How to sell a blog for profit: advice from an expert
I may get paid commission for purchases made after clicking a link in this post.
If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’re probably aware that your website is worth something – but do you know how much? Or how you can maximize the value of your website and avoid getting scammed or getting tripped up by legal issues? In this comprehensive guide to selling a blog, Nick Chi of Empire Flippers gives his expert advice on how to sell your blog for a profit, how to ensure you get the best price for your blog and how to avoid common pitfalls.
Back in the day, blogging was a fun hobby. Then the blogging community wised up to the fact that there was good money to be made from a blog, and blogging became a lucrative business model. But did you know your blog itself could now be worth a significant amount of money? These days profitable blogs are valuable assets that can be bought and sold just like any other type of business.
But exactly how much is your blog worth? How can you maximize your blog’s value? And how – in practical terms – do you go about selling a blog?
I recently asked members of the Productive Blogging Community what they most wanted to know about selling a blog and they had a lot of questions! Nick Chi of Empire Flippers – an Inc. 5000 company and the #1 curated marketplace for buying and selling established, profitable online businesses – kindly agreed to give us his expert advice…
Jump to a specific question:
- How much can you sell a website for?
- The value of a website is usually expressed as a multiple of monthly profits. What counts as profit?
- Often the guide price for what a website is worth is expressed as a range. What would make a site be worth the lower end of that vs the higher end?
- What can a website owner do to get a higher price for their site, other than increase monthly profits?
- What is involved in the actual handover of a website from the buyer to the seller?
- What advice would you give to a potential seller in order to make a sale run smoothly?
- What if the website owner is strongly linked to the blog’s brand – how is that handled?
- How can a website owner avoid getting scammed?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a broker to sell your website vs making a private sale?
- What should you look for when choosing a broker?
- What are the legal issues involved in selling a website? Is it necessary for the seller to hire a lawyer?
- Does how your business is registered make a difference to how the sale proceeds?
1. How much can you sell a website for?
On brokerages like Empire Flippers, sites are sold between 5 to 8 figures. At Empire Flippers, valuations are calculated by multiplying a business’s monthly net profit by a valuation multiple.
So if your site made an average net profit of $1,000 per month over the last 12 months, and your site is valued at a 40x multiple, your site would be valued at $1,000 x 40, or $40,000.
A valuation “multiple” is assigned to every business and is a reflection of the value of the business. In general, Empire Flipper multiples on content sites typically range between 30x to 50x.
There are several factors that go into how business multiples are calculated. To get a rough estimate of your business’s valuation, you can use Empire Flippers’ free valuation tool.
Some brokerages have performance minimums for submitting your business for sale, such as a business generating $1,000 per month in net profit, which would generally be businesses valued at a minimum of ~$30,000-$50,000. Other brokerages have no minimums and sites are listed and sold for as low as a few thousand dollars.
2. The value of a website is usually expressed as a multiple of monthly profits. What counts as profit? Does it include the salary you pay yourself and your family, for example?
The most direct way to answer this for your specific blog is to answer this question: which expenses are necessary for the business to continue operating on a monthly basis?
To use the expense of paying yourself or your family as an example, if you were paying yourself or your family as owner profits as opposed to as an employee, meaning you/they don’t perform a function vital to the business’s operations, then this wouldn’t be considered an expense as far as how the business is valued.
However, let’s say you or your family member performs a function within the business that, once you sell the business, a buyer would need to hire someone to replace that function in order for the business to maintain its operations and monthly profit. Yes, this would likely count as an expense that would reduce the monthly net profit.
This can get a bit nuanced though because let’s say you write all of your own content, but the website doesn’t need additional content to perform at its current level. It’s possible that this wouldn’t be considered an ongoing operating expense, but instead, if a buyer wanted to add additional content, it would be considered a future (optional) growth expense and not counted towards the valuation of the business in its current state.
This leads to another nuance about net profit: add-back expenses. Let’s say you paid for advertising, link-building services, or content creation in the past to jumpstart your business that helped it to achieve an organic ranking that allows the business to generate income without these continued services. These expenses may be removed from the calculation, and they would not deduct from the net profit as it pertains to calculating the business valuation in its current state.
This is one reason why working with a professional business valuer can be so valuable: they might identify expenses that do not count against your valuation.
If your business meets the requirements to list with Empire Flippers and you submit the business to prepare it for sale, you’ll begin working directly with one of our vetting advisors, who will work with you to itemize your revenue and expenses to create your profit and loss (P&L) statement and calculate your monthly net profit.
3. Often the guide price for what a website is worth is expressed as a range (for example 30-50x monthly profits). What would make a site be worth the lower end of that vs the higher end?
Ultimately a multiple is a reflection of the business’s strength or attractiveness as an investment to a buyer. In other words, what a buyer is willing to pay for it.
So what makes an online business an attractive investment, and therefore a business with a higher multiple? The primary features are:
- Stable monthly performance
- High growth potential
- Bonus: requires minimal time by the business owner to operate the business
Here are some specific questions a buyer might ask to determine this:
- How likely is the business to continue performing in this way after I acquire the business?
