Selling a profitable website can be a quick way to get the value out of your asset (the website) in order to use that money for something else – usually to invest in other projects you have, or to diversify into other investments.
I get asked “how do I sell a website” quite often, and for something that seems so simple on the surface, the process can be a little tricky if you've never done it before.
In this guide, I'll give you the steps on how to sell your website in the best possible way.
How to sell a website: the short version
This is going to be a long article, but if you're in a hurry and just want to find out how to sell a website quickly, here are the basic steps you need to follow:
- Make sure your website is “sellable” and as attractive to a buyer as possible.
- Make sure your site is maximizing its revenue to get the best sale price
- Prepare your revenue, costs, and profit numbers for the last two (or more years).
- Figure out the value of your website before you sell
- Create a list of the tasks you work on for the website, and how long those tasks take you per week.
- Make sure you have a break down of your revenue sources and your biggest costs (writers, developers, hosting)
- Create a handover document for the new owner so they can hit the ground running if they buy your site
- Find your buyer (either using a marketplace like Flippa/Empire Flippers, a website broker, or a private buyer if possible)
- Use a safe escrow payment service to ensure buyer and seller are both protected
The complete guide to selling a website
Okay, “complete” gets used a lot online to try and make the content seem like it's the best. I'll try to be as comprehensive as possible using my own process for selling a website but there is no such thing as a complete guide.
So, you've got a successful website, it's making money and getting visitors, and you want to sell it so that you can use the funds elsewhere.
Whatever the reason for selling your website, cashing out allows you to take advantage of the time value of money – a principle which basically means that $1 in your hand today is better than $2 in your hand next month.
By leveraging your website as an asset to sell you have the advantage of a lump sum of capital in your hand, which you can then use to invest and grow your net worth.
Make your site as valuable as possible before you sell
The first step in selling a website is to make sure your site is as attractive and “sellable” to a buyer as possible.
Maximizing your website before you sell is the best way to ensure you get the biggest sale price possible.
Ideally, you want to be sure you've taken the site as far as you can at least three months before you sell. This gives your changes time to have an impact on conversions, and ultimately revenue and profits.
A buyer will be much more interested in a website which is relatively passive than a “fixer-upper” that requires work and investment to realize the potential.
Your website needs to be well designed and user-friendly
Design is a subjective thing, but it's very easy to land on a website and notice that it doesn't “feel” quite right.
A poor design can make your website appear unprofessional, or worse, spammy.
Luckily, it's easy to make very simple design changes to your website so that it's easy to use and engaging for the users:
- Have a clear message. Make sure your marketing copy and messaging are very clear and simple so that your visitors know exactly what it is you're offering.
- Mobile-friendly site. This should go without saying but more and more people are browsing and buying on their mobile phones – up to 50% or more of your visitors could be on phones.
- Simple layout. Less is more when it comes to web design. Your users rarely care about fancy fonts, animations, or scrolling slider images. Keep your layout as simple as possible so that your main call to action links (CTA) are easily visible.
- Call to actions. Again, these need to be clear and consistent across your website, so your visitors know exactly what to do.
If your website is content-based, then it's very likely that you're using WordPress.
For WordPress, the only theme I have found that allows you to build a website that matches all of the above criteria (and more) and quickly build beautiful, mobile-responsive, websites, is GeneratePress.
Once you have your site design looking attractive to a buyer, the next step is to focus on how much it's earning you.
Make sure your website is earning as much as possible
The most common way to value a website is through a multiple of your annual earnings. This means that more earnings will lead to a higher sale price.
If your site is making $10,000 a year and you sell it for a 3x multiple, your sale price is $30,000.
This means that if you can increase the yearly earnings to $12,000, your sale price jumps to $36,000!
Here are some ways you can increase your website earnings before you sell it:
- Try a different ad network. Are you using AdSense? If so, you can switch to Ezoic or Mediavine and earn more from your ads with the exact same traffic.
- Sell direct advertising. You can add an “advertise” page to your site to attract advertisers, and you can also email the companies that you see in your AdSense ads to see if they'd be interested to broker a direct deal.
- Improve your affiliate marketing links. Do an audit of your affiliate marketing links. Get your links in very early in the article, include them through the article, maybe even add a button CTA or popup to try and get more clicks on them. More clicks = more sales.
- Sell products. Can you create an ebook, audiobook, online course, or guide to sell your visitors? This is usually much more lucrative than any other monetization method.
- Test different ad placements. With Ezoic, you can easily test different locations and there are WordPress plugins which can do this for AdSense as well.
