Online business is booming, and there has never been a better time to build, or buy, a business of your own.
Buying is a particularly attractive option, because a lot of the legwork is already done for you. You don't have to go through the often long and grueling process of figuring out your business model and monetization methods, which means you can go straight to expanding the business and increasing its profits.
Of course, if you do acquire a business, whether you take it to the next level or drive it into the ground is contingent upon your experience and ability to run it. If you are new to the process, buying and running a business could be more of a learning experience than anything else.
Nevertheless, if you're going to be searching for an online business for sale, having a focus is extremely important. This will allow you to narrow your search from the get-go, and eliminate the need to sift through sites that don't match your interests and other key criteria. Whether building or buying, the same principle applies: focus is critical.
Naturally, finding a business to buy can also be a challenge, because you have to know where to look. Here are four ways to find an online business for sale.
It may be worth approaching businesses independently if you know exactly what you're after. Of course, you'll still want to go through the appropriate channels to do your research, prepare a business plan to demonstrate your ability to run a business and pitch the business owner, whether directly or through an intermediary.
You'll want to analyze the website's traffic and backlink profile using tools such as Alexa and Ahrefs. Doing your due diligence at this stage is absolutely crucial, because if you discover any off-putting trends, you may want to broaden your search and find other businesses worth approaching. If a site still looks attractive after you've done your research, you can move forward with the pitch. The key thing to remember is to communicate that you are serious about buying the business. This is why having a plan is so important.
If you aren't sure who the website belongs to, you can often find details by running a simple Google search or Whois lookup.
2. Online marketplaces
There are many online business marketplaces out there, and there are a lot of buyers that begin their searches on one of these sites, as it is one of the more obvious places to start. Buyers can look at a variety of available listings in their chosen industry to find the most viable opportunities. Buyers can also ask for additional information on any listing, which will alert the seller of your potential interest.
Although getting an account set up, scanning the listings and interacting with sellers is a relatively straightforward process. One marketplace doesn't necessarily have any more credibility than the other, and are generally only as good as the brokers and sellers that are using them to sell their businesses.
It is certainly possible to find desirable sites using marketplaces, but you will still need to use your best judgment in finding sites that make sense for you.
3. Auction sites
Auction sites are similar to business marketplaces with the main difference being that potential buyers can bid on sites. Using this system, sellers have the opportunity to attract more interest in their websites, drive up the price of their businesses and earn more money. At other times, sellers may auction off a site without having a firm grasp of its value, which gives the market the chance to cast a vote with their bids.
The large number of listings makes auction sites an attractive option for willing buyers. However, you should be aware that businesses on auction sites haven't necessarily been vetted. Therefore, buyers assume more risk, as there is less of a focus on operational and income verification, and there is always the chance that some listings are being misrepresented.
Due diligence therefore lies with the buyer. If you aren't familiar with best practices, purchasing a business through an auction site should be approached with some caution. Quality listings are harder to determine, and shill bidding -- the practice of creating fake buyer accounts to bid on the site -- can artificially inflate the price of businesses that may not be worth the asking value.
4. Website brokers
Website brokers (such as my company) are experienced in the sale of online businesses, have knowledge and expertise, tools and a broad network to draw from. Broker listings are usually pre-vetted using their due-diligence process, and they specifically look for legitimate, established sites with a stable income -- everything you should be looking for as a buyer.
Brokers make the buying process easier on buyers. They can rely on their experience, work with them to resolve issues that may arise and can benefit from their advice and guidance when going through their structured sales process.
Brokers are only paid when the sale goes through, and therefore have a vested interest in overseeing the deal from beginning to end. This is also why they are committed to curating high-quality listings.
As a buyer, you still need to be on the lookout for trustworthy brokers, as it is a relatively new industry. Focus on building relationships, as this is how you will find the best website brokers.
If you're looking to buy an online business, there are a variety of different channels available to you, and one isn't necessarily better than the other. They all have their upsides and downsides, and you have to check your overall experience against the channel you're looking to utilize.
If the due-diligence process is new to you, and you've never bought a business before, then online marketplaces and auction sites may not be the best options for you. On the other hand, even if you do have a great deal of experience with the sale of online businesses, there are times when working with a broker is still the smartest thing you can do.
If you're looking for more information on buying an online business, here's my company's guide: The Advanced Guide to Buying an Online Business.