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Today we are talking to Chuck Mullins all about due diligence. An internet business veteran who is now a part of the Quiet Light team, Chuck purchased his first internet business while still in college and was more successful at 18 than some of the most seasoned entrepreneurs.
For both the buyer and the seller, the due diligence process is one of the most difficult parts of buying and selling an online business. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools that can be used to simplify the process.
In this episode, Mark and Chuck look at over 20 different due diligence tools and explain how you can use them in our due diligence processes.
Chuck guides us through a group of tools that can be fundamental to any well thought out due diligence plan. Any buyer knows that this is the most important thing you can do to make sure that no stone is left unturned when preparing to make that purchase and hit the ground running.
- Try using a due diligence consultant service. We don’t advise leaving it all up to them but they can take some of the work out of your hands.
- Never just research the business but remember to also research who is selling the business.
- Google trends is very powerful. Google Trends lets you read the trends that any given business may have experienced. Be sure to be aware if your acquisition is “trendy” or “evergreen.”
- SEM tools can provide insight into the business potential and the size of any risks.
- Website crawling tools are used to determine customer and market trends.
- Social media tools are an additional way to gain insight into connections for that business and also the business owner’s niche interactions in their niche.
Lessons from Due Diligence:
- For first time buyers the best advice Chuck offers is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Due diligence gives you the answers.
- Know what a tool is good at, put it in your due diligence toolbox, and use it correctly.
- Surround yourself with the types of people who can help you. Be careful to use your lawyer for law and your accountant for money. Always remember that you as the buyer ultimately make the business decision.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
- Keep good records of what you have looked at. Work off a checklist and be meticulous about it.
- A seller is as interested in you in the success of their business.
Mark: Hey Joe, how are you?
Joe: Doing good Mark, how about yourself?
Mark: I’m doing well, I’d talk to somebody that we both know well and that’s one of our own Chuck Mullins.
Joe: Mr. Chuck Mullins, good man he is.
Mark: He is, yeah. He joins us on the interview on the video part push on the interview wearing his Quit Light shirt which he had embroidered. The only person at Quiet Light that has one. Although, He didn’t tell me that he made one for you. And I haven’t seen you in it yet.
Joe: He did I almost put it on today. It’s just, it’s a little big so I [inaudible 0:01:16] it. I need to put on some layer, run it through a two cycles of the dryer.
Mark: It would have been so appropriate because, you know, he’s wearing his shirt in this interview and you’ve been wearing your shirt in, and he’s getting, make one for me though of course.
Joe: He should. You’re the founder of Quiet Light Brokerage.
Joe: You should have like a logo on the back of your office chair that says Quiet Light Brokerage, what’s wrong with you?
Mark: I thought about it but. Most of my office is really a mess. If you seeing this on video and we’ll talk about this one a bit. My office is usually a mess. It’s all about angles, right? My angles a little bit of center today because I don’t want to show you the rest of my office. So, yeah. But this actual episode is going to be great for a video. If you’re listening in your car, if you’re listening on the podcast, you’ll still get a lot of value out of it. But I’d recommend at some point checking out the Youtube channel. We are separating our channels, so we will have a new channel, just for the podcast episodes. And this episode will, going to kick that off. So make sure you’ll go there and you subscribe. And the reason that is a good one to watch on the Youtube channel is because we’re reviewing due diligence tools in this episode. We actually go over 27 different due diligence tools. We bring them up on the screen and you can see, we kind of browse around and fumbling around on somebody’s sites. As we talk about how you can use this in your due diligence process. Any buyer out there who is looking to acquire a business in the next few years or so, you know due diligence is probably the most important part of that process for you making sure that you’re checking under every rock and every hidden area to see is there anything wrong with this business that I need to be aware of. Well Chuck and I go over 27 tools that he has used personally in his past of buying businesses. So we bring real interest in episode from that stand point. He brings a lot of experience in buying and selling businesses for.. Do you know how long he has been doing it? I can’t remember off hand.
Joe: In 1997 I think. He was self-employed in college, making more in one month the most people make in a year when he was in college.
Mark: Right right and then, He and I have been presenting at Pubcon for 7 years. We go over this video a little bit but we’ve been presenting for 7 years at Pubcon together and people always come to see Chuck and then hopefully I can pick up a couple of the scraps to come off the table when presents. So it’s a great presentation on a how to go about buying online businesses.
Joe: And just a point out of the obvious remaining, not so obvious. Technically we represent the sellers in what we do. Well we can’t help them and help them while unless we also help as many buyers as possible. So it’s, many people would think that what you’re about to present with Chuck is in contrast to what we do. But we’re always about full disclosure, always making sure that buyers are making good investments and so that both they and the sellers are happy to closing table and it’s successful transaction down the road as well.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely! Again, we going to do represent the sellers, but if our seller’s getting sued, 3 or 4 months later that is a pretty bad job on our part. So it’s important that both buyer and seller walk away from a deal, happy and when you know that deal. So that’s the goal. We get a transaction wins. And part of that process is due diligence. I say, I hate like throw a due diligence. When I first started Quiet Light and I got like, you know, a monster due diligence, I would kind of [inaudible 0:04:31] and be like, Oh man, this is going to be a pain. Now when I see a well thought out due diligence, it’s makes me happy because I know that, that buyer is going to be really happy and that deal is gone go through. Because where they’re going to really inspect that business thoroughly.
Joe: Yeah, well thought, that was important. Not just a massive list but a well thought, that was specific to the business that’s being purchased. I’ve seen blank at due diligence less come through where somebody clearly copied and paste it. But I’m excited about this episode Chucks a really, really smart guy and successful entrepreneur and I think a lot of people would learn some good stuff here.
Mark: That’s good, very good. Let’s get to it.
