Buying your first website – a case study

As the new marketing manager at Flippa, my first week has been spent learning as much about the marketplace and the users as I can. There’s no substitute for “Eating one’s own dog food“, however, so over the weekend I purchased my first website from the Flippa marketplace. Here’s the what, the why and the how I went about my introduction to the marketplace.

Choosing An Auction

The website that caught my eye was Why did this grab my attention? Pretty simple really, my wife’s expecting so I have pregnancy on the brain (If you’re reading this darling, no, you look fine, you don’t need to workout!). The site was in the lower end of the market in terms of price so it was a good way to dip my toe in and test the waters.

Using the analogy of stocks, this type of purchase is a speculative investment. The website is young, not making any money and will need time spent on creating more content, but it has a solid foundation and ticked some important boxes.

Here’s the due diligence and domain analysis I did that lead me to my first website purchase:

Keyword Research

This website is clearly targeted at people searching in Google for the keyword phrase “pregnancy workout dvd”, so the first step is to find out how many searches are being done. There are a stack of keyword research tools out there, paid and free, but Google’s Keyword Tool will do the trick (it’s free!), giving me a rough indication of the number of searches being performed for this keyword phrase.

As you can see above, Google’s keyword tool suggests that “pregnancy workout dvd” receives 6,600 searches monthly. That’s 220 searches per day which is reasonably healthy for a highly targeted niche such as this. Google results are generally on the optimistic side so let’s round it down to 200. If I’m in position #1 for this keyword I might expect to receive about 56% of this search traffic (according to a Cornell University study). That’s about 120 visitors per day if this site can rank #1 for this one keyword phrase.

Competition Analysis

Next we want to find out how competitive this niche is. Competition analysis is an in-depth topic and it’s worth checking out some of the posts over at Sitepoint for more details. For basic metrics, I use Firefox with the SEO Quake Extension to display competition metrics, which will give me an indication of how difficult it will be to achieve a #1 ranking for this site.  The current #1 position site in Google’s results has the keywords in the title, a PR (page rank) of 3, but doesn’t include the keyword in the domain name, another factor that can influence search rankings.

Screen shot 2009-12-01 at 12.01.01 PM.png

Another simple metric I use to establish competition is to find out how many other pages appear in Google for a phrase search. In this case there are 8,040 other pages in Google’s index:

Screen shot 2009-12-01 at 12.16.45 PM.png

8,040 results is low. Anything under about 100,000 results means that the niche isn’t over saturated. Try some other searches and you’ll see what I mean.

So I’m happy with this niche; there’s reasonable traffic available for the keyword and I’m satisfied that the competition won’t prevent me from ranking well for this keyword search phrase. So how do I know how much I should pay for this website?

Website Valuation

In this particular case, the site isn’t generating revenue. The Flippa stats, available to the right of the auction, or a quick Whois search tells me that it’s less than a month old. There’s no data available for the domain on (another handy keyword research tool), but Google shows that a basic search for the core keyword phrase shows that the site is already ranking at position #8. Pretty good for a site that’s less than 1 month old and shows that the developer knows his stuff.

Other important items to check:

  • Copyscape – make sure the site doesn’t just duplicate content from another. This particular site lists DVD’s for sales with blurbs referenced from Amazon, so I’m comfortable with a little bit of duplicate content.
    Screen shot 2009-12-01 at 12.38.00 PM.png
  • Google Analytics Traffic – If traffic stats aren’t already listed on Flippa, request them. In this case I didn’t (but I probably should have) as I was satisfied with the other metrics.
  • Seller Profile – Make sure the seller has a good trust rank in Flippa.

Being a WordPress fan I was also happy to find that this site uses WordPress therefore making it easy for me to updated and add content.

Even though I’m proficient at using WordPress and I can cobble together a site, if I wanted to build something like this from scratch and do some basic Search Engine Optimisation, I know it would take me about 10 hours of work. That was the clincher. After all the research, $397 seemed like a reasonable price to pay for a site that would take me 10 hours to build and get ranking.

If you’d like to learn more about choosing a niche, developing a site and getting it to rank, check out The Thirty Day Challenge, it’s a great (and free) resource for learning the finer details.

What Next?

In a coming post I’ll share some of the steps you need to take after you’re bid has been accepted and you’re ready to take ownership of the website.

Amendment: Thanks to those who pointed out that I underestimated my monthly traffic stats. I’ve since amended these. It’s a good lesson – always double check your figures. The amendments suggest that this site would receive significantly more traffic than first calculated if it reaches position #1.

  • While I think you made a great purchase, I think it should be noted that a larger problem here at Flippa is that there is no protection for sellers who have their listings copied word for word.

