FYB 83 | Digital Assets

 

A website is an asset. Especially for podcasters, you can build that website into a business or an asset that has real commercial value that you can sell. If you’re someone who is an investor and you want to buy a profitable asset that’s already generating revenue, there are sites like Latona’s that you can check out. Latona’s is a company that brokers online businesses, that is, websites in particular. Adam Beebe, an M&A broker at Latona’s, joins us in this interview to share how you can purchase or sell revenue-generating websites and cashflow-positive digital assets, and what it takes to have a website that someone else might want to buy.

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Purchasing And Selling Digital Assets with Adam Beebe

I have an interesting interview that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time, with a gentleman named Adam Beebe of Latona’s, which is an eCommerce business of a different sort. It is a company that brokers online businesses, that is, websites in particular. They are someone you would go to if you wanted to invest in a website, purchase one, that is already a revenue-generating website or one that you want to sell. If you’ve grown a website and built up that traffic and have a large number of unique visitors every month, especially if it’s any kind of an eCommerce site, Shopify or other sites that are making money, that is an asset you can sell, like a business. You could sell your business if you’ve grown it. You can sell a website whether it is your business or it’s only a component of your business or one asset of your business. This is something that we get a lot of questions about.

Anybody who has read this blog for a long time or knows Tracy and me personally, we’re firm believers in the fact that a website is an asset. Especially for podcasters, you absolutely can build that website into a business or you can build that website into an asset that has real commercial value that you can sell. If you’re someone who is an investor and you want to buy a profitable asset that’s already generating revenue, there are sites, especially like Latona’s, that you can go out there onto their website where you can go and search like you’re searching in Google. You can search for all these different criteria for a website you’re looking to purchase, see what’s there and look at the prices. If you have an asset you want to sell, you can work with them as a broker. You could work with Adam Beebe directly and do that. There are a lot of questions around this that I had. I wanted to make sure that we separate fact from fiction or myth from reality. That’s why I wanted to have Adam on the show. Let’s go right to the interview.

Adam, thank you so much for joining me. It’s great to have you on the show.

Thank you, Alex, you and Tracy, for inviting me.

It’s our pleasure. This is an area of particular interest to me and I think it will be to a lot of our readers because we all have businesses. In terms of the people that we communicate with, all have businesses and have a podcast that is somehow related to or supporting that business. It usually involves a website. A website is only one digital asset that can be bought or sold, but it’s the most common one people have or at least think about. I’m sure a lot of our readers would be interested to know, “What does it take to have a website that someone else might want to buy?” I’m hoping you could help shed a little light on that for us.

It’s the strength of my beam, my flashlight if you will. I’ve been doing this for several years. This is going to be more anecdotal than anything else because as Alex is aware as well as a lot of people reading this, there’s not a Walmart for websites. There’s not standardized pricing. There are quite a few metrics. It’s based on the check writer. A check writer is going to have a certain weight for this metric, a certain weight for that metric. It may have some that are not even included. For the purposes of setting up the conversation and so I fully understand, a website can be defined as a URL address. That same website can have multiple fulfillment channels meaning Amazon, Shopify and etc. Is a website analogous to a business?

It is and there clearly are many different kinds of websites. There is no Walmart for selling websites. I’m sure no two websites are exactly the same. Let’s say a website that has a lot of organic or unique traffic each month and is monetized. Shopify is a great example. The website has either an eCommerce component to it, where they’re selling a product or there are many other websites that are making many thousands of dollars a month in revenue. Maybe it’s more affiliate commissions. Does it matter how a website is making money in order to be valuable, to be an acquisition target?

A general comment and there are always outliers. If there is good diversification of revenue, meaning not all eggs in one basket, almost invariably speaking, that’s a check in the positive box. For instance, if we’re talking about an eCommerce website as opposed to and you alluded to, there’s affiliate network, there’s lead generation, there’s SaaS, Software as a Service, where credit cards are getting banged each and every month for access to the software. Mostly in this case, for an eCommerce website, if they’re dealing fulfillment via dropship through sales solely staying and in the ecosystem of the URL, meaning dropship, they can have that fulfillment channel. They can also have some 3PLs. Amazon can be one of their fulfillment partners or Shopify. The more diverse it is, generally speaking, holding everything else constant, the better that is. Case in point, we have a situation where if a business is doing well in Amazon, they’re getting the buy box, they’re getting a lot of the keywords, the reviews are great, etc. Big brother Amazon notices and they try to muscle in. What if Amazon fulfillment channel goes from doing very well to doing almost nonexistent? It’s like, “Is a chair more stable than a stool with three legs?” The more legs it has, the more weight-bearing it is. The variety of different areas, the better.

