The process of selling a website has many moving parts. Getting just one part wrong or missing a step can often mean a lower final closing price, or possibly not even making a sale.
Selling a website is usually the culmination of months and months of work. Getting it right is your chance for a “big bang” payday.
Here’s a checklist to help you make sure you have all your bases covered when you list your website for sale.
Systematize & Remove Yourself from the Equation
The first and most important step you need to take to prepare a website for sale is to remove yourself from the equation.
Website buyers aren’t interested in buying a website if you’re a key component of its operations. If the site will fall apart when you leave, your website is essentially unsellable.
This problem can come in a couple forms.
First of all, if you’re the primary or only content creator, that’s a big problem. Start moving your content production to other writers as soon as you can. Establish a system of generating content rather than doing it all yourself.
Any other tasks that you perform yourself should either be outsourced or clearly documented. Simple tasks like approving comments can simply be documented and passed to the new owner.
Complex tasks that require special skills however can make selling your site tricky. Try to have all such tasks outsourced to someone competent in that area. That way you can just pass on the outsourcer relationship to the new buyer, instead of having to train the buyer in complex new skills (or losing the buyer altogether.)
In short, remove yourself from the equation wherever possible.
There are a few different sources of website statistics you can publish.
The most ideal source is Google Analytics data. Google Analytics is the most trusted data source for website buyers. Flippa also allows you to send Google Analytics data directly to their servers to have it verified. That also increases trust.
Another source of data you can use are server logs. This is traffic data pulled straight from your cPanel, usually sorted with a program like AWStats that turns the raw information into readable form.
Generally, website buyers are rather suspicious of stats generated by systems they’re not familiar with. If you can use Google Analytics, you’ll be much better off.
Try to have at least 60 days of data before trying to put your website up for sale.
Proof of Revenue
Another critical aspect of selling your website is being able to prove every cent you claim to earn.
Remember: If you can’t prove it, they won’t believe you have it.
The two easiest sources to prove are Google AdSense and Amazon Affiliates revenue. Most website buyers are familiar with both of these sources (especially Google AdSense) and know how their interfaces work.
If you have custom revenue streams, such as sales in your shopping cart system or private advertisement deals, that can be a lot tougher to prove. Take screenshots of the payments to your account and do everything you can to document your revenue.
Try to upload month by month revenue, rather than just a snapshot of your website’s revenue to date.
Research Comparable Multiples
What should you price your website at? What should your BIN price be?
The only way to find out for sure is to research comparable prices.
Researching comparables for online websites is a bit tricky. A lot of people assume that “comparables” means “comparable multiples for the industry you’re in,” but that’s often not true.
A solar panel website that makes money via AdSense and is 6 months old has more in common with another young AdSense website than an established 3 year old solar panel website.
Look at websites that share these characteristics with yours; in this order of importance:
1) The amount of revenue per month.
2) Method of monetization.
3) The type of traffic that comes to the site.
4) The amount of maintenance the site needs.
5) Age of the site.
6) Stability of the industry or topic.
7) The actual industry or topic.
Often you won’t be able to find direct comparables; instead you’ll have to look at 5-10 similar sales to get a sense for where the market is at for a site like yours.
Describe the Maintenance Process
One of the most common questions buyers will ask sellers is “how much maintenance does this site need?”
Here are a few things you should make sure to address when you’re selling your website.
- How much time you personally need to put into the business every month. Naturally, a business that requires 1 hour a month to maintain is much more attractive than a business that takes 40 hours to maintain.
- Any special skills required to maintain the business. If the new owner needs to understand database programming to run the site, that’s something they’ll want to know about.
- Where the content comes from. Are you writing the content yourself? If so, you can expect a steep discount from your site’s price. If you’re outsourcing the content, describe the outsourcing process. What are you paying? Will you pass on the contact info of the outsourcee?
- What’s the relationship between your business and your advertisers like? Is there any risk of them losing advertising revenue when you leave the business? Is the business relationship a relationship with you or with your business? Address this concern upfront.
Put your buyer’s mind at ease by making sure they know they’ll be able to run the business even after you’re gone.
Describe the Technology Used
Some of your buyers will be technically savvy, some won’t. In either case, your buyer is going to want to know exactly what drives your site and what kind of skills they need to maintain it.
If you’re running a non-standard system, which means just about any CMS other than WordPress or direct HTML, you need to talk about that upfront. For example, if you’re running Drupal or Joomla, it may be a good idea to put in a short paragraph about how the system is maintained and what (if any) technological skills they need to maintain the system.
If you’re using any limited-license plugins, you should disclose that as well. Once a CMS system is transferred from one web host to another webhost on a new installation, that usually requires a new license. A buyer needs to know that upfront.
For example, if you’re using a paid content scraper for WordPress, the moment you transfer the site to the buyer’s web host, your old license may become invalid. They’ll have to pay for the new license and potentially go through a complex installation process.
Make sure you explain exactly what technology is used in every part of your business. The main goal of this is to make sure your buyer is comfortable with the systems they’ll need to run if they buy your business. If you don’t describe this clearly, you’ll lose most of your non-techie buyers simply because they’re afraid of touching your systems.
The Traffic Sources & Types
Make sure you give a clear description of where all your traffic comes from. This is especially important if you have any unusual sources of traffic coming in.
If your traffic is mostly from SEO, letting your buyers know that will usually suffice. Make sure you have proof of SEO traffic in your traffic stats.
On the other hand, if you get a lot of traffic from other sites, you need to carefully describe how you get that traffic and how the system is run. You need to reassure the site buyer that the traffic will continue to flow in even after the sale is completed.
Buyers can be very wary with traffic systems they don’t understand. Ease their fears as much as you can with clear descriptions.
Describe the Transfer Process
There are two main steps to transferring a website: The financial aspects of the transfer and the technical aspects of the transfer. Your site description should clearly describe how the transfer process will work on both ends.
The financial transfer usually falls into one of two categories: With escrow or without escrow.
If the sale amount is under $1,000 and the buyer has a fair amount of “reputation points” on the auction site, you can usually just use a half upfront and half after approach. There’s a chance of getting ripped off, but it’s very rare.
Amounts above $1,000 should almost always be handled with escrow.
An escrow service will take the money from the buyer and the domain, along with all files from the seller. Once the buyer has verified that he has everything he needs to run the site, the funds are released to the seller.
This protects both sides from fraud or misunderstanding. Escrow fees vary from transaction to transaction and your site description should address who pays the fees. Often the fees are split 50/50 between buyer and seller.
The technical process of transferring a website should also be addressed.
Who will do the installation? You, the buyer, or a third party? Who’s responsible for the installation?
If you’re using plain HTML, the transfer process is very simple. You just zip up the files and mail it over.
If you’re using WordPress, the process is a bit more complex. You need to send all the files, along with the database information and the buyer needs to know how to install a WordPress setup from a database. If you know how to do this, it often helps to put in your salesletter that you’re willing to do it for the buyer.
If you’re using a third party system, the setup process can get extremely complex.
Make sure you outline the transfer process and who’s responsible for the transfer in your salesletter.
These are the most important things you need to cover when you’re selling your website. Remember: The more you tell, the more you sell.
A skimmer might not read through all the information you provide. But a serious buyer who’s considering putting real money into your website is going to want all the information they can get. The more information you provide, the higher the price you’ll eventually get.