Did you know there’s a massive marketplace out there filled with people who want to buy your blog?
Yep, your blog!
It’s really big business and you can make serious money if you know what you’re doing.
In fact, some clever people make a pretty decent living just from building up blogs and then flipping them for $10k, $50k or even $100k+. And while I haven’t been quite that successful I have sold several blogs for around $20,000—the first time all the way back when I was at Uni.
In this post I’m going to try and cover everything you’ll need to know to sell your blog for the best possible price with the fewest possible regrets. I’ll cover things like:
- why you should think carefully about whether you sell or not
- how to calculate your blog’s value and why that measure is controversial
- how you should set up your blog so it’s easy (and possible) to sell
- where you can sell your blog safely
- how to write a good and trustworthy listing
- steps to take to ensure you have a stress-free transaction
- clever things to do with the sale money (and an embarrassing story).
This is going to be a long post so set your eyes to strained and get your scroll finger warmed up. Let’s do it!
Why you should think carefully about selling
How good does it sound?
You build up a blog, make a bit of consistent revenue, and then sell it for a handsome sum of money.
Well, actually, there are a few considerations that you need to take into account before you get selling. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of pre-sale issues to think about:
- Emotional factors: You might be keen to sell your blog now but are you sure you’re not going to miss it once it is all said and done? Remember, once that blog is sold you lose all rights to your logos, articles, design—it will all belong to the new owner.
- Financial factors: Having a big chunk of money in your bank account is really exciting but you need to figure out how long it’s going to last you, what you’re going to invest it in and whether the short-term payout amount is more valuable to you than keeping the blog for five or ten years.
If you are thinking about putting your blog up for sale I urge you to take a few weeks to carefully think things through.
Most importantly, if you rely on your blog for a good portion of your income you need to make sure that you have some other projects on the go that are already earning you some money. One of the key mistakes people make (myself included) is selling their blog before they really have another solid income to rely on.
What is your blog worth and what are buyers looking for?
The title of this section covers both what your blog is worth and what buyers are looking for because often those things are totally separate from each other.
What do I mean?
Well, as I wrote about in this post on valuing a blog, you’ll often find that what your blog is worth to you is totally different than what it is actually worth in monetary terms, or to an independent buyer. The cold calculation of a blog’s value is often not inclusive of all the things that it means for you and your career.
How to calculate a blog’s sale value
Some people are going to disagree with this but in my experience the safest way to calculate what your blog is worth is like this:
Monthly revenue x 12 to 24 months = sale price
This is by no means a hard and fast rule; some people get 36 months, 48 months, etc. But for the most part you’ll find that people who buy blogs usually only offer around one to two years’ revenue.
So, at the most basic level, if your blog makes $1000 a month you will probably be able to sell it for between $12,000 and $24,000.
You’ll often see people trying to sell a blog or website for a higher price because it it is under-monetized, inefficiently set up, or not fulfilling its “potential”.
These words and scenarios mean very little to buyers who are essentially trying to purchase a successful and stable business. It is rare (though not impossible) to find someone who is investing in developing blogs because they want to build them up.
How to calculate a blog’s real value
Something that I learned the hard way was the fact that your blog is worth a lot more than just the money that it brings in. It sounds crazy at first but you’ll often hear guys like Darren say that even though Problogger.net doesn’t make him huge amount of money it elevates his profile and gives him a hugely valuble marketing tool.
When thinking about selling you need to consider whether your blog:
- Promotes other stuff: Do you use your blog to promote and expose other products or websites? Can it send traffic to other sites and give solid SEO links to new projects?
- Helps you: Some people use blogging as a method of dealing with stress or anxiety, which is obviously hard to put a dollar value on.
- Connects you: Does your blog help to connect you wither big players in the online world and therefore bring in new opportunities?
- Utilizes its list: If you have a big mailing list but have never done any successful promotions you might be sitting on an asset worth a lot more than it would appear on paper. Remember, a good mailing list promotion can bring in large amounts of money in a single day.
- Has a replaceable social media brand: The last point is that almost all of us have social media accounts that are connected with our blogs. For example, if Darren sold Problogger.net, would he also have to give up the hundreds of thousands of followers @problogger has on Twitter?
As I mentioned, a lot of these last items are things that are totally irrelevant to an independent buyer. They are, in some ways, unquantifiable considerations that will often hold great importance to you but very little to someone else.
What are buyers looking for?
Now that we’ve got the basic valuation types out of the way it’s a good idea to discuss exactly what buyers are looking for. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as there is a post coming up later in this series about buying a blog which will get you sorted.
