Due Diligence On Website Buyers

I’m currently selling one of my domains on Flippa. I have the luxury of knowing 2 of the bidders, who I feel I can trust. A new bidder has entered the scene, though, and I don’t know him. The question arises: what due diligence can you do on a website buyer?

In my case, all the only information I have about him is his Flippa user name. Let’s see what we can do to allay our fears about non paying bidders.

The first port of call must be the bidder’s past activity on Flippa. Unfortunately for me, although this bidder registered in 2005, he has no activity recorded in Flippa.

I did a search on Google for his user name and found a listing he’d created on bestwayclassifieds.com. The listing advertised a site he was promoting and gave the URL. At this point I didn’t know whether my bidder owned that site, but I did a search for the site on http://www.domaintools.com anyway.

From that search I found the owner of the domain. The owner had only given their first name – and it matched the name the bidder signed his PM with! It’s looking good, but it’s not concrete.

The domaintools listing also gave the address of the registrant so I performed the following search on Google to try and find other sites owned by the same registrant:

“address line 1” site:http://whois.domaintools.com

This search returned one other site.

I PMed the bidder and asked if he could tell me any other sites he owned. He gave me the first one I’d found in domaintools. Bingo! Now I have a reference point. I know the name (OK first name!) of the bidder, two sites he owns and also his address.

Of course, this isn’t enough information for me to feel confident that I’m not about to get scammed, but at least I know the bidder is being honest and also isn’t some schoolkid tyre kicker. Through the PM conversation I had with him I know at least he has a brain in his head and he seems to have his wits about him. Again, that’s no gurantee that he won’t rip me off, but it does allay my fears a little.

I will be, after all, performing the transaction through escrow.com, and it’s only the domain that will get transferred here (not a full website), so I think I’ve got myself covered. Read more about the reasons why you shouldn’t feel secure about transferring a website using escrow.com.

When selling on Flippa, or any other website marketplace for that matter, you need to take into account the time zones that bidders operate in. I’m in the UK and it’s 23:38 when I write this, but the bidders on my auction live in the US. It’s my bedtime now, but for my bidders it’s the middle of the day. That means that they will be bidding while I’m asleep and won’t have my fatherly hand to guide them. And each time a new bid comes in, the auction end time extends by 3 hours! Bugger! With any luck, a bidding war will start and it will still be raging when I wake up tomorrow :)

Google Adsense Competitive Ad Filter

Inappropriate Adsense On Your Pages

So you’re sick of the Muslim dating site advert that Google Adsense, in its wisdom, keeps displaying on certain pages of your “make money easy” blog and finally decide to do something about it. You have two options:

  1. Change your content to give the very clear message to Google that your site is as far away from the Muslim singles dating game as you can get. You can do this by using more “keywords” in your content and emphasizing them with the appropriate markup (<strong>, <em>, headings – you know the drill).
  2. Use the competitive ad filter in adsense.

Actually, the dating site ads are a bad example because there is obviously something wrong with your content if completely irrelevant adsense like this is being displayed. Unless of course, your site is about Muslim singles, and then these ads are fine! Moving on…

Using The Adsense Competitive Ad Filter To Avoid Giving Money Away

Let’s suppose instead that your site is in the money making ideas niche and adverts for your competitors in the same niche keep appearing on your pages. The last thing you want to do is advertise your competition and send your visitors over to your arch enemy’s site. Changing the content is not an option as it is already laser targeted on your carefully chosen money making keywords. The elegant solution is to use the Google Adsense Competitive Ad Filter to filter out ads you don’t want to display.

How The Competitive Ad Filter Works

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Get offended by an adsense advert that you would like to zap.
  2. Determine either the display URL or the destination URL of the advert.
  3. Access the Competitive Ad Filter section of your Adsense Setup.
  4. List the URLs whose adverts you don’t want to display.
  5. Take a break. Eat a kit kat.

If you’re like me and get offended by everything, step 1 is a doddle. Determining the display/destination URL of the advert’s, however, can be a little tricky because the display URL is not always present. You can’t click on the adsense to find out where it goes as this violates Google’s programme policies.

To find the destination URL you can go the convoluted route, where you right click on the adsense, copy the link location, paste it into notepad and extract the actual destination URL from the humungous googleads string of text.

Or you can go the slick and professional route by using a snappy little tool called the AdSense Preview Tool.

AdSense Preview Tool

The AdSense Preview Tool adds an extra option to the right-click menu in your web browser. To get it:

  1. Save the AdSense Preview Tool to your desktop. When I did this it mysteriously developed a .txt extension, so you may have to rename the file to remove it.
  2. Run the .reg file. This will add arcane information to your registry that will change your world as you know it.
  3. In Internet Explorer 6.x browsers (I couldn’t get this to work in Firefox), right click on an Adsense advert and select Google Adsense Preview Tool.
  4. Select the adverts that you want to remove and then click Show Selected URLs.
  5. A window pops up with the destination URLs. Copy these and add them to your Competitive Ad Filter list.

