Flippa is an amazing site. A marketplace of thousands of websites and domain names for sale. I have purchased a number of sites at Flippa. Over $80,000 worth in fact. Some winners and a few losers. The big problem that causes deals to go bad is that Flippa does no vetting and is dominated by junk sites.
A seller can claim revenue that doesn’t exist, traffic that is bots and click farms, content being unique that is copied or spun. Flippa never rejects a website for dubious claims.
In addition to the scams, junk sites are everywhere on Flippa. These are just thrown up sites with crap or duplicate content that will never go anywhere.
The types of issues and scams you will run into on Flippa tend to fall into a few broad categories.
Autoblogs and Duplicate Content
Forget these. They never work. Only buy sites that have original content. Flippa does identify if the content is original or not but this is not verified. So always use CopyScape to check.
The same with PLR (Private Label Rights) and MRR (Master Reseller Rights) sites. If it is not a unique product or service forget it unless you want it for email/lead capture give-aways.
This is more of a sales pitch but put no value on potential. The claims include: “I have done no marketing so if you do the revenues will soar”, “I have no time to work on this but if you do you will make a killing” – you get the idea. Potential is what YOU can make of the site. The seller deserves no compensation for this. Base your purchase on actual results and make sure that the results are the most recent few months. A site that made money a year ago but has few sales now should be valued on the most recent 3-6 month average only.
Some sites have no revenue and little traffic but are still interesting. Maybe you are looking for a head-start in a niche and want a site that is already out of Google’s sandbox.
The sandbox is typically a 6-9 month period of little love from Google search results while they see if you are legit and a good resource for their search audience. If you are buying a starter content site do some keyword research and see if it is a niche that works for you. You can add some value for quality content if it is ranking in the first few pages of Google results or getting traffic.
websItes that are ranking for keywords and out of the Sandbox should get a premium over brand new sites. But the value at the pre-revenue stage is the content and perhaps premium domain name.
Sudden Spike in Revenues
Sites don’t just magically have jumps from 0 to thousands in revenues. Nor do they go from 0 traffic to millions of visitors. The revenues are either ad driven and have huge costs or are just made up.
Fake Traffic and Purchased Traffic
You of course should get Google Analytics access for the site but this just records the traffic and can be faked with purchased traffic and bots. Look for a consistently up-trending traffic over at least one year. An older site with only the last few months analytics is suspicious. A new site with huge traffic numbers is also suspicious as they are still sandboxed for organic search from Google.
Check the source of the traffic in Google Analytics. If it is organic traffic, compare the keywords in a tool like Ahrefs and the estimated traffic to the claimed traffic. If it is social traffic, check out the sites for purchased followers and likes. Lots of direct traffic is a red flag as well.
Don’t trust just screenshots for anything. It is so easy to change a report via CSS, HTML or even Photoshop. Scammers will just download a report as html. A quick edit of the numbers. Open the altered paged in their browser and get a screen capture. Or just use the inspector in the browser and change it on the fly. It takes a few minutes and is 100% convincing.
Insist on live screen walkthroughs of PayPal, Stripe, Adsense etc.
Top 30 Tips for Purchasing on Flippa
- Smell Test – This is the most important factor but is subjective and requires experience. You are looking for sites that are just too good to be true. No one is selling a site that makes $2000/mo for $2500. Why would they? Trust your instincts, develop some spidey senses.
- Not Original Content – these sites are worthless. They will get 0 search traffic so you must drive traffic via social and ads.
- Traffic Verification – Get the Google Analytics account access. If they won’t provide this run away. Check that the content is mainly organic or if social the source of the traffic. Visit the social sites and confirm organic traffic with tools like Ahrefs.
- Don’t believe that Editor’s Choice sites have more vetting. Flippa does no/little vetting other than perhaps removing porn and similar sites.
- Beware of sites that are selling for their traffic value but little to no earnings. It is easier to manipulate traffic than create fake Paypal or Stripe reports.
- Check backlinks looking for thousands of spammy links
- Check Wayback machine. Blocked? Run.
- Check Alexa. Sudden spike in rank? Red flag
- Avoid offers with no traffic or earnings history until last few months then magically they have huge traffic numbers and revenues.
- PLR and Products with master resale rights. These like duplicate content are worthless.
- PBN traffic – PBNs are groups of sites put together from expired and other high ranking domains with the sole purpose of sending sculpted links to sites for Google ranking purposes. They are still common place in the content SEO world but will get you de-indexed by Google if caught. Or the seller may just remove these links after the sale and your traffic disappears. They do often work though so I wouldn’t disqualify a site for PBN links – just do extra research.
- Listing is incomplete or badly written.
- Analytics only available for the last few months.
- Check ranking keywords in tools like Ahrefs and estimated organic traffic against claimed traffic.
- Be a skeptic and require proof to be convinced. Don’t focus on the claims look for proof for everything and try to uncover any deception.
- Be cautious with sellers that have 0 sales on Flippa or is a new account
- Check if the site has been listed previously under different seller (who is likely banned)
- Check that the traffic is not mainly from India etc.
- Stolen Domain names – via Phishing someone gets the registrar info on a site. Changes the DNS info and points the website to a temp site. Check whois info for recent updates and Wayback machine for site changes.
- Lots of deleted comments in the listing is a red flag.
- Seller requests Western Union or Bank transfer. Use Escrow service to give you a few days with the actual site.
- AdSense claims not verified. Flippa will have a green line fro verified Adsense numbers.
- Seller won’t provide Google Analytics access. Red flag.
- Fake Amazon income. Is it even from this site? The same tracking ID can, and is often used, on multiple sites. Do a reverse search on Amazon Associate ID, using a tool like Analyzeid.
- Photoshop edited and faked screen shots. Insist on screen shares of PayPal or Stripe etc. to verify income. Do not rely on just screenshots.
- Cooked books. This is more common in larger transactions. The seller uses fake invoices, purchased traffic, fake PPC and Adsense numbers. If you are spending $10k plus, hire someone to confirm numbers and do vetting.
- Investigate Seller. How many transactions, how new to Flippa. Feedback for transactions and site.
- Always select Verified traffic and verified revenue when searching
- Filtering by age is useful but removes the starter sites
- Trust your gut.
I am not a Flippa hater and accept that is a caveat emptor transaction. Like buying a house it is up to you to identify the flaws and decide a fair price.
My major complaint is that they make no effort to not accept listings that are fraudulent; stolen domains, faked earnings and traffic etc. There is simply no vetting at all.
If you are not capable of doing the due diligence hire someone or if it is a larger transaction consider Empire Flippers or FE International where they screen the sites, perform verification of claims and do the basic vetting before offering a site for sale.
You are swimming in a pool of sharks so be careful.
Are all of the sites for sale on Flippa scams?
No. There are plenty of legit sites. But there are also plenty of overpriced, low quality or actual scams mixed in.
What kind of scams and poor value offers are there?
Sellers will fake traffic and earnings, or pump them up with paid traffic before listing. Also, many sites with duplicate content that have no value.
Why does Flippa allow this?
Flippa does not do much in the way of vetting offers. All of the due-diligence is up to the buyer.
Is Flippa a bad place to purchase a site or domain?
There are many worthwhile sites if you are willing to spend the time to research and vet them. There are also lots of domains for sale. Always use Escrow to be safe.