How to use a screenshot API

How to use a screenshot API

When you add your first website inside webmaster.ninja, you will swiftly see a website screenshot. We managed to do that with a screenshot API, and this is the story of how we did it.

In the old version of our Website Manager the website screenshots were smaller and buggy. But, as we improved our Screenshot API, so have the results we saw in our list of websites.

Old webmaster.ninja with old Screenshot API results

New website manager with new Screenshot API

Since that version, we made a lot of changes both on our Website Manager, and the Screenshot API. I think that the results speak for themself and that the picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words. As you can see, the design is completely different, and all the screenshots are complete.

So, before we get to the nitty-gritty of how we implemented the Screenshot API and all the code examples that you can copy-paste, here’s an image of how the end result looks like. The screenshot below only shows the part with website cards, not the entire dashboard.

Website manager with Screenshot API example

How to get access to a Screenshot API

Let’s start at the beginning. You need to find a screenshot API provider. Our parent company WhoAPI Inc. has one, so it was a no-brainer for us. They are active since 2011 (over a decade) which is important for an API provider. You don’t want to integrate an API, and then next year the API shuts down, and then you have to find another one.

Also, you don’t want the API documentation to constantly change! You need boring stability so that you don’t have to make constant updates to your code! But, you also want the API provider to be flexible and add features that your application requires. This we highlighted in the screenshots above. We weren’t happy with the results at first, and then after adding some features like “screenshot delay” we were able to get a great result.

Getting access to a Screenshot API is simple. You just register for an account on WhoAPI, and you instantly get an API key. This key will be used in every API request you make.

Complimentary 10,000 requests

At the moment, over at WhoAPI, they are celebrating their 10 year anniversary, so from now on, every new client gets 10,000 requests for free. This should be more than enough to get your application up and running. Once you have your API key, making your first API request is simple, fast, and easy. You can literally open the URL in your browser. Why? Well because it’s using the HTTP or HTTPS protocol!

A REST API (also known as RESTful API) is an application programming interface (API or web API) that conforms to the constraints of REST architectural style and allows for interaction with RESTful web services. REST stands for representational state transfer and was created by computer scientist Roy Fielding.

When a client request is made via a RESTful API, it transfers a representation of the state of the resource to the requester or endpoint. This information, or representation, is delivered in one of several formats via HTTP: JSON (Javascript Object Notation), HTML, XLT, Python, PHP, or plain text. JSON is the most generally popular programming language to use because, despite its name, it’s language-agnostic, as well as readable by both humans and machines. 

Source: https://www.redhat.com/en/topics/api/what-is-a-rest-api

Making your first Screenshot API request

The URL you are “hitting” or requesting will look something like this:

https://api.whoapi.com/?domain=whoapi.com&r=screenshot&apikey=demokey&process=thumb

As a matter of fact, you can enter this exact URL in your own browser and see what happens. You will undoubtedly get a JSON response. Since we already have an API key, we will replace the “demokey” with our API key. An API key is just a long stream of letters and numbers that’s unique.

Once you make a request you will get a response that looks like this in your browser.

{"status":"0","full_size":"http:\/\/storage.googleapis.com\/whoapi-storage\/screenshots\/tmpfykDFs6j4V8UTaatHI.png","thumbnail":"http:\/\/storage.googleapis.com\/whoapi-storage\/screenshots\/rX2iU1g-CP75eyNTVVjTS.png","expires":"2021-09-10 10:24 GMT","size":"1366x768","full_size_https":"https:\/\/storage.googleapis.com\/whoapi-storage\/screenshots\/tmpfykDFs6j4V8UTaatHI.png","thumbnail_https":"https:\/\/storage.googleapis.com\/whoapi-storage\/screenshots\/rX2iU1g-CP75eyNTVVjTS.png","requests_available":471,"status_desc":"Successfully processed"}

As you can see, we still have a long way to go, because this is not very useful to us. We want to be able to display a website screenshot inside of our application. So how do we get there? In the JSON response code you see above, there’s a URL. That’s where the website screenshot is stored.

https://storage.googleapis.com/whoapi-storage/screenshots/tmpfykDFs6j4V8UTaatHI.png

We can either load the image from there (until the date of expiry), or we can store the image locally, and then load it from our local database. This will largely depend on what your application does, and how often do the website screenshots have to be updated.

In webmaster.ninja case, we want the user to have a fresh screenshot as often as possible. That way, the website investor can quickly see something suspicious without opening the website.

How to use a screenshot API
How to use a screenshot API

How to create website screenshots using Screenshot API

Our background service among other tasks makes the request to WhoAPI Screenshot API. The code is in PHP language. We use the following request parameters when generating domain thumbnails:

$screenshot_result = request_whoapi(
    // Url for the screenshot is the main page of the domain
    $domain_name,
    // API type is Screenshot
    'r=screenshot'
        // We need thumbnail only (we do not need the full page with scroll)
        .'&process=thumb'
        // We will wait additional 3 seconds after the document is loaded,
        // this will ensure that all the website animations are started.
        .'&delay=3000'
        // We need a big thumbnail with size of 582*330 pixels
        .'&thumbwidth=582'
        .'&thumbheight=330'
        // Let's use second popular resolution (according StatCounter Worlwide stats),
        // it is small enough to see all the website details in a thumbnail
        .'&resolution=1366x768'
)

The request_function used in the example above looks like this:

/**
* Make request to WhoAPI API
* 
* @param string Domain name
* @param string Request parameters
* @return array API reply
*/
function inner_request_api($domain_name, $request) {
    /*
        Make the request using cURL library
    */
    {
        $url = "https://api.whoapi.com/"
            ."?domain=".$domain_name
            ."&".$request
            ."&apikey=".API_KEY;
        
        $ch = curl_init($url);

        // We need the result
        curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);

        // We need to fail on any HTTP error
        curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_FAILONERROR, true);
        
        // Execute the request and get the results
        $response = curl_exec($ch);

        // Get error (if any)
        $error = curl_error($ch);

        // Close the cURL handle
        curl_close($ch);
    }
    
    /*
        Validate the result
    */
    {
        // cURL returned HTTP-error? This is fatal. We can't continue.
        if (!empty($error)) {
            throw new APIException('Request failed, HTTP error: '.$error);
        }
        
        // API returned empty result? Something is wrong. We can't continue.
        if (empty($response)) {
            throw new APIException('Request failed, empty reply');
        }

        // Convert JSON string into PHP Array
        $json = json_decode($response, true);

        // Validate, is the JSON correct?
        if (empty($json)
            || !is_array($json)
            || !isset($json['status'])
        ) {
            throw new APIException('Request failed, reply format is invalid:'."\n".$response);
        }
        
        // API returned invalid processing status? This is fatal. We can't continue.
        if ((int)$json['status'] !== 0) {
            throw new APIException('Request failed, invalid status:'."\n".var_export($json, true));
        }
    }
    
    // Return the resulting Array for the further processing and storing
    return $json;
}

Additional explanation of the code

In brief, what this code does: it requests the API, checks the HTTP code of the reply, checks the reply contents, decodes the JSON string into an array, validates the processing status returned by the API, and passes the decoded result for further processing.

In Webmaster.Ninja we do not download the resulting thumbnails, we just use the direct links to images provided by API. This is possible because the WhoAPI stores images for 30 days and we update the thumbnails much frequently and the thumbnails will not expire. Also WhoAPI uses Google services for providing images, the output speed is very fast for any client location. This is very convenient for us and no additional work is required. We just make a request to the API, validate the result and store the thumbnail URL in our database.

How to get more sign ups on your website [12 tips for 2021]

Conversion rate optimization is another task that never ends and requires your full attention. Having a 1% conversion rate, instead of 0.5% could potentially make a huge difference in your business. CRO includes testing your titles, images, call to action and more!

Read more

Domain Magnate launches a new fund for content businesses

Michael Bereslavsky is the founder and CEO of Domain Magnate. He’s been involved in various internet-based businesses since 2004 and quickly graduated from building, promoting, and monetizing websites to buying and selling them. With over a decade of experience, Michael and Domain Magnate has managed 300+ successful deals.

Michael, thank you for doing this interview with me. Although I’ve mentioned you already on some of our earlier articles I can’t believe we haven’t done an interview! Totally my fault, and I hope to amend this failure today.

Let’s just get straight into it!

Q: You are a popular face on Flippa, so I think we don’t need a long introduction, but can you share briefly how you made your first $1000 online? 

A: Sure, I started back in 2004-2005 with building an affiliate website about how to make money online, which is what I was I learning about at the time. I wrote articles about different opportunities and monetized them through affiliate links and google ads. I think it took me about 4-5 months to get my first $1K online.

Q: If I am not mistaken, you were first trading domain names, and then made the transition to buying and selling websites. Can you explain how you made that transition? Did you find it beneficial to know more about domain names when you started trading websites?

Michael Bereslavsky is the founder and CEO of Domain Magnate.

A: I first started by building websites and then got into domain trading shortly after. There were periods when I was focusing more on domain trading around 2007-2008, when the domaining market was going up rapidly, so there was a lot of opportunity for profits by trading domains. However, around 2008-2009 the trends in domaining reversed, and prices plummeted, so I sold part of my portfolio and focused back on building, growing and buying websites. I found the skills are transferable, however, websites provided more opportunities and higher margins, while the market was still in its infancy. 

Q: How long have you been buying and selling? During that time, have you found any patterns that keep repeating over the years? For example trends with multiples, Google updates or any other trends that are making an impact on our industry?

A: It’s been over 15 years in the space for me now. There are several major trends in the industry, including growth, expansion, integration and consolidation, and the other for increasing multiples. Back in 2005-2010, you could have acquired content websites for less than 10 times the monthly earnings, while now it’s around 30-45 times. The market has grown and matured tremendously in the past decade and a half. All the marketplaces and brokerage companies didn’t exist back then, in 2005 all the deals were done via forums or privately.

In the past years the market for content websites has turned from a buyer to a seller market, whereby there are so many more buyers, than sellers, the prices keep rising and the marketplaces are full of low quality websites for sale due to high demand. 

The market is also very imbalanced, as most buyers lack the experience and expertise to understand how to measure risks posed by google updates, or amazon associates commission changes and similar risks. 

I expect in next few years, as buyers become more experienced and educated, the prices will normalize, with a large gap between lower and higher quality assets. Currently we are seeing low quality, newly built websites often selling for very similar multiples to well established, lower risk content businesses. 

Q: Yes, this is the thing that confuses me a lot, and I think it’s an advantage for more experienced investors. How in the world can a 2 year website have the same multiple as a 10 year old website? Actually, let me ask a better question; how do you find deals like that? On your website, you mention you do a lot of deals privately before they reach the marketplace? What’s your secret sauce?