Website Development Process

Suppose you’ve just bought the website that’s going to make you an internet millionaire. Maybe you bought an expired domain with plans to start from scratch, or maybe you stalked the owner of an already established website and bought that. Now what? How do you get the best out of your new acquisition and make it successful?

This guide to the website development process outlines a method I’ve found to be useful when developing websites of my own. The process is split into three stages:

  1. analysis
  2. planning
  3. implementation

Developing Websites – Analysis

During the analysis stage of the website development process, we collect data over a period of time about the traffic that our site receives. Only when we have that data can we assess how the website is currently performing before we roll our sleeves up, get the bonnet up and tune up the site.

We analyse the traffic data to discover where our visitors are coming from, and to try to understand their behaviour on our site. Only when we understand that behaviour can we optimise their user experience by changing the site appropriately. These changes may include enhancing existing content (perhaps the internal navigation needs improving, or maybe it’s hard to find important material on the site), and writing new content (maybe visitors arrive looking for something in particular but leave disappointed because that content just doesn’t exist – yet).

We will also do some keyword research in the analysis stage to determine how we can expand our content to satisfy our visitors.

The analysis stage usually gives us the following information:

How much traffic the site gets.
Where it comes from: search engines, referrals from other sites, bookmarks.
What search phrases people are using to find the site.
Whether people are satisfied with the pages they visit (yes, we can determine that!).
Whether visitors feel inclined to explore other areas of the site after they’ve finished with the current page.

Exactly how we will determine the above from some dry looking traffic statistics will be discussed in Website Development – Analysis. That discussion will also explore how we can interpret that data. It’s all very well knowing what key phrases bring traffic to our site – but how can we use that information to get more traffic? Only when we have interpreted the data can we draw some meaningful conclusions from it, and then create a plan of action.

broke-the-websiteThe performance data we collect also provides a useful benchmark against which we can measure our improvements. At some stage we need to know whether we have optimised our site or have in fact broken it.

It’s difficult, but if you want to get the best out of your site, you must be patient and collect data over a long enough period of time. I’m currently a week into recording traffic stats for a new website acquisition and I’m determined to accumulate a month’s worth of data. Part of the process involves hand wringing and clock watching.

Developing Websites – Planning

Once the analysis stage is complete, we will understand how our site is currently performing and what we need to do to make it perform better. The planning stage involves making a list of exactly which tasks we’ll need to carry out and will usually include the following:

restructuring existing content. Perhaps there is duplication in categories, perhaps we need more categories in which to file our existing content.
improving navigation. It could be that we’re not giving users an easy way to get to the important content. For example, if we’re trying to sell something on the site, it wouldn’t be a good idea to bury the sales page in the darkest recesses of the site. Instead, it needs to occupy a prominent position.
creation of new content. Our previous analysis may have highlighted material that we should add to satisfy potential visitors.
rewriting existing content.There are a few reasons that we might want to rewriting existing content. Some of it may be badly written, or not well optimised for search engines.
migration to a new platform. If the site is hand coded in html, you may prefer to move it to a content management system that allows you to add new content/amend existing content more easily.
redesign. If you do decide to migrate to a CMS, you should be aware that many CMSs use themes or templates that you can buy to jazz up the look and feel of your site. It’s at this point that you decide what theme or template to use.

Developing Websites – Implementation

Finally, it’s time to actually do something! The website has been operational for a month in its old guise, steadily feeding our traffic statistics package, but now we’re going to put the wheels in motion and update it. I’ll list briefly some tasks you’ll need to perform here, but most will be covered in a later article. These are standard tasks that are independent of the results of the previous analysis stage. You’d need to address them whatever site you were managing.

standard redirects. Make sure that the non-www version of URLs redirects to the www version (or vice versa). Also do the same for index.htm and the root. You’ll be surprised at how many websites don’t do this.
install the CMS if required
copy old content to new CMS
sort out the redirects of the old URLs to the new ones
write, or commission someone else to write, new content

The job is not over once implementation is complete. Now, as well as being able to stand back and admire the view, you must monitor performance and make adjustments to maximise it. Stay tuned for an article on that too.

Traffic Down At Weekends

I’ve seen a lot of people fretting over the fact that their sites receive much less traffic at weekends than during the week. If I turn my attention to my own sites, I find that some of them have a very erratic traffic graph in Google Analytics, and some have that same established pattern of peaking during the week and troughing at the weekends. Here is a very simplistic breakdown for the established sites I own:

Site Type Traffic pattern
Entertainment/gadget erratic
Children’s entertainment fairly consistent with very few peaks and troughs but no pattern
Technical resource very pronounced troughs at the weekend
Musical, very niche fairly uniform graph
Technical resource peaks during the week, troughs at the weekend
Technical resource peaks during the week, troughs at the weekend
Shopping mall just plain random

Why Traffic Varies At The Weekends

Lower Traffic At The Weekends

I can see why traffic might vary at the weekend. Usually, peoples’ behaviour changes drastically at the weekend. I know that I spend a lot more time on the internet during the week than I do at the weekend. A lot of people have jobs that encourage internet use during the week. This might be because they need to do research for their work (programmers looking for technical solutions, brain surgeons in the middle of a tricky op). Alternatively, they might have a job that gives them the liberty of using the internet for entertainment in their breaks. Students do a lot of research on the internet during the week (yeah, right!) and have the weekends off. The list of reasons for high weekday internet use/low weekend use goes on.

