What “American Pickers” Teaches Us About Buying Websites

In the past several years, there have been a ton of television shows launched around the idea of selling old stuff for big money — many of them are geared towards the auction scene, but others focus on people who do their buying and selling off the beaten path.  “American Pickers,” a show that follows Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they drive across the country in search of stuff-filled barns, out buildings, and basements, looking for items that they’ll be able to resell for considerable profit.

While I enjoy the show because it is entertaining, there are lessons to be learned from these antique hunters for website flippers.  Here are the 6 lessons that “American Pickers” teaches us about buying and selling websites.

Pickers Pay Less

Mike and Frank don’t spend their time at auctions or in antique dealerships, hoping against hope that they’ll find a good deal there.  The deals aren’t where everyone else is, and they certainly aren’t at places that expect you to pay retail.

While you can occasionally find an undervalued gem at auction, it’s a lot easier to get a good deal pulling a forgotten item out of someone’s overfilled garage.  So it is with websites — if you can track down the owners of forgotten websites or sites that could use a bit of rehabbing, you’ll pay significantly less than if you had purchased the same site at auction or through a broker.

You Have to Dig Through a Lot of Garbage to Find Something Great

Picking isn’t easy.  Sometimes the guys have to dig through TONS of garbage to find the one item that makes a day of picking worthwhile.  If you’ve ever tried to find a good site for sale at a forum like Digital Point, you know this feeling all too well.  It’s easy to feel like giving up when the first hundred sites you like at are completely worthless, but that next property could be a pennies on the dollar type of win for you.  It pays to get your hands dirty.

Sometimes, the Best Finds Come In the Places You Least Expect

In an episode I remember, Mike was able to buy a great antique sign that was literally half-buried in the ground, face down, covered by a bunch of garbage.  I’m not sure what caught his eye enough to dig the thing up, but it turned out to be a great buy.

For website flippers, this might mean visiting forums that are related to certain niches we’re targeting.  It’s possible to find people there who are passionate about the topic, own long-established websites but lack the know-how to make their site profitable.  That’s a great opportunity to offer them a small sum to cash in on their efforts while leaving lots of room to profit for you.

When You Find a Good Source, Go Back To It

Mike and Frank aren’t afraid to go back to a good source once they find one.  They frequently revisit people they’ve bought from in the past and make notes to contact people in the future who have good items but aren’t ready to sell yet.

If you can keep a file on hand of website owners to contact every 3 to 6 months about their sites, you increase the odds that when they decide to sell, they’ll remember you.  Don’t be pushy about it — just let them know you’re still interested and that if they decide to sell, you’d love to hear from them.

Always Keep the End-Game in Mind

The guys don’t get too wrapped up in how cool something is that they forget the reason they’re there in the first place — to make money.  Mike and Frank rarely overpay for something, because they know that they need to be able to sell the things they buy if they want to make money.

It’s a little different with websites in that the sites we buy should throw off cashflow while we hold them, but the fact remains that we don’t want to overpay on the front end.  Know if you want to hold or flip it from the outset, then pay a price that makes sense based on those plans.  You can’t be altruistic in your negotiations — this is when you make your money.

Sometimes It Helps to Have Someone to Confirm Your Hunches

There’s a reason Mike and Frank pick as a pair (besides the fact that it makes for better television).  There are times when the two will consult each other about whether or not to go after a specific item or if they can make money paying a certain price for that must-have antique they’ve just uncovered.

It’s helpful to have a confidant who you can bounce ideas off of when you’re not 100% sure that your own intuition and experience are enough to ensure a great deal.

How to buy a $20,000 per month website for a few hundred bucks

Last month, I received an email that reminded me of the importance of hustling — of not sitting around, waiting for the perfect site to come up for auction, but rather proactively making your own opportunities. The email I received was from a guy who calls himself “the Clickbank Site Buyer,” and he was making a pitch to buy my low gravity site (gravity is a measurement Clickbank uses to indicate how many active affiliates a product has).

