There is a learning curve involved in buying and selling websites and domains and if you haven't been involved in the world of web design and development then it can be significant. I encourage you educate yourself as much as possible before you dive into buying and selling. Education wise, you're in the right place, SitePoint is full of great learning resources (free and paid).
If you do know a thing or two about hosting, DNS, CMS and other TLA's (three letter acronyms) and you're considering buying and selling on Flippa, following are a few tips that will help your sale or purchase go smoothly.
Tips for Sellers
- Capitalize domains names in your listing - This helps people identify keyword domain names such as LongKeywordDomains.com.
- List everything that's included in the sale - if your website sale includes physical stock, then include that information. If you're also including other social media profiles, list them.
- Supply stats - Google Analytics is generally the preferred default stats format for buyers.
- Suggest other monetization strategies - if you know you've fallen short on monetizing your traffic, then suggest what could be improved. Don't speculate about future revenue however.
- List the keywords you site ranks for - list your top 10 keywords that are generating traffic and how many monthly searches these receive per week. Use Google's keyword tool to find out search volumes.
- Detail the CMS or publish platform being used - explain if your site is using Joomla, Drupal or Wordpress (etc) and why you chose that platform.
- Explain why you're selling - be honest about why you're selling. It usually comes down to i) I need the money ii) I don't have time to maintain it or iii) I buy and sell websites for the money.
- Use Escrow for transaction over $1000 - Even though it's not foolproof, Escrow is safer than PayPal .
- If you use PayPal, post a CD containing all the files and database to the buyer - this way you have proof you posted the goods if the buyer tried to do a charge-back on PayPal.
- Do your due diligence on bidders - some people believe due diligence is only for buyers, but to reduce your risk, find out as much as you can about the person(s) bidding on your website auction.
- Provide a video walk-through - you can use Jing (free and available at http://www.jingproject.com/) to do a screencast showing revenue statements, CMS, email lists etc
- List revenue and profit details month by month
- List your costs - hosting, PPC campaigns, outsourcing
- Detail the time required to maintain the site
- Above all - be open and honest about all facets of your sale
Tips for Buyers
- Use SEMrush.com for keyword research - the free version of this will show you the top 10 keywords a site is ranking for and some approximate traffic. You can cross check this against any stats that are provided by the seller.
- Request for access to Google Analytics - not all seller will provide this - but it's a great place to start your due diligence
Ask for a video walk through showing revenue statements - video is much harder to doctor than screenshots.
- Do your keyword research - if the site is targeted at particular keywords but not already ranking well, find out what the competition's like in the search results - how hard is it going to be to rank for these keywords. Take a look at the SEOQuake Firefox plugin.
- Check the Wayback Machine - this will show you a history of the site. Make sure you're not buying something with a dark past!
- Check the backlink profile - SEOmoz's Open Site Explorer is a great tool for checking out the quality of a website's backlinks.
- If the seller hasn't included any of the points in the Seller Tips section above, ask for them.
- Ask how the site will be transferred to your hosting account, are you expected to manage the transfer or will the seller help you. Will you be given cPanels access (for example).
- Custom designed sites - if the site your purchasing doesn't use an open source CMS, ask the seller what provision there is for support.
Try to verify ownership by crosschecking Whois details against some proof of ID.
- Check where the traffic's coming from - if most of the traffic is PPC or if it's coming from other websites the seller owns, you want to make sure you know!
- Check for trademark infringement on the domain name - use uspto.gov for an initial check. Also, if you're Wayback Machine check suggests the site was owned by someone else in the past, make sure you do a very thorough trademark check
- Make sure content is original - use Copyscape.com to check this.
Finally, for both buyers and seller, if you're taking a significant level of risk (i.e. spending your retirement fund or equivalent) consider getting the lawyers involved and draw up a contract of sale.