I am always on the lookout for new websites and online business to add to my website investment portfolio and I thought it would be cool to show you the website that I am currently looking at. This is an actual website that is for sale RIGHT NOW on Flippa.
In this article I will be showing you my process that I use for evaluating websites and explaining why I am interested in this website.
If this is something that many of you find interesting I can do this type of post every few weeks with new websites that I am looking at. So, if you enjoy this post and want to see more like it in the future leave me a comment at the end of the article!
Alright, with all of that being said, let’s just jump straight into looking at the website that I am currently interested in!
NOTE: This site actually sold while I was doing this write up so it is no longer for sale. However, that really doesn’t change the point of the article which is to show how I go about analyzing and evaluating websites to purchase. Also, I didn’t change any of the content once it was sold and I wrote the article assuming it was still for sale. Sorry for the confusion!
Flippa Listing: https://flippa.com/4402723-debatewise-org
Basic Site Info
Below is just some of the real basic info about the site. Even though it is basic it is still very useful!
Niche: Debate articles on a wide variety of topics
Price: Auction is at $9,051 with 21 days left
Average Monthly Traffic: 170,274 unique visitors
Average Monthly Profit: $295
Average RPM (revenue per 1000 visitors): $1.73
This is interesting…
Right off the bat I noticed that the site is getting around 170,00+ visitors a month and only making ~$300 a month. This is something that catches my eye and I will look into this more later on in this analysis. An RPM of $1.73 is extremely low, this will require some more research on the current monetization methods and quality of traffic.
Now that you have a basic understanding of this site let’s start digging a little bit deeper into the site’s traffic, earnings and other important aspects.
The first thing we will be looking at is the oxygen of any website, the traffic.
Without any traffic a site is worthless so investigating and learning as much as you can about the website’s traffic is one of the most important parts of evaluating a website.
Complete Traffic History
This site is 6 years old and actually has all 6 years worth of traffic history in Google Analytic. This is awesome to see as a potential buyer. This allows us to view the entire history of the site and the progression that it has made over its lifetime in terms of traffic growth.
So, the first thing we will look at is the entire traffic history:
We can see steady growth up till around 2014 and then it is remained relatively flat since then, minus the large dip in June 2014. This graph makes sense because in the Flippa listing the owner said that he hasn’t put any work into the site for the past few years which would explain the plateau in traffic growth.
Traffic Channels (last 12 months)
The source of the site’s traffic is one of the most important things I look at when evaluating a site. Ideally, we would like to see the traffic diversified with multiple traffic channels which limits the risk of the site.
Organic traffic makes up over 83% of the total traffic, which isn’t too surprising. Seeing organic traffic make up the bulk of the traffic isn’t too worrisome for me because I have found organic traffic to actually be the most sustainable. As long as the site hasn’t done anything sketchy to rank in Google then I don’t mind seeing organic traffic account for most of the traffic.
On the other hand, I usually don’t like to see the bulk of the traffic coming from social media or from referrals because that source of traffic doesn’t normally remain consistent. Organic traffic on the other hand does.
However, one thing that caught my eye is the extremely low amount of traffic from social media sources. I would think that a site such as this one, which is based around debates and controversial topics, would be able to generate some good traffic on Facebook and Twitter. This could be a future opportunity for growth.
Organic Traffic Stats
Since organic traffic accounts for so much of the sites total traffic I think we should take a closer look at. I would like to see growth month over month to show that the site hasn’t peaked.
Below is a screenshot of the organic traffic for the past 12 months:
Looks pretty steady! This shows that the organic traffic is fairly consistent, which is more of a good thing than a bad thing. This isn’t too surprising considering there hasn’t been any new content added to the site in years. Matter in fact, it’s actually a good sign to see a small amount of growth WITHOUT any new content being added.
Most Popular Content
I always like to check what pages get the most traffic. One of the most important things we can learn from looking at the most popular content is how diversified the traffic is. For example, does one page account for 99% of the overall traffic or does each page account for 1% of the total pageviews?