Here’s a copy of the email:

Hi there,
i am interested buying your site, i like to buy zero gravity sites, sometimes doing the product creation can be easy, but marketing it can be a uphill task, please let me know if i can take the load of your hand and if your willing to Accept a offer or willing to sell it,

Regards
John
The Clickbank Site Buyer

This month, I realized just how lucrative this approach could be, as CTR Theme (the site this guy tried to buy) had a net profit of around $20k.

Fortunately, by the time John had contacted me, CTR Theme had already started to make sales through Clickbank and my buyers were giving me rave reviews.  I knew I had a product that would sell well, but what about the people who just invested a bunch of hours into building the product out, getting the sales page perfectly configured, and had no idea how to get traffic to it?

I’d be willing to bet a lot of those people see John as a Godsend — giving them an opportunity to make something out of nothing.  I’m sure this guy’s buying a lot of fully developed products and sales pages for under $1,000.  If he already has good affiliate contacts, that’s like instant money.

Know Your Strengths

That brings me to another point — knowing your strengths.  Maybe this John character doesn’t have a lot of product ideas, perhaps he’s not a great writer, or he struggles with the technical end of putting a site together — but if he has great affiliate connections, he can move product.

With that skillset, he could work as an affiliate manager but that usually doesn’t provide an ownership stake in what he’s promoting.  He’s identified where his strength is — where he can add value to a site — and aggressively targeted sites that look like they need his expertise.

You can do the same, and that’s how you’ll maximize your profit potential.  If you’re a skilled designer, buy ugly sites.  If you have access to certain monetization channels the average website owner doesn’t, buy sites with traffic but low revenue.  If you have a secret traffic source or own complimentary websites, buy sites that don’t get traffic.

The key is to make something happen.  Don’t sit around waiting for the perfect auction — go out and make your own future.

Google Changes Algorithm to Combat Spam – Be Careful About Sites You Buy

Matt Cutts, the mouthpiece of Google, announced today, via the official Google blog, the implementation of some algorithm changes designed at weeding out spammy sites.  While the general public may rejoice over less spam in their search results, the guys who owned that spam are going to be pretty upset — they will have lost what is likely the primary driver of traffic (and revenue) to their sites. Continue reading “Google Changes Algorithm to Combat Spam – Be Careful About Sites You Buy”

Fake AdSense Earnings – Why I Don’t Trust Video Proof

When it comes to purchasing websites, there’s no such thing as too much information (or verification of that information) before closing a deal.  It’s unfortunate, but there are a LOT of dishonest people out there who are constantly on the lookout for the easiest way to separate you from your cash.  That’s why I’m reluctant to accept screencasts as legitimate proof of AdSense (or any other program) earnings.

Many people seem to think video proof can’t be faked, or that it’s too much of a hassle to do it.  Their assumption is that it takes post-production magic — a video-editing wizard works new numbers onto the screen.  I’m here today to prove that wrong, with a screencast that shows just how easy it is to fake Google AdSense earnings in a video: Continue reading “Fake AdSense Earnings – Why I Don’t Trust Video Proof”

Anatomy of a 5-Figure Flip: Make Your Money When You Buy

This is the first article in a series, documenting the step-by-step approach I took to turn a $300 initial investment into $10,000 in 3 months, working only a few minutes a day. In a later article, I’ll also share the mistake I made that cost me at least another $8,000 on this same flip.

My heart started to beat a little bit faster and I could feel my palms get sweaty as my double-take confirmed that I wasn’t looking at a typo.  There it was on the NameJet pre-release list, with a marvelous “0” in the “bidders” column next to it: BetterParenting.com.  Its scheduled release was still weeks away, but it had gone unnoticed so far, and I had no desire to alert potential suitors to its presence.  An early bid would push this name out into the spotlight, so I just wrote myself a note: Keep track of this domain.

Continue reading “Anatomy of a 5-Figure Flip: Make Your Money When You Buy”

I’m Perplexed – How Does This Guy Sell So Many Websites?

