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What You Should Know Before Selling Your Content Website in 2024

By Quiet Light
| Reading Time: 8 minutes

The year 2023 will be remembered as one of the most transformative years on record for content websites, bringing significant implications for those planning to sell their site in 2024. As an owner, you must take these recent trends into consideration if you hope to achieve a profitable exit. 

In this article, we discuss:

  • How AI and the latest Google updates affect content websites
  • The impact of these changes for selling content websites in 2024
  • How to succeed when selling your business in 2024

Related Article: Tips for Growing Business Value

woman selling her content website

How AI and the Latest Google Updates Affect Content Websites

In 2023, we saw significant disruptions for content websites and content marketing. It is safe to say that the industry is in flux, having been impacted by two major changes in less than 12 months. These are:

  • The rise of AI in content
  • The impact of Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update

We will first look at how these two changes have impacted the content industry. Then, we will explore the state of selling content websites in 2024.

“The year 2023 will be remembered as one of the most transformative years on record for content sites and content marketing.”

team members discussing business value

The rise of AI in content: immediate impact

The release and adoption of powerful generative AI tools like ChatGPT have sent shockwaves across the content industry. While changes are already being felt, the true transformative power of this new technology on the industry remains to be seen. We are still in the early days of understanding and utilizing these tools to their full potential.

What is clear is that ChatGPT and other similar models make it much easier to ideate, research, plan, and write a blog or piece of content. For example, AI can identify a target audience, plan an outline based on a keyword, and write a full SEO-optimized blog post.

The time required to do all of the above has shrunk dramatically. This makes it possible for a content site owner to churn out new content on a much higher scale and at a much lower cost than previously.

searching for content sites online

The future of content in an AI-powered world

The widespread adoption of generative AI tools within the content industry brings up several large questions for content marketing strategy. For starters, many people wonder how search engines like Google will treat AI-generated content. Will it be punished or treated like human-generated content?

For now, it appears that Google has chosen not to explicitly punish AI content. “Explicitly” is an important clarification here, and we dig into this more in the next section.

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Another question has arisen regarding the quality and performance of AI-generated content. For one, ChatGPT is known to lie and make errors. While these problems can be remedied, larger questions remain.

“The rise of ChatGPT raises significant questions regarding how people will access information online in the future.”

Some industry thought leaders argue that ChatGPT does well producing generic, high-level content, but it isn’t great when it comes to creating original, authoritative, and highly useful or relevant content pieces. For now, high-quality content is best produced by a knowledgeable and skilled human, or so the thinking goes. It is important to consider this balance between quantity and quality when evaluating your content marketing efforts.

calculating taxes for content business

ChatGPT’s rise raises important questions about how people will get information online in the future. This has huge implications for the entire content industry. If people get useful answers from ChatGPT or other AI tools without going to a third-party site, what does that mean for search traffic? Will there continue to be search engine results pages as we think of them? Will content sites or content marketing strategies continue to be relevant?

For now, the answers to these questions remain a mystery. As time goes on, the direction of content sites and content marketing will become clearer.

The impact of Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update

Google’s ranking criteria have played a large role in shaping content marketing trends since the birth of the industry. 

From time to time, Google has updated its ranking criteria in order to better serve its users. On some occasions, these updates shake up search rankings to a certain degree, producing winners and losers. Industry experts have learned to navigate these shake-ups as part of the job.

In September 2023, Google released its latest Helpful Content Update. While some ranking adjustment is normal, it quickly became apparent that this update was extraordinarily impactful. In fact, many content marketing experts say it has already had the largest impact since the Penguin update of 2012.

team discussing big ideas to increase business value

Many sites saw declines in organic traffic and clicks of up to 50 percent. Naturally, this has caused an uproar throughout the content industry. Many site owners have complained online about how these changes have hurt their business.

Industry experts say the update rewards helpful content that is authoritative. At the same time, it deprioritizes unhelpful content. Social media platforms like LinkedIn or sites like Reddit or Quora, where real conversations are happening and some form of author authority can be assessed, appear to be performing better.

At the same time, content that has been created primarily with SEO parameters in mind appears to be taking a hit.

Some updates in the past have been unwound or reversed after release. While there is certainly no guarantee that will happen this time, it doesn’t mean that you can’t recover if your site has been negatively impacted. 

“How you navigate these recent changes could have a significant impact on the success of your sale.”

three men working together to build

How These Changes Impact Selling Content Sites in 2024

AI and Google’s recent updates are causing changes in the marketplace for content sites in 2024. These changes will continue to affect the marketplace in the future.