FYB 83 | Digital Assets

Digital Assets: If there is good diversification of revenue, that’s a check in the positive box.

 

I remember somebody who I knew in the automobile sales business earlier on in my career, educating me that any car dealership has three revenue streams. There are new car sales, used car sales and service.

There’s also finance. I sold a Mercedes for ten years. It’s the backend, front and back parts.

Usually, not all of those are making money for a dealership. Maybe I jumped in too quickly to what makes a website valuable. It seems there are so many things. I’d like to ask you a question in general, which might be a particular interest to many of our readers because probably very few of our readers, maybe in the 10% or 20% range, have a website that is already making money directly. A lot more of them have an awful lot of unique visitors per month, in the thousands and tens of thousands of unique visitors per month. Let’s say you’re at an earlier stage with your website and you aren’t monetizing it directly from that traffic, but you have the traffic. Does that have an inherent value? Is there anybody out there who would be interested to purchase that for the traffic value?

The short answer is yes. To make sure I understand when you say monetize directly from the URL, is it monetizing it all through fulfillment by Amazon or by directly through the URL, they’re conducting sales and fulfilling sales solely through their URL or, in this case, not doing that?

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, there’s no money at all. The site has a lot of great content, a lot of great keyword rankings that are bringing search traffic into the site every month and they have a lot of good backlinks, mostly because of the written content on their site, but they aren’t selling anything. They don’t have a serious affiliate program going on. If anything, they’re just using that traffic for lead generation for maybe their own consulting business or service-related business they may provide where they’re making offers to that traffic on their site. They’re not offering products or even recommending products that they’re sending people elsewhere to buy via affiliate links. You’ve got a lot of traffic, but you haven’t done a lot to monetize it directly.

The short answer is yes. There’s always Google AdSense. That’s a way of monetizing. The question is, “Is that the website of value?” Meaning, will people buy a website that’s under-monetized, which, in this case, is tantamount to not monetized at all? Yeah. The value is the eyeballs that are existing coming to the website. A potential buyer would look, “I’ve already got a built-in audience here.” As opposed to having to do the SEO that either, you mentioned in the scenario, where they’re doing fresh content, which is creating backlinks. The current owner is doing some good SEO. They’re not doing link exchanges or anything like that. It’s all white hat, good stuff and good traffic. We have buyers for that. As far as who I work with and such, we can get into that at whatever point. Where we’re at as a company, we deal with businesses that are currently monetized, at least for the past twelve months. In saying that, if I’m approached by someone who has thousands, tens of thousands, of visitors a month, there are buyers out there for that type of business who know how to monetize something that has that existing client base already.

The goal with any business would be to get people through the door. Click To Tweet

A website that is already monetized in revenue independently as a passive income website is going to be more valuable to another company or individual who is looking to buy a property that’s already making money. That would make more sense because they wouldn’t have to do as much work to get it monetized. It’s great to hear that there is value in the eyeballs on the website, which is what I thought from my own experience.

That’s to make an obvious statement, the goal with any business would be to, “How do we get people through the door?” The next goal is to have them come in the door, meaning, brick and mortar, that’s an actual physical door. For online, it’s, “How do we navigate people to our website?” That’s the big challenge and the initial challenge and then it’s, “How do we monetize them?” If someone has figured out, which sounds like one of the top two or three is adding new relevant content regularly and unique content that’s valuable.

What I see all too often are entrepreneurs and business owners who go and develop a product or a service that they believe a market needs. They go and build this website. They get it all done. They get all the eCommerce, details worked out and how are they going to fulfill. They get all that supplied on and then, “Now I have to go and get demand for this thing.” They’re stuck there, “How am I going to get people to my site?” You can pay for traffic and try and drive it to your site if you have a big marketing budget. That’s what gets left until the end in their considerations. They don’t plan. Your product, your service, and whatever it is you’re selling is only going to sell as much as you can get it in front of people that may want to buy it. I’m curious to see if you would agree. If you had to go one way or the other and you didn’t bring them both up together, you’d be better off generating traffic to your site first and monetizing it any one of a number of different ways versus coming up with a way to monetize and having to figure out how to get traffic to that site.