On the flip side of that coin are the people whose jobs don’t allow them to access the internet. When they get home, perhaps they need to attend to their responsibilities (cooking, cleaning, house chores) and then chill out. Maybe they don’t feel the urge to use the internet after working a full day and the weekend is a better time for them.

Higher Traffic At The Weekends

Interestingly, not one of my sites gets more traffic at the weekends. Are there any sites that experience this traffic pattern? If there are, I would imagine they would probably be in the entertainment niche, possibly in the NSFW (not safe for work) area.

In my quest for the answer, I thought I would prowl around Sitepoint Marketplace, as kind hearted sellers often display their traffic stats for all to see. This is what I found:

Site Type Traffic pattern
Social voting troughs at weekends
Vector art resources troughs at weekends
Guitar tuition fairly stable traffic with small peaks at the weekend
Search engine fairly stable traffic random peaks

I had to stop there because most traffic statistics provided in the marketplace did not show data at a daily level. The guitar tuition site had a very level graph, but you could just distinguish some peaks at the weekend – but then it could just have been coincidence. It wasn’t a marked trend.

In the interests of research, I’d like to know if any of you have sites that experience an increase in traffic at the weekends. If you have one of those freaks of nature, let me know. We can gather a posse together and burn it at the stake!

Don’t Fret

The bottom line is that no fretting is required. Nosediving weekend traffic is not a sign that the Google demigods are punishing you. It’s just a sign that they love you during the week.

Google Analytics And WordPress

Google Analytics is my tool of choice for tracking visits to my websites. WordPress is my CMS of choice (at the moment) for powering my websites. Google Analytics and WordPress, therefore, are a good combination for me. This piece explains how to add your Google Analytics code to your WordPress driven website.

Installing Google Analytics In WordPress

This article assumes that you know how to get your Google Analytics code to add to your WordPress installation. According to Google, you need to copy their javascript code block into every webpage you want to track immediately before the </body>  tag. As WordPress uses templates to construct your pages, it’s an easy job to find the one you need to amend and add the code in the correct place. Then the code will automatically appear on every page, and therefore track visitors to every page of your site.

In your WordPress control panel in the Appearance section, click Editor.

template-editorThis takes you to the Edit Themes page. Over on the right, underneath Theme Files, you will see a list of all the templates used to create your website. Different WordPress themes use different templates, although some are common to all themes,  so what I see in my list may not be the same as what you see in yours. We need to find the template that has the </body> tag in it so that we can insert our Google Analytics code immediately before it. As the </body> tag appears towards the end of a web page, there is a good chance that it may be found in the template called footer.php. In fact, footer.php contains the </body> tag and the </html> tag so this is the file we need to edit.

footer-fileClicking on footer.php loads its code into the code editor for us to amend. Place your cursor just before the </body> tag and press Enter a few times to create some space in which to work in. The blank lines aren’t necessary to make the javascript work, but it does make the code a littl easier to read. Copy and paste your Google Analytics code into the space preceding the </body> tag.

paste-google-analytics-codeClick Update File to apply your changes. With this mouse click you’ve just added your Analytics code to every page on your site. You can easily verify that this is the case by loading your browser with a page on your site and viewing the source. Navigate to the bottom of the source code and you should be able to see your Analytics code. To speed this process up, I usually search for the characters ‘gajshost’ as that variable name uniquely identifies the javascript code.

WordPress Themes That Handle Your Google Analytics Code

Some clever designers out there have made the task even easier (but let’s face it, the above procedure is hardly rocket science) by providing an input box in the WordPress control panel that appears if you use their WordPress theme. Woo Themes, for example, provide a theme specific options page in which you can supply your Google Analytics javascript code and this means that you don’t even need to be in the same room as a template file’s code.

woo-themes-google-analytics

Use Expired Domains For Affiliate Sites

Back in April 2009, I was watching an expired domain that was won by someone in the Godaddy Expiring Domain Auctions, and recently I decided to check on the progress that the new owner had made since their purchase. Doing this is good practice if you want to get ideas of how to monetise expired domains. The domain in question is mistertab.com and the statistics that the domain claimed in the auction were:

  • Traffic – 4037 unique visitors per month
  • PR – 4

Using An Expired Domain For Your Own Purposes

The site used to hold a huge library of guitar tablature and one of my concerns when I was thinking about bidding on the domain myself was how on earth I would maintain all that tablature. It seemed too much like hard work to me. What the new owner has done, though, is slap a sales page on the domain’s homepage that hard sells a Clickbank guitar learning course. No maintenance necessary here. The site receives an impressive 4,000 unique visitors per month who are all interested in playing the guitar. The traffic is not as targeted as “buy guitar course” PPC traffic, but the traffic is free and in the guitar playing niche.

