How to Sell a Website or Online Business in 2023

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Are you looking to sell your website or online business? If so, it’s essential to understand the process and be prepared for each step. Selling a website isn’t as complicated as many people think, but some key details are necessary to get the best possible outcome.

In this article, we’ll look at the different ways you can sell your website, the steps involved, and how to ensure the process goes smoothly from start to finish. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand what it takes to sell your site successfully.

This article is written based on my personal experience selling websites and online businesses. Over the past decade, I’ve had 6 different six-figure exits totaling more than $2.25 million. I’ve sold through brokers, marketplaces, and on my own. The details in this article represent my own opinions based on those experiences.

Preparing to Sell Your Website

If you want to maximize the value of your website or online business and get the best price possible, it’s helpful to plan ahead. By making a quick decision to list your business for sale, you may leave money on the table.

Of course, planning ahead isn’t always possible, and circumstances may influence your decision to pursue a quick sale. However, planning is ideal whenever possible. For established websites (those that have been around for at least a year and generate at least a few thousand dollars per month), planning 6-12 months in advance is ideal.

This may seem like a long time, but there are legitimate reasons. A website’s value (more on this in a minute) is heavily influenced by the average monthly profits for the past 3, 6, or 12 months. For established sites, the average monthly profit for the past 6 or 12 months is typically used to determine the value. By planning in advance, you can maximize the site’s profitability, increasing the site’s value.

Planning also helps to give you a better chance of creating upward trends (in terms of revenue, profit, and traffic) before the sale, which will appeal to potential buyers. You can also take a few specific steps to prepare for the sale to help you get top dollar. 

Here are some specific things you should focus on if you’re thinking about trying to sell your website or business.

Get a Free Valuation in Minutes!
How Much Is Your Site Worth?

Empire Flippers offers an excellent (and free) website or business valuation tool. It only takes a few minutes to enter the details of your business, and you'll get a report on the estimated value. You don't even have to talk to anyone! It's my favorite tool for online business valuations.

1. Minimize Your Involvement

One of the first questions every potential buyer will have is, “How much time do you spend working on the website?” It’s essential to recognize that buyers are investors.

Most buyers will hire employees or freelancers to operate the business. They’re usually not interested in doing all the work themselves. Your listed expenses for running the site may be low, but the buyer will likely experience increased costs when they hire someone to replace you.

Potential buyers will consider the amount of time you spend working on the business, and they’ll determine how much they’ll need to pay someone to complete the same work. If you’re working 40 hours per week on your business, the buyer will need to spend more to replace you than if you’re only working 10 hours per week.

As you prepare to sell your website or online business, make an effort to reduce your working hours. Evaluate everything you do that’s related to the site and consider the value it adds.

Most website owners, myself included, spend time on things that generate very little revenue and add very little value. You should eliminate or minimize these types of tasks if you’re preparing to sell. 

Of course, you want the business to continue to grow and thrive, so you shouldn’t cut back so much that the business suffers. But the goal is to reduce the time you spend on unnecessary tasks. In the past, I’ve been able to cut my involvement by as much as 50% by focusing only on essential tasks. 

You also have the option to outsource necessary work that could be done by someone else. For example, you could hire an inexpensive virtual assistant for routine tasks that don’t require your expertise.

2. Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses

There are two ways to increase profit. You can increase revenue or decrease expenses. Both improve the bottom line.

Review your records for the past several months and evaluate each expense, focusing on recurring monthly or yearly expenses. Identify expenses that could be reduced or eliminated without any impact on your site’s revenue. 

Maybe there are tools (SEO tools, plugins, subscriptions, etc.) that you can downgrade or cancel without any real impact. Reducing recurring monthly expenses can improve the value of your site by increasing your monthly profit.

You should also evaluate the money you spend on freelancers, contractors, or employees. Of course, you don’t want to cut back so much that it hurts your business, but you may be spending more than you need to. If you can reduce these expenses, it may significantly increase your monthly profit and the value of your business.