Mark: Hey Chuck, how are you?
Chuck: Doing great. How are you Mark?
Mark: I’m good. Thanks for joining me on the call. I see you have your nice Quiet Light shirt on. You’re the only one at Quiet Light that has that shirt.
Chuck: That’s because I took the initiative to have it made.
Mark: Right. We’ll get them for everybody else eventually.
Chuck: Actually, I think I bought Joe one. But he didn’t want it.
Mark: Oh really, I got to start getting on him so he wears it from the Podcast.
Mark: Yeah, anyway for this Podcast, if you guys are listening to this in your car, this would be one of the once that I would recommend over going to Youtube and we’ve set up a new channel on Youtube just for the interviews. We’re going to put all our interviews on that channel. I’d recommend looking at that because we’re going to review a bunch of due diligence tools. A little bit of background between Chuck and myself. Chuck and I have been presenting at Pubcon. What? 7 years I think?
Chuck: Yeah, I think so.
Mark: Yeah, a very long time. Chuck invited me to speak within that Pubcon a while ago. We’ve been doing it ever since we’ve had all the people join us occasionally, to talk about buying and selling websites. But he and I have been talking about that night. Typically we talk on the sell side and Chuck was talking on the buy side. And the result was that more people are interested in what Chuck had to say than I was ever had to say. So I figured, it would be good to have you on here. Both, so I think we can get to know you a bit better. I’d also review some of the due diligence that you’ve use in the past in buying online businesses. So let’s just do a quick introduction for you as far as your background. What’s your background in buying and selling online businesses?
Chuck: So, I started my first website back in 1996. Through the few years, made a bunch of money in college just a kind of doing really well. And made more money than you know, than I was living on. So I start looking at doing various investments. So, start looking at real estate, franchises, I was looking at car washes, and a storage facilities, and a Laundromats. And nothing ever, just kind of, really worked for me or really peaked my interest enough. You know like, I dabbled in real estate. But everything just kept kind drawing me back to the internet business. So then, you know, I made a few websites that were successful. But I started thinking about you know, what if I could acquire somebody’s company and then just build upon that and stand on somebody else’s shoulders, instead of trying to prove out a model myself. You know, use a model that has been proven by somebody else. And then just take all the knowledge I had, and expertise, and grow that. So I start doing really well, and at a certain point I just fell alive, you know presenting at a conference, and kind of just, giving back, and then that’s when I reached out to you and I think my initial presentation I gave was with Jason, Quiet Light, we did it at affiliate summit. I don’t even know, 8 or 9 years ago.
Mark: Yeah, I remember that. I was in the audience for that presentation and then, that was January. I remember specifically because it was really cold at that conference in Las Vegas. The fountains were frozen when we got out of the hotel. I was kind of surprised about that. So it’s cool! So yeah, you’ve been doing this presentation for a long time and I know whenever we do the presentation, when we get to the slide on due diligence, whereas all the phones in the rooms go up to take pictures, because people are really interested to know what’s our tools they can use to do due diligence. So we’re going to review some of these tools here, as well as talk about some of the principles, buyers might want to apply when you’re doing your due diligence. As always, we’ll just throw out the blanket; cover your tails sort of a disclaimer here. Due diligence is ultimately a buyer’s responsibility. Make sure that you’re doing it, make sure that you are bringing in professionals. What we’re going to do is were going to give some advices to things that we’ve seen work, but by all means, this is not complete when you’re talking about due diligence. Wherein you need to apply a complete process to the business that you are looking at. So I’m going to share my screen here and open this up, and I’m just going to share the full screen, and hopefully on my [inaudible 0:08:56] of so that people don’t get those. But can you see that chart does that come up for you?
Mark: Alright. Good, good. So here we go, where going to just get started right away with this list of tools and I’ll be browsing to the website as you talk about the individual ones. The first one that we’re going to talk about is Centurica and they’re full service due diligence firm. They are the only one of that sort that we have on this list. So why don’t you talk a little bit about Centurica, what they do and why they made this list.
Chuck: Sure, So Chris Yates is the owner of Centurica, they’ve been around for quite a while and Chris runs a buying and selling website conference called and Rhodium. Rhodium Weekend I think is kind of, the official name. I ran into Chris way back when I started to look at buying and selling businesses. he was the first person.. I’m always looking for knowledge where I look into learn more. So doing some searches and came across his conference and went to it. Kind of on a whim, because there was no information about the conference because that was the first one that they’ve had. So it was like, trying to figure out and I thought well, for the money, maybe I’ll pick up something and if not, it’s not a total lost because you know, I’m just come and go to Vegas to hang out. You know Chris is really a smart guy and I ended up I think I was probably the first one we, to get into his master mind group. So I’m going to master mind group with Chris and a bunch of other entrepreneurs and he does this great due diligence product were he just kind of takes it over from you. Will do like a full blown due diligence review on a business that you’re going to acquire and I would never say that you should handle fully the [inaudible 0:10:33] somebody else do the due diligence. But you should allow, if you’re going to hire somebody, do it in parallel with them. So that way you’re just getting, you know, a second, third set of eyes on a due diligence and on the business that you’re looking to acquire. So they offer various levels and, so it looks like they’ve got something from 59 dollars right there and all the way up to, I think a 5,000 dollar package. That’s kind of like a suit to nuts version.
Mark: Yeah and just look at the website; they have a whole team of people here that are associated with them. A lot of these people, you and I know, we know them through Rhodium Weekend and through that master mind group as well. These are some really smart guys, good guys, to be able to just get on the phone with and get their feedback. In fact, I’m seeing n a few guys here, Mike Nunez, he has been on a Podcast with us before and a super smart guy. Well, these guys are [inaudible 0:11:24] really good contact as well. These are people that you can arrange calls with and bounce my ideas of. The amount of money, 5,000 dollars, some people might [inaudible 0:11:35] sort of price tag, but what do you think? Do you think that’s worth spending that much money on due diligence support?