For obvious reasons we would like to see a site where there are many pages that get a little traffic instead of one page that gets all of the traffic. This is very important to know!
Google Analytics makes this very easy to do, check out this site’s most popular content below:
This is a really good to see! Check out the percentages that are in the black square above, the most popular page accounts for only 2.84% of the total traffic. Then from there the percentage slowly gets smaller as you go down the list.
This shows us that this site does not rely on one page for it’s traffic. Instead, the traffic is evenly spread among all of the pages which makes me like this site a lot more. If for whatever reason one of these pages disappeared from Google a very small amount of traffic would be lost and the site would barely be affected.
I ALWAYS plug every site that I am looking at into Semrush. I love that tool because it provides so much information about a site that is very hard to find anywhere else. One of those things being what keywords the site is currently ranking for in Google.
Let’s take a look at the stats from Semrush:
It is always a good idea to get a grasp on what kinds of keywords the site is ranking for and the monthly searches for each. However, one of the most important things to look at on the screenshot above is the “Traffic %” that is within the the black box. This shows us the percentage of traffic each keyword brings into the site.
I often see sites that have one keyword that accounts for close to 100% of the traffic. This is not a good thing because if something happened to that one keyword then the site would lose practically all of its traffic.
However, that is not the case with this site. We can see that the top keyword accounts for only 3.42% of the total traffic. This also aligns well with what we learned about the most popular content in the section above from looking at the Google Analytics.
Final Thoughts on the Traffic
There are many things that I will look at when digging into a sites traffic history but, the data above is the most important for this site. Each site will require you to look at different information because every site is different.
However, I really like this site’s traffic. It get’s a lot of traffic per month and the pageviews are spread evenly among the pages. It also looks like the traffic will remain constant without any work needed which is good to see. Overall, I am really impressed with the traffic and this site is looking really good so far.
We now will start digging deeper into the earnings of the site and learn as much as we can about that!
We will now take a look at how this site is making money and how much it is making. I also want to get a better understanding of why the RPM is so low.
First, let’s look at how much the site is making per month in profit and the overall trend in the past 12 months. This will allow us to get a feel for how this site makes a profit each month.
You can see the past 12 months profits below according to the Flippa listing:
Some things I notice:
- The monthly profit fluctuates between $200 and $400 per month
- Adsense accounts for the bulk of the earnings
- There are multiple monetization methods on top of Adsense
- The earnings seem to be highly correlated to the monthly traffic, which is not surprising
It is important to fully understand how the site is making it’s money. We have already seen that the bulk of the earnings come from Adsense but, where are the rest of the earnings coming from?
According to the Flippa listing, the other sources of revenue come from two advertising sites called Insticator and SocialReality.
Let’s look at the earnings from Adsense, Insticator and SocialReality in the month of April:
This is interesting for a couple of reasons:
- The site earned over $500 in April but, according to Flippa it only earned $385. In this case, the earnings on Flippa are wrong because the monthly earnings numbers I used above are verified by the owner.
- The advertising company called Insticator earned just as much as Adsense
I want to touch on the 1st point above. The fact that the earnings on the Flippa listing are lower than the actual earnings is a good thing for us as buyers. This could keep a lot of potential buyers away from the listing and make it easier for me to get this website at a good price.
This actually happens more than you would think and that is why I always double check everything about the site.
However, if the earnings for the month of April were higher than what was reported on Flippa then how should we know the real amount for the other months?
The best way to do this is to ask the seller for a video walkthrough of all of the earnings from all of the different sources. This way you can see first hand what the REAL earnings are for each month.
Location of the Ads
When a site is monetized via adsense or other ad networks I will check out the ad placements on their site. This will allow me to quickly judge if I think I could optimize the ad layout. For example, if a site is earning $200/month from Adsense and I look at the site and there is only 1 ad at the very bottom of the page then I know I could easily add a few more ads and optimize the placement for more earnings.
