Most people buying or selling a business have a detailed account of assets such as land, buildings, inventory, and equipment. However, businesses also own digital properties: websites, domain names, social media accounts, directory listings, software, and more, and forgetting to include them in the acquisition can cost you money and loss of search engine visibility. Customers won’t be able to find you just when you need revenue the most — that’s why it’s important to negotiate ownership of all digital assets before the sale closes. If you are selling, providing a detailed accounting of digital assets should increase your asking price — after all, who wouldn’t want to buy a business with lots of web traffic and excellent online reviews?
- The contact info for their webmaster, internal or external.
- The user ID and password for the web hosting company, if different from #1.
- The domain control panel user ID and password for all domains associated with the business — not one the website uses. The business may have bought spelling variations or domains associated with specific regions or products. You do not want these falling into competitors’ hands.
- … Get in there and change the contact and billing information.
- Even if you don’t plan to use the domain name in the future because you’re changing the company name, keep the registration forever if used for email or a website.
- If the website accepted payments, there is probably a merchant account, such as PayPal or Stripe, that processes credit cards and moves funds into the company bank account. So be sure to get your website payments routing into your account rather than theirs as soon as you close.
- Have the webmaster make you the primary owner of the websites’ Google Search Console and Google Analytics. You will need a Google Account (this does not have to be Gmail).
- The e-mail control panel may differ from the web hosting company, so ask for this user ID and password separately.
- Be especially careful not to lose the domain that the email accounts use(d). For example, if the company uses “[email protected]” for email, if the company fails to pay the bill for xyz.com, someone could buy xyz.com, set up the same email boxes, and access company email. This is a huge risk to security and customer privacy, and you do not want people sending out phishing attacks masquerading as your company.
- If they used a generic email address such as gmail.com, get access to this account as well, even if you just forward the emails to yours or have an auto-responder. You don’t want people thinking the company has gone out of business or impersonating the company.
- If the owner paid for software to run the website, there are updates and support to which you are entitled, at least until the license term runs out. So, ask for a list of website software, plugins, or add-ons and get the license numbers, subscription information, user IDs and passwords for the vendor (or have the license transferred to you or your webmaster). Keep those websites updated with current software or risk hacks or downtime — or hire us to take care of it.
- Inventory other software such as Microsoft or Adobe programs, Quickbooks, payroll software, etc. If the owner does not plan to include them in the sale, then at least you know that you will have expenditures to buy your own licenses.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
If you contact one of these huge companies after the sale and say, “Hi, I bought XYZ Company. Can I get access to their page?” … well, they don’t care and won’t help you.
- If you are acquiring a business with followers and decent reviews, you don’t want to delete the old profiles. If you take ownership of the business on Monday and the previous owner deleted everything on Saturday because they weren’t told not to, your business has lost credibility and a following. So ensure that on Day 1, you control these profiles.
- Some business social media accounts are tied to a personal account (this is generally how Facebook Places / Pages for Business work). Stipulate that the owner will make a named person or persons on your team an Administrator of the account upon closing. Then delete all other Administrators and everyone else who will not be managing the account, or you could lose control of your account.
- For social media accounts that are standalone, ask for the user IDs and passwords.
- Don’t overlook industry-specific directories, such as Avvo for lawyers and HomeAdvisor for contractors.
- After you get access, change all the contact info, e-mail addresses, 2-factor identification, and passwords.
If you are a location-based business (stores, restaurants, doctors, etc.), local search listings are critical. Even if you plan to change the name or move, you need to ensure that all local listings are consistent to rank highly in the search engines. Search engines will penalize you for duplicate or untrustworthy listings. You need to access the existing listings in order to edit them.
Google My Business / Google Maps
Stipulate that upon closing, the owner must transfer primary ownership of the listing to you. You will need a Google Account (this does not have to be Gmail). Google says: “If you sell your business, ensure you transfer primary ownership of your Business Profile to the new owner and stop using the listing. It’s important to transfer ownership so that the history of the Business Profile, including reviews, is maintained over time.”
Instructions are here: https://support.google.com/business/answer/3415281?hl=en
Google will NOT call you unsolicited about your listing. Random calls “about your Google listing” are SCAMS, so please hang up!
If you change anything on your Google listing or any of the others, this may trigger re-verification. Usually, this is by immediate phone call (this can be a problem if you are changing the business phone number) or a postcard with a PIN (many of my clients are in rural areas and do not receive postal mail at their locations …. this too is a problem).
Other local listings:
- Yelp, Bing Places for Business, Apple Maps Connect, etc. — again, have the owner transfer primary ownership of the listing to you if they already claimed it.
- If the listing has not been claimed, you can do this after you close and make the updates you need.
Customer Information Privacy:
Ask your lawyer to iron out what happens to customer data upon the sale. Does the seller get to keep a copy? What if a privacy breach is discovered after the sale that happened under the previous owners’ watch?
Ask for Help:
If your business is changing due to sale, acquisitions, or consolidations, contact us. Identifying the assets and developing a plan for handing them over smoothly is much easier than trying to get all your listings later. After the sale, we can redesign your website to reflect your new priorities. Please reach out – we would love to hear from you!