If you’re an authority website builder, affiliate marketer, or are interested in buying and selling websites, then you’ve probably heard of Flippa before.
The website Flippa is a marketplace for buying and selling web properties like domains, web pages, and other web applications. It’s well known for its accessibility, where websites big and small are up for grabs.
But even as Flippa has grown in leaps and bounds since being founded in 2009, the marketplace has started to develop a reputation for scam listings.
The company has made strides to improve in recent years, and it still holds its place as a dominant marketplace for buyers and sellers online. But how can you decide if it’s worth buying or selling a site on Flippa?
In this article, we will cover the most common Flippa scams and how to avoid them. We’ll also share a few key differences between Flippa and our marketplace on Motion Invest, so you can make the right choice whenever you decide to buy or sell a website!
Breakdown of a Flippa Listing
When you visit Flippa as a buyer for the first time, you’ll find easy-to-understand listings that give you a good idea of a site’s focus, earnings potential, and seller verification (ie whether the seller has offered legitimate websites in the past).
After filtering for various types of sites, including content, eCommerce, SaaS, and domains, you will find the following info on most listings:
At A Glance Data: Here you can see key performance indicators like site age, platform, and monthly net profit for the site.
Site Breakdown Data: This is where the buyer can start to dig to determine a site’s true value. Flippa listings include the following:
- Traffic data imported from Google Analytic
- Gross revenue and profit data
- Domain, keyword, and backlink information from SEMrush
Seller’s Notes and More: A listing will close out with some notes from the seller where they can discuss the revenue model they are using, plus answer some common questions. Beyond this, there is a place for the seller to upload more in-depth information and interact with prospective buyers in the comments section.
This information is a great starting point for anyone looking to get started on Flippa. It’s also where you need to develop a keen eye for identifying common scams and problematic listings!
Here are the top 4 common scams in Flippa – plus solutions to protect yourself from them.
Issue 1: Fake Traffic Not Brought in Through the API
Flippa can show a site’s traffic by granting Google Analytics access using the Flippa API. This means that a seller isn’t inputting site traffic on their own, but it doesn’t protect against fake traffic that the seller purchases for their site!
There are several ways to identify this. First, if you are looking at a site’s analytics results and see a majority percentage of Direct Traffic (especially from social media), with a high bounce rate and low organic traffic, you could be viewing traffic that the site has purchased.
Purchased traffic tends to come from one or two sources, and the time on-page metric should show that the average visit is less than 10 seconds. Keep in mind that a healthy content site averages around 30 seconds for time on page.
Issue 1 Solution:
If you see too many of the above warning signs, it is very likely that the site you are looking at is a scam. However, if you want to be 100% sure, you can request guest access to their Google Analytics to do more digging around on your own.
If you have a subscription to an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush, you can also double-check their traffic data to see if lines up.
Your last resort can be to ask for Google Search Console access to verify the site’s keyword rankings.
Asking for Google Analytics and Search Console access is a routine step before purchasing a site on a marketplace. If the seller expresses hesitation to this, that’s a major red flag that they are running a fake traffic scam.
Issue 2: Income Shots Without Amazon Tags Shown
Another common Flippa scam is fake income screenshots, where sellers edit images that show how much money a site has earned in the past. This is an incredibly easy thing to do, since it only requires basic HTML knowledge to “live edit” a webpage. (Or a quick adjustment to a screenshot using Photoshop.)
Flippa does not review income screenshots for sites that are listed, which might make you wonder, “How can I trust any revenue screenshots?”
Well, the honest answer is, you can’t. Due diligence is part of being a successful website owner, so you’ll have to go beyond screenshots to verify income.
Issue 2 Solution:
To check for yourself, try manually doing the math. Using Amazon Associates screenshots as an example, you can check stats like total earnings, items shipped, and advertising fees to make sure that they add up.
If you start to get that funny “scammy” feeling, ask the seller for access to their affiliate dashboard so that you can verify the income they claim to be making.
Issue 3: Fake Business Financials
Much like fake screenshots, fake business financials are a big problem on Flippa. This is made even worse because sellers manually input profit and loss data into their listing, so they don’t even have to doctor screenshots to inflate their numbers.
There are two key ways that you can shop on Flippa with confidence that you are looking at sites with legitimate revenue.
- You can estimate how much a site should sell for with some simple math.
- You can request further access from the seller to verify their revenue claims.
Above all, you will learn to see through common sales scams the more time that you spend evaluating different business listings. When your spider sense starts to tingle, move on and find a better opportunity to invest in.
Issue 3 Solution:
You can use some logic and widely accepted rules to determine whether revenue figures are inflated. Monthly profit is a great way to weed out particularly obvious scams. You can expect that healthy websites will sell for anywhere from 20 to 40 times their average monthly profit.
Another dead ringer is site age. Listings that promise strong returns when the site is only a few months old are unrealistic. Even if this revenue is actually legit, it could be the result of dodgy short-term traffic schemes!