Checking Inbound Links

The site now consists of only one page, but what about all the old pages that used to be on the site that may still have links to them? In Yahoo Site Explorer, I found a staggering 57,581 links to the entire site and 57,398 to the domain only. That means that there are only 183 links to internal pages of the site other than the homepage – i.e. pages that don’t exist anymore. When buying an expired domain, it’s a good idea to look after all the existing links and make sure they don’t lead to any “page not found” errors. This is done by redirecting them to another page on the site. An expired domain’s inbound links are like gold dust and must be taken care of. However, in this case the vast majority of the links are to the domain anyway so even if the new owner is lazy and doesn’t bother with their redirects, most of the link juice will remain intact. I’m making the (potentially dangerous) assumption that those extra 183 links aren’t exceedingly valuable (for example, from places like dmoz, wikipedia, .edu sites etc)! In that case, you wouldn’t want to lose them. The only way for me to tell what the owner has done with those 183 links is to find each URL they point to, visit it and see whether it redirects to the homepage. But, of course, we don’t know how to identify those links and it is only a distraction from the main focus of this page – how to monetise an expired domain. I suspect that the value of those links is negligible, though. The next public toolbar PR update will tell us whether they passed any significant amounts of PR.

The Dangers Of Using Copy And Paste Sale Pages

I worry about that sales page. There are multiple versions of it spattered around the internet and duplicate content is bad news for search engine rankings. Although some duplicate content does escape the Google detector vans, using duplicate content is at risk of being filtered out of the SERPs or of being removed from the search engine’s index completely. It’s best avoided. It could be that the new owner knows the risks and the 4,000 UVs/month arrive via the humungous number of links anyway, so search engine rankings are of no concern.

Expired Domain Development

If you had bought this domain, one option you would have is to do a little development on the site yourself. This would involve doing some keyword research on guitar related phrases to determine what people are searching for in this niche and then writing a page about each phrase. See my article on using keyword research to drive content creation for more information on how this can be done. Although the domain receives more than 4,000 uniques / month anyway, I feel confident that the strength of the PR4 domain would help internal pages to rank well with minimal effort. In other words, it wouldn’t take long to boost the traffic numbers to much more than 4,000, simply by writing more highly targeted content. And just maybe, the search phrases that bring those visitors would match some other affiliate products that could be pushed. More mazoola you’ll have a hard time spending.

A Quick Way To Monetise Expired Domains

The lesson here? If you find an expired domain that has the following properties, you can quickly put it to work by using it to drive traffic to an affilate sale:

  • Decent traffic. This is important, as you don’t want to work too hard to build traffic from scratch yourself. Don’t buy an expired domain on the strength of its domain name, links or PR. If you read my 5 Minute Guide To Buying Expired Domains, you can find out how to quickly sift through the thousands of expired domains up for auction at Godaddy – and find a gem.
  • The domain is in a niche that is served by an affiliate product.

Only the owner of mistertab will know how successful their endeavour is, but there is nothing stopping you experimenting with similar expired domains. And if it works, rinse and repeat.

Make Money With Expired Domains

If you’ve followed the 5 Minute Guide To Buying Expired Domains, you may feel pretty confident about quickly and efficiently finding and buying a good expired domain. Once in your possession you could use your expired domain to drive affiliate sales. But is that the only money making option open to you? How do you find alternative methods of monetizing your domain?

Here’s the trick: copy what other successful webmasters do. We have our own little laboratory in which other people perform the experiments at their own risk, and we can observe and assess. The only problem with our study is that we can’t gauge the experimenter’s success. But we can generate ideas for our own endeavours. In a nutshell, we need to:

  • Identify expired domains that have been bought with the sole purpose of making money.
  • Recognise the monetization methods employed for that domain.
  • Assess what kinds of sites are suitable for this kind of monetization.
  • Seek out and buy domains that fall into that category and monetize in the same way.

I’ve done the hard work in the form of analysis, so you don’t need to. Over the last few months I’ve been keeping a record of all the expired domains that were receiving high traffic numbers and that were bought by someone in the Godaddy Auctions. I revisited each domain around a month after the auction end date. This time allows for the 7 day Godaddy transfer period, and also gives some time for the new owner to set the site up.

The results are interesting.

