A rose is a rose is rose… but not with domain names. (Photo: nickwheeleroz)
I am James Siminoff. I’m an entrepreneur.
I have founded more than a half dozen companies, exited from one and currently spend my time on PhoneTag and Grid.com. I have spent over $250,000 on approximately 200 domain names because I believe that a great domain is extremely important to the success of a start-up (I learned the hard way – PhoneTag used to be called SimulScribe).
It’s especially important if you are starting a virtual business as it’s both your company name and how people will find you. My overall rules for domains are: they must be easy to spell, easy to say, and .com (no .net, .us, etc.) domains.
What I find tricky about purchasing domains is that you cannot use comparable sales (like real estate) or actual intrinsic value estimates (as you can with a car, jewelry, TV, etc.) for your negotiations. Vibrator.com sold for $1 million, I spent over $100,000 on Grid.com, yet sometimes you can find names that will be valuable for $10.
I have used my success and failure in buying domains to create a step-by-step process that should help secure the domain you want…
1. Brainstorm names
Type a list. Keep in mind that the better the name the more likely it is to be taken or expensive (see step 6, valuation). [From Tim: a useful tool for looking at word combinations is Dot-o-mator.com.]
2. Initial sort
Go to Godaddy.com, upload your list using the “bulk upload” feature. If there are any domains that are not taken you will see them now. If you like any of the ones that are available, you just got lucky.
3. Hit the auctions
Domaintools has a good search that aggregates most of the auctions. Sedo is also a good place to search keywords. You can sometimes find a great name for a few hundred dollars here.
4. Shrink your list
Go to each domain, i.e. for “XYZ”, go to xyz.com. Break your list into four categories:
a. Real Business – Any names that are being used for a business should go to the bottom of your list. It is nearly impossible to get these. When we bought Trustme.com there was a business there, but it made things a lot harder and pricier.
b. Squatter/Investor Pages – Used to monetize the location. They are typically easy to figure out as they are just links to other sites for lead generation. These sites are almost always for sale, so this is a good page to see. PhoneTag.com had one of these when I found it.
The original page for Phonetag.com
c. Construction Pages – This usually means either of two things. Someone is about to put up a business at this site or an amateur registered the page and forgot about it or is holding it. I have had decent success in names that have these pages up.
d. Dead Pages – Nothing comes up, does not mean it is available. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from these names, other than that the owner is not making money off of it. Nobel.com was a dead page. I found the owner, a large insurance company, convinced them that they should give us the name (we had Nobelcom.com) and, surprisingly, they did. In contacting the company, I figured a CEO or high-level person will hold me over the barrel for money and a low level person will not have the authority, so I went to a VP level in the IT area. My company was NobelCom.com, and I pleaded on a human level that they would be helping a young entrepreneurial company. It worked. For the VP to do the paperwork to sell the domain was harder than just giving it to us. Part luck, part skill. That domain is probably worth north of $50,000.
5. Contact the owners
First you need to confirm that you can not only locate but also communicate with the owner. For Grid.com it took me over a month to find the owners.
a. See if the contact details are listed on the site. Many sites have a contact US or “this domain may be for sale” link. I have found that my success rate is higher when these messages exist on the site. Also use the internet archive to look at old pages and contact details.
b. If you cannot find it on the site then use the “who is” directory (I like domaintools.com for this).
i. About 30-40% of the time the real domain owner’s info comes up.
ii. The rest of the time it is either dead info or private. For the private stuff if you send an email to the private address it should in theory get to the owner. In practice I have found this rarely works.
iii. If standard “who is” does not work, try using the historical “who is” (domaintools.com offers this)
6. Contact the owner and ask if the domain is for sale. DON’T MAKE AN OFFER.
a. Contact directly – If you are a student, first-time entrepreneur, or someone whom I would find no Google results for, then contact the people directly. If you have documented success, then don’t contact people directly, as the price will be based on your status. With Grid.com I had such a hard time finding the owner that during my investigation I accidentally emailed the owner with my real details. This mistake probably raised my price by well over $50,000.
b. Hiding your info –
i. Cheap way – register a gmail/yahoo address with something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign the email Joe (no last name) and don’t give any personal info out. You might look like a scammer so it lowers your chance of contact.
ii. Pricey way –
Option 1: Use a service. There are a few services that allow you to mask who you are to contact the owners, godaddy.com, networksolutions.com, etc, offer this. I have tried these services and have had zero success.
Option 2: Use a small law firm or PR firm which has a website. Make sure that if you looked them up, you would think they are just above the poverty line on the business food chain. This is the best way that I have found. This service should cost between $100 and $300. To find these firms, I usually ask friends for referrals or just go to someone local (every town has a small law firm). It allows the seller to see that they are being contacted by someone real and it does not jack up the price. This is how I got PhoneTag.com, Trustme.com, as well as a few others.
