Friday, January 10, 2014

Buy An AdSense Website

Actually, you shouldn't buy a website for AdSense. At least, you shouldn't be buying one that was made for the sole purpose of putting ads on. Those types of sites are created by sellers just for placing ads on them, and they're considered by AdSense to be "MFA" sites. That means "Made for Advertising" and AdSense has no interest in monetizing sites like that.

There was a time that sites of that nature prospered with AdSense and other online advertising, but AdWords advertisers are no longer interested in paying to have their ads displayed on sites whose contents just don't provide any value to visitors. No value for visitors, usually results in providing no value to the advertiser as well. So more than a few years back, AdSense stopped accepting MFA sites, and started disabling ad serving to MFA sites.

Most likely, you'll still find some of them around, but many of them (particularly newer ones) don't last very long with AdSense. Publishers who work hard at creating original, and useful content really don't want to compete with MFA sites either, so good publishers will report them when they find them, and on their own, AdSense continues to review every publisher's websites that carry AdSense ads, so if you end up buying an MFA site and add it to your AdSense account, you may find that ads won't stay on the site for very long.

The entire reason for this article is the increasing numbers of rejected publishers that we've been seeing in the AdSense help forum. Many of them whose stories start with "I bought this website on flippa/fiverr/anyothermarketplace and I can't get my ads to show up" or "AdSense rejected my application, but the seller had his own ads running on it". When we look at the site, it becomes painfully obvious to us that the seller created the site in order to sell it and make money for himself, and that the site wasn't a long-standing, successful site for AdSense.

That's not to say that every website listed for sale anywhere is going to be an MFA site. But even some that aren't MFA sites may not be accepted by AdSense in today's market, or they may already have been disabled from serving AdSense ads. Always, the safest bet for applying to AdSense is to use a site you created yourself, or at least one that you create all your own content for.

If you have to buy a site or simply want to buy a site to increase your holdings, then you need to understand that as the buyer, it's your responsibility to do your homework, before buying and before even placing an offer.

So how do you do that? Today, we'll walk through some of the simplest checks and balances that anyone can do before purchasing a website. I went to flippa and looked through some of the sites being offered for sale, and randomly chose a subject for my "fictitious" site (meaning, I made up the site name - it doesn't exist). Let's say I decided that since insurance is a popular keyword and pays well in search results (not as much for website ads), I'm going to buy an insurance related site. The one I pick is called "somerandominsurancesite.whatever" from the listings of sites for sale. I read the information the seller has listed, along with whatever stats the seller has given. Then, I'm going to go look at the site.

Hmmm, it looks kinda "generic" - and pretty basic. If a seller is offering a site that's using the phrase "turn-key website", it's supposed to be "ready to rock" more or less. That doesn't, however, necessarily mean the site is going to be ready for AdSense. It's up to you to check that out pretty carefully.

So, although the site looks "okay", looks aren't everything. Now I'm going to do a little research on the site itself and see what I can learn about it.

1. Check internet archives for the site's history.

The seller says the site has existed since 2012. Although the domain might have existed since 2012, this particular website doesn't appear to have existed prior to the beginning of July 2013, at least, not under that name. If it did, the internet archives (or "The Way Back Machine") don't have any screengrabs of it from before 2013. Maybe the site wasn't very active, or maybe it didn't exist, or maybe it had a different name back then.

I look at the archived snapshots - the first snapshot in the archive shows no adsense on it (July 2 2013), nor does the second (July 15 2013), so the site didn't have AdSense ads on it at that point in time, and it doesn't appear to have much history. The internet archives aren't infallible, but my own site has more snapshot history than this one.

This would be the first caution flag for me if I were purchasing a site. I wouldn't make my entire decision based on this, but it's going to go on the "con" side of my "pro and cons" list for this site.

2. Go to any "whois" site and check the domain ownership and registration date.

The registration for this site appears to have a registrant's name, and the date the domain was registered (2012 and expires 2015). Not every site will have a public domain registration. Some will have a private registration, and you won't be able to see who owns the registration for the sites, but dates are usually still visible.

Just because a domain name was registered at certain point in time, does not mean the website actually existed at that point in time. At least not under it's current name. That's something else you'll have to check out.

I did a double-check on the whois information using a second whois source, which turned up considerably more information than the first check. A number of different domains registered in the sellers name. One, a rather similar insurance site, though an older design and with much more in-depth information, as well as the ability for visitors to be able to request quotes. This second site owned by the seller does provide a lot more information and value to visitors than the one he's selling.

Having the seller's name and address (part of the whois data), now I can search for just his name and location, and that turns up quite a few other sites that are related to the seller. Or were. On further checking, although the seller did own the sites at one time, they were recently sold too. Two of them appear to be ... reasonable sites with okay content, and it appears the seller owned them for a few years before selling.