Let’s take a look at this site’s ad layout:
Above the Fold
We can see 1 full leaderboard and a half of another in the sidebar above the fold. This is decently optimized but, I think there could be another ad within the first paragraph. I have had good success with that ad placement on other sites.
Right Below the Fold
These next ads are right below the fold, so just a little bit below the first screenshot above.
We can see one leaderboard ad within the content and then another ad in the sidebar. However, the ad in the sidebar is not a Google ad. It actually says “Insticator” at the very bottom and doesn’t look like a normal ad, instead it looks like a trivia game of some sort.
Right Below the Screenshot Above
After I scrolled a little bit further down I found another 3 ads, all in the sidebar. 2 of these ads are normal Google ads and the other is a Google link unit. It’s interesting that the previous owner decided to put all of these ads in the sidebar instead of within the content. I have found that in-content ads perform way better than sidebar ads.
After looking through the ads and their placements on this site I think the owner has done a pretty good job of optimizing the ads so far. However, I still feel like there is room for improvement and I am positive that I would be able to increase the earnings using AmpedSense to split test different ad layouts.
Final Thoughts on the Financial Info
My biggest takeaway from looking at the financial info is that the earnings reported to Flippa and the actual earnings do not match up. Before placing any bids on this site I would need to see proof of the real earnings so I know exactly what this site is making on a monthly basis.
Aside from that, we learned that the current ad layout is decent but could be better. One of the ads seems to be a trivia game and it looks pretty successful since it earned just as much as Adsense in the month of April.
However, it looks like the site is earning anywhere from $300 to $500 per month. We need to keep this in mind when go to value the site later on in this post!
Other Important Info
This next section will be covering a wide variety of topics that are all important but, don’t fall under a category such as traffic or financials. The sections below are also very important and shouldn’t be skipped over because it isn’t the traffic or earnings. Let’s get into it!
This will let you know if there are any spammy links going to the site as well as what kind of strength the domain has to rank for harder keywords. I prefer Majestic to do this but, Ahrefs and Moz Explorer both work just fine.
Below is a screenshot of the backlink profile:
The site has a Trust Flow rating of 15 which is pretty good, although I wouldn’t mind seeing it higher. It has 461 unique referring domains which is a solid amount.
Let’s take a closer look at the top backlinks to this site:
Above are the top 3 links pointing to the site.
There is a 38 TF, 36 TF and a 25 TF links which are all very good links. While scrolling through these links I noticed that there were a couple links from .edu domains. Come to find out there are actually a total of 10 .edu domains pointing to this site, see below:
This is a sign of a high quality site because 10 educational websites would not be linking to a crappy site. I like the fact there are 10 .edu domains linking to this site as well as multiple other high qaulity sites, this is a good indication that the site is of high quality.
Before you purchase any site you need to make sure that you read through the site and confirm that the content is of good quality. Often times I will find that even though the site is ranking in Google the content itself does not read well and it is not useful for the reader.
So just take 5-10 minutes to read through the various pages and make sure everything reads smoothly. It shouldn’t take you long to determine a good vs. bad quality site.
In terms of this site, the content is a little different than a normal site because most of the content has been published by the readers of the site. Also, the content is set up in a debate format which is not typical. With that being said the content is high quality however, I feel like the format could be changed to make it easier to for the reader to digest the info.
For example, this page – http://debatewise.org/debates/1201-public-health-concerns-justify-compulsory-immunization has nearly 19,000 words! That is a very long article and I am sure there are better ways to digest that info instead of reading all 19,000 words.
However, I am sure Google loves all of this content on one page!
Website Penalty Indicator
FE International has a really cool tool that will quickly show you if a site has been penalized from Google in the past. It isn’t 100% accurate but it still does a good job. It will show you all of the different Google penalties over time and then match up the website’s traffic to the same time line which allows you to quickly check if a penalty affected the traffic.
Below are the results from running this site in the tool:
It looks like the site did drop off in terms of traffic after the Panda update in 2014, however, you can see that it rebounded back up and looks fine now.
