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How to Sell Your Website - an Extensive Guide

Discussion in 'General Business' started by DomainMagnate, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. #1
    I'm not the top expert in this field by far, but I've been buying, selling and brokering sites for many years and this is my main occupation currently. I've been meaning to write this for a while as I see many first time sellers on DP who have no idea how to go about it. So this is a guide to selling a website based on my own experience and that of other professional sellers.

    First of all this is not for a site you built a month ago that has no traffic or revenue, but has a lot of "potential". That site is not worth much. This guide is intended for members with established sites that make decent revenue (at least 3 figures and more per month) that they would like to sell safely for a good price.

    Many first time sellers make the same mistakes that cause them to waste time, money and simetimes even end up getting scammed or selling their site for way less than it's worth. This guide will help you learn how to properly sell a site.


    Preparation.

    First thing to do when you decide to sell, and preferably even before that is to prepare for the sale - get your stats in order. The bigger the site the longer the preparation period should be.




    1. Set up google analytics - it's free and easy to set up. Buyers trust Google Analyics (GA) more than any other stats software and statistically sites with GA sell for more than sites without (flippa reports a 30% higher price on average for a site with verified GA). Make sure you put GA on all pages of your site and try to collect at least 30 days of stats from GA before you sell.
    2. Fix up any bugs - coding errors, dead links, not loading images etc. No one wants to buy a "broken" site. If you can't fix it yourself hire a programmer in the services section to help you out for $20. This is easily one of laziest and costliest mistake people make when selling a site. It takes very little effort to fix some small bugs, but can make the difference between a successful sale and a failed auction.
    3. Collect all your revenue and expenses stats, make detailed monthly reports and take screenshots for proofs. Make sure all your revenue is tracked through various affiliate programs or other sources by unique ids and can be verified. Proper adsense screenshots are very important for a successful sale if your site is monetized through adsense. Make sure you use the 'URL channels', or 'Sites' option in the perfomance reports tab and pick the site from the list, then you can also switch the dimensions in the graph from days to months and select to show stats for All time - that is if you have many months of revenue stats, if not use days and just the last 30 days or several months of stats. Make sure the site url and main numbers are clearly seen. Collect revenue details and screenshots from other revenue sources - affiliate programs or paypal sales.
    4. Update any old and outdated content, plugins, software, put up some fresh information and articles.
    5. Browse flippa to check for some similar sites and note how much they sold for. This should give you an idea of what to expect.



    Decide where to sell.

    There are many places and ways to sell a site. The best option depends on how much the site makes and how much time and effort you want to put into this, as well as the nature of the site.


    1. If this is a high revenue site that makes over $3K/month your best bet is to contact a site broker who will be able to fetch you the best price. Brokers have access to many high profile buyers - buyers that don't post in forums and are hard to find. Listing it on flippa is another option, however a professional broker will usually be able to get you a better price than a regular flippa auction. You can also try to list it on DP, there are a few big pocket buyers here as well, but then I suggest not to put the url in the thread (instead pm it to serious buyers) as that might drop its value later since buyers would know the site has been on the market for some time.
      Site Brokers usually take a 10% commission upon sale, but no other brokering fees, so if the site doesn't sell you pay nothing. Just like with selling a house you should review several brokers, pick one and sign an exclusive contract with him for a limited period of time to sell your site. Provide him all the site details, revenue screenshots and other proof for him to verify and wait for the buyers to come.
      If this is a really big site with over $20k/month in revenue contact an investment bank or a big brokerage firm.
    2. If it's a mid level site with $100-$3k/month in revenue brokers usually won't deal with it, so your best option is to try to sell it on flippa or through the forums. Selling it on DP would be much faster and easier, cheaper if you find interested buyers, but you can usually get more for the site on flippa since it has a much bigger marketplace and many more buyers. If you're selling it on flippa prepare to spend some time and money on setting up a proper auction and use upgrades - they are worth it. See below for flippa selling tips.
    3. Small sites with revenue below $100 aren't usually worth the effort and fees of listing on flippa so you're better off selling them on DP, and/or another similar forum. Be sure to make a proper listing, with detailed description of the revenues and traffic, screenshots and proofs. Reply to questions promptly and politely. Don't set up an auction on DP - it's not worth it. Instead either state your asking range or price, or ask for offers. Then once you get some inquires or offers from a serious buyer negotiate with them through pms to close a deal. Most serious buyers will contact you within several days after listing, so don't prolong it for more than a couple days - negotiate with the buyers and try to close the deal quickly.

