The first question when you’ve decided to get into the online entrepreneurship route is whether you should build a website from scratch or just get on the interwebs and purchase an existing one to get yourself a quick start.
If you’re lacking the kind of financial funds you need to hit the ground running, your options might be limited and you probably lean towards building a site (although a good alternative solution could be the work from some extra hours or decrease your expenses for a while if you really want to purchase that website, priorities, right?).
But even if you have the financial means to just outright purchase a website from a marketplace or broker, there are some arguments to be made for building your own website from the ground up (perhaps you can still kickstart the process and utilize those funds to hire writers, SEO specialists, outreach specialists, etc).
While there may be many good reasons to purchase a website to get started, let’s have a look at the reasons to build instead of buying a website.
Plugins can be very handy and some of them are de facto necessities, but having too many of them can slow your website down considerably, especially if you’re on a cheap web host capping your available memory.
You’d think the paragraph above is common knowledge but you’d be surprised how many people install dozens of plug-ins without any regard for website speed. On average, it’s quite common for a business website [running WordPress] to have at least 20 – 30 plugins. Some people even consider it good practice to do so because then you’re “using WordPress to its full potential”.
If you’re buying from a previous owner, (s)he might have totally different ideas for optimizing for SEO. Which includes having plugin bloat and leaving you to figure out whether plugins are actually:
- Still being used
- Mandatory (as in, will break the site should you disable/delete them)
- Require a (paid) subscription
- Require a non-transferable license (like a plugin bought on codecanyon.com)
- Or even worse, have been acquired illegally
It can take a very long time to go through the entire plugin list, time you could have used building your own website from scratch. So keep plugin hell in mind when going out to purchase an existing website and make it part of your due diligence, ask the seller how many plugins are installed on the website and if they have the proper licenses where required.
Similar to plugin hell from going wild on the plugins, a similar issue might occur when it comes to the images being used on the website.
Although using images will not slow your website down like plugins do (unless you use them all on one page and even then lazy loading is a thing), they might put you in a very different hell by using copyrighted images without permission.
As someone who’s gone through this themselves, I can assure you it’s no fun waking up to a message in your inbox claiming to send you a big invoice or take you to court because you unknowingly have an image on one of your pages that was “stolen” by one of the previous owners.
Especially on websites that have been around for a while, there might be some legacy problems from gathering images online back in the day when the technical capabilities of today didn’t exist. Today there are services dedicated to crawling to the web to find copyrighted images all automatically, it’s not worth it to take any chances.
This is why I always add copyright info to every image I upload the moment I upload them, either a URL in case of royalty-free images or personal info when I’m using one of my own pictures or have explicit permission from the photographer.
It’s also why checking for copyright should be an integral part of your due diligence, you want to avoid penalties or lawsuits at all cost, even if you end up being innocent they’re a huge time and money waster.
Always ask the seller for copyright information on the images and treat all images as being stolen. You’ll end up being right most likely.
And on the topic, when you decide to build a website with the idea of selling it, always keep track of copyright information in case a potential buyer asks you for it. In fact, track it anyway, even if you never plan to sell, a copyright troll might still want to get you to pay for using images you have legal usage right for.
There’s no way to be completely sure how backlinks were gathered unless you gather them yourself. Also, you should gather them organically anyway by just focusing on writing great content.
The seller could have used private blog networks (PBN), paid for backlinks, spammed their URLs, or just been unlucky by getting a backlink from the wrong website. Whatever the reason may be, you could get a search engine penalty against your site for something you didn’t do yourself, you likely won’t even know the exact reason which will make it hard for you to get rid of it.
Yes, there are services you can use to get rid of them, there are people on Fiver or Upwork you can hire but like the previous points they all take time and money you wouldn’t need to spend if you just started from scratch.
So, also make checking backlinks part of your due diligence, ask the seller how backlinks were gathered, check the backlinks yourself, and be especially wary of PBNs.
Site Migrations Are A Mess
If you’ve ever migrated a website, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not, imagine moving a machine part by part while it keeps running. Site migrations are a huge PITA and to be avoided at all costs. At least for dynamic websites, static websites can in most cases just be built/uploaded somewhere without problems (and often for free). It’s another underestimated advantage of static websites.
It’s the reason why many people decide to not move their websites, even if they’re not changing owners. It’s also why so many experts recommend you to get started on a decent host from day one instead of choosing the cheapest one you can find with the intention of moving it over once you get more visitors, only to stay at the cheap host because you’re too afraid to move it and just deal with the downtime because the host can’t handle the traffic (TRUE STORY). It’s a very sad movie.
A good way to avoid much hassle when migrating websites is to run them in Docker containers on a VPS, it’ll give you the opportunity to just copy the containers over to a new VPS without exporting DBs and copy file by file over to the new host.
When you’re purchasing an existing website, you also purchased the existing structure of the business, we listed this as the number one reason for purchasing a website instead of building one. Having that structure in place might be a big advantage to get you to hit the ground running, editor in place, active writers, income sources, and existing backlinks.
You might thank you’re at a disadvantage when building from scratch but to quote Johan Cruyff: “Every disadvantage has its advantage.” While there would be an existing structure in place when buying a website, there are no guarantees you’ll like it.
The previous owner might have had a completely different way of looking at things. After all, everybody’s wired differently. You might end up slowly turning the old structure into one you like which makes us think, “Why not put your own structure in place from the start?”
Starting from zero will give you a blank slate to develop into whatever you want it to be. You might want to build a static site instead of a dynamic site. You might want to focus more on social media, or outreach, or bet 100% on SEO. Changing strategy halfway through the battle can end up confusing everyone, including search engines.
Why not build from scratch and immediately do it the right way?
Do What’s Best For You
So now you have some great reasons to start building your own website instead of buying one but we don’t think one is better than the other. There are some very good reasons to buy a website instead of building one as well.
In the end, it’s up to you, you know yourself best. What’s your end goal? Do you like creating content and want to turn your hobby into a business? Are you extremely entrepreneurial and want to go the M&A route and own a big diverse portfolio with a bunch of websites?
Do what attracts you and keeps you motivated. It’s the best way to succeed.
Keep us up to date on your journey. We love hearing success stories.