What are your options when you can’t buy your ideal domain name?

What are your options when you can’t buy your ideal domain name?

Just because someone else owns a domain you really, really want doesn’t mean you’ve hit a dead end. There are still a few moves you can try…

Define “can’t get”…

First of all, are you certain you can’t get your ideal domain name? Do you mean the domain can’t be registered? If so, that doesn’t mean the domain is not available. This simply means someone else has already registered it. The current owner may have even listed the domain for sale on Flippa or other domain marketplaces. And if the domain’s not listed for sale, you still have the option of approaching the current owner and trying to convince them to part with it. I’ve covered how to go about acquiring a domain name that is owned by someone else in another Flippa blog post, so consider that prerequisite research!

Time to play the waiting game?

Assuming that there’s no way for you to buy the domain you want from its current owner, what are your options now? If you’re not in a rush then the best thing to do is play the waiting game. What I mean by this is that you can wait and see if the current owner does not renew the domain name. Domain names are registered in periods of one-year increments, and if the current owner of the domain does not renew his or her domain at the end of its registration period, that domain will expire and could eventually be acquired by you.

The simplest way to go about this is to start by checking the expiration date of the domain. You’d do this via a whois lookup of the domain. Here’s a simple whois tool you can use for that: http://whois.icann.org/en

An expiration date will be displayed. With most domain names, the current owner will have about 25-30 days after that date to renew the domain name. After 25 days (or so) the domain may flow to an expired domain name auction (such as NameJet, SnapNames, or GoDaddy Auctions) and/or the domain will eventually ‘drop’ and be released for re-registration. In practice, however, most of the good domains never ‘drop’ so the smart play is to not count on that ever happening. Instead, if the domain that you want does expire, your best bet is to check the various expired domain name auctions to see if the domain shows up there and/or place a backorder on the domain at several of the domain ‘dropcatching’ service providers (such as DropCatch, and also offered by NameJet, SnapNames, and GoDaddy). Since most of the ‘dropcatchers’ only charge you a fee if they are successful in grabbing the domain for you, you’ve got nothing to lose by placing backorders at multiple providers. In fact, this will increase your odds of getting the domain name. Just be prepared that if several other people are also pursuing the same domain name you may end up needing to participate in an online auction for the domain.

Try switching things up.

If playing the waiting game is not your thing, isn’t possible, or you simply don’t have time, then you should explore the options to switch things up with your domain. There are three different ‘switching it up’ routes I suggest you consider when your ideal domain name is not available:

  1. Try to obtain your ideal name in a different legacy gTLD. For instance, if you were hoping to get a .com domain but cannot, you could try switching to the .net, .biz, or .org version. If you’re launching a startup or tech-oriented company, you could consider getting the .co or .io version, both of which are popular with the startup crowd. And if the new thing you need your domain for is focused on a specific geographical audience, you could go with the relevant country code TLD (ccTLD) such as .ca for Canada, .de for Germany, or .au for Australia.
  2. Get creative and obtain your name in one of the hundreds of new TLDs that have emerged since 2014. If your new thing is community-oriented, perhaps a .club domain would do the trick? If it’s a science related Website, .science might be an ideal choice. Launching something to do with photography? Take a look at .photography. With hundreds of new TLDs available, and more launching every month, you may be able to find a new TLD that is a good match for you and your name. In some cases, the end result could be a shorter domain name. For example, if you had hoped to get TorontoPhotography.com but are unable to, you might be able to get Toronto.Photography, which is 3 letters shorter than the .com version. Please keep in mind that it’s going to take a while for the general public to get used to all these new domain extensions, and you’re going to have to market harder to get your target audience to navigate to your ‘non-com’ domain name.
  3. Try adding a short prefix or suffix to your dream name. This is a great solution if you’re dead set on sticking with a .com domain. Verbs are quite popular as prefixes, and you could try things like getNAME.com, goNAME.com, and tryNAME.com. For suffixes you can experiment with descriptors and try things like NAMEweb.com, NAMEsite.com, and NAMEonline.com. Spend some time exploring which two and three-character words might make a suitable prefix or suffix to your name. This might turn out to be the simplest solution for you, especially if you are on a shoestring budget. While adding a prefix or suffix to your name is a compromise solution (compared to getting the exact match .com domain), lots of companies do so and consumers are used to seeing this.

