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advice Six Years of Domain Name Mistakes

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NamePros is full of tales of mistakes made and mistakes to avoid. Personally, I have made my share of mistakes. This post is about the mistakes I made during the last six years. While I won’t cite specific cases, the article is also informed by mistakes that I have read on NamePros.

More Than The Perfect Domain For Someone

My early months in domain investing were just a few years after the introduction of new gTLDs. I loved the phrases possible with the many new domain extensions, and I still do.

At the time, I was most excited about education, science, outreach and travel. So I registered names in those. While good that I was building on sectors and niches that I knew, that doesn’t necessarily mean I should have registered the names I did. Here is why.

I registered a bunch of phrases related to those fields that would be perfect. Honestly they would. If I was doing science shows or a museum outreach program or very specific travel service, the names were clear, distinctive, and memorable.

So what was wrong? Even if you have the perfect name, odds are the few ‘someones’ who are the right potential buyers, are simply not looking for a new name. Even if they are open to a new name, they might not be in a position to pay much for one.

I did sell a few at really discounted prices. Lesson learned?

Tip
When investing in any name, make sure there are many potential buyers, and that it is likely that some of them will be open to acquiring a domain name at retail prices.

How can you evaluate how many potential buyers? Back then I did not know about a free source OpenCorporates. I use it every single day now.

Tip
Make a list of potential applications for any name you consider. Yes, an actual written list.

Cheap Is Not Usually Good

Personally, I love to save money. I thought that would carry over to domain names, and that if I could offer names that were almost as good as names that had sold for four or five figures at much lower prices, that the buyers would flock to me. While occasionally that happens, usually it does not. Only the best names sell most of the time.

Why is that? The domain name is just a small part of the cost of getting a business up and running. Why spend thousands on a website and related marketing on a sub-par name? Focus on quality and the best names for a niche.

Tip
When considering an acquisition, ask yourself whether you would invest your own money in starting a business on this name.

This insight, like every other, has exceptions. I still take a chance on some low-cost domain names for a year. But the Dollar Volume Per Listing analysis showed that many deeply-discounted names don’t pay off, on average.

Don’t Get Comfortable

It is natural to get familiar with a process, and then to want to stick to that. There are good reasons related to efficiency to concentrate on certain things. However, I firmly believe that to grow as a domain investor one needs to try new things and expand horizons.

There is nothing per se wrong with hand registration of domain names, but in my early years I got comfortable with hand registering domain names and listing them mainly at a single marketplace. I think that was a mistake.

Some domain investors acquire names only at one auction site, or only closeouts. A number seem to preferentially use one marketplace and lander type. If, after a careful consideration, that is a deliberate choice, fine. But don’t do it just because it keeps you in your comfort zone.

As the years have passed, I now acquire names in more ways, although still not as diverse as optimum. I have each year explored different marketplace and lander options. As I write this I have names listed at 12 different marketplaces. That may be too many, but optimizing the type of name with the marketplace can yield rewards.

I covered 9 different ways to acquire domain names in Domain Investing – Just The Basics: Part 1.

Tip
Consider setting the goal of using one new marketplace and/or expanding the places and ways you acquire domain names.

Invest In What You Know

Domain investing is hard enough without buying names in a sector or niche that you don’t really understand. A few years ago I had a few crypto names because that was trending and lots of investors were reporting sales. But you see, I know nothing about crypto. Really, nothing. I have never even held any crypto. So that was not a smart investment for me (I have none left).

You may find the NamePros Blog article Catching Trains and Avoiding Train Wrecks helpful.

Don’t Be Swayed By Automated Appraisals

I am not as negative as some on the potential usefulness of automated domain appraisals, but it is important to not be unduly influenced by them. Early on, I was too focussed on names that had great GoDaddy Appraisal or Estibot values.

Tip
Something I started doing recently is to not check the appraisal values until after I have done most of the other research on a name.

If I have come to the conclusion a name is strong based on other considerations, weak appraisal values might cause me to reconsider. However, if I have already decided a name is not for me, I don’t even do the automated appraisal. That way it can’t unduly influence my decision.

It’s A Word – So What?

I went through a phase of chasing names because they were a word in the dictionary. Highly desired words in .com and a few other TLDs fetch fantastic prices. But that does not mean that every word is worth much or even anything.

Now, I still have a soft spot in my domain heart for dictionary words, it is true, but just because something is in a dictionary does not mean it automatically has any value, even in .com.

Every single day terms that are words in some dictionary or other drop and are available for hand registration. Most of these are not sellable because, although technically a word, they are either too long and complex, too specialized, or have a negative connotation.

There is absolutely nothing wrong about giving a bit more weight to a term which is also a dictionary-listed word, but that alone does not mean the name has any value.

In case you missed it, read what @trelgor has to say on the topic: Interview with Sten Lillieström.

I regret a number of my dictionary word purchases. I still search daily, but try to look at the term more broadly, asking myself is it a great name for a business, that also happens to be in the dictionary.

It’s Old – So What?

I was envious of those who have really aged .com names. So, in pouring through auction results, when I saw a name that was 10 or 15 years old I was really impressed. I picked up some names that I should have let pass by. I was blinded by the age.