    This particular listing,, contains my exact sales copy from all my listings, so hopefully you also ensured that it came with everything the seller “claims” is bundled as well — including that “special plugin” which I know I only offer for my listings…because heck, I programmed it. =)

    I’ve experienced this problem several times, and as the new marketing manager, hopefully you can look into this annoying and cumbersome plagiarizing aspect that occurs quite often here.

    • Ruth

      I have seen it too. Sometimes when browsing I see buyers copying sales text word for word – and often it will say ‘content is not unique’ on the auction sidebar, yet because they haven’t bothered to edit their plagiarised text it makes conflicting claims in the auction itself, or things like the plugin that Flippa Chick included etc. In cases like this I really think auctions should be shut down.

      It seems as though buyers who not only plagiarise, but also make completely false claims in their listing, don’t really get penalised when it’s reported.

  • Simo

    Thank you for this post, i just want to correct something about this:”As you can see above, Google’s keyword tool suggests that “pregnancy workout dvd” has received 6,600 searches globally over the last 12 months. That’s 550 searches per month which is reasonably healthy for a highly targeted niche such as this. Google results are generally on the optimistic side so let’s round it down to 500″
    it is 6600 searches per month not per year for the global searches.
    Thank you again .

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  • JD

    You overpaid.

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  • Nice post Luke! I enjoyed your keyword research tips and actually signed up for the 30 day challenge.

    I am a thinking that it may take quite awhile to make back your $400 investment, but maybe you can actually rank for some related keywords as well, which will definitely help you out. On the other hand, if you CAN actually get that top spot for your keyword, you should do well.

    I’ll check back in with you in a few months to see how it’s going and maybe do an “update” post on my own blog. Good luck!

  • Simo, this is something that took me a while to figure out as historically the keyword tool has shown monthly search volumes. I double checked these figures with other keyword research tools and it appears that the 6,600 figure is indeed for 12 months traffic.

    • hooperman

      >> I double checked these figures with other keyword research tools and it appears that the 6,600 figure is indeed for 12 months traffic.

      To understand what the Google Keyword Tool means by 6,600, you can’t check with other research tools. Google’s own help (hover over the question mark in the column header) says

      “This column shows the approximate average monthly number of search queries matching each keyword result.”

  • Hey Luke, just fyi, I checked your “pregnancy workout dvd” keyword on the google keyword tool and get 3600 global searches per month and 260 local searches last month.

    • Eric; I checked the figures against some other keyword research tools and was comfortable with the traffic being 300-500 per month.

  • Flippa Chick, it’s very difficult for us to police this kind of thing but I’ll certainly warn this particular seller about duplicating your sales copy, and look into ways we can prevent this happening in future.

    I’ve seen how good your sales pages are. Perhaps you’d like to do a guest post for us on “How to write Flippa websites sales copy”?

  • Great post Luke..

    I was referred here by @flippa on twitter. Not sure if that is you personally but I’m very appreciative for the link to this post.

    As a 30DC’r I am looking for info on the best way to “flippa” my site. This was most informative on what I needed to do next.

    BTW, are there any other posts on how to determine a good asking price?

    Thanks Again,

    • Glad you liked it Shane. We hope to be posting regularly about site valuation – it’s a tricky topic! Although these post will mainly be written from a buyers point of view, sellers can also use the advice to place an appropriate value on their auctions. I’ll also look at producing some posts more targeted at sellers.

  • hooperman

    Other than promoting Flippa, could you tell us what your motive was for buying this site? Are you going to monetise it, and if so, how? Are you going to promote it, and how? It’s much more interesting to find out what people do with sites post purchase, than knowing details of the purchase itself.

    Congrats on the new site, and good luck!

  • Daniel Brady

    Like others have mentioned, the search volume figures are monthly. I’d also recommend using exact match in adwords keyword tool for checking search volume.

  • This is a very interesting case study. I have thought about buying a niche website but never found anything I liked enough. I put together this article for myself as a guide on what to check when evaluating a site – maybe it would be of use to others as well:

  • Erika

    Hey Luke, I mean no disrespect, as you are new to this position we should cut you some slack, but as a Marketing Manager for a Website Flipping Business, I think, that you should know, that the figures of Google External Keyword Tool, without a doubt, are monthly, not annually…

    I’ve been in this business for the last 10 years; there is no debate about this: Like Daniel Brady and Simo stated above the keyword Phrase “pregnancy workout dvd” have 6,600 searches per month.

    That means 6,600 every single month (approximated) 220 searches daily.

    It took you a while to figure out; well, you figured out wrong!


    • Erika, you are correct, my apologies. I did reference other keyword research data and the figures were significantly less that Google’s keyword, a good lesson for everyone – always double check your figures. I’ll amend mine accordingly.