As I mentioned, the biggest problem with valuation is that there are almost no comparables to go by. Many times you are dealing with an individual owner, so the domain is worth what they will sell it for. I typically do not have a budget in mind because I look at domains as an asset like real estate.
8. This is my rationalization when figuring out what to spend:
a. How many letters is the name
i. 3-4 letter words are expensive. They can sell for anywhere between 5k-500k
ii. 5 letters and above start to get cheaper
b. How many words is the name?
i. 1 word is most valuable, each additional word is less valuable
c. How easy is it to spell?
d. Is there a reason why people would type this word(s) in their browser? (You can get a traffic analysis on the domain from Compete.com if you want to get the actual numbers) For example: College.com is worth a lot because people type it in, and it gets natural search traffic. PhoneTag.com is worth less because there is no traffic.
e. Do the words naturally go together like “Phone tag”, or are they random like “Micro soft”? The less natural they are, the lower the value of the name.
f. If the domain has a “my”, “the” or other like word in front of it then it is going to be worth a lot less.
g. How will this domain affect my business?
i. A better domain is more viral, which reduces customer acquisition cost
ii. What is each customer worth to you?
iii. What is your current customer acquisition cost?
Here are the typical negotiation responses after you get in contact with the owner:
a. “I will sell it to you for $800,000” When you get ridiculous offers, I typically go back with what I think they are worth, so for Bulk.com they asked for 800k and I went back at 35k. The owner declined the offer. I could not justify a higher price for that name so I moved on.
b. “I don’t know, what do you think”. This person wants to sell. They are going to negotiate you up for sure. Typically I would go in at 20-30% below my bottom range of my budget. A note of caution here: If you write back that you will buy it for $5,000, just realize that it is a contract that could be enforceable in court. This actually happened to me with a domain called KisKis.com. Always put some language like, “I will buy it for $5,000 pending all terms are agreeable.”
c. “$500” (when you think it is worth $5,000) Ok, great you have a price. Be careful though, if you just say “yes”, you might spook the seller, as they will think they underpriced their domain. This happened to me with Grid.com. In the end, I had to sue the owner to enforce the contract (settled out of court before trial). If the domain in question is just decent and you don’t care if you lose it, then either say “yes” or negotiate down a bit. [Tim: I prefer the latter to avoid seller’s remorse and rescinding of offers.]
d. “$5,000” (when you think it is worth $5,000) Use the info from point C above, but you do not have to be as cautious because you are close to market.
10. Get them to agree
As I said above, if they say yes to your price, that is a contract and is very enforceable. Try and get a yes in writing as quickly as you can. Once you have that, immediately open up an escrow account. I use Escrow.com. The faster you fund the account the better chance you have of the seller not being able to back out.
Good luck, and know that the effort and investment is well worth it. Since we switched our brand from SimulScribe to PhoneTag, sales have more than doubled.
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216 Replies to “How to Buy Domain Names Like a Pro: 10 Tips from the Founder of PhoneTag.com”
Great advice. Definitely interested in acquiring some top domain names soon and I’ll definitely come back to this article when I do so. I’m assuming since everyone’s scared of the economy I’ll be able to pick up a few good deals. 🙂
Very insightful post. I’ve just gotten into the world of domains, and so far, domai.nr has been the most useful. I look forward to following the steps listed above!
Great point about the economy… I have not seen prices go down on domains yet but I seen more people willing to sell. This economy is a great time to pick up lots of assets if you can, I know I am,
Very helpful. Would have been great to have this guidance when I first started online. Keep the good stuff comin’ Tim!
Now is the time to buy! I just bought an unclaimed two-word, eight letter domain name – includes an important word – “diet” – that’s the best I can hope for right now! I wonder though, how much importance google places on the words in the domain name in their relevance algorithm – the ever elusive algorithm…anyway, the domain name I really wanted is currently occupied by a clear squat page, but it’s not something people would readily type in, so I’m not going to persue it right now.Maybe after I make the term more popular 🙂
I sold a domain name last year, and all of the information of the buyer was VERY anon. I couldn’t find any information about him at all. Later on, I realized I sold it to a large UK firm and AIRLINE. Do your homework if you can… you never know who you are selling to, and it reallys helps to know (if you can).
@Marcie – From what I’ve seen Google places a huge importance on the domain name keywords. I’ve registered decent keyworded domain names and outranked some pretty well established sites.
In some cases when I’ve made sites about software/games I’ve outranked the official developers site simply because I had the full product name as the domain whilst they had their company name.
