How to Find Established Sites For Sale (That Rock) – Live Case Study Part 2
Welcome to the second part of the case study! If you missed the first part where I picked out interesting listings from the Flippa Marketplace, you can check that out here. Since this is the Part 2, I’m just going to assume you’ve read Part 1 and dive right in.
Here’s the list of sites that seemed interesting to me (and a couple of stooges that I included just to dissect for education purposes). I’ve arranged them here in alphabetical order.
This site is a search engine for CD covers. The BIN is $5000. It has a good amount of traffic, although it has declined significantly in the past 6 months – as of last month, it has about 24000 page views on 4000 uniques. A couple of basic things I noticed with this listing:
- The majority of the traffic comes from Europe, specifically Germany and France.
- Monetization comes from Adsense and Adreactor, but the ADsense revenue isn’t verified in Flippa.
- Majority of the traffic is Direct. In most cases, this would be a huge warning sign – but in this case, I find it somewhat credible that the site is bookmarked by a lot of users.
- This site has a lot of competition – there are a number of sites that are providing essentially the same service.
My immediate reaction is that this site is legitimate. However, it doesn’t really interest me – the main reason is that the site is custom built, and doesn’t use any sort of standard platform (obviously, this kind of site is probably too complex for something like wordpress). I don’t really have the skillset to be able to manage a site like this. If I was confident that I could manage the back-end of a site like this, I would probably ask the seller for access to analytics to do more digging – but as it stands, I think this site falls outside of my circle of competence (remember this term – we’ll come back to it), and as such, I can remove it from consideration.
This site actually sold already, but luckily Flippa preserves listings, so we can still use it for educational purposes.
The first thing I’ll say about this site is that it looks pretty good, design-wise. It doesn’t immediately strike me as spammy. The listing states that the site has been around since 1999. The listing says that the site gets about 2.5K unique visitors a month, and about 5k page views. It claims only very meager revenue – only about $5-20 a month in Adsense revenue.
- First thing I’ll say is that this listing looks honest – it doesn’t make unrealistic claims about traffic or revenue. That’s a good start
- The quality of the content is pretty good. It’s well written, and the writer seems to know quite a lot about the subject matter. Because the site doesn’t have much traffic or revenue, a big part of what you’d be buying with this listing is the content, so it’s important that it’s high quality and doesn’t need to be rewritten.
- Another thing the site has going for it is that it’s been in existence for a long time. A lot of people think that sites that have been around longer have an advantage when it comes to ranking in Google.
- I was interested in the power of the domain (in terms of the links that are pointing at it). This site has DA of 38, and after briefly looking over the links – they mostly look relevant and safe. The site also has Majestic Trust Flow of 29 – the domain is reasonably strong. This has value.
- The listing also states that the site has a subscriber base of 200 emails.
My impression of this site is that it might be a good opportunity if you’re looking to buy a fixer-upper web property. It’s potentially a strong foundation that you could build a profitable site on. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a passive investment, it’s not really suitable.
At this juncture, this site would’ve piqued my interest enough that I would have (and in fact, I did) reach out to the seller for Google analytics access. I didn’t end up bidding because I’m not really looking for a hands-on project right now, but this probably would have been an interesting site to think about buying for anyone who’s interested in fashion or modelling. If I were to value this website, I’d work out how much unique content is on the site (in terms of wordcount), and multiply that by $0.03 to find the ‘replacement cost’ of the content. I’m not actually going to click through each page on the site to find the wordcount, but let’s say that there’s about 20,000 words of good quality content on the site altogether. Then the replacement cost of content would be about $600. I also think the domain is worth something – between $150 and $200 probably. I’d probably tack on another $100 because the site design is nice.
$600 (content) + $175 (domain value) + $100 (site design) = $875
I mentioned in my Website Investment Guide that you shouldn’t buy anything at replacement cost – you should be looking for a discount – so I take 50% of $875 to arrive at what I’d be willing to pay: about $440.
Coincidentally, the site actually ended up getting sold for $893, which is reasonably close to my valuation.
This site claims 16K unique visitors and 40k views. It makes no claims about revenue. The listing also says that it has been featured on Buzzfeed. This site relies on user generated content (users submit funny/dumb snapchat screenshots to the site for posting).
This one is pretty straightforward – if you buy, you’re doing so because you’re betting that you can monetize it successfully in some way (provided that the traffic is legitimate). Because this listing is pretty much just selling traffic (with no profits), its extremely important to get analytics access and do due diligence on the traffic data. A preliminary check that I did was I used checked to see if the claimed traffic numbers match up with what’s shown on SimilarWeb. They do indeed match up – that’s a good first step.
One thing that surprises me about this site is that, with the decent traffic that it’s getting, I’m surprised that it doesn’t have a stronger social media following. It only has 29 FB likes, and 101 followers on Twitter. I would have expected a site like this to have more likes on FB.
I’m potentially interested in this site – the high bid at the moment of posting is about $405. I’m going to go ahead and ask for analytics access – and if I’m reasonably confident that the traffic is genuine, then I may place a bid.
A very basic valuation for this site would be to value the traffic. I believe this site would be difficult to monetize with anything other than straightforward ads. I also think the CPC and CTR would be pretty low. If I assume a low CPC of $0.15 or so, and about a 1% CTR – an educated guess at the potential revenue of this site is:
40,000 (page views) x $0.15 x 1% = $60 –> 20 x $60 = $1200.
That doesn’t seem like a lot. The most that I would be willing to be for this site is $1200. However, It’s unlikely that I would value it that highly given the lack of growth potential (there are no obvious options for improving monetization beyond ads). I will also need to verify the traffic data – while traffic claimed by the seller does seem possible, the lack of a decent social following is a potential inconsistency.