Chuck: Yeah I mean, with Quiet Light, we’re generally not dealing with the lower end deals, right? We’re generally dealing with mid to high six figures, mid to low seven figure deals, so you know, five grand and that’s their highest package, right? They got stuff that’s cheaper, but how could you go wrong, you know, spending.. If you’re on a million dollar deal, what’s five grand, is what? Half a percent? I think it’s probably money well spent.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely I agree. The only assets that you put an end, this is, that whenever you are hiring somebody on the outside to potentially look for problems, understand that, what they’re going to do is they’re going to find problems because that’s what you’re hiring them to do, and they should do that. So this is not a criticism or some trick or by any means or attorney that’s looking up for liability issues. But as the buyer, understand that you need to take that information, process it, through a business decision that you’re making. Any sort of due diligence tool? I knew the ones that we offer here, that’s the way that you should be going about using that information, that fits into the larger scheme. Alright, let’s move on, Centurica is a good service. If anyone wants an introduction pres, it’s either Chuck or I can provide an introduction pres as well. The next two are related obviously, Google.com and Google Trends, everybody knows what Google is, I’m sure most know what Google Trends are. How would you use each of these sites in a due diligence process?
Chuck: Sure! So with Google, right? I mean, it’s just a matter of Googling things either about the business, about the person, if you’re buying the business, Google the terms around the business, and look for red flags, right? Look for if they’ve got one star review, average one star review, maybe that tells you something about the business. You know, look for complaints, things that are negative about the business, right? It’s kind of one of those, you’ll catch all due diligence place where you just, kind of sorting through all of the information that you can find on a given business and/or a person. Never just research the business, always research the person who is selling the business as well because, you could find out a lot of stuff and make sure that you’re avoiding, potentially avoid some of the pitfalls, if somebody has done some sketchy stuff in the past, and find that out.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. You can learn a lot about their background as well, and all you have to do is search for all of the places that I have written for, come up, but years ago, I was involved in a lawsuit in those couple of pages. And so, anyone that was doing research on me, I would often get those sort of questions, “What happened then?” everything was fine. I didn’t mind the questions, but people that were being smart and doing due diligence would ask about that.
Chuck: And don’t just look at the first page of Google. Look at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, right? Because anybody can hire a reputation management company that will push some of those negative reviews, you know, to the 2nd or 3rd page. But they’ll be there generally, still, just maybe a little lower.
Mark: Right, Now if anyone wonders and are looking at the screen, I did not play hockey. Even though I’m from Minnesota I’m not a hockey player. There’s a couple of them, that’s out there that have gotten their name out there. Google trends, what search term I put in there?
Chuck: Yeah so type in Paleo Recipe, or Paleo Diet I mean, because Paleo is a little different. So, if you look at the screen.
Mark: You changed the date range?
Chuck: Yes I changed the date range. That’s, in January, you see that giant spike. Because that’s when everybody is getting into a diet mode. Check that out even further.
Mark: So we’re looking right now. Let’s set 2004 to present. So we’ll do the entire history in Google Trends. There we go.
Chuck: Sure, so you know, if you’re looking to buying a business, and you’re seeing.. Well use Google Trends to figure out what the trends are. Here you’ll see is like a giant up peak that just kind of went up, and then all of a sudden it just kind of, trail off, and you’re going to find things like this. Then you’ll also notice that there is like ups and downs, like inter year, so that would be like the seasonally of the business, right? So just because you see, like this one giant peak, which correlates with January, and then you know, throughout the rest of the year it drops until December where December is at it’s low, around Christmas time then it spikes immediately back up. So you’re going to look for not only seasonality but you can look for long term trends. And when you’re looking at businesses, think about whether the business is a trendy business first, it’s an evergreen business. So, diet in general is a trendy business. If you look almost any diet, you’ll see that there’s a, it goes up, up , up, up and all of a sudden it tails off, right? There’s something made it go up, usually it got unpopular, and then it’ll trend off. I personally, one of the businesses that I bought was a Paleo website, and I managed to buy it exactly at the peak market, and then..
Mark: Right about there right? Right around January of 2013, early 2013.
Chuck: Yup, definitely it’s like, it was going up, up, and up, I’m like, great! Then it went down, down, down, and it was less great. So, luckily, we were able to so a little bit of magic and kind of keep the revenue going by trying to grow the business but it’s another story.
Mark: Something else that you can do with this, so as many people know, I own CatholicSingles, and the turn chart out for CatholicSingles doesn’t look that great, when you look at it. Something I’ve learned from this chart from a few other places is, if you think that you’re buying a website that gets lots of natural search traffic, be careful to make sure that it’s not branded search traffic. So what’s happening here is, the previous owner was losing out to a competitor who was beating him in a brand search, and so, the site still gets lots of natural search traffic to a keyword that still has a lot of relevance. But he lost a lot of brand relevance as well. So you can, if it’s a large enough property you can often pick up on brands trends and what are not, you’re going to have to compete on that [inaudible 0:17:34] as well. You can type in competing services and see what their trend is overtime as well. And you can actually compare the two together. So you can see how competition is playing along with. Maybe what you’re looking at acquiring.
Chuck: And then if you scroll down, you can do it by region as well. So what are the countries that has something popular. So maybe it was a US based company, and you see “Hey look! It’s doing well in Canada and South America” or I guess none of that case was in South America, but Australia, and I think it was Mexico maybe. So maybe you expand into some of those other countries.
Mark: Right, right. Exactly. Yeah Google Trends has some good date out there, I recommend again putting in your, whatever, competitors you know of, and comparing the traffic and the trends for the competitors and get the sense for, how those are working together.