I saw a listing on Flippa today that has me thoroughly confused and perplexed. I’m not going to give this seller’s profile because I don’t need the headache of the potential complaints and legal threats from the seller. I don’t think it’s necessary to know who the seller is anyway to appreciate this post. And if you really must know, you should be able to figure it out.

At the time of this writing, the seller had 127 ended auctions on Flippa. That amount of activity immediately caught my attention, but what really jumped out at me was that they all used the same title. Here are just five titles I copied:

SEO Optimized Site- $990 Guaranteed Amazon and Adsense Income Monthly
SEO Optimized Site- $2970 Guaranteed Amazon and Adsense Income Monthly
SEO Optimized Site- $810 Guaranteed Amazon and Adsense Income Monthly
SEO Optimized Site- $972 Guaranteed Amazon and Adsense Income Monthly
SEO Optimized Site- $2430 Guaranteed Amazon and Adsense Income Monthly

Literally every auction had the same title. The only thing that was different from one auction to another was the amount of the guaranteed income. When I checked out these auctions, they were all startups with no traffic or revenue. The idea any seller can guarantee a buyer guaranteed income is a joke in and of itself, but to guarantee the astronomical income this seller is claiming on startup websites is even a bigger joke.

Continue reading “I’m Perplexed – How Does This Guy Sell So Many Websites?”

How To Strike Back If You’re a Victim of a Website Flipping Scam

website flipping scamWith any marketplace there is going to be good and bad buyers and sellers. Unfortunately, some argue there are more bad players in the website flipping marketplace these days than there are good ones.

What recourse do you have if you’ve been burned on a deal? If you buy and sell on Flippa, you could report it to Flippa but that isn’t going to help. Their stance is they are strictly a marketplace that brings buyers and sellers together – period. They take a hand’s off approach when it comes to dealing with any deals going bad. Here is a direct quote taken from one of their help pages:

Flippa can’t oversee the payment process or the exchange of property. Unfortunately, we’re unable to offer assistance in cases where an exchange doesn’t go as planned.

Nice, ey? Kind of makes you feel good you’re paying $19 listing fees and 5% success fees, doesn’t it? The only option you have if you’re a victim of a website flipping scam on Flippa is to leave the other party negative feedback. Gee, thanks.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could scream to the world, “Don’t do business with this guy, he’s a scammer!” Well, now you can. The site is called IDontGiveAScam.com. If you’ve been scammed on a deal as either a buyer or a seller, all you have to do is “file” your grievance on this page and it will be prominently posted on the site.

Before you buy or sell your next website on Flippa, stop by this site and see if there are any complaints filed with the person you’re about to do a deal with. And make sure that you are an honest buyer or seller or you may find yourself called out on IDontGiveaScam.com!

Which Is The Best Online Escrow Service?

best online escrow serviceIt’s important that you find the best online escrow service when you are flipping websites priced at $1,000 and above. When you start flipping websites at that level, it’s imperative that both buyer and seller are protected. Outside of hiring a lawyer, using an online escrow service is the next best thing, but which service is best? Most website flippers and domainers will say Escrow.com, but I’m going to buck the trend and recommend Safefunds.com.

I’ve used both of these online escrow services and have had good experiences with both but I use Safefunds whenever I can because they are much cheaper and the escrow process goes so much smoother with them. Here is why I think so highly of them.

Buyer Funding Options

Safefunds allows you to fund your escrow account by bank wire, electronic funds transfer, or by check. Unlike Escrow.com, they don’t accept funds from PayPal or credit cards. For that reason you may think that Escrow.com is the better online escrow service but think again. If you look closely at Escrow.com’s terms, you’ll notice they only allow PayPal and credit card funds if you use their Premier Service (which is twice as expensive as their standard service) and there is a transaction limit of $5,000. In addition, the funds are subject to Escrow.com’s approval.

Unless your transaction is under $5,000 and you absolutely must fund the purchase via PayPal or credit card – and you’re willing to spend almost double the escrow fees – then I concede Escrow.com is the best online escrow service when it comes to funding options. However, I don’t think that many people fall into that category. If you are o.k. with a standard bank wire, EFT, or check then Safefunds is the way to go.

