actually selling the site?
Where did you get your images from? (any copyright issues or are they purchased or self made).
When you are speaking with the seller it’s important to keep these points in mind;
Do They Reply Quickly?
This is important, if someone takes 3 days to answer a question then is it going to be same when you buy a site from them and need their assistance? this to me would automatically put a warning sign if someone is taking a very long time to reply back. Of course if they apologise and give a valid reason (such as being on holiday etc) then I wouldn’t be too worried, as long as they continue to reply quickly afterwards.
Are they helpful?
So, the seller is replying quickly? that’s great but are they being helpful and replying with detailed and helpful information? if not then please tread carefully, remember you are going to need the sellers help to get the site transfer done smoothly (Domain Push, Hosting Transfer and perhaps help transferring over the affiliate system).
My rule of thumb is simple, if someone is clearly not helpful or showing much professionalism replying to a few questions then this rings alarm bells that would simply put me off buying from them, no matter how great the site looks.
On the flip side it’s also amazing how helpful some quality sellers can be and you might even be able to get some free extra’s with the site. I do recommend that you have actually placed a bid before doing this but why not ask the seller;
Will you include any articles along with the sale? (most of the time people will have a handful of Articles that they was planning to publish but not yet got around to so why not potentially get some extra content for free).
Will you include any ideas/help on how I could further expand the site?
Do you have any other Monetization ideas that you wanted to try but didn’t get around too that perhaps I could try?
These are just a few ideas but I am sure you get the picture, most of the time sellers have great ideas for expansion / further monetization for their sites but just didn’t have time or ever actually get around to it so why not ask the questions and see if you can get some free information, ideas and potentially content. (you have nothing to lose by doing so but it’s probably best that you have actually placed a bid / winning bidder before doing so).
4. Follow The Comments On The Listing
At the very bottom of the listing you will see other users adding comments on the listing which are shown to everyone as well as the seller’s responses, although you will commonly see comments like ‘what is the reserve?’, there are often some good questions asked that perhaps you was perhaps not even thinking about or just overlooked.
This could give you more confidence or even put you off, has the seller been holding something back and been caught out by an experienced buyer? or has some great information been added that makes the listing even more interesting and valuable to you?
I always try and follow the comments for listings I am watching to see if anything interested (or bad) comes out, it’s always good to see how helpful the seller is being in terms of the replies – are the replies detailed and helpful? this is a good sign. If they are unclear and short then be sure to do some digging/research on the site, the seller could generally be very busy so don’t necessarily let this put you off.
5. Are There Any Copyright Issues?
This is very important as the last thing you want is to spend loads of time finding a quality site, doing all your homework and pulling the trigger on buying a great site but later getting hit with a copyright issue / lawsuit where you end up losing the site or even getting fined.
This DOES happen so please be careful here, what exactly am I referring too?
Domain Name Copyright
Does the website domain name include any copyright issues? (brand name in the domain as an example, there are lots of these on Flippa such as mentioning: Iphone, Sony, LG etc in the domain name.
Most companies don’t like this and they can easily find your site and cause you a lot of problems that could end up losing you the site or even a lawsuit which is not a nice experience (and also an expensive one) but you can easily avoid it by avoiding these kind of sites with clear potential copyright risks.
Another important point is with images, lots of people just take images from Google Image searches or other photo sources without actually having the appropriate rights to be using them.
There are actually websites around so people can search and find out where their images are being used without their permission so please also be very careful here as it could get messy. If a website has a take down link on their site then this means they are likely using images without permission.
6. Be Careful Where ‘Autopilot’ / ‘No Work Needed’ is Mentioned
There is no such thing as autopilot sites that require no work, sure you can let the site just run once you have it all transferred but most of the time you are just going to see a gradual decline in the traffic and revenue if you simply do nothing and neglect the site, which could mean losing your money.
Sure, you can get lucky from time to time but why do you really want to buy a site to just set it up and forget about it? didn’t you want to add your own touch to it, grow the site and most importantly increase the earnings? to do this you need to be spending time on the site, whether that’s adding new quality content (based on new researched keywords, long tail is best!) or slowly building quality and relevant links to the site or building up social media presence.
So the verdict is that Autopilot = Generally, a load of rubbish and completely untrue, please don’t fall for it.
7. Spend Time On The Site
It’s amazing how many people will bid on a site before actually spending some time on it themselves, this is crazy in my opinion, you really need to make sure you spend some time on the site to check it actually functions correctly and if the content is quality and well written.
