A Comprehensive Guide to Selling Websites and Blogs
One of my favorite ways to make money online is by selling websites or blogs. If you own a profitable website, you may be able to get two or more years worth of profit in a lump sum by selling your site! Two years worth of income can be life-changing for your finances.
If you decide that it may be time for you to move on from your website or blog, this article can help you through the process of selling websites.
If you haven’t sold a website before, you may find the subject to be a little intimidating or even overwhelming. Don’t worry. We’ll go through all of the details in this article. I’ve been through the process several times since 2010, and I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes. With this guide, you should be able to avoid my mistakes.
Determining Value When Selling Websites
Probably the most difficult and confusing aspect of selling a website is determining its value. Before we get into the tips for determining your site’s value, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
The value of a website is whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
There are some calculations that you can use to help determine the value of a website, but all that matters is what a buyer is willing to pay. Just because a calculation says a site should be worth $X doesn’t mean that a buyer value it the same. This can work for and against you. You may be able to sell the site for more or for less than a certain calculation tells you the site is worth.
The same site’s value can vary greatly from one buyer to another.
Since there is no exact method for determining a site’s value or worth, each buyer will use his or her own method. Different buyers will value sites very differently. You may have one potential buyer who is willing to pay $10,000 and another who is willing to pay $50,000. This, of course, makes it a little bit difficult as a seller because you’ll have to decide if you should accept the offer or keep looking.
You’re likely to place a higher value on your own site than a buyer is willing to pay.
As the owner and seller of the site, it’s almost guaranteed that you will feel the site is worth more than the value a potential buyer wants to pay. I don’t say this to be negative or to tell you that you’re overestimating the value of your site. I say it out of personal experience.
I’ve also heard the same from friends and contacts who went through the process of selling a site. Be prepared for this. But remember, all you need is one buyer who is willing to pay your price.
Potential buyers may not be able or willing to pay the amount that they see as the true value of the site.
Just because a potential buyer’s offer is lower than your asking price doesn’t mean that the buyer feels your site isn’t worth more. There are lot of factors involved in a buyer’s offer, and some of them have little or nothing to do with you or your site. The buyer’s personal or business situation may limit what they can pay. They may also not feel comfortable spending more than a certain amount on any website, just because of the risk involved.
So if you get a lowball offer, try not to get discouraged or feel insulted. There may be plenty of other factors involved that simply limit the potential buyer’s ability or willingness to pay more.
Tips for Determining the Value of Your Site
Now, here are some things you can do to help as you try to determine what your site may be worth.
1. Get a Valuation from a Broker
If you haven’t ever considered buying or selling a website you may be surprised to find that there are brokers who specialize in matching buyers and sellers of websites. If you work with a broker, his or her job will involve helping you find a buyer and leading you through the sale. Often times, this includes details like the contract and transferring ownership to the buyer.
Most brokers offer a free valuation or consultation in order to get in contact with people who are interested selling websites. Whether you chose to work with a broker or not, getting a professional’s opinion of the value of your site can be extremely helpful. The broker deals with website sales all the time, so they will have a pretty good idea of the value that you should look to get if you are going to sell.
I highly recommend getting at least one valuation or appraisal from a broker before selling a blog. Here are some brokers that offer these services: Empire Flippers, FE International, and Digital Exits.
If you’re not ready to talk to a broker, you can also use Empire Flippers’ valuation tool. It’s the best valuation calculator or tool that I’ve seen, and it should at least give you a ballpark idea of what your site might be worth.
2. The Typical Range is 10x – 30x Monthly Profits
The most common method used to determine a website’s value is to take the average monthly profit and multiply it by a set amount. Each buyer will have his or her own opinion about what they are willing to pay.
For example, one buyer may be willing to pay 12 times the average monthly profit, figuring that they can recover the cost of the website in one year.Another buyer may be willing to pay 18 or even 24 times the monthly profit for a site. In general, the value is usually somewhere 10 – 30 times the average monthly profit.
I know that is a big range, but each buyer is different and the details of your site will also influence this amount.
Sites that earn smaller amounts of money (for example, below $1,000 per month) will usually attract a multiple at the lower end of this range. If you are a breakout blogger, expect more. If your site is making $10,000+ per month in profit, you should be looking to be in the upper half of this range at 20 – 30 times the average monthly profit, or possibly more.
