Owning a website has become a lucrative way for people to make money online. However, it’s not as simple as just buying a site, throwing up some advertising, and watching the money roll in… I wish it was.
I’ve bought three websites over the last year, and I’ve learned a few lessons along the way I want to share with you. If you read my last income report, you’ll noticed that I added another website to my portfolio.
The biggest, and overarching theme of my online website buying strategy is that I view online property similar to how real estate investors view physical property – and you should treat each and every website you own, or want to buy, the same way.
This is a long article, but you can navigate to the sections below if you wish:
- A Different Way to Look at Online Real Estate
- Why Buy a Website vs. Building a Website from Scratch
- What To Look For When Buying a Website
- Where to Find Websites to Buy
- How To Actually Buy The Website
- How To Make Money With an Existing Website
- How Do You Keep Multiple Sites Running
- Final Reminder
Different Ways to Look at Online Real Estate
Just like in real life, there are a lot of different ways to look at online real estate. In real life, you have your home, you could own a multifamily complex, you could buy a condo to rent, or you could even own a huge apartment complex. Online, you would equate this to your own website, owning a small portfolio of sites, or owning hundreds of different sites.
And just like offline, there are different ways to manage your online real estate – you could go high-end, middle class, or low end. For example, Chris Guthrie buys more high-end websites, and pays over $10,000 per site. On the other hand, I buy middle-class websites, and am willing to pay up to $2,000. If you want to buy low-end websites, check out Flippa.com, where you can find cheap sites for less than $100.
Finally, location matters – just like real life. Online, your niche makes a huge difference, and your content matters. Once again, look at the different levels of content and how it might play out offline:
- High End Content – 1,000 to 2,000 Words – Luxury
- Middle Class Content – 500 to 1,000 Words – Middle Class
- Low End Content – Spammy, Less Than 500 Words – Slumlord
Now, just like in real life, all of these strategies can make you money. The choice is yours about what you want to be.
Why Buy a Website vs. Building a Website From Scratch
So, now the question is this: why buy a website and spend $1,000 when you could simply buy a domain and hosting for $50 per year. The reason? Time.
You can start a new website from scratch. But with every new website, it takes a little bit of time to gain traction, be indexed in search, and gain some type of following. It also takes time to gain rankings. If you want to make money with your website you need targeted traffic, or at least 2 of the 3 the following:
- Page Rank
- Domain Authority
If you start a new site, chances are you have no traffic, no page rank, no MozRank, and no Domain Authority. You can get traffic, MozRank, and Domain Authority, but they all take time. Even the best web masters I know can’t get all of this quickly. It takes them several months at best – it took me years.
I started Entrepreneurship Life in October of 2011. I didn’t make any money on the site until March 2012, when I made $110. In 2012, I made $3,208.54 on Entrepreneurship Life. Of that amount, $1,235 was from direct advertising and $1,973.54 came from affiliate earnings. How did I make that? Well, in 2012 I had several articles start receiving targeted traffic of about 50-100 visits per day. And I also got my Page Rank from Google. Those two in combination helped foster those earnings. However, it took 15 months to make $3,200 – and a lot of time and effort.
Now, let’s look at Cult of Money. I bought Cult of Money in June 2013 – a little over six months ago. I bought the site for $2,400 – the most I’ve paid for any website to date. In the six months I’ve owned the site, I’ve already made $4,335.30. That’s a net gain in six months of over $1,900. The revenue in six months is already higher than the revenue I earned on Entrepreneurship Life in 15 months. Why the difference? Well, when I bought Cult of Money, it already had targeted traffic, and it already had a Page Rank, MozRank, and Domain Authority. The end result? It was much, much easier to monetize in a much shorter period of time.
What To Look For When Buying a Website
Now that you know why I like buying websites, you need to look for certain things in buying a website: traffic, Page Rank, MozRank, Domain Authority.
First, traffic. There is no “right” level of traffic for a website. Rather, you want targeted traffic. When I buy a site for traffic reasons, on average the site gets 100 pageviews per day. But, 1-2 articles typically receive all of those pageviews. That’s targeted traffic. The question is, can you monetize that traffic? If so, the website could be a good buy.
If the site doesn’t have traffic, it can still be valuable for it’s Page Rank, MozRank, or Domain Authority. Once again, there is no right answer, but I won’t pay over $500 for a Page Rank 1 site and over $1,000 for a Page Rank 2 site. The reason is direct advertisers don’t like low stat sites. Unless there is a lot of targeted traffic or something else very compelling, these low metric sites aren’t worth much. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy them. Maybe they have potential.
I bought my last site, Before You Invest, because it had potential. It is a Page Rank 1 site, but it has potential in terms of targeted traffic and with some consistent posting, it will probably increase in rankings very quickly. Plus, it fit into my network very well.