Don’t try this at home.

There are some other options you could try – at least in theory – however none of these I recommend. I am going to mention them as a courtesy, but I believe they will cause you more trouble than they are worth and should only be considered as a last resort: You can incorporate a dash in multi-word names, e.g., go with Toronto-Photography.com. And you can also get ‘creative’ with spelling and/or drop vowels from words, but be prepared to forever be having to spell your confusing domain out to people. I’d avoid these last options if you can.

The nuclear option?

I suppose there is one other option, although it’s rather drastic, and that would be to give up on your dream name and switch names altogether. I’ve certainly seen a few people resort to this out of sheer frustration, and it’s understandable that this can happen sometime. By starting with a clean slate, however, you may open the door to many more creative and domain name options.

Good luck on whatever path you take.


How To Buy A Domain Name That Is Owned By Someone Else

How To Buy A Domain Name That Is Owned By Someone Else

Buying domains owned by someone else can be a tricky process! Let’s say you’ve just come up with a fantastic new business idea. It has a cool, unique name and buying its matching domain name is all that stands in your way. But when you go to your favorite domain registrar to try to buy the domain, you get a message stating that the domain is not available.


You dig a bit further and realize that someone, somewhere, already beat you to the punch and owns this domain name. What do you do? What can you do? Will you ever be able to get this domain name?

First of all, take a deep breath. All hope is not lost yet. That’s because even though someone already owns the domain name you desire doesn’t mean you can’t buy it from them – if you go about it the right way.

First thing’s first: before you even consider approaching the current domain owner to ask them about selling their domain name to you, you need to ask yourself some very important questions such as:

  1. How important is this specific domain name to your new venture?
  2. If it’s important, how much money are you willing to spend on acquiring this domain name?
  3. How quickly do you need to buy this specific domain name?
  4. If you can’t get this specific domain name, will a different domain name suffice? (What’s your Plan B domain and is it available?)

How important is this specific domain name to your new venture?

If you’re launching a new product or service called Fluffy, and the domain name you want to buy is the exact match .COM domain name (i.e., Fluffy.com), then this domain name is very important because it’s the primary and most intuitive domain name for your venture. If on the other hand the domain name is intended to be only used for a one-time marketing campaign, or a blog, or a B2B venture, or a microsite, then the domain’s importance to your business may be somewhat lower.

If it’s important, how much money are you willing to spend on acquiring this domain name?

Every entrepreneur and business is different and will have a different level of comfort about how much they are willing to spend on a domain name. They will also have wildly varying budgets. For some companies, spending more than $1,000 on a domain name would blow their entire marketing budget for the year. For other companies, a $10,000 domain name would be considered a bargain because they are already spending way more than that on other marketing tactics. And then there are companies that are happy to pony up six or seven figures to buy a category-defining domain name (typically a one-word .COM) that will allow them to dominate an entire market segment.

What’s important here is to be mindful of your budget, whatever that budget may be, and be realistic about what sort of domain name your budget is going to allow you to buy. For instance, and this is just a rough ballpark, a one-word .COM domain is probably going to set you back between $50,000 to $200,000 — perhaps more. A two-word .COM will usually be much less, with many available in the $1,500 to $10,000 range (although there are, of course, exceptions). And a completely invented or “brandable” domain name, such as Zivean.com or Dozeri.com, can often be bought for $5,000 or less — sometimes way less!

How quickly do you need to buy this specific domain name?

It’s never a good idea to wait until the last minute to buy domains. The more time you have to source and buy your domain name, the better a negotiating position you will be in. What you especially want to avoid doing is painting yourself into a corner where you are forced to buy a specific domain name – perhaps because you’ve already made public announcements about what the name of your new product or service is – because in situations like that you risk driving the price up…way up.