Domain Date Traffic PR How Is It Now Being Monetized
thequadfest.com 20th Apr 2009 886 2 Cash parking
fixmyxp.com 20th Apr 2009 5397 4 I think the site was accidentally dropped by the owner as the content now on it is the same as the Wayback Machine shows from over a year ago. Many of the links to articles are redirected to another site that has been suspended, and I remember that when I checked the site previously, it wasn’t suspended. I suspect dodgy dealings, but I have no way of knowing exactly what. When I originally checked this site, it looked like a traffic funnel to another site the owner ran.
typsoft.com 20th Apr 2009 5625 4 Cash parking
mistertab.com 20th Apr 2009 4037 4 Affiliate sales page.
fake-degrees.net 20th Apr 2009 684 4 Affiliate sales page
ladycharms.com 20th Apr 2009 593 2 Ha ha – it’s not what you think! Affiliate sales page.
cvvv.org 7th Jun 2009 582 3 Bought for resale by BuyDomains.com. Cash parked in the mean time.
heratuniversity.org 7th Jun 2009 928 5 Generic content to give the appearance of a genuine content site, but the links in the right sidebar give the game away. The site was bought purely for PR (this domain has a PR5). I would imagine that either the owner owns the sites linked in the sidebar (they’re linking to their own sites to give them a boost in the search engines) or that the owner is selling links. I’m sure that checking the WHOIS for those sites would give an indication.
cadaado.net 12th Jun 2009 12477 5 Generic content used simply as a vehicle for Google Adsense. The site gets a lot of visits so the earnings might make the domain purchase worthwhile. The site isn’t indexed by Google though so there is a dependance on referral traffic. Even so, 12,477 unique visitors via referring sites isn’t to be sneezed at.
freerapidlinks.info 8th Jul 2009 21537 0 Cash parking
dd2k.net 8th Jul 2009 15912 0 Adsense for domains?
eamcetresults.com 8th Jul 2009 11852 1 Cash parking
siteprocentral.com 8th Jul 2009 10863 2 Cash parking
goodholidayguide.com 8th Jul 2009 10737 0 Cash parking
fileegg.com 8th Jul 2009 10096 0 Cash parking
mundobikiny.com 8th Jul 2009 9401 1 Cash parking
shayneskov.com 8th Jul 2009 8058 0 Cash parking
alkaleg.com 8th Jul 2009 7734 0 Cash parking
sinfondos.com 8th Jul 2009 7676 0 Csh parking
clan-forge.net 8th Jul 2009 7506 1 Cash parking
mizrahit-stage.net 8th Jul 2009 6842 2 Cash parking
appreciatedland.com 8th Jul 2009 6557 0 Cash parking
greattradingtips.com 8th Jul 2009 5260 0 Cash parking
ggtong.com 8th Jul 2009 5219 3 WordPress has been installed but no content as yet. Because a CMS is there, I’m guessing that this site won’t join the hordes of domains parked for cash that we’ve already seen. I suspect that the owner is going to develop something here.
technohippie.com 8th Jul 2009 5132 3 Cash parking
watcheo.com 8th Jul 2009 5108 0 Cash parking
newtattoomagazine.com 8th Jul 2009 3068 o Cash parking
mazag.tv 9th Jul 2009 44582 2 Seems like dummy content used as a vehicle for adverts. Nothing much going on here, but the 44K unique visitors are bound to pull some ad revenue.
carmooyin.com 9th July 2009 21965 4 Cash parking
jenniferlopezmp3.info 9th Jul 2009 18978 0 Wow. Real content for a change. Strangely, the content dates back to before the domain was being auctioned. Did the original owner forget to renew and have to buy it back?
tinadiane.net 9th Jul 2009 18834 0 Cash parking
whyaretheydead.net 9th Jul 2009 18669 0 Some weird content here (not surprising given the macabre domain name) – and that is the highest Adsense/content ratio I’ve ever seen! 18.5K UVs / month with all those ads must surely be lucrative. Just an (high traffic) Adsense vehicle.
ukdiscstyle.com 9th Jul 2009 18206 0 Cash parking
fakeposters.com 9th Jul 2009 15821 3 OMG. The new owner has had a brainwave and is actually doing something useful with this domain. FAIL style posters. Yes, there’s Adsense, but the content is good (is it generic – has the owner just copied existing FAIL styly pics?).
tamilntt.com 9th Jul 2009 15686 0 Cash parking
desadmitido.com 9th Jul 2009 14952 2 Cash parking
ayka.net 9th Jul 2009 13942 0 Cash parking
ludzbunjennormalan.tv 9th Jul 2009 10896 0 Cash parking
1milliondollarsingoogleadsfree.com 9th Jul 2009 9207 0 No content yet
minchiachefighe.com 9th Jul 2009 8488 0 Cash parking
sesskag.com 9th Jul 2009 8456 0 Cash parking
scorpiodom.com 9th Jul 2009 8110 0 Cash parking
dsfileshare.com 9th Jul 2009 8023 2 Cash parking
globo-internacional.com 9th Jul 2009 7880 0 Cash parking
aolohost.com 9th Jul 2009 7315 0 Generic content used as a vehicle for Adsense.
phim365.net 9th Jul 2009 6342 0 Cash parking
meridabilly.com 9th Jul 2009 5473 0 Cash parking
l2h3.org 9th Jul 2009 5103 0 Cash parking
howtofindapersontoday.com 9th Jul 2009 4521 2 Cash parking
webmaster-vn.com 9th Jul 2009 4341 2 Cash parking
collegeboysphysical.info 9th Jul 2009 4330 0 Cash parking
fluwikie.com 15th Jul 2009 7270 0 WordPress blog installed but no content yet.
ntegty.com 15th Jul 2009 19323 0 Cash parking
lawrenceyun.com 15th Jul 2009 11858 0 Cash parking
kittenhealing.net 15th Jul 2009 11293 3 Kitten healing? Cash parking!
gaming-box.com 15th Jul 2009 2955 0 Cash parking