A: The biggest risk to content sites is Google algorithm updates, and there is a lack of understanding among new buyers and investors on how this works. On our side we try to educate our investors and explain the risks with new sites, using aggressive SEO techniques. New buyers often make their choices based on the site’s niche, domain, or design, or operational requirements, without the proper risk analysis.

Over the years we’ve done a lot of deals, so we are known in the industry, we also run a popular podcast, network with business owners, and do outreach to find leads. Part of our team is involved in reviewing and looking for leads of businesses to buy. Here we can leverage our reputation and scale to get a solid private dealflow and that’s been one of our primary objectives and advantages all along. I firmly believe that more than 50% of your success in acquiring an online business is about getting a good deal. A good deal is not necessarily cheaper (although private deals are often below market prices), but it’s about the combination of limited risks, great growth opportunities and solid numbers. 

Q: On your website you published that “in the past 16 years you’ve acquired, operated and sold hundreds of websites and online businesses, with consistently high returns.” When you are buying websites, what are the top 3 things you look for?

A: Our diligence focuses on numbers, risks and opportunities, and we iterate upon those 3 when going deeper as we consider a deal further. Initially we review the revenue and traffic numbers and trends, assess main risks and opportunities for quick improvements. In further steps of our due diligence we look further into verifying numbers, analyzing trends and reviewing long term growth potential, and, most of all, looking further into risk analysis. Of all three I believe risk is the main factor to consider, and it’s unfortunately the one that’s most often overlooked or misunderstood.

Q: All right, in my opinion, you struck the nerve here. Let’s talk about risk-reward. When you are buying a website, do you get excited if you see a potential of 10X profits, or if the website has “guaranteed” same returns? (Explain why) 

A: For us it often depends on the investor’s or Fund’s objective, since we had investors who wanted to go for massive growth opportunities, and others who preferred lower risks. However, for me personally, and for our upcoming fund, the perfect deals are established businesses, with multiple sources of traffic and revenue, limited risks, and reasonable growth potential. 

Additionally, with a fund we take more of a portfolio approach, so out of 5-10 deals we may buy 1 or 2 which are 10x potential and higher risk, but we’d make sure the rest are “safe and steady” deals. 

The reason for low risk bias is based on the current market situation and analysis, I talk more about in episode 5 and 8 of our podcast. It’s also contrarian to the common approach among most buyers, who look for unlimited growth in high competition areas, while we prefer steady, boring websites about pets, or knitting and similar evergreen, long term niches.

Q: When you operating from websites about marijuana through technical SAAS websites to women’s health, you must learn a lot about everything on a personal level? Also, would you say that having a great team that can work in any niche is an advantage over other website investors?

A: We are generally niche agnostic, we have some criteria and preferences, but we focus more on the deal parameters, and risks and growth opportunities. We have an experienced management and tech team, and a network of writers, so we can generally cover most topics. As we develop more niche specific expertise, we are also developing more advantages in those spaces by having better affiliate relationships, higher CPA rates, direct advertisers, and more growth opportunities.

Q: As a fund, is that how you try to mitigate risk? 

A: Yes, absolutely, we’ll hunt for good deals, acquire solid businesses, with growth and improvement opportunities. Most 6-7 figure online businesses are mismanaged, with many unnecessary expenses, so the fastest and easiest way to increase profit is generally by reducing expenses, that’s what we often focus on first. 

Q: After your initial success with brokering and managing websites, what was your next step? Was it then you had an idea to do a private fund?

A: It took me a long time to accept that we need to start accepting investors and work with outside capital to grow further. We’ve only started working with investors in early 2019, after we had to let go several extremely attractive deals, due to not being able to get enough capital in time. We started with only one investor, and then he brought in several more who wanted to join, and it organically evolved into a fund

Q: Why is investing in a fund a good idea, and what can investors expect? Since the fund is only available to accredited investors with a minimum investment of above $120k, did you want to attract only a certain amount and type of investors?

A: There are several main reasons to invest via a fund, first the diversification, as we plan to acquire 5-10 businesses with the upcoming fund, so that will allow us to build a diverse portfolio to reduce risks associated with focusing on one business only. Secondly, this allows us to target bigger businesses in the range of mid 6 to low 7 figures, where I believe the best deals are currently. This is the ideal range for us, because it’s above the reach of most individual investors and small groups, and also below the target range of larger funds, PE firm and public companies. 

The downside of investing via a fund is that investors will not have control over what assets gets acquired, and then and how they get sold, compared to our individual buying services, where investors can review deals and choose what they like and also decide on the timeline for resale.

Q: I see, so you have several different options investors can take? What’s the main difference between “fund” and “buy manage” option? Would you say that the fund is for those who would like to diversify better, and “buy manage” is for investors who are interested in better upside with greater risk attached to it?

A: Good question, and indeed the fund is for longer term passive investors, looking for diversification, while buy-manage is intended for investors looking to own businesses directly, and have more impact on growth, operations and resale decisions, as well as a faster turn around. We find that investors with more experience in online business, who have specific preferences regarding the business they want to own, often go for the buy-manage option. We also had investors who started with one deal via buy-manage, and then gradually built a small private portfolio with our help.

Q: With your first fund you had some success, can you share what lead to that success?

A: With this fund we were mainly targeting content websites in mid 5 figure ranges, with average deal size of about $60K. The fund had a shorter term objective, so the sites acquired posed higher risk, and were acquired at lower multiples. We were able to grow many of the sites and resell at higher amounts.

Q: Is there anything specific you want to share about your latest fund? Official launch is on April 25th, anything else?

A: We invite investors to visit the official fund website on domainmagnatecapital.com for full details. With this fund we are targeting investors who run or operate successful internet businesses, so they understand the industry and the risks involved. This fund is going to be our main focus for some time, and builds upon our prior success, so I’m really excited about launching it and allowing a larger audience of investors to join us!

Q: In your presentation you explained that 65% of profit is shared with investors in quarterly returns. First of all, I highly recommend anyone interested, to watch that entire presentation, but just as a hook to entice people to watch the video, can you further explain how the returns are paid, and how does that look in practice?

We’ll pay quarterly returns and distribute 65% of profits to investors. We’ll also distribute profits from resale of businesses, as soon as they are sold, in the next quarterly payout. 

Also, as a disclaimer, I’d like to remind the readers that investment in online businesses carries high risk, and past returns shouldn’t be considered a guarantee of future profits. 

Scared of the Google June update and Core Web Vitals?

Don’t be. Read on, and I will share a solution that I think may be the answer to our prayers.

As a website investor whose portfolio gets most of the traffic from Google, updates are always like going through an intersection without looking left and right at the same time. This time, however, I got a heads up. There’s a company that promises to check your website, your Core Web Vitals, and get them in order before the June update. Originally, it was scheduled for May, but it was postponed on April 19th, for mid-June).

It does that by sorting out your caching, database optimization, plugin optimization, image optimization, and code cleanup. They don’t just take care of your Core Web Vitals for Google, they promise to speed up your website. And now the best part, if they don’t succeed, they give you your money back.

Is website speed really that important?

First of all, we already wrote about the importance of website speed. Second, Core Web Vitals is not just about speed! Google is taking it one step further with this June update. They say if Core Web Vitals are not in order, your website could suffer a downgrade in the SERP! This is definitely one of those “Didn’t you get the memo?” situations.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Instead of providing my own explanation of what are Core Web Vitals, I’ll just share what Google published on the topic. After all, they are the ones that came up with the term in the first place. So, in order to avoid any misrepresentation, here’s what Google published on their website:

Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals that apply to all web pages, should be measured by all site owners, and will be surfaced across all Google tools. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome.

The metrics that make up Core Web Vitals will evolve over time. The current set for 2020 focuses on three aspects of the user experience—loadinginteractivity, and visual stability—and includes the following metrics (and their respective thresholds):

Source: https://web.dev/vitals/
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

I understand you could have just (or maybe you already did) read this on Google’s website, so let’s move on.

This June, “coming to a theater near you”

Well, not exactly a theater, but I suspect it’s going to be very interesting to see how some websites move up or down after this Google Update. I suspect for some it’s going to be a thriller / horror type of a situation, while some may find their way laughing out of this update.

I don’t know about you, but I like comedy much more than horror. So why not get your website in order? And come prepared for the storm that’s coming? Originally, I wrote May the fourth be with you, during this update, but Google took that away from me by postponing the update for June. Since “the force” can’t be with us on June, who can help us?

Now what?

In case you are like me, and you don’t like to get your hands dirty. If you have no idea about the LCP, FID and CLS… And your website does not score well on the Core Web Vitals test, I have a solution for you.

Speedy.Site just launched, and after the first initial clients they have several very promising “before and after” examples. Not only that, I was one of the first test subjects with one of my websites. Now naturally, I take care of my websites, so it wasn’t a big break change. But, even with that, there was a nice upgrade, and it was registered with the Lighthouse check. If you need a reminder on what is Lighthouse, and Google PageSpeed Insights read this article.

Before and after

Photos are always worth a thousand words. Now mind you, I am showing here the before photos I personally took (yeah, I am skeptical), but the Speedy.site team will take before and after photos as well, and will deliver them to your inbox after the job is complete.

As well as an event log of the work they have done. Now before you go running away, don’t worry, they will backup the website before they make any changes. And also, I would recommend that you have some sort of backup running always anyway. It’s basics 101.

Below you can see, I took 3 separate screenshots, just to be sure it’s not an accident. The score was around 70 for desktop, and 30 for mobile. It’s not that bad, but obviously, there’s room for improvement. One more time, just to be clear, all these screenshots below are the “before” ratings. On the left for desktop, on the right for mobile.

Before the speedy.site optimization

On the left are desktop ratings, on the right are mobile ratings

After the speedy.site optimization

Now let’s look at the PageSpeed Insights numbers after the completed work. Again, there’s no work involved on your end. Just make the order on their website, and provide login details to your WordPress website.

Important thing to note when you are making these checks. You will not get the same rating if you are checking with or without WWW, and if you are checking HTTP or HTTPS. We all now the benefits of having an SSL, but having an SSL will slow down the website by miliseconds. And then if you check HTTP version, you have one more redirect, the one from HTTP to HTTPS.

So, without further ado, here are the after screenshots.

On the left are desktop ratings, on the right are mobile ratings, after the speedy site optimization

Few things to go through here.

