Selling My Passive Income Stream:

July 3, 2016

I recently sold – a website that I created, and have owned and operated since 2008. Over the years, it has gained a lot of traction and popularity, and is heavily trafficked – the most heavily and consistently trafficked website I have ever owned (about 3,500 uniques per weekday). It was a really tough decision selling the website, but in the end – it was the right time to do it.

The Rise of Ad Blockers

Although the traffic on JSCompress was always steadily climbing upward, one of the primary reasons I sold the website was due to the fact that all the money I made with it came from ads on the page – primarily from Google AdSense. It was really nice running a passive income website for a long time that required very little effort to upkeep, but due to the increase in ad blockers, that trend was starting to turn downward pretty quickly – and had a very real impact on my bottom line running the website. I can only imagine the squeeze content publishers are feeling.

Over the past year running the website, my income from ads had dropped over 66%. In 2014 and 2015, JSCompress would routinely make anywhere from $350 – $500+ per month with 2 ad units, but lately that slid to just $150 per month. I don’t blame anyone for running adblockers due to all the malware, trackers, and bad ads out there, but this was the reality of the situation for me, and the new reality for anyone else depending on ad revenue. On top of that, JSCompress is a developer-focused website, and developers tend to be aware of and use adblockers more than most other users. It was hard for me to see ad revenue ever returning to previous levels, even with a lot more work.

Decisions To Make

It was clear that I had some decisions to make about the future of the website. As I saw it, my options were:

1. Continue to run it with declining ad revenues

This was a surprisingly attractive option since the site cost me almost nothing to host, and requires minimal development and support time, if any. It runs pretty much on autopilot on a small DigitalOcean VPS. It doesn’t store files, there is no database, etc. the only website simpler to run is a static site. So even with declining ad revenues, it still would have been a nice passive income generator well into the future.

2. Ditch Google AdSense

Another option was to ditch Google Adsense and get creative with selling ad placements and/or sponsorships. Even before the declining ad revenues, this options always had the potential to generate a lot more money, but it also requires a lot more work. The biggest drawback to this option is that it would basically turn me into an ad salesman, which is not a direction I wanted to go with a niche tool website like this one.

3. Sell the site

At this point, given the facts in front on me, selling the site was a pretty good option. It was clear getting the website back in shape was going to take some focused effort. I do think JSCompress is worth that effort because it’s a great and very well loved niche site, but for me at this point in my life, it was a matter of time and priorities. I am turning all of my attention and focus to a new project this year, and I felt that it was a good time for me to sell.

The Sale

The process of selling JSCompress went very smoothly, and I am confident that it is in good hands. Money is the obvious reason to sell, but I also wanted to make sure the new buyer wasn’t going to do anything that would ruin the site for the people who love it and use it frequently. When I was in college, I sold a different website without betting the buyer at all and had a really bad experience with the buyer post-sale (and immediate regret). In that sale, the buyer put a bunch of horrible ads and popups all over the site immediately after gaining control, and completely ruined the site to turn a short-term profit on his purchase. I needed to make sure that was not going to happen again – and with this buyer, I am confident it will not.

This is the second time in my life I have sold a website, and while I regretted the first one, I feel really good about this sale. The buyer already owns a successful marketplace website business as well as several other niche developer tool websites. He is a responsible business owner who sees JSCompress as an important developer tool website in his growing collection, and that’s a very good sign for me, and for the users of JSCompress. I have full confidence that JSCompress will be up and running for a long time to come, and will even have many more improvements in the years to come. The future of JSCompress is bright.

Selling Price

Sales prices are always a large mix of factors, and are always very hard to determine. I was very transparent about the declining ad revenues despite steady traffic and provided all traffic stats, etc. Generally, most websites like this sell for around 10x – 12x average monthly revenue. I felt like JSCompress was worth a lot more that that, however, due to its #1 search engine results page (SERP) ranking on many terms relating to “compress javascript”, “minify javascript”, etc. JSCompress also has a large number of very strong, authoritative backlinks, and very good domain age. This pushed the selling price up well beyond a simple 12x on current revenues – it has a lot going for it, and still has a lot of potential for the right buyer. We eventually agreed on a price of $6,000, which I felt was very fair to both parties. It let me part with the website at a 12x multiple of $500 – just under my highest month’s earnings, and has very strong potential to produce that again in the near future with a little more effort and hand-sold ad placements.

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