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What is a Turnkey Site?

Have you ever wondered what a “turnkey site” is? As an entrepreneur interested in online business models, I’ve come across the term many times. A turnkey site can be an attractive option for those looking to get an internet business up and running quickly.

In this post, I’ll explain exactly what a turnkey site is, the pros and cons of buying one, things to look out for, and alternatives worth considering. My goal is to equip you with a clear understanding so you can determine if a turnkey site is the right online business choice for you or not.

What is a Turnkey Website/Business?

A turnkey site refers to an existing website or online business that is already fully operational. In essence, it’s ready to simply “turn the key” and get up and running upon purchase.

More specifically, a turnkey site normally has the following setup already in place:

– Established niche site or e-commerce store
– Domain name registered
– Website platform and hosting
– Site design and template
– Content pages and blog posts
– Products to sell (if e-commerce site)
– Traffic and revenue generation
– Social media accounts
– Basic SEO implementation

So in short, a turnkey site is a full package, pre-made website or online business you can buy to more quickly get online.

Benefit: The main advantage is you skip the lengthy process of having to build a profitable site from complete scratch. The seller has done the initial domain, site development, content creation, and market validation for you already.

Buying a turnkey site can therefore allow you to:

Save time – Avoid initial setup time and get to business optimization faster
Gain credibility – Take over a site with some existing traction
Learn – Reverse engineer what the previous owner did right
Make refinements – Tweak and improve the site over time

Now that you know the definition of a turnkey site, let’s explore the key pros and cons of acquiring one.

Pros of Buying a Turnkey Site

Purchasing an established turnkey site has some great advantages, including:

Shortcuts the Setup Process

As mentioned, a turnkey site has already undergone the complete website building and market validation steps by the previous owner. This means:

  • Saves time – Avoid the lengthy process of researching niches, registering domains, experimenting with site design, writing content, garnering backlinks and social shares, and bringing in initial organic traffic. The turnkey site seller has done the heavy lifting for you.
  • Gains momentum – Benefit from any search engine ranking, visitors, email list signups, social media following, and revenue built up so far. Continue growth trajectory.
  • Reduces risk – Have more confidence investing in an existing site with metrics versus speculation.
  • Proven concept – Site niche, topic focus, and monetization model already validated by being an operational site.

Buying an already set up turnkey site allows you to skip past months of effort to save time and money getting an online business off the ground.

Sites Can Be Profitable or Break Even

Another big advantage of a turnkey site is that established ones come with existing income streams. Common monetization models include:

Affiliate marketing – The site earns commissions promoting other company’s products.
Digital products – Sell your own ebooks, online courses, and subscriptions.
Advertising – Display ads through networks like Google AdSense.
Dropshipping – Retail products shipped directly from wholesaler to customer.

Plus, they often already have consistent organic traffic from search engines, social media, and other sources.

A profitable turnkey site with demonstrated earnings can give you more confidence in its ability to generate returns on investment. At a minimum, look for a site covering its own hosting, maintenance, and additional growth costs.

Gain Existing Site Authority and Assets

On top of recurring revenue and traffic, buying a turnkey site also allows you to assume all the “intangible assets” the seller has developed:

Domain history – Site age with registration tenure conveys more trust.
Initial links and shares – Higher credibility and SEO value from backlinks and social activity.
Design and branding – Professional visual identity (logo, graphics, messaging).
Baseline content – Saves the effort of creating numerous blog posts and content pages. Can build on it.
Engaged contacts – From email list opt-ins to retargeting ads, existing leads to market to.

In essence, you gain all the progress and effort by the site owner to that point when acquiring a turnkey site. The domain authority, technical assets, creative equity, content library, contacts list, social following, and more have intrinsic value that takes time and skill to earn organically.

Cons of Buying a Turnkey Site

However, acquiring an existing turnkey site isn’t always smooth sailing. Be aware of a few potential downsides:

High Upfront Cost

The main tradeoff for buying a turnkey site versus building your own is the large upfront capital needed. Established profitable sites with traffic can demand steep price tags.

While specific valuations depend greatly on the niche, revenue metrics, and site specifics, a sampling of asking prices can range quite high.