  1. The website was not that bad, after all, it’s my website and you could say I have a little bit of experience with building websites.
  2. Sometimes the websites can’t be further optimized without changing the theme. For example, if you have a slider that’s heavy like mine, it will take a shot at your ratings, especially the more sensitive mobile version
  3. As you can see, the numbers are different each time, even though these three tests were performed during the course of around 15 minutes. (Taking the test, saving the website screenshot, switch to mobile, take the second screenshot, repeat 3 times)
  4. We see a 30%-40% improvement from “70” highest to “90” lowest, “67” lowest to “94” highest on the desktop version, and 70%-105% improvement from “34” highest to “57” lowest, “30” lowest to “61” highest on mobile version.
  5. At one comparison we have a massive 105% improvement from score 30 to score 61 on mobile.

In case you want to test the website yourself, or just load it on your computer or mobile, you can see the domain name in the screenshots above. Also, the website we were working on is for sale. So there you have it, if you buy this website you just got a free upgrade that’s worth…. How much is this massive improvement worth?

How much does this optimization cost?

Price is a one-time payment of $299. However, since you read the entire article, I’ll presume you really need to improve the numbers on your website. So, if you use the promo code below, three things will happen.

  1. You will get a 50$ discount (enter the promo code WEBMASTER50), so your optimization will cost you $249
  2. You will get 6 months of webmaster.ninja red belt package (value $114), just email webmaster.ninja support with proof of payment
  3. I will get a 25% commission on the $249 sale (full affiliate disclosure)

Order Speedy.Site here! And don’t forget to enter the promo code WEBMASTER50

The “Berkshire Hathaway” model of website investing

Recently over LinkedIn I found out that a company called Onfolio is doing a public offering. I’ve decided to reach out to their CEO Dominic Wells, and ask about their interesting business model.

As you will see in the interview, Dominic is making a full circle with this business venture. He started out years ago when he built a website making money from affiliate commissions. Then he sold websites that were built to make money from affiliate commissions. Also known as starter sites, or turnkey websites.

From starter sites to a holding company

After a successful spell with Human Proof Designs and selling turnkey websites, Dominic turned to the next logical step. Building Onfolio and managing websites for other website investors. This means you could have bought a website from any of the available platforms, and then let Dominic’s team handle it for you.

However, this leads to one of the risks with website investing. Sooner or later, anyone can hit a dud! It happened to me as well. In this article, I wrote how I once bought a website for $6375 and proceeded to invest $3800 into various marketing activities for that website. This website is now making a whopping $10 per month! Good thing I bought several other websites.

Diversification for website investors

Where my personal strategy is to handle several small websites and handle them with the help of webmaster.ninja software, Onfolio’s strategy is handling several big websites. And that’s another reason why I was super excited to do this interview!

Onfolio’s offer is essentially this. Gives us the money, and we will pay you quarterly dividends. This sound perfect, but as you will see from the interview, we also talk about a company that tried a very similar path that ended in disaster. Last year this company ended up in bankruptcy with owners facing jail time.

As always, business and life is a mixture of opportunity mixed with difficulty. It depends on what stage of career you are in, what you are looking for, and what you are capable of. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Interview with Dominic Wells

Thank you for doing this interview Dominic, hopefully, we can show everybody several opportunities that are available in our industry of website investing, management, and so on. You certainly tried and succeeded in several, so let’s start at the beginning.

Q: How did you make your first $1000 online?

Dominic Wells: I had made a few hundred dollars from various affiliate websites, but the first $1,000 came when I sold a small website on Flippa for exactly $1,000. It wasn’t making a lot of money, but it had 1,000 visitors per day, so I listed it on the off-chance somebody else would see the potential to monetize that traffic, and they did.

Q: At what point did you decide to commit seriously to doing this?

Dominic Wells: I was pretty committed from the beginning, but I think the first time I made $500 in a month, which was about 6 months in,  was the first time I realized I could make a go of it. I think I said something along the lines of, “If I can make $500, I can make $1,000, and if I can make $1,000, I can make $10,000”.

Q: How has that grown into Human Proof Designs and can you tell us more about HPD?

Dominic Wells: HPD actually grew out of that first Flippa sale. After selling that site for $1,000, I wanted to do it again! So I spent a lot of time on Flippa trying to look for opportunities. One thing I noticed was a lot of people were buying low-quality “starter sites” that were effectively garbage. I realized that there was clearly demand for starter sites, and I should sell quality ones to compete with the garbage/scams that were already there.

Of course, it was hard for me to really demonstrate why my sites were better, when I was competing with people who were straight up lying. Instead, I started blogging at HumanProofDesigns.com so I could teach people the value of my sites and how to do internet marketing.

Over time, I grew HPD into a business offering many “done for you” services, such as done for you starter websites, articles, seo, some graphic design, some link building, and everything beginners would need to get their starter sites off the ground.

Q: How has that evolved into Onfolio?

Dominic Wells: After I grew HPD as far as I thought I could, I started looking for other opportunities, and I noticed my HPD audience were interested in buying bigger businesses that were already profitable. Some of them had a decent amount of money to invest, and they wanted my help to buy a business and run it for them.

This was actually something I’d considered offering as far back as 2016, but I had wanted to build more credibility first.

So I launched the service as a standalone brand via Onfolio.co as I felt the two businesses were similar, but needed to have different marketing and different styles of content. I also wanted to sell HPD, which I did in 2019, so I could focus solely on Onfolio. I felt I had grown and I was holding HPD back, and it was holding me back. By selling, both brands would thrive (which they did).

Onfolio started in 2019 and grew quickly, as more and more people realized what we were offering was something they’d been looking for for some time, and I already had credibility.

At Onfolio, we would work with individuals to help them find, vet, buy, and then operate an online business. Initially, if somebody had $50,000 USD or more, we would work with them, but that minimum soon increased to $100,000.

We had a good track record, and the vast majority of sites we operated performed well.

However, and I’ll go into this more in the next question, we wanted to be able to protect everybody from the downside, which we couldn’t do if we working with everyone as an individual.

Q: Why did you decide to do a fundraising event?

Dominic Wells: As I evolved Onfolio, I wanted to find a way for all our investors to share the same pie. That way, if one website underperformed, it would be offset by the gains from the other websites. Essentially, I wanted to find a way of eliminating the risk of this asset class, without destroying the benefits in the process.

I first looked at raising a fund, because that’s what everyone else in the space is doing and is the natural first port of call. 

However, a fund didn’t really match up with my worldview on the opportunity in the space. I wanted more of a permanent capital structure, without being forced to sell assets after a few years. I also wanted to be more aligned with investors and not have a hurdle or “2 and 20” management fee structure. Finally, I wanted investors to be liquid, which you can’t have in a fund.

This led me to consider a holding company, and taking it public, which would give all of the above. It would also allow us to raise significantly more capital and build a significantly higher valuation into the company, which would benefit both us, and investors. 

However, some investors still wanted cashflow, so as well as raising non-cash flowing equity, we also launched a preferred shares offering, which comes with a 12% dividend. This is a very attractive investment (12% is very high compared to other asset classes), but would allow us to buy all the businesses we needed. It would also take the downside away from investors, as their 12% wasn’t based on the specific performance of individual websites.

Q: Based on the Q&A video you recorded in December 2020, which you sent to potential investors, you disclosed that the minimum entry for non-US investors is $5000. And that the investors from the US had to be accredited investors. I would encourage anyone who is interested, to watch that video.

Based on that information, can we go through a typical scenario of how things might unfold in an ideal scenario? Let’s round it up, and say if someone would invest $10,000. They can expect a 12% annual return, paid quarterly? Does this mean $1200 would be paid in four $300 payments at the end of the quarter? Essentially, the investor could potentially expect to get the investment back in 8.333 years? From then, they would keep receiving the payments (12% annual return, paid quarterly) in perpetuity? But also, you do not guarantee that the payments will be made each quarter, and will disclose financials that explain why this might have occurred? In your own words, can you confirm this scenario from start to finish?

Dominic Wells: Yeah we’d pay 3% per quarter, so in that example you are correct. If someone is outside the US, there are withholding tax requirements depending on the country as well. Usually around 15%, so we might have to withhold $45 and pay the investor $255, but of course taxes can’t be avoided.

After five years, we have the right, but not obligation, to buy back the shares at the same $25 share price, so investors would most likely get their money back sooner. Why five years? From our perspective, we don’t want to be paying 12% into perpetuity, and will likely have access to cheaper capital by then, but at the same time, we don’t want investors worrying we’re going to buy their shares back as soon as we get cheaper capital, so we are promising not to buy them back for the first 5 years. 

That said, investors can also sell their shares to somebody else, either privately, or once the shares are listed on an exchange, so they can most likely get their money back sooner if they wish. We can’t guarantee that the payments will be made, but we’re confident that our profits and cashflow will be more than enough to make timely payments. 

It’s the nature of a preferred share that issuers have the option to defer payments until a later quarter if they hit a rough patch. This is not an ideal situation, but it’s actually a good thing. If we issued a bond for example, and then hit a rough patch, we wouldn’t have the option to defer payments, which could cause insolvency. Preferred shares give companies the flexibility to survive a worst case scenario. 

To emphasise though, I find it very unlikely that we’ll miss a payment, it’s just important to disclose the “what if” scenarios.

Q: Also in the video I mentioned in the question above, you talked about risk that’s involved in buying websites. Google updates, Amazon program changes. Instead of repeating the answer from the video here, can you share how you see the risk from an investor’s standpoint? Can you compare it to investing in other assets like stocks, real estate, cryptocurrency or in someone’s website portfolio? For example, buying a website at 40X, and getting a 30% annual return with some work involved with managing a website and risks with various industry updates.

Dominic Wells: Any single website’s revenue can drop by a significant amount without the operator being able to do anything about it. To assume this isn’t the case is suicide. As such, the best way to mitigate this is to diversify. 

In fact it’s really the only way to avoid losing money. Having your own portfolio is great, but you’ll either need to be a master operator with no time for anything else, or you’ll eat into your returns by hiring a team to help you. 

Either way, 30% is unlikely without substantial risk. On a long enough timeline, the penalty for risk is loss of capital.

With our offering, we make sure to protect the downside, while still giving better returns than you’d earn elsewhere for similar risk.

I try to avoid comparing it to stocks, real estate or cryptocurrency, because a lot of them aren’t cashflowing. Real estate is cashflowing of course, and many people make comparisons between websites and real estate (I even did so here), but it’s still not an easy answer, because real estate has things like leverage that can increase the yields.

Q: Speaking of risks in this space, not so long ago there was a ponzi scheme where returns were primarily funded by paying early investors with money raised from later investors until the Ponzi scheme became “unsustainable”. In the end, Income Store investors lost more than $100 million. What assurance do investors have that the same won’t happen with Onfolio? 

