What I learned through selling a web site

I did it. I finally sold a small website. Can I quit my job and live on an exotic island, far from it. However, I did learn a lot from the process and am much better prepared to make the next site project easier to manage and sell. Although not a complete list, here are some general things I learned from this experience:

1. Have your numbers organized

The first thing people will ask for are the site numbers. This includes things like:

  • Site traffic
  • E-commerce sales
  • Affiliate program commissions
  • Hosting costs
  • Recurring costs for third party products required to run the site
  • Number of subscribers on your mailing list
  • Number of followers on various social media accounts

You basically will want to track and list any income and expenses for the site…like a business. In addition, potential buyers will want to know the audience they will be buying with the site. So any metrics related to social media and site traffic is essential. If you also have something like a discussion board, the system you use may provide some interesting statistics around the activity if the users. These will all be used in your sales listing to support the price you are asking for the site (and related assets.)

2. Be clear in your sales listing what IS, and IS NOT included in the sale.

Be clear about what you are including in the sale of the site. Some people assume that “everything goes”, but that is not always the case. If you have social media accounts that your site auto-posts to, list them out specifically if you are selling them as part of the package. If there are accounts for third party social media management tools, email list tools, etc that you use, list those out, or explicitly state that they buyer will need to get their own tools to support these functions.
People looking to buy a site often have a vision in their mind of what they are looking for. Noting what is included will help them determine where the “holes” are between their vision and your site. This will help weed out potential problem buyers up front.

3. Have the site accounts and related social media accounts organized

If you use auto-posting tools, you may not always remember the passwords. I you run multiple sites, you may not remember what accounts are used by what sites. If this is the case.. get your record keeping in order! Seriously, make sure you have the right accounts that go with the site. A prospective buyer will certainly want to check out the public face of these accounts if they can. Also, if your site is a “closed” community, be prepared to create self-expiring guest accounts for prospective buyers.  

4. Export your mailing list.

One of the mainstays of any site is their email subscriber list. Don’t assume that someone will be using the same system that you are. If you are selling the list, prepare to get an export of your list. As these sometimes are activities that are batch processed through your mail list management provider, allow time for them to get you the data.

5. Know your domain transfer process

No transfer is without quirks. So, know the process that your registrar uses for domain transfers. The overall process is essentially the same, but each one has some “special” features that you sometimes don’t find out until you go to actually execute the transfer. You can save yourself, and your buyer, a lot of grief if you know the process for your registrar up front. There will be similar quirks with the destination register, so don’t expect this to be an automagical process.

6. Have a plan for how you are going to transfer ownership

There are a lot of little details between domain transfer, actual site data transfer, mailing lists, social media accounts, and third party subscription accounts. If you think through this before you list the site, you’ll be in a better position to answer questions from a potential buyer as well as executing the process after the sale. Be flexible with this plan, as a lot will be determined by the technical savvy of the buyer.

7. Your site may not be worth the same to you as it is to others.

Presumably you created the site from scratch. It’s your baby. You’ve built it, nurtured an audience, added content, and have done your best to drive affiliate traffic and sales. You have a lot of time and energy invested. However, a potential buyer is looking at this as a business; as an investment. They will be objective, point out defects in your sites, tell you that your pet project site is ugly. Don’t take it personally. A buyer wants to “buy low and sell high”, so they will always give you a lower price than you would expect. This is where your data can show the value of the site, mailing list, etc. Don’t be disappointed if you eventually sell for something less than you initially wanted. This is not to say give up and sell out. Rather look objectively and see what the market is willing to pay for your site. Staying firm on a high price will often times defeat the original purpose…to sell the site.
As the author Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Now that I’ve been through the process, I know what records to keep and how to maintain the site if the end goal is to sell it. This also has shown me how to better build a site so it is “packaged” well for sale. Having a lot of paid (recurring) plugins, unsupported modules, and other loose ends can make the site unattractive to some buyers. I hope you’ve found this helpful. Now, go out and sell a site!