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The dangers of buying websites: what to watch out for so you don’t get ripped off!

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The dangers of buying websites: what to watch out for so you don’t get ripped off!

The trend of buying a website has started, but before that one must take into consideration backdrops.

Website-shopping

Are you looking to buy a website? Check out our list of things to keep in mind and an eye out for before you make any final decisions!

Websites such as Flippa have made it very easy to purchase established websites, and this has recently become a popular method of turning a profit online. After all, if you can reap the benefits of a great website with only a fraction of the effort, why not?

However, it is inadvisable to leap into this trade and start purchasing websites without first performing due diligence and research. So, we have put together this handy list of what to watch out for when buying websites to help you make safe and informed decisions.

Buy the website, not the person who made it

Of course, this applies to any purchase. For example, if you’re looking to buy a new house, you won’t be making a decision based on where your real estate agent went to college, or their other assets. Your decision will be informed by the home itself, its qualities, and what it has (or doesn’t have) to offer.

Similarly, you should be wary of sales descriptions that list all the assets of the company or the web designer of the website, and little to no descriptions of the website’s assets or history. Informed decisions are safe decisions!

Always view the website first

Vet the website and look for any problems with store speed, friction (i.e. is the site frustrating to use), and so on. If you find that the site isn’t designed with user experience or optimization in mind, you may wish to rethink the purchase. Don’t forget to check if the website is mobile-friendly, and if the domain itself is short, sweet, and to the point. After all,  complicated URL will hinder those searching for the site.

Also, be wary of vendors who ask for payment before showing you all the ins and outs of the website they are selling to you. Arrange to use an escrow service to make the transaction safe for both parties. This way, they can see that you have the funds, and you can withhold payment until after you are certain that you are satisfied with the website.

Escrow services will usually offer resolution services as well. If you run into problems with negotiations, or it turns out that the website isn’t what was promised, then these companies can take care of the disputes, legal issues, and communication for you.

Check out their posts for SEO

You should test the website’s text for search engine optimization (SEO), especially if they have a blog. Blogs can help to increase traffic and intrigue those who would not normally shop at or visit the site. However, the website’s visibility on Google and other search engines is dictated by the efficacy of their SEO.

Therefore, before buying a website, you should ensure that the necessary efforts have been made to optimize the website. Does it show up when you run a Google search for the type of product or services it sells? If not, it may take considerable time or monetary investment to improve it.

Research the website & its history

Those who are savvy with online shopping and e-commerce know that you never make a purchase without reading several reviews first. This same rule applies to buying a website as well!

If the website is very new, you may not wish to run the risk of buying it right away, since it won’t have an established history you can research. Further, if the website and its maker or owner have a bad reputation—with their customers or on previously owned websites—it’s likely not worth the investment. Perform a quick Google search as well, just in case the website has been blacklisted or penalized (e.g. Panda or Penguin penalties) by the search engine.

Take a good look at their sales history. Is it sustainable? Is it consistent? Do they have good digital marketing strategies that you can keep and build on? These are the questions you should ask before making your purchase final.

Additionally, if the website’s owner and seller provides you with answers to these questions and other statistics, be sure to cross-reference what you can with your own research. A little bit of time will go a long way towards ensuring your investment is sound.

Research the website’s target demographic and traffic

Just because they have pages or accounts on various social media accounts does not make the website or the company inherently popular or reliable. Do a little more digging into the quality of the followers and customers—if they’re high quality, then the traffic to your website will be high quality as well. Ask the vendor for these site statistics; they will generally have them on hand for you.

In terms of website traffic, keep an eye out for what countries supply the most traffic, and what demographics. For example, if you are looking to sell luxury home decoration goods, then teens won’t be your ideal or targeted demographic. So, if most of the traffic comes from teens, this serves as a warning.

Also, is the website currently marketing itself to its ideal demographic? How and where are these marketing strategies being employed? If they are placing ads on Facebook and/or Instagram, for example, who are the ads being displayed to?

Check out their revenue streams

In other words, how does the website make its money? You should be sure that you will get a return on your investment and a profit before you make the decision to buy a website. So, ask or look for such sources of revenue as Google Adsense, Amazon click-through links, other digital or paid advertisements, product or services sales, subscriptions, and so on.

If the website that you are looking to buy only has one or two revenue streams, you may need to make further investments to create more reliable revenue from the site. Additionally, if the revenue is mostly product- or service-based, ensure that there is a steady flow of revenue year-round. For example, a website which exclusively sells fidget spinners may have been profitable last year, but such items that follow trends aren’t guaranteed to continue to turn a profit.

Look into the platform & website maintenance

Always identify which platform the website is hosted on (e.g. Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, etc.). Some of these sites are easier to maintain than others, and some produce sites that look nearly identical amongst their clients. If you’re looking for something unique, then you may wish to look for sites that have been professionally designed.

However, keep in mind that sites that have been made by a professional web designer mean that there will be higher costs in terms of website upkeep. If you have an expert on your team, have them check out the website to see if it will require constant maintenance.

Even if you do not have to hire a professional or pay an existing team member to maintain the site, and you are able to perform the necessary changes, ask yourself if it is worth your time. That is, if the website maintenance is easy, but takes an hour out of your work day, then it may not be worth the investment.

Also, ask for a report on website maintenance. How often was maintenance performed, and when was the last time? Who performed the maintenance, and what was required? Are there any recurring problems that you should be aware of? If the vendor or current owner performs the site maintenance themselves, ask them how often and how long they need to perform it.

Be wary of the price

There really is no average price you can put on a website these days, but if the vendor is asking for a lot less than the usual asking price for a website making similar revenue, the chances are that the website isn’t very good quality. On the other hand, if the vendor is asking for too much, then that should obviously raise some red flags.

Don’t skip the fine print! There may be hidden fees in the Terms of Service that you should keep an eye out for. Also, if the website is hosted on a platform such as Wordpress, check if the plugins or add-ons are free. If not, get a clear picture of how much it will cost you to keep the site running.

Communicate with the seller

Establish a clear line of communication with the person or company (the agent, in this case) selling the website. Then, make sure that they are trustworthy, and let them know that you are trustworthy as well. As previously mentioned, escrow services are a good way to do this.

Additionally, when you are asking questions or negotiating, remain polite and professional. Of course, when they ask you pertinent questions, answer them in a timely and thorough manner. If there are any issues, allow a third party to mediate for you, and remain as calm as possible. People and businesses are more likely to respond well to those who maintain civil, organized, and consistent.

Parting Notes

In general, you want to do as much research as possible into the website you are interested in buying. Make sure you ask the seller or company all the necessary questions, and set up good security measures in place in case of fraud or disputes.

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