However, take a look at the complete traffic history of this site from Google Analytics:
We can see that they do mirror each other very closely! Let’s see what happens if we look more into that time period so we can really understand what happened:
At one point the site was getting ZERO visits to the site.
Now, this could be because of a penalty from Google OR maybe there was something wrong with the tracking code on the site. One main reason why I think it was because of an error in the GA tracking code was because the site had zero visits, that means no one came to the site from any source. Whether that be social media, referral or directly.
There is a small chance that exactly zero people visited this site for that two day span. Also, if a site gets penalized from Google it usually doesn’t recover in a matter of 3-4 days.
No matter what, something weird happened here and this is definitely something I would want to ask the seller about.
Work Needed to Run the Site
This should not be overlooked.
A website that earns $500 per month but takes 40 hours a week to run is not worth it, at least to me. So make sure that you are aware of the time that is needed per week to keep the site running.
This site we are analyzing looks 100% passive and the owner has not put any work into the past few years. This is a really good sign because the traffic has been sustained the entire time without any work. It looks like I could pick this site up and it would continue to earn ~$400/month without any work needed.
These are the best types of sites, especially if you already have a portfolio of sites that you are running. This also allows pretty much anyone to make money with websites as long as you have some basic knowledge and skills. There aren’t any specific skills or expertise needed to run this site.
I also like to buy sites that have been neglected like this one because often times with a little work I can increase the traffic/earnings in a short period of time. This allows me to possibly flip the site within 3-6 months if the price is right.
Even though this site would continue run just fine and earn ~$400/month without any changes or work, I always want to have a plan for improving the earnings and traffic before buying a site. Below are a few opportunities for growth that I see for the site.
Add New Content
This is pretty obvious but still a very good way to grow the site. There has been no new content added in years and since this niche is so broad there are many topics to write about.
Also, since this sites content revolves around debates I would try to bring new and fresh debates for people to submit their responses to. I would go after debates that are currently very popular today such as Trump vs. Clinton. I think sprucing up the debates with hot topics would be a good way to rejuvenate the site.
Leverage Social Media
I think the site is currently missing out on possibly its biggest traffic source, Facebook.
These types of controversial debates would be the perfect type of content that would go viral on Facebook and get people talking. Any new or popular debate topic could be published on Facebook and ride the current trend for that specific topic. I think there is a LOT of traffic being lost by not utilizing FB.
I want to see how much traffic Facebook currently drives to the site. Below is the traffic that has come from Facebook in the last 12 months:
In the past year Facebook as driven 9,000 visitors to the site! What makes this even more interesting is when we look at the DebateWise FB page, see below:
It hasn’t been updated since 2010! So that means that the 9,000 visitors has come from other people sharing and talking about DebateWise WITHOUT any help from their official page. I think with reviving this FB page and interacting with the community that the FB traffic could explode.
I also think Twitter could be a good way to drive traffic as well. Take a look at the official Twitter account for this site below:
This account hasn’t been active since 2011. Another possible huge source of traffic that has been neglected completely for years!
It would be interesting to see what kind of traffic these two, Twitter and Facebook, could drive if they started posting consistently again. In my opinion, I think it could easily add 30,000+ visitors a month.
Allow User Submitted Content
I think that allowing users to submit their own argument for a side of the debate would help people get engaged as well as create free content for the site. There would have to be some sort of screening process so that only legit people could post content but, that could be figured out.
This site originally allowed users to submit their own content years back and I think bringing this back would be a good idea!
Create a Voting System
I think it would be cool to have a voting system that would allow people to upvote and downvote specific arguments. This way the most upvoted arguments for each side of the topic would be at the top for people to see first.
We could run into a problem with people downvoting good arguments solely because they don’t agree with them. I would have to iron out the details to insure this was kept to a minimum.
I am sure I could figure out a way to make this work and I think it would be a really cool way to revitalize the site.
