A few years ago, I started a travel blog as a hobby, a humble little place to merely journal about my trips. Little did I know that it would grow into a business with a revenue of up to $5,000 a month.
As much as I enjoyed that blog, in 2018, I felt ready to move on. Below is a detailed description of my experience selling my blog through a broker so that you can learn how to sell a blog too.
What You Need to Know Before Selling a Blog
- Your blog must be making a profit for it to be saleable.
While it's possible someone may want to purchase your blog solely because you've amassed a large and engaged following, I never came across any broker that would accept a blog that wasn't generating a profit. “Profit” is the key word here. If your blog is generating revenue, but when you subtract the expenses, you're actually operating at a loss, brokers won't want to work with you and buyers won't want to buy your site.
So just how much does your blog need to be making for you to sell it? It depends. Here's the info I found for some popular website brokers:
- Empire Flippers – To sell a blog through this broker, your blog needs to be making at least $1,000/month average net profit. BUT if you have an AdSense, Amazon Associates, Affiliate, or Merch by Amazon business, Empire Flippers will accept at least $500/month average net profit. Also, you must have a minimum of 12 months of revenue/earnings, with the exception of AdSense, Amazon Associates, and Affiliate businesses (these can have at least 6 months' track record).
- Quiet Light – At least $50,000/year in earnings and 2 years of history
- Latona's – Unclear. I emailed them and asked what the minimum profit to be listed on their site is, and they responded to my email but did not answer my question.
- FE International – At least $500/month net profit and 12 months in operation.
- Your blog should be self-hosted.
If you want to monetize your blog, it should be self-hosted anyway, but this is especially true if you want to sell your blog. Trying to sell a blog that is NOT self-hosted (for example, it's hosted by Blogger) would be like trying to sell an apartment that you're renting (you can't sell what you don't own).
- Keeping detailed records of your income, expenses, and traffic ahead of time can save a LOT of headache later.
This is NOT a requirement for selling your blog, but I'd recommend gathering all proof of your income, expenses, and traffic ahead of time. Almost every broker will put you through a rigorous vetting process before they'll list you.
That means they'll want to have:
- Screenshots from your affiliate and ad dashboards
- Access to your Google Analytics
- Receipts for expenses (possibly)
- Track your time.
Pretty much every broker and buyer is going to want to know how much time you typically spend on your blog. Thankfully, I've used Toggl to track my time for years, so I had these records to show. Don't worry; you don't have to be EXACT but they'll want a general idea of how much time the new owner can expect to spend on your blog to maintain its profit.
- Don't put anything on your blog you don't want someone else to have complete control over.
Something that I don't think many people realize (and a point my attorney kept trying to drive home to me) is that when you sell your blog, you are selling everything on itâ€”including all rights to use your content. That means, for example, the new owner could use photos of you in any way they see fit. They could also publish a book with all the content you wrote because, after all, it now belongs to them.
So if there is anything that you do NOT want someone else to have control over, then remove it from your blog. Or, if the thought of someone else being able to control ANYTHING and EVERYTHING on your blog makes you uncomfortable, then maybe you shouldn't sell it.
- Don't do anything shady to boost traffic or revenue right before listing your blog for sale.
Savvy buyers will keep a keen eye on this. If you try to do something to artificially spike traffic or other numbers before you list your site for sale, they will catch it and it will be a HUGE turn-off. Try to keep your blog processes the same as always before and during the selling process.
- The more you can outsource, the better.
Another thing that will make your blog attractive to buyers is if you can show that you've outsourced much of the work OR you can show that much of the work CAN be outsourced. Buyers want passive income, so the less work, the better.
This means, for example, you might have a virtual assistant who handles all social media and a team of freelancers who write content. In fact, during one of my potential buyer calls, someone asked me why I hadn't outsourced any of my content yet. It's not necessarily a negative thing that I hadn't because it showed that it COULD be done. Buyers want to see that there's still a lot of potential for optimization for a blog they're about to buy.
- Don't be spammy on your blog.
This is a principle every blogger should follow, but it's especially true if you want to sell. If you've got ads every other sentence, the design is poor, and you're keyword stuffing, then buyers are going to turn away. They are looking for QUALITY.
- Avoid using a PBN (Private Blog Network) and other black hat tactics.
Some brokers will flat out turn you away if you employ black hat techniques on your blog (such as keyword stuffing, paying for backlinks, or using a Private Blog Network to create backlinks). I know that Empire Flippers DOES list blogs on its marketplace that use PBNsâ€”but these blogs are clearly marked as such, and I think it does decrease their valuation.
Again, buyers are looking for quality.
- Blog names matter.