- Has the business experienced year-over-year growth, decline, or remained steady in revenue/profit/traffic?
- Is it likely to survive or even thrive in Google algorithm updates? Or is this business at risk of being negatively impacted?
- Is the business protected in some way via intellectual property (i.e. trademarks)?
- How old is the business (aka how much performance history does it have?)
- Does the business have diversified traffic sources?
- Is traffic spread over many pages?
- Does the business have multiple revenue streams?
- Does the business have growth potential?
- Is it in a niche with growth potential?
- Is there an unused or underutilized email list?
- Does the business come with other assets?
- Digital products?
- Email lists?
- Social media accounts with active followings?
- Employee contracts?
- Are operations delegated?
- How much time per week does the owner spend on the business?
On the flip side of this, a site with a lower multiple might be:
- A business that has experienced a decline in revenue/profit/traffic
- A smaller website overall (vs. a larger website that has demonstrated its success in a larger market)
- A business that requires a lot of the owner’s time to operate
4. What can a website owner do to get a higher price for their site, other than increase monthly profits?
This answer is a follow-up to the previous question. In short, the more variables you can address above can help you achieve a higher multiple.
Here are a few more detailed points that are not profit-related:
How close to passive is the business?
First, systemizing the business in a way to reduce the amount of time spent on the business. If you’re spending more than 10 hours per week on the business, you’ll want to find ways to reduce this.
This could be accomplished by hiring people to replace certain tasks, such as content writers, or working with an SEO agency. It looks good when you have clear Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for them to perform those tasks well.
Or it could be as simple as no longer being in a growth phase, but rather in a maintenance phase of the business for an extended period of time.
Is the business built off of a solid SEO foundation? I.e. high-quality content
Better yet, has the business been unaffected or even benefitted from prior Google algorithm updates?
Multiple traffic sources
What percentage of your traffic comes from organic, social, and direct sources?
Traffic spread out evenly over several pages, as opposed to just 1-2 pages driving a majority of the traffic.
Multiple revenue streams
Is your site monetized only through Amazon Associates or do you also work directly with affiliate partners and display advertising?
Additional valuable assets
Do you have an email list that you’re engaged with and are currently monetizing?
5. What is involved in the actual handover of a website from the buyer to the seller? How does the process work? What will the seller need to give the buyer?
At Empire Flippers, we call the handover phase the “migration”. This can be complex or relatively simple depending on the assets that are being transferred.
Every platform can have a specific migration process due to each platform’s terms of service or restrictions around transferring ownership. Some of these accounts include:
- Amazon Associates
- Display advertising platforms (AdSense, Mediavine and AdThrive all have different processes)
- Individual affiliate partners
Empire Flippers has a team of migration advisors and migration specialists who manage the migration process, and I believe Empire Flippers is the only brokerage that actually helps with the migration. In most cases, a seller and a buyer are fully responsible for transferring the assets.
The migration terms are important because this usually determines when a deal is considered complete and when the seller is paid. In most cases, the buyer’s cash for the purchase is held by a 3rd party escrow, and the terms of the release of this cash are detailed in the sales contract.
In some cases, a deal is considered complete when the domain is transferred. In other cases, a deal is considered complete when all of the assets are transferred over.
6. What advice would you give to a potential seller in order to make a sale run smoothly?
- Get a professional 3rd party valuation so you as the seller know what your business should be worth and you can get the right price. This also helps to take emotion out of this part of the sale for both the buyer and seller and ultimately helps both parties come to a price much more quickly and move forward with the sale.
- Organize all of your assets and SOPs to make the valuation stage run smoothly.
- Speak with a sales advisor and vetting advisor early in the process – sometimes a year in advance.
- This can be eye-opening for blog owners. If you determine you want to make a major change to your business, some buyers may want to see how the business performs for a full 12 months after making that change, which could affect how quickly you could sell the business. What that means is, if you want to make changes that can improve your multiple, you may need to know well ahead of time. Certain changes may also negatively impact a multiple, so it could help to speak with an advisor prior to making significant changes.
- Aside from improving your multiple, you may want to speak with a brokerage ahead of time to know if you can even sell your site. For example, some sites are in niches that some brokerages will not sell, such as gambling.
- If you know you’re going to be selling a site, you could get ahead of the process by transferring your site to its own hosting account and domain registrar. At the migration phase, you can then just hand over the credentials for these accounts. This is by far the simplest method of transferring assets, so the more assets you can do this with, the smoother the migration will be, the faster it will close, and the quicker you’ll be paid.
7. What if the website owner is strongly linked to the blog’s brand – how is that handled?
This gets a bit tricky and is also something buyers will ask about.
Scenario A: The website owner is linked to the blog’s brand and the new buyer can continue to leverage this asset.
If it’s just a profile picture and a buyer can continue to operate the business with the photo, then in most cases, buyers are fine for you to leave it as is.
Scenario B: The website owner is linked to the blog’s brand and the owner does not want to associate themselves with the site after the sale.