- Experiment with CTA link text. Instead of “Click Here” you can try “I want this” or “Give me access”. Try making the CTA more personal.
- Get an email newsletter and promote it. Getting an email list means you can market to them many times over even after they leave your website.
Optimizing your website earnings before selling can take a while, so I'd recommend focusing on this at least 3-6 months before you want to sell if possible.
If you're looking for a quicker sale, you may not have time to do this, but it's the best way to increase your asking price so if you can put the time in, it's worth it.
How to value your website before you sell it
Learning how to sell a website without first valuing it is a bit like trying to learn to drive without getting behind the wheel.
There are many ways to value your website to get the best price possible, and valuation can depend on a number of factors, including:
- How old the website is
- How much traffic the website receives
- How much money the website makes
- The monetization strategies of the website
- The size of the website email list
- The quality of the backlinks to your website
Note: I read in an article on another blog that “most” websites sell for 6-10x their monthly profit. For established websites, this is completely wrong.
The multiple is often 2-4x your annual profit, depending on the factors above.
If you sell a subscription which is recurring every month/year, this is more valuable than a one-time product, an affiliate sale, or simple ads, and the multiple to sell your website could be higher.
The most common issue I see when people want to sell their website is that they overvalue it – often by a lot!
If your site is making $10,000 a year, it's very unlikely you'll be able to sell it for $100,000+ but this is what many sellers do!
You obviously want to list the high end of the multiple to encourage bids and negotiations, but if you list too high you will price yourself out of the site before it's even begun.
If you end up using a website broker to help you sell your website, they will most likely do a lot of this work for you and their team will analyze your site, traffic, revenue etc to give you a suggested sale price.
Once you have a ballpark number you'd be willing to sell your site for you can put together the due diligence pieces that a serious buyer is likely to ask for, and save you time later on.
Due diligence when selling your website
No matter how you sell your site, the prospective buyer is going to do their due diligence and ask you for proof that this is a website they want to buy.
The below list should cover most of the common due diligence questions you may get from a buyer:
- Proof of your website traffic. If you're using Google Analytics, the easiest option here is to give the buyer read-only access to your profile so that they can dig into the traffic themselves. If you don't have Google Analytics, you'll need to provide screenshots or video evidence.
- Proof of earnings. Similarly, you'll need to prove that the website is making the money that you claim. For AdSense/Ezoic this could be screenshots or videos of your earnings reports, or screenshots of your affiliate earnings reports. For product sales, you could provide read-only access to Stripe or provide PayPal sales reports.
- Complete P&L for the last 2 years. If your site is larger, a buyer might want to see a profit and loss statement for your business. This allows them to see your revenue streams, costs, and net profit over time. It's a good idea to keep a P&L up-to-date anyway as those numbers are useful even when you're not selling your site.
- Information on freelancers/employers. If you employ writers, developers etc the buyer will most likely want their details in case they decide to continue a relationship with this post-purchase.
- What, specifically, is included in the sale. Here, you can list out the assets of the business and this could include the domain name, the email list, the social media accounts, any patents or copyright you hold etc.
- Whether you have had legal issues with the site. If there have been any copyright issues, or your domain infringes on a trademark, a seller will need to know this before purchase.
- How much time do you put into the business? This gives an idea of ongoing management for the website after you sell and it's useful to list out the tasks you do, and the time it takes you to do them.
- What are the unique selling points of your website? A great way to show the buyer value in your site is by highlighting the unique parts of your business and why you differ from the competition.
- Why you are selling the business. Usually, people sell their website because they have other projects or interests they want to invest in.
- How you would grow the business if you weren't selling. It's likely that know the business and the market better than the buyer. Breaking down the improvements you think would have the biggest impact will show them the future potential of buying your site.
- What skills the new owner will need. Listing out the skills needed to run the business will let the buyer decide what resources they will need in order to run it successfully.
- Is the website fully compliant with Google terms of service? For websites, any kind of bad search engine optimization (SEO) can increase the risk of a buyer purchasing your site. If you have purchased links, received a manual penalty or warning from Google, these need to be disclosed.
- Handover documents for the buyer. If the website requires, a great way to make it easy for the buyer to put an offer in is to have detailed handover and training documentation ready to go. This means they can hit the ground running and following your standard operating procedures (SOP) to run the website efficiently.
Again, a good website broker can help to answer all of these questions and more, but be aware that they will charge 15% of the sale fee to do so (I only charge 5% 😉).
It's good practice to think about the due diligence required because, in the future, you might want to deal directly with a buyer to avoid the broker fees and it pays to know what due diligence will be needed.