However, having a basic understanding of what buyers are looking for will help you plan future sales:
- Consistent earnings: Google updates and other internet changes often mean that blog earnings fluctuate in a way that is totally unacceptable to regular businesses. You need to make sure your earnings are stable if you want a good sale price.
- Consistent statistics: Again, if buyers can see big fluctuations in your search engine rankings they will consider it a warning sign that you might be selling for a reason that you’re not disclosing.
- An easy-to-adopt website: If your blog is totally wound up in your personality and has readers and content that apply to your life and experience it will probably be very difficult for someone else to take over and profit from.
- Historical reports: I almost lost out on one big sale because I hadn’t installed Google Analytics on the blog in the early stages and thus the buyers was worried that the current trends and traffic levels weren’t truly representative of what was going on. Make sure you have stats installed early on and clear histories of traffic and earnings.
So, if you want to sell your blog, make sure you know how much it is worth to you (in the short and long term) and how much is worth to a buyer. These are different numbers.
How to set up your blog for an easy and comfortable sale
What a lot of people don’t realize is that selling a blog means that buyers are going to need access to a lot of stuff that you might never have intended to hand over to anyone else.
If you think you might want to sell somewhere down the line or you’re building a blog specifically for the purpose of a future sale, you want to make sure you have a few things covered.
1. Make sure you are on a separate, self-hosted set up
Although it does happen sometimes, you’ll find that most of the time people will want to buy sites that are fully owned and operated by the individual they are dealing with. With free blogs like Blogger and Tumblr the lines are less clear—who own the domain, the content, the theme, etc.?
The ideal situation is one where you have the domain name and WordPress blog host all in separate, individual places that aren’t mixed in with your other sites and domain names.
Of course, it isn’t all that hard to transfer a domain name or migrate a site to someone else. But it is much easier if you can just do one change of ownership transaction, which means the site doesn’t experience any downtime.
2. Try to have social networking accounts that you can sign over
As mentioned before, it can be a little bit tricky if your personal social networking accounts are also tied up in the brand name that you are selling. For example, my Twitter handle is @blogtyrant which means that if I ever sold www.BlogTyrant.com I would probably have to hand over that Twitter account as well.
I once spoke to Kristi Hines about this issue and she told me that it is much wiser to have a personal account that you use for yourself and a brand-name account that is just for the website and its followers. This is a lot harder than it used to be, however, with Google+ profiles and pages, YouTube, Facebook and accounts all over the place being linked together and muddled up.
If you can manage, find a way to separate your personal accounts from your brand-name accounts so you don’t lose it all or have headaches transferring them.
3. Be careful with linked email services
When you own a blog you often sign up for things like Google Analytics and other online services with your personal email. Much like the social networks, this can cause a huge pain in the future if you sell the site and need to give someone else access to this stuff.
Some services don’t let you remove the original email address that you signed up with but instead only allow you add new accounts. What this means is that you might always be linked to that old site in some way if you want to hold on to that email.
As far as I can tell, the best way to avoid these traps is to sign up for a separate Gmail account or create a Google account/other accounts with an email@example.com email address that you can hand over at the sale.
4. Make sure you know what you own
I’ve heard of blog sales getting into hot water when the seller doesn’t realize that some of the assets for sale actually belong to someone else.
It’s extremely important that you know whether you have the copyright all sorted for photos and images as well as whether your theme is original or something used by thousands of other people.
Where to sell your blog safely and simply
When it comes to selling your blog, the options are actually a lot more expansive than people usually think. That being said, I really only recommend going about it either of two ways, in order to keep your stress levels low and your chances of success high.
- Sell your blog on Flippa.com.
- Sell your blog in a private sale.
I’m going to go over each option in a little bit of detail so you get a good idea about how they work, and which one is best for your situation.
1. Sell your blog on Flippa
Flippa.com is the absolute go-to website for selling your blog. It is the largest marketplace of its kind and, even better, it is owned by Australians—a trustworthy and handsome lot.
All jokes aside, Flippa is the kind of site you rely on because their entire business model is wrapped up in the convenient and safe sale of blogs and websites. That’s all they do. What that means for us is that we get a good service because Flippa knows that their reputation is important for their continued success. In 2012 alone over 29,000 websites were sold there.
The great thing about this site is that you find a rare mix of highrollers and budget buyers here. This means that you can sell blogs that might only be worth a small amount as well as those $100k+ monsters.
How does Flippa work?
