This is a Guest Post written by Bryan O’Neil, the co-founder of top Flippa seller Flipping Enterprises. The article is a short excerpt from Flipanomics – The Professional’s Guide to Selling Your Website for the Highest Possible Price.
Many sellers (and buyers alike) seem to think that by having their auction won, the terms of the deal negotiated and the funds secured in Escrow, the “worst” is over. In many cases the reality is a little bit different. One thing that sellers, especially those new to the industry, seem to often forget about is that the actual transfer of the website from the seller to the buyer can often prove relatively difficult.
While in this post I’m not going to discuss the transfer process in detail as going into specifics would make the article tens of pages long, I do want to draw your attention to a few things that are very often overlooked.
Transfer yourself or leave it to the buyer
This is one of the main questions I’m asked when it comes to transferring websites.
My suggestion is simple – if AT ALL possible you should opt to take care of the transfer yourself. First of all, you want to make sure that you’re in charge of the transfer process as this way you can control the risk of anything happening during the transfer. Secondly, in most cases you’re more motivated to complete the deal more quickly than the buyer is, meaning that leaving the transfer to the buyer may result in unnecessary delays.
There is one exception, though – in case of large ($50k+) deals, you should have a professional handle the transfer process, just to be 100% sure that nothing goes wrong. There are many tech companies that can take care of it for you, and you should make sure that you use an actual company, rather than your cousin’s friend who you know to be an IT-guy, as one of the main reasons for using an external party is that they take responsibility if something goes wrong.
Website Transfer Checklist
Since in many cases there’s more to the transfer than only the domain name and the website, I always suggest setting up a website transfer checklist. A transfer checklist is simply an Excel document that lists everything that needs to be transferred, along with who (you or the buyer) is responsible for each item. It’s a good idea to upload this spreadsheet to a document sharing service, such as Google Docs, so that both you and the buyer would be able to access it at any time.
What exactly should you include in the spreadsheet obviously depends on the specifics of your business, however to make your life a little bit easier you will find a link to a sample Transfer Checklist underneath the article. This checklist contains a lot of items, most of which you likely won’t need, but it serves as a good start as you can simply remove things that you don’t need and add those that aren’t included but should be.
Once you’ve crossed off everything in the checklist (and the buyer has reviewed everything), you can consider the deal concluded, request the release of the funds and move on to your next project!
Click here to download the Sample Website Transfer Checklist
I hope you found this article useful and if I left anything unclear or you think I left anything out of the website transfer checklist you’re welcome to say so in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.
While the most popular top-level domain (TLD) on Flippa has always been .COM, there are interesting sites up for sale with other country codes, known as country code top-level domains or more simply, ccTLDs and ccSLDs (for second-level domains). A few examples: .CA listings, .CO.UK listings, .COM.AU listing.
Say you have an eye on a popular .CA domain, but live in the United States. What are the rules governing ownership of these different domains?
The most popular ccTLDs:
- There are no location, citizenship or residency requirements for .UK domains, so these domains can be bought and sold freely, with the exception of .LTD.UK. These domains can only be registered by companies. The list of requirement for .uk second-level domains is available here.
- .COM.AU domains are bound by a few special rules. Registrants must be an Australian registered company, partnership, association or sole trader, and have an Australian Business Number (ABN). Domain names in Australia are registered for 2 years (no more, no less!). You can read the full list of requirements for .COM.AU domains here.
Many other country code TLDs are freely available for commercial licensing, including for domain hacks. Wikipedia has a handy list of these.
Have you bought a ccTLD before? Do you think TLDs other than .COM have as much value? Let us know in the comments!
This is a guest post by Richard Kershaw from the web hosting reviews site WhoIsHostingThis.com. Richard is also an experienced website seller, who has been on Flippa since it was but a small part of the SitePoint message boards.
Selling your website? Writing a killer listing is only half the battle in a professionally done Flippa auction.
The other secret of a successful auction is bringing your own bidders to the party. More bidders means better sale prices for sellers, so it’s in your best interests to hustle.
The good news is that a little effort goes a long way. One serious bidder is all it takes to have a positive impact on your auction price.
I’m going to explain exactly how I’ve promoted my Flippa auctions in the past, and how you can too.
So I suggest you take my ideas, and rank them in order of how likely you think each is to generate a credible bidder. Focus your limited time and resources on the methods that are most likely to bring in a buyer, rather than trying to do everything.
In short: what’s important is not reaching the *most* people, but reaching the *right* people.
