Checklist for Buying a web site - Something for everyone buying a site.
Some of this is major overkill if you are buying a $250 site but most of it is good to know and think about dependant on different situations, however if you are buying a $25,000 site you should probably do this plus everything else you can think of. Honest sellers will not have any problem with the items below, other than they may not trust the buyer!
This is in no particular order or rank and I know I have missed out some stuff, I will try to get this covered in future blogs.
- Verify the sale - This is the only item I would say is correctly in order by that I mean do this first.
- Take the title of the post (assuming its being sold via a forum) and google it, you will probably see its for sale on a few sites (most people are too lazy to use different titles on different sites). Google the full site url inc. http:// both with and without the www and see what comes back, dont be lazy and skip this bit or you will probably lose money.
- The above may turn up some surpising results e.g. its for sale cheaper on another forum or one forum has a BIN (Buy It Now) price and another doesnt
- You will reasonably often find that the site was for sale on another site but got caught by the members as having some dodgy aspects so never sold. Now this person is selling again hoping you will not find the first place they tried to sell it.
- You may be able to find out what this person bought the site for as sites change hands reasonably quickly you might find this person bought it a month ago for $1000 and is trying to sell it to you for $2000
- Do a whois lookup
- domaintools is very - http://whois.domaintools.com/
- Check the ownership history, last updates on whois etc.
- Google the persons name, nickname and the email address from the whois record, you never know what it might turn up
- Make sure any emails sent to you are from the email address used on the whois
- Check that this address is legit i.e. not faked
- Its very simple to fake the outgoing address so do not reply to sender, actually type in the email address (Most of you will know this but I just included for completeness)
Check the Owner
- Google the persons name (that is the name on the ownership record for the domain) it can turn up some good insightful information
- Check their ratings on the site where you are buying it e.g. on Digital Point check itrader & reputation
- See if they have profiles on business sites like ecademy or linkedin
- Check references and testimonials if they are available on the site where you found the site but also check others like digital forums
- Check if they are verified on paypal or similar service
- Get as many details as possible, Phone, home address etc during the transaction and research these
SEO (and some randomness)
- Ask them to add your google sitemaps validation code to the site, this only needs to be done for a very short period of time and will tell you loads (I REALLY REALLY REALLY RECOMMEND DOING THIS), if you dont know why this is such an important option then you should stop and learn some more before proceeding with the purchase. I dont bother doing this on all sites but if spending over a $1,000 this is essential.
- Check no. of links in Search engines
- Check link text i.e. imagine the link text all say "this site is crap
- Check directory listings
- Alexa Ranking, OK any two year old could fake this but the reality is few people do so don't trust it but do add it into the mix
- Whats the Google Pagerank
- Verify its not faked (its very easy to temporarily fake so MAKE SURE YOU DO THIS)
- Remember to check a good few pages not just the Frontpage as if all the other pages are a PR0 then may indicate some issues
- seologs among others have some good tools
- Check the Yahoo Ranking
- Are they banned from google?
- search for "site:www.sitename.com" if nothing comes up WORRY
- What % of pages are in the supplemental index, its not unusual however a high % may indicate some issues such as duplicated content from other sites
- Run a page strength analysis tool
- Check for social bookmarks
- Check Incoming Links
- Find out which links are
- Paid for
- Owned by the owner of the site ******* THIS IS IMPORTANT******* , they could have some great sites with PR 6 or PR7, link those to the site they are selling for a few months, sell it and then drop the links or charge you for the links, remember not everyone is honest
- Get agreement that these will be left in place for min 3 months, 6 would be nice
- Check authority sites for links
- wikipedia etc. Yes I do know that they are implementing "nofollow" but its still an indication that SEO work has been done on the site or other people are genuinely talking about and linking to the site, either way you need to know
- Age of domain - THIS IS V IMPORTANT, if you don't know the importance of this I hope you are not relying on the web for a living
- Verify link partners
- Make sure that link partnerships are not temporary arrangements
- Check cached pages in Google, just a best practice routine to get into
- Verify the Onsite SEO against the off site factors i.e. does it match or are you always going to be swimming up stream.
- Run your own spider on it late at night (remember this should be night time for the user base not yours) and do your own SEO eval
- Ask Permission as this could kill their server and will cost money if they are paying for bandwidth, it may also slow up the site impacting the users, not something you want on a site you are investing in.
- Check website history at wayback machine I stuck this in SEO but in reality this is valid across the board.