What You Don’t Want To Bid On
Sites with lots of short articles (100-300 words) that are not useful, do not read well and have lots of spelling mistakes.
Sites with spun content, this is just a massive walkway sign. some people use plugins that pull related articles from other sites online and add them to your site automatically, this is just junk and you are never going to build up or maintain a decent site like this. (I recently came across a site for sale about jewellery but the seller was using a content spinner plugin which they obviously wasn’t keeping track off as the sites recent articles was all about Phone case information review articles). Poor or unrelated content is a sign that you are looking at a poor site that is not worth buying.
Sites that are just full of images with no content, sure you can get some good traffic from image searches but a site that is 90% images is not going to be a good buy and it’s going to take up a lot of space and potentially have more risk of image copyright issues. (unless the seller has invested a lot into buying the images and can actually prove it).
Sites with terrible on page SEO and where they have taken keyword density to a crazy level, to a crazy level, to a crazy level (couldn’t resist a little SEO joke). This can be fixed by re-writing articles but remember the whole idea of buying a site in the first place is to save some time VS building a site from scratch.
Site with lots of back links all with the exact keyword anchor, this is an outdated and old strategy that doesn’t work anymore and will get the site penalized by Google (eventually). You want a site that has a diverse back link profile (i.e. lots of RELEVANT links pointing to natural/naked/brand links instead of just the same keyword multiple times). I try and limit towards 15% (maybe 20% at a push) limit for exact keyword anchor text, anything over that in my opinion is risky and asking for a penalty.
What You DO Want To Bid On
A site with long, well written and quality articles that actually answer a question or provide helpful information to the reader (ideally both). It’s nice to see some lengthy articles (1000-2000 words+) this generally means that some effort, research and thought has been put into the site.
A well structured site that you can easily navigate around and does not have loads of broken or unrelated links. (broken links can of course be fixed).
A Site where decent/best practice on page SEO has been done (Titles, Keywords, Alt Tags, Internal and external relevant links etc).
A site with a stable earning history (6+ months revenue earnings is a good target figure but you will pay extra for this but it’s worth it).
A well designed site that looks awesome (this is more of a bonus as you can quite easily update the site and design at relatively low cost, especially if it’s a WordPress site where you can just get a new Theme and perhaps pay for a cheap custom design / logo).
Generally a site you would be happy (and proud) to show your friends and family.
An aged site is always good to target (1 year+), Flippa has a lot of 3 month old sites where sellers make crazy claims on how much the site is going to grow, don’t buy a site based on claims, buy on good research and evidence.
8. Beware Of Sites That Have Been Sold A Lot Over The Last 6-12 Months
You will notice on some Flippa listings, just below the screenshot part at the top it shows how many times the site has been listed before, I have seen some sites for sale that have been listed 8+ times and it’s important you do some research here to find out why.
If you click on the link ‘Listed X amount of times’ it will show you the previous listings which you can look back through and you really want to look at the following;
Is it the same seller whom has relisted it every time? (perhaps he just has not got the price he wanted but don’t speculate, find out).
If it’s not the same seller and different ones then how many people have owned the site? what is the time gap between each listing? (if you see a pattern of a lot people relisting it after 2-3 months of owning it then something is wrong here, after all we all hang onto quality sites that are generating decent revenue).
If it’s just been relisted once shortly after by another seller then it could be someone doing a quick Flip, someone who picked the site up for a cheap price who is looking to make a quick profit and sell the site for more than the bargain price they feel they paid for it – this is quite common and nothing to worry about providing it meets the checks after some research.
It’s also fairly common that someone will relist a site that previously sold due to non-payment from the last buyer.
If the site has been listed A LOT (some have been 5-8 + times) by different sellers, then you really need to be a bit cautious here, why are people buying the site and then relisting it after 2-3 months over and over again, what is wrong with it? Look back through the listings, the comments/discussions on each listing and really do some research. (I personally walk away from these kind of sites that have been sold and relisted a lot in short spaces of time by a lot of different users).
9. Get Added To Google Analytics (GA) And Do Some Digging
Google analytics is a great way to confirm the site traffic is real and actually matches up to the sellers claims, generally I look for the below;
Sites where the majority of the traffic is from Google US Organically (over 70%+ is always nice), this means the site gets a lot of natural and FREE traffic from Google which is what you want.
Look back on the traffic over the last 3 or 6 months+, how long has the site been getting traffic (is it on the decline or up?)