If you can’t get this specific domain name, will a different domain name suffice?

It’s always good to have several alternative options at your disposal because this will allow you to save money and time, especially if your first choice domain name can’t be bought at any cost.

Now it’s time for some detective work!

Once you’ve considered the important questions above, the next step is to figure out as much as you can about the person or company that owns the domain name you want to buy. Ideally, you want to gather this intelligence without making the owner realize you are doing so. You don’t want to prematurely tip them off that you are interested in buying their domain name.

Start with a WHOIS lookup. Then Google the owner’s name, company name, and email address. Look for their profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks. Who is this person or what kind of a company is this? Ask yourself, why do they own this domain name? Is the owner a serial entrepreneur that just happens to own a handful of domains for future projects? Is the owner a large corporation that owns the domain because this domain name was used by a company it acquired? Is the owner a domain speculator (a.k.a. domainer) who buys and sells domain names for a living?

I should note here that domain speculators take a lot of abuse from people who accuse them of “hoarding” domain names, but given a choice, I would much rather be attempting to buy a domain name from a domain speculator than a member of the general public.

Why? Because a domain speculator is in the business of selling domain names and most of them (but not all, sadly) have a realistic sense of what a fair price for a domain name is. When a domain is owned by a member of the general public, often times they have unrealistic price expectations because they don’t understand the market. Some members of the general public think that every domain they own, no matter how crappy, is going to turn them into a millionaire. Good luck buying domain names from one of these delusional folks!

You should also visit the domain name itself and see how it is being used, if it’s being utilized at all. Does it resolve to a Web page or is there a server error message? Is it parked with PPC ads at the domain registrar? Is it parked with a “For Sale” message or link to a domain marketplace? Is it an active Website, blog, or forum of some kind? If it’s a Website, when was the last time the Website was updated? Ask yourself, how attached is the domain owner likely going to be to this particular domain? Is this domain a key corporate asset for them, in which case they will likely be very reluctant to sell it to you regardless of your budget, or is it a minor or forgotten asset they’d be happy to unload? By now you should have a clear, or at least clearer, sense of what you would be willing to pay for the domain and who the current owner is.

Now it’s time to approach the owner of the domain … but not before you consider a few more important things:

Do you speak the same language as the domain owner? If not, you may have better success working with an intermediary that speaks the domain owner’s native language.

Should you approach the domain owner yourself, essentially revealing yourself as the buyer, or should you use an alias? Maybe you ask an intermediary to help you out or even a professional domain buyer broker, which is how yours truly makes a living.

Consider the pros and cons of the domain owner knowing your identity as the buyer. If you’re from a large company, this might put you at a disadvantage because the owner of the domain may assume that your company has a much larger budget than you really do and they may jack up the price. If you’re a small startup or an up-and-coming entrepreneur, going in as yourself might be the smartest move. I encourage you to be as honest as possible and avoid playing games because you may only get one shot at this and you don’t want it to backfire on you!

If, during your earlier research into the domain name, you discover that the domain is listed for sale on Flippa or one of the other domain name marketplaces, you might want to bid on or buy the domain through that marketplace versus going direct to the domain owner, especially if you are not confident in your negotiation skills or not adept at the technical side of domain transfers.

It’s also important that only one person representing the buyer — even if that person is you — engage with the domain owner. The more people contacting the domain owner about their domain name, the greater the risk the domain owner may think they’ve got a very desirable domain name on their hands.

When it’s time for you or your proxy to reach out to the domain owner, be polite and professional and get to the point. Call or email them and ask if they’d consider selling the domain name and what price or price range they have in mind. If they’re a savvy negotiator, they will probably resist stating a price and will instead invite you to make an offer. Sooner or later someone is going to have to throw out a number.

If you’re comfortable making an offer, do so, but don’t insult the owner with a ridiculously low offer. Also, don’t comment or make assumptions about their current or future use of the domain name or how much you think they paid to buy it. You don’t know the full story behind the domain, so saying things like “I see you’re not using the domain name…” or “Since you only paid $10 to register this domain name…” could seriously tick off the domain owner and kill your chances of doing a deal.

