7 (Proven) Ways To Quickly Weed Out Bad Sites

Website due diligence

You’re looking to pick up a website, you’ve already determined a budget, and you have a rough understanding of the type of site you want to buy.

You’ve signed up to a few marketplaces, joined some Facebook groups, and naturally, looked at the Investors Club listings.

You’re probably scratching your head at this point, wondering how you can tell which sites are worth picking up, and which ones are going to turn into lemons.

No listing is created equally, and while platforms like Investors Club will perform due diligence on a seller, verify their financial and traffic claims, and present you with a basic SWOT analysis of the site, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to hit the buy button.

Equally, what if you’re looking in a Facebook group, browsing a marketplace with less up-front vetting like Flippa.com, or even trying to do a private deal?

How do you know where to start?

Do proper due diligence

This article is going to give you 7 ways to quickly identify which sites are worth digging deeper on, and which ones to ignore.

You should never make a quick decision to buy a site, but you can absolutely make a quick decision to pass on one.

Over the past two years, I’ve looked at hundreds of website listings, and though I’m fussier than most, I’ve got some quick filters that anyone can use to narrow down their search and turn a massive time-sink into something that can take up a few hours a week instead.

The following things aren’t in any particular order of importance, but some are bigger flags than others.

Use your judgment and follow your gut. You never make a bad investment by passing on something that doesn’t feel right.

1. No Google Analytics or Clicky access

Someone might genuinely have traffic and be making money, but if you can’t verify their traffic with GA or Clicky, why bother?

It’s too risky, move on.

2. Majority of traffic is “direct”

Direct traffic

Except in rare cases, if a site is getting most of its traffic from direct visits, there is a strong chance it’s been faked.

Even if it’s legit, it’s hard to verify.

Organic traffic can be supported by looking for their rankings, social traffic can be supported by checking out their channels and seeing high levels of engagement.

Direct traffic? Too risky. Also too hard to control once you take over the site.

3. Majority of income is from selling sponsored posts

This one is a bit more subjective, as some people are perfectly fine with this business model.

For me though, it represents too many unknowns and I usually pass. Every time I break this rule and go ahead and buy the site, I find it incredibly hard to maintain the level of income that the previous owner did.

4. Rapidly declining site

declining website

Again this one is fairly subjective, as many people love buying a site that is trending downwards, paying below market price for it, then working their magic to turn the site around.

The classic “Fixer upper” type website.

Unless that is your specific strategy, and you KNOW you can achieve it, I would recommend passing on any sites that are declining that fast.

Generally, for me, a declining site is something where the traffic and/or income is declining month over month (usually coinciding with a recent Google update).

If anything, there’s an opportunity cost with spending effort to reverse a downwards trend when you can spend the same effort on a site trending upwards, and get much better results.

5. The site has too much reliance on a handful of keywords

ahrefs pages
Not a handful of keywords, but 36% of the traffic is coming to two pages (out of 198)

Unless you have a very small budget, you want to avoid sites that only have 3-4 articles ranking well (or bringing in traffic).

There’s no golden number, but the more pages ranking, and the more keywords those pages rank for, the better.

That said, if you’re dealing with a small budget, say <$50,000, a lot of the sites you come across will be limited in how many different articles are ranking.

That doesn’t mean you should accept a site where only 3-4 articles rank, it just means you’ll need to be more patient and wait for something more diversified.

6. The site has been hit by the latest Google update

decline

You typically see more sites listed for sale shortly after a Google update, so you should try to stay on top of when these updates occur.

I remember after the Nov 8, 2019, update, almost every site I looked at had been hit. Some sellers used this as an example of their site still being quality because every site got hit.

While this may be true, it doesn’t mean it’s a good time to buy their site.

You have no idea how the site is going to perform over the next few months.

Side note; the Nov 8 update was particularly tricky because many sites got hit by that update, but still had a great December, because…well, December is when every site does well. In these cases, it wasn’t obvious that the sites had been affected, but you could almost guarantee that in 2020 they’d underperform compared to 2019, and December’s high performance had masked that.

Example: You might see a site make $10,000 in Oct, $11,000 in Nov, and then $11,500 in Dec, and think “Great! The site is still performing well” when in reality that site should have made $20k in Dec before getting hit by the update.

7. Anything you don’t understand how to operate

There’s always a learning curve, but when you’re a beginner and you’re hungry for action and making your first purchase, you may start looking into sites that you don’t really understand or have any idea how to make money from.

It’s ok to buy a site in a NICHE you don’t understand, but if there’s a sales process or traffic generation method that confuses you, you’re probably better off looking somewhere else.

Even as a more experienced buyer I’ve regret some purchases because I ventured outside my wheelhouse too much.

By all means study these listings and try to grow your wheelhouse, but don’t pay to do so.

Final Thoughts

The decision to pull the trigger and purchase a website has many nuances, and the due diligence process alone can take different paths. Some people will see value in a site that others hate and vice versa.

Because of this, sometimes a site will be listed on a marketplace simply because the marketplace knows that someone will see value in it.

Investors Club will verify that a seller’s claims are real, but it’s up to you to determine if the site is high enough quality for you to purchase.

The above 7 points are things that you can use as filters to make your search easier, but it’s not exhaustive, and I encourage you to take inspiration from it but add your own criteria on top.

Is there anything you’d like to add? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Author
Dominic Wells

CEO, Founder @ OnFolio

Dom Wells is the founder of OnFolio - A company that works with individuals to help them acquire and operate profitable websites. He's been building, buying, and growing content websites and service businesses since 2012.

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  1. Google Discover sends loads of real (direct source) traffic. This could be the reason, the site is getting lots of direct traffic. Should keep the note of this as well.

    1. I was wondering about this also… If there was an active and engaged email list and much of the site traffic came from clicks out of the emails, wouldn’t this show as direct also?

      1. That would be the case, but you’d also be able to verify it by asking to see the email dashboard etc. Direct traffic is fine when it can be verified or explained; risky when it can’t.

  2. “You should never make a quick decision to buy a site, but you can absolutely make a quick decision to pass on one.” …love this.

    Even as I’ve learned more, doing a comprehensive audit still feels beyond me (like, I still wouldn’t buy real estate without a home inspector).

    But this is a great reminder…even without knowing the nuances there are some obvious red flags. Thanks!