Dominic Wells: I don’t think Income Store started out with the intent of being a Ponzi scheme, I think they just ran into issues because of their guaranteed 15% returns, and then they started acting in Ponzi-like fashion, robbing Peter to pay Paul. 

We’re obviously different in a few key ways. The first is since we don’t guarantee our dividend, as talked about above, we aren’t going to run into that issue. The second is that we’re going to have audited financials and will be an SEC reporting issuer, in other words we’ll be a public company. 

We’re also better at executing our plan and won’t run into cash flow issues, but people shouldn’t have to rely on our promise of being good at what we do, because the audited financials and SEC filings will be all the assurance people need.

Q: In your Industry Report Choosing the Best Online Business Investment Vehicle — The Risks and Rewards of 5 Online Investment Models you talk about the 5 different investment models. Do you think it makes sense for a website investor who handles his own portfolio to also invest in a company that grows a bigger portfolio? Why yes or why not?

Dominic Wells: It really depends. Some investors may not want to invest in our shares, whether common or preferred, because they’re capable of getting higher returns by managing their own websites. That said, if an investor buys a website for $100k and triples the website’s income (which isn’t easy to do), the website will be worth $300k. 

In Onfolio common shares, $100k could become with $1,000,000 in a similar time period, simply because we’re buying more and more businesses and that is translating to a higher share price over time. Not only that, but we’ll probably be trading at 10x annual profit as a public company, so that $100,000 business will be worth more than $300,000 in our hands, without even tripling it.

Why would a website investor not want those returns? It all comes down to whether or not they believe we can execute our business plan.

Q: Who should ideally invest in such an investment model?

Dominic Wells: Anybody who is able to understand the investment and has the capital on hand to invest. 

Q: In the Onfolio Holdings deck, you posted your historical results from 2019, and 2020. You essentially 7,5 X-ed your profits from $18k to $135k. Can you share a little bit what has been the major factor in such outstanding growth?

Onfolio Holdings Deck Preferred Shares Historical results Nov/23/2020

Dominic Wells: The majority of our growth from 2019 to 2020 came from word of mouth as people learned about our services. We grew the assets under management considerably, and as we took on more websites and started growing them, we naturally grew our profit.

Q: When you are looking to buy a website what are your top 3 priorities?

Dominic Wells: 1. Don’t buy a business that will die later. 2. Don’t buy a business that will die later. 3. Then worry about growth.

Q: In several articles you published, you are making the connection between Onfolio and Berkshire Hathaway. Would you then agree that it is far better to buy a wonderful website at a fair price than a fair website at a wonderful price?

Dominic Wells: Yes, if you’ve listened to me on any podcast interview, I say this almost every single time. People worry too much about the price they pay for a business, rather than what they get for their money. Multiples and valuations are relative. Some of the best purchases we’ve made came from businesses where we paid above average.

Q: When you are growing your website, what are the first 3 things you do?

Dominic Wells: A lot of the work we do is done before we even have the keys to the castle. We analyze opportunities and things that need fixing during the due diligence stage. What those things are will differ per business, but it usually involves a thorough SEO audit, a user engagement audit, and then usually we build out other channels. Most sellers are only strong in one or two areas, whereas we have multi-channel expertise, and will add something to the business, whether that is email marketing or something else.

Q: In your interview with Authority Magazine you mentioned that people tend to overestimate how much they can achieve in a year, and massively underestimate how much they can achieve in 10 years. Do I sense a little bit of Tony Robbins in there? Are you a fan of personal development and kaizen?

Dominic Wells: I’m not exactly sure where I first heard that quote, but it stuck with me because it’s so true. I’ve been in online business about 10 years, so it’s quite pertinent. Where I am today compared to 2012 is beyond what I ever expected, but after a year I thought I would’ve been much further along. It’s important to zoom out.

I’m not into personal development per se, but I’m growth-minded, and that means I naturally look for ways to develop myself, regardless of what gurus are saying.

In closing

In the end, I would like to share Dominic’s comment he wrote in one of his articles.

It is too risky in 2021 to just buy one business and run it, unless you are highly experienced in both the business’ industry, internet marketing in general, and diversifying revenue and traffic. You either have to buy an ensemble of smaller businesses, which require a team that they can’t afford to pay, or you have to spend a significant sum of money buying larger businesses so that you can afford to hire a team to run them.

Dominic Wells

If you are wondering where do I fit, I am the guy with an ensemble of small websites which require a team that I can’t afford to pay. There’s certainly truth in that, which is why I am considering investing in Onfolio. Then again, that’s just a nicer way of saying, for full disclosure, that I don’t own any shares in Onfolio. With that, I would like to congratulate Dominic on paying the first dividend back on 31st March, and wish him the best of luck with Onfolio!

How to save thousands of dollars while buying a website

As we all know, there are two most important rules when it comes to investing. The first rule is, don’t waste money. The second rule is to look at the first rule. Therefore, when you start buying and selling websites, the worst thing you could do is to overpay for a website. Due diligence is a critical process.

In this article I am not going to share a complete due diligence process. I will show you just the first step that often kicks a deal out of my radar.

Today I’ve decided to write about SEMrush for several specific reasons. I won’t go into details of how SEMrush can help grow your website, which it certainly can, as it is the main reason to use this tool. Therefore, it will be covered in a separate article. Today I am going to show you how I use SEMrush when I am buying a website for passive income.

Why now?

I was going to write this article at some point in time, but the last couple of weeks have prepared the terrain for perfect timing. One is concerning SEMrush itself, and the other is a perfect use case that appeared in the marketplace, that I decided to piggyback on. The third reason is that I am on a writing spree, so I have the fuel to type out another 2000 words.

SEMrush is now a public company

Not that this news has any immediate impact on you as a SEMrush user today, but it is definitely newsworthy! SEMrush raised a total of $140 million dollars which will enable them to further grow the platform. They raised the money in an IPO, so you can buy SEMrush shares, just like those of Apple, Google or Amazon.

So, if you want to own a piece of SEMrush, now is your chance! And now, onto reason number two, why I decided to post this article now.

Buying a website that is tanking

If you are a part of the Niche Pursuits Facebook group, you probably read Spencer Haws‘ take on a particular website that is being sold on Flippa. But if you haven’t, lets rewind.

As an intelligent website investor, you want to be everywhere where you can spot a good deal to buy a website and grow your passive income. One of those places are various Facebook groups (check my list here). In one of those groups, there was an interesting scenario forming. Spencer Haws predicted correctly that one website (during its meteoric rise) will crash and burn at some point, and get penalized.

Barely a week has passed, and that website did get penalized. It was built using an expired domain, and using other… practices. I don’t have time to analyze what exactly was done with the website because it is outside of the scope of this article. I just want to show you that these trends are easy to spot.

Spotting a website with suspicious metrics

Another reason why I won’t go into the details of what exactly happened is to show you that even if you don’t know anything about on-page SEO or search traffic, you will still be able to spot suspicious behavior from a “website investor standpoint”!

So, let’s put things further into context. Let’s say you are interested in buying a website, and you find one website that you like, on one of the marketplaces where you can buy and sell websites for passive income. You go to SEMrush.com and you type the domain name of the website you are interested in.

Up and down = stay away

If you go to “Organic Research” in the main menu, and the graph looks like the one above, you don’t buy the website. Simple as that. If you can get it for pennies on the dollar, and know exactly what to do, then maybe you should still buy it. But in case you are just starting out, you want to stay away. Especially if the starting price for that website is $40,000, as you will find out later in this article.

Pump and dump

The problem with this particular website, as Spencer pointed out in his Facebook group Niche Pursuits, was that the owner of the website put it for sale once the website caught a negative trend. We now know that the website was penalized, but I’ll pretend I don’t know.

So, the website was put up for sale on Flippa with starting price $40,000, and the graph there looks like this:

Shady website for sale on Flippa

The graph looks amazing, and nothing short of spectacular. Let’s try to analyze this listing without any SEO or website investing knowledge. I’ll quickly list several points, and then I’ll go into detail on each one.

  1. Site age
  2. Astronomical growth
  3. Small multiple
  4. Too good to be true test
  5. Fellow website investor test

Site age

As you can see, the website age is 7 months, and the graph has 4 months of historical data. If you don’t understand 100% how this growth was achieved, do not buy the website. 7 months is not long enough for anything. Again, let’s pretend we don’t know the site was penalised (and we don’t even know what penalised means). If you see this graph, can you be sure the website is a seasonal one, or on a growth trajectory?

How solid is the guarantee that the website will continue to produce great revenue 30 or 40 months from now? At this point, you don’t even have to read the ad and what the seller wrote. No one would be selling a website with legitimate growth like this in after 7 months (4 months of growth).

Astronomical growth

OK, I already mentioned growth during the website age part, but let’s double down. I would rather buy a website that has a flat line revenue graph for 12 months, then a growth curve like this one. As an investor, you are looking at the risk-reward. In this particular scenario, you are risking at least $40,000. That’s the starting price. I wrote about buying a website in an auction, so you know that this price could go up.

Sometimes scammers will create duplicate accounts, or team up, and then build the price up. While you are thinking, “I am buying a great website because somebody else wants it”, think again! Astronomical growth is an opportunity, but it is also a risk. Is it legitimate growth? If so, can you handle the growth?

Buying websites with small multiples

Like the first two, if you see a small multiple the red flag goes up! In 2021 websites are being sold at around 30X profits. Now this is not the gold standard, and we can’t generalize, but if you see an 8X, or 12X then be prepared to walk away from the deal.

Multiples are just one piece of the puzzle. If you used a website valuation tool for beginners, and it showed you a reasonable multiple, it will not show you the dangers and pitfalls of this website.

Too good to be true test

And then there’s the good old-fashioned “too good to be true”. If you think you are the one rare lucky person who spotted this deal in the entire marketplace, I hate to be the guy who breaks it to you.

Let’s take Flippa for example since the website above was listed there. Flippa has over 300.000+ registered buyers. To think that your first of second website purchase is this diamond in the rough… Don’t be naive like I was in my first website purchase. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.

Fellow website investor test

Here’s another thing you can do. If you have fallen head over heels in love with this website, do what I do. Call a website investor buddy, and tell them about the deal. Tell them you are concerned about these 2 or 3 red flags, and asked them what they think. Sometimes website investors think they are like Superman and can go right in, and turn things around.

Sometimes it’s enough to just say it out loud! Has this ever happen to you? You tell an idea to someone, and this was the first time you actually said it out loud. And as soon as it got out there, you yourself realized it was a lousy idea! If that doesn’t do it, and your website investor friend gives you the “red flag”, stay away from this deal. If you don’t have a website investor friend, I’ll act like one until you meet one! Email me, and ask me about the deal you are interested in doing.