I am very confident that I would be able to raise the Adsense earnings from this site thanks to AmpedSense, which allows me to split test all different types of ad layouts and find the one that makes the most money.
We have already looked at the ad layout for this site earlier and even though the site already has a decent chunk of ads and it they are in pretty good spots I feel like it could still be optimized. With testing the different ad sizes, using link units, testing the ad colors and optimizing the ads for mobile I could increase the earnings.
Thoughts on the Future Growth Opportunities
There are a lot of ways I could go about improving and growing this site and the ideas above are just a handful of them. I really like the potential of using Facebook to drive traffic to the site. I feel like it is a perfect match and could be a game changer if successful.
Other than that, there are many other ways that I could grow the site and I don’t think it would be that hard to double the monthly earnings within 6 months.
No matter what website you are looking at it will always have some sort of risks. It is important to know all of the risks and then minimize them as much as possible. Below are the current risks that I see with this site
Bulk of the Traffic is Organic
Like we saw earlier in the article, this site gets 83% of its traffic from search engines. This isn’t terrible but, relying on ANY source for 83% of your total traffic will always be a risk. I am hoping that by starting to use Facebook and Twitter it would bring in some traffic to balance out where the traffic is coming from.
No Growth in the Past Year
This could also be a positive thing when you consider that the owner hasn’t put any work into growing the site. However, the fact that it hasn’t grown is still not a good thing and could pose a potential risk.
Possibly Penalized in 2014
Around June and July of 2014 the site saw a huge drop in traffic and at one point was getting zero visits to the site. Was this due to a penalty from Google? Possibly.
However, as I mentioned earlier I have my doubts about it being a penalty and I feel as if it is more likely an error with the tracking code for Google Analytics. Nonetheless, this still worries me and adds some risk to the site.
Thoughts on the Risks
Overall, there isn’t a whole lot of risks involved with this site and that why it is so appealing to me. It looks like the worst case scenario would be that I wouldn’t be able to grow the traffic or increase the earnings and the site continued to earn $400 – $500 per month without any work from me. That doesn’t sound that bad for a worst case scenario!
Valuing the Website
After you do all of your research on a site you should then determine what you think the site is worth. This will allow you to know if the site is being undervalued/overvalued in the auction or the buy it now price.
In this website’s case, it is an auction without a buy it now option which makes it even more important to understand what the site is worth so that you don’t overpay for the site.
Below are the steps that I take when valuing a site.
1. Find the Monthly Profit Averages
The very first thing I do is find how much profit the site makes per month on average. I like to find the average profit for 3, 6 and 12 months.
Below are the averages for this site:
3 Month Average: $441*
6 Month Average: $382
12 Month Average: $323
*The 3 month average was calculated using the real earnings that were shown by the owner and not by what the earnings say in the Flippa listing.
2. Determine the Multiple
Here we will be determining what kind of multiple the site deserves. The multiple is what is used to multiply the average monthly profit to determine the selling price for a website.
This part takes some judgement and you will get better at doing this the more sites you see yourself. From my experience there are 4 main things that will affect a sites value:
- Quality of the site
- Work required to maintain it
- The potential
These 4 things will go into determining the multiple of a site.
Below is a rough guide on how to choose a multiple:
20x: This is the standard multiple for just about every website that sells via auction. However, recently it seems like standard multiple is starting to move higher than 20x due to the demand for websites. An example of a site with a 20x multiple could be one that has potential for higher future earnings but also requires a lot of work to run.
25x: This multiple is for a little bit higher quality website. This kind of site could require no work to run, not much risk but, it also doesn’t have very much future potential. Over the past 18+ months, the 25x multiple as become more common as the average multiple used for websites being sold.
30x: This multiple is for very high quality sites that possess all of the 4 important factors that I listed above. Or it could have a LOT of one or two of the factors. For example, the site could have a ton of future potential for 3-5x current earnings as well as being a very high quality site.