Chuck: And one additional point would be, Google trends is the search volume of a specific keyword, so it’s not some magic formula, it’s how many people are searching for something. So sometimes, people search, the way they search for things changes overtime, so you just want to, kind of remember that. That just because, you know. People might have been searching for, I don’t know, Blue Widgets but now they’re calling it, instead of Blue Widgets, they’re calling it Blue Fuzzies, right? So it doesn’t always mean that the actual market is declining at it. Sometimes it can just be a change in the way people are searching.
Mark: Yeah, I think an example, that would be internet marketing has pushed toward in digital marketing. And so you see, the phrase you use to refer to something, is slightly different overtime. So, that’s a good point. Now let’s move off this chart because it’s sort of depressing. State business websites, this is one that I haven’t really seeing people a whole lot of, but it’s a really good idea to use state business websites.
Chuck: Yeah, I mean it’s just the basic of going to whatever state the company is in, doing a search for the business, finding out who the owners are, and if there’s any kind of red flags that maybe appear on that, just some basic due diligence there.
Mark: Yeah, that one’s not coming up here, but when you do the search, what will happen is, you’ll see the records with the state, whether or not if filed in good standing, any other possible red flags that would come up. It’s really just checking their box, making sure that everything is on the up and up with that business search. Maybe we can get back to this, if that comes up again. BuiltWith is a really cool tool and it shows all the technologies that a website was built with, right?
Chuck: Yeap! Absolutey! So if you want to look at, like the technologies that go.. Is your internet out?
Mark: No, I just typed it in wrong.
Chuck: I guess your internet wouldn’t be out, considering we’re..
Mark: Right, right. So we could take a look to see what Quiet Light Brokerage is built on. And you can see that we have Googled conversion tracking, you can you see the whole technology stack and all the services that are used. When this might be useful as if you’re looking at the P&L and you don’t see a subscriptions but you would see here Drip. And you know that Drip is a subscription based service maybe that’s not their P&L. That would be something to catch and maybe ask them about to find out what’s going on there. Maybe they just start using [inaudible 0:20:47]the website.
Chuck: Absolutely! And you know, one of the things you want to do as part of getting ready to acquire a site is make sure that you have the people and place to take over any kind of service that you need in advance. Right, so, if you have no idea how to use Drip and you’re taking it in purchase in your company, maybe you need to has somebody in place who does know how to use it or request a standard operating procedure so that you can learn how to use it. So I would definitely have a list of like all of the kind of aspects of the business that you’re not proficient at. And make sure that you have people in place that can help you with that [inaudible 0:21:26] running when you do take over the business.
Mark: You know something that, speaking of Drips, I talked to Rob who sold Drip to Leadpages a few years ago, and he talked to me about how Leadpages was completely ready and able to switch over to a new website surely after they closed. They were making plans and building out technology as they were going through due diligence so that they can hit the ground, running right away. Something that might you want to do as you’re going through a website’s technology stack is take a look at what services are you using. If you are going to the Quiet Light website you’ll notice that we have Hotjar, for example. Now I haven’t tracked anything with Hotjar on the website in a while. We use it for surveys once in a while, but this would be a service for, maybe those report that you want to ask for during due diligence. Maybe some heat mapping that would just be useful information for you to be able to see and as you’re making plans. Or OptinMonster, asked, have you run these campaigns before? What was the conversion rate like on these campaigns? And you can start getting really prepared as you’re doing your due diligence to make that transition. Of course some sellers may not be eager to share some of that information with you, so go about that with some level of sensitivity understanding that they might be ready to open up all the books to you, but knowing what’s there can help you request different reports. And Chuck you said something before in one of your presentations, probably multiple presentations and that was ask questions. Ask lots and lots of questions.
Chuck: Yup, absolutely. I always say ask, ask, ask, and even ask questions you know the answers to. I feel like that’s like some kind of weird tactic that people do. But they ask questions regardless of whether you know the answer because you almost want to get a seller to lie to you, because then you know how trust worthy they are right? If somebody’s going to lie to you about something, it’s a red flag. So, I’ve seen a lot of people that will ask the same questions in multiple ways. You don’t want to be annoying right? Like, don’t ask stupid questions but definitely ask. I shouldn’t say, you don’t want to ask stupid question because almost no question’s stupid right? But we all understand there are all stupid questions that you shouldn’t ask, that’s just, are irrelevant. But don’t feel like, if it’s relevant to you then it’s not a stupid question. So, ask everything. Because the time to ask is before you buy it. Right? You don’t want to have a bunch of questions after you’ve inked the check. So, ask early and then ask often.
Mark: Then the other thing too is you can get more callers on a particular answer. I know when I talk to some sellers and ask them why are you selling? They’ll give me an answer one day and had talked to them another day and they give me s slightly different answer. And it’s not that they’re lying. The reasons are complex. There’s more than one reason going on there and you gain caller, you gain more information about what’s really going on behind the sale. By asking the same question, and looking at, in different formats, I know when you started to do video interviews or recording interviews of some of our clients and part of the reason for that is because people talk about questions differently then they might write them out. So this could ask a lot of those questions.
Chuck: Yeah, absolutely! Archive.org.
Mark: This is a great one. So if you’re doing some due dilligence there’s a whole industry people who just buy expired domains, stir a new content on it and then run with the site. Some of the amazing firm like [inaudible 0:24:38]some of them are buying like big sites, or what used to be a big site and for whatever reason, site’s no longer so, this will give you an idea like in 2008. What was the site look like? Was it a brokerage site or not back then, you know. It’s not always a bad thing but if it was something spamy back then, It might still have some problems moving forward. So it’s also good just to see if you had some ideas of you wanted to try this or try that. And getting an idea for some of the things they’ve tried in their past or looking at previous screenshots of what the site was like one, two, three, four years ago?
