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6 Ways to Sell a Website, and 4 Ways Not to Sell One

This guest post is by Mathew Carpenter of Sofa Moolah.

It’s gotten harder and harder to generate a stable income as an affiliate over the past two years. From Facebook’s decidedly anti-affiliate mindset, to the lengthy list of regulations that search engines such as Google have released, generating stable, consistent, and stress-free paid traffic isn’t as simple as it once was. For thousands of affiliates, it’s been a major frustration and a potential business killer.

But alongside the “Google slaps” advertisement disapprovals and the massive flock to second-tier ad networks is a change in the mindset of many affiliates. Instead of focusing on the hustle of direct-response advertising, many successful affiliates and product owners alike are looking to search or socially-powered websites as a source of traffic, a source of sales, and as a source of income.

I’ve been following this same formula—alongside some other online business models—for the past few years, and while it’s far from the cash cow that a giant advertising campaign can be, it’s a form of income that’s significantly more reliable and steady. Advertising and sales checks from blogs and search-powered websites tend to be quite constant—at least more so than the average ad campaign.

Six steps to a successful site sale

These six rules—and four anti-rules—can help you develop and sell your own web properties, to generate a strong and reliable sideline income in addition to your main online venture. Despite the comfort of steady and recurring passive income, it’s often the case that you need short-term cash to fund other websites or advertising projects. In that case, be sure to put these six tips for selling your website into action.

1. Understand your website’s long-term value in advance

The average sales price of a successful website tends to range from six to ten times its profit on a monthly basis. While this can sound fairly hefty—particularly for a website that generates several thousand dollars monthly—it’s really a fraction of the type of value assigned to offline businesses.

Think about Facebook’s current valuation—the ludicrously high $50 billion. Does this reflect the website’s current earnings? No. While the website is profitable by all accounts, it’s far from those levels of profitability. The valuation reflects the website’s long-term value—something that can be applied to your own websites too.

So instead of thinking in terms of short-term revenue for your website and monthly profit, think in terms of your website’s potential for revenue growth over time. If you’re trying to sell a site that’s a real social media hit, for example, or a website with a growing search presence, use this potential as an indicator of its value and price it accordingly.

2. Know your audience, and know how to sell them

The biggest mistake I see being applied to website sales is one that’s repeated in almost all aspects of online marketing: using the same tactics for very different audiences. Just as you’d use different sales tactics to sell a car than you would to sell a bag of candy, you need to use different tactics to sell different types of websites.

Know your audience, and understand how they’re going to respond to your website auction. On one of the bigger marketplaces like Flippa, it’s important to remember that people value revenue data or profit information above anything else. For an independent website investor, information about your website’s potential for growth may be more important.

3. Research successful website sales before listing your own

When asked about how he acquires new skills quickly, productivity guru (and now fitness author) Tim Ferriss explained that it’s best to look at people who have achieved massive success in a short amount of time. It’s a philosophy that can be applied to everything from online marketing to selling your own websites, and it always produces good results.

Instead of going with your gut when deciding on how to present your website for sale, look at other websites that have achieved high sales prices in the past. What information do they disclose? Which sales tactics and pitches do they use to frame the auction? By reverse-engineering sales information from successful website auctions, you can vastly improve the results of your own.

4. Take steps to optimize profits before making a listing.

There’s nothing worse than seeing a website for sale that’s barely been optimized. From blogs that lack even the most basic advertising to affiliate websites that reek of poor conversion testing, if an online property hasn’t been optimized, it’s never going to reach its true value at sale. If your site is on the market without any profit optimization, you’re making a huge (and potentially costly) error.

Test different advertising networks, different ad creatives, and different affiliate offers on your site before you put it up for auction. Test different ad placement, different monetization methods, and a lengthy list of different lead capture strategies. Unoptimized (or poorly optimized) websites can be great deals for buyers, but they’re never a good option for you as the seller.

