Do you want to sell a website that’s been earning quite good money from a long time?
Buying and selling websites are all the rage right now.
People who used to invest in real estate are now investing big time buying virtual assets – websites are one of them.
So, if you have a good-earning website you can consider selling it to a website investor.
In this post, I’ll present you how I sold my affiliate website and also will present you some of the rock-solid tips for you to sell your website profitably without getting ripped off.
Why to sell websites?
Building and selling a website is very lucrative.
Before I dive into the concept of how I sold my website, it’s very essential to know why you may want to consider selling your website.
Let's dive in
- Helps combat plateau phase: For any site, when you start it, you’ll witness a good growth and then suddenly growth will stop and it’ll drive you steady income. At that time, if you don’t find it feasible to hang onto it, it makes sense to get rid of it.
- Earnings per dollar declining: If the income generated out of your website for every dollar you spend on it is declining, it’s time to sell it off.
- Future-proofing your site: If you are not putting high-quality content on your site, SEO is a very risky-game. By selling a website, you’ll be essentially traveling ahead in time and collecting the next 2-years’ income (depending upon your selling multiple) on a big payday.
- Helps to double down your current business: If you don’t see a future with the site you’re currently running, it makes sense for you to sell it off to reinvest the money in doubling down on your current business.
- Opportunity cost: If your site is in a niche that’s very competitive, and you are still working on it, you’ll be missing out the opportunity to work on low competitive niches that yield you more lucrative results.
Let’s do some math.
You started an affiliate site in a very low competitive niche, put forward 100,000 words of content on it for a total of $2,000 over a year.
Apart from this, you spent money paying for your SEO outreach and also for outreach tools.
Let’s say maybe you paid your site’s VA, $270 a month along with outreach tools, and spent a total of $3,240 in that year.
That’s a total investment of $5,240 you make in that year.
This will account for a monthly cost of $437 for running your site.
Assuming that your site starts earning at the 5th month of starting it, at the fifth month, you’re at -$2,185.
Now after the fifth month, your site starts earning and be like:
- 6th month: $500
- 7th month: $800
- 8th month: $1200 (sites grow faster here)
- 9th month: $1700
- 10th month: $1800
- 11th month: $1800
- 1st year: $2,000
At the end of the year, your site starts making $2000/month.
Now, you decided to sell it off. You landed on a 25x deal and sold your site for $50,000.
Now when you add the income month-on-month and also the big payday, it’ll account to $50,000 + $9,800
So, your site earned you $59,800 in total for the investment you made $5,420.
That’s a profit of $54,380! That means your site effectively earned $4,532/month from day #1 of starting it.
Cool isn’t it?
Now the ROI here will be 1,003.3%.
Of course, the above math is just an example. There are people who reduce overheads with refined systems and processes. They also manage to sell the site at 30x multiple and make ROI of even more than 3,000%.
As you can in my below case study, I've got the ROI of 3,067% mainly by reducing the overhead costs and also hiring best value-for-money writers.
However, the above example math is just to show you the power of building and selling websites vs holding onto them. It's very easy to get a positive ROI with this model.
Before getting into other details on the topic, let me first tell you how I sold my site for 22x multiple.
How I sold my site for $11,000?
I recently sold my site that was earning $500/month at $11,000. That’s 22x the monthly income.
I sold it in the month of March 2019.
It means that I got my future 22-months of income in one-shot and also effectively combatted the risks my site would have faced down the lane.
In January 2017, after I succeeded in monetizing my first Amazon affiliate website, I thought of starting another site.
I aimed to create a website around fitness equipments. In short, I started a website to review fitness equipments like treadmills, exercise bikes. Etc.
I chose this niche, as there were high-ticket products and also advertisement-fee was also higher. I totally neglected the competition.
It's a great brandable domain name. I reviewed treadmills and exercise bikes in it.
But now, I don't recommend any person to start any site in treadmill or exercise bikes niche (unless you have a big budget), as the competition is nuts.
When I sold my site, in March 2019, it was 2 years, 3 months old.
It had 53 blog posts, out of which 17 blog posts were roundup posts averaging around 2500 words.
I started publishing one article every week, except for some months in the middle (which I’ll discuss in the traffic section of this post).