I don't want to overstate this because having an amazing blog name isn't that important when it comes to selling. But one thing you definitely DO NOT want to do is include your name in the domain. I was relieved I didn't do this (I almost did!).
By including your name in the domain, potential buyers may fear that their ownership will be hindered by the fact that your blog is more of a personal brand. If you have already named your blog after your own nameâ€”don't fret! It IS still possible to sell it. I know of one travel blogger who sold her blog, and it has her name in the domain.
- Don't pigeonhole yourself.
Pre-sale, I thought it would be best to “niche down” and hastily decided to add a tagline that positioned my blog as one for female travelers. The problem? Most of the interested buyers were men. One potential buyer raised a concern that the blog wouldn't do well under the ownership of a man, but that was not the case at all. I ended up changing the tagline.
- Be careful not to have your blog rely on you as a personal brand.
Buyers will shy away from blogs that rely too much on their current owners. For example, I had a call with one potential buyer who told me that she had been eyeing another travel blog that was listed before mine, but because the owner's photos and videos were plastered all over the site, she decided against it. That's because she couldn't see how she could take over the blog when it was so obviously branded by this guy who currently owned it.
Now, if you realize that your blog already relies too heavily on your personal brand, you can take steps now to change it. Several months before I listed my blog for sale, I started stepping back from it. I removed photos of myself. I took down personal information. And I deleted most social media accounts and stopped emailing my list. Even though I cut ALL those things, my traffic and revenue continued to grow substantially, so that signaled to buyers that the blog was NOT relying on me as a personal brand. People were coming to my site for the excellent content.
- MAKE SURE all the affiliate/ad/revenue-generating accounts you are about to include in your listing can actually be transferred to the new owner.
Before selling my site, I emailed each and every major affiliate and ad program my blog was a part of. I let them know I was in the process of selling my blog, and I asked them to confirm if I could transfer the account to the new owner. Everyone said yes, but there were various ways of transferring. Some allowed me to simply change the contact info to the new owner's name in the dashboard. Others required the new owner to create new accounts. Check with everyone and make SURE you know how to properly transfer affiliate/ad accounts to the new owner so that they can earn the revenue they expected to earn from your site.
- MAKE SURE you OWN everything you are about to sell.
One of the most mind-boggling things about selling my blog was realizing that there were SO many parts to it. When it comes to intellectual property, you do NOT want to get this wrong. For example, you probably have a logo for your blog, right? You think you own it? Well, who designed it? Did you have a contract with them? If so, did the contract specifically assign you transfer rights? If not, you may own the design, but you may not own the rights to transfer (sell) the design to someone.
I ran into this problem and, thankfully, my graphic designer was very kind and was basically going to let me sell it for free. I, however, decided the right thing to do was to pay her for the transfer rights. It was a simple process where she invoiced me a fair price and sold me the transfer rights so I could then go and sell the blog, along with the logos she designed for it.
But it gets more complicated than that. Did you ever use stock photos for your blog? If so, you need to make sure you have the right to transfer those too.
Other IP to check to see if you can legally sell with your blog or not:
- Website theme (design)
- Content written by contributors or freelancers
- To save headaches during the post-sale transfer process, go ahead and have your blog and domain hosted on their own separate account.
THIS is something I wish I'd known BEFORE I sold my blog! During the transfer process, you'll save a ton of time by being able to hand over the hosting and domain account to the new ownerâ€”no site migration required! So if you have multiple sites hosted on one hosting account, make sure to transfer the site you're about to sell to a SEPARATE hosting account that you can hand over to the new buyer.
- DO NOT change your registrar info unless you don't plan to sell your blog for 60 days or more.
A CAVEAT: Most of the time, if you change ANY registrar info, your domain will be locked and unable to transfer for 60 days! For some hosts/registrars, they'll allow you to opt out of this, but BE SURE before you change anything. Because if you change something and your site is placed under a 60-day lock, and then you sell the site, it may not be able to transfer to the new owner. So be careful here. Registrar info might include your name, address, or email address. So use caution when updating these.
Tax Implications of Selling Your Blog
You know, the tax implications of selling a blog were surprisingly the part MOST glossed over by everyone. Hardly anyone seems concerned that you could be selling your business and getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in returnâ€”a huge tax event.
*Disclaimer: I am NOT a tax professional and this is not tax advice. Please seek out an accountant or tax attorney to advise you.
There are a few tax issues to consider when selling your blog:
- If you sell it to someone who is in a different country than you, you might owe tax to their country.
- If you sell more than one blog per year, it might start looking like you're selling inventory and I'll spare you the tax mumbo jumbo and say: Essentially, if you sell too many blogs in a short amount of time, you might get taxed more. Listen to this Empire Flippers interview with a CPA to learn more.