For example, popular site marketplace EmpireFlippers frequently lists turnkey sites like:

– Niche affiliate sites making $10,000/month selling for $100K to $500K+
– E-commerce stores grossing $80,000/year listed for $150K to $1M+
– Sites doing $500 to $5,000 per month asking $15K to $150K+

Clearly, while a “turnkey” site spares you initial build time, the money needed upfront to buy one is often substantial.

Improvements Still Required

While called a “turnkey” site, don’t expect to just sit back and passively earn money after purchase. To see a return on investment, you will still need to actively:

Optimize site – Perform ongoing SEO, user experience updates, speed enhancements, etc.
Produce new content – Continually create fresh blog posts around target customer interests.
Promote offline – Pursue PR, local media, events, networking, etc. to build awareness.
Stay on industry trends – Keep up with competitors, news in niche, and emerging opportunities.
Expand offerings – Add new products, services, and revenue streams.

So buying a turnkey site comes with the expectation and responsibility to manage and nurture it going forward. Failure to do so risks declining traffic, eroding authority, and reduced earnings over time.

What to Look Out For When Buying a Turnkey Site

Not all turnkey sites for sale are created equal. Be an informed buyer by assessing these key factors:

Financial Records

Carefully comb through all provided traffic analytics, expense sheets, tax filings, and financial statements. Verify monthly/annual revenues and exact profit margins. Require site financials for the past 2+ years.

Traffic Sources

Evaluate the referral sources driving site visitors now. Find out percentages from organic search, social, paid ads, email lists, etc. Understand the sustainability of main channels.

Links Profile

Inspect the domain’s backlink report. Check where links originate from (eg editorials, directories, expired domains, paid posts, etc). Gauge link quality impacts site credibility and search visibility.

Site Technology

Audit site stack powering the platform, security, speed, hosting infrastructure, email provider, payment systems, etc. Assess costs, control, and scalability.

Content Ownership

Get clear rights terms on content usage and IP ownership transfer. Understand any restrictions on altering existing pages, or publishing content elsewhere.

Product/Service Control

For e-commerce sites, check how much influence you have over suppliers, shipping, fulfillment, and returns/refund policies. Can you pivot offerings over time or bound to certain providers?

Team Transition

If the turnkey site previously had staff members, understand obligations to transfer management/admin access, payroll, accounts, etc. Is existing team staying on and at what new cost?

Legal Paperwork

Lastly, engage qualified legal help to review all contracts, tax liens, corporate records, regulatory policies, insurance coverage, licensing documentation and complete proper due diligence before finalizing a turnkey site purchase.

Covering these bases helps avoid buying existing problems or surprises down the road.

Turnkey Site Alternatives Worth Considering

If after weighing pros and cons, a turnkey site’s upfront costs or questionable integrity gives you pause, safer starting options exist like:

Buy an Existing Domain

Domains listed for sale with aged registration dates, some initial SEO merit, or meaningful keywords can make good turnkey site foundations. Then build out your own custom site.

Hire Turnkey Site Builders

Experienced web design firms and SEO agencies offer done-for-you turnkey site development services. They handle technical build, design, content population while you drive the vision.

Use Turnkey Site Templates

Special site templates from e-commerce platforms (Shopify), site builders (Wix), and WordPress marketplaces allow the creation of functional websites more quickly. Fill in custom touches after.

Franchise Established Business Model

Take a proven existing brand in an industry you’re passionate about into a new local market. Gain their operational knowledge, network, and systems.

The Verdict: Are Turnkey Sites Worth It?

So should you consider buying a turnkey site or not? In certain situations, acquiring an existing website or online business as a more fast-tracked way to get online can pay off.

Best-case benefits can include:

– Generate returns on investment reasonably quickly
– Skip new site startup effort with existing model
– Gain search visibility and credibility faster

However, turnkey sites aren’t for everyone. For best results, ideally you should have:

– Sufficient capital to buy a competitive site in the niche you know well
– Confidence vetting site financials, traffic sources, assets
– Skill to enhance the site and grow further long-term

If ready to take over an established site strong in these areas, buying a turnkey site can propel you toward your internet entrepreneur goals.

In closing, carefully weigh if an available turnkey site checks all the boxes for your needs. Do thorough due diligence before purchase. Be realistic about ongoing optimization required after. If your budget allows and risk factors are accounted for, a turnkey site can deliver that needed “turnkey” to online business success.

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