Negotiate in good faith with them. Don’t offer them an amount that you aren’t willing to move forward with in a transaction. If they are unwilling to sell at all, or at a price you are comfortable with, don’t insult them. Instead, gently try to understand what is behind their price expectations or reluctance to sell. Be persistent but don’t harass them and be ready and willing to walk away from the bargaining table if you need to. Never, ever, lose your cool, no matter how frustrating the situation might become. Remember that they are not obligated to sell their domain name to you. In fact, they are not obligated to even reply to any of your inquiries, although I believe that’s the courteous thing to do.

During negotiations, keep things light and friendly and always try to move towards a deal that both parties will be comfortable with. For instance, is it worth the risk of scuttling the deal to save you a few bucks? If and when you agree on a price, I strongly recommend you use a domain escrow service to safeguard your money and the domain during the transaction. Who is responsible for paying the escrow fees is up to you and the seller, but typically the buyer pays at least 50% of the escrow fees.

Buying domains from someone else can be a challenging, nerve-wracking, and even infuriating experience, however the more homework you do upfront the easier it will be and the more likely you will succeed. Give yourself as much time as possible (ideally months or weeks versus days or hours) and always make sure you have one or several backup plans in the form of alternate domain names.

If you are able to negotiate the buying of a domain name from someone else, be sure to pat yourself on the back. You’ve proved that just because someone else already registered a domain name doesn’t mean you can’t get it eventually. Congratulations to you and the seller!

How to find a good domain name for your business

The name and domain name of your company are often the first impression potential customers have of you.

Ideally, you want your company name to catch their attention – for all the right reasons – and make people want to find out more about what you do.

As a self-confessed naming fanatic, I am often surprised how little thought some entrepreneurs give to their business name and domain name. Not only do you risk losing potential customers because you chose a bad name or domain name, but you could even end up in legal hot water due to unintentional trademark infringement.

Whether you are hoping to create your new company name and domain name from scratch or intend to buy a “ready-made” brand name with matching domain, there are a number of things you should consider to ensure that your precious time and money is well spent.

Should you go with .com or another TLD?

For starters, consider the domain extension. Are you building a country specific business and want to highlight this fact through your choice of domain name? If so, then going with a ccTLD (country code top level domain) is probably your best bet.

For instance, if your business will only be focused on the Canadian market, and you want to proudly promote your business’s Canadian-ness, then picking a .ca domain name would be prudent.

If, on the other hand, you have global aspirations and want to subtly (or not so subtly) give the impression of being an “international” business, then choosing a TLD such as .com (or perhaps one of the new domain extensions such as .web or .store) is a smarter move.

What is the length of your name?

Size does matter, but in the case of domain names the smaller (the shorter) the better.

With a shorter domain name, the fewer keys people will have to type, which means the chance of them mistyping and making an error are reduced. Also, a shorter domain name is easier to use in marketing material where space is limited, such as in tweets, radio ads, etc.

If possible, keep your domain to 10 characters or less in length (measured from the left of the dot), and shorter if possible. I am particularly keen on seven-character names because in North America seven characters is also the length of a phone number.

If you plan things well you can not only get a seven character name but also a matching phone number, e.g., 1-800- DARTELO to go with your dartelo.com domain.

Shorter means less stuff for people to remember, which will make name recall easier.

Do you need a keyword-based name?

If it’s important for you to have a name that describes your business, then you may want to consider going with a keyword-based domain name.

For instance, if you plan to specialize in vegan brownies, then a domain name like veganbrownies.com or – to a lesser degree –healthybrownies.com would be a good fit. Not only will it make it crystal clear what your company is all about, but it
will also help your website rank better for the keywords in the domain name.

If SEO and being found via search is a primary consideration for you, or perhaps the only marketing method you have at your disposal, then a descriptive keyword domain should be considered.

These types of domains also help to make you look as if you own the entire business category, especially in the .com, since there can only be one veganbrownies.com, and if you owned that you would be planting a flag in the ground as “the” definitive vegan brownie company (no matter how large or small your business really was).

