How to prepare a website for sale [2022]

Thinking of selling your website? You could go to a broker immediately and see if they will list your site. But if you take a few important steps before going to a broker, you could end up with a much higher valuation — and thus, more money in your pocket. This article guides you on how to prepare a website for sale.

Table of Contents

Introduction

No matter what you’re doing, the hardest part is always getting started. Especially when it’s an arena in which you have no experience. But when you jump in head first, you risk missing out — or worse, getting scammed. That’s why putting in the groundwork is so important.

As a website owner looking to prepare a website for sale, there are tools you can use and steps you should follow to help ease the process. And if you take your time doing the research, there’s really no way you can go wrong. After all, you have a website that is worth money — potentially, lots of money. Once you understand what buyers look for in a website, you can make a few changes to maximize what your site is worth. 

But, that comes later. First, you need to figure out where to start. If you’re new to the game and don’t know what you’re getting into, this guide will break down the best ways to prepare a website for sale.

Step 1 – Determine whether it’s worth selling

Some websites are just not worth selling. This is generally true when the website is making very little money, but it can also be true if the site took a major hit from Google or had some other major setback.

So how do you determine if your website is worth selling? You have to figure out the value. I’ve written several articles on determining the value of your website, but instead of jumping right into those, I suggest you use my FREE Website Valuation Overview worksheet. The worksheet will give you a valuation based on recent statistical listing data.

To get it, all you have to do is fill in the form below.

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Sign up to join my mailing list and get the entire Website Investing Beginner’s Kit — including the Build vs Buy Workbook, the Valuation Overview Worksheet, the Website Screener Tool, and much more — all for FREE.


Step 2 – Observe the landscape

Before making any moves, you need to do your research. The first step to prepare a website for sale is understand the landscape of competitors for your site. You may be thinking, “I already know this.” But even if you have carefully looked at your competitors in the past, you should do it again. If you have access to a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs, you can look at each competitor’s estimated traffic and the keywords that it ranks for.

Take the top 5 largest competitors and then compare your site to them. On a scale of 1-5 (one being the worst and 5 being the best), where would your site fit. What are the features of sites that are better? What is your site missing that the other sites have?

At the same time, you should look for any defects that your site may have in comparison to the others. Here are some examples of common defects that apply to any industry:

  • Is your site banned from Google Adsense or any other ad networks?
  • Has your site ever gotten a manual action (penalty) from Google?
  • Does your site have any abnormal backlinks?

Step 1 checklist

  • Identify competitors and determine strengths and weaknesses
  • Check your site for material defects (which need to be disclosed or corrected before listing)

Step 3 – Collect data for your site

The process of preparing a site for sale can take some time. Rushing through it only increases the chances of messing up. Collecting data for your site is an essential part of this preparation process. At the minimum, you need to have collected a reasonable length traffic history and proof of earnings.

If you don’t have those, the first thing you need to do is install Google Analytics. This app measures web traffic for your site and records trends. When it comes to selling your website, it is imperative that you can show potential buyers upward (or at least flat) growth patterns and traffic bumps. Meeting measurable metric goals is a huge aspect of pricing your site. If you have Google Analytics installed, but you don’t have at least 6 months of data recorded, try to wait a few months before trying to sell. Buyers consider too little traffic history a red flag.

In addition to traffic, you need to be able to show historical earnings. The length of time you need will vary based on what kind of business you have and how you make money, but it should be at least 3 months. Buyers will look for tangible proof of earnings, so make sure to download monthly profit reports from your providers. AdSense, Ezoic records, PayPal reports, and Stripe reports are generally sufficient, although in some cases you may need to provide bank statements. Having your records ready beforehand shows brokers and potential buyers that you’re serious about selling your site and know what you’re doing.

Ideally, you should have all of these historical records before you prepare a website for sale. However, there’s no need to panic if you don’t. While it’s always best to start as early as possible, it’s never too late to collect data.