Other factors that will influence the value of the site include the age or earning history, diversity of income sources, specific income sources, diversity of traffic sources, and the brand reputation within the niche.
A site that has been around for three years with a track record of steady growth in profits will be less risky to a buyer than a site that is six months old and has been making money only for a few months. Likewise, a site with a few different sources of revenue and diverse traffic sources will be lower risk than a site with one source of revenue and all of its traffic from Google searches.
Specific monetization strategies can also be a factor. A site that sells its own established product may be seen as less risky than a site that makes all its income from Clickbank affiliate sales. Potential buyers consider all of these factors when they are determining how much they are willing to pay for your site.
The typical range for valuing a site isn’t a strict guideline that will always be followed, but be aware that unless your site is a one-in-a-million exception (like YouTube selling for 1.6 billion before it really had any profit), buyers are very unlikely to go much beyond this typical range. Highly profitable sites may be able to bring in higher multiples, but the vast majority of website sales will not fall into this category.
3. Potential Doesn’t Count for Very Much
Since the average monthly profit of a website is the most significant factor for buyers to determine what they are willing to pay, potential doesn’t count for very much. Typically when a seller is explaining why they value their site at a certain amount, the word potential will eventually come up. While potential does count for how we value our own sites, it doesn’t play a large role in the amount that most buyers are willing to pay.
Your site may very well have huge potential, but if you want to maximize the amount that you get when you sell the site, you will need to reach at least some of that potential before selling. My advice is to not be in a rush when it comes to selling a site. Don’t take a short-term approach where you plan to sell the site shortly after starting it, or even shortly after becoming profitable. Take enough time to build it into something special before looking to sell.
Buyers will want to see some potential for growth and improvement, but they usually won’t want to be paying a premium based on what could happen.
Ways to Sell a Website
There are 3 basic methods for selling websites. No method is right or wrong, it just depends on your specific situation.
1. Sell it On Your Own
The first option is to handle the sale yourself. This means that you will be looking for buyers, answering questions and providing information to potential buyers, negotiating the terms, and managing the sale and transfer of assets. The downside of this approach is that you may or may not have a network that allows you to find a buyer at the right price. Also, if you don’t have experience, it can be an intimidating process. You may also make a mistake with the contract or the terms of the sale if you don’t have some guidance.
The upside to selling a website on your own is that you’ll get to keep all of the money for yourself (except taxes, of course). You won’t have to pay a broker, a listing fee, or a success fee. Depending on the details, this can mean a big difference in the amount that you receive for the site. My biggest sales have all been handled on my own, although I do hire an attorney to review the contract and suggest that you do the same.
2. List it On a Marketplace
There are websites that exist specifically for the purpose of helping to match buyers and sellers. You’ll pay a fee to list your site, but in return, you’ll receive exposure to hundreds or thousands of potential buyers. Marketplaces offer loads of exposure to sell a site quickly. When it comes to marketplaces, Flippa is by far the leader.
As a seller, the downside is that marketplaces often don’t bring the highest selling price because most of the buyers are waiting for a site at a great price. This isn’t always the case, but marketplaces are notorious for bargain hunters. In some cases, they are better for buyers than for sellers. That being said, I do know some people who have gotten great prices on marketplaces when selling websites.
Another downside is the fees. At Flippa, you’ll have a success fee of 15% for any site that sells. I used Flippa in 2010 and 2011 and the fees back then were much lower, especially on larger sales because the success fee was capped at a certain amount.
3. Hire a Broker
The third approach is to hire a broker when selling a blog. The advantage of using a broker is that he or she will have solid connections to potential buyers. They will also handle much of the difficult work for you. The broker helps determine how much you should ask for the site. Additionally, they will market the site, communicate with potential buyers, and assist you throughout the process.
In many cases, the broker will also have the contract and any forms that need to be used, so you won’t have to worry about that. Nonetheless, I still recommend having your own attorney review the contract.
Earlier I mentioned Empire Flippers, FE International, and Digital Exits. There are many other brokers as well. I haven’t actually ever sold a site through a broker, but I’ve had communications with these three brokers. Therefore, they would be the first places I would consult.
Each broker works differently, but generally they will be working behind the scenes to find potential buyers. Additionally, they will probably weed out anyone that they don’t think is a serious possibility. When they have someone that is a good fit, they may arrange a conference call between you, the potential buyer, and the broker.
