7 min read

When Is a Good Time to Sell a Website?

Here’s the funny thing about selling websites:

The best time to sell a website is when things are going so well, you don’t even want to sell it.

Conversely, the worst time to sell a website is that things are going so bad, you have no choice but to sell it.

Managing a portfolio of websites, then, is a source of great cognitive dissonance. You don’t feel like selling when you really should, and feel like selling when you really shouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that there’s a right and a wrong time to sell a website.

But I do think—and trust me, this comes from experience—that there’s a better and a worse time to sell. And that’s generally:

  1. When you want to de-risk
  2. When you want to regain focus
  3. When you want to cut losses short
  4. When you want to cash out

If you’re curious to learn why, let’s dive in.

N.B. It goes without saying, but still, the following is for your general information and entertainment only. This is an email newsletter for people who make websites, and its contents are not intended to serve as any form of financial, business, or investment advice.

Selling a Website to De-Risk

"Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket."

You haven’t been in business or investing long enough if you haven’t heard this saying.

But not all diversification is the same.

Suppose you have three websites in three different niches.

If all three are monetized with display ads and affiliate programs—and get 90% of their organic traffic from Google—how diversified is your portfolio, really?

I’d argue that your sites are still subject to the same platform risk (Google giveth, Google taketh away) and affected by the same market forces (cyclicality and seasonality in display ads rates, affiliate commission cuts, increasing competition).

You’ve simply spread out those risks more evenly so that if one site gets hit or one niche gets affected, the others don’t, or at least suffer less of a blow.

So if your entire portfolio consists of websites, and websites only, it’s not unreasonable to want to de-risk. Selling a website to capitalize on your past successes and get 3 to 3 ½ years worth of net income may not necessarily be a bad move.

Selling a Website to Regain Focus

I tend to keep 5 to 10 websites in my portfolio at any moment in time.

It’s a decision I made for a number of reasons a long, long time ago—and one that I don’t feel like I have to revisit.

Sometimes, like when I watch someone with just one website that gets ten million page views on the Niche Pursuits podcast, I regret it. Other times, like when one of my sites gets hit by a Google algorithm update, I remind myself why I do it.

And yet, I know one thing.

When the number of websites in my portfolio exceeds 5 to 10, depending on how much money I’m reinvesting back in the business and how big my team is at that moment, my capital gets spread out too thin; I need to regain focus.

Why?

Because my operations are not built to scale this much.

And frankly, as someone who did create a full-blown media company with editorial, sales, and tech teams in 2012 before exiting by selling to a bigger company, that’s not something I’m willing to do right now.

So, to regain focus, I sell.

I never sell at a loss, but when I sell to regain focus, I’m not looking for big profits, either. I’m just looking to get a good multiple on a website that I’m not planning to grow, or that’s diluting the growth potential of other, higher-ROI websites.

Remember, there’s an opportunity cost to keeping a website within your portfolio, and that’s the time and money you could have allocated to working on something else.

If that something else offers an attractive risk-to-reward ratio and has the potential for higher returns, I think that selling a website or two to refocus is one of the best moves I can make.

Selling a Website to Cut Losses Short

We’ve all had that one website.

The website that never quite lifted off.

Or maybe it did—but then it crashed, and it’s been a money pit ever since.

When a website in your portfolio isn’t growing the way you want it to, you have several options:

  1. Continue working on it
  2. Stop working on it, and then wait
  3. Stop working on it, and then put it up for sale

Hey, we can’t win them all.

Growing a website is a complex goal, and more often than not, there are too many factors involved to predict the outcome.

When it feels like you want to turn the lights on in the living room, but the washing machine turns on instead, one of your moves is to sell the damn thing and call it quits.

And if you’re thinking about selling it, you will be looking to either get in the black or at least cut your losses short. I’ve done this one or two times, and I’ve learned a thing or two about how to get the most money out of a failing asset.

First, try to sell it in a private deal to somebody who’s actively looking for distressed assets, and not through a broker.

While the bargaining power is not in your favor either way—let’s be honest, you’re the one who wants to get rid of a failing website, so the buyer has the advantage here—you’re likely to get a better multiple off-market.

Second, consider approaching the website the way you would treat a totaled car.

Normally, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Not in this case.

If you sell the domain and recycle the content on a new or aged domain, then keep it or sell it as a starter/done-for-you-and-growing website, you might just be able to squeeze out greater returns from what you’ve already put into it.

Of course, this may or may not be worth it, and this is a decision that only you as the website’s owner can make.

But it is an option, and sometimes, it is worth considering.

Selling a Website to Cash Out

Maybe you built a website about circular saws, and now you’re bored to death working on it.

Or maybe you dipped your toes in the water, but you prefer working your day job, where the company car and big bonus are a given.

Anyone can start a website.

But growing websites is not everyone’s business.

And if it isn’t yours, then selling to cash out might just as well be your thing.

If that’s what you’re thinking about, do your due diligence. Read up on how websites are valued and identify the ways to sell yours for a higher price.

Too many hobbyists sell their blogs at unreasonably low valuations because they are either too intimidated by or too disinterested in learning about display ads, affiliate programs, and digital products.

You may even be an experienced site builder in need of a down payment for a house, a car. Another business? Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can sure buy a whole lotta things that make it easier to be happy.

Key Considerations When Selling a Website

In a nutshell:

  1. Sell after peak season
  2. Choose your brokerage wisely
  3. Do the work

Sell After Peak Season

Every website experiences seasonality to one degree or another.

For instance, display ads tend to generate the highest RPMs in Q4, the last quarter of each year, when brands and retailers spend the most on advertising.

But this isn't always the case.

Barbehow, my LowFruits case study site, sees its highest revenue during the summer season because that’s when people grill the most. And so do travel sites that write about summer-season destinations.

When you put up a site for sale, the asking price is typically a multiple of the average net earnings during the last 12 months.

If you sell a site after the peak season, you will start from a higher asking price (an experienced buyer will negotiate that price down to 75-80%).

Choose Your Brokerage Wisely

Some brokerages broker deals for large websites.

Others can sell a $15k to $150k website within days, but will struggle to sell something bigger.

Before selling, thorough research, research, research. Then, when you think you’re done, research some more.

Take a close look at the live deals on the broker’s website. Consider how long they've been up. Assess whether they sell sites in niches close to yours. After all, you want a broker who can source the kind of buyers you’re looking for.

Once again, think about opportunity cost. Listing a site with the wrong broker can waste a lot of time, and time is money.

Just think about it:

  • Traffic statistics.
  • Proof of earnings.
  • Asking price.
  • Contract signing.
  • Exclusivity period.
  • Sales copy.
  • Email blast.
  • Responding to potential buyer questions.
  • Providing Google Analytics access.
  • Negotiating offers.

All of these things take time.

I personally prefer to sell quicker and give a higher commission to the broker than sell slower or not sell at all, then have to go through the whole process with another one.

Do the Work

The one time when you don’t want to be lazy is when you’re selling a site.

Reach out to people or companies that buy websites in your niche before or after listing the site on a brokerage. You might find a buyer interested in closing a deal quickly.

Chances are you’re part of a private community from a course (like my friend Yoyao's TopicalMaps.com), a Facebook group, a Discord server.

There are buyers in these groups, people—I’ve made quick deals by posting in them.

The Recap

Yes, they’re your websites.

Grow them however you want, keep them for as long as you prefer, sell them whenever you like.

That said, there are better and worse moments to sell a site. Some of the better moments, in my experience, are when you want to de-risk, regain focus, cut losses short, or cash out.

What are yours?

Leave a comment and let’s get this conversation started!