Your company’s online footprint constitutes an important part of the overall value of its goodwill. Indeed, the ability to create an online experience for a brand and to use online channels to reach new customers and retain existing ones is a part of the evolving nature of business in the 21st century. As a seller, it’s important to understand the value of online assets.
The results of online marketing are particularly measurable. A website may deliver leads, e-commerce sales, or fulfill customer service needs. Regardless, website traffic, social media efforts, and email open rates can be quantified with great accuracy at little to no cost.
As you consider selling your company, this information can be shared with potential buyers to help persuade them of the value of the overall business. And, in any event, may help you verify your current online marketing strategies and consider new ones that could enhance the sale value of your company.
Website domain names can have value in and of themselves. There are many websites that will provide an estimate of the value of a particular domain name. Further, domain names are regularly bought and sold on auction websites. Thus, comparable values may be easy to estimate. There are also a number of firms that specialize in valuing them.
Achieving and maintaining a top-searched website in an industry is an art. Many marketing managers do not have a list of keywords for which their website has search position. However, this information is readily available to a registered owner of a website through Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. These tools show keywords and search position, along with volume of impressions and clicks with upward or downward trends. The market value of those keywords on search can be found on search engine marketing (SEM) platforms like Google AdWords.
[Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of articles written specifically for the business owner who is thinking about selling. To start reading from the beginning, read “Business Transition and Exit Planning: Welcome to the Jungle!”]
The revenue value that your company can attribute to these assets depends on the actual number of visits to its website from those keywords, and the outcomes of those visits. This data can be collected in Google Analytics. If those search visits are not effective at producing revenue-related outcomes, management may be able to find ways to improve return on investments, or, ROI. Thus, this evaluation can be used to identify underutilized search position assets.
The most important factor in searching for a website, is the number and quality of outside links, because other sites linking to your content is an indication it adds value. Third-party tools (such as majesticseo.com and moz.com) can provide information on the quantity and quality of competitors’ linking and their search engine marketing strategies.
A website may also contain untracked or ‘hidden’ assets. Websites may have stand-alone electronic documents such as acrobat PDF files with search positions independent of the core website itself. If a search strategy is not well-optimized, these PDFs may not be linked appropriately to help maximize the connection to the rest of the website. Additionally, use of PDFs made available on the web is not tracked by web analytics programs, but the PDFs may be listed on other websites and in search engines. Because of this, they subsequently receive traffic. Thus, websites with many PDFs (typical of more technology-based companies) often have hidden and underutilized assets in their publicly available PDF library.
Email lists may have value, especially if the company is regularly sending out emails through a legitimate bulk email vendor. In that case, the company will be able to identify how many of the email addresses are valid, and how often the recipients open the company’s emails. Company email lists may have professional addresses, which become invalid over time as people change employers, so being able to show a clean, relevant list enhances the value of an email list.
Regular presence in people’s inboxes is a significant indicator of goodwill value of the brand. Click-through from the emails to the company’s website shows how engaged the audience is with the brand’s thought leadership.
Online followers on platforms for the general public, like Facebook and Twitter, as well as levels of participation in industry-specific forums are another part of the online experience. The reach and level of engagement can be tracked with varying degrees of automation.
Relationships with influencers: social media, bloggers, journalists. and other thought leaders can be demonstrated by showing engagement and interaction with these individuals. Interactions such as the “like” or “upvote” buttons, comments on content or echoing and linking to content are all indicators of the performance of social media marketing initiatives. Many of the social media platforms and third-party services show reach and engagement with your social media content.
A well-organized assessment can show hidden value and under-utilized online assets. Reviewing these online assets is an important part of due diligence. The value of online assets is a fast-emerging arena that can be useful in determining and enhancing the value of a brand in connection with preparing for a sale, and for providing insights to the management team where they may be underperforming or under-leveraging the brand in online platforms.
Consider the areas discussed in this article with your team as you evaluate the potential sale of your company. If your company is starting the sale process, implementing an efficient strategy may provide additional support to convince potential buyers that there is strength in your brand (in the market and online).
[Editor’s Note: If you want to read more about how to sell or otherwise exit a business, be sure to read “Business Transition and Exit Planning: Welcome to the Jungle!” It will lead you step-by-step through what you need to know.
Please see these related webinars you can attend: Intellectual Property Bootcamp 2019, Buying and Selling Intellectual Property, Legal and Practical Advice – Roadmap to Selling Your Business. This is an updated version of an article published April 4, 2015.]
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