    SEMrush

    Listing on Flippa.

    If your site fell in the mid level revenue range and you decided to list it on flippa below are more tips on how to do this efficiently:


    • use a descriptive title that highlight the main pluses of your site, e.g: "$250/month passive adsense income site, 4 years old". Don't try to use cheap marketing tricks, like "high potential", "guaranteed income", "panda proof", "great opportunity" etc. White it may attract some more attention, it will also put off serious buyers as they'll feel like you're trying to fool them. If you're selling a good quality site you won't need this.
    • Don't write winded up stories, but don't be too short either. Write a short description about the site, its history, revenue sources and figures and traffic sources and figures. You can also add some info about yourself and your contact info in the auction to help gain more confidence if this is your first sale on flippa.
    • Input all your revenue and traffic figures properly and upload verified GA and adsense stats. If you don't have GA set up on the site upload awstats or similar stats screenshots with details about traffic sources and main keywords if a large part of the traffic is coming from search.
    • Mention your expenses. It can be only hosting e.g. $5-10/month, or also buying links, buying traffic, services. Be honest about the financials. Also provide an estimate of how much time you spend on maintaining the site monthly/daily and what it involves. This makes the listing look more geniune and gives more confidence to buyers so they'll be ready to bid more.
    • Mention the reason why you're selling the site as buyers will always ask that. E.g. to raise money for other projects.
    • Use upgrades! The lsiting on flippa costs $19. if you're site is making a significant amount, e.g. over $300/month and is expected to sell for over $3k it can be worthwhily to buy a premium listing - it can be acquired right after you set up the auction and costs $250, but will get you significantly more exposure and views. Alternatively you can also purchase the the frontpage listing upgrade near the beginning of the auction and/or near the end of the auction for $50. Other upgrades are less useful, but can also be bought. Upgrades can be costly if your site doesn't sell, but they are usually worth it as it will increase the selling price.
    • Offer free hosting for a few months and free help with transferring the site - many are first time buyers on flippa so this would help.
    • Try to start your listing in the afternoon by US time that way if the auction is extended several times (each extention adds 4 hours) the hour will still be reasonable so people will be up to bid.
    • Run the auction for 1-2 weeks, try to make sure it doesn't end on a weekend so you have more bidders available. Bugger sites should be run for longer time, but less than that might not get enough exposure and more than that will lose some of the potential buyers during that time.
    • Reply to all questions and comments promptly and professionally. Don't make assumptions, you can't know who is serious and who is not.
    • Update the auction with new stats and info while it's running and near the end.
    • Approve bids manually. Keep in mind that there is a high percent of non paying buyers and transactions that don't go through for one reason or another, so try to pick a buyer that will most likely pay. You can do that by reviewing the bidders' profiles and sending messages to some of top bidders to see if they have any questions and also try figure how serious they are.
    • Don't approve all the bids at once, but rather let some bids accumulate at first so you can get more smaller bids - this can help get the auction featured in the most active auctions list which in turn will bring more exposure and visits.
    • Be sure you're online to answer questions and approve bids when the auction is ending. Most serious buyers will only bid in the last couple days and even in the last 4-8 hours of the auction. So be online to reply to comments, pms and possibly accept an earlier bin offer.
    • Have a reasonable reserve. Many people will ask for it - don't disclose it, but insure people that it is reasonable, you can also give them a range, e.g. mid $x,xxx. Since if buyers know the reserve it may discourage them from bidding and if they don't they might be afraid it's too high and not want to waste their time. However in all auctions it's common practice to not disclose the reserve, but only disclose its range - that is how Sedo run their GreatDomains auctions and they know a thing or two about auctions!
    • If you have a simple adsense site, that requires no maintenance with proper stats and stable revenue you can try to do a no reserve auction. It's risky - you might end up having to sell the site at a lower price. But if your site is good you'll have many buyers who are interested in it and get lots more bids than if you had a reserve. In that case be sure to mention in the title and auction description that the auction has a $1 reserve so that you will sell the site for whatever the auction ends up at.
    • Set a bin near the end of the action, several days before the end. You can also incentivise the bin, offer free support, more content, free hosting for a period of time, free help in moving the site and changing ad codes, free links etc.
    • Promote the auction while it's running - note DP doesn't allow posting about a flippa auction in the site sales section, but you can put the link in your signature and there are also several other forums where you can post about it.
    • Don't accept potentially winning bids and especially bin automatically, make sure you research the buyer a bit, check his profile to see if he's serious and trustworthy. A very high number of first time buyers never follow through, they can simple win an auction and then disappear. Before accepting a bin bid you can messag the bidder and ask for more info, or talk to him via skype or email.
    • Once the auction is over make sure you contact the buyer quickly and start escrow. Use escrow.com and follow their process after the sale. Be in contact with the buyer to make sure he follows through with the sale.
    • Once the deal is complete email the buyer a few days, or a few weeks later to make sure he's happy with the purchase and to check if he needs any help with setting up the site. Most people don't do it, but this is a very important step! Help the buyer by sharing your experience and knowledge of the site and you've gained an important contact. He may later buy another site from you or do more business together.
    • Exchange feedbacks on flippa.



