Photo by: Cybele Wertz
Over the years, a lot of people have asked me for advice on selling their domain names.
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 those domain names selling.
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 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.
Domain Name Sales Tips
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.
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
AlthoughFlippa is best known as the leading platform for buying and selling websites, it can also be used by the savvy domain speculator to sell domain 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., domainsales@[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.
For help pricing your domains, ask the domain name marketplaces for assistance or check out tools like EstiBot.
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 your domains selling. 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 listings.