I’ve optimized many of the websites I’ve sold to increase profits by as much as 415% before making a sale. Small changes, particularly to the wording surrounding your call-to-action text or ad placement, can make a huge difference in the amount of income that your website generates.

5. Use a popular outlet that attracts the right audience

There are hundreds of auction sites out there that allow you to list your website, but only a select few are worth your time. The most popular is Flippa, which, despite its reputation for occasional shady websites, is actually the best option out there. I’ve sold two websites on Flippa for mid four-figure sums recently, one of which achieved an ROI of over four hundred percent.

Don’t, however, confuse a large audience with a good audience. If you own a website in a specific niche, for example, it’s almost always better to appeal to others in your niche directly instead of an all-purpose outlet like Flippa. As I said in step two, it’s important to know the type of people you’re marketing to, not just the amount of potential buyers that you have access to.

6. Minimize “fluff” statistics, and focus on the substance

“Fluff” statistics are, to me, information that’s impressive when explained in an auction, yet utterly meaningless when it comes to your website’s ability to generate income or influence change. The types of statistics I’m talking about are total pageview information—generally information that has no tie to real profitability—or data about how much traffic your website generates in total.

Instead of offering this type of information to potential bidders, highlight your website’s strengths and offer real data to buyers. Talk about how many unique visitors your website gets, your biggest traffic sources, and the value of a visitor to your website. “Fluff” statistics are only worth mentioning in one situation: your website is overvalued and you’re desperate to complete the sale quickly.

How not to sell your website

I’ve mentioned what you should do when selling your website. Now, it’s time to cover some of the most common errors that are made by those auctioning websites. While some of these tactics can help you, particularly if your website isn’t valuable, most will push away the types of buyers you want to attract. Ignore them at your own peril, as they’re definitely techniques to be avoided.

1. Load your auction with worthless data and needless hype.

Nobody cares about your blog’s unique design, its flashy navigation system, and the level of praise it has received from others in your niche. They do care about its potential for generating revenue or, in rare circumstances, its level of influence in its niche. In most cases, it’s best to leave subjective data such as critical praise or “best blog in ___” type feedback off your website’s auction page.

On the same note, don’t load your auction page with fifty-point red headers and sales copy. Look at rule two again—you’re marketing your website to other marketers. Instead of pulling out every last direct response trick in the book, offer information that’s of value to people. It’s very hard to sell to marketers, and it only gets worse when you employ the same tactics that they use on a daily basis.

2. Capitalize on temporary fads, short-term events, and crazes

I see this type of mistake all the time on Flippa. Marketers—typically newbies—buy a domain that is loosely related to the latest celebrity death, put up a generic two-page WordPress site, and think it could be the next big thing. These auctions tend to be loaded with potential-driven sales copy and an overwhelming contempt for their potential customers, all in an effort to make a quick buck.

Here’s what they all have in common: they rarely, if ever, make a decent profit. While the owners of these websites may make a few dollars on the sale, it’s rarely enough to even consider. The best type of website for onward sales is one that’s loaded with long-term potential, not some hyped-up spur-of-the-moment domain name.

3. List your website but make little or no effort to monetize it

The only thing worse than overselling a website, as above, is underselling it by failing to spend any time on monetization. This mistake is constantly be made on Flippa, although unlike many of these errors, which are made by newbies, it’s the professionals that tend to make this one. Always short on time and challenged by other projects, they list websites without even trying to monetize them.

Any signs of profitability—even a Google Adsense block atop your page—are a good thing for lifting your sales price. While websites occasionally sell based on their unrealized potential alone, it’s not at all a common occurrence. Take the time to test your website’s profitability level, and even when it’s not a winner, let people know that it’s at least capable of generating income.

4. Defining your website’s potential without thinking long-term

Browse any auction website and you’ll see descriptions where the merchant has been, shall we say, a little too optimistic about their website’s future. No, it probably won’t become the next Facebook, and no, it probably won’t triple its revenue in two months. While these examples take long-term prediction to its extreme, they’re a good indicator of how a little long-term thinking can help with your sales.

