If you have spent years building a successful business on your website and social media pages, sooner or later you will think about selling it. But selling a web-based business is different — a lot different — from selling a brick-and-mortar business.
Here is a checklist of the things you should be doing to get your website ready for sale.
Assemble the Puzzle Pieces. In last week's column, I described the process of selling a website as akin to picking up and moving a jigsaw puzzle once it's finished. Some parts may fall off during the process, and the whole thing could collapse if you're not prepared.
You should have lists of the following put together before you start looking for buyers or a website broker:
—Your domain names (and all extensions you own).
—The date(s) on which your domain name(s) will expire, and the name and contact information of the website hosting service.
—All social media accounts tied to your website (for example, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Gmail and Google+).
—All email addresses tied to your website (including any Gmail or Hotmail accounts that use the website name).
—All trademarks and trade names associated with the website, even if they are not formally registered.
—All files, content, code, components and other material comprising the website and its look, feel and functionality; textual material; posts; reviews; graphics; icons; menus; button bars; layouts; pictures; Java and ActiveX programs; multimedia files; HTML code; user interfaces; database interfaces; interfaces to third-party resources; scripts; source code; object code; software; metatags; and links.
—For an e-commerce site, inventory and merchandise awaiting sale.
—All eBay, Amazon, Etsy and other web-based e-commerce accounts that are linked to your website.
—A list of all individuals and companies that provide content for your website.
—For an e-commerce site, a list of all advertisers, customers, affiliate sites, bloggers and anyone else generating revenue.
Remove Stuff That Is Not Website-Specific. If you are running several websites at once and commingling results from each website, now is the time to separate each website from all the others so the buyer sees only the relevant information for the website you are selling. Ideally, you should be running each website from a separate server in case the buyer wants full root access to your site.
Move Your Personal Email. Your buyer will want you to transfer all email accounts associated with the website, including all email correspondence going back a year or two (sometimes longer). If you have been using any of your website's email accounts for personal correspondence, you will need to do the following:
—Manually go through your correspondence and either delete or move personal messages.
—Notify all personal correspondents not to continue sending emails to the website address.
Review Your Relationships With Content Providers. Do other people contribute content or reviews to your website? If so, do you have a contract with them?
If not, now is the time to put one in place to make sure these people go along with the sale. Your contract should contain the following:
—Language permitting you to assign or transfer the contract without their consent.
—An assignment-of-rights clause giving you copyright to the content.
—A provision clearly detailing any fees you pay these folks.
Get Your Financial Books and Records in Order. You should have records of your website's revenue and expenses for the past two to three years in a commonly used format (such as QuickBooks) broken down by customer, advertiser or other revenue source.
Update Your Website Analytics. Your buyer will want to see website traffic reports for the past two to three years. If you are using an analytics program other than Google Analytics, you may want to sign up for free traffic reports, as many buyers are unfamiliar with other products.
If you have used any paid link-building services to generate search engine optimization rankings for your website, be sure that they haven't used any black-hat SEO practices, such as keyword stuffing, spamdexing, invisible text, doorway pages, use of paid links or improper link-building techniques, use of unrelated keywords, spam comments or duplicate content, webpage swapping or article spinning — these are big red flags for buyers. Be prepared to provide details about any past search-engine algorithm change (sometimes called a Google Dance — see http://metamend.com/archive/education/google-dance) that may have adversely impacted your site's SEO rankings.
Calculate Your Pre-Closing Revenue. When selling a website, there's usually a gap of 30 days or more between the date of contract and the closing (actual transfer of the site). What happens to the revenue that will accrue during this period? Make sure you have a sense of how much revenue your site realizes from month to month, as that is likely to be a key part of the purchase-price negotiation with the buyer.
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.