How To Prepare Your Online Business For Sale by Website Properties
Selling your online business is a huge moment in every entrepreneur’s life. After all, this company has likely been the focus of your life for a substantial amount of time: requiring commitment, investment, and effort at all hours of the day.
As such, many online business owners get into the trap of failing to see their company from the perspective of a buyer: they never take off their rose-colored glasses to see the true state of their business, and because of that leave plenty of money on the table. A prospective buyer is going to take your business apart with a fine-tooth comb, and even though profitability and a strong customer base will win the day, a lot of value can be chipped away as a long list of ‘mundane’ issues (broken links, typos, bad UI, etc) pile up.
Online businesses are constantly evolving in ways both big and small, so before listing yours for sale, it’s important to take a step back and fully assess what tunes and tweaks you can implement on a site to make it more attractive to buyers.
Scrub the Unused, Outdated, or Incorrect: It may seem like website 101, but the fact of the matter is that given a fresh set of eyes, most sites are going to reveal themselves to have outdated or incorrect copy, broken links and even typos.
- Companies like SEM Rush and Ahrefs provide valuable tools that can allow you to not only audit backlinks across your site to check for broken or ‘spammy’ content, but also compare and assess them against competitors to better understand if you’re ahead of the curve, or lagging behind. Both these services also offer the ability to check broken internal links, which should be cleaned up or updated with a – preferably custom and on-brand – 404 message.
- Scrub your site for plagiarism or duplicate copy using a service like CopyScape. This is especially important for content-driven businesses, but no site is immune. Everyone has likely encountered a generic product description copied over and over across multiple sites.
- Hire a copywriter, or rally friends and family to look through your site for grammatical, syntax and spelling errors. It’s also important to do a ROT (redundant, out-of-date, trivial) copy assessment to scrub the site of copy and content that is no longer effective or serving a purpose.
Audit Your SEO: SEO is often maligned as a ‘black box’ system, where the rules are constantly changing and everyone operates reactively to try and keep up. Unless you’re actively committed in-house or via the hiring of an outside expert, it’s likely that your SEO is lagging.
- SEM Rush, Ahrefs and Moz are a great place to start when it comes to getting a baseline SEO audit. Armed with information about where you’re succeeding, falling behind or missing the mark entirely, you can make an informed decision as to whether you feel you have the capability in-house, or need to bring on an outside company with a reputation for SEO expertise.
Clean and Update Your Design:
- Functionality: A simple way to assess if your website is audience/customers what they need is by employing a pixel tracker. Not only can it show you exactly how customers are approaching your site, it can expose pain points, gaps in UI, and where your housekeeping efforts will best serve you.
- Visuals: Though you don’t necessarily want to remake your whole brand, updating simple elements on your site, like color, copy or updating imagery (with proper naming conventions, of course) can go a long way to refreshing it.
- Desktop/Tablet/Mobile: Though plenty of platforms automatically adjust a site to accommodate the device its being viewed on, there are still times when even the software fails to produce a clean, user-friendly result. Make sure to spend time going through your site on different devices (not just the home page) to ensure that there aren’t any instances where copy gets stretched out 3 words per line, or an image blows up the screen, requiring constant scrolling.
- Adding new features to the site can be a great way to engage with your audience and also demonstrate a commitment to up-to-date content. Think of newsletters, blogs, or embedded social plug-ins as a way to make you – and your company – an authority in the marketplace.
- If you’ve ever received positive press coverage or reviews, now’s the time to highlight them on your site. Even a simple ‘as seen in/on’ banner with an assortment of press logos can prove irresistible to a potential buyer.
Get Your Funnels In A Row:
- Test new CTA’s: Though ‘Click Here’ might work just fine, when it comes to CTA’s the rule of thumb is “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. They’re simple to change, and you never know what’s going to work, which leads us to…
- A/B Split Testing: Often overlooked as a tool for improving traffic flow and conversions, split-testing is an especially effective tool when it comes to tuning your site before a sale. By being able to run multiple variations of your site at once, to select audiences, and see results in real time means you can test, tweak, and implement changes quickly and with confidence.
Organize Your Books: Ultimately, it’s the numbers that are likely to win over a prospective buyer, so it’s essential that they’re organized, easy to understand, and maintained to a standard worthy of an audit. The key aspect here is that you need to have these documents in presentable form before a buyer asks to see them: trying to assemble reams of complex financials the moment they are requested is a recipe for costly mistakes.
- Often a seller will not appreciate just how far back a prospective buyer will want to go when it comes to the numbers. A good rule of thumb is a minimum of 12 months, and up to 36 months + of profit and loss statements.
- Collect due diligence materials: buyers are going to want to put your financial statements into context, so it’s essential to prepare merchant statements, bank statements and even tax returns so they can get the full picture.
- Identify Key Performance Indicators: If you’re not already, it’s time to start tracking KPI’s. Dependent on your business model, that can give a prospective seller a wealth of information on everything from how active an email campaign is in bringing customers to a site, to the lifetime value of a customer, and even churn.
In Conclusion: The decision to sell your online business should never come lightly, and it’s important to carefully consider the decision to allow yourself the time to get the business to a place where it can command maximum return upon sale. Also, by making a concerted effort on housekeeping and general optimization, you are creating a stronger business that is more likely to perform during a period when sellers might be inclined begin thinking about their next endeavor. Much like selling a home, you need to be proactive when it comes to bringing your website propery to market in order to command the highest price and a smooth, efficient sale.