Selling a blog on Flippa is a lot like listing a product on eBay or any other selling site, except that Flippa only deals with websites and blogs.
The basic process goes like this:
- Create an account: You’ll need an account to list a site for sale as well as manage any messages that bidders send to you.
- Create your listing: This is a seven-step process where you list all your blog details, provide screenshots of traffic proof, explain your reasons for selling, etc. You’ll also be able to set a Reserve Price so that you don’t sell for less than you hoped for. More on this process below.
- Add upgrades: One of the ways Flippa makes money is by offering you certain upgrades to enhance the visibility of your sale. Some of these are a really good idea and you can see them all at Step 6 of the listing process.
- Manage your listing: Once your listing is up and live you can’t just leave it alone; you need to stick around and answer any questions that people have. Most serious bidders will ask questions and won’t be willing to move ahead until you’ve answered them properly.
- Proceed with the sale: Once someone has placed a winning bid or purchased your blog for the Buy It Now price, you proceed with the sale process. This is extremely safe and involves using Escrow.com which means that nobody gets any money or domain name access until both parties are happy.
Of course, the whole shebang is a lot more involved than that, but those steps should give you the basic idea of how Flippa works. I’ve gone into some more detailed Flippa listing tips below, but this video gives a quick overview of the auction listing process.
What are the advantages of using Flippa?
Some of the main reasons I think Flippa has gained so much popularity include:
- Safety: The Escrow process and the increased transparency that comes from requiring buyers to be verified, etc. makes the whole process a lot safer for everyone.
- Reach: To put it simply, there are a lot of buyers on Flippa looking to acquire your blog. I’m yet to find another marketplace that has such an active community.
- Support: The support staff at Flippa are happy to jump on board and give you help when you need it with a transaction or a listing problem. I’ve found them to be quite responsive.
- Simplicity: The listing process is extremely easy to follow. It’s no harder than composing an email and attaching a few images to prove your revenue, etc.
- Feedback ratings: Although not always relevant, Flippa has buyer feedback ratings which means you can see how buyers have performed in previous transactions.
What are the disadvantages of using Flippa?
As always, not every web service is perfect. There are a few drawbacks that people often talk about when it comes to using Flippa as a blog seller.
- It’s somewhat expensive: Flippa has listing fees and upgrade fees but, frustratingly, a fairly high success fee. What this means is that an established website will pay $29 to list the site (without upgrades) and then 5% of the final sale price. This is capped at $2,000 but for some people it is still too high considering other costs that go along with making a big sale, like local taxes.
- There are still risks involved: Although a lot less risky than the alternatives, there still are risks involved in selling a site on Flippa. Admittedly the risks are higher for buyers than sellers but you still need to exercise a lot of care.
- Publicity: I have heard some people express concerns that listing a site for sale on Flippa can have a negative impact on that site’s readers and even SEO rankings. Flippa does offer an option to hide your listing from Google, but you still need to consider any impact that can occur if people find out you’re selling, and then you don’t actually make the sale after all.
Overall Flippa is, without a doubt, the best place to sell an established blog that you really care about. The second optionis something that’s perhaps better suited to more experienced sellers with some trustworthy connections.
2. Sell your blog to a private buyer
The only other option that I really wanted to share as a method of selling your blog is to do so yourself, through a private buyer. This has a lot of advantages but also some pretty tummy-upsetting disadvantages.
How do you sell to a private buyer?
Unlike using Flippa, this process has many different variations depending on who you are selling to an how paranoid each party is. Generally, however, it will go something like this:
- You decide to sell: First of all you need to make the decision to sell your blog and package it up ready for the transaction. This means getting your accounts in order and having another project ready in the works.
- You find buyers: Perhaps the hardest part of all is finding buyers without actually listing your site anywhere. Of course, many people do list their site for sale in various places and then move the transaction to private method but this is both risky and against many of those flipping sites’ terms of service.
- You bang your head against the wall (or “negotiate”): The next step in a private sale is the process whereby both parties go back and forth for days, weeks, or even months until a price is agreed upon. This involves giving them access to revenue proof, stats, etc. as well as not caving in at the 12th offer simply because you are so exhausted.
- Arrange the terms: Because there is no site guiding you on the transaction, you need to come up with the terms of the trade yourselves. How is payment made? Which shadowy carpark will they meet you in with the contract? So on and so forth. This is the stage where a lot of inexperienced sellers get into trouble. You really want contracts and other protections in place.
