Flippa is a popular marketplace where webmasters can sell and buy web property. Flippa is similar to eBay in that it allows webmasters to set up an auction, create a sales pitch, and sell the website to the highest bidder. Although most sellers are honest webmasters trying to make a few more dollars on a domain they can no longer support, Flippa is also home to some scammers. Here are some warning signs that you might be looking at a scam sale.
High Revenue on a New Site
Just like a new brick-and-mortar business it takes time to turn a profit on a new website. Use domain tracking tools such as domaintools.com to check the registration date of the domain. If the domain is fairly new (only a few months), and the webmaster claims that it’s earning thousands of dollars a month, it could be a scam. The webmaster can make good money on a new domain, but this usually comes at a cost. Profits can be made using ads, but ads are typically expensive. Make sure the revenue is actual profit and not low profit due to high ad costs.
No Proof of Traffic or Revenue
Flippa has tools that allow the webmaster to upload traffic stats from tools such as Google Analytics These tools give you traffic numbers from a variety of sources such as search engines, CPC ads and users who type the domain name directly in the browser. However, be warned that traffic can be bought in an effort to inflate traffic numbers. Always look at a variety of sources to determine if traffic numbers are real.
Additionally, the webmaster should be able to provide screenshots for Adsense revenue or revenue earned from affiliate sales. Always ask for several months for proof of sales and ask questions if sales numbers vary too much month-to-month.
Questions Aren’t Answered or Questions Removed
The Flippa seller can control the flow of questions in the auction. The seller should be quick to answer any questions, even if the question is regarding the accuracy of reports. Some sellers will private message (PM) you answers. If the seller deletes questions, this should be a red flag to buyers. The seller should be willing to answer any questions put forth by potential buyers even if these comments question the legitimacy of reports or claims made by the seller.
SEO and PageRank
Always ask the seller about his SEO tactics, and beware of sellers who fake PageRank (PR). PageRank can be faked by taking a high PR website and forwarding it to a low PR site. Since PR is transferred, the new website looks like it has a high PR from the forwarded site. After the sale, the scammer removes the forwarded site, which puts your site back to PR o. Check the history of the website. If the site is only a few months old with few backlinks but has a high PR value, it’s probably a scam.
Additionally, if the seller has conducted any shady SEO tactics, it’s possible the site has a penalty, or it could obtain a penalty in the future. Ask the seller how he conducted SEO and check with Google’s guidelines to ensure it meets the search engine’s criteria for proper SEO. With Google coming down hard on link buyers and spammers, it’s especially important to check the site’s backlink history and ensure the seller did not obtain backlinks using spammy methods such as forum or blog comment spamming.
Check the Content Using Copyscape
It’s easy for a savvy person to scrape tons of content from another webmaster. Duplicate, scraped content does not hold its value for long when search engine algorithms catch up to the scheme. Run the website through Copyscape to ensure that the content is indeed original and isn’t taken from another source. If you buy a site with scraped content, you run the risk of having that content removed through the DMCA process, and the pages are removed from search engine indexes.
Although these guidelines give you clues to a possible scam, always use your best judgment. If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Do your due diligence when checking the domain’s background, and don’t buy any domain where the figures just don’t add up.