I took one look at this site and knew immediately it was spammy. While I was just browsing through the Flippa, the description for this site didn’t look particularly shady, but now that I’ve clicked through to the listing itself, it’s clearly spammy. Don’t really need to look further.
I purposely included this site in this post because I wanted to point out its various flaws. At first glance, it looks fine – a sports site with 7000 unique visitors making $50 a month.
But then you actually go to the site. The first thing is that it’s ugly. It looks like no effort was made into making it look professional or engaging. What’s even more troubling is the content.
On the front page, there is an article called “Alex Rodriguez baseball player”. This is one of the sentences in the article:
“He named as the most extraordinary young players scouts had ever and one of the greatest players of lifetime.”
I’m not sure who is bidding on this site, but any content written like the sentence above is pretty much worthless in my eyes.
With content like that, I don’t even want to look any further. This is the classic Flippa Scam – and it boggles to the mind to know that anyone would bid any amount of money on a site like this. This site actually sold already, for $200. That’s $200 more than I’d be willing to pay for this trash.
This is another fixer upper situation. The site has about 200 uniques a month and 400 page views, and makes about $7. Again, in this case, you’d be buying the content + site design + domain name – the traffic is small enough that it doesn’t mean all that much. The seller explicitly mentions in the notes that “The real value is the domain name (PR3, first registered in 2005, bought off an auction) with a backlink profile.” Since he brings it up, let’s do a quick check on the domain.
It turns out that the DA of this domain is only 15 – which isn’t particularly strong. It’s also doesn’t show that much strength in Majestic. So the seller’s claims about the domain being valuable don’t really hold up that well.
Also, since the buyer mentioned that the domain was bought, I want to check archive.com just to make sure that the domain has never been used for any nefarious purposes. According to the archives, this site used to be some kind of stationery shop, and wasn’t spammed at any point. So, the domain is clean, but it’s just not very strong.
Looking over the content on the site, it’s reasonably well written, but it seems like there’s usually only one or two sentences per post – so the content value of this site is not high (because there aren’t that many words). There are tons of images on the site, but I doubt those are actually owned by the seller.
This site is maybe worth $100 or $150 – some small amount, just to see if its possible to add a few pieces of content, point a few links at it, and see if anything happens. It’s currently at $22, so perhaps I’ll bid on it.
I wouldn’t spend any serious amount of money on it though – if I bought a site like this, it would be more of an experiment to see if I could do anything with it.
This is a site that claimed 4359 uniques and earnings of about $100 a month – half of that from Adsense, the other half from sponsored posts. The site actually sold already, but again – we’re going to delve in for educational purposes.
Immediately, my first reaction is that this site passes the ‘eye-test’. It looks nice, and a quick scroll through the articles on the site tell me that the content is at least decent. Whoever is writing the content definitely knows more about cars than I do.
I put the site into SEMRush, and it didn’t really show any KWs that this site ranks for, so that’s a potential warning flag. On the other hand, I also checked on Similarweb, and the traffic that showed up there roughly matched what the seller is claiming. So in terms of traffic volume, you’d definitely want to do detailed due diligence to make sure that the 4K uniques are genuine. I like that the site has a healthy bounce rate, time on site, and pages per visitor. The higher those stats are, the more engaged the audience is.
In terms of monetization, I don’t find it unrealistic that this site generates $50 a month on Adsense – the Autos niche is a competitive, high CPC niche. The good thing about this site in my eyes is that it has a lot of potential in terms of expanded monetization. It’s also within the realm of possibility that the site earns $50 on average a month from sponsored posts – obviously, this kind of income is lumpy. To verify the Adsense and other earnings, I would’ve asked the seller a bunch of questions, and also probably would have requested a screen share.
Off the top of my head, I can imagine that some kind of affiliate deal with an auto parts seller might generate some commissions. Due to the high engagement level on site, it’s possible that you could build an email list and market products aimed at motorheads. A site like this could also be expanded via use of a forum/community. An immediate way to improve the monetization on the site would be to sell more sponsored posts – that could potentially boost the income of the site upwards in the short term.
The problem for me personally is that I don’t know anything about cars, and I don’t find cars all that interesting, so if I did end up buying this site, it would’ve been onerous for me to put in the work and realize the site’s potential. The site did end up selling – for about $2K.
I was actually pretty interested in this site, and I ended up getting Analytics access to it – but the Analytics data wasn’t particularly enlightening. I couldn’t work out specifically what KWs were pulling traffic from Google – but at the same time, I don’t believe the traffic was faked. I think the site was ranking for a lot of Google Images searches, and this data usually ends up being pretty weird when you look at it in the Google Analytics platform.
Due to the opaque Analytics data and the fact that I’m not really into cars, I would have probably at most valued the site at $1500 – about 15x the earnings of the site. The price that the site ended up selling for was about $2000 – I think that’s probably fair – but when I’m on Flippa, I’m generally looking for bargains, not just deals that are fairly priced.
Hopefully, this two part series has given you some insight into how I approach looking for investment opportunities on the Flippa marketplace. None of this stuff is particularly complicated – a lot of it is common sense. The important thing is to not get carried away or get drawn in by things that are clearly too-good-to-be-true. The majority of scammy listings on Flippa can be eliminated just via a simple ‘eye-test’. A lot of the time, all you nee to do is take a quick look at the listed site – and if the design is shoddy and the content is poor, then you can move on – regardless of what earnings/traffic the seller claims.
If you put in the work and you’re willing to spend time browsing sites that are listed for sale, you’ll eventually find a diamond in the rough. It’s just a matter of knowing where (and how) to look.