Seller Payment Options

Safefunds allows sellers to withdraw their funds either by electronic funds transfer (inside the USA), international wire transfer (outside the USA), or by check. Withdrawing by check is free while the domestic electronic funds transfer at the time of this writing is only $12.

Escrow.com offers all the same withdrawal options including check by overnight courier , but with the exception of the check via regular mail, which is free, all their withdrawal options cost more than Safefunds. As an example, at the time of this writing you’ll pay $20 for a domestic electronic funds transfer – $8 more than Safefunds.

Online Escrow Service Fees – Where Safefunds Really Shines

Safefunds, like Escrow.com, doesn’t charge anything to open an account with them. There are no fees for the buyer and the seller fees are a flat fee based on the value of the transaction. Let’s say you’re selling a website for $3,500. If you use Escrow.com, you’ll pay 3.25%, or $113.75. At Safefunds you’ll pay just $48! While the buyer technically doesn’t pay any escrow fees with Safefunds, as a seller you can always split the fees with the buyer. In my example, if you and the buyer agreed to split the fees 50/50, you’d pay just $24!

Compare the fees of these two online escrow services yourself. Click here for Safefunds complete fee schedule. Click here for Escrow.com’s fees. You’ll notice the fees for Escrow.com’s “Premier Service” is almost twice that of their standard service.

Defining The Terms of the Transaction

Both of these online escrow services are similar when it comes to allowing the buyers and seller to define the terms of the transaction. There are no restrictions with either service. The buyer and seller have complete control and flexibility in defining how the transaction will proceed and when the funds will be released.

Buyer and Seller Protection

Safefunds provides the same protections for buyers and sellers that Escrow.com does in the event there is a dispute during the transaction. If at any time during the transaction there is a problem, you can file a dispute. Safefunds will get involved immediately to help resolve the dispute and the funds will be held securely in escrow until a resolution has been met between the buyer and seller.

Customer Service

Safefunds customer service is simply amazing. If you send them an email with any questions or concerns before, during, or after the transaction you will get a personal response within a few hours. I can’t say the same with Escrow.com. There have been times when I have sent them an email and I didn’t hear from them for a day or more! I have always been impressed with Safefunds responsiveness. I encourage you to test both of them. Send each a general inquiry via email and see which one gets back to you sooner. If I was a betting man, I’d bet Safefunds would be first to respond.

As I said at the beginning of this post, both Escrow.com and Safefunds.com have been good to me and are two escrow services I have used and would recommend. I have never had a problem with either service. However, given the advantages I’ve outlined, I believe Safefunds.com is the best online escrow service and I use them every time I can.

Don’t Get Scammed – Check Fake PageRank Before You Buy

check-fake-pagerankWhy should you check fake PageRank before you buy a website based on its PageRank? Because it’s not too hard to fake as you’ll soon discover. Before we dive into that and before I show you how to check fake PageRank, I want to provide a brief primer for those who may be new to Internet Marketing or who might want a quick review of the subject. It’s important you understand what PageRank is, what role it plays with Google, and how to check PageRank as many sellers highlight their websites’ PageRank as a selling point.

What Is PageRank?

PageRank, also known as PR, is a numeric value that Google assigns to a web page. In theory, the number tells us the importance of that web page on the Internet. The values range from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest and most important. For example, a PR6 website is “more important,” or has more authority, than a PR5 website. In addition, each level of PR is ten times higher than the next so that same PR6 website is ten times higher than the PR5 website.

How Is PageRank Calculated?

Don’t ask! Seriously, unless you are a math geek and really get into algorithms you don’t want to know. If you insist on knowing, then click here to read an indepth explanation from WebWorkShop.net. For the rest of us, let me explain it on a very high level.