The downside of these sorts of domains is that they can be rather generic sounding, making it harder for you to distinguish yourself from the competition or convey the true essence of your brand character. Blazing Brownies, for instance, is arguably a more creative and memorable name, but somewhat less descriptive.

Purely generic names are also much harder to trademark precisely because they are so descriptive. So you will need to think about where you want to be in the spectrum of descriptive vs. memorable.

What about an invented name?

The exact opposite of descriptive, keyword-based domains is what I call the whimsical or invented names. These are names that are completely made up and would (and should) never appear in a dictionary in any language.

Since you’re creating these from scratch anyway, I recommend keeping them at seven characters or less. Kazeron, Dartium, Murgola, etc. (all of which I made up as I wrote this) are examples of these types of names. These names often sound a bit like an actual English word, but with an unusual spelling or other creative twist to them.

There are some real pros and cons to these invented names. What’s great about them is that you’ll probably be able to register the domain name at cost or pick it up for under $3,000, since whimsical names like this are relatively inexpensive on the domain name aftermarket because they are not as popular as the keyword domains.

These unique names will also help you quickly rank very high in the search engines for your name, so if someone already knows your company name they will be able to find your site easily. It will also be much easier for you to trademark and protect your new name, if that is important to you.

Unfortunately, these invented names will not help you rank in the search engines for your product or service since those keywords don’t appear in the name itself. And your potential customers may not have any idea what type of business you are based on your name alone, so that could be seen as a disadvantage.

If you get too clever with your invented name, people may have trouble spelling it correctly, so try to pick a “sounds like” name that people will intuitively know how to spell. Finally, don’t forget to double-check to make sure your invented name does not mean something offensive or inappropriate in another language. Chevy Nova anyone?

Maybe a conjunction name is for you?

Somewhere in the middle between keyword-based and invented names are the conjunction names, typically formed by pairing two real words
in new and exciting ways. Ad agencies and startups are particularly fond of this naming approach, which is why you’ll see names like Blink Frog or Pink Wrench or Zombie Muffin.

These names can be quite fun and memorable, but they are not suitable for everyone and risk being overly trendy. That being said, I am particularly fond of alliteration when coming up with these names, wherein both words start with the same letter: Purple Pagoda, Rubber Rose, or even my company name, Name Ninja.

What’s great about conjunction names is that for any one root word there are thousands of possible words to pair it with, which means that with any luck (and a bit of patience) you should be able to find a conjunction name that you like to hand register as a domain. And even if a domain investor already owns the conjunction domain that you really want, these types of domains are typically priced under $3,000 for the .com, which is a relatively modest amount to pay for your brand name.

Conjunction names are a great choice to make when you are on a tight budget as there often so many for you to choose from at all price points. They are also easier to trademark than purely descriptive ones, but they won’t be that helpful from an SEO perspective.

Another reason I like these names is that people will know how to spell them since they are real words.

Beware the naming gotchas! Here are some of the things to avoid when picking a domain for your new business.

  • Don’t pick a domain with a dash. Most people will forget to type the dash and they will end up at the wrong place – perhaps even one of your competitors!
  • Avoid numbers (either numerical or spelled out) because people may get that wrong as well.
  • Abbreviations are also problematic for the same reason.
  • Don’t fall prey to what I call the “Web 2.0 Disease” of dropping vowels from your name.It may seem cool and clever at the beginning, but trust me when I say that you will only come to regret this decision down the road when you end up being forced to pay a fortune to fix your mistake by purchasing the correctly spelled version of your domain name.

Over to you

What are your tips on finding a good domain name for your business? Please let us know in the comments.

PS. Did you know we currently have 50 % off domain listings? Start your auction right now.

Photo courtesy: Rasmus Andersson

8 Domain Tools You Can’t Live Without

If you make a living buying, selling, or developing domain names – or hope to – you will be pleased to learn there’s a wide variety of free and paid tools out there to help you get the job done.