30x+: This high of a multiple will be used on very large websites that are often 6 or 7 figures because they are of extremely high quality sites that are full blown companies. Also, SaaS often get this type of multiple as well since their potential is so high.
Most quality sites will sell between the 20x – 30x multiple range. Now, let’s try to determine the multiple range for this site we have been looking at.
First off, we need to give a 1-10 rating for the 4 factors that determine a sites value that I listed above. This will help us choose a multiple for the site.
- Quality of the Site: 7.5/10
- Work Required to Maintain it: 9.5/10
- The Potential: 8/10
- Risk: 7/10
I would be happy paying anywhere between a 25x – 30x multiple for the site. I really like this site because it doesn’t require any work to continue to earn money and I think there is some potential there to grow with the use of FB and Twitter.
Now let’s move onto the last step of valuing the site!
3. How Much Will I Pay for this Site?
Now that we have our multiples we can now calculate the exact price that we will want to pay for this site by using the monthly average profit and the multiples.
Site Valued Based on 3 Month Average Profit: $11,025 – $13,230
Site Valued Based on 6 Month Average Profit: $9,550 – $11,460
Site Value Based on 12 Month Average Profit: $8,075 – $9,690
We found the 3, 6, and 12 month average monthly profits in the section above and that is what I used to get these numbers. Also, the reason the site values are given as a range is due to the lower value being the 25x multiple and the larger number being the 30x multiple.
Based on the info above, we can see the site could be valued as low as $8,000 and go as high as $13,000. This gives me a good range to use as the auction for this site continues to get bid higher. In my opinion and based off of these calculations I would be willing purchase the site if I can get it for under $13,000.
If it goes over $13,000 then I will let it go and keep looking for other sites because it would be overvalued at that point.
4. Current Price of the Auction
The current price of the auction is around $9,000 with 21 days left to bid.
We can see that the price has already been driven up into our range that we calculated earlier of $8,000 – $13,000. With 21 days left to bid I would think that this site will go higher than $13,000 and we will probably have to let this site go and keep looking. However, often times the price will be bid up a bunch at the very beginning of the auction and then there will be no bids until the last day or two.
So that could be happening here and we will have to keep our eye on this to see what happens.
My Final Thoughts on this Site
I really like this site.
It is in a unique niche that allows for a lot of new content to be added in the future. The site doesn’t require any work to continue to earn money and it will keep earning $300-$500 per month.
There are many opportunities to grow this site and there isn’t a whole lot of risk either. The site gets a ton of traffic each month which will make testing different things and getting feedback a lot easier and quicker.
Overall, a very solid site and I would love to add it to my portfolio of sites if the price is right.
UPDATE: The Site has Sold for $20,000
While putting this write up together the site was sold for $20k via Buy it Now. It looks like the seller of this site decided to add a buy it now option to the site instead of letting the auction run its course.
It is interesting that it went for that high of a price. Using $400/month as an average the site was sold at a 50x multiple!! Wow..
Obviously someone was willing to pay that high of a multiple because they felt like it was worth it. Whether that be because they saw potential to increase the earnings much higher or they really liked the idea of it being 100% passive income each month.
No matter what the reason, there is no doubt that the value of websites is increasing at a steep rate. Which is a good thing for someone that has a portfolio of sites but, not as good for someone looking to purchase sites.
3 Other Sites I am Interested in
Before I end this article I want to quickly mention a couple of other websites that I am keeping my eye on right now. Each one of these sites are currently for sale (at the time of writing this) and you should check them out!
I was originally planning on doing a write up on all three of these sites along with the write up on DebateWise.org however, after doing the one site I realized it didn’t make sense due to how long and detailed I analyzed the first site.
Even though I didn’t do a full write up on these 3 sites I still wanted to show you them so you have an idea of the types of sites that I like to watch.
That is going to bring us to the end of this write up and I hope you enjoyed this! If you did PLEASE let me know and I will keep doing these types of write ups in the future.
Also, if you have any suggestions on how to make these better or have something that you want to see please let me know in the comments below. Thank you so much for reading!