Mark: Yeah, I think one of the big challenges that you always have as a buyer and.. Sellers as well have this issue, right. Sellers know their business intimately because they’ve lived with it for so many years. As a buyer, you’re coming in and trying to compress knowledge that they’ve gain over the course of sometimes 20 years now. And to a decision that you have to make within or week or two. Going back in the scene, what the history of the site was, just kind of, again it adds color, it adds more information into what does this person done in the past for the business. Like you said maybe we can see some things that they tried and you can ask them about that, if you’re looking at the Quiet Light site, yeah, you might see that we sold some domains in the past. And if there’s someone looking to buy us they could ask a question on that, you know, why don’t you sell domains anymore? And we could go into that whole discussion.
Chuck: Something else to look for is to look for gaps in the years so you know, you can put something on your website, right? And your like, your a [inaudible 0:26:14]telling a way back machine not to cross your site anymore. So if there’s like a three year gap, why is that gap? Most legitimate sites aren’t blocking the way back machine. From calling their site, so you know, that might raise a red flag and might be something you want to dive in on a little deeper.
Mark: Awesome, alright let’s move on at Trademarkia.com.
Chuck: Yeah, you know it’s a, if you’re, if they told you to have a trade mark, search for it, figure it out. If they have told you they don’t have a trade mark, search for it. See if somebody else has a trade mark right? Make sure that they’re not infringing on somebody else’s.. What’s the word I’m looking for.. Somebody else’s IP. You don’t want to buy a business if they’re infringing on other people’s stuff.
Mark: Yeah, and this can also be a very useful in search results if you’re advertising on Google and you have competitors that are stepping all over that brand search. If you get that trade mark and you have the ability to get a trade mark you can keep all of those guys off, and brand is usually a very cheap way. But if you have competitors branding against it, that’s [inaudible 0:27:16] your IP, so, searching for that trade mark is a useful thing to do. Alright, moving to the next set of tools and these tools here seem to be more of, search competitive intelligence and taking look at a site’s search profile and I should just say probably maybe SEM. All [inaudible 0:27:33] right? Because this still include adwords as well?
Chuck: Yeap, yeap! So organic and paid, my likes spy for a lot. It’s a.. You can look at people’s history of what kind of ad campaigns they did. As so, if somebody says “Oh we’ve only ever run one ads set and haven’t done much testing” and then you look back at, and shows you. Well actually they ran a hundred different variations of this ad. Cross, you know 5 years and blah blah. So you will able to see a.. Verify some of the information they said. You can also check and it will show you, like literally shows you, what paid ads they ran. And like detects in them. So if you think, “Oh I wonder if they try this”, so you’re going to look back and see what sorts of ads they’ve run. It’s kind of interesting, you can also use this right here, like you see their competitor. So that’ll show you overlap, so if you know some of, some competitors, you’ll be able to see like what keywords they have overlapping using this venn diagrams. It’s some really cool stuff and then you can look for opportunity, for words that they’re going after, that your knots. They also have they a tool in here somewhere that will allow you to look at specific keywords over time and then it puts it over a timeline and has the Google updates. So you can see like, ok they had this key word was, you know, rank number 1111, and then drops off to like number 7, and [inaudible 0:28:57] Google get an update right when this happen so you can potentially know why they dropped off, it’s because, well, Google did this update. So seeing what people are using like a private blog now, where to get a bunch of links and it’s like doing really, really well then everything drops off a cliff. Because of Google did an update and it affect it, or, the reverse is true where they went from having nothing to all off a sudden number 1 rankings, just like overnight. And you can see, okay, well nobody just all send this from zero to number 1 ranking for 20 different keyword terms so then you know, Well, they must have done something to have that spike and then you can dive into what they’re using like, blog that works for paid links or whatever.
Mark: Yeah, any sort of quick changes in these results are going to be something to watch out for. So that’s over all a good tool. And a lot of these tools out here, Moz, Open Site Explorer, Semrush, Magestic, AAtraps, I personaly like AAtraps. These are all really good tools, using in combination. It’s going to give you a sense for how the data all adds up. Understand that when you’re looking at data, in any of these tools, they have to use third parties to estimate what this is, for example, they’re estimating for Quiet Light Brokerage, where estimated adwords budget is 3,000 bucks. Actually not too far off from that, but it’s not accurate. Just understand that these are useful for trends, these are useful for getting another point of data, nothing’s going to replace first hand tracking, it should be Google and Linux, or whatever tool people are using to analyze something. But you can use all these external tools in combination as well to try complete picture of what a website’s doing and how it’s ranking.
Chuck: It’s a bit [inaudible 0:30:45] That was I think only Google adwords, so if not taking your account, pay traffic, whether it’s Facebook or other things. Right?
Mark: Yep, yep! Absolutely that’s right! Let’s move on to a.. You like Spy for the best from all of these?
Chuck: They are all kind of different. So there’s like different reasons to use different ones, right? Some are for keyword research, some have like keyword difficulty tools, so part of due diligence isn’t just looking at what the site has done, but where you can go with it. So I like to use a couple of them to do keyword research. See where their gaps are, you know, opportunity for me to grow the business. They’re all kind of hit, different things to different things well. So I don’t have one favorite. I do like SpyFu, I like Moz in the past, [inaudible 0:31:31], Majestic. And then on that list, we kind of didn’t point it which I’m guessing maybe you thought I put in a wrong spot, but the alexa.com won. I haven’t actually used this yet, but it’s apparently a new tool that they rolled out. It’s a competitor to all these other ones, Moz and Majestic. So they’re doing a paid tool just like all these other guys. So, I haven’t really dove into it yet, but it’ll be interesting to maybe see how their data looks.
