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.
I’ve seen many first-time sellers both under price and overprice domain names dramatically. For the best traction setup an auction and try to promote it to your connections on LinkedIn or social media.
The most common issue seen on Flippa are overvalued domains. Certainly a positive attribute for domain parking is that it is extremely cheap to keep that domain for years, essentially just a few dollars to keep it registered. Because of this, many greedy domainers will set their prices unreasonably high, expecting millions of dollars when that perfect buyer comes along. Unfortunately, those buyers are few and far between. So, if you don’t want to sit around for years, you might be better off lowering the price to something a bit more reasonable for the quality of the domain.
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.
There are a few powerful tools out there to evaluate the value of domain names, but the most well-known is namebio.com. You can easily enter a keyword and also use their advanced search features to see a list of names similar to your domain, when it sold, and what they actually sold it for.
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!
Tips for Buying a Domain
Pick a Niche
Given that there are over 300k domains being registered every day, it’s going to be extremely important to pick a focus that you’re interested in. This could be anything from cannabis to pets. The underlying rationale behind picking a niche you are familiar with is that you know what people in the industry will purchase.
Knowing the products or services that potential customers in a niche are searching for is a great competitive advantage. Once you nail one niche and build a nice portfolio of domains in it that will get potentially purchased by industry leaders, you can expand into other niches that you know and enjoy researching.
Picking a valuable domain that will attract a group of business owners in a specific geography is a great strategy. For example, if you wanted to target Tampa, Florida you could buy domains like TampaApartmentRentals.com or TampaCryptoMeetups.com. This provides value to an entire geography of business owners and has a higher probability of getting sold faster. In my experience, this can even apply to different countries, cities, counties, districts, and states.
While these might not have a broad appeal that makes them worth millions of dollars, they are highly relevant and targeted, which makes them sought after and certainly worth a good payday if you collect the right domain.
After you’ve found the niche that you want to build a portfolio of domain names around, one that will provide value to businesses in an industry, you can double check popularity with Google Trends and other keyword trackers.
Being able to pinpoint which keywords people in an industry are actively searching for on Google is a powerful place to start while researching domain names to resell. This is especially true if you’re getting started in an industry you really enjoy but haven’t operated in previously. Keyword research tools are like the cheat sheet for flipping domain names.
.COMs Rule Everything Around Me
Despite there being hundreds of options for different alternatives to .com domains, they are still the most active. The reality is people still trust .com more than any other URL when they’re entering in data or payment information. If you do choose to get different alternatives to .com focus on one or two word domains that will rank highly to compete with consumers .com trust.
What NOT To Do
- Do not buy domains that target people based on socio economic level
- Do not buy domains that could lead to a licensing issue or lawsuit
Hands down these are the two that come up the most for big NO-Nos in the domain flipping community.
Overall, a good rule of thumb is to focus on domain names that businesses in a niche will find value in.
I highly recommend if you’re a beginner and new to selling domain names, don’t rush into the buy or the sell. Do your research so you can make sure a domain will actually provide value to a business owner in a specific niche.
A big mistake many investors make early on is expanding their portfolio too quickly into niches they’re not interested in, but feel will be more profitable. Nail one niche you’re knowledgeable in and then scale into others where research is easy with widely available industry information.
Want to see what’s selling right now? Check out the Flippa domain sales.
Photo by: Cybele Wertz