Sometimes, it makes more sense to buy an existing domain, blog, or website, rather than start from scratch. Why? Well for starters, it can get you moving and help you further your business strategy faster. Secondly, a domain that already has authority in search engines’ eyes, as well as a captive audience, is a great starting point for your ideas and brand. Similarly, a business that’s already profitable and making money could be your ticket to easy online entrepreneurship. Here are some things that you need to know about buying your first website: including how to brand it up properly, and the pre-purchase audits you’ll need to ensure you’re making a smart choice.
Where do I find websites for sale?
There are a few different places to find websites for sale online, so it’s worth spending some time shopping around for the right one.
You might want to check out some of these popular marketplaces. Spend time talking to sellers and brokers and exploring your options. Remember that they are probably talking to loads of other buyers so you have to make a good case for yourself.
You can also find websites for sale on social media, but only if you know where to look! One of the best places to shop? Online forums that focus on web platforms or content management systems — there are always relevant exchanges and conversations going on between site owners.
You may also want to directly email site owners if you have a specific niche you’re shopping in, but you’ll probably have to offer people a lot of money to part with their site.
Different methods of website monetization
When you are considering a website purchase, think very carefully about which monetization method plays to your strengths. Are you talented at branding and customer service, or are you more of a sales and SEO maverick?
There are many different ways to monetize a website and varied online business models to choose from. Look around to get a feel for what’s going to work for you in the long run. Be clear on what your commercial and financial goals are before diving in and going ahead with an impulse website or domain purchase.
Here are some common monetization strategies to consider:
- Sponsored/branded content
- Membership fees/online community
- Lead generation
- Affiliate marketing (reviews, vouchers etc.)
- Ecommerce (both retail and digital-only)
- Selling web services
- Content subscriptions
- Ebooks & online courses
- Software sales.
You may find that using a combination of a few tactics is the best way to go — it can be helpful to spread your income across a few different streams.
Pre-purchase audits: essential checks
Buying a website is a smart move, but you need to be clever about auditing the site before you sign on the dotted line. Unlike a brand new domain, you are buying a piece of someone else’s web history, and you need to clear on what you’re getting into, and evaluate whether the asking price is fair.
- Start with web analytics and metrics, and look back at how the site has fared over the years. Pay special attention to web traffic — especially where it’s coming from. Some sellers may try to inflate sales prices by supplementing organic traffic with paid or referral traffic, so make sure you know exactly what you’re looking at.
- Existing revenue is another important point you’re going to have to fact check. Where has money been coming in from? Is there a potential to make more money? Is the income viable in the long run?
- As well as the content that’s on the domain, you will have to get a feel for the brand’s overall reputation. Do they have a steady flow of repeat custom? Are there any negative reviews flying about? Getting to know your audience before you commit to buying is a smart move. Can you see yourself interacting with these people on a regular basis?
- Look into any backlinks and brand mentions — dodgy SEO tactics from years gone by could mean that you’ve got some toxic links on your hands.
The actual technicalities of handing over a website are pretty straightforward, but there is always some room for negotiations. You want to ensure a smooth transition, but at the same time protect your data and IP. You need to stop someone coming in and snooping around at a later date and ensure that the seller has fully handed over control.
- Ownership clauses that cover Intellectual Property (IP) are important, especially if you are buying a more established brand that may have been registered as a trademark.
- A website may have a ton of auxiliary assets like plugins, memberships, social profiles, email lists, supplier contacts. Make sure you get your hands on everything that you’ll need to make a success of the business.
- If you use a business broker, they will handle the transfer and fees for you. If you are buying your website yourself, without a broker, the website sale will usually happen between buyer and seller, but the use of an Escrow service for payment is recommended by all reputable website marketplaces.
Time for a re brand?
You may not like the current theme or branding, so why not change the website to better reflect your vision? Having the wrong sort of aesthetic can really hinder your progress, and there is no point in flogging a website that’s clearly past its ‘sell by’ date. A re brand could be just what the website needs to progress to the next level.
Be bold and announce a new era for the website by investing in a re brand and re design. Nowadays, you can find beautiful WordPress themes for the fraction of the price of a custom design project. Be a business bootstrapper and make the most of what you’ve already got before you start investing in expensive creative ideas.
The best brands are those who genuinely listen to, and care about, their audience. Spend a lot of time getting to know them, before you decide that a wacky unicorn color scheme is exactly what you want...
Think about all the other ways in which you could improve your website and brand. Are there ways to make more money here? Is there an untapped resource or audience demographic looming on the horizon? Do you see a potential spinoff business or blog?
Don’t just be content to purchase an average ecommerce site or blog — work hard to create an online business that brings fulfilment to you and its audience. Don’t be so afraid of change that you miss out on the perfect opportunity to pivot.
Exploring your business’s future
In the digital world, things move fast. Whether it’s video, VR, or Alexa — there will always a new shiny toy that people want to play with. Keep an eye on industry trends and read niche publications to ensure that you’re not in danger of seeing your income dwindle into nothingness...
Buying up a website is as easy as 1,2,3 — but making a success of it: not so much. Spend time validating your business idea and ensuring that you’ve purchased a site with real staying power.