Mark: Yeah, I actually just saw this the other day. And was intrigued by it. I haven’t dug into this at all. But you would imagine that Alexa’s by Amazon. You would imagine that they have some pretty good access to tools to be able estimate this information, with some level of accuracy.
Chuck: And you know they’ve been around, since when, like early 2000 or earlier. So they’ve been crawling off these sites. So who knows what kind of information they’ve stored. I see [inaudible 0:32:34] has really good info going pretty far back.
Mark: yeah, I know you’re right on that. I think actually Alexa may have been the first competitive intelligence tool. That try to rank websites. Maybe there was somebody else before that. But they were the first one’s who really gain attraction. Or that for a long time, everybody I knew had their Alexa bar. Up in their browser and you can see what, aside Alexa ranking was along with its paid rank. Right every marketer back in early 2010 and those two things, up in their tool bars.
Chuck: It’s fine, so I went to the site yet the other day, just checking it out and looking for their little site ranking. I could find it anywhere, so I’m not sure if they still have it or not.
Mark: Yeah, I don’t know. I try to look that up recently as well and I wasn’t able to find it. I was behind actually this pay wall which is how I came across [inaudible 0:33:24] they are now offering this.
Chuck: Yeah, yeah. It didn’t, for a long time, like, right Google paid rank and the Alexa ranking have been dead like nobody uses those as a real stat anymore . But I just wanted to check it out.
Mark: Yeah, yeah I know it’s always interesting stuff. Alright let’s move on to page 2 here. We’re going to get into 3 tools here. [inaudible 0:33:46], deepcrawl.com and Copyscape. What do these tools do?
Chuck: Yeah, The first two are pretty similar to each other. And what they do is you can plug in a domain name that it will crawl the entire site and it will look for all kinds of things. Like errors or not errors. Right, so it can show you just by crawling to the site. It will crawl every single link on the site from every single page. So it shows you like if there’s dead links so if there are stuff that’s going for like 404 pages, no errors, 500 errors, it will show you the redirects. So what I’ve used it for in the past is the one finding those dead pages or the 404 errors and then also finding the redirects and sometimes you’ll see like stuff gets layered, where it will be redirected to this page, which layer’s was then redirected to this page, which layer’s then redirected to this page. And ultimately, what should you be doing is just going back and linking from the first page to the last page. And not using all of these bounces because with each bounce you have the a, potentially you’re losing some of that authority has being passed through.
Mark: Yeah, and there are the futuristic will do an on-site SEO analysis for even, one that I’ve used in the past that all definitely throw a, [inaudible 0:35:01] to be Orange Fox, Jacob Hagberg, has done some reports from Quiet Light Brokerage. and a lot of these tools do is, what these services work, will do, they just to analyze in a condensed manner. Because they look for opportunities and they also look for potential issue. Like you’re saying, if there’s tons of redirects in there, that’s a problem, you are losing out an authority on those pages. 10 pages , 404, broken images. Images without all tags, accessibility issues. These are all things that you want to be looking for. Not necessarily as like major red flags but you know, a buyer beware, but also as opportunities that if you start to fix and clean these things up, there’s going to be a natural lift in rankings on its long tale keywords that maybe you’re on page 10 to 20 right now for, maybe that will bump you up to the first 10 results . So wait for you to just grow some opportunity. When you’re looking at these 3 tools Chuck..
Chuck: The first two are very similar, right? Screaming Frog, is one that you have on your own computer, and then it use your internet connection to then crawl the site. DeepCrawl, they are running it from their servers, the Screaming Frog is relatively cheap. I forget the amount but it’s hundred to 200 bucks a year. The DeepCrawl one is fairly pricey so, I would always recommend this Screaming Frog but the other one is a good service as well. Just cost a bit more. It’s a 150 pounds a year.
Mark: Right. They do have a free version? I’ve used the free version to be honest it’s worth just upgrading to a paid version. Free version will give you just a flavor of what they can do. But if you really want to dig deep and really figure things out. Yeah, again, here’s a 500 URL limit, most websites are going to blow through that 500 URLs because you have all their images, you have everything else connected with an individual page, so you’ll go through that 500 pretty quickly. Copyscape is a bit different from these two though.
Chuck: Yeah, it’s different. I threw it, kind of witness just because it’s one of those things, where again, you’re looking for problems, so you type in your domain and It’ll give you list of you know, places that content made and stolen from. So kind of, similar, but different.
Mark: Right. This can be useful to see if you have people that are maybe trying’ just scrape your pages entirely or if the page you’re looking at for some reason is built on a shakey ground. This was something that was used a lot more probably, I don’t know, 5, just 7 years ago. I know Copyscape has a really big issue on a really big useful tool for duplicate content issues. A lot of that is going away now. But I would imagine you would find copies of content that somebody’s publishing their blog contents, say, on Medium or LinkedIn. I imagine this would probably pick up on that.
Chuck: Yeah. I believe so. And you know when we talk about the duplicate content issue, where talking about like, right for organic search but there’s also the duplicate content issue where, “Hey everything on this website was stolen from somewhere else and you’re going to get sued because you stole our base content.”, Right so, I would be checking to make sure that people aren’t stealing other people’s content. You know, so I think that’s a good part of due diligence.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely! Alright Public WWW. This is a tool I have not heard of.