When one page links to another, Google sees that as a “vote” for the page being linked to. The more links it gets, the more important the page must be in the eyes of Google. The number of links to a page isn’t the only thing that matters, however. The importance of those links themselves also plays a role in Google’s calculation of PageRank. The importance of the page providing the link, in other words the PR of the page linking to another page, will determine the importance of the link. Google then takes the number and importance of the links to a page to determine its PageRank.

Confused yet? The bottom line is this, the more links you have pointing to your web page from other “higher” PR pages, the higher PageRank your page will be!

Is PageRank Important?

Yes and no. It matters to some extent because it is one of many factors that Google uses to determine your page’s ranking in the Google search engine. However, it is a minor factor in determining the ranking. You see examples of this all the time. It’s not uncommon to see PR0 pages rank very well for various keywords while other higher PR pages don’t rank well at all for the same keywords.

Google itself says PageRank isn’t that important. It was not only removed from Google Webmaster Tools in 2009, but Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Susan Moskwa, said this in an article on WebProNews.com, “We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much…” There was even a push to remove the PageRank indicator on the Google Toolbar but as stated in the same article, Google wouldn’t remove it because it was too much of their branding.

Based on all that, you would probably conclude that PageRank isn’t such a big deal after all and you’d be right. However, until Google officially says PageRank is dead and no longer supports it, it will always play an important role in the buying and selling of domains and websites. That being the case, it’s important you know how to check fake PageRank so you don’t get scammed.

What Is The PageRank of a Given Page?

The easiest way to check PageRank for a web page is to have the Google Toolbar installed on your browser. The Toolbar has a “PageRank” indicator on it that will tell you instantly the PageRank of any web page you visit. Alternatively, there are a number of places online that you can check PageRank. One website that I always use is PRChecker.info.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The PageRank you see isn’t entirely accurate. The PR of a web page is always in flux but Google only “officially” releases the PageRank data periodically throughout the year so the PR you see is technically old. Furthermore, the PR shown doesn’t tell you if it is fake or not.

Check Fake PageRank

It is amazingly simple to fake PageRank of a given web page. What these scammers do is redirect a domain to a higher PR domain. The PageRank shown then for the lower PR domain actually reflects the higher PR of the domain being redirected to. As simple as it is to fake PageRank, it is equally as simple to check fake PageRank. Here is how you do it:

Go to Google.com and enter:

info:www.DomainYouAreChecking.com

You should also check the non-WWW version as well:

Info:DomainYouAreChecking.com

If a different domain name appears in the search results then it usually means the domain has been redirected and the PageRank for the domain is fake. Take a look at this example: www.PodcastingProfessionals.com is a domain with a supposed PR8 for sale on GoDaddy auctions at the time of this writing. However, if we check fake PageRank for it we see this:

check-fake-pagerank

Notice the domain that shows up in the search results isn’t PodcastingProfessionals.com. Instead what shows up is Twingly.com – a PR8 domain:)

You should now have a solid understanding of PageRank and how to check fake PageRank. Armed with this information you will now be able to make better buying decisions whether you are buying aged domains or websites.

How To Setup Real-Time Flippa Alerts

As a website flipper you know the largest and most popular marketplace to buy and sell websites right now is Flippa.com. If you’re looking to buy websites, Flippa is the first place you’ll want to troll for potential buys. What’s the easiest way to stay on top of the latest listings on Flippa that match the criteria you’re looking for?

Some flippers will just check the Most Actives periodically. Others will concentrate on the Featured Listings. Those are certainly valid ways of keeping current on potential websites to buy, but what if you have a very specific set of criteria for the type of websites you’re looking to buy? For example, what if you’re only interested in websites that have a net profit of at least $500/month? How would you go about keeping current on those types of websites listed for sale?

Right now on Flippa you can create custom searches and then save them. At that point you can then either periodically login to Flippa and run your custom searches (a major pain), or you can have your custom search results emailed to you once a day. While the latter option is more convenient, it’s not the best solution either because you could miss some websites that are listed in between your daily emails.

The best way to stay current on websites listed for sale that match your criteria is to create your own real-time Flippa alerts that are displayed right on your Firefox browser! This video shows you how to setup your own real-time Flippa alerts.