Make Money With Cash Parking

As you can see, the majority of the expired domains above were bought and then parked. On the one hand I’m a little disappointed that sites with obvious potential are simply being parked to make money, instead of being developed. However, on the other hand it’s a business decision to do so. If you can buy a domain that receives 20,000 unique visitors every month why not park it? Developing a site from scratch takes time, effort and money, whereas cash parking takes two minutes to set up. You can then sit back and watch the cost/revenue balance redress itself.

Which Expired Domains Are Right For Cash Parking

Obviously, traffic is an important factor in choosing a domain for cash parking. The more traffic you get the more revenue you’ll make. There is no point in parking a domain that receives no traffic. The lowest traffic domain above was receiving less than 1,000 unique visitors. As for what niche is best for your cash parked domain, it doesn’t seem to matter as we’ve seen a real mixture. In summary, it seems that if your expired domain is receiving more than 1,000 visitors it is ideal for cash parking. With that in mind, I can feel a little experiment coming on.

Weird Postscript

I’ve just bought the domain http://cti-logistics.com for $5. A bargain, especially when you consider that although it has only 4 inbound links, one of them is from a PR8 .edu page! Alas, that page isn’t even indexed, and has no inbound links so the PR showing on the toolbar must be wrong. Hence my link here to get the page indexed and see what happens. Oh well, it was only $5…

Website Sellers

Website sellers. What are we to do with them? It seems that the vast majority are not dealing from a full pack. Take this one, for example. The very first question, a request to post traffic stats, is asked on a Friday, and the seller only gets around to responding to it the following Thursday. That’s customer service for you. You would think the seller doesn’t want to part with their beloved site after all. Strike 1!

You can see that there were actually two questions before the seller decided to respond, and when he did, he completely ignored the first! Strike 2. Making bidders wait and then ignoring their questions. This guy hasn’t gotten round to reading “How To Make Friends And Influence People”.

I PMed the seller to add me to his Google Analytics account, which, to his credit, he promptly did. Regarding the claimed traffic of 2,100 uniques / month – guess what? That’s right, the real traffic was nowhere near. It was more like 330/month. But of course, a monthly total of 330 uniques won’t sell as well as a total of 2,100. So let’s simply make up the stats. If anyone questions them, we can always silence them with an outburst of gibberish.

Gibberish Corner

If anyone knows what this gibberish means, please enlighten me.

Hmmm – I am getting more than that. I only have it on one page and have been having problems with it. Income is still strong and if Google Analytics is your SOLE source of information that you rely on, then have fun with that as I anyone can manipulate analyitcs :)

Thanks

You are getting more than that? How? We are both looking at the same stats! And what do you mean you have it on only one page? Just take a look at any random page you pick on the site and you can see the Google Analytics code there! What do you mean Anyone can manipulate analytics???? Duh. If that was true, why didn’t you manipulate it to show decent traffic stats? And just how can someone manipulate those stats? Anyway, it doesn’t matter whether people can manipulate those stats – they weren’t manipulated in this case. Jeez, I don’t know why I bother wasting my time on an auction site that is full of junk and is host to the weakest members of the gene pool who don’t know how to interrelate with other people and see nothing wrong with lying about their sites’ performance. Schoolkids and failed “internet marketers” mostly.

You think sellers are bad? Have you seen the Flippa staff lateley? Stay tuned, I can’t wait to tell you about that “disappointment”. You don’t know what vitriolic rant means!

For G’s sake get me my meds, I’m having a heart attack here!

Therapist’s Note: Paul won’t be posting for a short time while we work on some issues.

Website Analysis – 404 HTTP Error

Yes, it’s time to address those dreaded 404 not found errors. A 404 is returned whenever you have a link to a page that doesn’t exist. For example, somebody links to your about-us.html page but a year later you decide that “About Us” pages are so last year and remove it. Now the link points to… nothing. That creates a 404 not found error.

But what do we care? Well, links are very important for helping our pages rank highly in the search engines and also for funnelling visitors to our site. If we take care of our 404s we can:

  • divert the otherwise wasted SEO value of the links to real pages on our site and help them rank highly.
  • deliver visitors to a meaningful and engaging page on our site instead of a generic and unhelpful 404 not found page.