Get a Free Valuation in Minutes!
How Much Is Your Site Worth?

Investors Club offers a free valuation tool that only requires a few minutes of your time. Enter details about your site, including traffic, income, and expenses. The tool will provide you with a report showing your site's estimated value. If you like what you see, you can proceed to list it for sale with Investors Club.

3. Create Standard Operating Procedures

Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) is one of the best things you can do if you plan to sell your website or online business. This may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Standard operating procedures are simply the steps you take to complete a task.

By creating SOPs that outline how to perform each task related to the business’s operation, you can reduce the time and experience someone needs to run your business effectively. This will give potential buyers confidence that they won’t have issues running the website or online business after the sale. Plus, it gives them and their team a straightforward process to follow.

For example, if you run a content-based website, you can create SOPs for tasks like researching and writing blog posts, creating images for posts, identifying relevant keywords to target, formatting posts, editing posts, etc.

Creating SOPs can take time, but it’s worth the effort if it increases your website or business’ value. And even if you don’t sell right away, having SOPs in place will still be beneficial because they’ll help you and your team run the business more efficiently. 

4. Maximize Revenue

Of course, maximizing revenue should be a priority if you plan to sell the business. Increasing revenue will positively impact the value of your business, and selling while your business is growing is much easier than selling on a downward trend.

Here are some specific things you can focus on.

  • Make the Most of Your Top Content. Evaluate the pages on your site that get the most traffic and look for ways to increase the revenue they produce. Could you improve existing calls to action or add more CTAs? Could you promote relevant affiliate products or create your own products related to the topics? Could you improve or update the content to make it even better?
  • Find Low-Hanging Fruit. Look for easy ways to increase revenue without increasing traffic. This may include adding product comparison tables, adding more affiliate promotions, putting display ads on the site, testing button colors to improve conversions, etc.
  • De-Personalize. Potential buyers could be turned off if they feel like the site’s followers are more interested in you personally than they’re interested in the site. Take steps to de-personalize before selling. This may include hiring other writers to create content, using copy that promotes the site rather than promoting you personally, and reducing your image throughout the site. You don’t need to remove yourself completely, but you don’t want potential buyers to worry that the site will suffer when you’re no longer involved.
  • Grow Your Email List. An active and engaged email list can be extremely valuable. Your list can help you generate more revenue, giving buyers more confidence by providing diversification in traffic and revenue. Work to grow and nurture your list.
  • Consider New Revenue Streams. Adding new streams of income can help to increase your profit and diversify. This may involve putting ads on your site, starting affiliate marketing, adding more affiliate programs, creating your own products, or lining up sponsors.

Website Valuation

Before you sell, you must know how much your website is worth to potential buyers. Of course, each buyer is unique and will have their own method for determining how much they’re willing to pay. However, there are some standard guides you can follow to get a good idea of what your site might be worth.

Most buyers will determine the value of your site by applying a specific multiple to your average monthly or yearly profit. Currently, most content-based websites and e-commerce businesses are valued somewhere around 24x – 42x average monthly profit.

If your site has earned $100,000 in profit over the past 12 months, it would be worth about $200,000 – $350,000 using this formula. Of course, this is a generalization, but it gives you a good starting point.

The best way to get an idea of what your website or business is worth is to get advice from an experienced broker. Empire Flippers offers an excellent valuation calculator. You’ll enter the specific details of your business, and it provides you with a range and a suggested list price.

Get a Free Valuation in Minutes!
How Much Is Your Site Worth?

Empire Flippers offers an excellent (and free) website or business valuation tool. It only takes a few minutes to enter the details of your business, and you'll get a report on the estimated value. You don't even have to talk to anyone! It's my favorite tool for online business valuations.

Other brokers, like Quiet Light (the brokerage I’ve used for two sales and my recommended broker), offer a free consultation and valuation. Even if you decide not to list with a broker, getting a professional’s input is extremely valuable.