The downside to using a broker when selling websites is the cost and the exclusivity. Typically, the broker will charge a percentage of the sale price once the sale is completed. Broker commissions are typically in the 10-15% range. Some brokers, like Empire Flippers, will have a listing fee that you’ll pay regardless of whether the site sells or not.
Although there is a fee involved, you may still be able to wind up with more money in your pocket thanks to the help of a broker. If the broker can help you to find the right buyer, the services will be well worth the percentage that they will charge. Having a broker also helps with all of the nitty gritty details of the sales process, including the contract and transition.
For websites with very high earnings, a similar option may be to enlist the services of an investment banker. They would play a similar role to a broker, helping you to find buyers.
Most brokers will require you to sign an exclusivity agreement. That means that you won’t be able to list the site with another broker or sell it on your own until that exclusivity period ends. The length of exclusivity varies, but most brokers require three to six months of exclusivity.
For full disclosure, I used Flippa and sold sites on my own in the past. I never sold a site through a broker, although I consulted with brokers a few times.
Flippa is useful in two situations: 1) if the selling price of $10,000 or below, and 2) if you haven’t been able to sell after several months of trying.
The new fee structure at Flippa with the 15% success fee and no cap means that I would not list a site on Flippa if I was hoping to get $10,000 or more unless I was desperate to sell it quickly. I wouldn’t have a problem paying the fees if Flippa tended to generate higher prices, but from my experience, the sales prices tend to be on the lower side.
My first approach with any site that I want to sell is to contact people in my network and people I know have bought websites in the past. If that doesn’t lead to any interest, the next move is either to list it somewhere or to find new people to contact. If I couldn’t find a buyer on my own, I would look into listing the site with a broker. The fees for Flippa are similar to what you would pay a broker, if not more. Personally, I would choose a broker over Flippa for selling websites.
Tips for Finding Potential Buyers
If you are selling a blog on your own, here are some tips that can help you to find a buyer.
1. Email People in Your Network
If you’ve been building a profitable website for a few years, you’re probably well connected to a lot of people in the industry. This could include other blog and website owners, blog editors, social media influencers, service providers, and others. Make a list of everyone that you know who works in the industry. If you have an address book or email list, scan through everyone. Reach out to people that you think are well connected to others in the industry.
You don’t need to provide a lot of details in your email. At a minimum, say that you are considering selling your site. Then, ask them to get in touch with you if they know of anyone who might be an interested buyer. It’s not a bad idea to also give a description of your target audience.
In some cases, you may want to provide some additional details, like revenue, profits, and selling price. Only include those details for people that you know have experience buying or selling websites. The average person isn’t going to need to know those details at first.
2. Don’t Try to Find Someone Directly, Ask for Referrals
When selling a website, my approach is to ask my contacts to let me know if they think of someone who might be interested in the site. I don’t email potential buyers directly unless I know that they have a history of buying sites. If someone is interested in buying the site, they will let you know, even if you’re only asking for them for a potential referral.
By asking for referrals, you multiply the size of your network. Your contacts know people that you don’t know, so ask them to think about who they know that might be interested in buying your site.
3. Contact Companies That Own Multiple Websites in the Industry
One of the most likely buyers is an individual or company that already owns other sites in the industry. In many cases, companies will buy a site to reach a new section of their target market. They may also want to provide a product or service that complements their current offerings. If you know of any companies that own multiple websites within your industry, reach out to them. In this case, a cold call or email would be fitting.
4. Contact Advertisers or Sponsors
If you have sold any type of advertising on your site, contact those advertisers or sponsors. These people are clearly interested in reaching your audience, so they may be interested in taking ownership of the site. Use relationships you built with advertisers in the past to your advantage.
5. Contact Companies That Target Your Audience
Along the same lines as the previous point, you could also reach out to companies who have not previously advertised on your site but would benefit from having access to your site’s audience. Think about your target audience and your typical readers. What types of products and services interest them? Companies who are offering these products and services could potentially benefit from owning your site and gaining exposure to your audience.
Tips for Negotiating the Sale
While determining the value of your website is difficult, so is negotiating with potential buyers. In most cases the price you are being offered at first will be lower than your asking price. Therefore, you will need to be able to meet somewhere in the middle or convince the buyer to come up to your asking price. Here are a few tips for negotiating when selling websites.