Great advice, Jamie! I’ve bought a lot of domains but never put as much thought into the negotiation process. A lot of my opinions were formed when someone was kind enough to *give* me setconsulting.com when I was 20 and getting started and he thought he was doing a big favor (he was). Times have changed though…
I can’t wait to learn about Grid.com at your launch on Tuesday!
I use betterwhois.com to search domains. I was on one site in the late 90’s and checked for a domain. The next day it wasn’t available. Still wonder if that was on the up and up.
Nothing is perfect but my site works well. Mike Can Do It. I am in real estate and it is memorable. My client actually put a poster board sign on my real estate sign after we sold her house and it read “Mike Did It”.
The funny thing is one person thought my name was Mike Candoit. I laughed.
For services, using keywords may not be pretty but it can get results. PortlandFlatFeeListing.com has gotten me business and is on the first page for that search.
Also mikecandoit.com is flexible. Real estate isn’t the easiest business right now. If I was to do something else it could easily follow me. I joke that if I wanted to do porn the site name would be perfect.
When I was searching for a domain name I picked another one first and got threatened with a trademark lawsuit. I wasn’t sure that it would have the merit they thought but it could have cost me $15,000 before court and it wasn’t worth it. Later I heard of a woman name Tiffany starting a website called TiffanysJewelery.com or something quite similar. Tiffany’s, the huge department store, sued her, won, and told to pay the winner’s attorney’s fees. Those aren’t cheap attorneys.
Some food for thought.
Great Post. I agree that simple easy to use words are the best. When we changed our name (to our current name) our traffic literally doubled overnight. This is truly the 80/20 of domain name acquisition. Great info.
Wow I’ve been waiting for a post like this for a long time. What great insight. I’ve spent hours messing with word combinations, my this and global that. Also worth checking out is Smashing Magazines Article on Domain names listed here http://www.generate.ie/blog/?p=14 find it’s a good resource
I agree with that Marcie. Stick with what you got and push forward. What would be interesting to see would be a post following this one with , “How to get your money’s worth for your domain” Just a thought…
Good post. The beautiful thing about a good domain name is that every domain name is unique and can be a sustainable competitive advantage even for the “little guy”.
You may want to also add to your domain finding tool list our Type-In Traffic Finder which lets you import a keyword phrase and then shows you hundreds of related keyword phrases and any available domain names that correspond with those keywords (all data is real time data from Google for real Google searches).
You can try out the tool here: http://www.domainsuperstar.com/domain-finder-tools/type-in-traffic-finder
I bought my domain name (8020Financial) from godaddy for $10 or so, and am getting a reasonable amount of traffic for my blog.
Yet I keep having second thoughts about it – it does contradict principle 8e above (‘Do the words naturally go together like “Phone tag”, or are they random like “Micro soft”?’).
Oh well, really helpful article though. Wish I’d read it when I chose my domain name. Maybe this would be a good niche business for someone – domain name selection consulting – I just googled it and no one really seems to be doing it (most of the ‘domain name consultants’ seem to simply be resellers of domain names).
I think it’s important to note that Jamie isn’t saying that a domain like “8020Financial” can’t be valuable — “4-Hour Workweek” comes to mind — rather that since it’s not a common combination, you should be able to purchase the domain for less than, say, “FinancialReturns.com”. There are benefits to having a company/product name that isn’t a common combination of words, as it’s easier to trademark and enforce a name that isn’t already effectively in the public domain.
James, Generally speaking good stuff and good advice I would add a few things though in the typical responses area (as I’ve been on both sides of the fence . . . I sold you phonetag.com 🙂
D. I’m not really interested in selling it or NO it is not for sale. This typically means the owner is content with keeping the domain name and that you are going to have to make the first move in an attempt to loosen the grip. There’s a high likelihood that they are earning on the domain and really do have no desire to sell the domain. I would not advise playing around with domain owners in this scenario . Make a solid offer that gets their attention and is closer to your Final offer.
E. No response. You’ll start seeing this more and more I’m afraid as domains fall in to the hands of people who “don’t need to sell”
Keep in mind that the owners of most good domains have probably had the name for awhile and have received countless emails just like yours. Make it stand out and make them want to sell it to you.
Also, a good domain broker can break the ice with domain investors that are in his or her network that might not even respond. If you need one, feel free to hit me up any time. [Comment moderator: click on name for URL, then “contact” page]
One last thing it wasn’t too kind to refer to me as a squatter. . . really? Did you refer to me as a squatter because I owned something you wanted or because I “wasn’t using it”? Neither is not squatting. I actually bought the domain name for a mobile project that never got off the ground and I really don’t appreciate that label in any use regardless of my intent for owning a domain. Squatting is claiming ownership on something that you shouldn’t be isn’t it ? Typically domain squatters are the ones registering domains similar to trademarked domains. . . .not the same but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you were just generalizing.