- It is in your best interest to get an Asset Allocation clause added to your Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) or contract. This is something I WISH someone would've pointed out to me (thankfully, I did my own research and caught it): When you sell an asset (your blog), the IRS requires both the buyer and seller to submit a Form 8594 with their tax return. They want to know about the sale.
In order to fill out this form, you need to know how to allocate the purchase price because different parts of an asset sale get taxed at different rates. A certain amount of the purchase price goes to the Non-Compete clause, for example. And a certain amount might be assigned to the content.
And perhaps most alluringly, you can LEGALLY LOWER your tax bill on the sale if you do the Purchase Price Allocation. That's because some parts of the sale will be taxed at a Capital Gains rate (15%), while the rest will be taxed at an Ordinary Income rate (which is definitely higher than 15%, depending on your tax bracket).
If you DO NOT allocate the purchase price, then there are two schools of thought:
- Liberal: You take the risk and try to allocate as much as you can toward capital gain and hope you don't get audited.
- Conservative: You allocate ALL of the purchase price to ordinary income just to be safe, but you pay the most possible in taxes because of it.
- Consult an accountant who can help you plan for the CAPITAL GAINS and INCOME TAX you will owe on the money you make from the sale of your business!
Legal Implications of Selling Your Blog
*Another disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and the following is not legal advice. Please seek out a qualified attorney to advise you on the legal implications of selling your blog.
Some people seem to be fine with selling their blog without having a contract (Asset Purchase Agreement or APA) in place. I think that's a mistake and opens you up to a lot of risk.
While yes, contracts define the place of jurisdiction should disputes arise, contracts are useful for more than just litigation. They can resolve disagreements quickly because you have a signed document to point to when the other party is violating part of your agreement.
Without a contract, it's your word against theirs.
Before selling your blog, have a detailed discussion with your broker to find out what kind of contract drafting services they have in place. Some will include an APA with their brokerage service; others will require you to hire your own lawyer; and still others won't have any sort of contract in place for their deals.
Obviously, if you decide to sell your blog on your own (without a broker), then you'll need to hire a lawyer to help you with the contract drafting process.
What's a typical blog APA look like? I found some examples online:
- An actual Website Asset Purchase Agreement made public on SEC.gov
- The Anatomy of a Good Asset Purchase Agreement written by an UpCounsel attorney
Website Brokers You Can Use to Sell Your Blog
Flippa isn't so much a broker as it is a marketplace. You'll essentially be your own broker, and people can bid on your blog in the open marketplace.
- Complete control
- No commission to pay to a broker
- High risk for scams
- Stressful to manage a sale by yourself
Based in Puerto Rico and established as a Mergers and Acquisitions broker in 2008, Latona's is another big player in the blog selling space. However, I couldn't find nearly as much information about what it's like to be a seller in their marketplace as I could find on other brokers' sites.
Sample Listings (as of May 21, 2019)
- Lowest price: Trademarked Healthy Lifestyle Content Site – $15,000
- Highest price: 14 Year Old High Revenue eCommerce – $17,900,000
Empire Flippers takes the cake when it comes to branding and marketing. They're all over the place – on YouTube, a podcast, and more and have an established presence in the blogging community. This broker has a marketplace where it lists sites that have been thoroughly vetted and valued by them. They take a 15% commission from the listing price once your blog sells.
- Well-known brand
- Friendly team
- Focus is on selling FAST
- Takes a 15% commission
- You must pay a $297 fee if you're a first-time seller ($97 for repeat sellers). The fee is refundable if, for some reason, they reject your application to list your blog for sale on their marketplace.
- Boilerplate website agreement
- Does NOT have a contract drafting process
- Blog sells to the highest bidder/first bidder to submit the list price amount
FE International stands out as a well-established brand in the SaaS community and sells higher-valued online businesses. They're also much more “corporate” feeling than Empire Flippers. They take a 15% commission from the listing price once your blog sells. Payments are made securely through Escrow.com. Unlike Empire Flippers, they do NOT require interested buyers to submit a deposit to view your information; they do, however, require that interested buyers sign an NDA before they can view your prospectus.
- They have a dedicated in-house legal team and a contract drafting process for every sale.
- They set up buyer/seller conference calls BEFORE you decide on who to sell your site to.
- They have a Representation Agreement for you to sign BEFORE they list your site for sale.
- They have a second step where you and the interested buyer must draft and sign a Letter of Intent (LOI) before moving on to the Due Diligence stage, which is then, hopefully, followed by the APA drafting.
- They have a dedicated, secure portal where you can upload due diligence documents.