If you are on the verge of a purchase and wish to be assured of a site’s business potential, there are several ways that you can ask for proof of revenue. This isn’t overstepping – in fact, it is a legitimate business practice for someone looking to drop thousands of dollars on an asset from a stranger on the internet.
Request dashboard access or screen sharing via video call. This is useful for verifying revenue from advertising networks like Ezoic and Mediavine, or affiliate programs like Amazon Associates. Flippa can verify revenue from Google AdSense, so you can treat these revenues as more legitimate.
Issue 4: Site Content is Plagiarized or Duplicate
Duplicate content does occur, but the good news is, it’s a pretty easy problem to recognize. Part of your due diligence process should include reading through the content on the site, and also running the website through a plagiarism checker tool like Copyscape.
By reading the content yourself, you also get a sense of what level of quality the content is. Just keep in mind, if there aren’t other glaring issues with a niche site, poor content quality isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker. In fact, if a site has decent domain authority and a solid backlink profile, it can be a valid strategy to buy a cheaper site, spruce up the content, and capture big gains in organic traffic!
Issue 4 Solution:
Running content through Grammarly or Copyscape to check for duplicate content is pretty self explanatory, but what % is too high? Generally, anything over 5% is worth investigating.
But here’s the challenge: Even if site content has over 20% duplication, this doesn’t mean their site is copying others. It can actually mean that other sites are copying their content!
So, ask the seller about what their plan has been for revising their content to keep it unique. And if they can show that duplicate content is a result of other websites copying their content (using publish dates or requests for sites to take content down), then you can be confident that the site is a worthy investment.
You should also use SEMrush or Ahrefs to confirm the quality of the site’s backlinks. It’s easy for strong site content to be duplicated, but it’s much more difficult to build a strong backlink profile from other reputable sites.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all of the sites for sale on Flippa scams?
Of course not!
However, Flippa has become a minefield for website buyers and sellers alike. Sure, there are many ways to weed out scammy website offers, but these increasingly require experience and time-consuming due diligence.
For longtime website flippers and owners, this might not be a big deal, but newcomers face a steep learning curve and the potential for pitfalls. This is a shame, since it makes it harder for sellers to advertise legitimate sites at a reasonable price.
Is Flippa a bad place to purchase a site or domain?
Flippa is still considered one of the most popular places to purchase a site or domain because of the sheer volume of available websites.
You can think of Flippa like the online auto trader listings in your area. Sure, there will be plenty of lemons and clunkers advertised alongside well-maintained pre-owned vehicles, but at least you have the ability to compare them against each other en masse. The ability to use your skills to verify further is an added bonus, and it beats sweating in a used car lot with some pushy salesman.
Is Flippa doing anything to stop scams?
They do have a team working to identify common scams and provide protection for buyers and sellers.
With that said, the company still needs to decide whether they will continue to evolve to become more reputable, or let scammy sellers run amok on their platform.
Is Flippa a scam in general?
Not at all. It’s ridiculous to call the entire Flippa site a scam. If you’re wondering, “Is Flippa legit?”, we can tell you that Flippa is a legitimate marketplace, run by a team that wants to help provide value to online sellers.
Unfortunately, there are so many ways to sell a scam website these days that it can be hard for them to keep up.
Ever hear the old adage, “if it was easy, everyone would do it?” That’s kind of how Flippa works. Much like investing in real estate, cryptocurrency, or stocks, you have to put in the work!
Why Motion Invest is the Best Way to Avoid Flippa Scams
If you’re looking for a safer alternative to buying and selling sites, Motion Invest is different. We’ve developed our own marketplace with a few key differences that make it a much safer place to buy and sell websites.
First, Motion Invest is a party in every transaction made, while Flippa serves only as a broker and marketplace. This means that Motion Invest takes on the risk that Flippa buyers would shoulder when purchasing from unknown sellers.
Remember how we talked about Flippa’s inability to properly vet income and business data earlier in this post? The experts at Motion Invest professionally verify ALL sites that are listed, because we purchase them ourselves before we make them available for purchase.
Lastly, Motion Invest seeks out niche content websites with strong, sustainable organic traffic. Flippa does offer a wider variety of online business types, but this makes it harder to validate them all, unless you are an expert in a range of online business models.
Is Motion Invest Right For You?
Buying a website, domain, SaaS product, or other online product is an exercise in trusting your expertise and managing risk.
It can be nerve-wracking at times, especially since online products are not tangible like something that you walk into your neighborhood store to purchase. For some buyers, this increased risk can indicate a higher potential upside – but it can be difficult to mitigate that risk without years of experience.
Other buyers need more trust when they choose to invest thousands of dollars into an online business asset. There are many other reputable online marketplaces for these products, but for these smaller niche websites, nowhere else protects your investment like Motion Invest.
Curious to know more about how we do business? Visit our buy site page today and learn how you can buy with 100% confidence from Motion Invest.