In the beginning days of my site, I wrote a couple of posts – say 7,000 words in total.
After this, I totally invested $519 for content creation including guest post content. I had some really good Filipino and Indian writers who were working for me at a great price.
The content was published targeting very low competition keywords.
In the initial days, as I was publishing only money posts the traffic was very low.
Later, I stopped working on the site and the existing traffic started plummeting.
Noticing this, I started publishing celebrity workout articles to get a good traffic boost for my site. With this strategy, my money posts also started ranking higher.
You’ll see the traffic report in the next sections.
When it comes to SEO, I mainly built high-quality guest post links. I also gained a handful of natural links and also forum links.
Apart from the content part, I invested like $200 for SEO, link building and other strategies in total.
I did not do PBNs or build blackhat links.
According to Ahrefs, below is the graph of backlink growth on my site.
Remember that I started the site in January 2017.
I did not build any high authority backlinks, most of the backlinks I built are from sites with DR less than 70.
But the backlinks were very relevant to the Fitness niche.
I would say that more than backlinks, the onpage SEO and the keyword research helped me a lot to grow the site.
This is the traffic report of the site by the time I acquired it to the end of October 2018.
As you can see, the new site took 10-11 months to cross the 100 pageviews per day mark. It is because I was not focusing much on the site in the initial days and only publishing money posts.
After October 2018, my Analytics stopped tracking (maybe due to some theme changes or non-www issues).
Thankfully, Jetpack was tracking the traffic.
Here's the complete graph
You can see in the months of Jun 2018 – Sep 2018, the traffic tanked as I was not finding time to publish or update the articles. I was focusing on my main site and also other Amazon affiliate sites. Because I felt I tapped into a highly competitive niche – the treadmill niche.
Anyhow, after that, I managed to regain the traffic back by starting backlink building and content publishing by hiring a good in-house team member.
Here's the graph I plotted for monthly income on my Fitness site.
Below is the table containing the revenue that the site made along with traffic it got – month-wise.
For pageviews of 106,073 I generated a revenue of $11,768 (excluding the selling price of the site).
So that accounts to $110.9 for every 1000 page views. It's higher than normal for Amazon affiliates as the prices of the fitness equipments I sold were high.
As the products I was promoting were of high-ticket, I was able to earn good money out of the little traffic I was getting on a monthly basis.
Here, again you can see the income also plummeted due to the decline in traffic from June to Sep.
Above is the income report of 3 months of 2019, before selling the site.
As you’ve seen above, the income of the website was in the range of $300 – $700/month, although it fluctuated a lot.
The competition in the treadmill and exercise bikes niche was becoming fiercer, and I did require more backlinks to move the needle.
The ROI I got out of this site for every dollar spent was declining.
So, selling the website and reinvesting the money in starting an affiliate site in very low competitive niche for more ROI made perfect sense for me.
Once I decided to sell it, I sent an email newsletter to all my BloggingX subscribers regarding this. I did not get a good offer (previously it worked well).
Later, I decided to tap into my Facebook connections.
I got in touch with my Facebook friend who recently sold one of his sites.
He introduced me to a website broker, who helped me sell my site to a guy in Romania.
While selling it, I was asked the reason for the decline in traffic. I explained them that it was not a penalty but I failed to update the website with new content.
We finally agreed to a price of $11,000 that’s 22x the monthly income of the site in the past 3 months of selling it.
I first gave him the access to my WP dashboard. He took a deep look at it.
Later, he sent me the agreement copy and then issued the payment through the broker and I transferred the domain name to his account.
After everything was done, a settlement statement containing buyer, seller, broker and the VA names was sent to me for reference.
As you saw in the previous screenshots, the site made a total of $11,768 in the span of 2 years, 3 months. That is in average it made $435/month.
When I add the earnings of $11,768 to the $11,000 (price sold for), it'll come to $22,768!
I earned a total of $22,768 from my Fitness site for which I spent $719.
So the net profit is $22,049 (excluding the time spent).
The ROI would be +3067%
That's a great number, isn't it?
