Tuesday, April 6, 2010

how to give competitors your business data for nothing

It's amazing how many people online are complete genius when it comes to SEO but complete morons when it comes to simple business.  That is one of the downside of the online industry and internet in general.  Because anything unique is published, you can get any douche bag on the street giving you advice.  I have a great example here.  It's pretty obvious this guy never had any real business background. 

Most recently, this SEO genius wrote this amazingly uneducated and misinformed piece of work called "A Few Warnings When Selling Online Business Websites".  In this article he propagates the notion that everyone who asks for any data when valuating your site is evil and only out to steal your information.

Here is a great parallel: why would you buy an used car off Craigslist without test driving the car, checking under the hood, and review the service history?  That is more or less what happens when an user asks for access to your Google Analytics.  There is nothing secret about your Google Analytics that can propel a competitor ahead of you unless you're doing some shady black hat stuff that you shouldn't be doing anyways.  If you are, it is probably a pretty dumb idea to be on Google Analytics in the first place, huh?  If you're uncomfortable giving them full access, then just take a screen shot.

End of the day, if you demanded from a Seller an offer without giving him much to work with, the Seller will do the best that he/she can, but ultimately, they will still need to confirm their assumptions, and many times just educated guesses, are correct. What happens if Compete.com says your traffic is 100K UV/month and Google Analytics show you only have 50K UV/month? Obviously the offer they made going in isn't going to be the same as once they see the "real" data. Back to the used car analogy, if someone offers you $X for a car with 50,000 miles on the odometer, and when they arrive they find out you lied and it actually has 100,000 miles on the odometer, chances are the Buyer probably won't honor his price either.  If you were honest with the information you provided, there isn't going to be any issue.

I have worked on some of the big deals he speaks of as "examples" of deals where traffic isn't important.  I can't believe how far he is from the truth.  Once you get a NDA or LOI in place, bankers give the company full access to all the data they need in order for them to verify that all of the assumptions the buyer uses are correct.  This applies for WebMD, BankRate.com, Yahoo, and yes, even Youtube. Based on what you described, it seems like there is nothing valuable with your site except for a media/asset purchase.  All the companies you compared yourself to above actually has a real business, real growth, real strategy (although some better than others).

You are correct that you need to guard any "secret sauce" you may have with your assets, but wouldn't they have to know it anyways when the company buys your site? Wasn't your secret sauce one of the reason why they wanted to buy your asset in the first place? In addition, if you can't trust a public company that is regulated by the SEC and the Government, there isn't much you trust out there huh? Do you wear a tinfoil hat as well because you're scared that the aliens are going to get you?

Historical information is very important as well. Without historical trends and data, there is no way anyone can make an assessment (strategic or none) on how much one can pay for your site. In fact, Youtube.com shared everything under exclusivity with Google during the purchase. Think about it this way, when you go out and invest in a stock or mutual fund, don't you look at their historical performance as one of the factors you use to judge the future potential of the investment? Why doesn't this apply here as well?

A 45-day no shop clause is actually extremely short relative to what is standard in the industry.  If you need a real example of bankers and people who know what they are doing at work, look at the negotiations of the sale of Volvo to Ford.  That deal has lasted a good portion of 6-months, under exclusivity.  Generally the more complicated and bigger a deal is, the more exclusivity the buyer needs.  Some Due Diligence even involve an accounting firm as well as visits by the buyer with the sellers at their office. So to be honest Aaron, your 45-day exclusivity shows to me that you're just a big fish in a small pond. 

Lastly, I know the company you speak of, and they are very well regarded in the investment community.  The company you spoke of remained private, and extremely profitable, for the past 10-years before going public.  The reason they went public is beyond what you will probably understand, but again, if you really knew how to run a company (and not just a SEO expert), you would probably of created a competitor to them by now.  Isn't this SEO expert an adviser and close friends with the founder of WeBuildPages.com?  Didn't their business plan get destroyed by Google when they found out that their whole business is build on having clients pay for back-links to their site?  Hmmmm...

Exclusivity prevents the seller from mobilizing a huge amount of resources to do due diligence on a deal then having the seller pull out last minute.  If the buyer and seller already agreed on a price, what's the point of trying to shop it around unless you weren't serious about selling it in the first place.  That comment by itself shows this person has no real business or deal experience.

Fortunately, the only thing you people can do is create drama for everyone else.  In that sense, you're not much different than Fox News.

Now, is the world really going to end in 2012?  Oh, please tell me.  Oh, and if you really are the type of guy that "walks the walk", then I have a 1996 Volvo that I would like to sell you for a very reasonable price of $1M USD.  You can take my word that this car will be faster than any Ferrari, Bugatti, or Lamborghini you will lay your hands on.  What?  You want to take it to your mechanic and have a test drive?  No deal!

For those who follow him like an idol, just remember, you don't go to a doctor for legal advice, and you don't go to your lawyer if you have a cancerous growth on your body. Each have their own expertise and purpose. Aaron is a genius in SEO, but I would highly recommend going somewhere else for your business and deal advice.

Welcome to my wall of Douche bags.

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