    Listing on DP.

    If you've decided to list the site on DP in the sites for sale forum here are some tips on how to do that properly:


    • Don't use the auction option, instead just accept offers and put up a reasonable bin
    • Input all the figures, stats and GA, upload screenshots and mention the exact revenue and traffic figures in the listing.
    • No need to write a very long description here as most buyers won't read the full post, they'll just look at the figures and the site and quickly decide if they are interested
    • Your main task here is to find the more serious buyers (they'll usually pm you), answer all their questions, send them stats and negotiate with them. Check their last posts, sites, google the username to find out more and determine if they are trustworthy.
    • If the price is more than $500-1000 use escrow. Be very careful with using paypal, especially with unreputed members as you can easily get scammed that way by people who use stolen credit cards and stolen paypal accounts. Escrow.com is safe for both buyer and seller and their fees are not very high.
    • Once the sale is complete exchange feedbacks and check back with the buyer to see if he needs any help with the site.



    Sell directly to site investors.

    There are many site buyers who are mainly investors and they are top tier buyers on flippa. Rather than an average webmaster who has limited funds and buys a site cheaply to improve and grow it further an investor is buying a site for investment, for holding and cashflow. Investors will usually be able to pay a higher amount.

    They aren't that easy to find, they usually buy through brokers or on flippa and rarely browse the forums. However if you have connections in the industry you can try to find and approach the right people and offer them the site. You also need ot have a high quality and well established site for that.

    You can and should also try to pm people who post "sites wanted" threads if your site matches their description and budget before you list the site anywhere. Beware of scammers here and try to only deal with reputable members and through escrow.


    The escrow process.

    As most deals end up in an escrow.com transaction, the process is like this:


    1. buyer and seller agree on the transaction
    2. buyer sends funds
    3. escrow verifies them (if funds are sent through wire it usually takes about a day)
    4. once funds are verified the seller is notified to transfer the site to the buyer
    5. contact the buyer for his registrar information, first push the domain (e.g. do a push into his godaddy account), then send him the site details - cpanel backup, or files and mysql backup, or cpanel login info to download the backup.
    6. verify in escrow that you completed the transfer
    7. buyer verifies in escrow that he received the transfer, inspection period starts - it can be 1-5 days.
    8. buyer verifies that he received everything and after a quick check (usually within a day) escrow close the transaction and send the funds to the seller


    Be extra careful using paypal or any other payment methods that don't provide enough protection for the buyer and seller.


    If your site didn't sell.

    If the flippa or DP listing didn't end up in a sale, first you should try to contact some of the top bidders and people who contacted you about it to see if you can still facilitate a sale, possibly for a reduced price. Be aware that rerun flippa auctions usually end up with a lower price, so lower your expectations.

    Try to figure out why it didn't sell: most likely the price/reserve was too high. Then relist it with a lower price. It can also be because you didn't provide proper stats and screenshots and support. Add more screenshots, improve your description. Fix any bugs or problems with the site.


    Extra: Selling to end users.

    If you have a good quality site in a niche with many businesses that could be interested in purchasing it to monetize the traffic much better by selling their product or service you can try to sell the site to an end user. This is something a broker would also do and this can result in a significantly higher price.
    Examples for good niches for end users: loans, mortgages, drug abuse, poker, lawn mowers, cars etc.

    Google your main keywords and check the top results and top advertisers in adwords, see which of these could potentially gain by acquiring your site and pitch it to them. Contact them and tell them about the sate you're selling. Then either link them to the flippa auction you've just started or just tell them how well it ranks for their main keywords and how much traffic it receives and how many leads/sales it can bring them. The end users will usually not be interested in how much your site earns, only the traffic. Let them make the first offer, or give them a high price first and negotiate from that. Have patience as bigger companies will take longer to reply and make decisions.