I agree with it.

The website is the most common or the most obvious digital asset that people might want to acquire your company. Your company, Latona’s, is a broker of many different kinds of digital assets. What else besides a website are you guys brokering?

I’m not one of the owners, but I’m one of the senior brokers, of which there are six full-time commission-only brokers working here. One of Latona’s catchphrases is we establish money-making businesses. A business is, as we’ve touched on and I don’t mean this derogatorily, can be solely a website. It can be an Amazon storefront. That’s a lot of what our business is, people who have a brand on Amazon and they’re fulfilling almost exclusively or solely through Amazon. That’s a second type. The first type to review is a URL where all the business is handled within that website and where we start representing businesses so as to include websites, Amazon storefront, the websites going to many different subcategories. As long as they’re making $1,000 a month or more in profit over the past twelve months, we have a buyer for it. We don’t do adult. We don’t do a variety of different SEO place. We don’t pick and choose because we’ve been doing it for enough time where we tend to have some book of business for any business model that makes money online out there.

FYB 83 | Digital Assets

Digital Assets: If something has traffic and it gets visitors, it has potential monetization value.

 

As long as it is an online digital asset, either website or eCommerce, Amazon, Shopify, things like that, that’s making more than $1,000 in profit per month, then you can match up an appropriate buyer with that digital asset if you want to sell. You have some guidelines. You have certain kinds of websites you don’t get involved in and that’s understandable. Other than that, it’s an open field. I don’t think people often realize when they create a website for their business or in combination with their business or somehow related to the business or even, let’s say, you start a website for your podcast. Some of the earliest well-known podcasts are called passive income podcasts, where they’re monetizing that audio listener traffic but through a website. A lot of it is affiliate marketing. There are an awful lot of podcasts that are making money that way and even through sponsorships on the audio shows and other ways. There are so many different ways that people can create something on their own that is a valuable asset that they could sell. I think not enough people understand that.

Getting back to the initial and main point is, if something has traffic, if something gets visitors, it has value for the potential monetization value. You mentioned sponsorships. There’s advertising that can be done.

You mentioned the integrity of the traffic or the way in which the traffic has been gained. You’ve mentioned white hat tactics, which was clear in context. I want to emphasize the point a little bit here, is that the traffic was gained in a proper way with integrity that wasn’t hacking anything or gaming the system. One way or another, the eyeballs on the site are legitimate. Are there any disqualifiers or are any specific things that if you find a website has been configured a certain way? Are there any technical issues that can be a disqualifier?

Mostly, when it relates to someone’s buying followers on Facebook and Instagram, that’s the gaming of the system. That isn’t legitimate. Even if it’s monetized already, unless it was in the very beginning, to get a boost and a jumpstart, that’s understandable. If someone is black hat versus a white hat, link exchanges, buying followers, copyright infringement or copying content from a different site, those are all obvious red flags. DMCA’s, different warnings that can come in, we’re leery of those. The examples that I have of websites and what would mostly in current inventory apply to what we’re talking about. We’ve got a seventeen-year-old wrestling site that makes about $200,000, $250,000 a year in profit. That’s the one that pops to my mind right away as a robust, established a content site.

If that person, of the tens of thousands of Facebook followers he has, if it were discovered that those aren’t real, the value of that business would go down. There would be value in that business regardless because it’s got fresh content. It’s been around for seventeen years. That wouldn’t, in any way, disqualify the business. It would lessen the value of the business because it’s the website that’s the overarching thing. What social media accounts are associated with it, you look at a variety of different things as it relates to the website, what all comes with it.

I would imagine that, in the final analysis of any digital asset that someone is considering purchasing, you’ve got to disclose those revenues. There have to be financials to back it up. Imagine if you’re using a black hat tactic, the revenue would not be consistent and sustained over time. There has to be a certain amount of legitimacy in the longevity of this profit.

All roads lead to the revenue. Click To Tweet

If it’s a black hat, it’s going to be up and down. It will be more so apparent over time.