Lastly, good news for generic domain name owners today as Toys”R”us bought Toys.com for $5.1million
Purchase a built up site on payme0 – look over 1000’s of value site venture opportunities.
the guy is himself a squatter if you accept his reasoning
Thanks! I needed that…
8020financial check out IncSpring.com they come up with original domains paired with a logo ready to rock. Also there’s a service like you desire called PickyDomains.com and then if you go all out you can hire a naming company and pay thousands of bucks for them to come up with a name. I have no affiliation with either company btw. Also see another article featuring phonetag.com and naming here : http://xr.com/naming
and my response here : http://xr.com/rebranding . Looks like Tim and James took care of my gripe that the article didn’t give advice on buying a domain. 😉
Hi James, great post, thanks !
Got a couple of questions about this:
1- you just go for .com, however, how do you still try purchase the various .net, .biz, .info, etc. to protect your “Google real estate” (I mean from competition or simply web stalkers trying to steal traffic by using an alternative domain)
2- on a similar note, do you acquire mis-spelled variations of the name as well, you mention keeping the name as simple as possible, however people cant spell no matter how much you try help them…. I definitely found this when looking at keywords searched on my Google analytics.
Many thanks !
Sounds like sound advice – and goes way beyond my formula for buying domain names. I liked the tool Tim mentioned too for trying out unique word combinations. Something that wasn’t mentioned – do you buy a domain name for a year or more? If you buy a good domain name like, “bulk.com” for instance – and you buy it for 8 years… someone may think they haven’t the slightest chance of getting that domain and move on to another name that also represents their company and what they do.
If you buy it for one year they might be more likely to contact you – yes?
I tend to really think about these things – anyone have an answer?
Thanks for the interesting post. One question: on godaddy.com many domains seem to be for rent (9.99/year) rather than for sale. How do you go about actually buying one that is listed for rent? If one costs 9.99/year, how much would it be worth for a one-time permanent purchase?
General comment (and somewhat specific to @8020financial), dashed domains are often seen in a bad light; however, this can be advantageous as sometimes dashed variants of a domain you want are available. Sometimes.
Can dashed domains be successful? Definitely: just look at ml-implode.com, which went viral out the gate and is now the site for mortgage industry news.
Thanks for the thorough write-up. My bootstrap approach on domains is always to revert back to being creative and working within the constraints of what is available.
Hey Tim, as always great post with a wealth of information.
We frequently find the team is brainstorming for a good name and it becomes a long email thread or one person sitting on godaddy/netsol doing lookup after lookup. So we created http://domainseekr.com where you can start a private search and share it with your friends, then you can vote for you favourite.
I do not know the site betterwhois.com, but I do put a word of caution out into the community that there are a lot of registrars that when you type in the name to see if it is taken, they immediately register it for themselves (if you don’t). This is a disgusting practice and from what I understand godaddy.com does NOT do this. That is why I use them to do the first bulk upload.
The domain business is still “finding its way” so be careful out there.
Thanks for adding those 2 points. I should have consulted you when I was writing this article as you also have a ton of experience in this. I think that you are correct that you are going to start to see more and more people that just want to hold the domains and have no interest in selling. Your advice on these is good but I would add that if you really believe a name is great for your business just don’t give up, keep contacting the person, never stop at some point they might just give in.
As for the squatter stuff. To me a squatter is someone that has a domain, keeps the domain and no longer intends to use it for anything other then appreciation and/or link traffic. Under this definition I am the proud squatter of about 200+ domains. If you read my definition carefully you will see that in no way was I trying to be demeaning to anyone squatting a name, in fact it is very much the opposite as I have found better luck in buying names when they are being professionally “squatted” vs. owned by an “amateur”.
It has been my findings that when you go to a page like the one that was up at PhoneTag you are dealing with a business person and therefore a proper business deal can be done. This was very true with our deal.
I wish the owner of Grid.com was a squatter, instead it was single owner and in my domain terms an “amateur”. If you read the full story (the link is in the post) on my issues in getting that name you will see that it was definietely not smooth like ours.
What service provides the ability to buy the name rather an pay a monthly or yearly fee?
Also do you have any recommendations for protecting your personal or business information from spammers using WHOIS directory information. There seem to be sites that offer this but it appears that you also have to rent (?) the domain name from them as well.
I have an issue with Terra Anderson. The domain industry is quick on its feet to make every available comparison of its namesake to the real estate market. If so, then the pricing model needs a structured model. Well, the real estate model of late, where flippers went berserk may not be an ideal example.