The hardest part of writing this post about my 8 favorite domain name tools was deciding which of my long and forever expanding list of frequently-used tools would make the cut.

What follows is an eclectic mix of some of my most cherished tools, plus a few particularly cool or noteworthy ones you might not know about. Where possible, I have tried to indicate the price(s), if any.

1. Estibot

Estibot is best known as an automated domain name appraisal tool (the results of which you should always take with a grain of salt). The service offers a suite of over a dozen tools that will come in handy to anyone serious about domain names.

I think of Estibot as my domain name “Swiss Army Knife” and I use it every single day.

I use the Domain Parser tool frequently to quickly clean up rough lists of domain names, and the Availability Checker is a super easy way to instantly identify domains that are available to register. No matter what you are trying to accomplish with domain names, chances are Estibot has a tool for it. Some services are free and others require a subscription.

2. DomainTools

This is my other “must-have” domain name tool, and I spend a good chunk of my day using the various services on offer here.

DomainTools is my first choice for doing WHOIS lookups thanks to the extra data provided, and I also like to look at WHOIS History and the historical Screenshots to research the previous ownership and use of a domain name. The various domain Monitoring services are terrific to keep tabs on important domain names that you own or wish to own.

As with Estibot, some services are free and others require a subscription.

3. Escrow.com

When it’s time to complete the transaction of a valuable domain name, whether I am the buyer, seller or broker, Escrow.com is my first choice for domain name escrow service.

This service, which charges a fee based on the sale price of the domain, helps protect the integrity of the transaction, ensuring that the buyer gets the domain name and the seller gets paid.

If you’re doing a domain name transaction valued at $1,000 or higher, especially if you have never done business with the other party before, you should seriously consider using an escrow service like Escrow.com.

Editor’s note: We use Escrow.com here on Flippa.

4. DomainPunch

This Windows and Mac OS client software (actually a family of related software) is invaluable if you are managing a portfolio of domain names for yourself or others.

It allows you to consolidate and monitor expiry dates, nameservers, MX records, and much more. This tool is very useful in terms of helping you stay on top of the status of a large number of domain names. It comes in various free and paid versions, including a no-frills free version called Domain Name Analyzer.

5. Domain Apps

Formerly the WhyPark automated domain development platform, Domain Apps is a free tool that gives you the ability to quickly generate search-engine friendly mini-sites for your domains. Unlike traditional parked domains, domains built on Domain Apps are actually indexed by search engines.

You can customize these sites just about any way you want, plug in some cool features like a directory, coupons or YouTube videos, integrate advertising, and get detailed statistical reporting. My favorite use of Domain Apps is to easily create “For Sale” landers for domain names in bulk.

6. Wayback Machine

A service of the remarkable Internet Archive, Wayback Machine allows you to search and browse historical snapshots of Websites stretching back over a decade. There’s no better way to find out how a domain name was being used in the past than browsing its history on the Wayback Machine.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this free tool to dig up an interesting factoid – or settle a bar bet. I love this tool, and it can be so much fun as well. For a laugh, try looking at an old snapshot of one of your websites.

7. NameBoy Radio Test

An oldie but a goodie, NameBoy’s free Radio Test helps you avoid choosing domain names that could be easily misunderstood when said out loud. It does this by presenting sound-alike words and phrases based on the keywords in the domain name you are thinking of. After all, you want to be careful with your domain names. A famous example is “Pen Island”, which becomes “penisland.com” and that’s not exactly ideal…

8. RhymeZone

This is a comprehensive rhyming dictionary and thesaurus that is my first stop whenever I need creative inspiration for a naming project. For a free tool, RhymeZone offers a valuable array of services to unlock writer’s block and stimulate the naming process.

The next time you are stuck trying to come up with a new domain name, spend a few minutes on RhymeZone and see where it leads you.

Over to You

These are only a few of my favorite tools, which I use to buy my domain names. Which favorite domain tools are on your list? Please let us know in the comments.

Photo credit: JR P

How to Sell Your Domain Name with Flippa

Over the years, a lot of people have asked me for advice on how to sell a domain name.

