Evaluating a Website

Before you acquire a business website, you need to look into more than just the number of visitors that it has and the purchase price. You'll also want to evaluate it from an SEO standpoint.

The idea isn't simply to avoid all SEO problems; instead, find websites with problems that appear to be serious but are, in fact, easily fixed.

These problems tend to scare so many potential buyers away that their owners have trouble selling them and are often open to bargaining.

Check out the marketing environment

Evaluating a website, you need look at more than just the site itself. Research other sites in the industry. Below are a few things to review:

  • If your potential acquisition isn't one of the market leaders, you need to try to ascertain the chances that it can quickly become one.
  • What kind of market does the site exist in? Does it have a great deal of search volume and search term diversity? When searchers only use a couple of terms to search for a product, it can be difficult to rank in search engines.

Every website on your acquisition list needs to be checked for Panda - or Penguin-related damage

A look at the analytics of a website should reveal if the site has experienced serious traffic drops at any point that cannot be attributed to seasonal business changes.

Even drops as small as 10% can be significant. If you see such a drop in a site's traffic, you should look up a Google algorithm history chart to see if the drop coincides with a Google algorithm change. If you do see a match, the website may have fundamental problems with Google.

If you happen to see a traffic drop that corresponds with a Panda or Penguin algorithm release, you should abandon your acquisition plans. These are hard for any site to recover from.

A few other problems to look out for

  • Doorway pages: 
    Many businesses create local pages on their websites - one for every city that they wish to attract local search traffic from. While local pages are a good idea in general, many kinds of business have nothing special to say for each city that they create a page for. For instance, the procedures offered by cosmetic surgery clinics are the same, whatever city they may be done in. You would have no reason to create a page called Rhinoplasty in Minneapolis and another called Rhinoplasty in Chicago. Rhinoplasty tends to be the same everywhere. You would need to put exactly the same content on each page, save for the name of the city. 
    Yet, many businesses create websites with just such doorway pages in the hope that Google will give them local traffic. Google can easily tell doorway pages apart from pages that are genuinely local, though. You should not buy a website like this, Google may decide to take its ranking down one day.
  • Poor quality content: 
    The Panda algorithm gives Google the ability to tell good quality content apart from bad content. Even if a site has escaped penalties from Google so far, it could be at risk in the future. You can't simply delete all the bad content on a site either. Disappearing content isn't good for SEO. You just need to stay away from sites that have poor quality content.

Some kinds of problem are easily fixed. You need to actually aim to find such websites

If the site you're looking at has a large number of visitors and a reasonable amount of revenue, you shouldn't let a few SEO problems discourage you. It depends on the kind of problem in question, though. The following problems aren't a big deal. They can easily be corrected. Meanwhile, you can point these problems out to the seller to work the price down.

  • Lots of duplicate content: 
    If a website has problems with duplicate content, it's a positive sign. Cleaning it up should give you a good traffic boost for very little money spent.
  • Poorly organized site architecture: 
    If the content on a site is poorly organized and hard to find, it is easily fixed with a good website developer. You can be assured of a good boost to the amount of time that visitors spend on your site when you correct such problems.
  • If you find 404 errors all over the place: 
    If a website isn't doing a good job of keeping the number of 404 errors that it gets under control, you can be sure that correcting the problem can net you a good traffic bump from Google.
If the website needs new content, that's an encouraging sign, too
  • The content on a site doesn't address all the important topics: 
    Many websites fail to keep up with every newsworthy occurrence in their niche. This isn't a good idea. The better a website keeps up, the better it does on Google's freshness index.
  • The site has terrible page titles: 
    The content on your website always needs good titles. It won't do to use generic titles.

You can expect a cost-effective traffic boost when you address these problems.

Acquiring a website cheaply

These common sense rules can help you pick out the best sites to buy. Inexperienced buyers might decide that websites with such problems aren't worth their time. You'll know better, though.