      • Erika

        We all make mistakes… For you to admit a simple common mistake that we all have done in the past, shows your professionalism as well as your capacity and leadership… I think we all should be proud to have you as a manager…:-D


  • Thank you for the article Luke. You didn’t brought any details about the payment process? Most of the new sellers/buyers are sceptic on this part of the whole proceess.

  • I’m confused by your interpretation of the Google Keyword tool. You insist that the 6,600 number is over 12 months, but Google clearly labels it as ” Local Search Volume: October”. The tooltip for that column says: “Local Search Volume: [Last Available Month]
    This column shows the approximate number of search queries matching each keyword result. This statistic applies to searches on Google and the Search Network in the most recent month that we have data for.”

    The column next to it actually says “Global Monthly Search Volume”.

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  • 3Six

    Luke, well done on sticking your neck out. You’ve made a couple of errors here. In your next post, you’ve made huge blunders (which I’ve pointed out in the comments). They include saying that PR is related to how much of content you have on your site and that free organic traffic is the most reliable type!

    My advice: Watch, track, study and learn a bit more about this whole business before you dole out the advice. You are misleading a lot of newbie buyers and sellers.

  • Chris


    Can we have some case studies as to what happens immediately after a purchase is made. What payment options are available and what the benefits of each one are.

    I am currently in the position where I am weighing up the pros and cons of Escrow vs Paypal which comes down to cost vs protection.

    I would love for someone to really nail down the differences and what my protection is as a buyer, or as a seller.


    • Chris, I’ll be posting a follow up to this today. In short, Escrow is the preferred method for sellers. PayPal allows buyers to do a charge back within 30 days which can make the transaction a little riskier.

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  • hooperman

    It would be great if you could let us know what you’ve done with the site in the month you’ve had it, Luke. How is the site doing?

    • I plan on doing a post about this, the third one in this series, around what I’ve done. In short I’ve done a little SEO (on-site optimisation, and a little link building). The site’s currently ranking #5 for “pregnancy workout dvd” (Google US), and has made a whopping $3.32 in revenue from Amazon and AdSense. Still early days – I need to post some fresh content that I’ve had written (

  • Hi all, my first time reading this blog, I can see it is going to be interesting.

    Unfortunately Luke – despite everyone telling you that you were being pessimistic in thinking that the global search volume was annual, you are still looking at things a little optimistically as far as I can see (sorry).

    The first problem with using the Google AdWords keyword tool is you have tried to find out the BROAD search volume for “pregnancy workout dvd”. This is a rookie mistake (one I’ve made many times), that shows you the search volume for all searches containing the keywords “pregnancy”, “workout” and “dvd”. So that means it would include the search phrase “Where to sell my pregnancy workout dvd” – which is neither here nor there. You need to change your match type to “Exact” match. (see:

    The next point is you can’t really use global search volume as a good indicator, instead select the countries you wish to target – in this case the U.S. It doesn’t really matter here, as they are both the same, although I expect they will show different numbers when you choose exact match.

    The final point is your estimated click through if you have a #1 ranking on Google. I’m not sure about in the US, but over here in the UK there are Sponsored Ads above the organic results – despite what you may have read – my recent experience at looking at Google’s CTR showed the sponsored ads that are above organic listings getting a far higher click through rate. In one example (a brand term) the organic number one was getting 28% of clicks, whereas the sponsored ad (for the same site) was getting 72% of clicks! From non-brand terms I’ve seen less than 10% for the majority, I would say a click through rate of 7.5% would be a conservative estimate.

    I got 4,400 for “pregnancy workout dvds” exact match on Google AdWords keyword tool, assuming a #1 position you may get 7.5% CTR (depending on the call to action in title tag, competitors etc.) leaving you 330 visits per month, an average of 11 a day.

    Let me know if I am way off, I’d be interested to see what click through you get at #1.

    Anyways, this comment wasn’t meant to come across as an attack, I just don’t want other people making the same mistakes I do. Please do keep us posted as to how the site does, I think it’d be very interesting to see how it performs!

    (have subscribed to the blog 🙂


  • Alternatively, broad match I suppose could be a better indicator of the long tail, and if you can rank for those keywords then your quids in.

    I’m just too use to concentrating on one keyword!!!

    Anyone else got an opinion on the broad vs phrase vs exact match types?

  • It ia a nice post.One could get the clear view of his own website by reading it. Waiting for the next post. Thanks a lot.

  • Luke, glad to see you getting your feet wet in the internet marketing / affiliate niche. It’s a tough industry to master, but it looks like you have a good understanding of market analysis and are willing to admit when it is better to buy existing services/sites than start from scratch.

    Good luck with the baby on the way. I’ve got two under 2 and they’re a handful but I love’m!