Sell Websites - The All in One

By Justin Gilchrist

This resource is an all in one guide on how to sell websites, and combines knowledge and best practice from various parts of the site and blog, and my own experience online.

The idea is simple. When you decide to sell websites, you want to achieve the highest price possible and sell in the shortest timeframe with minimal disruption (and naturally, you also want to avoid being ripped off!) The guide below is modelled on past successful internet business sales and clearly explains the best strategy for a variety of scenarios. It's completely free, so if you appreciate it please show us a little love and share or tweet this page's link.

What are my Options?

The following routes should help you answer the question of where to sell websites. Naturally, your choice will be guided by your budget and the type and value of site you want to sell.

Brokers and Agencies

Brokers that specialise in internet businesses (also called 'Agencies' if their representative wears an expensive suit and has designer office furniture), generally appeal to sites with a higher valuation as naturally, they have to make money through their fees which are typically 5 - 10% of a site's final selling price. Brokers will usually take care of

Specifically with internet businesses for sale, brokers tend to be split between more traditional brokers that assist with sites valued above $50K (providing the services above) and a newer model of broker who will assist with lower value sites providing services such as listing in marketplaces, forums, answering buyer questions and helping you to achieve the highest price possible partly through their reputation within the industry.

Brokers are Great if

  • You're new to the idea of selling a website
  • You need privacy for the sale
  • You're not a big fan of dealing with people
  • You need extra services besides the sale, like buyer qualification or some legal assistance

Not so great if

  • You have a site valued at less than $10,000
  • Their fees would cause you to lose sleep at night

If you need some guidance in choosing a broker, we have a directory of brokers specialising in online sales here

Marketplaces, Forums and Classifieds

Many people are still shocked to find out that there's a huge online 'ecosystem' for buying and selling internet businesses, where buyers and sellers frequently come together specifically for that purpose. Most marketplaces and classifieds will charge a fee, but this will often be around $10 - $20 per listing. The more popular marketplaces will also charge a success fee if your site is sold which will typically be 5 - 10%, so it can often be cheaper to go with a broker, providing your site fits the criteria.

You can find a list of 35 Marketplaces and Forums ranked and rated here

Great if

  • You're unsure of your site's value and are prepared to accept an 'economically fair' price for it
  • You have a site valued at less than $10,000
  • You're happy to deal with people one to one

Not so great if

  • You prefer privacy regarding your site or business being sold
  • You have little patience for dealing with timewasters and people who ask idiotic questions
  • You have a 'secret sauce' like a specific link building tactic or highly lucrative niche that you want to keep secret

Forums are both wonderful and dreadful at the same time, and mostly depends on the specific forum you choose.

Considering there is usually no cost to list and no success fee, a forum can be a fast way to find a buyer within your specific niche (tip - use the miscellaneous section of industry specific forums rather than general webmaster ones), and there are some forums setup purely to discuss and advertise websites for sale. It's important to remember though that a forum is merely a way of creating a potential buyer list, and more often than not, you'll find many timewasters and occasionally some dishonest people who hide behind their profile.

Great if

  • You're merely gauging interest or just want some feedback
  • You don't want to spend any cash before testing the water
  • Your site is related to a specific niche with an online community around it

Not so great if

  • You prefer privacy regarding your site or business being sold
  • You have little patience for dealing with timewasters and people who ask idiotic questions
  • You tend to think the best of people and take most things at face value. You and your wallet will soon be parted.

Private Equity Brokers and VCs

Being in the 'business of business' these people or firms will usually have a rolodex that could possibly find you a buyer for your site, and better still - it's not (yet) common for them to charge a fee in doing so as it will often be in their parties best interest. Many VCs will have a portfolio of businesses that they currently or have previously worked with, and if you can find the right VC, one of these companies could have an interest in acquiring you and furthermore the money to do so, if this fits with their strategic plan.