However, anticipating a sale price, based on the depth of the buyers pockets is akin to legal ransom. It will be a great day when domain names are sold at equilibrium on its intrinsic value and not because some buyer or seller won the pricing tug of war.
Easier said than done. But, sooner or later, we will get there.
Great Article! But, would have been nice to make the distinction between true trademark ‘squatters’ and those with large portfolios who monetize their domains using domain ‘parking’.
I have been using the term “buying”… This might of been bit misleading as you are correct you can only technically rent a name. However, once you have begun “renting” a name as long as you pay the annual fee the domain is yours for life.
I look at it at this point like a house. You buy the house for say $250,000 and then you have to pay annual taxes to the town. If you don’t pay the taxes to the town you loose the house… same with the domain.
Google places a LOT of weight on the domain. If you have a domain that matches what people are searching for you get massive points. When I was in the online calling card business it was almost impossible to get http://www.callingcards.com out of the top spot for the search “Calling Cards” in Google.
I should have added an SEO (search engine optimization) section in the valuation part of the post. This is very relevant for how you value a domain if you are looking for search traffic. However a word of caution, if the owner is already getting the benefit of that traffic the price of the domain is going to be a lot higher.
nice post… thanks for the tips.
i had a problem selecting a domain with the word ‘design’ in it. after a long time i settled for RedesignYourBiz.com 🙂
in future i guess i’ll definitely make use of the tools u suggested
Great post. Interested in a domain at the moment and will use the tips you’ve provided about negotiation. For the little guy who sees an opportunity, how can they capitalize on getting a great name for sale at a larger price?
PS: http://www.makewords.com is a domain name finder based on number of letters; very useful
The best advice I received when I was about to register my domain name is that it should contain your main keyword. That really helped me rank well on search engines.
I hade to purchase .net domain because the .com one was taken. But probably that is more important if you are thinking of selling your site some time later.
I hear what you’re saying about “squatter” and your definition. Here’s the thing. Your definition isn’t helping. There is so much vitriol with that term. People like Adam, myself and hundreds of others are investors – just like land owners.
If you believe that we have legitimate rights in the names we’ve registered I’d suggest using “investor” or something similar.
Finally, there are other options for registering domains. Cheaper, faster, better.
Name.com, Moniker, NameCheap… the list goes on and on.
Since I am an tech entrepreneur and not really in the domain business I used the word squatter to my definition which as you point out is not necessarily correct from a perception point of view. I would consider myself as a squatter of names that I have purchased that I like. However many believe the word squatter to be people sitting on trademarks, etc. I should have put squatter/investor as the header for that section.
In real estate while there is better intrinsic value there is still a “pick pocket” problem that happens when the seller knows of the buyers desires and wealth. Look at the story of how Walt Disney bought up all of the land in Orlando for Disney World. He did it through brokers and hid every piece of info, in order not to run up the prices.
You have a good point, while I have taken the approach to only have the best names, no .net, no dashes, etc., there are people that have made huge successes with both. Like anything in life and business there is no silver bullet. My reasoning behind domain names is that a good one makes it easier to be successful but by no means guarantees success.
@ Tim Ferriss
Thanks for the encouraging words Tim. Feel better about my domain now. It didn’t occur to me that 4-Hour Workweek is a brand as well as a book title. I studied marketing years ago and I can see that purely as a brand it does have a lot of potential for extension to other products.
Thanks very much for Incspring.com and other links. Incspring seems like a fascinating business, wish I’d though of it (oh hang on, I did, just way too late;)). I may well end up using them.
Very interesting post. You’ve got some nice names there – especially liked how you negotiated for Nobel.com – you’ve given me some new ideas.
Just bookmarked your site and looking forward to more posts.
NIce article with some good advice here.
@ James Siminoff – On your comment – “from what I understand godaddy.com does NOT do this…”
-Unfortunately GD is one of the worst known for the “..searched domains found open and not immediately regged and then mysteriously regged syndrome!” If you check it at GD and it’s open, it’s wise to reg it ‘immediately,’ and to not ‘think about doing it later’! FYI.
I also must point out that a ‘squatter’ is someone laying claim to something that belongs to, or infringes on, others. Just because someone owns something someone ‘wants’, does not make him a squatter because he isn’t using it!!
I updated the post to now say “squatter/investor”. I think it is a better description of the segment.
Please remember this post is about buying a domain, not about the industry itself. When I am buying a name I put all of the brainstorm names into the above mentioned 4 buckets because that is how I have found success in acquiring the right name for my businesses.
Actually, there is some rhyme or reason to what domain will sell for at least to another domainer. It usually is based on what the domain name is making a year while being parked. A better name with lots of type-in traffic can be a huge money maker for a domain investor just being parked that is why it can cost so much when being resold.