Consistency is another important marker there. You mentioned Amazon storefronts. As Amazon has exploded, that’s been an increasing amount of your business.

We’ve been doing this for many years. I was one of the founding members of our iteration. Prior to that, we were doing domain names only, which are the permutations of letters and numbers. Rarely if ever do they have a URL. It’s more of a speculative asset. It’s A with XYZ.com. I could do this with it. We bought, sold and traded those then switched to more of the website concept where we’re going to do lead gen. We’re going to do content. We’re going to make money through affiliate and advertising networks. Whereas we still have those, there are a lot more eCommerce businesses and SaaS businesses out there where John Doe is selling a widget and is being fulfilled via Amazon. The value here is the Amazon seller account with the reviews, the product and the seller reviews. There are more of those profitable out there for sale. That’s why most of our inventory, maybe 50%, is eCommerce, followed by a smaller percentage of SaaS, a smaller percentage of true websites. By that, I mean the classical term where all the business and all the revenues are generated solely from that website, from that URL.

With the Amazon businesses, do you find that the eyeballs to the Amazon store, the reviews, the sales and the profitability are the most important things? Is the brand of that particular Amazon seller a key issue? Sometimes they’re not selling their own products.

There’s not an answer that’s going to fit every situation. Ultimately, what we’re selling is cashflow. We’re pricing it and the market is bearing a multiple of EBITDA. The product reviews are important. The seller reviews are important.

Those reviews are very important, and they became more important several years ago when Amazon changed the whole thing, where you can no longer use the review clubs to get reviews?

FYB 83 | Digital Assets

Digital Assets: Having more than one fulfillment channel is better.

 

They also did something which caused a lot of people to take down reviews, who are following Amazon policy. Amazon did a 180 on it. All roads lead to revenue. It’s the same concept of furniture. If you’re going to want great reviews, the brand in itself, at very least, a trademark which, to get Brand Registry 2.0, you need to. In order to survive in Amazon, you need that. The days of arbitrage, wholesaling, buying low and selling high unless the economy is a scale. If you’re doing millions upon millions of dollars of that. I’m selling a business that does that. You can make a minute amount of margin per widget but sell millions of them a year. Those are the people who are going to survive the arbitrage business model. Everything is important. The more you do average to above average to well, those are better than having one fulfillment channel. You can have great reviews and nothing else. There could be a massive review policy change in Amazon and then you’re screwed. If you’re doing everything okay, average well, that’s leading towards strong revenue, that’s the best set of circumstances. If one or two of those things go awry, then at least you’re doing a good enough job in the other things.

Revenue at the end of the day is what it’s all about. It’s probably easier for some companies that are selling their own products if they’re having them manufactured exclusively for them. It’s not something anybody can buy on the open market and slap their name on. At the end of the day, if you do that, you do it very well and you have a good brand, you’re still going to have cashflow and profitability. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. As we get into other websites and other businesses, it’s interesting. I don’t think people understand that they can embark on small business, create it from nothing and build a digital asset that has real value that they can sell and walk away from at some point. I don’t think they understand that value. I was looking at your company’s website, Latonas.com and it seems that anybody can go on here and look at your listings. Is that correct?

They can look at it and we provide, “Here’s the price. Here’s the profit or annual profit or the trailing twelve months. Here are the trailing twelve months of revenue in order to get access to the trailing twelve months, the actual monthly numbers, as well as the prospectus.” The prospectus is going to contain the business in question. The only thing that’s for public consumption, without signing up for Latona’s account, which is free, you just pop in a name and a password and all that is once you’ve done that, you’re able to gain access to the monthly numbers. If you want to go even further with it, to download the prospectus, we require one NDA signed. That NDA is good for all of our listings up to $3 million. Be sure to pick Adam Beebe as your broker if you’re doing that.

It will be illuminating for a lot of people, not only to consider as they grow their own business and are interested in potentially selling it, but there are others that are more of the investment mindset. It’s a mindset where they would say, “I want to grow my business. I want to expand it.” Maybe acquiring another company that’s already well-established in the same market or in a related market would be how they’d prefer to go. This is a brokerage business you’re doing. You’re matching up buyers and sellers. It’s a whole other world. I’ve known about it tangentially. I’ve heard about companies that do this. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with anybody, certainly not on this podcast, with anybody that’s directly in the business of buying and selling websites. This has been your career for several years, in one facet or another. It’s real. It’s here. In case anybody ever wondered, this is probably in the United States with a decrease in manufacturing companies, there’s probably an increase. Do you see the market for buying and selling websites growing in years? Are there any trends that are interesting for you to share with us?