If it is on the decline, has the seller clarified why? perhaps the site has been neglected, not updated regularly but don’t guess here, ask the question and do your own research, only bid when you are confident you know the reasons behind it and most importantly how to improve it.
Warning Signs: If the Seller has GA but does not want to add anyone to GA, walk away now unless there is a very good explanation as to why but frankly I cannot think of any so be careful.
If the seller does not have GA, this happens from time to time and I would say for a first time buyer – be very careful, there are some genuine ones but a lot of fake/photo shopped stats.
TIP: If the listing has just been put up and has for example over 20 days left and doesn’t have GA then why not ask the Seller to set it up for the listing duration, it really doesn’t take long and this way you at least will have some data to look into and analyse before the listing ends, it’s worth asking and you could weed out a potential gem.
10. Checkout The Site With SEMRush.com
Aside from Google Analytics, SEMrush is another great site which gives you a overview of a site, Flippa actually include this feature on the listing information (shown below) so just click on the SEMrush link on the listing and it will load a new tab with the listed site shown in SEMrush automatically and show the below information on the site such as;
Site traffic (organic or paid).
Back link profile (number of back links, anchor text used, link spam rating).
What main keywords the site ranks for and where exactly the keywords rank in the search.
How much traffic (%) the site gets from each keyword.
Competitor analysis (this is great for new content ideas, what keywords could you steal from your competitors for new keyword / article ideas?).
It’s good to target a site with a good number of keywords all bringing in traffic that you can look at improving the rankings (through Link building) and new possibilities that you can add new content around to gain new keywords ranking and new traffic from the search Engines.
I generally like to try and buy sites that are ranking naturally and don’t have a lot of back links, this is a good sign and generally means the content is quality to be ranking naturally.
It’s perfectly fine to buy sites with existing back links but just make sure you check the back links and you really want to check off the below questions with a tick;
Are the back links relevant and related to site subject?
Are the links from quality sites? (relevant/check domain authority).Have any PBN links been used?Are the links natural (i.e. linking to your site from a similar niche site’s article and providing value to the reader).What does the site backlink anchor profile look like? (Natural / Naked is best but a few % exacts keyword anchors shouldn’t do any harm as long as they are not the majority %).
As I am writing this post I have just been put off a Flippa listing myself due some of the very poor back links it has, a lot of them are from random sites that have no relevancy to the niece and worst of all the links are in the footer of these sites along with about another 15 random websites. This is not a great sign and does put me off slightly, perhaps I will pull the plug but let’s see what further digging finds. (Update: I did pull the plug on it as didn’t like the look on the back link profile at all).
11. Don’t Just Focus On High Revenue Sites
Everyone wants a big earning site but buying a high revenue site is going to be really expensive and if you are just starting out you will probably be worried about making any changes or experimenting due to the level of money you have invested and not having much experience.
It’s much better to buy a site earning a small amount (really anything from $25 USD upwards a month) is a good starting point, after all your goal is going to be to grow the site and increase the earnings anyway.
Trust me, you will be much more comfortable making changes, experimenting and taking some risks (if you are going to explore PBN or grey hat link building methods) with say a $500 USD site than you would a $10,000+ site. That aside, it’s probably the best way to learn and see what works and what doesn’t work without the worry you are going to lose a chunk of savings.
I see a lot of people massively overpaying for some sites, especially Adsense’s sites and I always scratch my head when I see it as I just don’t understand why someone would buy a site with a return on investment of 4-5 years. (even with a good strategy plan it’s just too much).
So what would I consider a good average to pay for sites? It does depend on a lot of factors and it’s quite hard to generalise but below is a very brief average that I would advise;
Site Age Below 6 Months (with 1 or 2 months earning history)
= Approx 7-10x monthly revenue
Site Age 6-12 Months (3+ months earning history)
= Approx 12-18x monthly revenue
Site Age 1-2 Years (6+ month earning history)
= Approx 18-26 monthly revenue
Site Age 2+ Years (1 year+ earning history)
= Approx 24-32 monthly revenue
12. Is The Revenue Actually Real?
Don’t be fooled by the big numbers or screenshot attachments as they can be easily faked by Photoshop and the revenue you think the site is earning may not be the reality.
Here Are A Few Important Points To Consider
If the income is Adsense then has the seller verified the Adsense revenue via Flippa’s verification system on the listing? (When a seller adds a listing they have the option to actually login to their Google account and for the Adsense data to be pulled through and ‘verified’ by Flippa).