Step 2 checklist

  • Make sure Google Analytics is installed and you have 6 months or more of data
  • Make sure that you have earnings records from an ad network or payment provider

Step 4 – Break down your task list

Different buyers have different needs when it comes to the time and effort they’re willing to put into their site. Often beginner buyers and sellers don’t realize the impact this has on sustaining profits. For example, if you’re putting in one hour a day managing various tasks for your site and the next owner puts in two, they won’t make the same profits.

A savvy buyer knows this and will want details on the tasks you do and how long they take you, as well as your various income sources. Therefore, as part of preparing a website for sale, you should list out all the tasks you do for the website.

If you’re handling a lot of the work yourself, you may want to find freelancers to hire. After all, you may be willing to manage everything yourself, but this will put off potential buyers. A mistake many beginner sellers make is thinking profit margins are all that matter.

This is especially true if tasks are technical or time-consuming. Your sale will go through easier if you create systems that manage these tasks for a new owner. The more you can simplify the day-to-day processes of the site before you put your website on the market, the better. 

Tip 1: Outsource work

Buyers need to know which work you outsource. Many of them will inquire whether they can keep your workers on board. You should talk to your employees before you list your website, and try to convince them to continue with the business. If you can assure buyers that your workers will remain, it will increase your site’s value.

Tip 2: Cut out useless tasks

Spend time identifying the tasks that don’t have a big effect on the bottom line. When you create a site, you put a lot of emotional labor into it. But when you’re selling it, you need to streamline and simplify the process. Your goal is to get your site as close to running on autopilot as you can. Once you’ve identified these useless tasks, cut them out to minimize your working hours.

Step 3 checklist

  • Determine all tasks that need to be done
  • Outsource any technical or tedious work to make the site more appealing to buyers
  • Go through your routine and try to cut out unnecessary tasks

Step 5 – Identify growth potential

When you’re marketing a product, your success depends largely on how well you understand what your audience wants. And when you prepare a website for sale, you have to realize that many buyers are looking for growth potential.

The website buyer pool is a mix of long-term investors and short-term flippers. Both of these groups are looking for sites that can increase in value. Now, you may think it’s up to the buyer to identify a website’s growth potential. And you’d be right for the most part. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the groundwork.

If you can convince buyers (and brokers) that there is significant traffic or revenue upside for your site, you’re likely to see a higher valuation.

No one knows your audience and niche market better than you. Do not underestimate the value of this knowledge. If you can tell your site’s buyer what concrete changes they can make to grow the business, you’ll have better luck getting them to meet your price demands. This means showing them how specific changes will impact the profit outcomes of the website.

Step 4 checklist

  • Come up with at least three ways in which a new buyer can grow your site
  • Use the competitive analysis from step 1 to help you

Step 6 – Find out what buyers want

Another important step to prepare a website for sale is to find out how the market works.

Understanding what buyers are looking for helps you determine the best way to market your site. This includes understanding factors like growth trends, conversion rate, branding, and marketing success.

If you use a broker, the broker can help you with this; however, part of your job as a website seller is to convince the broker of your site’s value. So it’s a good idea to do some homework before talking to a broker.

Knowing what buyers want is the key to learning how to sell your product. Only when you analyze your website and isolate your selling points can you accurately promote your site. You have to be able to defend your position and explain to potential buyers why you think your site is worth your selling price.

Remember, you may end up selling your website to a first-time buyer. In such a case, it is up to you to break down the merits of your site. In general, if you can convince them that your site will make more money in the future, buyers will invest in it. To do that, you can highlight factors like an active email list, a comprehensive online marketing strategy, or organic SEO rankings. Put your best foot forward and your biggest assets in the limelight. 

Step 5 checklist

  • Do your homework and understand market trends and pricing trends
  • Consider talking to brokers for deeper insights

Step 7 – Take steps to increase the value of your site

Quite possibly the worst mistake you can make as a website owner is selling your site without optimizing it. So an important step to prepare a website for sale is to make any minor modifications that you can make to maximize your site’s value.

