Buying an Existing Website: Shortcut to Online Riches or Money Pit?

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I recently started to consider buying an existing website as a way to make money online.

I already have three six profitable websites so I know this business model well and feel comfortable enough to put some more skin in the game.

I’ve been hunting the big marketplace sites and groups for a while but knew I didn’t want to spend too much so I ended up buying on Flippa.

I had my eye on a site for a while and two hours before the auction was about to close I got an email reminder.

My husband and I were about to go out for a walk so I ran some very quick due diligence on the domain (search rankings, link profile etc) and bid an amount I’d be prepared to lose (roughly 25 times the monthly earnings of the site).

The site is in the health niche. I feel it was ominous that I was in a vegan cafe drinking an almond milk flat white when I got the email that I’d won the auction (lucky we didn’t go to McDonald’s that day!).

This is my first purchase of a site, I usually like to build sites from scratch, but this site already had traffic to some posts, income from Adsense and an established following on my traffic platform of choice, Pinterest!

With over 3000 followers and over 1 million monthly viewers on Pinterest, I knew that I could grow this site pretty quickly if I could put the time into it.

My intention with this site is to grow the site’s income so I can sell it perhaps in a years time. This would align with our travel plans to head to Spain for a year.

I plan to use the same techniques I use on all my sites, getting easy traffic from Pinterest as well as more long-term search traffic from search engines.

I’ll be updating this post with results on how this blog is going, so please check back often.

Things to consider before buying a website

If you’re considering buying an existing website, there are a few things to consider before you make the purchase.

Here’s what I do as quick due diligence:

Domain health

Firstly, I use Keysearch to check the backlinks to the site, to make sure there are no dodgy links. Bad links could destroy any good SEO effort, so I want a clean link profile with a good mix of follow and no follow links.

Google search

In your Google search bar enter site: to get an idea of what Google has indexed for the site. If nothing comes up, the site could have a penalty meaning it’s worthless.

Being deindexed by Google means death for most sites, although some experts buy penalised sites and get them healthy again – but this is not something to do as a beginner.

Social Media profiles

Check out the social media profiles of the sites. Do Facebook posts have good engagement (likes, shares, comments) or just crickets? 

Google Analytics

If you get serious enough to make an offer, you can request read-only access to view Google Analytics to see traffic levels. I would do this for a bigger purchase, but my site was only just over $1000, so I trusted the data provided to Flippa.

Not banned from Adsense

There are many people in the world building dodgy websites that add zero value to their readers’ lives and exist solely to make money from ads.

Luckily, Google is pretty smart about these thin-content sites and can ban them from participating in their Adsense program.

My first milestone with sites is to get them to the level of traffic that they qualify to join Mediavine, a premium ad network.

One of Mediavine’s requirements is that the site in question not have a negative history with AdSense.

As this site was still making money from AdSense I knew that wasn’t the case (although funnily enough, I got a warning from AdSense on having adult content on one of the pages – which had a rather risque image of a lady’s bum – haha!)

Another note on buying a money-making website

I actually shared this in a Facebook group I’m in and people took it totally the wrong way, thinking I was selling something and I got pissed off and removed it (this stuff is just so foreign to some people that it can be jarring, I get that now).

This was in relation to a site I thought might be suitable for my husband to run (I’m training him in all this website stuff as his career – welding – is not location-independent). NOTE: I did not end up buying this site.

I’ve just posted this verbatim but it’s a good overview on how all this kinda stuff works.

“Some of you have commented that you are interested in making money online with websites so I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing this afternoon in assessing a site to buy.

This site is listed on flippa dot com which is a marketplace for selling digital assets (websites, Amazon FBA, dropshipping businesses etc).

There is a lot of junk on here but occasionally a good one comes along.

This listing caught my eye as it’s about tools and home improvement and I thought it might suit my husband.
It’s only a year old and making around $650/USD monthly profit all from the Amazon Associates program.

The tools category pays 5.5% commission so any of the items they refer in that category, they will get 5.5% of. It’s not the highest – some pay up to 10%, but home and garden items could also apply to this site and they pay between 7-8% commission per item.

Amazon are super reliable payers, every month, same date. Never an issue getting paid.

This website gets almost all it’s traffic from Google search which is the best kind of traffic for conversion as it usually has high buyer intent (people are looking to buy when they search in Google for things like best butane torch).

So the buyer is asking 25k for this site but it’s only a year old (less established so less valuable) and only making $650/month.

Websites are valued on multipliers of profit. Between 25-50 * monthly profit.

As you can imagine, paying a freelance writer to write articles for your website would eat into your profit, so a site like this works best as a side gig for someone with knowledge of tools who’s willing to write their own articles.

If that’s something you’re interested in, this site has huge potential. It doesn’t look like they’ve really worked on social media so they could increase traffic that way and increase income by adding display ads on the informational articles that aren’t buying guides (as commissions from Amazon will always pay better than a display ad).

If I were to buy this site and could get it for close to 16k (after negotiations), I’d be pretty happy with that. If I’m a subject matter expert, I’d pay slightly more because I know the growth potential is limitless. But that’s up to the individual.

There are other risks when buying a website but this is how I would assess whether a site would be worth investing in or not.

Buying an established and profitable site is an alternative to building one from scratch, which is what I prefer to do usually, but as I say this one caught my eye.

If you have any questions, please sing out. Here’s the listing:


About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.