    End user sales can be much more profitable, I have sold several sites to end users for up to 10 years worth of revenue. But these sales are harder to facilitate and are quite rare. Although it's well worth the effort if you have an appropriate site, even if makes just about $100/month, but has decent traffic.


    Questions?

    Feel free to ask here and I'll try to help out :)



    ~DomainMagnate
     
    DomainMagnate, Jun 19, 2012 IP
    SEMrush
  2. shenron

    shenron Notable Member

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    #2
    It's been a long time since I've seen a decent post in this area.
    Thanks a lot for the post Michael!
     
    shenron, Jun 19, 2012 IP
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  3. dcristo

    dcristo Illustrious Member

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    #3
    Great guide for newbie sellers. Regarding escrow I would recommend using escrow.com like suggested and not some unheard of escrow service. Also great tip about pitching to advertisers on adwords.
     
    dcristo, Jun 19, 2012 IP
  4. Sensei.Design

    Sensei.Design Notable Member

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    #4
    Well I really have to say it is really worth the time it takes you to read through the whole article. Even though I have been around for quite some time here on DP and also bought and sold sites I found a few parts I will consider for further sales.

    Right now I am only wondering if the Escrow process doesn't slow the whole process of selling the website down as the buyer has to verify he received all the requested data. As my interest as a seller is to get the money and to finish the sale smoothly and with no trouble of course.
     
    Sensei.Design, Jun 19, 2012 IP
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  5. DomainMagnate

    DomainMagnate Illustrious Member

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    #5
    thanks, it does slow things down a bit. Usually a transaction takes me 3-6 days to complete either as a buyer or as a seller. Had some that only took a day and others that lasted for weeks though. If it's a significant amount of money ($1k+) it's well worth the extra protection.

    added: flippa links are not allowed here, but if anyone is interested check my several recent sales on flippa for an idea on how to list an auction, under same username - they got 30+ months rev.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012
    DomainMagnate, Jun 19, 2012 IP
  6. bmac

    bmac Active Member

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    #6
    Very well said. I have found bizbuysell.com to be a great place to find serious buyers for higher end sites. They are expensive but you can find guys that are brokers that will post your ads on there for less than the cost of flippa and the leads are much better. For $15 you can place an add on there and find buyers that actually have cash to spend. I have dealt with DomainMagnate some and he knows this business and this is a great read.
     
    bmac, Jun 20, 2012 IP
    DomainMagnate likes this.
  7. Sensei.Design

    Sensei.Design Notable Member

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    #7
    Sure starting with amount's +1k it's worth the protection. I just wanted to point out there is a minor gap in protection for the seller while the buyer has the files but maybe didn't confirm he received the files already. This is no reason for me not to use escrow and it can even help business as the buyer feels perfectly safe but this is a point you should consider.
     
    Sensei.Design, Jun 20, 2012 IP
  8. DomainMagnate

    DomainMagnate Illustrious Member

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    #8
    Yeah theoretically the buyer could claim he didn't receive the domain transfer and files, but it would be fairly easy to prove you sent it. Just forward the emails and domain push confirmations to escrow support in case of any dispute, their support is quite good and they reply promptly. You can also contact the support if the buyer stalls, or is unresponsive and they'll contact him directly. The seller's security comes from the fact that escrow.com holds the money during the entire process and while you transfer the site and if the buyer decides to bail for whatever reason it's not that easy and he'll still have to pay the escrow fees. That never happened to me though, never had any serious issues with escrow.com and I did well into 6 figures in transactions through them.

    Regardless it's also very important to pick the right buyer that seems trustworthy so you can be sure of a worry-free transaction.
     
    DomainMagnate, Jun 20, 2012 IP
  9. britishguy

    britishguy Prominent Member

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    #9
    It has been a long time maybe even 3 to 4 years since I have seen such a quality professional post on DP!

    But hey wait a minute the OP is from one of the top guys on DP a member since 2005

    For all the noobies who read the OP that is the standard of post you should aspire to create and post on DP.

    Thanks Michael as always your efforts will realize new awareness of what is needed to succeed in business on the Internet!
     
    britishguy, Jun 20, 2012 IP
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  10. Sensei.Design

    Sensei.Design Notable Member

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    #10
    Thanks for the details but this was the fact I wanted to point out - still you have to be carefull about picking the buyer even though a service like escrow will increase the security for buyer and seller dramatically.
     