- Actually have a look at what the site looked like in the past, don't just make sure it has entries, go in test the links etc
- Run a valuation check on the links value for the site, there are loads of sites, check a few to give you a good average
Income (only covering this is a VERY small way here)
- Have they sold links that you have to maintain
- Have they sold advertising that has to be maintained
- Are they banned from adsense or other networks
- Hard to check but get written confirmation that they are not
- Verify revenue stream will last past the term of the sale
- e.g. is the sites main source of income a PPC programme with a Football T-shirt manufacture who only makes goods for the world cup (i.e. they will only do PPC once ever 4 years)
- Can the commercial offer be maintained after you buy
- Do you need a non-compete agreement?
- Make sure that you think in terms of this person recreating the content
- Use an escrow service like escrow.com
- Check that you have come back if using paypal
- Did you realise you need to transfer physical good to raise an issue?
- Possibly ask them to supply the site and all documents on a DVD
- Paying by Cr. Card is generally a good idea
- Write a document agreeing what is covered or not in the deal, sign this document and get them to sign it as well, (remember fax's still work nearly as quickly as email and are legally binding in every country that I know about)
- If not using an escrow service, try and broker a two part payment
- If buying on another web site e.g. Sedo
- Assume they have no responsibility for the transaction
- OK, I could spend the next 3 weeks talking about this but for now just make sure there are no legal claims against the site or at least that they are not transferring the problem to you
- The only defense you have as a general rule is a legally binding document so take the time and put the effort into writing a document that protects you.
- Be prepared to enforce this document i.e. If they break it bring them to court, no matter where they are otherwise whats the point
- Verify the ownership of the content
- Is it
- Developed in-house i.e. by the owners
- READ THE Content
- I know this sounds obvious but loads of people just see lots of pages but don't check the content
- Verify the content source
- If its a forum have paid forum posters been used, not a problem but useful to know
- Is there any paid for RSS Feeds, that may disappear
- Check for duplicate content i.e. duplicated on other websites
- Do a Google search for a few pieces of random text from the site
- Use content duplicate checking sites
- Make sure they have adhered to the terms and conditions of any articles that they published
- Remember quality content can be expensive, dont believe me as Lonely Planet for a copy of its data!
- Check its not on a server with bad neighbours
- How long can you leave it on their servers
- You need to have it co-hosted for at least 4 days as some robots cache the DNS look-up (not as big an issue as it used to be)
- In my experience any site of a decent size will require 30 days
- Are you buying the software (scripts), what licenses do you need
- Check that your Domain Name provider supports the extension in question, some providers do not support certain extensions such as country domains
- Will they provide support while you get it up and running
- What are the hosting costs, you might get the site cheap but lose on the running costs!
- Find out what redirects have been done on the site, internal redirects are fine and frequently done but it may mean that a section of the site that you are particularly interested in loses some PR and Serps if you break the redirects (301 & 302 redirects) as well as end up with 404's which you defintely do not want. Ideally get them to give you a copy of the .htaccess
- Make sure you mimic the robots.txt thats in use as some cms's publish content twice under different urls (there are valid reasons for this happening) and you may find that some of the robots exclusions may be in place to combat this or other issues (some of the other issues might get you banned from google so please do this).
- Verify ownership of brand element e.g. logos
- If they have bought the design from a designer as with software unless it is specifically transferred the ownership of the Intellectual property may stay with the Designer
- Have they copied someone who may insist you change the branding (can add an unexpected cost to your purchase)
- All normal Visitor Stats
- Ask can you add your own code for a few days to verify
- Check referrers
- Check these manually as well i.e. go to the web site and see if you can see the link
- Remember its cheap to buy crap traffic (i.e. traffic that did not mean to end up on a site) and these will look like genuine traffic if you don't look at referrers
- Check the search terms that they are getting traffic from (does this match the content)
- Are RSS feeds included in traffic stats?
- Make sure this is broken out, a lot of this may well be automated (not in a bad way, they may not even realise, but you should)
- Check to see how much direct traffic they are getting (indicates bookmarks, etc)
- Golden Rule of Stats is anyone can change a screen shot of awstats or google analytics or any other software, get them to give you access to the stats package, while its still possibly to change the results less people are capable of faking his so if you take this as part of the overall research it does have value.
- Information you need
- Contacts for link partners, think what if you want the link text changed
- Is the domain on any black lists imagine spending $10,000 only to find out you cant send out a mailshot ******* DO THIS*******
- Ecommerce & Mailing lists
o Deserves there own write up, I will try to get around to it.
The overriding guide I would give is to realise that the more knowledge and history you get the lower the risk is to you.