Here’s a shout out to my website investor friend Marko, who helped me say no to a bad website deal!

SEMrush analysis for website investors

Let’s get back to the main topic. How else can SEMrush help us. With this particular website that’s on a superb growth trajectory. Let’s see what the experts say:

As you can see by the comments, it’s a perfectly logical assumption. If you see a domain name that has a keyword in one industry, and the website content is in another industry, something is off.

If you don’t know how to evaluate a domain name, there’s an easy fix. You can go through DNAcademy, and in a few days get up to speed with all the nuts and bolts when it comes to domain names. I wasn’t a beginner when I “graduated”, and still I learned a lot and got a ton of value!

DNAcademy

With that being said, you don’t have to be an expert to see a domain name doesn’t really represent the website, or check the Wayback Machine to see what the website looked like in the past.

With a click of a button, you can list all the websites that are linking to the website you want to purchase. So, if the website has a high authority score (like 50) does it have relevant sites pointing to it? A paid version of SEMrush will give you more info, and in a situation like this, it’s better to pay $100 for a tool, then to overpay $1000 for a website!

Besides, if you do upgrade on SEMrush, not only can you use it for due diligence like this, you can also use it to grow your portfolio of websites by finding 20 Billion Keyword Opportunities, All at Your Fingertips! To top it off, you have access to their academy and Semrush Ebooks.

Checking backlinks on SEMrush when buying a website for passive income

When you are buying a website for passive income, you want to check what other websites are linking to it. Dig as deep as you can, and check what websites, pages, and images are linking. What kind of context is around that link? Is it relevant, is it positive or negative? Are these links easy to get, or hard to get? Have these links spawned over a short period of time (like few months in the case above) or a long period of time like few years?

The first thing I look in SEMrush when buying a website

The first page that opens up after you type a domain name in SEMrush will tell you a lot about a website. This particular website doesn’t essentially raise any red flegs (except age, and astronomical growth), but it shows enough concern to look deeper. Realistically, it also shows some positives that you want to see in a website that’s getting traffic from Google.

Checking SEMrush when buying a website
1. Authority score, 2. Organic traffic, 3. Organic Keywords, 4. Top organic keywords

When the first page loads, you want to check the authority score (red box #1). Obviously higher is better, but not a guarantee of a great website. Then you want to look at the graph that shows the assumption of organic traffic. (red box #2). Unlike you, the potential website buyer, SEMrush doesn’t have access to the website’s Google Analytics.

In both (red box #2) and (red box #3) you can see a staggering growth, followed by sudden stagnation. All happening in just 6 months (October 2020 – March 2021). I’ve bought over 50 websites as a website investor, I would never buy a website with this graph. And trust me, I gambled on some websites.

In the (red box #4) you have another interesting dataset. List of keywords for which the website is ranking. This can give you a hint of how the website is getting traffic, and potentially which keywords are bringing in the revenue

I haven’t highlighted the box that covers the number of backlinks and referring domains, which is also useful. But, you have to dive deeper and check what kind of backlinks and domains are linking. Also, you have the Authority Score (red box #1) that’s also indicative of the backlink profile.

SEO tools

Save thousands of dollars with SEMrush

One good piece of information from SEMrush can save you thousands of dollars in making the wrong investment when buying a website. Could someone buy the bad website from above that’s listed on Flippa? Yes. Should we blame Flippa when a single check on SEMrush would reveal the risks involved in this deal? No.

In seller’s defence, maybe they knew they were dumping the site, maybe they just overpriced it. Yes, even with such a small multiple. Receiving no offers certainly backs that hypothesis.

Last thing before we close this topic. Let’s say if you were doing due diligence 3 months ago before the stagnation appeared on SEMrush, when the website was at it’s peak. What could you do then?

Well, the website would be even “younger”, and as we learned that’s a cause for concern. We could also witness the discrepancy between the domain name, backlinks, and the content on the other side. Meteoric rise, combined with a “too good to be true”. So, essentially, you wouldn’t see the “fall of the titan”, but you would still get enough red flags to “call your website investor buddy” to advise you if you should stay away from this deal, or go for it.

Will you check SEMrush when you buy a website?

I know a part of this article sounded like a puff piece, but I honestly use SEMrush on a weekly basis, and especially when buying a website. Flippa knows this, and that’s why they did a partnership with SEMrush, and made it easy to check websites on SEMrush, while browsing Flippa.

Should you monitor website performance?

I am just thinking if there’s a possibility of a movie script where the terrorist threatens to blow up the website if the website speed drops below 3 seconds. Probably not, but in ecommerce it certainly feels like this on some days. There’s a popular Amazon.com research that you probably heard of, and it goes like this; one second could cost Amazon $1.6 billion in sales. Holy macaroni, that’s a lot of zeroes for just 1 second. Internet users certainly got picky when 1 second determines if we stay and purchase, or hit the back button. From this, I conclude we should all monitor website performance, and here’s why.

Joke about Page load speed

There’s a joke I like to tell, and it relates to speed. Two men were walking in the forest, and they encounter a bear. As the bear started racing to them, one of the men quickly limbered up, tied his shoes and got ready to run as fast as he could.

To which the other man almost laughingly asked, certainly you don’t think you can outrun the bear? The other man replied; you are right! I can’t outrun the bear, but I will do my best to outrun you!

You be the judge if this same joke applies to website speed monitoring and page load speed.

Is website speed monitoring important?

I think the joke applies to load speed as well. If your website loads faster than the other, you win the game. It doesn’t have to load impossibly fast, it just has to load fast enough. I don’t want to sound like a slacker, I am a realist and pragmatist. You need to focus on so many stuff (recently I wrote about SSL expiration monitoring and domain expiration monitoring) that you have to choose your battles.

Where do you start? How high website speed monitoring should be on your list of priorities? In my opinion, it’s pretty high!

I love a slow website!

Nobody.

Have you ever heard anyone say they love when it takes forever to load a website? Back in 2005 until 2010 I’ve been building website for clients, and one complaint we often heard was the website is loading too slow. People just don’t like to wait, period!

That’s a dead giveaway you should focus on providing a great experience by having a fast loading website!

How is page load speed measured?

I won’t dive too deep and get to technical in this article (I may do it in the future), so I will provide a simplified version for now. When you access a website on your computer or mobile phone, your device downloads all the files from a server.

These files consist of images and videos (usually the heaviest files you download), text, programer’s code, and other parts. For example, some websites require the computer to download the font in order for the website to appear as it was intended by the designers.

Some time is spent on redirects (HTTP to HTTPS), and naturally, it takes a little time for a little DNS and whois magic to change the domain name like www.webmaster.ninja into an IP address (location of the server) like 206.81.7.80.

It’s also not the same if a website is being loaded in Chicago, USA, and the user’s computer is accessing the website from Florence, Italy.

What is the average website load speed?

According to research conducted by Backlinko, after analyzing over 5.2 million desktop and mobile pages; the average fully loaded website speed is 10.3 seconds on desktop and 27.3 seconds on mobile. So, can you imagine the excitement of your clients if your website loads in 3 seconds or less?

We’ll get into who else is excited when your website loads fast, but for now, let’s see how you can beat the average website load speed.

How to beat the average website load speed?

  1. Monitor website performance
  2. Optimize images and code
  3. Install a plugin
  4. Buy CDN, or at least a web hosting in the country users are accessing the website
  5. Use caching
  6. Reduce the number of website parts that need to load (if on WordPress, reduce the amount of plugins)

We will dive deeper some other time how you can improve website speed, for now let’s stay on topic of website speed monitoring.

Why did I put it on top of the list?

Why monitoring website performance is the first step to a fast website?

You could say that I put “monitor website performance” on top of the list because that’s exactly what we offer. And that is true, we even built a website speed test tool! We really care about speed, but we also have several other tools and monitors.

Here’s the real reason. How can you improve something if you don’t even know where you stand? You first need to do several tests, and then determine if your website loads above average, or below average.

Even better, if you set up constant website load speed monitoring you can check how the website responds over time. This leads to even better decisions on your end.

Website load speed monitoring in action

For example, in webmaster.ninja’s Website Manager, each time you log in, you can see the average homepage load speed. We will cover later the email notifications you get when your website takes a lot of time to load.

Website performance tracking in webmaster.ninja Website Manager

As you can see from the screenshot above, some of my websites are loading in record times. You could say that, like Amazon, I hate a slow website. My mission is to offer the best experience to my users, and website speed is one of them.

How often should webmasters test the website speed?

Well, if they do it manually, probably every day. Or, when they make a major change to their website. The problem is, sometimes the server is not performing as expected and the website slows down without you taking any part in it!

That’s where it’s super convenient to get an email that your page load speed decreased (the website is loading slowly), and you can be the first to react! You don’t want your clients telling you, you have a slow website. Sometimes, they will vote with their wallets and won’t tell you a thing.

Page load speed monitoring notification from Webmaster.Ninja

This page load speed monitoring email notification is another example why starting to track your speed is the first step. When you see for yourself the moment website speed declines, and you see how often this happens, you instantly know if this should top your priority or not!

“What gets measured gets managed.”

Peter Drucker, consultant, educator, and author

Website performance tracking, why it’s a priority?

In case you are not sure if you should even focus on website performance tracking, why not do a few tests, and see how you stand. If you see your website loads slowly (10 seconds) for weeks, then you definitely need to add this to the list of your priorities.

If your website loads in under 3 seconds, you can focus in other areas! There are a lot of key performance indicators you can track in a website and page load speed is just one of them!

Is page load speed monitoring difficult to setup?

Are you kidding me? Setting up load speed monitoring is the easiest thing you will do today. Just add your domain name to our Website Manager, click “add website”, and you are done! It’s a one-click process, you set it and forget it!

In just a few days, you will have a beautiful graph (or not so beautiful if you have a slow website), and you will know if you are in good shape, or you have your work cut out for you.

Webmaster.Ninja speed test tool

If you just want to check your speed from multiple locations, you don’t have to setup a monitoring. You can access our website speed test tool, and do a one time check. It may not have all the bells and whistles other website speed test tools have, but it will do the job and measure the speed accurately.

Test your website speed with a webmaster.ninja tool

Above you can see the webmaster.ninja website speed test tool in action. I tested one website under my account, and I am electrified as the website loads in top speed! With this tool you measure page load speed from multiple locations (3 in EU and 3 in US). If you think we should add 3 locations in Asia as well, please let us know.

Why is page speed important?

In case you need more benefits of a fast loading website, Googe decided to tip the needle for you. Back in 2018 Google announced that page speed is a ranking factor just like having an SSL! This means that if everything else is the same (remember the bear joke from the start of this long article?), a faster website will rank higher on the Google search engine results page.