You’ll want to transition to removing your identity from the brand
- This can mean removing your photos
- This can mean bringing in a team to create content and maintain operations
- This can mean creating content with the voice of the site’s brand and not the person
NOTE: this is one of those instances where you’ll want do this earlier than later so you have time to see the new level of business performance.
8. How can a website owner avoid getting scammed?
Trying to not sound biased here, but honestly, the best way is by working with a brokerage. Better than that, working with a reputable brokerage that provides seller protections within their terms.
Working with a reputable brokerage also usually means there are certain procedures in place that filter out low-quality or nefarious buyers. With Empire Flippers, for example, all buyers on the marketplace must verify their identity and liquidity before they’re able to unlock listings. A buyer can only see the details of a business (niche, the products, etc.) once it has been unlocked.
However, if you’re set on selling privately, you will want to ensure the following:
- You’re working with a 3rd party escrow to hold the buyer’s funds
- You’ve had a lawyer create the sales contract that details the terms of the deal and when the funds can legally be released
- You’re being mindful of where you’re communicating with buyers and at what phase you’re providing sensitive information about your business. As one example of this, here’s an article on letters of intent and how they can be used to trick sellers.
9. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a broker to sell your website vs making a private sale?
The biggest reason sellers will sell privately is to avoid the brokerage fee, which is probably going to be between 10-15% of the business’s sale price.
Just know that if your primary reason for selling privately is to avoid the fee, the costs will likely come up in other ways.
If selling privately, you would need to create your own P&L and valuation, find buyers, negotiate with buyers, hire a lawyer to put together a contract, hire an escrow company to hold the funds, and migrate the business.
Based on the above, a brokerage might be able to help you with some or all of the following:
- Providing you the highest valuation that buyers would like likely pay
- Negotiating on your behalf, or act as an intermediary or advisor on price negotiations
- Providing escrow services
- Creating the legal documents
- Helping to migrate the business
Aside from the services provided, a brokerage also puts you on a marketplace and in front of a buyer pool with potentially billions of dollars in total verified liquidity. At Empire Flippers, our buying process is also set up in a way where buyers compete to buy a business, which can increase a business’s purchase price and speed of purchase.
10. What should you look for when choosing a broker?
A good broker will provide most of the services mentioned in the previous answer.
When speaking with brokerages, ask about:
- If they offer escrow services
- How sellers are protected during the deal
- If they offer migration services
- When a business deal is considered complete
- If they have experience with selling and migrating your specific type of business
- If they have buyers suited for buying your type of business
One thing to be cautious of is brokerages that offer unbelievably high multiples if you sell through them. If they seem like a reputable brokerage, great, but know that some brokerages will inflate their starting multiple to convince you to sign a contract with them. This contract will have an exclusivity clause that requires you to stay with them for at least a few months, during which time, your multiple might decrease if there are no buyers at the higher price.
11. What are the legal issues involved in selling a website? Is it necessary for the seller to hire a lawyer?
Some brokerages have their own lawyers who create the default sales contracts and terms of service, but a lawyer might be necessary for any highly customized deals.
A lawyer is also necessary if you plan to sell privately. If you hire a lawyer to draft a sales contract, you will want to ensure to clearly define:
- When a deal is considered complete and funds can legally be released
- What happens in the event of a decline of the business during the transaction – what is considered a breach of contract? For example, Empire Flippers has a clause where if the business drops below 50% in performance during the migration’s inspection period, a buyer can back out. This benefits both seller and buyer because it sets clear terms for where a buyer cannot back out and must move forward with the deal.
12. Does how your business is registered make a difference to how the sale proceeds?
As far as how it might affect a sale or migration, one thing I can think of is if you have a business in the UK or EU and you have a VAT number associated with an account that you plan to hand over to the buyer, this might require the buyer to have a VAT number as well. This is something to keep in mind if you have the option to set up a US LLC vs. an EU/UK business entity.
In addition to speaking with an accountant and lawyer, I would recommend also discussing this point with a sales advisor.
Many thanks to Nick Chi for sharing with us his expertise in how to sell a blog for profit.
If you are interested in selling your blog or want to know more about Empire Flippers and the services they offer, check out their Complete Guide to Selling a Business with Empire Flippers, which covers everything you need to know from the initial vetting process, right through to transferring your business over to the new owner.
And if you want to know how much your blog is worth, head over to their Valuation Tool.
You can also connect with Nick personally on LinkedIn
Ready to maximize your blog’s value?
If you are considering selling your blog in the near future, you may first want to work on maximizing your blog’s value, in order to get the best price for your website.
Here’s some suggested further reading, based on Nick’s tips for maximizing your blog’s value:
- How to write high quality blog posts that rank (according to Google)
- How to get your website on the first page of Google
- How to earn passive income from a blog: a step-by-step guide
- 12 easy ways to grow your Mediavine income
- 19 easy ways to increase your affiliate income from your blog
- Ebook vs Online Course: Which should you create?
- How to create your first online course: a 10 step plan for success!
- How to make money from your email list
- How to future-proof your blog
- How to avoid getting hit by a Google algorithm update
Don’t miss a thing!
Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Or why not subscribe to Productive Blogging and get blogging and productivity tips straight to your inbox every week?