Website aren’t bought to immediately be flipped—at least, not in most cases. For the most part, they are bought as a fairly long-term investment (by online standards). Be upfront and clear about how your website is performing now, but don’t forget to include a description—even quite a salesy description—of how it could perform in the future.

Have you successfully sold a website before? If so, how did it go? Did you break even, lose money, or make a profit on the sale?

Leave your own experiences in the comments and let me know if you’ve got any suggestions on how to sell websites more effectively. I’ve seen plenty of very different techniques do well in this field, and it’s always an interesting to experience how well people are doing with less orthodox tactics.

Mathew Carpenter is an 18-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Mathew is currently working on Sofa Moolah, a website that teaches you how to make money online. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @matcarpenter. Follow Sofa Moolah on Twitter: @sofamoolah.

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Comments

  1. I really like this article. I have never sold a website but i have looked at buying but was put off by a lot of the sales pitches because of the ‘fluff’. I especially like the section about optimizing your website before you sell it. If you can’t show how much profit your website could potentially make then it is not going to be nearly as attractive to prospective buyers

    • Certainly market of buying and selling websites are really expanding.

      Just give your dedication, make a successful website and sell it.

      But however few people engage to their websites and hence they unable to sell it.

  2. Great to see this topic covered on ProBlogger. I’ve been teaching this for a bit now, at the end of the day, it comes down to a simple equation. How soon can a buyer break even on the costs of purchasing the website, and how much will it actually make them.

    Last year, people bought absolutely anything that even remotely looked like a website, but now these people are smarter, so its just as simple as this. Sell them something of value, make sure that your claims check out and are value, and in most cases (listing on Flippa is a good start!), the buyers will find the opportunity that you are presenting them with.

    Your price will only be decided based on the opportunity that your website presents to someone with the cash.

    Thanks again, awesome post.

    • dotCOMreport says:

      “Your price will only be decided based on the opportunity that your website presents to someone with the cash.”

      But how does one really determine the price to set for a website?

  3. Profit Blog says:

    Yeah, I always see people trying to sell sites that have no monetization. What is really crazy though, is that people actually buy them, even though you can tell its just a wordpress theme with random content thrown on it. It makes me wonder if newbies are the ones buying them with hopes of having their own website..

  4. Akos says:

    Nice guest post. Knowing your audience is not only useful when selling a site, it’s good when looking for monetizing opportunities and a lot more times.

    • Knowing your audience and knowing your market is one of the important factor in internet world.

      This is invisible market and only data can help you to derive the conclusion.

  5. Alain says:

    Something you should not try to do, yet that we see so much on Flippa: someone saying their website has a huge potential but trying to sell it for 200$. It just does not make sense. Has the author is saying, befor selling your site, try to maximize its monetization potential first.

    I would love to read about other resources than flippa to sell a website. Way too many people asking for ridiculous prices for their PR0-1 site there.

    • Along with the monetization buyer would love to see the traffic should come from the search engine.

      I think there are two most important factor for any kind of website –

      # 1. Earning Potential
      # 2. Source of traffic.

  6. papa echa says:

    great guest post. if we have PR less then 10 then we can explore anything good ideas to get more earn

  7. Stats Stats Stats. The more the better!

  8. Wonderful piece Mathew Carpenter. I could not agree more to point number one on selling a site; as a buy-side financial analyst, the most important factor I consider before buying or entering a business is the future profit potential. I would also like to add that the value that the business (website) adds to the society is also vital for long term sustainability :-)

  9. JT McGee says:

    Realize completely that solid websites sell themselves, and that you don’t need to sales-page it to all hell in order to get the deal.

    When I go site shopping, I look for sites in a particular niche, and the data does the best. I examine the SERPs, the quality of the content, and the perceived potential of a webproperty. I don’t care much to pay the seller for said “potential,” because that’s work I have to do myself.