Great information James, and glad things are working out for you.
All excellent points and your article will point many in the right direction, but there are many exceptions to 8A/B. I would much rather acquire BeverlyHills.com than Omaha.com.
Re: caution about which whois service to use when checking domain availability. I used to use Network Solutions for whois because they list a lot of different Tlds (.com, .net, .co.uk etc) but I stopped when I found out that they reg’d the .com of a name I was interested in after I ran the search. However, they dropped their reg. a few days later and I was able to get the name through GoDaddy. So, don’t despair if you find a domain that was available is gone when you look a second time. Just try again a few days later.
I now use Namesecure for whois. Their interface is fast and simple and, so far, I haven’t had an occasion where they’ve reg’d a name I was checking.
I had a similar experience as Nigel Hall who wrote…
“Re: caution about which whois service to use when checking domain availability. I used to use Network Solutions for whois because they list a lot of different Tlds (.com, .net, .co.uk etc) but I stopped when I found out that they reg’d the .com of a name I was interested in after I ran the search. However, they dropped their reg. a few days later and I was able to get the name through GoDaddy.”
I looked up a name with Network Solutions and it was available. Then I logged in to the registrar I use for my domain names and tried to register it. My registrar said it was not available. I called Network Solutions and they said they put a “hold” on the name. This happened a few years ago but I believe the “hold” was for 24 hours. I don’t remember how the conversation went but they “released the hold” while I was on the phone with them and I was able to register it at my registrar that same day.
@ James – Thanks James – going with that info – If “thepinkdiet.com” was taken (just a random example) – would it be wise for me to register “thedietpink” and other iterations? In other words, does Google care about the order of the words much?
@ Kevin – interesting about godaddy and registering. I was wondering if someone was paying attention to what I search for! What would be an “honest” place to search for available domains?
Great tips my biggest problem has always been finding out who actually owns the domain. Most of the time it ends up being a dead end and I just give up.
If you are in a business and you have the opportunity to buy the keyword product /service domains that describe what you sell or do…Don’t pass them up! Negotiate- but in the end if you plan on staying in that industry, the domains will pay enormous dividends!! They are the keywords your customers are searching for to find you….
Would highly recommend http://www.BustAName.com
I find it much more useful than http://www.Dot-o-mator.com
Interesting and informative post. As the buyer of numerous domains myself I found this quite helpful. Luckily here in Australia the competition for domains isn’t quite so hot.
f. If the domain has a “my”, “the” or other like word in front of it then it is going to be worth a lot less.
Kinda like Myspace? 😉
I emailed the owner of a domain, let’s say for this example, “domainme.com”.
I got no reply after two emails. He is not using the domain, he never was. All there is is a godaddy holding page. I own a domain that I could translate for this example as “domain.me”
I am planning to launch a website called something to the effect of “Domain Me”. My “.me” domain is perfect for that, but sooner or later acquiring the .com would be a natural step.
I was wondering.. Can the owner keep his domain if I own the trademark for “Domain Me”? Do I have a case here if the domain is the exact .com of my trademark?
Finally…….This is a MUSt read for anyone who is starting a new business. Please take time and get the right domain. Yes you can make up a word and use that for the business BUT getting a domain with a bit of age, traffic is the way to go. I myself have many that any business can come to to obtain. Search and you shall find and possilby riches down the road!
A good way to mask yourself when purchasing is to just pay a friend (or buy him a beer) who has no “Googlability” to do the negotiation.
Great example on myspace.com. As I have said before there is no silver bullet, a business can be a success with a bad name. There are many examples of this.
I have found it is just easier with a great one.
@ Marcie – I use Moniker.com, Dynadot.com, and Domaintools to check on availability regs.
@ Mendoza – Filing a trademark on a term/product long after the fact the .com was registered, will not bring you the .com name you want just because it’s not used and you now have a ‘new trademark’. Might bring you a ‘reverse hijacking’ ruling though.
@ James Siminoff & je – MySpace.com is only valuable because of the site’s content and traffic, and was worthless before then as a domain. Like Google it is a brand name, ‘made’ valuable. Having the ‘my’ in front of Space or any word adds no value whatsoever to the name, just some appeal to those that want to ‘personalize’ their products, wares, website etc with the ‘my’ part.
I love James’ intro. Life as an entrepreneur can be addictive. Hiding your information, while conveying that you are legit, is key. I intentionally keep my web presence low key to avoid getting the price raised after first contact. Particularly with amateurs, if a national third-party or attorney contacts them they start seeing dollar signs. A little-bitty law firm from Oklahoma doesn’t get them too excited. 😉 It is well worth spending two or three hundren bucks to save several thousand. Great post!