The Different Ways to Sell a Website

There are a few options when it comes time to sell your site.

Use a Website Broker

Website brokers, like Quiet Light and Empire Flippers, specialize in selling websites and online businesses. They have an extensive list of vetted buyers actively looking for sites to purchase. Their team will manage the entire process from start to finish. This includes:

  • Advising you on a suggested list price
  • Creating the listing to promote your website on their marketplace
  • Creating marketing materials to go along with the listing
  • Communicating with potential buyers and setting up calls between you and the potential buyers
  • Negotiating terms
  • Assisting through the due diligence stage
  • Assisting through the closing

The downside of using a broker is that they’ll keep a percentage of the selling price as a fee. The percentage will vary depending on the broker you choose and the size of the transaction, but 15% is pretty common for sales under $500,000.

Despite the fees, you may be able to walk away with more money by selling through a broker than selling on your own. Brokers can often get higher selling prices because of their connections and large database of qualified buyers.

This has been my experience selling twice through Quiet Light. The selling price was significantly more than I would have been able to get without their assistance, and the difference more than offset what I paid them in fees (you don’t pay any fees unless they successfully sell your site).

There are also a few other advantages of selling through a broker:

  • They can provide expert insight into the valuation of your business.
  • They can help you determine what might be a good offer.
  • They can save you time by finding potential buyers for you.
  • They’ll handle many initial conversations with potential buyers, so you only deal with serious people.
  • Most brokers offer contract templates and other legal forms you can use.

Since brokers are paid a percentage of the selling price, selling your site for as much as possible is in their best interest. With representation from a qualified broker, you’ll have an experienced professional with a vested interest in getting the best deal possible.

Best for Small Sites

Motion Invest

  • Focuses exclusively on content-based websites.

  • Transfer support: They hanlde the transfer for you.

  • The best place to buy sites for less than $100,000.

Best for Medium-Sized Sites

Empire Flippers

  • Content sites, e-commerce, FBA, SaaS, and more.

  • Most listings range from $100k to $1 million.

  • Each site goes through a multi-step vetting process.

Best for Well-Established Sites

Quiet Light

  • Content sites, e-commerce, FBA, SaaS, and more.

  • Most listings range from six to eight figures.

  • New listings added each week.

List it On a Marketplace

Listing your website or online business on a marketplace is somewhere between listing it with a broker and selling it on your own. You won’t get the full-service treatment you get from a broker, but a marketplace can help to get your listing in front of potential buyers.

The most popular marketplaces include Flippa and Motion Invest. Marketplace fees are often lower than what you would pay to a broker, based on a comparable selling price. For example, Flippa’s platform fee starts at $39, and the success fees range from 4-10% (and they go up from there).

While a marketplace can help you find potential buyers, you’ll be on your own with the rest of the process, including communicating with potential buyers, negotiating, and seeing the deal through to closing. If you don’t have experience selling a website or business, you may benefit from having the assistance of a broker.

See my article on the best website marketplaces and brokers for more options and details. And here are my top recommendations:

Sell It Privately

You can also choose to sell your website without the assistance of a broker or marketplace. The upside is that you won’t have to pay any fees, but the downside is that it’s much more challenging and time-consuming to sell a website on your own. You’ll need to be proactive in marketing and promoting the sale of your site, as well as finding interested buyers.

Many sellers don’t have the contacts in their network to find ideal buyers, so this can be a difficult way to sell a site. However, it’s a legit option if you have connections with people who might be interested, or if you’re willing to do the work of reaching out to people who may be ideal buyers.

I’ve sold a few sites on my own, to people I already knew and through cold outreach. However, it’s usually difficult if you haven’t been through the process before.

When you sell a site on your own, you won’t have assistance with any part of the process, unless you hire someone like an attorney to assist with specific details.

