Website Due Diligence
Helpful audits that assist your decision making.
Looking to buy a website or ecommerce business but don’t really know how well the site is performing?
With so much to consider during an acquisition, website due diligence offers an expert second opinion and a health-check on the asset you are buying.
Due diligence audits aim to uncover:
Website due diligence audit checklist
Uncover problems before they become your problem.
# Domain analysis: background checks are investigated including the domain’s age, technical setup and blacklist mentions.
# Content review: uncovers content opportunities and analysis of the quality of content on the domain alongside duplication checks.
# SEO audit: looks at the foundations of the site including link profiling, indexation and technical search errors.
# Competitors: industry and niche research to pinpoint those who are worth watching with a review of their strong / weak points.
# Website performance: aims to quantify traffic from different channels, ranking keywords and UX statistics such as load times.
# Value audit: reviews the asset sale price with recommendations on areas which could impact the sale negotiations / final value.
Why are due diligence audits important?
Even if the seller of the website is genuine and the reasons for the sale are truthful, they themselves could be blindingly unaware of underlying issues. From my experience, it’s not uncommon that websites are purchased with unnoticed issues that later become a serious problem for the new owner!
From future algorithmic penalties and technical issues to uncovering unnatural SEO tactics and performance errors, due diligence audits are designed to give you the insight that you need to strategise your negotiations and support your decision making.
In the tabs below, I’ve created two hypothetical situations that demonstrate the value of carrying out an audit. Don’t let yourself fall into scenario #1, where a little due diligence would have gone a very long way!
Scenario #1 (without audit)
After years of waiting, on a reputable platform, you’ve finally found a decent website or ecommerce business to buy.
You’ve been in touch with the owner who has genuine reasons for selling and has provided you with heaps of insight and data about how the website is performing.
You might have received a list of top performing keywords that drive traffic, a breakdown of marketing spend and details about the site’s SEO strategy and tactics.
You feel comfortable that the website has solid foundations and has scope for growth. Your knowledge of digital marketing techniques is sound but you are by no means a website due diligence expert.
Questions you have asked have been given a detailed reply and you feel satisfied that the website or business you are buying is sound and the sale tag is reasonably priced.
You arrange a buy-out agreement which consists of a large lump sum upfront followed by a further payment after a short handover period.
Ownership of the asset is transferred into your control and you set out to run and grow the website that you now proudly own!
6 months down the line, you start to notice a dramatic decline in organic traffic from Google. You question your own techniques that you have implemented recently but find no correlation with the drop in organic performance.
With help from an SEO expert you uncover that your website is under a Google link penalty – a potential issue that would have been highlighted after carrying out a website due diligence audit.
The penalty, which is the result of previous poor link building techniques has taken a while to rear it’s ugly head but a recent change in search algorithms has found the issue surrounding your site and raised a red flag.
With pages lost from search results and site trust at an all time low with Google, the SEO expert says that even with significant SEO investment it could take between 6 months to 3 years to reclaim the site’s previous performance.
You contact the owner to understand why this issue was never discussed during the sale and to ask for compensation. They state that they were unaware of the pendinng penalty issue and sold a website that was performing well in good faith. Too much time has passed for any form of refund.
You take stock of the situation and realise you should have invested in a website due diligence audit prior to agreeing the sale and final price. It would have given you a second opinion on the insight you had been provided by the owner whilst uncovering potential threats surrounding the site’s performance.
Scenario #2 (with audit)
After years of waiting, on a trusted platform, you’ve finally found a suitable website or ecommerce business to buy.
You believe the owner has a genuine reason for selling and lots of insight and data about how the website or business is performing has been provided.
You get access to a list of top performing keywords that drive traffic, a breakdown of advertising spend and information about the site’s SEO strategy and tactics.
You feel comfortable that the website has decent foundations and plenty of untapped opportunities. You have strong knowledge of managing websites and implementing digital marketing tactics but are by no means a due diligence expert.
You believe no stone has been left unturned during talks with the owner. You feel satisfied that the website you are buying is genuine and the price tag is reasonable for the asset.
However, just before you arrange a formal buy-out agreement, for peace of mind, you decide to invest in a website due diligence audit to get a health check on the site and to uncover any hidden issues that you might have missed.
The audit highlights that the data you received from the owner has been genuine. However, the site is in a state of long-term, slow traffic decline which needs addressing quickly to maintain current performance. In addition, some previous SEO tactics are found to be unprofessional and need to be stopped to reduce any potential penalties and issues in the future.
Armed with this knowledge, you negotiate a lower price with the owner which consists of a smaller lump sum upfront followed by several smaller payments paid when conditional targets are met. You realise you now need to make the most of the short handover period with the owner so they can assist with helping you to curb the decline.
Ownership of the website is transferred into your control and you take the reigns fixing the highlighted issues and get on with growing traffic.
6 months down the line, after implementing the recommendations from the due diligence audit and stopping the poor SEO techniques, site performance has increased much faster than you expected. You can rest easy knowing that your website has a solid SEO grounding and there are no skeletons lurking in the closet for later down the line!
You take stock of the situation and realise you made the right decision by investing in a website due diligence audit prior to agreeing the sale. Not only did it help you negotiate a better deal, the insight it uncovered also set you up to maximise growth from day 1!
How much does a website due diligence audit cost?
With websites varying in size and technicality, I unfortunately can’t provide a fixed due diligence audit price. Previous audits have ranged from £250 to £500 for a small non-transactional site through to £3,500 to £5,000 for an established ecommerce site with tons of products. For a bespoke quote, please contact me with more information about the website you are looking to buy and we can go from there. To start an audit, I require 50% of the price upfront, followed by 50% on audit completion.
What access do you need to complete an audit?
For simple, straightforward due diligence audits, all I require is the domain name. However, if you need a more technical audit that digs deep into areas such as the website’s backend CMS or analytics traffic data, I will require access to these tools and systems where data and information is collected (a NDA can be signed if needed). For most accounts and tools, you can give me ‘READ-ONLY’ access which can be revoked once the audit has been completed.
Do you provide recommendations to fix issues?
As standard, all issues highlighted in my website due diligence audits are labelled with a recommendation to improve or fix the issue. If for any reason you require a more detailed explanation or consulting / guidance with implementing these changes, this can be arranged when we discuss your audit project.
How is the audit formatted?
Due diligence audits are emailed to you in PDF format and contain detailed content, graphs and charts about each issue that I find – positive or negative. For an extra fee, I can walk through the audit with you and your team, explaining each section and answering questions in more detail as we go.
Have you got any free tips when buying a website?
Buying a website or ecommerce business can be a complicated process and an area where proper due diligence is required to avoid any unfortunate situations.
Aside from investing in a website due diligence audit, here are three very important elements that buyers should consider when purchasing a website.
1. How much influence does the current owner have on the business’s success? Ask yourself, without the current owner(s) what will change? If in a situation where the owner has lots of expert industry knowledge or experience of a complicated product or service, work out an agreeable way to keep them close to the business. This may be via long-term consulting or a longer handover period.
2. Think about a buy-out agreement that reduces your risk: don’t be a fool and handover the price tag lump sum all at once. This could leave you short of cash and put lots of pressure on the website or business to return quickly. Instead, agree a buy-out that works for you – this could be in the form of multiple smaller payments paid over a certain period.
3. Don’t leave any assets behind: make sure during your buy-out phase that every business asset is accounted for. From email accounts and ownership of digital marketing tools to social logins and folders of graphics, remember to ask for and transfer every asset that is needed to support the site.