Thanks for the wonderful article James and Tim. I recently had an idea for a business but the domain name I wanted was already taken. I had no idea how to go about trying to contact and acquire the domain name. Thanks again for this walk through, I’m sure I will be coming back to this post a lot in the next few months.
Here is a little more input from a domainer. Non-domainers need to understand much better that there is huge difference in value between top category generics like vibrator.com and nice brandable names like grid.com. Vibrator.com is biz-in-a-box. Vibrator.com has only one alternative – vibrators.com, while grid.com has thousands of comparable alternatives – grid is just a short nice word that is easy to remember and easy to spell. Most domains beyond the top several hundred thousand though have no value.
It’s normally not a good idea to play games when trying to buy top category generics or nice brandable names like grid.com. All these names were registered over 10 years ago. If the owner wanted to sell cheap, he would have sold already. There is no low hanging fruit any more.
Great post with great advice!
I will definitely come back and check it out several times as I continue to buy domain names.
Great post! Domain purchasing is a meticulous process, thanks for clarifying it a little more. It looks like someone already brought up http://IncSpring.com (love to see that), it’s benefits are huge in the areas you mention. You’ve obviously dumped a lot of money into domains so you understand the value. The beauty of IncSpring is we let creatives from all of the world upload new, original names and domains for sale, most with logo packages. Hopefully we can give start-ups a new option when struggling to get their names and domains in place. Good luck to all!
I appreciate the advice by way of domain name purchasing. I will surely come back to this article when in the market for making more domain purchases.
I think these days with all the small word domains taken, one has to think of catchy combination’s of words or actual made up new words and then brand the names.
This can be quite difficult, and sometimes it is more efficient to purchase an already established, catchy domain word url. However, with a lack of capital in the first place, I think catchy new words and word combination’s are key.
Mr. Timothy Ferris,
I was re-reading your book this morning and ran across your timeline. I have applied to Brown University and am running through the admissions process. My ACT score is a falls into the same category as your SAT.
I am wondering what procedure you went about to get admitted into Princeton and what you could recommend to me with the looming April 1st admittance decision date. I am pretty sure my counselor made the same “be realistic” comment you heard in your earlier days.
I appreciate the advice and look forward to hearing from you.
I’ve gotta’ say, as a huge fan of this writing genre. . .you’re intro to this post was RIGHT ON THE MARK! What a crazy intro hook to a great spy novel. If you’re next book is a thriller, or a screenplay for a thriller, I’d say you’ve got some good chops to make it work.
Very nice job. . .very cool.
Posted this on the wrong post!
Hi James / tim:
G8 article to read at a time when I am setting up a virtual company. It is a real estate search and the have aquired the domain.
I name is easy to spell, not long and can be remembered, however, I find there is another real estate search with a very similar name operating..diff country.
since that one is a running search, am I stepping on someone elses shoes i.e IP problems? and secondly does it matter at all?
hope to see your views!
iWantMyName offers a little iPhone app for brainstorming domains on the go. You can even register domains straight away within a couple of seconds.
Great post. I found a cool site called http://www.seoparking.com. It’s free and really useful for domains that you own but haven’t had the chance to do something useful with yet.
If a particular domain is available, it’s prudent to buy it immediately. There have been several complaints of names going missing hours after a whois search is done.
I heard you on the dash. I refused to buy primeobjective.com years ago as it was purchased by a company looking simply to sell domains. They still contact me every years knocking a bit off the price. For me, Prime Objective does not say much about what I do professionally (recruiter) so it is not worth buying. However, since reading this, I purchased both NJHealthjobs.com and healthjobsnj.com as I recruit health-care professionals here in NJ.
This is good – helpful. I’ve been working with GoDaddy.com for 2 years now and have been able to navigate through the world of website development fairly well.
If any one want to buy a domain, in my opinion it is important to focus on your product name which you want to launch like if you want to start property business then you use property in your domain and it is more effective if you use territory name with product like Dubai Property.
Funny thing with your article title and picture, “A rose, is a rose, is a rose, but not with domain names”. – The stock picture is not a rose…
Not to sound ungrateful for all this great, generous information, but when James switched his domain from Simulscribe to Phonetag and his sales doubled; I’m having a hard time attributing this to a new domain. I’m not saying it’s purely incidental and the facts are the facts, but a new name can double your business? People avoided or opted for the service elsewhere b/c they could not wrap their brains around “Simul” or “scribe”? I agree that phonetag is better, but twice as good?
Sometimes, people have to kick an idea around for a few months before they pull the trigger.
some great ideas in here- also links from readers are helpful. aged domains also help but whether they help serps more than a keyword rich new domain depends on the competition of that niche.