What follows is some general advice for the Web entrepreneur that already owns a bunch of domain names and would like to significantly increase the odds of selling those domain names.

Although this advice is based on my two decades’ worth of experience buying and selling thousands of domain names, this advice is not aimed at professional domain name investors (a.k.a. “domainers”) nor am I going to cover pro-active domain name pitching strategies.

If, however, you are what I would refer to as a “Budding Domain Speculator” looking for some practical tips to move some of your domain names, then read on…

The Harsh Truth about Selling Domain Names

Let’s begin with two important things you need to understand and accept (but will likely upset a few readers):

Most of your domain names are probably un-sellable.

Before I dive into how you can boost your domain sales, it’s time for a reality check. The number one impediment to what is referred to as “secondary market” domain name sales is the quality – or lack thereof – of the inventory.

In general, the kind of inventory that sells best in today’s world is one-word, two-word, and sometimes three-word English language .com domain names that directly relate to popular business products or services.

If you are holding non .com inventory (e.g., .net, .org, .biz), or domains that consist of invented words, or are phrases, be prepared for the sad probability that this inventory will not sell in your lifetime.

Of course there are going to be exceptions to this, but they are, by their very nature, exceptions. The cold, hard reality is that secondary market domain names are not very liquid assets. This probably means that most of your inventory is not going to sell. Ever.

It’s still a horrendously inefficient market.

Most end user buyers don’t know where to look for secondary market domain names. They don’t know how to contact the owners, nor do they have any idea of how to actually purchase and transfer a domain name. As a result, they become generally confused and frustrated by the whole process.

Quite frankly, who can blame them? So the more you can do as a domain speculator to soften the edges here, the greater the likelihood you will sell some of your domains.

Tips for Selling Your Domain

Now that I have beaten you up about the quality of your domains and the relatively inefficient state of the secondary market, let’s talk about some best practices that will help you sell your domains.

1. Display a “for sale” message on your domain’s home page

Believe it or not, the number one source of secondary market domain name sales is buyers typing the domain name into their Web browser and navigating to the domain to see if it is available. There are a bunch of domain tools out there that can help you manage the sale.

To boost your domain name sales, you first need to make sure that your domains resolve to a page that, one way or another, clearly indicates that the domain is for sale and provides a choice of ways for the prospective buyer to contact you or purchase the domain right away, whether that be via email, phone, chat, or whatever.

The goal here is convenience. There’s a bunch of easy ways you can accomplish this.

Your domain name registrar may provide you with a free one-page Website tool, which you can use to create a “this domain is for sale” landing page. Alternatively, you can create a single page (perhaps a hidden page hanging off one of your existing websites) that indicates that your domain names are for sale. You can then forward all of your domain names that are for sale to that one page.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can link each of your domain names to its matching “buy it now” purchase page at one of the marketplaces. Another more sophisticated option would be to “park” your domain with one of the leading domain parking companies, such as DomainSponsor or SmartName and enable their built-in “for sale” message and contact mechanisms.

Whatever you do, make sure that if someone navigates to one of your domain names that they can clearly see your “for sale” message, otherwise you will miss out on a ton of sales opportunities.

2. Sell your domains on Flippa

Although Flippa is best known as the leading platform for buying and selling websites, the domain name marketplace has grown quickly and is now a leading product for selling domains names.

Flippa attracts a different audience than the typical domain name marketplace, and sometimes a domain name that would not get much attention in the more crowded and traditional domain name marketplaces will find a seller on Flippa.

This happened to me with one of my own domain names, a two-word, technology-oriented .com. I had it listed just about everywhere for a year or two, even had it in auction on GoDaddy a few times, but I could never get this domain name to sell.

Figuring I had nothing to lose, and always game to try new things, I listed it on Flippa. To my pleasant surprise, the domain sold for several thousand dollars and I made a tidy little profit.

From my observation, the domain names that sell best on Flippa are those that appeal to buyers who will want to develop them into full-blown websites.