    Sensei.Design, Jun 20, 2012 IP
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  11. SKULL

    SKULL Prominent Member

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    #11
    Nice post about time we got some decent posts on this forum again , and somone trying to help the BST part of the site.

    I kinda like to see descrptions about what the site is about and what they have done to get it to where it is and stuff , it helps with selling and buyer a site, i see way to many people selling sites and in the description all i see is a link to the site and make a offer.
     
    SKULL, Jun 20, 2012 IP
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  12. m_wc

    m_wc Well-Known Member

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    #12
    I tried to sell few websites but was not successful at all. After reading this I'm sure I'll be sucessful in future. Thanks Michael :)
     
    m_wc, Jun 21, 2012 IP
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  13. MyFlipOff.com

    MyFlipOff.com Active Member

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    #13
    Very nice reading covering all the basics. There is more into it and each sale/website is a unique process, but this will get you started. Regarding escrow when you get a buyer who want to cause trouble, escrow doesn't provide much support and you will find a lot of holes in their system. It took a few lawsuit threads and a lot of phone calls to get my last issue resolved, but their manager stepped up and handled the buyer so everything worked out at the end.
     
    MyFlipOff.com, Jun 21, 2012 IP
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  14. wptheme

    wptheme Well-Known Member

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    #14
    Good tips for a general overall case Micheal. $100+ websites will certainly sell at Flippa and your guide would certainly help them to get a better price . Though I suppose the problem is on how to make websites earning $100 per month. You will need to spend a lot of time to build it. Which is why most people are trying to learn instead the best way on how to sell startups for big bucks on Flippa.

    I am guessing being a broker like you is one way though :D
    Another way is to become an investor, pick the correct sites, improve and resell at higher market or targeted buyers.

    Anyway rep+ added for the quality thread.
    Cheerio

    wptheme

    p/s- darn.. cannot give you any as I already did before..
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012
    wptheme, Jun 21, 2012 IP
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  15. DomainMagnate

    DomainMagnate Illustrious Member

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    #15
    thanks, that's cool, I got like 4k rep points already, so it's no fun any more :D

    Well, you're right getting the site from 0 to $100 is the harder part. I'm not that good at this though, most of the new sites I started make little revenue. So I mainly focus on buying/selling/brokering and improving established sites.

    I don't deal with startup sites, but there are definitely lots of them on flippa. I think these are mostly for newbies, experienced buyers will prefer a site with established revenue over a new site with big promises.

    Investing in quality sites, building up a portfolio of good passive income sites is certainly a way to go. In fact I'm doing exactly that whenever I find good sites at reasonable prices (which is becoming rarer and rare lately..). You do need to have some decent funds to get into this though and not many people do.
     
    DomainMagnate, Jun 21, 2012 IP
  16. DomainMagnate

    DomainMagnate Illustrious Member

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    Yea it's the most annoying for me too when people just list the url and ask for offers. Don't even bother providing any revenue or traffic figures. I'm guessing they are not really serious about selling then. A sale definitely has to have some basic info. But personally I never read long descriptions. I look at lots of sites every day, so it's just enough to check the site and stats to see if it's something I might be interested in. I think most buyers are this way. If a buyer is interested he will pm or ask questions - then the seller can provide more info. That is of course course if it's on DP and a relatively small site. Generally I'd say just list: site, revenue details (preferably with monthly breakdown by sources - too bad no one ever does that on DP!) and traffic with sources and some screenshots. And price range.
     
    DomainMagnate, Jun 21, 2012 IP
  17. digimodern

    digimodern Peon

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    #17
    Why not post an ad to sell a website. There are lots of free sites on internet you can post your ad about website selling on these ads.
     
    digimodern, Jun 22, 2012 IP
  18. DomainMagnate

    DomainMagnate Illustrious Member

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    #18
    They don't usually have site buyers reading those ad sites. But if there are some site selling categories it's good to post there too. More exposure is always good and increases your chances of success.
     
    DomainMagnate, Jun 23, 2012 IP
  19. p.caspian

    p.caspian Peon

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    #19
    What is a filippa? And what is escrow process?
     
    p.caspian, Jun 23, 2012 IP
  20. Sensei.Design

    Sensei.Design Notable Member

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    #20
    I'm with you on that one ... I doubt potential buyers especially for sites above x.xxx per month can be found on this pages.

    @p.caspian why do you bother posting then?
     
    Sensei.Design, Jun 23, 2012 IP