This makes total sense! Google wants to show its users the fastest possible websites, not some grab-your-coffee-while-the-website-loads, type of a website! We also covered earlier that slow websites make the users close the website, or hit the back button. This action in return increases “the bounce rate” (when a user bounces off of a website) which is a bad signal to Google.

Free website performance monitoring

And now the best part. I explained how page speed is important, how easy it is to set it up. You could also see a glimpse of how complex and difficult it may be to keep tracking website speed over a period of time, from multiple locations in the world. So, you may reach a conclusion that this process could come with a very high cost?

How about, absolutely free? If you have one website, webmaster.ninja provides free website performance monitoring for your website. Actually, that’s not true. As you can tell by the start of the article, I love to make a poor attempt at telling a joke. Here’s how it goes. Free, rhymes with three, so in all seriousness, you can add up to three (3) websites, and track their speed. I promise we make better site speed monitoring tools, then we tell jokes.

If you need to add 4 website, or more, then you need to upgrade.

Page load speed is only a part of something bigger

Just as I left the “it’s free for up to three” announcement last, I have one last important thing to share with you. Page speed is a ranking factor, but Google is taking this to the next level. They want to include user experience in general, as a ranking factor! They are calling this the Core Web Vitals. Here’s what they say:

In the past several months, we’ve seen a median 70% increase in the number of users engaging with Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights, and many site owners using Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report to identify opportunities for improvement. On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, we’re announcing that the page experience signals in ranking will roll out in May 2021. The new page experience signals combine Core Web Vitals with our existing search signals including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

Bringing Page Experience to Google Search

What are Google Lighthouse and Google PageSpeed Insights?

PageSpeed Insights is a free tool built by Google that rates your website with a score, and in the process of doing that, it gives you advice (insights) on how to improve that score. Simplest way to learn more about PageSpeed Insight is to just test the tool by typing in your domain name, and let PSI do the work. It only takes about 30 seconds, depending on the website you are testing.

Sometimes the advice it gives isn’t particularly helpful if you are not a developer. Remove unused CSS, Remove unused JavaScript, Eliminate render-blocking resources, but nonetheless, it gives you a starting point if you set out to do something about website speed and loading time.
You can try Google PageSpeed Insights here.

Google Lighthouse on the other hand is the brain of the operation. Lighthouse is an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. Pagespeed Insights (PSI) uses Lighthouse as its analysis engine.

Checking multiple pages at once

Now that we all agree we should check website page speed, let’s tackle another common problem. We don’t get traffic only to the homepage. Sometimes we have cornerstone content or a highly converting landing page as well… We want all these pages to load as fast as possible. So, how do we check multiple pages at once? Easy, through this free tool!

You just list all the URLs you want to check (your most popular ones, that we just talked about), and let this tool do the rest!

Yes, you should monitor website speed performance

Wrapping up with a clear answer to the question asked in the tittle of this article. Yes, we should all definitely monitor website speed performance, even more than some other website key performance indicators! Not just for the sake of Google and on page SEO, but more importantly, for the sake of our users!

If you care about the constant improvement of your website portfolio, efficiency and productivity, website load speed is a great way to practice kaizen and focus on the basics. If you don’t handle the basics, how can you handle more advanced challenges?

Next time you are frustrated with a slow website, think of this article, and then answer honestly if all your websites are loading as fast as they could?

Why monitor your SSL certificate for expiration?

If you ever had an SSL certificate installed, this probably happened to you at least once. You failed to renew your SSL certificate on time, and the browser loaded the dreaded warning message, instead of loading the website.

Let’s be honest, when your clients see the warning message instead of your reputable website, it’s like taking them to a life-threatening back-alley. It’s the same feeling, and in most cases the user does what they do best, clicking the back button.

Should I have an SSL certificate?

The debate of having SSL certificates is long over. Website security is one of top priorities in not just ecommerce website, but any website today. It’s been 7 years (August 2014) when Google announced that https is a ranking signal , which means that if everything else is the same, a website with an SSL certificate installed, will rank better than the one without SSL.

SSL monitoring

There’s lots you can monitor when it comes to your website.

If you think there’s something else that’s interesting for monitoring, please let us know. Right now, we are set on these website monitoring tools, and we want to improve them as much as possible. So, let’s get back to one particular monitor, the SSL monitor.

SSL monitor

When you monitor SSL certificate expiration dates, you are notified several times to get ready for it. As we wrote before, “Your SSL certificate provider will notify you when your SSL is about to expire, which is great” but there are several potential problems that can creep up.

  1. Are you sure that the SSL expiration notification email is coming to the right email address? Maybe you have a new email address, or you missed the message in the sea of messages in your inbox?
  2. Free SSL monitoring sometimes doesn’t have a notification email, or it is being sent only to the system administrator that installed the SSL certificate
  3. Or, vice versa, the SSL certificate monitoring notification is received by the owner, and not the system administrator that is meant to renew the SSL certificate

Better to be overprepared, than to be sorry

In my experience if you don’t monitor certificate expiration, they happen at the worst possible moment! This either happens after working hours, leaving your website exposed for 12+ hours. Or before a big date like a launch of a product, or just as you hit send to an email to an important client!

Email response comes, “Dear service provider, I am unable to access your website and make the purchase”. You try to correct the situation ASAP, and call the client immediately. Then on the phone you try to explain to a non-tech person they can ignore the warning, and open the HTTP (/ˈeɪtʃ/ tee tee pee) version of the website. The client responds with confusion trying to repeat what you said, by saying “hate pi pi”? And the conversation goes from bad to worse with some bizarre words that you don’t want to hear coming from your client.

Is an SSL certificate monitoring tool hard to operate?

Surely using these tools to track SSL certificate expiration is hard to operate? Not at all. You just add your domain name, click “SSL expiration monitor” and you are done! Yes, it’s that easy!

Here’s the thing, when you install an SSL certificate, there’s a date inside it, that says when it expires.

For example, you just click on the lock in the browser, next to the address, and you can acces the date of expiry. This information is public data because it’s super important. Why? Well, because both the browser and the user know that the communication between the website and the user is safe and secure. There are other ways a website can harm you, but when it comes to SSL certificates, that’s it.

Where can I see the SSL expiration date?

Taking a website screenshot is easy, and above you can see the date of expiry for the SSL certificate on webmaster.ninja. It’s 26 April, 2021. This is great, but you don’t want to do this every month and manually check when the SSL is set to expire. Especially if you own several websites that have installed SSL certificates.

As I explained earlier, it’s much easier to just add the domain, and activate certificate monitoring. If you do it with webmaster.ninja, each time you log in, you will see the date of expiry (among other things), and you will receive an email from us when the SSL is about to expire. Below you can see what it looks like when you add a website with our Website Manager.

SSL certificate monitoring with webmaster.ninja

Is SSL certificate expiration monitoring expensive?

Previously I showed how easy it is to track SSL certificate expiration. Essentially, it’s a one click process! Besides, when you activate the SSL monitoring, you have automatically activated other monitoring we have as well! You can see here a list of our monitoring tools.

It sounds valuable, and simple to use. So it must be expensive! Is it expensive?

Free SSL monitoring

Well, not exactly! If you have only one website, you can track SSL certificate expiration for free. Well, again, not exactly. You can actually track up to three websites for free! Three rhymes with free, so we decided to go with three websites.

In all seriousness, using our tools makes more sense if you are a website investor, or website operator and managing several websites. One or two websites (or SSL certificates in this case) is easy to track manually. But, when you get up to 10 websites or more, then it becomes really hard. Because you have to monitor all sorts of metrics and website parts like Google Analytics, Google AdSense, Google Search Console (which we all integrated inside our Website Manager), not just the SSL certificate.

So, if you need to monitor 4 or more websites, it will cost you $199 per year ($19 per month). It is expensive and doesn’t make sense to use just our SSL certificate monitoring tool, but instead, you get access to a suite of tools and monitoring services. Also, you can add up to 50 websites. You can see the webmaster.ninja pricing details here.

Webmaster.ninja’s SSL certificate monitoring tool

We’ve built our SSL certificate monitoring tool with the help of our parent company WhoAPI, and one of our APIs called SSL API. This way, in case you want to integrate monitoring certificate expiration inside your own application, we have an API and can offer exactly that!

And how about monitoring free SSL?

Ok, it’s one thing to offer free monitoring for paid SSL certificates. But is it possible to monitor the expiry of free SSL certificates? And the answer is yes! You can monitor the expiry date of your Let’s Encrypt – Free SSL/TLS Certificates.

The process and price is absolutely the same. You just add the domain, one click, and you are done. Free or paid, for our system is the same of fetching the public data, the expiration date. Some system administrators have automated the renewal of these short-lasting SSL certificates, but not all. As you may know, these free SSL certificates last only 90 days, and for a good reason.

In short, it’s a security thing, and if the automated renewals become the majority of renewals, the 90 days expiration may be even shorter. With automated renewals you won’t exactly need a notification, but until then, it’s nice to have one.

In closing, let me answer…

the question I asked in the title of this article. Why monitor your SSL certificate for expiration? Well, in order to be 100 percent positive every renewal cycle that you will renew the SSL certificate on time! Just as domain name expiry blunders, SSL expiration fiascos also happen, but they don’t get the same amount of press.

Here are 3 reasons why monitoring your SSL certificate for expiration is important.

  1. You protect the security of your clients
  2. You protect your brand
  3. You get a better position in the search engines like Google

At some points, this article sounded like it was a sales pitch, but in all fairness, even if you don’t signup for webmaster.ninja, please do whatever you can to renew your SSL on time! That’s the most important thing.

My journey to $100,000

I am writing this post in order to better visualize and plan my goal, but also to make it more real. Announcing a plan like this to the World raises accountability. Besides these selfish reasons, I hope that once I successfully complete the task, the trail I leave behind will help at least one soul aiming for the same achievement.

Also worth noting, I saw other experts in my industry do this kind of journal, and why not emulating the best?

How I got here

When I first started out, I brainstormed 10 ways how I can get $100,000. One of the options was selling equity in a company, which is something I’ve done in the past. But, it’s been a few years since I’ve done that, and I think I come up with a better plan this time.

For full transparency, here are some of my ideas. Have in mind this is raw brainstorm material, so it may sound silly.