If they do not then you need to ask why, some people give rubbish excuses like they made a mistake when doing the listing and forgot to verify. Please be careful with this and make sure you verify the earnings, a video walkthrough (such as through Skype screen share) is always a good idea so you can see the Google Adsense earnings live yourself for the particular site.
Same goes with Amazon affiliate income sites, does the affiliate ID actually match the site? you can check the affiliate ID by visiting the site and viewing the source on the links; (CTR+U) or right clicking and ‘View Source’ depending on what browser you are using, make sure it matches the affiliate ID and the same ID is not being used on multiple sites, it’s always just best to ask for a video walkthrough (via Skype) to be 100% sure.
NOTE: It is actually possible for the seller to add your email to their Amazon Affiliate account so you can view the data yourself but honestly 99% of sellers will NOT do this as most of the time they will have multiple sites on their affiliate account and do not want you seeing their sites/earnings for all sites which is fair enough, it doesn’t hurt to ask though.
A genuine seller who has nothing to hide should have no problem at all verifying income further for a serious buyer (generally via Skype), if they are making excuses and don’t want to do it then please walk away as something is definitely wrong.
13. Are All The Expenses Actually Being Shown For Running The Site?
A lot of sellers will generally just put in ‘$5 USD’ per month in the expenses column on Flippa and mention shared hosting which is quite common and in some cases correct but is that really all the expenses involved?
If the seller is mentioning they post 2 Articles every week then who is writing the Articles? if someone else is then they are paying for them which means you are talking another $40 – $60 USD+ per month in additional costs or are they doing them all themselves? (remember; time is money!).
Does the site need any paid certifications (SSL) or are there any other subscriptions that need to be paid? (ask these kind of questions and more to be sure of the true expenses as it could be the difference between a site earning $300 but in reality it’s only $150 and you can bet your shirt the seller is valuing it based on $300 per month).
14. What Payment Options Is The Seller Offering?
With Flippa there are 3 payment options;
3. Flippa Escrow
If you are looking at a low end site that is likely to sell for $300 and below then probably the seller will want to do it via Paypal which is quite common.
For anything over I am always looking for Escrow (or Flippa Escrow) as it does give you a lot more protection as the funds are held by Escrow (as a middle man) until the Domain is pushed and the site is transferred to your hosting, you actually have to confirm it’s been done and you are happy before Escrow releases the payment to the seller so it provides a decent level of protection for both parties and generally everything gets done quickly.
Paypal is really well known, a lot of people are familiar with Paypal probably from using Ebay but the truth is they don’t really offer a lot of protection when it comes to buying sites, you have to send the money to the seller straight away and you are then reliant on them being helpful and doing all the transfers despite them already having the money.
A lot of people get ripped off this way and though Paypal do offer some dispute option, there are no guarantees you are going to win the case so please be careful when using Paypal as a payment option.
TIP: If you like the look of a site for sale but it just has Paypal as a payment option then contact the seller and tell them you interested in the site but are not comfortable paying via Paypal and would they consider adding Escrow so you can place a bid? Most sellers will, I actually did this recently myself and the seller happily did so on the same day. (I ended up buying the site too).
15. Understand What You Are Getting Yourself Into From A Work Load Point Of View.
Buying a site is exciting but make sure you are fully aware of what you are getting yourself into, and you can actually handle it, below are some good examples of what I mean;
How many hours a week do you need to put in to maintain the earnings?
Is it going to be too much for you as a starting point? (You don’t buy a Ferrari when you just passed your driving test, if you can afford one for your first car then what are you doing here? haha just joking, everyone is welcome).
Am you going to run into any issues with the site platform? (WordPress / PHP).
Do you have some ideas on how you are going to grow the site?
16. Make Sure You Have The Money And Time To Buy And Actually Maintain The Site.
This might sound a bit silly but believe me it does happen more than you can probably imagine, never bid for a site on the basis that you hope to have the money by next week (perhaps you are waiting for something to sell or think you are going to get your bonus at work), never ever bid on the basis that you ‘might’ have the money.
Another important point is beyond the site price do you have actually have the money and additional time to maintain and build the site? It’s a school boy error just simply buying a site, leaving it and hoping for the best. Sometimes you CAN get lucky but I think it’s foolish for anyone to buy a site on the basis that they are just going to set it up and leave it.
You really need to be thinking about what you can do with the site to keep it ticking over and actually grow it. here are a few things you need to consider;
Adding regular unique content to the site. (will you do this yourself? or outsource it and pay for it?).
