Acquiring a website can be exciting, but before buying you have to consider more than just price and domain name. SEO is a huge consideration when it comes to evaluating a website, yet many put this on the back burner and take the "I'll deal with that later when I own the website" approach. The truth is, the current SEO status of a website is going to help you determine just how much work and money you're going to have to put into the website before you can even begin to shape it into the website you envision.
To make a long story short: SEO deals with reputation in the eyes of Google, and you don't want to mess with Google. SEO is therefore one of the most important things to evaluate and understand before an acquisition so that your new website will have a fighting chance against competition in the Google SERPs.
Top Ways to Evaluate the SEO of a Potential Website Acquisition
Evaluating the SEO of a website to acquire doesn't have to be difficult. You're looking for large SEO issues. In other words, you're looking for SEO problems that might be too big to handle and end up costing you more than what you're making. It's important to really look for a few key things that might be red flags:
- Discuss Panda. This might seem like a no-brainer, but Panda algorithm updates are an immediate indication that you may have a lot of work ahead of you if you were to acquire the website. Panda recovery might sound like it's easy, but don't let anyone fool you. If a Panda update hit a site it means there are fundamental issues occurring with the structure, linking, etc. and it will take a lot of time and energy to fix.
- Investigate Penguin. Penguin is another Google algorithm update that can hit a website, and these generally focus on bad links. A link profile can often be a huge undertaking because it takes a lot of time to sort out all of the bad links associated with the site. Google isn't going to tell you exactly what to do, so it takes a lot of research. If Penguin keeps hitting the site you're questioning, you might want to move on to something new.
- Analyze Google Analytics. Before acquiring a site, you should be able to request access to its Google Analytics. Here you will be able to see traffic trends and determine if there were certain times traffic was incredibly low. This will help you see if the site only has seasonal visitors or raise any red flags about the struggles the site might have.
- Poor Content Quality. It isn't easy to write completely new content for an entire website in an amount of time that won't hurt your traffic. Poor content can cause penalties, so it's a big undertaking and consideration when looking at a website to acquire.
So how is this different than a normal SEO audit? With a normal SEO audit, you own the site and are therefore incredibly driven to improve little SEO aspects. With this type of analysis, you're just looking for big-picture SEO issues and are not forced to fix them. If the issues seem too large to handle, move on to another potential domain.
In the end, it's important to understand that there are many upsides you will find while completing this type of SEO audit. When you find things like duplicate content, titling issues, bad navigation, 404 errors, etc. you need to keep in mind that this is bad SEO that can be easily fixed. This will make the price of the domain lower, yet it still has potential if the only SEO issues are minor and easily repaired.