Weekend Warrior: Buying Websites vs Building Links

How much time did you spend over the past year building links to your website? If you are serious about SEO, then chances are high that it was quite a few hours. For some, link building is the sole focus of their business life.  But is there a better way? Instead of spending hours, could you spend dollars for the same effect? 

Building links is no doubt time consuming, and there are no guarantees that your efforts will pay off in the long run - "paying off" in this sense meaning a positive influence on your website's position on search results pages for competitive terms. There are simply too many variables to consider. For example, what if the site(s) linking to you receives a penalty?

The constant content development (and don't forget to couple that with all the creative horsepower you will need for the link bait), the time spent on email exchanges and the promises you must keep with other websites that for many will be perceived as competition for the same user. You might even be paying for links directly to sites. Is there an alternative? A better way? Yep.

This "better way" for many is not actually to build links at all, but rather to buy established websites. That might seem like a daunting process, and it most certainly can be if you don't understand the process and don't know where to go to buy established websites. Let's change that. Weekend Warriors with some practical guidance on buying websites. 

The Process of Buying Websites

If buying websites seems like a reasonable undertaking, you will need to ask some very important questions and take precautions so that you will not get burned. 

Lawyer Up? While the absolute safest course of action would be to hire an attorney and force all parties to sign a purchase contract to protect your interests, you can get away without one (although it is not recommended). Oftentimes, there are so many potential buyers for the best domains that the speed at which you must act can be hindered by the back and forth associated with legal wrangling. While performing some due diligence is not a replacement for the protection a contract can provide, understanding that much about buying websites is managing risk will serve you well. 

How Many Drops and Transfers? Having details about the chain of ownership over time will also provide insights regarding the overall quality of the domain. If it has changed hands ten times in the past year, consider that a good sign to avoid the seller and the domain. It's not easy to determine how often it has changed hands, which is why we identified lawyer-ing up as the first step in the process of buying websites.

Domain valuation is of paramount importance. There are of course many things you should also consider in the process of buying a website. Remember, you are not just buying a domain name but an entire website. This means you will want to assess the sites' ability to attract and retain an audience on its existing merit, analyze the quality of the content (and make sure you get the content too), check the number and quality (big emphasis there) of back-links to ensure they are thematic and relevant to the audience. Finally, the site you acquire should have some stream of existing revenue/income - but perhaps even more importantly an opportunity to generate more revenue with all of your marketing savvy or though cross promotion with your other sites. 

Where to Buy Websites

Inquiring about sites you are currently competing with is perhaps the first place to look when considering buying an existing website. Of course, there are plenty of established services on the Web that help facilitate the sale of entire websites. Here are a few of our favorites and some of the domains being sold in auction now that are seemingly pretty hot and would make a good addition to your burgeoning Web empire. 

DealASite: There are currently around 2,000 websites for sale at dealasite.com and some would be great acquisitions. For sellers it is interesting to note that there is no charge (for a limited time) to list and sell websites and domain names. The site gives sellers the ability to set an asking price, but buyers are instructed that offers can be above or below that value. Sellers simply choose the best offer or none at all at the conclusion of the auction. 

One of the sites that stood out to me that was currently in auction at DealASite was kavoir.com (a weblog about web applications and website development). The current price at the time of writing was just over $900 dollars. Considering that the DoubleClick Ad Planner reports that the site has 22,000 unique visitors (Compete.com reported 34,000) the site is a prime target for acquisition (bidding ends on June 10, 2010). 

Flippa: This online website buying/selling service (profiled in the February 2010 edition of Website Magazine) is new on the scene but is quite active. Flippa does a great job of sorting domains based on those most active, high-end sites/domains and even through the use of tags. Flippa makes a serious effort to get sellers to post details on the property for sale, include number of unique visitors, pages views, gross revenue and net profit and even the monetization methods used. I've found that most of the sites listed are priced pretty high but this could be attributed to the cost of actually listing the domain coupled with the "success" fee for those domains that are sold. 

There are of course hundreds of other locations on the Web where full on websites are bought and sold. Popular destinations such as WebsiteAcquire.com, Bido, Sedo, SitePoint's Marketplace, WebsiteTraders.com, eBay, and one of my personal favorites in WebsiteBroker.com are all exceptional locations.

So should you buy an established website?
Are you a weekend website warrior?