The seller has profiles on some pretty popular sites, and doesn't really appear to be trying to hide anything about himself, or his other sites ... either that or he doesn't know just how much information is available. But the background information on the seller can be helpful - you can see whether the seller has sold lots of new sites, or actually was selling sites owned and used regularly by the seller.

3. Do a web search (Google, Bing, Yahoo) for the name of the website. Check search results for the website along with the dates (if any) that appear in those search listings.

For this fictitious website, of the five pages of search results I looked through (there were more search results than 5 pages, but I typically only look through the first 5), the search returned only 3 links to the site - two were for articles posted/upated 2 days prior to my search, the third was the listing site where the website was listed for sale. This doesn't look encouraging.

If the website has been in existence since 2012 as the sale listing says, then there should be more results leading to that site in five pages of search results. Maybe there are, further back in the search results but if there isn't more than 2 articles indexed in the first 5 pages of search results, I'm going to be a little concerned. I wasn't searching for a keyword or phrase, I was searching directly for the site name.

So the next thing I'm going to check is the website's pages and hopefully some dates, by using Google's "site search" operator. I'm going to type the following into my search bar:

site:somerandominsurancesite.whatever

That will return page results for pages on the website. There's 3 pages worth of results, so there's lots of content. A few pages have dates as far back as October 2012. What's more interesting is that only a few pages show with dates, while the balance of the articles don't seem to show posting dates at all.

That doesn't necessarily mean the dates are wrong, but anyone can put any publishing date they want on an article they publish, so it isn't really absolute proof, but if a site publishes regularly for a couple of years, there would be a steady stream of articles with subsequent dates showing in the search results - regularly monthly dates moving steadily forwards from the original date of the site registration up to the current date. This doesn't seem to be the case with this site I'm researching.

That warrants a "caution" flag in my mind.

When I look at the pages from the search results, I look at them using the cached page and note the dates on the cache (they show at the top).

Now, going directly to website URL, I can see that the current version of the site looks considerably different than the site did in the cached pages I looked at. The site's design has been updated and changed. There's nothing wrong with that of course - site owners need to keep up to date with modern trends. It's just that it appears to have been changed quite recently so it may have been done in order to bring it up to today's standards - and that's not a bad thing.

Other things I note about the site: there are multiple writers contributing articles. Are these experienced insurance agents? If so, why isn't there any contact information for these writers? Maybe the contributors are just copy writers (people who write for a living).

My next question to myself is ... are these articles original? So I begin my search. I randomly select half a dozen articles and search for duplicate contents. There doesn't really appear to be any - oh, a few words here and there but these are just individual words, not the same sentences or paragraphs, so the articles appear to be "original".

So next, I start reading the articles. They seem pretty generic to me. I'm not "into" insurance - like most average folks, I know a little about insurance since we have lots of our own. But, with a little reading on the web, I'm pretty sure I could compile these articles myself because they aren't in-depth at all. They skim the surface of the insurance  industry with very little depth of knowledge. There's nothing here to really, truly help someone decide anything about insurance. There's no way for visitors to ask questions; no way to know if the articles are written by people who actually work in the industry, no way to actually get any quotes or anything that helps or provides value to the visitor.

So, okay, I'm no expert at insurance but I can certainly get more information from a phone call to my insurance broker than I can get off that website.  My question to the site seller would be "how does the information on this site provide any useful help, or any real value to the visitors?".

More Steps to Take - Research Statistics and Traffic

- look for traffic sources to the site
- check for inbound, organic links

So I go directly to Alexa and check their information. Alexa is not God, and doesn't know everything, but for a site that's 18 months old, there is likely to be some information.

There is, but not much ... it ranks below 19million, which puts it pretty low on the totem pole, but a site's Alexa standing (or rank) isn't really important for AdSence - it just gives you an idea of how popular the site may be. It also only shows that there is 1 site which links into this site, and doesn't show traffic for it, and as it turns out, that site that links to it is from the marketplace where the site is being sold. There doesn't appear to be any other organic links to this site. That's not really good.

And for my own decision-making, I'll have a look at the site's WOT rating (web of trust). This site isn't really an "authority" site - the ratings are given by users, so you must keep in mind that some people will rate a site poorly if they just don't like it, and some people will rate their competitor's sites as unsafe simply because they are a competitor. You can't just look at the rating, but you need to read any reviews or comments that exist and look at individual reviews.

Decision Making

So now that you've done some research, and considered your options you need to have a conversation with the seller. You're already armed with some information and background for the site that's being offered. You need to decide on a list of questions you'll want the seller to answer.

Make your list, then contact the seller before you place any bids.

What you do with the information you have learned is up to you. As the buyer, the responsibility falls on you to look out for yourself. Buying a website isn't much different than buying a used car. If you don't ask the right questions, you might not get all the answers. Knowing as much as you can about what you are buying can help you decide what questions you need to ask in order to get answers to your concerns.