There is still a strong market for content sites. If you own a content site or an online business that relies on content marketing for a portion of your traffic, however, it is crucial to understand how these market changes could affect your exit experience. How you navigate these recent changes could have a significant impact on the success of your sale.

Increased volatility

First, recognize that you are operating in an industry that is currently experiencing a high level of volatility. The rise of AI technology has disrupted the content website industry in the short time it has been available. The way site owners develop their content strategy, manage their related social media accounts, identify potential customers, and create content has all shifted.

person using a search engine

Now, it’s easier than ever to make a professional online store. You can also develop a content marketing strategy, plan and create lots of content, and run a successful online business with the help of AI. Questions still exist about how this new technology will affect content marketing performance.

In the midst of the turbulence from AI, Google released its new Helpful Content Update. The disruption this caused has only added to the volatility already present. Some sites saw huge declines, some stayed the same, and some benefitted. However your site was impacted, it is safe to say that you are navigating a period of increased industry volatility.

Valuations are changing

If your website has experienced a significant decrease in traffic, clicks, or revenue, this can harm the value of your online business. This can happen in several ways.

Business value is calculated by multiplying your SDE, or seller’s discretionary earnings, by a multiple. If your business income drops due to decreasing traffic, your business value will take a hit as well; a lower SDE naturally leads to a lower value.

At the same time, buyers generally seek to purchase a business that is likely to grow into the future. If your content site is in decline, buyers will be willing to pay less for it, if they are even interested in making an offer. This impacts the value of your business by way of a smaller multiple.

discovering content sites on the search engine results page

“In an era of flux for the content industry, some buyers are warier of buying content sites due to increased uncertainty.”

Investors are wary of future uncertainty

Every buyer wants to have a degree of certainty that their investment will pay off. They help to ensure this by choosing their target businesses carefully. At the same time, overall external market conditions matter as well. In an era of flux for the content industry, some buyers are warier of buying content sites due to increased uncertainty.

How to Succeed as a Seller in 2024

It is clear that the content industry is experiencing a period of relative uncertainty. However, there are still many things you can do to succeed as a seller in 2024. With some careful planning and action, you can work toward navigating recent changes and achieving a successful exit.

increasing business value prior to sale

Understand how AI and Google updates impact your site

First, take some time to understand how AI and Google’s recent updates impact your site and your content marketing strategy as a whole. Has your site been negatively impacted by the recent updates? What does that say about your content marketing strategy and content quality?

Seek to understand how to build a winning content strategy in light of Google’s new ranking criteria. A good place to start is by reading Google’s content self-assessment document.

At the same time, do your research regarding how AI is shaping content marketing trends. How are people using the technology to leverage their time more effectively? Do you plan to use AI-generated content in your own content creation process? Take the time to understand the new technology and how it best fits into your plan moving forward.

Implement improvements over time

If your site has suffered as a result of recent changes, it doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. Identify why your site has been negatively impacted and make changes over time to address those weaknesses. For example, if your site traffic took a hit after the Helpful Content Update, perhaps Google deemed your content as less helpful to a human. Figure out how you can better meet the criteria and make improvements to your existing and new content to do so.

changes to search engines in the new year

Seek competitive advantages

As you learn more about the content marketing landscape, find ways to gain an edge over your competitors. Use your authority and knowledge of your site topic to create high-quality and helpful blog posts for your readers. Or, use your knowledge of your target audience to drill down on the topics that really matter to them.

If you are adept at social media marketing, identify which social media platforms you can make use of in tandem with your content marketing strategy. If you already have a significant site readership, consider launching an online or ecommerce store to drive sales and increase revenue. Or, perhaps implement other effective marketing strategies like email marketing or paid ads.

“Content marketers and content site owners will always need to stay up to date with industry trends and make site improvements based on the evolving business landscape.”

Stay up to date with future changes

While the recent changes have been some of the biggest the industry has seen so far, they are by no means the last. Content marketers and content site owners will always need to stay up to date with industry trends and make site improvements based on the evolving business landscape.

Be realistic with your valuation expectations

happy business owner walking away with money after sale

When you do decide to sell, be realistic with your valuation expectations. This is particularly true if you sell your site while it is experiencing a decline in traffic due to recent industry changes. Your website broker, or business Advisor, will be in a good position to provide you with an accurate valuation.

Additionally, consider whether you want to take the time to stabilize and improve your website before listing it for sale on online or website marketplaces.

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