So, how do we detect 404s and how do we fix them?

Detecting 404 HTTP Errors

Enter Google Webmaster Tools. GWT is easy to set up and provides useful link information about your site (among other things). If you have GWT installed, from the dashboard click Not Found in the Crawl errors section. Doing this presents a list of URLs on your site that don’t exist but that have links to them.

Let’s pretend you have a million 404s and only a limited time to sort them out. Which ones do you fix first? Fortunately for us, there is a handy column to the right called Linked From that tells us how many inbound links each missing page has. Intuitively we know we should fix those pages that have the most links as then we will be gaining the most SEO value from those links, and we will also making the most potential visitors happy. Unfortunately, you can’t resequence this list by descending Linked From value. It’s lucky for us that you can “download this table” in a CSV, open it in Excel and then sort the list by descending Linked From value. Phew.

redirect-404

Fixing 404 HTTP Errors

I ain’t technical, but I know I can fix a 404 error with a 301 redirect in my .htaccess file. If these things mean nothing to you, do not despair. There is an upcoming article due at any moment that explains what these arcane terms mean.

Fixing 404 HTTP Errors With A 301 Redirect

Download the .htaccess file from your server so you know you’re working on the most up to date (or at least the “live”) version. Open it using notepad and paste in the following:

Redirect 301 /old.htm http://www.yourdomain.com/new.htm

Beware the initial forward slash. I’ve missed that off a few times and the sky fell on my head each time.

Now you have the tools to redirect missing URLs, but where do you redirect them to? That is the 64 million dollar question. You have four options:

  • Create a new page whose URL exactly matches the 404 and, hey presto, you don’t even need a redirect. The link will simply point to that new page.
  • Create a new version of the missing page and redirect the old URL to that.
  • Redirect the missing URL to the homepage.
  • Redirect the missing URL to the best matching page. For example, the missing page might be about monkey training, but you actually have a page about dog training – what the hell, it’s nearly the same thing. Redirect monkeys to dogs. This reminds me of the time I transplanted a monkey’s brain into a dog. Man, that was crazy. Redirecting pages might not be as much fun as transplanting brains, but it has more influence on the search engines. Unless it’s Matt Cutts brain we’re talking about…

transplant-a-monkey-brain

Buying New Sites And 404s

When you buy an existing site, the chances are that you’ll have to sort out some 404s somewhere along the line. The site I’m currently analysing has a mere 6 pages missing – but it’s early days yet. It could be that Google simply hasn’t found any others yet. One nightmare of a site I bought last year had around 100 404s I had to redirect.

New Website Development – Website Traffic Analysis

Imagine the scene. You’ve just bought an existing and operational website that is currently receiving traffic. However, the website is still an entity unknown to you so you need to start recording traffic statistics that you can analyse at a later date. Only when you’ve analysed those traffic numbers can you get an idea of how the site is performing, how visitors behave on the site and how best to change the site. This article illustrates the process I use when analysing traffic statistics of a site I’ve just acquired. It’s not meant to be a blueprint that you follow religiously (though there are far worse things you could do :) ). Rather, it would be better to try out the ideas presented here, keep what works, throw away what doesn’t and then add your own ideas to… The Method.

Website Traffic Analysis

My tool of choice for recording website traffic is Google Analytics. There may be other analysis packages out there that are better, but my opinion is that GA is the most comprehensive free one available. The first problem we face when taking possession of a new site is that our Google Analytics tracking code is not currently on any of the site’s pages.  We need to add the code to every page.

Adding Google Analytics To A Content Management System

If the site currently runs on some content management system, adding your tracking code is usually a breeze. Some WordPress themes, for example, provide an input box whose sole purpose is to accept your tracking code. Adding it there will automatically put that code on every page. If the theme does not provide such an input box, then you will have to edit one of the templates (usually footer.php) to add it there. Again, once those changes are saved the code appears on all pages of the site. Here is a handy article on adding Google Analytics to WordPress.

Another popular CMS is Joomla. Just searching the Joomla extensions directory yields a large selection of modules you can use to add your tracking code. Using a module saves you the hassle of finding the write template whose code you’d have to hack amend.

Adding Google Analytics To A HTML Site

I’ve just bought an existing website and am in the collecting traffic data stage. Unfortunately for me, the site was written in straight html. This has many advantages, but applying Google Analytics tracking code to every page is not one of them! In this case I had to systematically work down the list of HTML files, and add the code to each one. Here is my streamlined process:

  1. Open the next HTML file using notepad.
  2. Jump to the end of the file.
  3. Position the cursor before the </body> tag
  4. Paste in my Google Analytics code.
  5. Ctrl-S to save the file.
  6. Close the file.
  7. Go to step 1.

My new site has around 300 pages, and the total time spent on this mind numbing task was around 30 minutes. That’s 10 pages updated / min. You can use that as a rough guide if you need to estimate how long it will take you to do your site. I did this as soon as I was in control of the hosting account for the domain as I wanted to start recording statistics ASAP. The sooner the analysis stage is complete, the sooner we can actually start working on the site.