1. Know What the Site is Worth to You
Before selling a blog, you really need to know what the site is worth to you. Know the minimum price that you will accept. If you have an minimum price in mind, you can avoid going too low in negotiations. If the buyer isn’t willing to pay a price at or above the minimum, be prepared to walk away.
Buyers are likely to take the average monthly profit and multiply it by a specific number in order to determine what your site is worth.
But the process of valuing your own website can be different. Consider things like the risk of holding onto the site versus the risk of selling it at a price that may be a little too low.
Also, I consider the possibility of outsourcing instead of selling. How much would it cost to be totally uninvolved, and how much profit would it make in that situation? Would I rather go that route or sell a little below my asking price?
Each situation is unique and you need to know what option is best for you.
2. Be Realistic About the Site’s Value to Buyers
It is important to know what a site is worth to you. It is also equally important to have a realistic idea of how potential buyers will value your site. You need to be realistic with your expectations to negotiate well. If five potential buyers all value your site lower than you, reconsider your asking price.
The same thing can be said about a broker. If you expect twice what a broker suggests, it could take a lot of time to find a buyer at your price, if it happens at all.
From my experience, brokers usually aren’t going to lowball your website. First of all, brokers earn a percentage of the selling price. Consequently, the better price they get for you, the more money they make. Plus, they know that most sellers are talking to multiple brokers before hiring one. If they give you a low estimate of your site’s value, you’re more likely to choose another broker. So keep that in mind.
3. Leave Some Room for Negotiations with Your Asking Price
Most offers will come in below your asking price, similar to selling a house. I would recommend accounting for this in your asking price. If the minimum price that you are willing to accept is $20,000, ask for $25,000 or $30,000. This gives room for negotiation.
Don’t go overboard. Overinflated asking prices discourage potential buyers from making an offer or even considering it.
4. Consider Multiple Payments if Needed
Getting paid 100% of the sale up front is ideal when selling websites. This works well in may cases. However, it’s not unusual to have multiple payments over a period of time instead of 100% up front. Depending on the situation, you may structure it as a loan and charge interest.
If you’re close to an agreement with a buyer but you can’t quite agree on a price, consider offering a scenario where they will pay a smaller percentage of the price a few months or even a year down the road. That way they can use some of the profits from the site to cover the future payments.
If you go this route, be sure that the contract is clear about the details of any future payments. Future payments should not be contingent on site performance. You also want contract language to indicate a commitment to future payments. Have an attorney review the wording. A personal guarantee, which will hold someone personally responsible if the buyer is a corporation or LLC, is also a good idea.
5. Understand That it Can Take Time
As I have mentioned a few times in this guide, selling a website can take time. Don’t expect the negotiations to happen instantly.
If the buyer is a company, it can take even longer. There may be more steps or multiple people that need to approve the deal. Plan for a sale to take at least 3 months, possibly longer. If you need something to happen faster, a marketplace like Flippa is an option. However, I suggest that you plan ahead to avoid a time crunch.
6. Consider More Than Just the Price
When selling a blog, the most important part of any offer that you receive will be the price. Nonetheless, there is actually a lot more to it. You should consider factors like the buyer, their experience, and their plans for the future of your site. It’s not out of line for you to ask potential buyers about their plans for your site.
You may also want to consider the details of the transaction. For example, how will they be paying you? Will it go through escrow.com? This option is safer, but there are fees involved. Will they pay by PayPal? Wire transfer? Will they pay before you transfer the site?
All of these details are things to consider as they will impact the process of selling a blog. You may want to accept a slightly lower price if you’re working with a trustworthy buyer who will make the transaction painless.
Don’t take a PayPal payment for a website sale unless it is a buyer that you know and trust. PayPal payments can be disputed. A wire transfer is my preference. Also, wait to transfer ownership until you receive payment.
Completing the Sale
Now that you have found a buyer and negotiated the price, you need to complete the sale. Here are some details to keep in mind.
1. Always Use a Contract
Any time you are selling a website, use a legally-binding contract. If you are working with a broker, they will most likely provide one. You can also use a template if you are selling the site on your own.