- I got really good writers for a cheap price which mainly increased the ROI
- Content quality was good so it was sold for a good price
- I sold my site for 22x the monthly multiple which is quite decent
- For the amount I invested i.e $719, the returns I got was good enough
- The payment and also the migration went smooth without any lags
- I could have waited for sometime, and took time to upgrade old content, gained more SEO traffic and then sold it.
- I could have done proper CRO, increased the income by say 20% and then sold it off
- I could have worked more on branding and graphics, and packaged it neatly for an increased price
Enough of my story.
Based on the lessons I learnt and also the research I did, below guide is for you!
How to sell websites profitably?
In this section I’ll present you some of the strategies to easily build and sell off your site for a good multiple.
Let's dive in.
As this post is not about building sites, I will discuss the essentials.
Here are some of the sites that are selling well.
- Amazon Affiliate sites
- Lead generation sites
- eCommerce sites
If you are interested in further exploring what kind of sites sell well, you may need to explore Flippa for sites that are recently sold.
The sites which earn a steady stream of monthly income hands off, are very attractive to the buyers.
And also, if your site’s content is evergreen and requires less maintenance and upgradation, the selling multiple will be more.
It all boils down to understanding the buyer psychology which I’ll discuss later.
Typically sites sell at 10x – 30x the monthly earnings.
There are a few extreme cases, by the way.
Here are some of the factors that determine the selling price of your site:
- Content quality: If the content quality of your site is high, it’ll be very attractive to the buyer. If you have web content written by preferably native English speaker keeping fundamentals of copywriting in mind, it sells for a high price.
- Brandability: If the site is designed keeping branding in mind and also if the domain name is brandable, it sells for a higher price. It partly explains the reason why my Fitness site was sold for 22x multiple.
- Age of the domain: Older the domain, the more authority it has in the eyes of Google, and the more valuation it has. Typically older domain sites sell at a good price.
- Backlinks: If the site has natural/built backlinks from high authority sites it sells for a good multiple. If it has spammy links or PBN links, buyer may not take the risk.
- Automation: Do you have proper systems or SOPs in place, where you just need to input the keywords and output the cash? Then it appeals to the buyer.
- Email list: If you’ve built your email list, then it increases the valuation of your site.
- Social assets: Are there any good social profiles associated with your site, then it sells well.
- Graphs: Are your traffic and revenue growth consistent? Then it boosts the confidence of the buyer to invest in your site.
- Themes and plugins: Are you using good paid themes and plugins on your site, then you may sell it at higher price
- Content investment: The monthly investment you did in the content generation also plays a huge role in determining the price at which you sell.
According to me, if all the above factors are checked off, you should be able to sell your site for 30x the monthly income.
For more idea regarding what price to sell, you can take a look at other other similar websites on Flippa and at what price they sold and due to what factors.
These are some of the factors, you need to look into when selling any website.
Before selling your website, you need to first determine what kind of buyer you are looking for.
There are three kinds of people looking to buy your site:
- Investors: People who like to invest in a good website and run it for passive income
- Equity companies: They buy websites in bulk, grow them and deliver the returns to the investors in the form of dividends
- Flippers: They buy your website, grow it, do CRO and then sell it at a higher price
If you already have a properly optimized site, and it has grown to a great potential, flippers won’t be buying it. Because flippers will be looking for unoptimized sites whose income can be boosted with little tweaks and there are quick-wins.
So mainly, as I described you earlier, the people who invest in websites are those who are looking for passive income.
They are looking for income that is:
- Hands-off: They like to put little/no effort in growing the website. They want to grow their website on autopilot.
- Consistent and future-proof: They want to have a consistent stream of income from their website. If they feel that the website they are buying will not give them consistent income, they pay less.
- Good ROI: In the foreseeable future, the website should earn more money than they spent purchasing it.
Many of these investors are long-term thinkers, they like to invest in something that they see value in for a long-term.
If you manage to convince them the above three, they are willing to open their wallet wide open.
The below techniques I share with you are based on the above factors.
If you follow the below techniques, it’ll maximize the hassle premium they offer you.
If you manage to show them how you were able to grow the site easily with systems and processes, it’ll be sold.
So, from day #1 of building your site you need to systemize and track everything. If you manage to sell them your system along with your website, you’ll likely be able to maximize the profit.