- Make the trade: Selling your blog like this is better described as a trade. They give you money and you release the site files and, last of all the domain name. Once the buyer has that domain name, there is no going back, so you have to make sure you have the money and are totally happy before that happens. Again, it’s very wise to use a site like Escrow.com for this process, and not a site like Paypal where there is less protection.
- Assist with the transition: If you’ve made a good sale to a genuine buyer, they will probably want you to help with the transition period. It’s always a good sign when the buyer asks you to stay on board for six months so as to train them up and keep the site running well.
Again, each blog sale is a different process that can be done in different ways. It’s important to know how the basic process works and to make sure you know as much about the buyer as possible. This is a big asset that you are giving up so you want to make sure to take your time and get it right.
What are the advantages of a private sale?
Let’s have a quick look at some of the advantages of selling your blog to a private buyer:
- No fees: Unless you use a payment site that charges a fee there are no fees involved in the process.
- No restrictions: You aren’t restrained by any website terms or service and as such can often negotiate a better position for yourself or take more time to select the right buyer. It’s not a matter of “highest bidder wins”.
- Better prices: It might seem strange, but I’ve heard people say that they’ve achieved slightly better prices with private sales because the buyers didn’t feel guided by “standard pricing” that often becomes commonplace in set markets. Of course this is a very case-by-case phenomenon and might be totally incorrect for your sale.
I have sold one five-figure blog in a private sale and it went extremely smoothly. The clinching factor, however, was that the guy lived in my town and I was able to meet him face-to-face to sign papers, have a chat, etc. That gave me a lot more confidence.
What are the disadvantages of a private sale?
By now you probably have a pretty clear idea about why you might not want to sell your blog privately:
- It’s really risky: You have no idea who this person is or what their motivations are. Are they trying to scam you? Are the competitors trying to see your stats and methods? You need to exercise a lot of care during a private sale.
- It’s not monitored: When you use a site like Flippa, you can often contact support if something fishy is going on. When you are doing things privately there are very few methods you can resort to if something weird happens.
- It’s stressful: To be honest, I get a lot more stressed out than most people by this stuff so you might not find it as horribly nauseating as I do. All the negotiating, risk-taking—it just stresses me out too much and makes the Flippa fees seem worthwhile.
All in all Flippa is a really good place to start out and learn the ropes. The process is simple and extremely guided which means you’ll have less chance of running into trouble. Of course, you still need to use your brain and be careful when you are dealing with such an important asset, but by and large you should be happy with the process.
How to create a listing for trust and success
I couldn’t really talk about how to sell a blog without sharing a few tips for creating a listing that will help you promote your blog well while creating trust and increasing your chances of a successful sale.
Most of these tips will apply to Flippa sales but you can implement a lot of them in private sales emails and negotiations too.
1. Study successful listings
I’m really surprised at how badly some listings are put together. There’s a lack of clear information, unbelievable reasons for selling, etc.
Before you sell your blog it’s a good idea to check out some other Flippa listings that are doing well. Of course this has a large part to do with the quality of the site for sale, but you’ll also pick up some tips on how to write your listing so as to improve your trust.
2. Don’t skimp on the proof
As I pointed out before, most blog buyers are looking for established businesses that they can purchase and maintain. This means they need proof. They want to know that your traffic isn’t periodic or paid and that your SEO rankings aren’t going downhill.
Make sure you give good and transparent proof while still keeping in mind the various Terms of Service agreements that you have. For example, there are parts of your Adsense statistics that you aren’t allowed to reveal publicly.
3. Be personal
Some people might disagree with this but I’ve found that a lot of people want to buy not only a good site but a good site that comes from a good person. If someone is going to part with $10k+ they are probably going to want to know that the seller is trustworthy and cares about the site.
Of course, you don’t want to go on about your weekend in the sales pitch, and you don’t want to give away any information that puts you in an unsafe position, but you do want to create a sense of transparency and honesty that buyers feel comfortable with. Be open about how the site developed, why you like it, why you’re selling, any concerns you have, etc.
4. Stand your ground but don’t be rude
Especially in any private negotiations, it’s really important to know what you want out of the sale and to not back down because someone is a better negotiator than you. Quite often you’ll face savvy buyers finding very good reasons to get your price down even though they fully intend to pay what you’re asking for. Know what price you want to achieve (realistically) and be prepared to back yourself.
5. Never, ever be dishonest
Honest people don’t need to be told this, but it’s critically important that you leave any sleazy sales tactics at the door and forget about lying or exaggerating to get some money. Not only does this make for a bad listing, it can really ruin someone’s financial situation if you sell them a site that has “skeletons in the closet”.