  10. Great piece and thanks for your terrific endorsement of Flippa as the #1 marketplace for buying and selling websites.

    Something to bear in mind is the rapidly declining importance of “potential” revenue when selling a website. Many buyers tend to not value this given the execution risk involved in actually realizing potential revenue – they argue sellers would have gone to the effort of realizing that potential if it was readily achievable.

    All sites have potential so it continues to play a role. However, if you can make the leap from potential to actual revenue, you will achieve a significantly higher price for your website.

  11. Robby G says:

    Great post. Very informative and though I was thinking about selling my site in the past, I realized that I can make a lot more money from me it if I just incorporated a few new things and grew it into a real multi-layered empire rather than a small advice column. I’ve founds advertisers and selling ebooks, and when I have time I want to add a forum to it as well. Great advice nonetheless mate!

  12. Great insights Mathew, I have gotten quite a bit of direction from parsing through the “just sold” section of Flippa. I often find myself getting off-task while doing this, but I agree that there is much to learn from those who did it right.

  13. Musicblog says:

    It is very difficult sale me anything in internet world. Selling of small websites owner its really hard i think. Nice way you explain all selling tips nice tips.

  14. Also very important is a correct price-setting for your auction.

    too low -> will attract low-budget buyers
    too high -> obvious…

    Also be carefully with choosing a buy-now price, because I’ve had it recently that I got the buy-now already 1 hour after the auction started -> lesson for next time: buy-now was too low (14* current month-income of website).

  15. Matthew,

    This is golden information and quite timely for me, as I’m considering creating a series of sites to quickly sell on Flippa.

    This is really an awesome read.

    Thanks a lot for sharing your wisdom,

    Krizia

  16. Jay Purcell says:

    I purchased http://www.crookedmen.com with the intent of starting a video news/ blogger site about corruption in government and politics. Still thinking about it but a friend suggested to me that I should sell the domain name because she believes it is very valuable. I am inclined to believe her given the fact that I purchased the domain name because I believe it is catchy and easy to remember. Any thoughts?

  17. This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time – i.e. selling my site to someone in the solar power industry, but my pagerank is only 1. I suppose one needs to work on that end first and then dream big things. Interesting post, nonetheless!

  18. Focusing in a specific niche, it is always helpful. Don’t overload your mind with all that information out there. Focus, focus and focus one more time in one niche that you have passion for and then do a research if it can be profitable. Focusing in one niche will help you quicker to understand your audience and this of course together with the passion you have for that niche.

  19. I love the websites I currently have so I would be hard pressed to sell them. And, I wouldn’t want someone new taking them over and ruining them. However, this is good information in the future if I ever get into a situation where I must sell. I have read many articles like this, but this is so far the best one.

  20. cecille says:

    Awesome presentation of facts! Now my limited knowledge is fortified with such great content about this topic of selling websites and having websites for such purposes.

  21. Overall a pretty good article, however, I think it should be noted that for established sites that have a history of generating cash flow, 6-10 months worth of profit would be DRASTICALLY underpriced. In addition, while Flippa is a very good marketplace for certain types of sites, for larger transactions, it is good to have professional help (I know, I know, I’m biased). The fact is, when dealing in larger dollar transactions, a professional will be able to help protect everyone involved by providing a proper structure and legal framework for the transaction.

    In general, if you have a solid website that has been around a while, going the auction route could leave a good amount of money on the table.

    As an example, we recently helped a business owner sell a site that he had bought 6 months earlier for $8,000. He ended up selling it for $20,000! What changed in those 6 months? Nothing. We just priced it more accurately and went to the proper audience.

  22. I love the idea of building and selling your websites if I can make a six figure sum. This is due to the time and effort of building a reputation for your blog or website. The only exception is my blog is making huge profit everyday. Just count your chicken, you know.

    Other than that, I love my websites and the fun of building them.

  23. sellweb info says:

    Webmasters Marketplace – Buy and sell web sites, domain names and advertising.
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