Chuck: Yeah, that’s a great tool. It kind of isn’t a vain, of like, a Google right? But what’s cool about it is instead of like.. If I want to search for something on Google. Google looks at what is this plate on the page meaning. If I search for Chuck it’s looking for.. If somebody would look at a web page and see the word Chuck on it, then it might come up, right? But with this website, it’s actually looking at the source code. So if somebody had a comment that was Chuck, it would potentially come up there. So, anywhere from the word Chuck, right? It’s more for if you want to look a analytics code, or if you want to find somebody’s affiliate ID. So if somebody’s says, “Hey, I’m just running AdSense on this site, and I don’t have it anywhere else.”, So we could took.. Put in the AdSense number, and it will show you all the sites that are using that same AdSense ID on their website, right? So you can look for, maybe they’re doing some competing stuff, maybe they just, you know, they’re driving more income through the AdSense, but having a multiple sites vs the one. And it’s not complete, right? There’s, it’s only as much as they crawl so they’re only going to have as much data of the websites they crawl. But you can definitely find some stuff. You can also use a little tip here, would be.. Let’s say you have an affiliate product your promoting, right? And you’re making some money off of that, and say, you found a new product you want to promote and it makes 10 times the amount of money for each one you sell and you know that like, “Oh! This product, if I switch it to this one, I’m going to make 10X.” Or you could look for everybody who is promoting this old product, and then you’re going to try to acquire those sites, and switch them to the new affiliate product and 10X the revenue. A lot of different things you can do with that.
Mark: I’ve heard some of people ask about that, specifically with affiliate sites. You know, “How do I know that this is all coming from the site that I’m buying.”, and so that would be one tool that you could use. The other thing I could see this being useful for is if you have a tool for it. This would be a pretty rare case, but if you’re buying a business as a tool, that’s using on outside websites. WordPress plugins site, WordPress themes site, or any other tool like that, you could start to get some ideas as for the installation volume. Using the tool like this. Alright, SpyOnWeb.com.
Chuck: So similar right it’s a looking for people’s AdSense IDs and things like that. It’s not as complete, with the other one you could search for a lot more different types of things. But still a useful tool.
Mark: Right, it gives you some machine information as for our tools also sharing this IP address, DNS server. So again, not [inaudible 0:40:53] information here, but just acquiring [inaudible 0:40:56] this. We have our [inaudible 0:40:58]. So If you want to find out what the [inaudible 0:41:02] rank is, just go to SpyOnWeb and you could also see the page rank which is saying Quiet Light Brokerage just a like a question mark for page ranks. So that would be an information. That would have scared me about a 6 or 7 years ago. Alright, DomainIQ.
Chuck: Yup, so DomainIQ and the other two that were listed. This are for finding out information about a domain name. So when was it registered, how many times has the DNS changed, has the ownership changed recently, what other domains are on the same server, or same IP block or same IP address, so if you know, if you’re buying something from somebody, and they say it’s the only site they have and then you look start looking up and down the IP range or looking on the server or the same IP and you see there’s other domain names that are the same thing and are not disclosing it you, you know, that’s potentially going to be an issue. You can look up who is the owner, so if it’s like similar registration name or similar email address used to register the domain, it will show you all of the domains they own. That are using that registration information. These are all for the most part paid services. So if you want to get, like the good data, you got to pay for it. But they do give you a basic level of information for free.
Mark: Right. I don’t think anybody has to use all these tools. You pick 1 or 2 out of each of these categories that you want to use. The only one that I would recommend maybe use in multiples one would be in this search intelligence the SpyFu, Moz, and SEMrush. I think it might be worthwhile having upwards of three maybe four depending on how lights would turns out those services. Because like you said they all do slightly different things.
Chuck: It’s a matter of like what they’ve indexed right? So they each have their own crawlers, and none of them are going to crawl exactly the same subset of the internet. So, it’s just, you’re going to find different things while using different ones.
Mark: Right, and they all have different levels of accuracy you could see here DomainIQ is [inaudible 0:43:04] to be higher than the last one. And also, few other bits of information that I would say are incorrect but again you use these points of data…
Chuck: That was 5,000 dollars? The appraisal value?
Mark: That was [inaudible 0:43:17] it’s less than 500 dollars. And we have more than 24 backlinks, but again, all these tools are to be used in combination with each other to put together a large picture. Obviously a tool like Google Analytics or [inaudible 0:43:31] you’ll going to want to use that first. And then, these tools are been used to fill in the gaps.
Chuck: And also like know what a tool is good at, so like last one, you’re not going to use that tool for the appraised value right? Like, that’s nonsense. But if you scroll up, scroll up a little bit. If you click on, click on the ownership record in the blue, the blue button is there. Let’s see if we’ll..
Mark: We got gears turning here.. There we go
Chuck: Okay so just search who the owner is, when is the last time you updated, when it expires, the age of it, right. So you’ve owned it for just about almost 11 years, you’re using Cloudflare, here’s the “who is” info….
Mark: It’s kind of a bad corporation name, I got to update that.
Chuck: Well there you go. And go back one more time on it, I’ll click on one more thing…
Mark: All these tools take too long to load up. Let’s move on, because this one’s getting a little bit longer. Let’s get it on to a Bannedcheck.com.
Chuck: Yeah, so this one is a, and it’s not 100% right. But you can type in AdSense account and I’ll tell you if the AdSense account has been banned. Again, not 100%, but if it’s says it’s banned, that’s probably a good indication. I’m sorry not the AdSense account number but the actual domain name. Right so, if somebody says, “Oh! I switched monetization methods, because I didn’t like AdSense and I was making a bunch more money with this.” Well, maybe that’s not the case, maybe it’s that they got banned. So, this is a good one. They can tell you whether they’ve been, not a 100% right. But if it’s says that they’ve been band, then they’ve probably have been, right?
Mark: Good news with this, I’m making money with Quiet Light Brokerage because it came back and it says that it’s not banned for Google AdSense.
Chuck: I wonder how that helps with our value of the 500 dollars.
Mark: Hopefully, this is a little bit, so all you buyers that are looking to buy a business, we’re going to require that you click on an Adsense ad. Because I think that’s completely [inaudible 0:45:16] with our terms of service.