Tools

There are a lot of tools available on the web to find out some things about a website's past, and although all of them are not going to be accurate, you should be able to get a reasonably good picture of whether or not the site's seller is giving you accurate (or fairly accurate) information.

You can ask for screenshots from Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, or even an Adsense account but ... even they can be "fudged".  Anybody with a little bit of editing skill can take a screenshot, open it in Photoshop or any similar editing program and produce exactly the figures they want you to see, so from my own personal point of view, these are "iffy" in terms of "proof", unless at least some of the data can be backed up by the research you already did.

Link Strategy Checker - Bad Neighbourhood (please read their blog entry)

There are hundreds of tools available on the web; some may not be accurate; some may not be trustworthy; some will show different results than other tools. Using online tools really doesn't guarantee 100% of what you learn will be 100% accurate, so keep that in mind. One particular type of tool I have never found to be accurate anywhere are tools that give the dollar value of a website. I tend to ignore those, unless I'm looking for a domain name only to purchase. Domain names can have different values because people will buy used domain names to re-sell, and in reselling these names hope to make a profit on the name. The information you're looking for when buying a website might include the value of the domain name, but unless all you want is the name this website is using, then you also want to research the data contained in the website.

Outcome

So, was my fictitious site safe to buy?  It's not a horrible site, the seller answered my questions too, so it might be an okay "starter" site - it has a decent design and it's already set up. It probably won't however, stand up to an AdSense review. The site will need a considerable amount of work, incuding new authoritative articles with some "meat" in them. The ones provided on the site really have no meat - they aren't going to be considered "rich content".  That means unless I have enough knowledge to write my own articles, or unless I have enough money to hire an insurance agent to help me, the site may not be suitable for AdSense, but it might be okay for displaying ads from other companies.

It also doesn't seem to have much traffic, and no organic links. It's about the same as starting out with a new website you set up yourself.

If I have to write my own articles, I might not want to spend the money on this site. I have enough skill to set up a website myself. On the other hand, if I don't know how to set up a website, then depending on the cost to purchase this site, it might be worth it just to get a ready-made site design and then take the time to provide my own contents.

For me the decision was simple. I didn't bother to place a bid.


by J. Gracey Stinson

8 comments:

  1. Really informative and useful piece of content. You are really an expert of adsense, and made your points quite clear. I am a big fan of you. I usually read your conversations in the google product forum, but i did not know that you have such an informative blog. From now on, i will read all your old and new articles, to get more knowledge about the adsense and i will try to get more and more benefit from your experience which you have shared here. Keep writing such useful informative articles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some of the older articles probably need updating - some policies have changed a little, and some of the procedures have change too, so some things you read in older articles might not apply now.

      For example, people who apply through YouTube for Adsense get approved pretty easily, and fairly quickly. But Adsense changed how those accounts work, late last year. If you get approved through YouTube now, you can only use ads on YouTube. If you want to use ads on your blog, you have to submit the blog for approval now through your Host AdSense account.

      I'm not an expert ... most of the TCs don't consider themselves experts. We gain experience through helping others, and by keeping up to date with new and changing policies :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the updated information. :)

      Delete
  2. I have read you many times on Google Adsense forum and today, I landed on your fab blog :) So happy that I can now read all your articles :)
    Need a help from you...thats why I was going to Adsense forum :)
    I had a blogspot blog till december,13, i.e., last year and I had google adsense on that.
    Now I have bought a .com for my blog and now I have the custom domain hosted with blogger only.
    The problem is, the ads have disappeared now. That I understand now, as I have to apply again. But whenever I apply for adsense they say,

    Thank you for your interest in expanding your Google AdSense account to implement ad code on your own website. Unfortunately, after reviewing your application, we're unable to approve this application for the time being. Your existing AdSense account that allows you to show ads on partner sites is not affected by this disapproval.

    We did not approve your application for the reasons listed below.

    Issues:
    Site does not comply with Google policies

    Now, the site remains same. My posts and frequency remains same. But there must be some issues that google knows.
    Just want to tell you that I have used the same email id both times. In my previous adsense account, I have inserted a new URL Channel for http://myglossyaffair.com which was earlier http://myglossyaffair.blogspot.in Both appear in my adsense account.

    What do I need to do to get approved. Earlier also, for blogspot, it tool almost 6 months to get approved. I resolved everything that time and got approved. Now all is the same, what should I improve now!!
    Please help..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry, but this needs to be answered through the forum.

      Delete
  3. If Google is not accepting sites with little or no content then kindly check this website: http://www.reliancenetconnect.co.in

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an ISP business site. I'm not running all over the web checking sites for policy violations.

      Click the ad choices logo on any adsense ad and report the website.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for your awesome article!

    ReplyDelete

Please do not drop links here using monetized URL shorteners or the comments will be marked as spam.

If you want help with an actual blog or website, please just post for help in the Adsense forum, or leave your G+ profile link. I will not publish comments with blog/website or channel links.

Thanks.