2. Hire an Attorney to Review the Contract
Simply using a contract is probably not good enough if you are selling a higher-priced site. Hire an attorney to review the contract for any sale that is more than $25,000 or so. You can hire a local attorney, or if you want to save some money, you can hire someone through a site like Upwork.
I’ve done it both ways. Hiring someone on Upwork is cheaper, but be sure they know what they are doing.
3. Use Escrow.com for Safety
To protect the safety of both the buyer and seller you can use an escrow service like escrow.com when selling websites. To start, they will collect the money from the buyer. You won’t transfer anything until you have confirmation that the money is in the escrow account. Once you transferred the assets, they release the money to you. The size of the transaction determines the fees. The buyer and seller split these fees.
To be honest, I prefer wire transfers when selling a blog. That way, I avoid escrow fees. Typically, I sell to people I know and trust or to people I got to know well through the process.
4. Define Your Commitment for Ongoing Help
In almost every website sale, the buyer will need support or assistance after the sale. This can include everything from technical aspects of the site to insight into the audience. Include the details of your commitment in the contract to avoid a situation where the buyer expects something unreasonable.
For example, the contract could state that you agree to provide up to 5 hours of assistance per week for 4 weeks after the sale. You might also outline your availability. You could state that you will be available Monday – Friday between the hours of 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Eastern time. This contract language shows your willingness to help and deters unreasonable expectations.
I always help buyers even if their request is beyond the window laid out in the contract. I’ve sold websites to some of the same people multiple times, so I like to give buyers a good experience. This increases the chance that they’ll buy another site from me in the future. However, I like to put the details in the contract to avoid a situation where a buyer wants more time than I can offer.
Tips for Making the Process Smooth
We’ve covered a lot of details already, but in this section I want to touch on a few things that can makes the sales process a little easier and help you to avoid some hassles.
1. Know Why You Are Selling
One of the first things that every potential buyer will ask is why you are selling a website. If you have a profitable blog, why would you get rid of it? Prepare for this question in advance.
When I have sold sites, I give an honest reply: I am ready to move onto a new project. As a result, I am freeing up time in my schedule by getting selling the website.
If you plant to take the money and run, I would come up with a different response. If you’re not interested in the topic anymore, be honest. There is nothing wrong with telling a potential buyer that you would rather work on something else.
2. Have Your Traffic and Financial Numbers Ready
Every buyer will want to see details of your site. Their specific focus will be earnings and traffic, so it’s best to prepare this data in advance. Keep the information very general until you have some level of commitment from a buyer. List your revenue, expenses, and profits for each month over the past year.
You can also provide general numbers like website visitors and pageviews per month. Don’t worry about getting into the details of which pages of your site get the most traffic or which sources send traffic to your site. Competitors can use those details, so it’s important to be careful about who sees them. Some brokers require a non-disclosure agreement before any buyer sees detailed data.
3. Have the Site on its Own Hosting Account
This one is not completely necessary when selling a website, but I do recommend it. When selling websites, most buyers will want to you to transfer the website to their hosting at the time of sale. If your site is powered by WordPress or another CMS that uses a database, the process of moving the site can be a little more involved.
It is more complicated than simply uploading static HTML and CSS files to the new host. Fortunately for WordPress users, there are a number of plugins that can help move a site. Remember there is always the potential for issues to arise. If you are planning on selling a website, set it up on its own hosting account beforehand. As an added bonus, the host may even offer free migration.
If you have no other sites or files using the server, you can simply transfer ownership of the hosting account to the buyer rather than moving the site. The buyer can login to the hosting account and change the payment details to their own. This is much simpler than transferring a site. From my experience, buyers also like this because they don’t have to worry about any issues arising during a transfer.
Final Thoughts on Selling Websites
You’re definitely interested in learning more about selling websites or blogs since you stuck with me this long! Selling a blog is never an easy decision to make. If that is the right option for you and your site, you have a big task at hand. From deciding to sell and finding potential buyers to negotiating a contract and completing the sale, following these steps will make the process of selling websites a lot smoother.
Now I’m curious, have you ever considered selling a website or blog?
About the Author
Marc Andre has built successful blogs and websites in industries like web/graphic design, photography, and travel. He’s currently writing about personal finance at Vital Dollar. If you’d like to learn more about his approach to building successful blogs he’s offering a free 7-day Blogging Fundamentals email course.