Case Study – Boat Classifieds

Motor BoatI know people like examples of sites and case studies so I am going to throw another one out there today, I bought a few sites & classified sites recently one of which is Boats4Sale which I intend to keep for the long term. Boats 4 Sale was an old classified site that was built around the end of 2002.

How did I find it
I was doing a general search for old scripts and this site was running an ezclassified script, as anyone can do and I talked about last week.

Why & how did I buy it
It is a UK specific site so after finding it and seeing it was outdated I did a search for the main obvious keyword term ‘boats for sale’ and it ranked in the top 10 in which was promising, it was extremely dated but did have a couple of hundred adds listed albeit most were over a year old. I also liked the domain and with a site like this if you get it right and setup then users create the content which can then drive traffic.

I sent an email to the owner as mentioned on the site – but that bounced back 🙂
I googled the owners name and found another site owned by him and found an alternative email address that I could use to make contact, negotiation was quick and painless, the site was old, established and has a good few backlinks which were relevant so I knew I would have been prepared to pay a decent amount for it.

Boats is a topic I like, don’t have one but they are an expensive hobby, if you can afford to dump £20k+ into a pastime that puts you in a valuable market as far as advertisers go. For this reason I paid higher for the domain & site than I would have liked at £1500.

What work did it need
The script was in frames and dated so I knew it needed updated with something better, I prefer ASP scripts if possible as I can move things around and understand a tiny but of ASP and have always had windows servers so hosting would be free in my reseller account, after about 2 hours I decided upon VSpin classifieds which at $15 seemed like a bargain, I knew it did most of what I needed but not all so a little modification would be needed.

The script installed out of the box quickly and I added the last 10 listings into the site which were recently placed, design wise I found one I liked one Template Monster, but decided to do a search before buying it for ‘template monster discount code’ and Perfectory offers 20% off so purchased a template for $47.40.

After playing about with the template and the script I think the overall look and feel of the website is greatly improved, especially for someone that can’t code or design 🙂 I asked a friend to alter the code so that the <title> tag was dynamic and would mention the  category and item name which was done for free, there is still a bit of work to be done on the url’s.

Total investment to get it done up after buying the site was therefore $62.40.
This site now has rankings, a decent look and runs itself with no maintenance required.

Boats for Sale 

Plans for the site
At the moment the site offers free ads, I will continue to run the site as is, offering free listings so that over the coming months the site can fill with classified listings as it is pretty empty at present, I will email boat brokers in and around the UK allowing them to advertise their boats to further boost the amount of listings.

In the shorter term I will look for an insurance affiliate for one banner, apart from that monetising this site can only be done once it establishes itself with a good amount of listings and move it up the rankings a bit. I will then have a few options and can offer either adsense which I would probably not do, I can instead offer paid listings to individuals as well as offering a yearly fee for boat brokers to list as many boats as they want, this would have the added advantage of keeping the site looking busy and keep the site cleaner and pay better in the long term than slapping adverts about the place.

Since the site was re-designed just before this weekend a few new boats have been listed for sale for a total value of £67,500 ( $134,490) and the site has been generating around 100-150 visitors per day as soon as I took it over, so I see plenty of potential and a long term winner here in a lucrative market, I’ll revisit it later but I think it’s a good one and a keeper!

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.


  1. Scott, I manage the site for which is the best marine insurance affiliate program. Drop me a line if you want to discuss.

    Also we outrank you for “boats for sale” 😉

    • Small world! Just got the site the other week so I’ll have to get onto rankings, I see Noble at 10th and myself at 6th for ‘boats for sale’ though, I’ll check out the insurance aff within the next week and see what’s out there so may call on you cheers.

  2. Very nice 🙂 Look forward to hearing how it does in the future!

  3. Great site! I’m sure it’ll definitely grow and be worth much more than the $3,000 or so you paid for it!

  4. What else did you do besides updating the software and site design? Did you run any PPC campaigns or link building campaigns? I often get discouraged and frustrated when it comes down to “getting links”.

    Your post implies by refreshing an old site the traffic will come. Just want to know what the fine print is.


    • If I had to build links I wouldn’t pay the price I did, I don’t enjoy link building usually hence why it is nice to buy an old site, I only got the site last week and if I get users to build content by submitting free adverts then yes traffic will come so I won’t really be doing much if any link building – I’ll concentrate on making contacts for listing classifieds in the meantime.

  5. I’m curious how much research you do into the competition before even buying a site like this? Do you spend any time checking out the sites that rank highest in the category that you are buying (other than for borrowing ideas 🙂 )?

    • Not a great deal Ryan, if the sale price was $300 it would be a no brainer so it always has to start with an email and until you can get communication going there is no point in spending time on it researching, I offered low-mid £xxx and was told he was looking for £2000 and we settled on £1500, I decided due to its top 10 ranking in Google and in a market that is extremely profitable I could make that money back. I always ask myself if I really monetised the site and improved it could I get my money back in 12 months, if so then it’s a bargain, in this case I may not push the monetisation as I think the long term play is smarter here to build it’s popularity and I don’t need a quick return.

  6. Good point about getting the money back in 12 months. That helps a lot with a decision whether to invest or not.

  7. Looks nice. Just get cold shivers whenever someone mentions asp!

    Having come from a business where its core app was asp, and now a full-time php5 developer there’s a world of difference.


    • I should think for this site asp should do just fine for me Tifosi, but knowing me and my reluctance to embrace change one day I’ll probably end up being the last person online using asp & IE 🙂

  8. Do all the sites you purchase do well, or at least make the money back? Or do you have a few bad eggs among them?

    • Not everything I touch turns to gold Matthew that’s for sure, I have bought a few lemons in the last couple of years but the last few sites I bought have all been good one’s.

      • I guess it’s just research and experience then 🙂 When I bought my first 2 sites I just jumped in because I had an interest in the subjects. I now tread more carefully and try to look at the bigger picture.

        • I bought one because it was on auction ,people were bidding and I was about to go have a bath and thought it was a novel concept and dinlt want to lose out so BIN’d it – turns out it was a script he had been selling for a few weeks and I …way overpaid! I try to do a bit more homework on them now 🙂

  9. Thanks for the info. I haven’t thought about searching for coupons on stuff you are looking to buy.

  10. Nice site & domain I’m sure you will do very well with it.

    I Sold a Bristol over on eBay a few years back starting it off at a $1 & created a sub domain on one of my sites to show it, traffic was pretty incredible.

    I plan on using eBay as a means of bring traffic to my sites one day again.

  11. Scott.

    Just curious. I’ve heard tales about sites loosing rank based on domain ownership change. I think I once read something from ShoeMoney that said when he buys a domain he makes a separate deal to keep the domain ownership as is. What is your experience with that? Do you transfer the domain to your name straight away? Have you noticed any ranking hiccups with that?

    Appreciate your feedback.

    • With a you need to update the owner details before you can safely own the domain so it isn’t really an option to slowly update the details because paperwork has to be filled and signed by both parties, so it is not something you can do later by yourself. I also went straight ahead and re-designed the site completely changing the structure. I have not had any problems personally with losing rankings after a purchase Branden.

  12. So Scott, it has been about 2 months now and I know you have been doing a lot of other things in the meantime. Could you share an update with us or is it still too soon?

    I guess boats are not the most common gift to get for Christmas 🙂

    • Haven’t looked at it for a bit Mikael, will have to early next year, what I did want is some listings added and it has gone from around £200k worth of boats listed to over 7 millions pounds worth so for the moment that is all I am looking for it to do.

Leave a Reply