Alright, that was a little clickbaity title – but there were a lot of hurdles during the sale of my first website. I’ll be sharing some important lessons I learned, but I won’t be sharing the niche, website, or numbers out of respect for the new owner.
This website was my first baby I built over 5 years ago. It started out as an Amazon review website in a niche that had little competition at the time. Even back then people were saying all the nitches were saturated, so I think I got quite lucky with this niche.
I put a lot of love into this site. Even though I wasn’t active in this niche or have used any of the products myself, comments I got were that the content seemed original and authoritative.
I did very little link building with this site, and only through manual white hat outreach methods. There were no PBNs or anything shady. The site was really clean.
As time went on, Amazon cut commissions and competition grew. I looked to monetize the site in other ways, adding Shareasale and Ezoic to the site. This helped a lot in terms of revenue.
While I was keeping revenue afloat, I was burned out. I was thinking of selling the site in 2019, but decided to wait another year to sell. Holding on for another year would put another year’s worth of earnings in my pocket.
During this year, I had only published 12 new pieces of content. Not the greatest for maintaining a website. Competition grew and my site declined. By the time my site was sold, traffic was down by 50%.
Listing My Website
I decided to wait until December was over to sell my site. December is the best month for me as people are holiday shopping. I actually did have a pretty good month.
When I went to look for places to list my site, I discovered a new platform called Investors.Club. What I liked a lot about the platform was that there were 0 seller fees. I kept every single penny and I didn’t have to even pay for escrow service or anything.
Listing on the site was really easy. I took screenshots and video of all my earnings, filled out the profit/loss sheet, and confirmed my identity.
I also reached out to the guys at Human Proof Designs. The saw the obvious traffic decline and gave me a quick estimate that was nearly half of what Investors Club (IC) gave. The problem with my site was that the declining traffic had not bottomed. And it made sense. Who knew how low it could go? I also thought the IC evaluation was rather high.
What attracted me the most about IC was that they had no fees. 10% is a lot of money for a broker fee that others charge. Other people urged me to list on other websites, but I decided to stick it out with IC.
My Website is “Sold”!
I had a few inquiries from potential buyers, but none were really interested. While the members on IC were vetted and serious, it was a brand new platform with a limited pool of buyers. After a month, I had another interested buyer. We hopped on a call and agreed on a price.
The agreement was that the website would be transferred and up and running with the help of the broker before I received payment. So, with money in escrow, the site transition began. I was hoping for a quick sale as my site continued to decline.
Where Everything Went Wrong
This is where the fun begins. Moving the site should seem like a routine procedure. But hosting company interference caused the site to be offline on one occasion. It wasn’t for too long and was quickly fixed, but was an indicator of what else was to come.
While some people sell their affiliate and ad accounts with their site, I didn’t feel comfortable at all doing this. I had personal information, financial history, and other earnings tied to these accounts from sources outside the website. It was probably against TOS and who knows what mess it could turn up regarding taxes.
The new owner had to set up new accounts and create new links. The broker handled this which helped a lot. The issue though was this it could take a couple of weeks to be approved again for these programs, if at all.
Mysterious Clicks and Earnings
Even after all the links were changed over, I was still getting clicks and orders. After double and triple checking the links on my site, these mysterious links were nowhere to be found. I worried that this could affect the sale price as I couldn’t prove where these earnings and clicks were coming from.
Even though we agreed on a price, that price was contingent on the site earning what it had previously. And to make matters worse, coronavirus was affecting many sites across the board, including mine. This couldn’t have been worse timing.
Then, I had finally remembered that I would sometimes leave affiliate links in comments on the site. This is a sneaky practice I would do that apparently worked. Quickly after, the links were updated.
Adsense Rejections x 4
We still weren’t out of the woods yet. Even though the site was previously approved for Adsense and using Ezoic for over a year, it was rejected under the new account. The reason? “Nonsensical content”.
Sometimes reapplying can help, but after multiple tries, the site continued to get rejected.
Nonsensical content is content that is spun, curated, or thin. Basically, content that isn’t helpful and/or original to the reader. You might get this too if the site is overly monetized. This was obviously not the case as I wrote everything from original research and the site had been ranking for years.
This was a huge issue. Ad revenue was 30% of my total revenue in 2019. This wouldn’t only affect the sale price, but if the sale didn’t go through, I might not be able to get Adsense back on my site. My site was in limbo with thousands of dollars on the line.
I asked some AdSense forums. The feedback I got was that AdSense was a lot more strict now about who they approve. And to make matters worse, support for AdSense doesn’t exist. I reached out to Ezoic support, who understandably couldn’t help. After all, they weren’t Adsense and couldn’t approve the site.
I thought there had to be a way to get my site approved. At this point, if I couldn’t sell my site, I would need to find another buyer at a much lower price.
I kept thinking about why my site was rejected for Adsense. Even though my site was also previously rejected by Mediavine, I found another site in my niche that was using them. This site had articles on the same exact topics. What was different about their website and not mine?
I realized by looking at the homepage that, yes, it might seem like curated or nonoriginal content. The homepage was a static page with mini reviews on it. So what did I do? I changed the homepage to be a blog roll. This was to feature my original content and look less monetized. I even removed Amazon Native Ads from the sidebar.
To make the site look even more authentic, I modeled the other site in my niche. I bought a stock photo from DepositPhotos and created a fake bio in the about page.
Quickly after, the site was approved!
Getting Adsense approved was a great hurdle to overcome. The new owner successfully had Ezoic on their new site.
However, the site EPMV (earnings per 1k views) was previously $15. Under the new owner, it was $1. With those earnings, it’s better not to be even using ads.
The owner and I continued to reach out to Ezoic with multiple emails. Ezoic added additional ad placeholders, but it didn’t help. Ad revenue was down with the beginning of the year and coronavirus was affecting earnings. I was also on the premium plan, which the new owner was not yet approved for. Ezoic also said that their AI would need to learn optimal ad placements.
All of this made sense, but $15 to a measly $1 was quite the drop. After even more support calls, it turns out there was a problem with AdExchange. This meant that people weren’t bidding on the ads on the site, causing such low EMPV. After this issue was resolved, EPMV shot up!
Finally, The Site Sells
After a month of being listed, another month of moving my site, and more negotiations, money was finally being wired to my account.
I don’t count my money into I see my bank statement. I called my bank to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems with the wire. The assured me there wouldn’t and that it would be quicker than other banks.
The money was sent at 5am local time. I waited till end of day, still nothing. I waited over 24 hours. Still nothing. A few hours later, I saw my bank statement. My sale was finally over.
I was glad everything was over. I feel like I got a fair price and was happy the site would have a new owner.
This was my first sale and I learned a lot:
- Think about listing your site sooner than later if it’s declining. It could take weeks to find a buyer.
- Just because a site was previously approved for networks, doesn’t mean it will be under the new owner.
- Make your links easy to replace using long links, not short links.
- Don’t give up – there were a lot of hurdles selling my site and I fought hard to get a fair price for it.