I can tell you with out a doubt that the new name has more then doubled our business. I agree with what you are saying about SimulScribe but for some reason customers could just not remember it. PhoneTag is a very memorable name and since 100% of our business is word of mouth it made a HUGE difference in Sales,
Great post, especially the paragraphs on contacting the owner and negotiation
Thanks for the info, and for laying it out so clearly.
Great advice in this article.
Generally domain buyers fall into 3 categories,
a) flippers, someone who wants to buy low, sell high
b) someone who has done their homework on a usually pre existing domain and they want existing traffic to earn $$ on click throughs, many companies go out of business and have incoming links and those can be parked and earn you click income
c) someone who wants to develop the domain for business purposes (have a product or company with that name)
I gravitated towards domains instead of real estate or stock market because if you know what you are doing, the profit margin is unreal. It’s the e-real estate for our generation. Low maintenance, no property taxes, just your $7 per year renewal once you’ve acquired it. In less than a decade, we have acquired a multi million dollar portfolio with very little risk.
If you are brand new, do not go crazy. Read publications like http://www.DNJournal.com which provides a weekly listing of domain name sales. Study the archives of past sales for inspiration. Start small and work your way up. Just like any investment, treat it like a business and don’t invest what you can’t afford to lose. Protect yourself by using services like Escrow.com for every transaction, it keeps both the buyer and seller safe.
Great article. I recently started going after domains in my niche and I was reaching out with a price in the first email. I was always low-balling, but you always feel like you overpaid when they accept your first offer.
Thanks for this Tim…this comes at a great time as I’ve been doing more research and brainstorming re: Domain names. Acquiring domain names is a very exciting area of the intranets!
Also, I second that seoparking site. Very good.
Is it possible to sue a broker that won’t sell you a domain that you trade under and have other domains associated to?
For example I trade under http://www.globalcreative.co.uk – i want to buy the .com address but the guy wants way too much for it.
This is imperative to my business though and they are not trading under that name – surely this is illegal?
Does anyone know of any companies or websited that I can advertise the trademarks and domain names for sale. I do have the UK domain and trademark paked on sedo but so far no enquiries have come through to me.
Do you have any suggestions as to what each domain and trademark would be worth to sell as a complete package.
Several vitally important factors left out of this:
1.Your name is your brand, in every respect. It will touch every constituency and is the most important equity you will be likely to develop in your business. From the day you start investing time and money into the venture, you are pouring that into a brand. To the degree that you own the vessel you are pouring energy into, is the extent that it will be worth something. Typically, new entrepreneurs go with descriptive names – it is most often the biggest mistake. Consider Phones.com vs. Verizon.
2. Tim did not mention anything about Trademarks -this is vitally important. There is no way you can guess about this or go with a Google search. You are better to hire someone who understands it – and the best choice is a firm or professional that knows both branding and trademark law. They will be able to help you steer towards the right brand strategy and clear of the legal sink-holes. You could navigate the http://www.uspto.gov site, but you will still be missing a lot.
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Tim or James – Maybe you could write an article on the flip side talking about the best way to sell domains and/or how long you should keep them before dropping them or selling them off.
I am actually just quitting my JOB this Friday to pursue being an entrepreneur full time. I own a quite a few domain names – some of which I use for business ideas, blogs, or personal.. and some I just havent had time to build up a site for and others I bought with the intent that they might have some resell value in the future.
Hope to hear back from you guys! Thanks!
Domain scavenging is a talentless market for the greedy. Why not just leave the domains open for people who actually have dreams, ideas, and corporations that can use them. I don’t know how many times a domain I’ve wanted for business has been unused and yet unavailable.
How do you go about contacting the owner the first time? I mean, what do you write in your first email?
James, I did exactly what you said and within 12 hours from reading this post 1 nite, I located and sent an email to the owner of the domain name http://www.golfpage.com, spoke and negotiated with him the next morning, purchased the domain name at a very reasonable price and had the name servers pointing to my website by 12pm that same day. I’m still in a daze all that happened so quickly. Thanks for the great tips and inspiration.
James – thank you for the tips. I just used them to get a great domain, livepress.com. Great idea about going through a small law firm, I think that was very effective. I used a sole practitioner who specializes in personal injury and employment law as I thought his site would give the right “just above the poverty line” vibe you suggested.
I find as a buyer/reseller of Domain Names, many people are convinced that their name(s) may be the next cars.com or sex.com. Sadly, when these people learn that their name, although it is a “one of a kind” may only be worth a few hundred dollars, at best, it is like telling them they were just turned down for a mortgage, car loan and credit card …all in one day …and their spouse is leaving them too! Clearly still one of the best investments one can make, but reality must play a big part as with any business decision.
if you buy for 10 and sell for 500 you are doing better than the guys in the big short