In your proposal, you may also want to showcase how you managed to grow the site hands-off.
May be SOPs?
While selling your website, you can also consider scheduling some content for the future.
With this, the buyer is not required to worry about creating new content for 3-6 months down the lane after acquiring the site.
For this, they’ll be giving you a big hassle-premium. Because, for most of the website buyers finding good writers immediately after buying the site, training them, and getting it going – is a big hassle.
If you have a non-brandable or EMD domain names, your site may not sell for a higher multiple.
While starting any website, you’ll never know if you’re gonna sell it in the near future. So, it’s safe to assume that you’re gonna sell your site in the near-future, and get a brandable domain.
I also told in the previous sections that investors think of business sustainability in long-term. So, the brandable domain acts as a huge motivator for them to close the deal.
Along with content, having good images and graphics in your content that reflects your brand is also very important.
Typically the multiple will be based on the monthly earnings of the website.
So you need to increase the website earnings by executing conversion rate optimization at least a couple of months before selling your site.
Let’s say your website is earning $1000/month. Now if you sell it at 20x, you’ll get $20,000.
Now, let’s suppose you do CRO, it starts making $1200/month. Now at 20x you’ll be at $24,000.
That’s $4,000 profit for a 20x multiple.
Again, it do take some serious patience for you to resist the urge of selling, do the CRO, wait for 3 more months, and then sell.
You can A/B test and tweak several aspects like:
- Call to actions
- Ad placements
- Sticky sidebars
- Comparison tables
Once you are satisfied that you have tested the highly converting aspects of your website to its fullest, you can consider selling your website.
However, if you have a rock-solid exit strategy, and it’s in perfect alignment – sell it off.
This is the best kept secret.
Let me let the cat out.
Is your traffic graph is something like this?
If the traffic on your site is declining over time, it may not just be the time to sell it off.
You may still have the chance to rise the bar up and then sell.
In short, every piece of content on your site has some shelf life, after which it starts decaying. If you manage to breathe a new life to it by upgrading it for freshness and relevance, it’ll sprout back up.
This is due to Google QDF (Query Deserves Freshness) algorithm that ensures fresh results you served to the audience. It is tightly linked to the Google Caffeine update.
Here you can see for one of my Amazon affiliate sites, I saw this increased traffic when I started upgrading my content.
If you’ve previously read my case study on how I increased my organic traffic by +57.02% leveraging Google freshness, you know what I’m talking about.
Consider upgrading the content, do CRO, and wait for 3 months and then sell.
You need to avoid using PBN or spammy links in your site.
Investors think in long-term, and before investing they’ll be aware of the fact that having PBN links is a risky-game.
If you’re having PBN links, once you make that decision to exit, it makes sense for you to systematically replace PBN links with whitehat links (article by Matt Diggity).
If your site has plenty of PBN links, it’ll drastically decrease the multiple at which your sites get sold.
It’s sometimes tempting to hide the fact that you’ve used PBNs with the buyer. However, in the long term it may lead to serious consequences.
It’s very important to grow your email list from day #1 of building your new site. When selling off your site, if you manage to also offer the email list to the buyer, the offer becomes much more irresistible to the buyer.
Because, with the email list they feel like they’ll have more control over the traffic and irrespective of SEO they can drive traffic and sales on demand.
Growing your website social media profiles along with email list building may be advisable. But with the recent decline in FB organic reach, and the effort it takes to grow social channels it may not worth it.
On the other hand, setting up a lead magnet, pop-ups, and autoresponders, hardly takes few hours and the gains are enormous. You just need to make use of any of the lead generation tools like OptinMonster or Thrive Leads.
If you don't feel like using premium email services providers, free plans of Mailchimp or using self-hosted services like Sendy is enough.
If you have a good inhouse team, you can offer after-sale support.
Ask yourself, what are all the hassles the buyer will have after buying your site?
- Updating the affiliate links
- Cleaning up the content
- Changing the author box
- Finding new writers
- SEO execution
- Blog/content management
- Social media management
If you manage to offer them services related to this, you can maximize the deal price.
Some of these things will be very easy as you already have the experience.