That can mean trying a variety of advertising networks and affiliate plans, experimenting with ads and ad placement, or trying to increase Google ranking. Either way split test every version to find the one that maximizes your profits. When you’re selling your website, A/B testing is a must.

Unoptimized sites are an excellent opportunity for buyers, but not for you as a seller. Why? Because that means the buyer spends less money on a mediocre site and can boost revenue overnight by implementing basic strategies. As the seller, you want to maximize profits for your site before you put it on the market and get the most money for it.

One important note, however: since you need to show potential buyers strong historical revenue and traffic trends when selling, do your experiments on a small subset of users first. Use an A/B testing tool to run any tests on a small portion of your traffic, so that failed tests don’t affect your trends.

Step 6 checklist

  • Do A/B testing to see if you can increase revenue or traffic
  • Try any ad networks or affiliate programs that you think may boost revenue — even slightly
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment — but do it carefully

Step 8 – Assemble the due diligence materials

The due diligence process can be like pulling teeth, especially if you have a larger site. You need to assemble dozens (if not hundreds) of documents from various sources. To make it easier, you should try to pre-assemble the due diligence materials. If you can hand them over quickly when asked, it makes the entire sales process go more smoothly.

I suggest making a Google Drive folder and putting PDFs of all of these documents into it. You can then share access to that folder to any buyers or brokers who need it.

So what are the documents you need to assemble? Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list:

  • Monthly statements from ad networks (if an ad-supported site)
  • Monthly statements from payment processors (if selling products)
  • Monthly statements from affiliate networks (if an affiliate)
  • Bank statements showing deposits of income from above
  • Receipts for all content creation work
  • Receipts for hosting
  • Receipts for product purchases/assembly (if selling products)
  • Proof of ownership for site and domain
  • Receipts for any software you use

If you have had the site for longer than 24 months, you can simply provide the past 24 months. If you haven’t had the site for longer than 24 months, you will need to provide all statements.

You should also put together a spreadsheet of monthly income and expenses, which the broker or buyer will need before making an offer and looking at the due diligence materials.

  • Assemble all of the due diligence documents in a folder that can be sent to buyers or brokers
  • Make a spreadsheet of income and expenses for 24 months

Step 9 – Plan the transition

Another key part of preparing your website for sale is to plan the post-sale transition. Ideally, you can move your site to a new owner with no impact on profits. But things rarely ever work that way. Chances are the sale will involve the transfer of vendors, assets, workers, freelancers, and other resources.

If you think your sale process will require a handover period, consider how long it will take. Then make a plan for how you’re going to keep the process as smooth as possible. One of the things buyers look for is the ease with which they can take over. If there’s a possibility they’ll lose profits in the handover, it will put off many potential buyers.

Also, take into account your hosting service and CMS systems. If you’re using WordPress, that’s a definite plus, since buyers are familiar with it. But if you’re using a homegrown system, you will have to provide assistance to the buyer in order to facilitate the transfer.

Another important consideration is whether the affiliates, ad accounts, and/or merchant accounts can be transferred to the buyer easily. If buyers anticipate that this will be difficult, they will be much more hesitant to buy. To maximize your chances of success, talk to all of these partners and find out what is involved in transferring your accounts.

If you can provide the buyer with a list of accounts and emails from the partner companies saying that they can be transferred, this will help greatly.

Step 7 checklist

  • Determine how you can transfer your technology stack to the buyer
  • Contact ad networks, affiliate partners, and payment providers to understand transfer account requirements
  • Prepare a list of accounts to transfer, with emails from partners saying that they can be transferred

Conclusion

Overall, preparing a website for sale isn’t too difficult. If you take your time and plan out the process, you will end up with a great sale. Work your way through this list and ensure that you have completed all of the checklist items. Once you have done all of them, you are ready to either present the site to brokers or list the site on a marketplace. In future articles, I will guide you through doing that as well.