Monitoring The Site’s Traffic Statistics

I took possession of my site late on 27/07/2009 and frantically added GA code to all 300 pages of the site. That means I have 8 full days of traffic statistics to look at. It makes interesting reading. Here’s what I’ve gleaned so far.

General Website Traffic Analysis

I’m encouraged by the fact that the site received 229 visitors on the first day. So far, in the 8 days I’ve been tracking, the site has been visited by 1,532 unique visitors. That’s an impressive amount straight out of the box, without me even changing a thing on the site. The traffic distribution over sources looks like this:

traffic-sources

The search engine share is a good amount for me, because I just love doing SEO. I have great plans for SEOing this site. Once the analysis stage is complete, it’ll be keyword research all the way and already I have ideas for new content based on what I know people are searching for when they reach my site.

The referral traffic amounts to around 1,000 unique visitors / month, which again is a reasonable amount. If the search engines drop the site (I can’t imagine this happening) I know I will still get at least 1,000 visitors / month from other sources.

The direct traffic is puzzling. I know the site hasn’t changed in 3 years, and it’s obvious that the site is pretty static, so why people have bookmarked the site or are returning via type-ins, is anybody’s guess.

Traffic Trends At Weekends

We’ve seen traffic slumps at the weekend before, and this site experiences them too.

traffic-down-at-weekends

Affiliate Sales Ahoy

The most popular page after the home page (as far as pageviews are concerned) is a page called xxx.html where xxx is the name of a type of product, like “suitcases”. You know what this means, don’t you? Yes, that’s right. That page is perfect for selling items that fall into that category of product. All I need to do is find some affiliate products in that category. I’ve checked Commission Junction and there are plenty of products I can advertise. This will be on the “things to do” list that is produced by the planning stage.

Search Phrases

It’s more good news. The top search phrases that bring traffic to the site all support the idea that affiliate products can be sold here. Let’s pretend that the most popular page mentioned above is called suitcases.html. The top search terms are phrases like:

  • travel suitcase
  • samsonite suitcase
  • vintage suitcase

If people are searching for a product category like “travel suitcase”, there is a good chance they want to buy one. And if they want to buy one, I certainly want to sell them one!

Average Time On Page

The average time spent on a particular page is a useful thing to know. It tells us what pages keep our audiences riveted and which pages make them run a mile. I think there is the danger of reading too much into time on page if the number of pageviews is small, though. For example, that one person visited a page and spent half an hour there doesn’t tell us much because they may just have passed out at the keyboard from boredom and clicked off it when they came to. If, however, 100,000 people visited the page and the average time they spent there was half an hour, then you know you have some mesmerising page there!

For my purposes, I’m going to ignore all pages that have less than 50 pageviews. I set the pageviews threshold so low because I only have statistics for 8 days. After a month, we’ll be able to do a more accurate study.

But… there is one page that has received 5 pageviews and that has an average time on page of 28 minutes and 57 seconds. They can’t all have passed out, surely? Anyway, I’ll look at that when I have more data.

average-time-on-page

To see the average time spent on page in Google Analytics, click Content > Top Content. To sequence the list by descending times, click on the column heading for Avg. Time On Page.  Now pages whose visitors stay on the page for the longest time appear at the top. Just scanning the list of pages with PVs > 50 I can see some impressively long times:

  • 8:11
  • 4:55
  • 2:25
  • etc

This implies that those pages are getting read in their entirety. That means they are of high enough quality to engage the reader. This is good.

What about pages that don’t engage? Let’s click on the column heading for Avg. Time On Page to sequence the list by ascending times. Again, we’re going to ignore pages that haven’t been viewed enough times for these values to be meaningful. The first page I find with pageviews greater than 50 has an average time on page of 38 seconds. Is this good or bad? Well, the page is simply presents a list of linked articles for the reader to navigate to. That the average person spends 38 seconds reading down the list to find an article they want to read is not unreasonable. For other pages, 38 seconds might be abominably low. For a list of articles, I think it might be acceptable. Next page!

The next page has an average time on page of over a minute. Now we are in safe territory. My gut feel is that any page that keeps the visitor reading for over a minute is doing something right. As all pages further down the list are going to have longer times, let’s stop there. Conclusion, there isn’t much wrong with engagement for the pages we looked at. Of course, we only have 8 days of data, and that isn’t nearly enough to assess accurately. It gives me a warm glow, though.

Website Traffic Analysis – Conclusion

This was only a preliminary investigation to get a rough feel for how the site was performing, and to see whether there was anything seriously wrong we needed to fix. So far it’s looking good, but let’s not count our chickens. When we have a months worth of data, we’ll be in a better position to draw meaningful conclusions.

One more thing: in addition to analysing website traffic, you’ll need to analyse inbound links. More precisely, you’ll need to find and fix your 404 HTTP errors.