How not to buy a website

Autocade screenshot
Not long ago, someone tried to buy Autocade. In the interests of transparency, I showed them a couple of forward plans we had, and we never heard from them again.

I had done a bit of research on the potential buyer and it seems their MO is to buy sites on the cheap, and if they ranked highly with a lot of content, they were ripe for the picking. Then they would stuff the sites full of keywords that they would sell for SEO purposes. And a site like Autocade, with thousands of pages, would have a lot of potential SEO juice.

They would not foster any new content: the whole idea was to stuff the site. Basically kill it. And once it outlived its usefulness as an SEO tool, they would look to flog it (showing that it once generated x dollars a month in revenue).

They claimed to have $10 million worth of sites—that’s a very unimpressive figure if they have an entire portfolio of them. It told me each site was worth very little.

I thought they were thinking far too small. With their ballsiness, they could have built the brands of a lot of the properties they bought, and made them worth even more. But that’s not the deal here: they didn’t want long-term brand-building. It was all about making the web a worse place to be, manipulating search engines and offering nothing new for netizens.

And I don’t think they did their research very well when they approached me.

I was friendly enough, but if you’re going to buy a media brand, you had better have more front than that.

Having said that, we can sell keywords directly—but they had better be legitimate and in keeping with the site. I’d be OK with a Mercedes-Benz page linking to a Mercedes-Benz dealer or an official site. Context matters. As does the integrity of the brand.
Autocade’s audience has shrunk in the last six months due to a lack of updates, a reflection of the sorts of distractions small businesses face during tricky economic times. I don’t think it’ll hit the next million milestone within four months; we’re looking more at five. And that’s fair enough: search engines need to know you’re alive if they’re to prioritize your entries (in theory anyway). Maybe that’s what made us a target of this enquiry.

To that end, a bunch of new entries has gone up and we’ll watch the page views rise accordingly.

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