- Takes a 15% commission
Other Ways to Sell Your Blog
- Reach out to your network of readers, friends, colleagues. This is one way to sell a blog that I wish I'd tried before reaching out to a broker. If your blog is doing well, it probably has a loyal following. Who better to sell it to than someone who already knows and loves it?
That's what Carrie Nicholson did when she sold her blog CarefulCents.com. She describes the selling process in detail in her book, The Ultimate Guide to Selling a Blog.
To do this, you could reach out individually to people you know would be a good fit.
Alternatively, you could send a mass email to your list of subscribers, like One Woman Shop did:
- Post it to online forums. I know one blogger who has bought blogs via an online business forum that she's a part of. People who are ready to sell their blogs will post to the forum with details about their site.
How to Sell a Blog FAQs
- How much do blogs sell for?
It depends. But if you go through a professional broker, your blog could be valued anywhere from 20x to 40x your blog's monthly profit!
- Can I delete posts/photos/other things from my blog before selling?
Yes, so long as it doesn't negatively affect your blog. For example, if you have a blog post that only gets 100 visits per year that isn't even monetized (it doesn't have ads or affiliate links, for instance), it's probably fine to delete it because it's having very little effect on your traffic and earnings. If, however, you have a blog post that gets 30,000 visits a year and is a huge affiliate earner, it would be unwise to delete it before selling it. You might want to check with your broker.
- Can I tell people I'm selling my blog?
This depends on your agreement with your broker. Both Empire Flippers and FE International allow you to announce that you are in the process of selling your blog, but both will require that if someone shows interest, you MUST sell through the broker so as not to bypass their commission.
- What kinds of blogs sell best?
That's tough to say, but I'll repeat what I mentioned earlier:
- Blogs that have potential for growth.
- Blogs that are earning a good profit.
- Blogs that aren't too closely tied to the owner's personal brand.
- Blogs that are easy to take over because they've been outsourced or are pretty passive.
- Should I sell my blog?
Selling a blog is an extremely personal decision and depends on how you feel about it and where you are in your career. If you feel deeply attached to the blog, don't sell it. Wait it out. Because once you've signed the contract and the buyer has transferred the money…there's no going back. On the other hand, if you don't feel any personal attachment and you're ready to move on to other projects, go for it.
- Do I get to choose who I sell my blog to?
This depends on the broker you work with. For example, Empire Flippers is more of an auction marketplace; in other words, your blog goes to the highest bidder, or to put it more accurately, your blog will be sold to the first person to meet the list price. With FE International, however, you can set up a conference call with interested buyers (if there is more than one buyer) and choose which one to sell your blog to.
Do I Regret Selling My Blog?
I never thought I would sell that blog. I repeat: I NEVER thought I would sell that blog. But when I realized that I was burnt out and I found out how much blogs can sell for, I started to consider it. I thought I wanted to do it, and then I got all nostalgic and wept for weeks because I didn't want to let it go. I took time off and told myself I didn't have to sell it if I didn't want to.
After that period of grieving, I was ready to let my blog go.
Do I regret selling it? No. But I can't say that you won't. It's a very personal decision. Before I sold my blog, I scoured the internet for stories of people who sold their blog and regretted it. I found one story of a man who sold his blog to a company and then YEARS later, missed it so much he actually bought it back!
What I Would Have Done Differently
- I wouldn't get emotionally attached. Hindsight is 20/20, right? Back when I started my travel blog years ago, I was just doing it for fun, and it was my personal journal. Had I known I would sell it down the line, I would've approached it much differently so that I wouldn't feel emotionally attached to it.
- I wouldn't include personal information. Again, had I known I would sell the blog, I wouldn't have added so much personal information to it.
- I would keep detailed records of my income and expenses. While I kept a spreadsheet of my income sources each month, it didn't contain nearly enough detail that was needed later for the vetting/due diligence processes for brokers. For this, I had to dig through old screenshots and old expenses. For FE, I had to dig up old receipts. Not fun.
- I would work hard on keeping profit margins high and costs low. Something that will be scrutinized during your blog's valuation and during due diligence is its profit margins. Brokers and buyers want to know how much profit you kept after you subtracted expenses from revenue. While my profit margins were very healthy, I wish I'd thought about this because there was still some fat (unnecessary expenses) I could have trimmed.
Honestly, selling a blog is a big decision. If you're researching how to sell a blog, you're obviously taking this seriously and doing your due diligence, that's great! Now that it's been a few months, I can truthfully say I'm glad I did it. I'm sitting in a luxury apartment rental in Europe, enjoying my dream vacation and I've been able to pay off my debt. Now, I'm excited to work on new projects!