Once you have everything in order for a prospective buyer, the next step is to find yourself someone to sell your website to.
Selling your website to the right buyer
There are many places to sell your website but not all of them are made equal. For lower priced websites an open marketplace might be okay, but if you have a larger website you might want to consider hiring a professional website broker to sell the website on your behalf.
Selling your website on Flippa
Flippa is one of the most popular and well-known website marketplaces on the web. They were one of the first marketplaces of their kind and, as a result, have a huge audience of buyers.
Flippa is really the eBay of selling websites. Mass market, easy to list, and lots of potential buyers.
The problem with Flippa is that because it is so accessible, selling your website with them can be tiresome and painful. In particular:
- You'll get a lot of messages from tyre kickers
- You'll get fake bids
- You'll get scammers and spammers wasting your time
I even wrote an article about alternatives to Flippa because the problem is getting worse. Just know that if you list with Flippa you might get a lot of time wasters.
Selling your website with Empire Flippers
Empire Flippers is more of a curated marketplace and to sell your site here you need to go through a fairly comprehensive vetting process.
The benefit of this is that once you have provided all of the information on your website, they handle the rest.
Buyers need to pay a deposit to even see your website URL so it completely removes the time wasters that you would get on marketplaces like Flippa.
In order to sell with Empire Flippers you need close to $1,000 a month in net profit and they do list at a pretty good multiple for sellers.
If your website makes enough to qualify, this is a much better option than Flippa.
Selling with FE International
FE International is the biggest website brokers and the most well known in the industry. They are much more business-focused than Empire Flippers.
You might notice they use more business terms like Seller Discretionary Earnings (SDE) and this is because their client list is typically higher quality than that of Empire Flippers.
Buyers must complete a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before they get access to your website prospectus and they need to provide their legal name and address – which is another great way to deter time wasters.
In my experience, websites sold on Empire Flippers are slightly lower quality than those sold on FE International (although there are exceptions).
FE also has an incredible sale rate and proven track record over many years in the website brokering business.
Selling your website to a private buyer
When starting out on the journey to sell your website, you'll probably choose a marketplace or a broker – it's just the easiest option.
But if you have a number of websites, and you buy and sell a lot of them, you'll probably gain a pretty good contact list of website buyers to sell to.
This is invaluable because you then have a direct line of communication with qualified buyers.
This is beneficial because:
- You won't have to pay a listing fee
- You won't have to pay 15% or more brokers fees
- The buyer is already warm to you if they have purchased before
You can do deals much quicker and make more money if you're dealing directly with a buyer you've dealt with before.
Even if it's a new buyer that you found by outreaching competitors of your website, the process can still be quicker and just as secure if you use a safe payment method (as discussed below).
This is my preferred method for selling a website – but I have built up a list of buyers over the years.
Payment methods for selling your website
If you've got this far into the article, well done! The final step on how to sell your website is the most exciting of all – getting paid!
Once the negotiations and due diligence and handover documents and back and forth is said and done, taking payment is a relatively easy process.
Use Escrow.com to sell your website
Unless you're selling for a low amount (less than $1k) or to a previous buyer – using Escrow.com is an absolute no-brainer.
Here's how it works:
- Set up the transaction
- Buyer and seller agree to the terms of the deal
- Buyer deposits the money for the sale
- Escrow.com confirms receipt of funds
- Seller (you) begins the transfer of all assets to the buyer
- Seller confirms transfer has been completed
- Buyer confirms transfer has been completed
- Inspection period for the buyer begins (usually 14-30 days)
- Once buyer is satisfied, they accept the transaction
- The funds are released to the seller
Since the money is held in escrow by a third party, it's a very secure process that protects you as the seller, as well as the buyer.
The inspection period allows the buyer time to take control of the website on their own hosting, and to change any advertising, affiliate links, product sales accounts, so that they can verify the earnings in real time.
There is a fee for Escrow.com but it's so low that it's worth it for any transaction over $1,000 in my opinion.
Again, if you have history with the buyer, they may trust you enough to wire you the funds straight to your bank account and then you transfer the assets but, for most website sellers, Escrow.com is the ticket.
Now you know how to sell your website
This article is the result of 10 years knowledge I have buying and selling websites.
There are plenty of other ways you could sell your website, other avenues to explore and new ideas I haven't used.
However, this method has worked for me time and time again. I like to keep my website selling process simple and easy to follow.
Good luck on your journey to sell your website and you have any questions or advice, feel free to get in touch.