For example, replacing affiliate links may seem like a huge task for the buyer but by using Better Search Replace and REGEX it’s very easy for you.
You need to mention every nitty-gritty detail like this in your proposal.
Present the information in an honest way and don’t fake the success of your site.
No site is flawless.
The moment you admit the flaws of your site, the buyer trusts you more on your other claims.
If everything you present in the proposal is like a good fairy tale, it raises the alarm and they will be more vigilant.
Being honest sometimes, increases the multiple at which you sell significantly.
Keep it real.
When you are running any business, you should not let emotions dictate your decisions.
When building your website, you need to work on the business not in the business in the words of Michael Gerber from E-Myth Revisited book.
Only when that paradigm shift happens, you will be able to not emotionally attach to the business and hold onto it until it burns you.
When you rationally come up with a well-thought decision to sell your site, please do sell it. There should be nothing emotional about it.
Ofcourse, there’ll be some emotion if it’s the first site you’re selling – but learn to tame the monster.
I’ve seen many people who held onto the site because of emotions and later sold it at a cheap price when the shit hits the fan.
You need to collect and collate the data regarding your expenses, income, time spent, and also the traffic report.
Here are the places you need to look for:
- Your freelancers’ monthly reports
- Your VAs monthly reports
- Your Google Analytics
- Your Affiliate Dashboard for monthly income
- The weekly time you spent on the site
Now, you may need to create a table with months in the rows and five columns that says pageviews, content expense, SEO expense, income, and time spent.
Now you need to fill in the sheet, so that the buyer gets a clear idea about how effective is your business. It helps him set the right expectations for the business going forward.
Now depending on the prospect buyer, you may also want to prepare a proposal. You may want to hire a professional copywriter for crafting your proposal.
With this master sheet, you can create your other sheets like profit-loss by applying filters and formulas.
In your proposal you need to make sure to list each and every thing that the buyer will be getting. And also, the various metrics and details of the site.
You may also want to plot in attractive graphs of your income and traffic to make it easier for the buyer to analyze.
Sometimes, if you are not selling through verified marketplaces, the buyer may also ask you access for your Google Analytics account and detailed screenshots of your earnings.
Proceeding with the deal, you may need to sign a formal agreement, non-compete, and also sometimes an NDA agreement. It’s essential for you to consult your legal advisory before signing these kind of agreements.
If you've signed the non-compete agreement, then it means that you are legally not allowed to start your next project in the same niche and potentially compete with the buyer.
There are many marketplaces and ways for you to sell your website.
Let me discuss some of the marketplaces:
- Flippa: This is the most popular marketplace for selling affiliate sites, lead-gen sites, eCommerce sites and also apps. With Flippa, there’ll be an initial listing fee and also a percentage of success fee in case the website gets sold. In order to sell your website for a higher multiple you need to consider selling off your site from a highly rated Flippa seller account
- EmpireFlippers: In Flippa, there are some common issues like poor buyer protection and low quality sites. On the other hand, it may be quite difficult for your site to get approved for selling on EmpireFlippers. However if it gets listed, it’ll sell for sure.
- FE International: You can go with FE International, if your site is earning more than at least $1,000/month. Similar to EmpireFlippers, they also pay extreme attention to the quality of the sites listed.
With EmpireFlippers and FE International, it may be hard for you to get your site approved depending upon the quality of your site.
There are also various other sites and niche forums where you'll have options for listing your site for sale.
Other than the marketplaces, you can also make use of your email list and also website brokers.
If you’ve got any of your friends who sold websites recently, you can contact them for a connection.
Also, you need to remember to wait and carefully vet at least 3 of the best proposals before betting on one.
If you don’t have a proper exit strategy in place you may end up losing lots of money that you never gained. Read it again.
Always remember the guidelines I presented you in the beginning of the article, where I discussed – “Why to sell websites?”. Only sell when you hit a plateau phase, or a never-ending survival phase (low ROI).
Selling website and getting huge payday may seem like a great experience. But remember it’s just a day. Have a proper reinvesting strategy in place before selling off your site.
Now you have it.
Here’s how to sell your websites.
If you feel like thanking me for this post, do leave a comment below.
I’ll jump right in!