#1. Tell Your Users
In my opinion, your own user base should almost always be your first stop. They know your site, they know the niche – and that means they may be prepared to pay a premium that other site buyers won’t.
Here’s some of the techniques I’ve used to reach my users in the past:
– Flippa’s very own “site for sale” tool bar
– Run of site banners/stripe ads
– Newsletters/social media
Remember that not all your users will see each approach, so it’s worth going for multiple angles. A bidder in one of my auctions made a $20k bid only on the third time I’d plugged the auction in the site’s newsletter. If you’re selling a domain, I would recommend using Flippa’s domain parking page.
#2. Follow the money
Speak to existing/previous advertisers, as well as companies you’ve sent traffic to as an affiliate.
Remember that their margins will likely be higher than yours, so – like your user base – they may be prepared to pay a higher price than regular Flippa users.
Bigger margins means more aggressive bidding, and that should mean a better sale price.
Ask your affiliate manager or ad contact to introduce you to the decision maker in the business – don’t count on your email to them getting passed up the chain.
Don’t assume that only big companies will be interested; in the domaining world, many big domain sales have been to small to medium size businesses looking to punch above their weight.
Finally, think about how best to reach decision makers. Oftentimes, it’s not email – print letters and the telephone are your friend.
#3. Know your enemy
Alongside your own users and advertisers, your direct competitors should be top of your contact list each time you launch an auction on Flippa.
Like your other targets, they are potential buyers who may be happy to pay a premium for your site – especially if they are bigger in the business and have negotiated better commercials with advertisers or affiliate partners.
If you aren’t already on speaking terms, be sure to do your homework. It’s no good firing off an email to [email protected]… and crossing your fingers – find out who owns the site.
I use tools like WhoRush.com, LinkedIn, historical WHOIS records etc. Advertiser info packs are often a goldmine – they are the one page every webmaster updates, even if everything else on the site is years out of date.
(Check our my old blog post on how to track down AWOL webmasters)
Once you know who the decision maker is, contact them with a brief email with a link to the auction.
Bear in mind you are likely to get tricky questions from competitors. Some may use the exercise as a fishing expedition rather than out of serious interest in buying, so think first about what information you are comfortable sharing.
#4. Telling Stories
Selling a thin affiliate site? Nobody cares.
But with a little thought, it’s possible to turn many website sales into a newsworthy event – even if it’s only within your field. For example, are you selling…
– The authority site in your niche?
– A category killer domain?
– Would a BIN sale be Flippa’s biggest sale of the year?
– Has the site been featured on TV or in reference books?
Now you’re talking. Why should journalists care? Work it out and pitch the news sites in your niche.
The recent sale of PinReach.com was a textbook example. The seller in question has accepted a job at Google, so was selling his pet project on Flippa.
What’s your story? What would you tell friends? What would get your auction mentioned on TechCrunch?
#5. Think Linkbait
Selling your favourite penis pills review site? It’s going to be tough to get TechCrunch to cover that momentous event.
But that’s not to say you can’t go the extra mile to make your listing amusing and link worthy. Take a look on that auction at the questions about whether the pills really work.
What could you add to your Flippa auction to get non-Flippa users talking about it and sharing it?
Consider piggybacking on bigger trends. My other business picks up hundreds of links for our zombie experiences from sites like CNN and the Huffington Post – this tells you everything you need to know about how powerful piggybacking trends can be.
How can you do the same thing?
#6. Pay To Play
Not every Flippa auction is going to be newsworthy or linkable. So consider spending money to help push your auction. Start with…
– Flippa upgrades [take a look at which ones work well for other auctions]
– Targeted newsletter ads
– Sponsored posts (NOFOLLOW ’em to keep Google happy)
– Sponsored tweets/giveaways
– Sponsored threads on forums/communities
– Facebook fan pages
Once again, focus on hitting your best prospects rather than the most people.
What’s the biggest site in your niche, and how can they help you reach bidders?
#7. Be Everywhere
It pays dividends to get as much exposure for your auction at the same time.
So rather than spreading out these ideas over a four week auction, aim to pull off a burst of exposure around the same brief period.
You’ve got more chance of wooing a potential bidder if they see your site EVERYWHERE.
Remember: you don’t need to find a winning bidder – you just need to find serious bidders. And a little extra effort can make a huge difference to your eventual sale price.
Good luck – and let me know how you get along in the comments.
We recently spent a few fast-paced days at Affiliate Summit East in New York, along with over 4,000 affiliate sellers from all over North America.