Prepare Your Documentation for the Sale Process

Once you decide how to sell your site or business, it’s time to start moving forward. The next step is to prepare the documentation that potential buyers (and/or brokers) need. This includes a profit and loss statement (P&L), income verification, traffic stats, and manuals or standard operating procedures.

If you’re selling through a broker or marketplace, they’ll have specific requirements for the documentation they need to present your listing. In addition to this information, potential buyers will likely want to know more about:

  • The current (and past) revenue sources
  • Profitability trends in recent years
  • Traffic levels over time
  • Information on employees and contractors involved with running the website/business
  • Any customer lists or email lists associated with the website/business
  • Any intellectual property related to the website/business
  • The technologies used in building and operating it

If you sell through a broker, they’ll help you to know exactly what you need to prepare.

Marketplace for Content Sites
Motion Invest

Motion Invest is one of the best places to buy or sell content-based sites. Most brokers ignore businesses worth less than $100,000, but not Motion Invest. You'll find starter sites and established sites priced in the 4-5 figure range.

  • 97% success rate
  • Active marketplace with new listings each week
  • More than 1,000 sites sold

Creating an Effective Listing

After gathering your documentation, it’s time to create a compelling listing. Your goal should be to present the website or business in the best possible light and highlight what makes it attractive to potential buyers.

If you’re selling through a broker, they’ll create the listing for you, but they’ll need your input. Most brokers will have a process for gathering this information. They may give you a document with several questions you need to answer, and they’ll create the listing and marketing materials based on the data you provide.

If you’re creating your own listing on a marketplace or approaching potential buyers on your own, be sure to put plenty of effort into creating a listing that promotes your business effectively.

When creating a listing, make sure that you accurately describe:

  • The current performance of the website/business
  • The monetization methods used (and how those could be grown)
  • Any long-term contracts or relationships associated with the site/business
  • Any intellectual property associated with the website/business
  • The technologies used to build and run it
  • Any advantages you have over competitors
  • Opportunities for increasing the profitability of the site

Once you have a comprehensive listing, it’s time to reach out to potential buyers. If you’re selling through a broker or marketplace, they’ll handle this part for you.

Negotiating with Potential Buyers

When potential buyers contact you, it’s important to be prepared for negotiations. Your goal is to get the highest possible sale price for your website or business, and a good broker can help with this. The broker will handle the negotiation discussions for you, but they’ll want your input to know what type of offer you’re willing to accept.

There are three ways you can respond to offers:

  1. You can accept the offer as is
  2. You can counteroffer
  3. You can reject the offer without a counter

A broker can help you determine the best way to respond to each offer, but it’s up to you to decide which offers you’re willing to accept and which ones you want to reject.

If you’re selling through a broker and the buyer feels like they may have competition from other buyers, the offer is more likely to be strong (the best offer the buyer is willing to make or close to it). In this case, there may not be much room for negotiating.

However, if you’re selling privately or if the buyer doesn’t feel the pressure of competing offers, they’re likely to start low. You may need to negotiate to get to a selling price you’re willing to accept.

Regardless of whether you’re selling through a broker, listing on a marketplace, or selling on your own, it’s essential to know the minimum price you’re willing to accept. This will help you evaluate the offers you receive and know when negotiation is needed.

Top Online Business Marketplace
Empire Flippers

Empire Flippers is a full-service brokerage and one of the leading marketplaces for buying and selling websites and online businesses.

  • More than $450 million of online businesses sold
  • Large marketplace with many active listings
  • Huge audience of buyers and investors

Closing the Sale

Once you have an agreement in place, a few things need to happen before the deal can close. There will be a due diligence period where the buyer can verify details related to the business. You may need to provide bank statements, credit card statements, or other documents to verify your income and expenses. For larger deals, you may need to provide tax returns as well.

You’ll also need to draft a contract or asset purchase agreement. If you’re selling through a broker, they probably have a standard template you can use (we have a free asset purchase agreement template you can use). These agreements can be adjusted as needed. You may also want an attorney to review the agreement, so be sure to leave time for this.

