Thinking of buying a web property off Flippa but not sure if it's a wise investment?
This is for you.
As you may remember, I shared my epic niche experiment a while back which I've been working away at.
Multiple sites (both new and established), various niches and importantly, 100% static.
In addition to creating brand new properties, I've been scoping, bidding and buying on Flippa to see just how lucrative the site can be over recent weeks.
It's been a fascinating learning experience.
If you haven't heard of Flippa before, it's basically an online auction house for websites and domains. People go on there to sell existing businesses or domain names to the highest bidder.
There are also mobile apps, Amazon FBA businesses and eCommerce stores.
In the case of websites, some were built yesterday, whereas others might have been around for literally decades and the owner is finally deciding to get rid of it.
Flippa's a brilliant concept but it's also a potential investment trap if you're not careful.
I'll explain why.
Why Flippa has a bad reputation
Flippa's got a fairly notorious reputation among niche site investors.
Here are some reasons why that is (these are things I've already experienced first hand):
- Fake sellers.
- Inflated or downright false stats (traffic and revenue).
- Mass duplicated Wordpress templates (sold as a "custom template").
- Auto scraped and/or stolen content (🤔).
- Indian sellers using American/Western names and identities.
- "Potential" value.
I'll address most of these issues below.
I've learned to spot worthless garbage and valuable gems on Flippa. (learned from a few expensive mistakes)
I hope that by writing today's article, you'll be more informed and better able to make a smart purchase (or avoid it altogether).
One thing I will straight up say is this: if you're new to the world of SEO, niche sites and web development, my advice is to stay right away from Flippa.
You frankly lack the knowledge to make a safe, smart investment.
I've seen so many clueless buyers on there purchasing magic beans.
If this is you then at the very least, pay someone who knows what they're doing to invest for you.
Fake sellers on Flippa
There are basically two kinds of people selling on Flippa.
- People who buy and flip websites for a living.
- One-time sellers who have a legit (often personal) website that they're trying to get rid of.
I now only ever buy from type #2.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to be patient and wait until someone comes along with a personal blog they've had for years.
Not only do you get years of age authority on the website/domain, but the most valuable thing they offer is dozens, if not hundreds, of original pieces of content.
These are blog posts they may have been writing for a long time.
In the current climate, these posts (which are often pulling in good organic traffic) are worth more than gold let me tell you.
As for type #1, avoid at all costs.
They're on Flippa to buy and flip, and what I've noticed is that almost 100% of the time, they're utterly dishonest about what they're doing.
Many even pose as type #2.
How do you tell if a type #1 is posing as a type #2?
Look at their buyer profile and see if they've been making sales already (Flippa displays their sales history).
No previous sales is usually a great sign.
Falsified analytics and revenue stats
Flippa can, to a certain extent, verify some of these stats.
But even still, I've seen so much dishonesty as far as the numbers are concerned.
Usually it's not what they're showing that's dishonest, but what they're leaving out (and hoping you'll miss). In the same way that a car salesman might draw your attention away from a mechanical issue while selling you a car, Flippa sellers will often hide dips in traffic, traffic sources or present inaccurate sales figures.
For example, they might give you a traffic number per month that sounds high but when you do the research, you discover that half of it is "direct" traffic from a country like India (almost like they got a bunch of their buddies to visit the site each month to inflate traffic figures).
Or some other worthless channel of referral traffic.
They might forget to tell you that the overwhelming majority of their organic traffic is to a handful of pages that have zero buyer intent.
What you want to be looking for is high traffic to "buyer intent" pages (e.g. "product X review", "best product X in 2019"), not irrelevant or "answer" pages (e.g. posts that answer a simple question or content that can't be monetized well).
Be on the lookout for huge or gradual drops in traffic after major algorithm updates.
I've seen a lot of sites selling post-June 2019 when many sites were slammed by an algo update.
The site seller might only show you stats up until June to try and hide what happened so make sure you request recent stats.
Custom template and premium plugins scam
Wordpress templates and premium plugins are worthless on Flippa.
Don't be sucked in by "custom template" claims (they're mass duplicated) or "FREE premium WP plugins valued at $X" nonsense.
It's all garbage.
The only factors that matter on Flippa:
- Site/domain age.
- Blog content (precious gold).
- Traffic (obviously).
- Social media/community (depending on niche) and/or email subscribers.
The platform it's on and the theme or plugins don't matter one bit and you should not be basing your investment decisions on them.
One point I will add though is this: if you intend on selling the property later, make sure it's Wordpress.
I'm obviously a huge fan of Gatsby and don't like Wordpress but the majority of people want it.
So it's important to keep it easy to sell later on by using the platform most people love.
I inherited a 40,000 page Google penalty MAGNET
Sometimes a new website becomes a new liability (headache).
I made my first purchase on Flippa a while back.
It was a great domain name, had 2 years of age on it, organic traffic and plenty of existing content (which I assumed was a good thing).
Turned out that the site seller was using a Wordpress plugin called WP Automatic to "scrape" (steal) content via daily API pull requests from places like Twitter, YouTube, Amazon and so on.
So there were over 40,000(!) individual pages (posts and taxonomies) that had duplicate content taken from other places.
In other words: 100% worthless.
The odd thing is that it was actually receiving Google traffic to many of those pages.
Google actually indexed it but it was definitely a magnet for an inevitable penalty - no way I could have kept that plugin scraping content every day without eventually being hit by some kind of algorithm update.
So it took me literally a whole day of deleting posts and taxonomies (you have to delete in small batches due to database limitation).
I ended up with a blank site and starting from scratch.
Epic waste of time and money.
Hi, I'm Amit from India
This is kind of along the same lines as the fake seller point (#1).
Look, I have nothing against Indian people - they're some of the most industrious and hard-working people on the planet.
But unfortunately, in this industry I just can't trust a seller from the Indian subcontinent.
I had one guy trying to sell me a website under the name Christopher, and then I later discovered that his real name was Amit.
I actually came close to buying his website too.
The thing is, as I've already said, content is the most valuable asset when you're purchasing a Flippa property.
And there's almost zero probability that someone from India is going to be writing high quality blog content.
In almost every case, it's scraped or plagiarized.
"Potential" = air
Site has loads of POTENTIAL!
Popular niche. HUGE POTENTIAL.
If you see this message on Flippa, run a mile. 🏃♂️
Potential is meaningless.
Go by the numbers.
If the numbers show traffic volume and actual money, then go for it. If you're being sold on "great potential", move right along.
It's amazing to me how many people fall into the trap of the potential promises.
Flippa is a bad investment choice unless you know what the hell you're doing
Like most things.
I wouldn't invest in stocks willy nilly because I know nothing about stocks.
I'd pay a guy who understands the stock market to make those decisions for me.
Same with Flippa investments.
Unless you have access to tools like Ahrefs, know how to analyze a website thoroughly, and understand exactly how the game works, my advice is to stay away from it.