One of the most common things you’ll see in this regard is people trying to sell a site that has just been penalized by Google for one reason or another and claiming that they are just bored with the niche or need the money for family reasons. Forget it! It’s dishonest and will come back to bite you. As you can see from the few honest users featured in the screenshot above, there are both buyer and seller ratings, so all of your dealings go on record.
6. Use headings and organized formatting
Wait a sec! Writing a sales listing is like writing a blog post? You got it!
It’s not uncommon to see listings that are pages of clumpy text with no real order. Try and keep it in a structured format that is easy to digest. Break it down into headings like Background to the Sale, Why I’m Selling, Traffic Details, Revenue Details, Expenses and Costs, Problems and Issues, and so on.
This is the largest ever sale completed on Flippa ($750,000) and while I don’t support gambling sites I think it is an interesting study in setting up a listing.
7. Emphasize your blog’s strong points and what buyers want
If you are asking for a decent amount of money for your site you’ll want to know its strong points and be able to communicate them convincingly. Now, I’m not talking about tricking anyone or being really pushy. I’m just saying that it’s wise to clearly communicate why your blog is a good buy.
For example, if you rank for a particularly competitive set of keywords you might want to share that. If your site has survived Panda updates that other sites in your niche haven’t, that is also a good thing to get across. If you have a high converting opt-in form or a great email open rate you should absolutely tell them about it!
Don’t assume that revenue details are all they care about (although it is a big deal). Some other factor might be the difference between them buying your blog or another one on the same page.
How to ensure you have a good transaction (and post-transaction!)
As soon as you sell a blog you’ll have one of those “wish I had thought of that…” moments which can leave you with a few regrets. With that in mind I thought I’d go over a few little things you can do that can make a big difference to your happiness before and after the sale.
- Know the process: A lot of bad mistakes happen when people haven’t done their research. Find out about how the process works and what is expected of you before, during and after.
- Know the financial details: Find out how much the transaction is going to cost you from every angle. You need to know the fees Flippa charges, if you’re using that site, as well as any other fees/costs like bank fees or taxes.
- Know your limits: If you have a strange feeling in your gut about something or someone then just stop right there and wait for another buyer. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s a good idea to set up some limits that you won’t go past to keep you focused during the sale.
- Control the post-sale climate: In some situations it is possible to specify what can and can’t be done with your site once you sell it. You might need the help of a lawyer in order to draft a contract but if you don’t want your site getting used for unethical purposes down the track, for example, try and make it a condition of the sale.
- Stay on board: Again, if you care about the site it is sometimes wise to stay on board for a few weeks or months to help the new owner get used to the day-to-day activities involved in running it.
- Protect yourself: Don’t give out personal information that you don’t need to and try to use every protection that is available in the selling situation.
A lot of this stuff comes with experience but if you are selling your “pride and joy” blog it’s a good idea to take your time to do the preparation.
Some clever things to do with the sale money
I thought I’d share a pretty embarrassing story at this point.
When I sold my first blog I was quite young and was living like a broke college kid. So when the money hit my account I was pretty excited. It felt like a million dollars to me!
A smart person would have stored that money away or re-invested it into new businesses or blogs.
Not me. I ate the money.
Not literally, but I spent most of the profits sitting around playing video games and eating footlong Subs. It was a great holiday but a huge waste of money.
So what should you do with the money?
Well, it seems to me that if you’ve just sold a blog for a good profit, then maybe you have a skillset that you can develop and grow. Making money online isn’t easy so it might be a good idea to see how far you can take the blog development/sale process and whether you can scale it up.
For example, if you sold one blog for $50,000 with two years’ work, I wonder whether you could repeat the process on a larger scale and aim for three or four sales a year by hiring writers, coders, assistants, etc. A post later this week will look at buying blogs so that might be a good place for you to begin.
Reinvesting the money is smart. Eating sandwiches isn’t.
Would you sell your blog?
Sometimes we bloggers spend a lot of time reading and not a lot of time doing (myself included) and so I thought I’d encourage you to develop your own guide to selling a blog by trying it for yourself.
Remember, selling your blog is forever, so make sure you really want to go ahead with it before jumping in.
I’d love to hear from the Problogger.net readers on this one. Would you sell your blog? How much would you hope to get? Are you worried about the risks associated with the transaction? Drop a comment and let me know.
Update: check out our followup posts on selling blogs at:
- The State of the Blog Sales Market: Interview with Andrew Knibbe of Flippa
- Behind the Scenes of a Successful Blgo Acquisition: Case Study
Contributing author The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.