The trend of online businesses, which contains the classically defined website, the Amazon seller storefront, the Shopify and all of those different niches, equal online businesses. The sale of online businesses is definitely up. The brick and mortar is not going away. It’s shrinking. It’s consolidating. Any statistic anyone looks at, more businesses are being conducted online. It’s a natural result of that. If more widgets are being sold online, who sells the widgets? They’re making cashflow as opposed to a private equity firm. We sold businesses in the multimillions of dollars. A lot of those have been private equity firms. Instead of the Dick’s Sporting Goods of the world, instead of Toys “R” Us and Payless. Those are two examples where I’m 49. It tugs on my heartstrings, but I’m not a Toys “R” Us kid anymore. It’s the same concept. The horse-drawn carriage went away and the combustible engine came up. There’s going to be the flying car, the automated car and all that stuff. It’s the same concept as it relates to businesses. It’s transitioning to online businesses.

It makes perfect sense to me from what I experienced as a business owner and as a podcaster and how we see the trend in podcasting increasing. It’s a real pleasure to have an expert in the field of buying and selling digital assets here to give us your perspective and thoughts. I do appreciate you being on the show with us.

No worries and I’m here. For anyone reading, please reach out to me. We’d love to help you.

Thank you so much, Adam. I do appreciate your time. I look forward to checking in with you again in the future, especially as things may change in the market.

I appreciate it.

Purchasing And Selling Digital Assets – Final Thoughts

I hope you found that as interesting as I did. I’m impressed that this company has been around and doing this since about 2008. I was involved in the original dot-com boom in the late mid to late ’90s, before that first dot-com bust, and had a business that conducted a lot of its business online. That’s in the days when we had to hardcode our own shopping carts. You didn’t have Shopify. You didn’t have WooCommerce on WordPress and you didn’t have WordPress. Everything about your website had to be custom coded. It was a different time. In this modern day and age, it’s much better understood that your website is a huge asset for your business, especially if you’ve created a lot of content that generates a lot of unique visitors to your site. It’s easier to sell a website if you have an existing shop within it, Shopify or otherwise and you have products you’re selling or even if your website is just a vehicle to drive traffic to sell things on Amazon. If you’re an Amazon seller, that’s a big part of your brand. You’ve got an asset there that is valuable and worth something, especially if you’re looking for an exit strategy at some point.

I hope I was helpful to many of you and eye-opening, as some of it was to me. I had some assumptions that even a website that isn’t selling anything but has a certain amount of unique traffic is a value to someone if you wanted to sell it. Even if you don’t, hopefully, this was little eye-opening, that the traffic, that volume of people going to your site every month is something that you can monetize. It’s a matter of deciding to do it and working with the right people or hiring the right resources to actually monetize it. It’s realistic and doable. I want everyone to remember that if you want to contact Adam and ask him any questions about either buying or selling a website. Maybe even asking some questions because you’re thinking of doing it in the future or prepping your online asset for sale in the future or maybe you’re considering buying something. You want to do some due diligence and find out what you don’t know before you do it, definitely reach out to Adam.

Let us know what you think about this episode. I’m interested to hear if this was of value or of interest to a lot of you. It’s not our usual topic. We’re usually more in the podcasting, marketing and growing your brand side of things. It was a bit different, talking about one component of your brand, your website as an asset, whether you have one or you want to get one. I found it interesting and I hope you did too. You can reach out to us anywhere on social media, @FeedYourBrand, especially our Facebook page or Instagram. Thanks so much for reading, everybody. We’ll be back next time with another great episode. This has been Tom on Feed Your Brand.

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About Adam Beebe

Latona’s is a boutique Mergers and Acquisitions broker specializing in cash flow positive digital assets such as websites, eCommerce (including Amazon FBA and Shopify), membership, lead gen, and software-as-a-service businesses (SAAS), and domain portfolios.

Since 2008 Latona’s has been matching investors with income streams and business opportunities and entrepreneurs with investors and acquirers who can appreciate their assets as they do.
 
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