  1. Sell a website that’s making $2500 per month with 40x multiple
  2. Sell someone else’s website for $1,000,000 and take 10%
  3. Get 10 clients paying $10,000 per month for API access (3×10,000 for 3 months)
  4. Build a project (Design, coding, marketing) for someone and profit $100,000
  5. Sell more equity in the parent company
  6. Sell 10,000 copies of $10 product, or 1,000 copies of a $100 product (book, software, bundle, graphics)
  7. Combination of several outlined ideas
  8. 1 huge API license deal, $1,666 per month, paid 5 years in advance
  9. Form a new company, and sell equity in that new company
  10. Sell a bundle of products for $20 (spend $10 on marketing per CAC), in return give $2,000 worth of discounts

Out of all the projects I am currently running, I had an epiphany with one of the projects, and saw a clear path how to get to the goal.

Here are the steps

  1. Sell equity in a project (this is optional, but if I am able to find a strong partner, I will go for it)
  2. Sell a bundle (book, course, software) with profit up to $2500 per month
  3. Sell the project with a strong 40x multiple on monthly profits.

Here are two scenarios outlined. One is with a partner / investor, one is without.

Scenario with an investor.

  1. Raise $20000 from an investor
  2. Grow at the rate of 30% MOM, in 12 months get to $4,275 per month profit. Maintain for 6 months at $4.275 per month
  3. During 6 months make $25,650
  4. Sell the project for $170,985
  5. Give the investor $100,000, a handsome 5X return
  6. I take home $20,000 from investor, $12.825 during 6 months of profit accumulation (the other half goes to investor), $70,985 from the sale
  7. Make a total of $103,810

Scenario without an investor.

  1. Grow at the rate of 20% MOM, in 12 months get to $2.294 per month profit. Maintain for 6 months at $2.294 per month
  2. During 6 months make $13.764
  3. Sell the project for $91,764
  4. Take home $13,764 during 6 months of profit accumulation, $91,764 from the sale
  5. Make a total of $105.528

Why take on an investor? Why make a plan without an investor? Well, fundraising is not easy. But, if you find an investor that can help you grow the company and the two of you make 1 + 1 = 3, then it makes sense.

I will attempt to reach out to a few industry experts, and potential partners in the project. But if that fails, I will go with the scenario without an investor. I won’t settle for dumb money, because I think I can do this project without the money. And also, I need help growing the company, not money.

Why not find a partner, not an investor?

Several reasons I will not settle with a partner. For one, I have already invested a sizeable amount of money, time, and effort into the project. I will not give equity to anyone unless seriously commited.

I believe that serious commitment is not possible without putting your money where your mouth is. Either way, this step is the least important of all, but it’s either / or, and it’s the first step.

The basic outline of the steps

  1. Brainstorm ideas
  2. Select several best ideas, and start executing
  3. Work hard and smart
  4. Track and publish progress
  5. Successful exit

Growing the project

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll plan without an investor, because I’ll reach out to investors in parallel. So even if I don’t get an investor, I’ll still have to grow the project.

The product I am selling will cost $199 per year, and it will consist of the following:

  1. Software
  2. Course
  3. Booklet / manual
  4. Bundle of discounts, coupons

There will also be a “demo” option at $19 per month.

The elephant in the room

In the past I had successful fundraising events (even wrote a book about it) and I had 1 successful exit, and helped brokered a coupled exits (I may write a book about it), but it’s always been a struggle for me to grow a company.

As always, the hardest part will be to achieve the numbers in the table above. I think it’s the same for anyone else. It may not sound much, but getting 7 people in a month to pay $199 is a hard task. So I set myself with an idea.

I want to provide as much as $19,999 in value, for anyone who buys the $199 product I am offering. I am setting out to give a 100x return!

Tools, course, manual, plan, contacts to make $20,000

That’s my goal. I want my clients to feel as if they got $20,000 worth of value, when they subscribe for that $199 plan. It’s going to be a lot of work for me, but I am ready and willing. I already have a few ideas, and started executing on some of them.

The goal ahead of me is pretty straightforward. I need around 100 clients that will pay me about $2,305 per month. Then I can sell the project for around $92,200.

Some flexibility in the plan, and potential opportunities

I don’t necessarily need 98 clients paying for access to the package I am describing above. Maybe I will get a client paying $500 per month for various services (advertising, affiliate commissions), and that will cut my execution time.

In the end, maybe the projects start making money more than planed (let’s say $10,000 per month), and I just decide to keep the project for 10 months in order to make the $100,000.

Which begs the question…

Why $100,000 in the first place?

In the past I wrote how most of the dreams that the majority of people have would be fulfilled with about $17,857 per month. It may sound like a lot of money to everyday folks, but it is possible in this day and age. There are opportunities everywhere!

Reason #1: Can I do it

It may sound like an ego thing, but it’s not. I want to challenge myself. I challenge myself all the time, so I am doing it like this as well.

Reason #2: To show it’s possible

I enjoy motivating and inspiring people. This time, it will also be educational in case someone wants to replicate my success.

Reason #3: To help my family

The money will be used to buy a house for my family. A part of this income will be donated, as will all my incomes. I often donate to animal shelters, worthy projects like international Police association educating children of potential dangers, and other.

You probably won’t believe this, but if you ask my grandma, she will confirm it. When I was something like five years old, I promised my grandma a house with a big truck of wood. To this day, she reminds me of that promise.

Just to be clear, I will not give the house to my family. I will still own the house, but it will be built with intensions to invite family from around the country to spend a few days together every year. This will be for events like Christmas, and other celebrations. Right now we don’t have a location that can support this. Also, I would love to host some of my dear friends as well!

Reason #4: It’s a round number

I believe in clear and lofty goals. $100.000 will get my attention, compared to $10,000 or $80,000. Also, it’s six figures, which is somewhat of a benchmark.

Reason #5: That’s how much I need

The house I mentioned, minus taxes, donations, minor miscellaneous expenses, $100,000 is what I need. Think of it as some people starting a crowdfunding event.

Reason #6: I think I can do it

Yep, here’s the kicker. I actually think I can pull this off. I think this is one of those things I will achieve in my life. Besides, this would be a great story to tell anyone. And I love sharing a great story!

Reason #7: The journey I will go on because of it

Jim Rohn said that we should “Beware of what we become, in the pursuit of what we want.”. I will definitely abide by my moral, and ethical standards, and won’t jeopardize my health. With that, I think I will learn a lot and become a better individual if I deliver services worth $100,000. That’s my real goal.

In closing

I don’t need this house. My plan is to “give” services, in order to “give” the house to my family, and donate a portion of the proceeds. I live in a beautiful apartment, on an island near a gorgeous beach. I have more than most can wish. Again, just to be clear, I will own the house, but it will be built specifically to host gatherings and accommodate multiple families.

Anyway, that’s what I set out to do. Some want 100,000 subscribers on Youtube, some want to make $100,000 from website properties. With this, I am wrapping up. I’ll post my results at the end of March. I will publish all my financials as well as other metrics, and we will take it from there.

1st month; March

Here’s my first update, as I am warming up to this idea. March financials are as follows:

Expenses: $58

Web hosting expenses: Digital Ocean $10
Protonmail: $48

Revenue: $38

Subscriptions: 2 subscriptions at $19 / month each

Articles published: 7 (total of 16411 words)

Traffic: 1098 users, 2146 pageviews

Humble beginnings, no doubt, but we’ve barely started. This “Journey to a $100,000” was announced on the 21st of March (10 days ago). But, I was working a little bit starting in March. I just didn’t know it was going to escalate to this anounement. Most of March I spent writing articles and doing keyword research. I was creating content for keywords that already received some traffic. I got those keywords in Google Search Console.

I also updated a few old articles, added some internal links, updated wordpress and plugins and created a Protonmail account for emails

Other than that, I was in touch over email and Skype with a couple of heavy-weights in my industry and trying to strike up affiliate deals, partnerships and maybe even investment. Some of these individuals are potential buyers of the entire project, as I described this is my plan in the end.

I’ll provide more details as we progress.

Where can I buy websites for passive income?

When I first started buying and selling websites, I only knew about Flippa. But, in the last few years, there are new options for both buying and selling websites for passive income! Where can you buy and sell websites in 2021? Well, we already made a list of marketplaces in our other article, but in this one, we are going to cover specifically where you can buy websites.

Just because of the size of the topic, we are going to cover the opposite (where can I sell websites) in a separate article.

Where can I buy websites?

As I already mentioned, we already talked about this topic in our earlier articles. That list is constantly being updated as we are in touch some of the providers. There’s a comprehensive list of marketplaces where you can both buy and sell websites. You can see we listed 9 different options, which include almost 20 marketplaces, brokers and individual sellers.

So in this article, we will just cover broadly, where you can buy websites that make revenue. These websites make money online through affiliate marketing, ad networks, and by selling their own products, or software. As you may or may not know, there are many monetization options.

Here’s how you can buy a website for passive income:

  1. Directly from the owner
  2. From a brokerage
  3. From a marketplace with an auction
  4. From a broker

1. Buy a website directly from the owner

If you buy a website directly from the owner, you don’t have to pay a broker fee. But, that’s pretty much where the pros end. Cons on the other hand are several, unless the seller is reputable.

You have to do your own due diligence and have a certain level of experience to go down this route. For example, you may have to explain to the seller what is Escrow, and in some cases take a chance on paying directly to the seller.

You may not react the same if the deal is worth $1,000 or $1,000,000 but the problems are the same. There are people that own websites worth throughout that range, that haven’t heard of an Escrow, or sold their business or website in the past.

This makes communication and website evaluation very difficult.

If they are not selling, will you be able to buy?

Sometimes it could be a good idea to go through a website valuation tool together with the seller in case his valuation is… how should I put this delicately? Ridiculous? Outrageous? Either way, when you are doing outreach to someone who is not selling a website actively, sometimes outrageous offers are necessary to get the deal done.

Another downside is that you will have to source your own deal flow. This means building tools that will find potential websites and then reaching out to prospects with offers. It’s a lot of work, so you have te be sure it is time well spent.

Am I doing a broker’s job then?

Why would you do all this? Well, in some cases you may find a gold nugget. A website that’s “off the market”, and you convince the owner to sell. Maybe even below market price. Ah, we can all dream sometimes.

Usually, website brokers scan the entire web, and then bring them on a marketplace or offer the websites to their list of contacts directly.

2. Buy a website from a brokerage

Most of the big deals happen in the marketplaces that really are brokerages. The problem there is their deal flow. For example, if your budget is $20,000, which in most countries, and with most website investors is a sizeable amount of money, you are not going to find that many opportunities to buy websites.

If you look at the following brokerages to buy websites, you can see that you won’t find a single deal for that budget;

  • FE International (33 websites for sale, cheapest website you can buy is listed at $60,000)
  • Empire Flippers (115 websites for sale, smallest website for sale is listed at $20,337)
  • Latona’s (52 websites for sale, lowest $20,250)

Date of check 15th March 2021.