Chuck: Yeah, so just you know, you type in various things here and it will just tell you where it’s being mention as far as social goes. So just a good tool for doing some basic due diligence.
Mark: Yeah, let’s repeat, useful to do, using combination with a Google trends to be able to see. Google Trends is measuring the data on Google itself. Looking at how the different social media networks are also processing the data. It’s going to have a different look than just what Google has. On that note, I would say BuzzSumo, which is not on your list. It’s another tool that I would recommend adding and it’s a page where they do the free option but you can take a look to see what content has done really well on a particular domain name. As well as what content in that specific niche also does well. So you can really got a sense for how popular [inaudible 0:46:15] and what’s getting shared and what’s not. Well for then Google but also within the social media. It seems fantastic.
Chuck: This one definitely should’ve been on my list then I’m not sure why it wasn’t but I actually like this one a lot better.
Mark: Will add this to the list. For people who want to download it. Last one it would be just going direct to the source of Facebook LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., etc. Almost every websites these days has presence on all the social media networks, visit their pages I assume that’s kind of a lesson there.
Chuck: Yeah and again, with like a LinkedIn, right? Looking at the person’s profile looking how many connections they have. Are they in a niche where they should have 500 LinkedIn connections and they’ve only got 3, Maybe that tells you something, right? Why are they connected with all of these hackers or whatever, right? It’s just a matter of again, researching the people and not just the business. So I think it’s a good tool for researching people.
Mark: Awesome, right. So that’s a lot of tools that we just went over. Let’s talk just a some couple of lessons, and we’re running pretty long on this Podcast. So, we’ll talk just a couple lessons about due diligence. I’m going to turn off the screen sharing here and talk about couple lessons about due diligence. What would you say for somebody who’s going about due diligence the first time? What couple of lessons would you, or principles, should they really use in their due diligence efforts.
Chuck: So I think one of the biggest things, is first in for most you don’t know what you don’t know. right, so having people to help advice you on what to search for and what to look for can be critical. So don’t just think you know everything! Because none of us know everything especially when it comes to different tricks and tactics people can employ to inflate the numbers in what they’re doing. What else, do you have any idea you would suggest?
Mark: I would, and so on that note, obviously bringing people like an attorney, bringing an accountant, as I said before that be careful when you do so because they are being brought in with their specific purpose in mind, that are being brought in to look for liabilities, for being brought in to look for problems, and you are the business owner trying to make a business decision. Your accountant that’s trying to make an account decision. Your lawyers try to make in legal decision. And so, you have to take their advice and put it into a broader framework business . It’s a good business choice for you. You use their bits of data as [inaudible 0:48:41]data. And create a whole picture with that. The other thing that you said, where you cover this one’s ask, ask, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for questions and then the third thing that I would recommend is keep good records of what you have looked at. And I’m working through the due diligence for the client, if a buyer comes back and ask for the same documents that they may have already received earlier on. Extremely annoying for a seller who doesn’t understand why they even needed it in the first place. And a lot of sellers get skeptical buyers. They think this person isn’t really serious about it. they’re just looking fishing for information and if you end up passing the same documents 3 or 4 times, even twice. It start to grow those seeds of doubt and to bigger than just seeds and it cause a lot of problems really later on. So be organized in your due diligence just as you want your seller to be organized. Even your documentation. So that you’d know what you have and work off a check list, where be the last thing that I would ask. But don’t be afraid to add to that check list as you go through.
Chuck: Sure and something else I would add, kind of similar, not a little different, is with the seller. They’re interested in knowing that you’re going to do well with their business and whether they realize it or not, the questions you ask them are important to them. Almost always. So if you’re not asking good questions, they’re going to think that you’re not serious or that you’re not going to do well with the business and we often see that buyers, or sellers won’t always sell to the person who offers the most money often times they’re selling to the person they think who’s going to do best with their business or somebody that they like. I see it time and time again. Recently I had a nice 7 figure deal, I was working with and every time I get off a call, you know, I do a wrap up call with the seller, “Okay, what do you think? and he went like, “Well that person didn’t ask any good questions like, I don’t want to sell my business to them.”, So make sure that you’re doing some due diligence upfront, you’re looking into these things and you have good questions that you’re asking that are relevant to the business.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely! Do not research ahead of time, not wasting your seller’s time on the conference call is important. A lot of good sellers, when they go to sell a business, within that first week, they’re going to do half of dozen to a dozen conference calls and it’s exhausting to do. So if they get into a call and somebody asks, ask them question that was covered right up front. There’s a good place to ask questions that have never been answered, and there’s obviously you haven’t done your homework, sort of questions. So do have basic homework ahead of time so that people know about, that you’ve put in that upfront research. One thing I’ll add at that fellows, is if there’s something that you’re not familiar with, ask them about it and don’t be afraid about that. And at the end of the day, as a buyer you want to protect your money, but make sure you’re not making a bad investment so, don’t be afraid to ask those questions. If you ever have questions about, “Can I discuss this or what do you think?” Use the broker. We’re here to advice with the buyer and the seller through that process, we want to see a good deal done for our client.
Mark: Alright, this has been really long, but I think, good information so, Chuck thanks so much for coming on and maybe down the road, we’ll do another one of these.
Chuck: Sounds good. I appreciate it!
Mark: Cool, thanks!
Chuck: Alright, thanks everybody!
Links and Resources:
- Centurica offers a full blown due diligence services.
- Google Trends
- SEM tools:
- Website crawling tools:
- Publicwww is a source code search engine
- Spyonweb for looking for peoples adsense tools.
- DomainIQ provide information for domain pages
- Social media:
- Buzzsumo fantastic sm network tool.
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