The transaction can be handled in a few different ways. Many buyers and sellers prefer to use an escrow service like Escrow fees are typically split 50/50 between the buyer and the seller.

An escrow service protects both parties. The buyer will transfer the money into an escrow account, which will be released when the seller has fully transferred everything to the buyer.

If you and the buyer feel that an escrow service isn’t necessary, payment can be made by wire transfer, ACH, check, or another method. However, you and the buyer must agree on when payment will be made and when the assets will be transferred.

Transferring the Website

The final step is transferring the website, assets, and associated accounts to the buyers. If you’re selling an e-commerce business, you’ll also transfer the inventory to the buyer.

You’ll need to transfer the domain name to the buyer. The process is very straightforward if you both have accounts with the same registrar (for example, GoDaddy or Namecheap). Transferring ownership from one domain registrar to another is not complicated, but it can add a few steps.

Ideally, the website will be its own hosting account. If so, you can simply provide login details to the buyer, and they can update the contact and billing information. If the site is hosted on the same account as other sites you own and not included in the sale, the site will need to be transferred to another hosting account.

Migrating a site to a new hosting account can be time-consuming, so I recommend getting the site on its own hosting account before the sale. This simplifies things for you and the buyer.

You’ll also need to give the buyer access to:

  • Analytics accounts
  • Google Search Console
  • WordPress or whatever CMS the site uses
  • Social media profiles
  • Affiliate accounts
  • Plugin accounts
  • Software and other tools
  • Any other accounts related to managing the site

The transfer process can take as little as an hour or up to a few days for more complex sites. Be sure to prepare everything beforehand to make the process as smooth as possible. Create a spreadsheet with a list of accounts, usernames, and passwords. Also include details like which accounts need payment details to be updated.

Note: Not all accounts can be transferred. For example, the terms of some affiliate accounts restrict transferring. In this case, the buyer will need to set up new accounts or use their existing accounts.

How Long Does It Take To Sell a Website?

There’s no exact answer to this question, as the timeline can vary from one site to the next. Several factors can influence this, including the size of the sale (smaller sales often move faster), whether you’re selling through a broker or on your own, the complexity of the transaction, and the timeline of the buyer. 

If you’re working with a broker, you should expect about 1-2 weeks from the time you sign an agreement with the broker until the listing goes live. It can be longer than this if the listing is complex or the broker has a backlog of listings waiting to go live.

The most significant variable in the process is the amount of time needed to find a buyer and accept an offer. I’ve sold two sites through a broker (both through Brad Wayland of Quiet Light). The first time I had two strong offers within four days of the listing going live. The second time I had two offers that came about three weeks after listing (one offer was low, and the other was strong). 

In another situation, I listed an Amazon FBA business for sale with a different broker, and it went more than three months with zero offers. After the 90 days exclusivity period ended, I found a buyer on my own within about a week.

After you’ve accepted an offer (which is typically a non-binding agreement), there’s a due diligence period where the buyer will verify details like income and expenses. This process usually takes around one month from the time the agreement is reached until the closing, but it can be longer or shorter. Larger or more complex deals may take significantly longer.

The two times I sold sites through Quiet Light, the total time from when I signed the agreement to list with them until the sale was final was about five weeks for the first sale and about six to seven weeks for the second sale.

When I sold sites on my own, the time from when I started to look for buyers until the time the sale was closed ranged from one month to four months. However, this will vary significantly depending on your existing network, how fast you can get in touch with the right buyers, and how flexible you are with negotiating down from your asking price.

Final Thoughts on Selling a Website or Online Business

Selling a website or online business can be an exciting and profitable venture. It’s essential to approach the process with a good understanding of your options and the benefits of each approach.

With some preparation upfront, selling your website or business can be an enjoyable experience that results in great financial success for both parties involved. Good luck!