Not to mention, you can’t really pick a niche, because there’s not that many, to begin with. These brokerages focus on big deals and in these places they go up to 20-25 million dollars!

If you decide to buy a website from a reputable brokerage such as this, you will most probably be in touch with a broker, and the owner may not be available for a meeting.

Difference between a brokerage and marketplace

Before we move on to the next option, let’s quickly explain the difference between a brokerage (that some call marketplace) and a marketplace. In a brokerage such as Latona’s, Empire Flippers and FE international, as mentioned above, you are communicating, and it feels like you are buying from a broker. You also pay a broker fee. Sometimes you don’t even meet the owner of the website you are buying.

In a marketplace, you have other individuals selling their website. When you ask a buying question, the owner will respond. In a marketplace like Flippa, you may not pay a broker fee, but you will pay a marketplace fee. So let’s see how that works.

3. Buy a website in a marketplace with an auction

In marketplaces like Flippa, you can find hundreds of websites for sale. Flippa is working kind of like Ebay, and there are multiple auctions active around the clock.

Sellers love auctions sites because it promises more eyeballs, and better offers. In return, this means more website for sale. Which is why buyers are attracted here.

With auction sites, you also know that the seller is motivated to sell. If you are using the first avenue I mentioned, it will be hard to find a motivated seller. Here, everybody is on the clock, and there’s a great chance a deal might happen. Even below market value.

Bid and wait, or bid and buy

In an auction sites, you have the ability to give your best bid and wait to bid again until the auction ends. Or you can make an offer he can’t refuse.

Ok, not that kind of an offer. When the seller lists a website, they have the ability to set several limits.

  1. The least amount of money the website will sell for. This is also referred to as a reserve price.
  2. The least amount of money that will get you the website immediately. This is also referred to as a “Buy it now” price.
Active auction on Flippa.com

Speaking of Flippa specifically, there are hundreds of active deals both auctions and inactive listings (websites just waiting to be sold for best offers). Unlike marketplaces mentioned earlier, here you can find websites for as little as $500 USD.

4. Buy from a broker (or a flipper)

And lastly, we come to the last option on this list where to buy a website. Well, you can buy a website for passive income from a broker. In some cases, like I already mentioned earlier when writing about big deals on marketplaces, a broker will be your major point of contact when buying from a marketplaces such as Empire Flippers, or FE International.

But this is not the same as buying directly from an independent broker. There are internet entrepreneurs, website investors, website flippers, independent brokers out there who buy and sell websites for a living. They have many names, and essentially, they all mean the same. An individual, or a small company, bought or built a website, and now they are selling it directly to the buyer.

In some cases, these independent website brokers grow over time, and then they evolve into a full-blown marketplace. Besides selling their own websites, these website acquisition managers, website flippers, start offering websites from other internet entrepreneurs! Sometimes, they pre-vet the website, and they check the quality of the assets being sold. This is like an added value compared to some low-quality marketplaces. These marketplaces are not really similar to the high-quality marketplaces I’ve mentioned here in this article.

Here are a few examples where renowned website brokers, experts are selling their own websites, and other people’s websites.

These industry experts have good outreach and stand behind the websites they offer. They don’t offer as many websites as major marketplaces, but ranges are from $1000 to seven figures.

I am selling websites I own here on webmaster.ninja, while other website investors I mentioned above, are also brokering websites. In some cases, these experts offer starter sites as well! I will cover the starter sites below. So before we dive into buying starter sites, I would like to briefly mention an option where you can find and talk with other website brokers, website investors, however, you want to call them.

Facebook groups where you can buy websites for passive income

These Facebook groups are mostly private but are not very difficult to get into. Some require a chat with the administrator before they approve you. Also worth noting, in some of the groups, it is not allowed to advertise, or openly list websites for sale, but you are able to learn a lot and meet website investors that buy and sell websites.

With Motio Invest you can quickly find out how much your website is worth within 3 days. On Motion Invest marketplace sites
currently sell within an average of 8 days and they are able to buy portfolio sites within 4-5 days. As you can see, Motion Invest offers a super fast sale, and a “more money” sale.

Buying a turnkey website for passive income

One avenue you could take with these industry experts is buying a starter site. Spencer Haws, who we interviewed earlier, sometimes partners with other website investors to create such offerings. Brandbuilders.io is a good one, and what they are doing is selling premade, turnkey websites. These websites are built to be monetized through Amazon Associates program.

Andrej Ilisin, apart from running Investors Club, runs Alpha investors, and there you can buy turnkey affiliate websites as well.

Different options for starter sites

When buying a website, at some point in your buying process, you are going to see starter websites. These are either pre-made, turnkey websites that are built specifically for monetization through some of the programs, such as AdSense, Amazon Associates, other Affiliate marketing programs, maybe Clickbank, and others.

The starter websites I sell are priced at $1000 and are usually old websites (minimum 2/3 years), with some backlinks pointing to them. They are also making little money (up to $5 dollars per month). Usually, when a service provider is selling a starter site it doesn’t have any backlinks, it is brand new, and without any revenue.

Starter sites are not exactly passive income

When you buy a turnkey website, you still have your work cut out for you. It’s like starting a brand new project. Although, you are on the right path, and there’s a good opportunity, you have to do the work.

So, when you buy a website for $3000, and it is already making $100 per month, you will get a payment in a month. About $100. But, when you buy a starter website for $1500, after the first month, you will probably get close to $1 in the bank account.

Are turnkey affiliate websites a good option for me?

A turnkey affiliate website may be a good option for your first website purchase. You limit the possibility of a scam if you are buying from a reputable seller. These websites won’t go on to make you a million dollars online, but you will get that first check. Sometimes, that first check is all the difference in the World!

Another great option for a turnkey affiliate website, is to actually buy a website that is already making money! But there’s definitely value in someone else outlining the keywords you should target, and writing the articles in advance.

I wasn’t sure if I should put buying a turnkey website in this article because there are companies and individuals offering only turnkey websites. HumanProofDesign is one of them. On their website you can see they built over 1200 websites.

HumanProofDesign

If you are interested in buying a website like this they are called all sorts of names. Here’s how to look for them:

  • Turnkey website
  • Starter site
  • Pre-made niche sites
  • Done-for-you revenue-generating website
  • PLR websites

Some are offering PLR websites (PLR stands for Private Label Rights). When you see this, you should enquire, as with other turnkey websites, which content is being used to build the website. You want to be sure that you have the rights to use the content on your website, and that this is as good content as you can get for your money.

Buying into a certain niche

Sometimes you really want to get into a hot niche, or a niche you are really passionate about, but nobody is selling websites in that niche. In that case, you can either build everything from scratch or buy a turnkey website.

Buying these types of websites may be a good start, and then when you reach a certain level of revenue, you can flip them or grow them further.

What do I need to know when I am buying a website?

I am often asked this question, and I make the mistake of turning into a philosopher.

Temet Nosce. Know thyself. The Matrix.

With that being said, knowing yourself is the first step in buying a website. It depends if you are a first time buyer, or not. Your decision making process will be different if you have $1,000 for investing or $1,000,000 for investing. Depending on your skillset, you may have a different path to success compared to technically advanced investors buying websites for passive income.

I’ll try to summarize the most important factors that impact the decision-making process when you are buying a website for passive income. Simplified, these fall into 3 major categories. Time, money, ability.

  1. Your budget (money)
  2. Your skillset (ability)
  3. Market conditions and trends (time)
  4. How much work you plan to dedicate (ability)
  5. Your business connections (ability)
  6. Time sensitivity (time)

I’ll write a more detailed article on “how to buy a website”, if you forgot, here I am covering “where can I buy websites for passive income”.

Are websites really passive income?

Before we continue, I’d like to make a quick side note. I don’t like writing or saying “websites for passive income” because there is a lot of work going on. Websites will not give great returns unless you work. But then again, do real estate or stocks give great returns if you pay no attention to them and you don’t do any work?

Also, websites are more passive in nature compared to some other businesses and jobs, and besides people usually look for this on the Internet with a “passive income” keyword attached to them, so I simply joined the bandwagon. Now that’s out of the way, and I reiterated my stance of “websites for passive income” includes serious work, let’s proceed.

Can I buy websites in one place, and then sell websites in another place?

You sure can! If you have a good source where you can buy websites on the low, and then resell them in a different place for a profit, that’s great. However, there’s no marketplace or location where you can always find websites for sale, below market value.

There is a way to sell them, and ask for above market value. We will cover that in a separate article “where to sell websites”, and “how to sell websites”.

Usually, it’s a good place to start by buying a website directly from the owner. If nothing else, you don’t pay broker fees, and in some cases, not even Escrow fees. It takes a lot of trust, and both buyer and seller need to be reputable, and the amount needs to be below 5 figures.

Everything above is pushing it, and you need to do it properly. But doing it the “old fashioned way” with a contract and a wire transfer, has definitely worked for me in the past.

Opportunities are everywhere

Other than that, opportunities are everywhere. The only problem is, you need to know what you are going to do after you buy the website. How do you plan to grow your website? Do you plan to sell the website? Do you have any particular partnerships in mind?

There are many things to consider, and we will cover them in our article “how to buy a website for passive income”. In short, smart and capable website investors can turn a website around and 10X their investment, no matter where they buy it.

Where can I buy websites for the lowest price?

This question is a bit two-sided. One could mean, where can I make the most profit. And the other could mean, where are “smallest” websites being sold. Meaning, where can you buy websites for a modest budget, such as $1000.

The first time I bought a website was for $2200, and I was scammed. A good 2-3 years had to go by, until I would “forget” my first episode, and try again. The reason I am telling you this is because the purchase I did then was $500.

Yes, I bought a website for only $500. Then after a while I sold that website for almost $1500, and since I purchased that website, it made $800 in profit. It’s not much, but those $500 (ROI $2300) might have been the smartest investment I ever made. Why? Because I started to buy websites, even though I was scammed on my first purchase.

If I buy a website, do I need to sell it?

You’ve read a few times in this post about buying and selling websites. Some of you may be thinking, why would someone sell a good website in the first place? If I buy, do I need to sell?

That’s a great question we will cover in a separate article on selling a website. But in case you are considering this question as a buyer, you don’t really need to know why someone is selling the website. What you need to do is proper due diligence, and if you like what you see, then start buying and improving on what’s already built.

In closing

Where do you buy websites? Wherever you find the best deal that fits your portfolio! Sometimes it will be in a marketplace, sometimes you will win an auction, and in other places.

If you see a website you can turn around and sell, take action! Buy that website, once you do that, it’s going to be one of those “the rest is history” moments.