Your business will most likely need to be above a certain value ($500K +) to make introducing the deal to one of their contacts worthwhile, and this is probably not an option if you personally have an aversion towards being rejected, as venture capital PAs and receptionists are known to be the fiercest PAs that ever lived.

Great if

  • You have a business with a relatively high net worth
  • You have a specific type of buyer or your business is in an early stage growth market
  • You can demonstrate a history of sustainable rapid growth

Not so great if

  • You're shy, have problems getting past PAs or hate being told no
  • Your company has a complex structure or setup that would make it difficult to integrate within another 

Competitors and Suppliers

If your business has a structured and scalable system for delivering a product or service, and you can show a profitable lifetime value for every customer you recruit, then your competitors may be a great option for a potential buyer. Internet businesses often have the advantage of having no physical presence, so a buyer can easily integrate your customers into their own setup with little extra work on their part.

My advice is always to start with older established offline companies who have a limited  online presence (i.e. a website but no ecommerce), followed by offline companies who have invested money online (i.e. ecommerce, PPC), followed by online companies (if those options are available to you).

Great if

  • You generate leads or sell non physical products
  • You have a specific type of buyer or your business is in a early stage growth market
  • You have coveted positions in organic search

Not so great if

  • You have issues with your competitor knowing everything about your business, its finances and your strategy
  • Your company has a complex structure or setup that would make it difficult to integrate within another

Website Valuations

This is a subject which has communities divided, but knowing how much to expect for your site can often determine how long it will remain on the market, and whether or not your sale ends in remorse.

Here's a slideshare presentation that goes into more detail

Valuations for Buying and Selling Websites

When we talk about a 'value', there are two values that people often confuse but these are very different

1) The open market value - if I list my business, how much could I get for it based on current demand

2) Personal value - buyer A who is in your niche and owns a portfolio of sites like yours will probably hold greater value for your site than buyer B who is simply looking for an investment online.

Regardless of which value you refer to, it’s a fairly safe assumption that value is created and increased by

Typically, you have two options for valuing an internet business

Sites with a value under $75K

No amount of mathematical wizardry can value a smaller site accurately, simply because the market is far too new and prices are yet to stabilize.

The best way to value your site is with a lot of research to establish what sites with similar criteria to yours have previously sold for.

The good news? We've got the server to do it for you, drawing on over 50,000 auction results to find sale profiles similar to yours. Better still, it's completely free and doesn't require you to login.

Website Valuation Tool

Sites with a value above $75K

These sites will usually benefit from a professional valuation, from a business broker or website valuation specialist. Again, this is often more a case of finding a buyer that has a high personal value for the site rather than relying on a one size fits all market value.

Most brokers will give you a guide price as part of their service, but it goes without saying that they will naturally get as much as someone is prepared to pay.

How to Increase (and decrease) your site's value

When all the hype and speculation dies down, people will always pay more for sustainable, solid businesses (online or offline) and that principle will never change.

Here is a brief list of criteria that have been shown to increase valuations time after time; get these right, and you will almost always sell your site way above similar offerings that lack these factors.

Your Pre Sale Checklist

If you’ve decided that selling the business is still the best option, your next move is to start assembling all the things you need to ensure the sale goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Your goal is to be as transparent as possible; if there’s something to hide, any buyer worth their weight in 1990s stock will eventually find it, killing your credibility with them and with other buyers if you’re selling at a public auction.

Here’s a quick list that will ensure you not only have all the information, but you’ve managed to cover all angles that could cost you your sale.

There many other more specific things you can do which vary depending on the type of site you have and the niche that you are in (and now would be the best time to shamelessly plug the blog, which goes into more depth on this topic).

Many of the sites that sell for the highest valuations are outstanding businesses to begin with, and no amount of hacking could create the value they’ve taken time to build. You can however take an average site and massively transform it and increase its value if you spend just a couple months before you decide to sell putting everything right. You may lose out on having that cash now, but ultimately you’ll benefit many times over.