1/3 of old Flippa website auctions point to abandoned sites

Flippa is an auction site for buying and selling websites as businesses. Browsing the listings shows many low quality products. With careful inspection, there are often interesting, quality listings, but they are swallowed in the noise. Occasionally there are successful e-commerce sites, un-maintained high-traffic developer forums, or fire-sales on start-ups. Often these are educational, but usually incomplete. Almost as interesting is the proliferation of scams, from the obvious puffery to elaborately faked numbers.

I’d like to see how auctioned goods fare long after the listings end. If buyers determine maintenance isn’t worth the effort, they abandon the project, having lost the money they spent. If sellers can’t find a buyer, they too will abandon goods not worth the time and price of hosting. Flippa provides a tool to browse open and recent sales by tag which provides insight into recent listings.

Exploring abandoned projects may be a way to find a few good dropped domains, and possibly a fraud detection algorithm or website background checker. Using some scraped data, I extracted each domain name from 76,513 auctions, and ran tests to determine which domains are unresponsive, parked, or still operating. These auctions are a mix of domain sales and full websites – some listings contain more than one domain, but this data set represents only the main item for sale. Only 1,028 listings are missing domains.

Out of 41,172 distinct domains, 11,723 are unresponsive and 2,178 are parked, mostly by Godaddy (the parked numbers are likely lower than reality).


Let’s dig deeper. These are probably low-cost, low-quality listings. Let’s check:

[table class=”table table-striped”]
Status, Average Price, Median Price

Note these are only from records that have pricing or link data, not all domains. Not surprisingly, the medians are a lot lower than the averages. There are a number of sellers building one-off sites, easily identified through templated listings.

Flippa computes a few fields to aid buyers in their due-diligence. Google Links is a measure of how many pages are indexed in a search engine, obtained by searching for “site:garysieling.com”. This is a measure of site size:
[table class=”table table-striped”]
Status, Avg Google Links, Median Google Links

Inbound Links is a measure of how many links point to a site, obtained through Majestic SEO. In my experience these metrics vary widely, depending on the speed and thoroughness of a scraper- Google Webmaster Tools tends to show higher and more immediate results than other tools. Nonetheless, it is likely useful within the context of a single tool.

This is a measure of SEO value:
[table class=”table table-striped”]
Status, Avg Inbound Links, Median Inbound Links

I’m surprised that the median price of unmaintained domains is as high as it is. The average may be high due to very high BIN prices – some of the highest values I’ve seen for pricing in the database are fraudulent auctions. For SEO value, it would seem that there are some good domains out there that are unowned, or not being used (my data does not currently distinguish). I checked which advertising types (CPA/CPC/Text/Affiliate) and advertising companies are referenced evenly in each type of listing – nothing significant to note there.

Some portion of those sales must be fraudulent- let’s see how that plays out in the data:
[table class=”table table-striped”]
Status, Seller Suspended, Seller Banned, Seller Ok,Percent Ok

Some sellers have been banned, but it remains a crude predictor of future performance. Who abandons sites more, buyers or sellers?


Domain Status,Sold,Unsold,Negotiated Post Auction,Private Sale(Sold), Private Sale(Ended),Unknown


It looks like private sales don’t do too well, in terms of percentage sold. (Edit: Fixed two numbers I had transposed. I’m assuming “Private Sale Ended” means the auction ended without a sale, but that may be incorrect. This may also be an artifact of how the data is scraped)

The ratios of Sold to Unsold for each category are almost all the same (1.6-1.7), which indicates that buyers could do much better at due diligence. The number of unsold listings indicates that sellers could do a lot better at finding ways to provide value, a fact clear to anyone who has casually browsed auction listings. In the end, 4,000+ sites sold and abandoned represents a bit over $7,000,000. As they say, caveat emptor.

For further discussion, check out this thread at experienced-people.net.