Are you going to have an SEO/Link building done? (this is a tedious task that a lot of people outsource but of course this costs money). If you do outsource this, please do not go for the cheapest option, you could easily get a penalty for poor link building so please make sure you outsource this to someone who knows what they are doing and of course these people will not be the cheapest but the best option in the long run.
Are you going to change the design? (re-design and decent new templates cost money albeit not a fortune but it’s still another cost for you).
17. Have A Plan For The Site
These days, even after I have done all my research on a potential site to buy I still do not put a bid on until I can come up with a few good ideas for the site, you need to think about;
What are you going to do with the site if you end up winning/buying it?
What new keywords are you going to target? (look at competitors, what are they doing?)
Can you see any obvious improvements you can make to improve revenue straight away? (such as Adsense/Affiliate placement or style) or perhaps a new theme that converts better.
How competitive is the site niche area? (SEMrush shows competition rating, as well as other Keyword Tools like LongTail Pro)
Can I use other monetization methods to earn more revenue? (perhaps moving to another affiliate or even selling a physical or your own digital product such as an ebook?)
Obviously you don’t need to be writing some kind of business plan as you might not even win the site but you do need to put some thought into what you are actually going to do with it, spend a bit of time thinking about it before pulling the trigger on a bid.
18. Done Your Research And Found A Gem? Try And Close The Listing Early.
In most cases people don’t add a ‘Buy it now’ onto their listing as most people think you can get more by letting people bid against each other (and this is true in most cases) but it does not mean that you always have to wait the listing out and fight in a bidding war, you can sometimes close a listing early directly and agree a price with the seller by contacting them and asking the question.
Everyone has different strategies but I usually go in on the basis of just asking them what offer would they need to consider ending the listing early, this way I am not giving away my budget and potentially can get a slightly better price. It’s also important not to come across over-interested and over excited as the buyer could take advantage of this and you could end up overpaying.
Generally you will either get a reply with a figure from the seller with what they want to sell or a message saying they want to let the auction run.
You, of course want to negotiate and go back with a counter offer to try and get a deal, though if it is a fair price within the budget you had in mind then don’t get too carried away here as there are probably other people messaging them too with offers and the last thing you want is to lose a quality site because you was trying to squeeze a couple of hundred dollars off a price you was already happy with.
If they do reply back saying they want to let the auction run then don’t just give up, wait a few more days and see how the bidding activity is going, if there is still only a few bids with reserve not met then why not message them again? perhaps they have changed their mind now.
19. Don’t Fall In Love With A Site, Know When To Walk Away.
Ever heard the term there are plenty more fish in the sea? (or on Tinder these days!) well this applies to buying sites, there will always be another site so do not fall in love and overpay, I have done this before and ended up losing money and though I learned quite a lot it was not a great experience overall but it was my own fault for not walking away and sticking to my budget.
This happens to a lot of people and this human competitive flaw is the reason sites like Ebay make a lot of money, people get caught in a bidding war and end up overpaying just to get the win feeling. This is a big mistake that will cost you a lot in the long run so please set your budgets and stick to them unless there is a VERY good reason for it.
20. Keep In Contact With GOOD Sellers
This is something I always try to do, If you have had a really smooth transaction on Flippa and found them helpful then it’s a really good idea to keep in contact with them. You can do that via Flippa messaging or via their email, when you go through the buying process on Flippa you do get access to their email address under “buyers contact details”.
There is no reason why they wouldn’t want to and here are some reasons why it’s good to keep in contact with good sellers;
You can potentially buy future sites from them outside of Flippa.
There is already an element of trust as they have dealt with you before, besides that it means if they was to do a direct deal with you outside of Flippa then they would save on Flippa listing and sale fee’s which means you can potentially get a better deal on the site price.
They can help you.
If something goes a bit wrong with the site it’s good to have them within reach to help and advise you, some sellers mention a 30 or 60 day support period but most good ones will always be on hand to help regardless of when you bought the site.
Outside of that it’s good to have a bit of a network to hand to reach out to for help when needed (everyone needs this in my opinion), I recently had a few site issues not even related to the site I bought from the seller and they still helped me out, this is invaluable (obviously don’t take advantage with a million questions/tasks, keep it to general and short to the point questions).
Well, that’s it for now! I do hope you found the tips helpful and you manage to find a decent site to get started with on Flippa. If you want to add anything to this post then please do get in touch, I plan to try and update it as much as possible so it’s the best Flippa buying tips guide online.