If you do try to sell a domain name on Flippa, take advantage of the fact you can include a detailed description of the domain name in your listing, which is something that the traditional domain marketplaces don’t offer.

3. Embrace fixed pricing if you really want to move your domains

Regarding fixed pricing, this is always a hotly-debated topic in the domain investor community because some people feel that putting a fixed-price on a domain means that you risk leaving money on the table.

While that may be true, at least you sold the domain name! As I like to remind people:

“He who dies with the most toys (and domains) still dies.”

Most buyers are intimidated by the whole “make offer” thing and just want to be able to browse by price and buy instantly if they see something they like and can afford. Frankly, I’d rather have seller’s remorse than go to my grave still holding an unsold domain name, but the decision to go fixed-price or not is all yours.

One thing to keep in mind: if someone contacts you directly about buying one of your fixed-price domain names, you can always ask them to make an offer and/or you can always quote them a higher amount than your fixed-price. It is very unlikely that they have seen the list price elsewhere. Most buyers are not that sophisticated.

4. Optimize the WHOIS record for sales

Add a “for sale” message to your WHOIS (domain ownership record) information. Once again, the goal here is to make it blatantly clear to Joe Public that your domain name is for sale.

You can include this messaging in one of several ways. You can append the owner’s (a.k.a. registrant’s) name or company name with “This Domain is For Sale”, e.g., instead of listing the company as “Acme Inc.” you would list it as “Acme Inc. – This Domain is For Sale”.

Alternatively, you could use a custom email address for your domain registrations that suggests the domain name is for sale, e.g., [email protected][yourcompanyname].com.

Trust me, you cannot be too obvious about this!

5. Don’t hide behind WHOIS privacy

If you are using a WHOIS privacy service, remove it if possible.

These services are fantastic if you want to cut down on spam and/or hide your identity as the owner of a domain, but they are a serious impediment to sales because most potential buyers don’t know how to contact a domain owner that is using a WHOIS privacy service. It simply confuses them and is a perceived (if not actual) roadblock.

Make it easier for buyers to contact you. Ask your domain registrar to remove the WHOIS privacy service.

6. Have realistic price expectations

We all hear in the popular media about those rare six and seven-figure domain name sales like sex.com, hotels.com and beer.com, but what folks don’t realize is that these deals represent less than 1% of all the transactions.

It would be awesome if you were able to sell one of your domains for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars (and I genuinely hope that you do), but chances are that’s not going to happen.

The typical secondary market .com domain name (which is usually a two-word name) sells for around $2,000, and the majority of the rest of the domains that sell change hands for less than $5,000, so keep that in mind when you price your domains.

You probably aren’t going to retire on the proceeds of your domain name sales, but it might help you pay off your mortgage faster.

Also, I would encourage you to read the interview with Tim Mayeur who is one of the most successful domain sellers on Flippa.

7. Respond promptly to any purchase inquiries you get

Everyone seems to be in a rush these days to get stuff done, and purchasing domain names is no different. If someone makes the effort to contact you about buying one of your domain names, try to respond to them within 24 hours. If you don’t, they may find another domain name and you will have lost a sale.

There is nothing more frustrating to a buyer than a non-responsive seller. I have seen domain speculators miss out on potential six-figure deals because they took too long to reply to the buyer, or didn’t reply at all.

8. Use “charm pricing” to increase the likelihood of a sale

There’s a reason a lot of products on store shelves have prices that end in “99” or “98”. This is called “charm pricing” and it has to do with retail psychology.

You can and should apply this best practice to your domain name pricing. For example, even though a domain name priced at $1,999 is only $1 less than a domain name priced at $2,000, the $1,999 domain will “feel” like a much better deal to many potential buyers.

Domains, like most products with charm pricing, have been statistically proven to sell much faster. I know this may sound crazy, but it works!


By following the eight domain name sales tips that I have outlined above, you will vastly increase the odds of selling a domain. I wish you much luck and success in doing so, and please let me and the fellow readers know in the comments what strategies are working best for you.

P.S. Want to see what’s selling right now? Check out the Flippa domain sales

Photo by: Cybele Wertz