So, don’t just dismiss a site because it doesn’t have something. The question you should ask is how easily can I make up for what it doesn’t have?
Where To Find Websites to Buy
So, where have I found my websites to buy? Well, most of them have just come to me and asked if I was interested. The biggest thing I can recommend you do is network with other bloggers, because a blogger is more likely to sell directly to another blogger before going to a site like Flippa. Instead, I’ve found most bloggers simply let their sites die than sell – which is a waste! Instead, network with bloggers (especially new bloggers), and if you notice that they stop posting, reach out.
Another trick I use, that you can apply across various niches, is to go to List Sites, like Technorati or in the personal finance space, the Wise Bread list. On these list pages, go to the last page, and start seeing if the bloggers are still active. Many times, you can find sites with good stats, but haven’t been updated in a year. When I bought Cult of Money, this is the exact strategy I used. I sent about 100 emails to different sites, and got responses from about 20. I was able to buy Cult of Money for a good price from this simple exchange.
How To Actually Buy The Website
When it comes time to actually buy the website and transfer it over, this gets tricky. It’s also the point where I’ve lost several deals, but if the seller doesn’t want to allow me to do due diligence, the deal probably wasn’t worth it anyway.
After making the original offer, I make it contingent on the following things:
- Allowing my developer and me access to the site do we can check for malware and other potential technical problems
- Proof of traffic stats through Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools (I actually like Webmaster Tools better because it shows the search terms the site ranks for)
- A document showing past advertising on the site (this is important to make sure the site wasn’t selling spam links, and if they were, you know where to find them to get rid of them)
Once I’m satisfied, I offer to pay 50% upfront and then 50% upon completion of the move.
Transferring the site can be a hassle, but here is a GoDaddy Tutorial on it. Don’t forget to take over the social media accounts for the site as well (Facebook, Twitter, Google+).
Finally, once you own the site on your own host, don’t forget to setup a new email address, and use it for all of your social media accounts. Otherwise, people may be contacting the old owner if you don’t change this.
How To Make Money With An Existing Website
So, now that you own the site and have full control, it’s time to start making money. Here’s where to start:
- Change Amazon links over to your username. The easiest way to do this is to install the Search and Replace plugin, then search for the old owner’s username and replace with your username.
- Change over AdSense code. The same tactic as above applies – simply change their advertiser account number to your account number.
- Find existing affiliate programs and change over to your name. This is tougher, but I always start with the top traffic posts and go from there.
After you change over the existing stuff, it’s time to make money going forward. A strategy I use is to ping my list of advertisers from my other websites and let them know I have a new site. Since I’ve been doing this for several years, I have a list of several hundred advertisers. I simply send them all an email that says “Hey, I have a new site, you interested in advertising on it?” I typically get a response from a few advertisers immediately and this helps monetize the site very quickly.
How Do You Keep Multiple Sites Running
When I first started blogging, having one site was hard enough to run – let alone having multiple sites. So, what tricks are there for running multiple sites? Here’s my favorites.
First, hire staff writers. Remember, these sites are like apartments, they’re not your house (unless you’re buying one to make it your primary site). As a result, voice doesn’t matter as much. Remember, I think of this as the difference between blogging and online publishing. When you buy websites, you’re really getting into the online publishing business – which is all about content creation and advertising. Whenever I buy a site, I find a staff writer that is willing to contribute weekly content.
I typically always do weekly content, unless the site is becoming successful, then you can up it to 2 or 3 times per week. Over time I’ve found that once per week is the sweet spot, though, when looking at costs of staff writing versus revenue you can earn.
Second, leverage automation where ever possible. I’m a big fan of Hootsuite, which has a great tool that can help you automate your social media – you can pull from RSS feeds to send messages. I’m also currently using a different tool, which I’m going to write a review about next week, and I’m really loving it.
Finally, you can hire a virtual assistant to help you manage the other sites. If you have a blog marketing plan, you can simply have your virtual assistant help execute it for you. Also, a big task of managing staff writers is editing the posts and making them web ready. If your writers don’t do this for you, you can have your virtual assistant become the editor for you. You can check out my Virtual Assistant Guide for more tips on how to leverage a virtual assistant to help you manage multiple sites.
Remember, These Aren’t Your Main Site
Remember, just like you treat your own home different than you would treat rental properties, you have to realize that you will (and must) treat websites that you buy different from your main blog.
I consider The College Investor my primary business, and I consider this site my personal brand site. Why? The College Investor is an online publishing platform (like a magazine), and this site is more personal and focused on my story.
With sites I buy, they are purely for making money. Now, you still have to carve a niche and market accordingly, but it isn’t personal, and they most likely won’t develop into big brands. Now, my site Kids Ain’t Cheap is actually starting to become it’s own brand for a variety of reasons, but that’s a different article.
So, now that you know how you can buy websites, monetize them, and run them, are you ready to start buying sites? Share your thoughts below!