Between attending sessions on Google’s latest changes and meeting some of our biggest users, there wasn’t much time left for sightseeing, but we did make some great connections. Affiliate sellers love Flippa because they can always find new affiliate sites for sale, or sell projects they have outgrown at a great price.
Flippa co-founder Matt Mickiewicz and I at Affiliate Summit East 2012
Flippa co-founder Matt Mickiewicz was part of a panel on crowdsourcing for affiliates and merchants. After his presentation, he took the time to chat with John Rampton and Zac Johnson of Blogging.org. They asked him for some tips on creating a winning listing on Flippa. Here are his top four!
1. Where is the content coming from?
One of the most important aspects of any web site or blog is the content that makes up the site. At the end of the day your content needs to speak for itself and provide value to the user and their site experience. Whether you are personally writing the article or you are outsourcing, you should make it clear within your auction listing where you site content is coming from and how the new owner of the site can continue or expand their content creation process.
2. Provide as much verified information as possible.
As much as we would like to be able to trust everyone on the internet, that simply isn’t the case. When someone creates a listing on Flippa, they can put any type of price range they want for their site to sell. Within the description and revenue section of the listing they can also put anything they like. However, at the end of the day what really matters is your verified stats. Since Flippa now allows verified stats from Google Analytics and Google Adsense, it’s a complete no-brainer to include these reports within your listing.
3. Where is the site traffic coming from and what are they doing?
Just like not all web sites are created equal, the same can be said for site traffic. More often than not US traffic is more valuable than other countries. Google Analytics plays a very important role in the stats tracking and evaluation of a web site. Since the traffic on your site is the life blood and revenue makers, you need to know what pages they are visiting, how long they are staying on your web site and how they got there in the first place. All of these factors will play a huge part in the resulting sale price for any web site.
4. How are people finding your site and what is their value?
Another important thing to mention is how people find your site. Once again we can refer back to the importance of providing Google Analytics with every auction listing. When writing up your traffic stats and business model, be sure to include any paid advertising, top search rankings and other social networking and traffic reports that would prove useful to someone bidding on your site.
If you aren’t currently tracking your site traffic with Google Analytics, there is no better time to start than now. Also, if you are generating any revenue with your site outside of Google Adsense, be sure to include screenshots and reports when possible.
Thanks for this write-up, John and Zac! You can read more from Zac on his site, zacjohnson.com
Didn’t make it to Affiliate Summit East to hear Matt Mickiewicz’s presentation? Help us get him to South by Southwest for a presentation on the business of buying and selling websites! You can vote for his presentation on the SXSW Panel Picker until August 31st.
We’ve talked about several aspects of website due diligence here on the blog, especially relating to researching the seller and their claims. It’s easy to forget the more technical aspects of buying a website, and to leave all technical questions to the end of the sale, but technical due diligence deserves time and effort. After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without first having a look under the hood!
Website Due Diligence Questions for Everybody
Buying a custom site might mean you’re a little bit out of your depth. Here are a few basic questions to ask before buying a site:
- First things first: are there broken links or images on the site? Is it generally in good condition, or has it fallen into disrepair?
- What coding language is the site written in? Are you familiar with that language, or can you hire someone who is?
- If you’re unfamiliar with the technologies used, can you verify that there is ample support online for issues that may arise?
- How reliable is the site’s hosting? Ask the seller for uptime reports, and look up the host’s reputation in reviews.
Avoiding WordPress Woes
Many websites bought and sold on Flippa are WordPress sites. These sites are fairly straightforward to use and modify, but there are a few things worth checking out:
- Ask the seller for the name and designer of the theme used and for a sample of the code
- Ask for a list of all plugins used on the site, then research unfamiliar plugins. If any of them seem to be unsteadily written, have replacements at the ready.
- Ensure any premium themes or plugins were legally acquired. Check the licenses to ensure you can continue using them.
- If you’d like to modify the site, how much development time can you expect to spend on the site? Would you be better off hiring someone to make a few tweaks to the site?
Help is out there!
Buying a website with a few unfamiliar elements can be a fun challenge, as it forces you to learn new techniques quickly.
Here are a few resources that can help you bring your technical skills up to scratch:
- The WordPress community is known to be helpful and inclusive. Have a look at their support forums and at user sites like WPCandy and WPLift.
- Flippa’s birthplace, the SitePoint Forums, is a treasure trove for technical advice. Go have a look!
- If you’re more of a visual learner, you’ll like the courses at Flippa’s sister company, Learnable.
What technical due diligence questions do you ask when buying a website? Let us know in the comments!