It is true that most of the better names tend to be aged. But they are not valuable because they are aged, but rather valuable names were registered early and held.

So it is kind of like appraisals, or if the term is in a dictionary. Don’t let this one feature, age, blind you to an objective look at the name overall. If it is a great name for a business, that you can acquire at a reasonable price, and it also happens to be aged, then grab it.

Don’t Register Too Many Names

It is so easy to fall into the trap of registering too many names. Domain investing is addictive, and that addiction is driven by reading about big sales.

Don’t register too many alternatives on a name, the same term in too many extensions, or too many terms in a newly released extension or on a promotion. I’ve been there.

Tip
Take the mindset that you want the best, not the most names in a niche . Do your search for names in some niche or sector, but then order the list after your research, and only register/acquire the top few.

Tip
One way to keep your registrations/acquisitions in check is to limit your budget for acquisitions, or to take a total break from acquisitions.

Get Your Names Listed Promptly

Every day you sit on a domain name that is not effectively listed for sale you are wasting the funds you have invested, in most cases. I have occasionally discovered a name where almost a year had passed and it slipped my attention.

Tip
Keep good records. Record acquisitions in a spreadsheet, or some other way, right after you buy them. On that spreadsheet have columns showing where listed for sale and where lander is pointed. Don’t allow yourself to search for more names until you have previous acquisitions listed.

Final Thoughts

This list could be longer, but these are some of the main errors I have made over the past six years. Many of them fall into the category of not looking holistically at all parameters for a name, but blindly focussing on a single aspect, such as dictionary word, age, a single previous sale, or appraisal value.

I could readily have added pricing mistakes, as pricing too high, too low, too flexibly or too inflexibly, are all potential problems. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest aspects of domain investing to master.

I haven’t covered actual mistakes, such as inadvertently registered names not spelled correctly, or entering a price incorrectly. I covered these kinds of mistakes, and how to avoid them, in an earlier article Avoiding Costly Mistakes.

It is important not to beat yourself up over past mistakes, but rather to learn from them.

In the comment area below, please add suggestions based on your own experience.
 
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The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.
Thanks again Bob!!
 
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12 marketplaces -- that is impressive!

Thanks Bob for summing up this topic concisely.

Keeping good records -- now that's something I truly need to focus on.
 
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Wonderful article @Bob Hawkes 🙏 (y)

One of the major mistakes I did in the past was to invest in numeric domains during the hype period. Hard lesson learned.
 
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Nice read. I was guilty of some of these points you listed such as Appraisals, Domain Age, Trends, and comparable sales.
Now, I do a wholistic examination on any name before I buy. Each name has it own peculiarity and uniqueness.
Also, up till last year, I was focused on STR as a means of measuring domain success. I realized how deceptive STR is December 2022. ROI is a better metric of measuring success in domaining and that is what I have adopted now
 
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Thank you, Bob.

Please share the marketplaces you use.

How many names do you own now?
 
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Thanks mr. Bob

Do you mind to share the 12 marketplaces you list domains at ?
i mean apart from sedo/afternic/gd auction/dan/daaz .

.
 
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12 marketplaces is impressive
Thanks for the good summary
I need to focus on keeping good records
 
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12 marketplaces is impressive
Thanks for the good summary
I need to focus on keeping good records

@bmugford
This is truly bizarre, now Owens is copying my post(s), nearly verbatim!

My mistake is acknowledging it...

(though it's my opinion that D.O. has always been a troll, particularly in chat).
 
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Invest In What You Know
For someone just getting started, this is probably the best advice...as the song says 'stick to the rivers and valleys you know'.

Advice I share is that it is essential to determine a reasonable price and stick to it. Far too often names are sold well below their retail value.

Thanks for another super article Bob!
 
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Thank you @Bob, this is really insightful.

I remembered registering too many names bcos of the hype around it even without any knowledge of the niche. All went down and lesson learnt
 
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@bmugford
This is truly bizarre, now Owens is copying my post(s), nearly verbatim!

My mistake is acknowledging it...

(though it's my opinion that D.O. has always been a troll, particularly in chat).

Lol
 
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I love dictionary names. I just had to let chestiness .com drop. I saw it as a great name for a medical products website that deals with cough mixture. I have renewed a couple of them, but am trying to reassess them in the same light as you - business application 1st.
 
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When you are more experienced, you understand Bob's points better. But the learning curve requires you to actually make these mistakes. What you could actually do is try to minimize the damage as much as possible. Everything in moderation.
 
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  1. Please share the marketplaces you use.

How many names do you own now?

Do you mind to share the 12 marketplaces you list domains at ?

So, a few people are asking what marketplaces, so here is the list where I currently have names at. This is not an endorsement of these over other options, but since people asked...
  1. Dan
  2. Afternic
  3. Sedo
  4. Namecheap Marketplace (*)
  5. SquadHelp White Label Market
  6. BrandPa
  7. Dynadot Marketplace (*)
  8. Sav
  9. NameSilo Marketplace (*?)
  10. BrandBucket
  11. SquadHelp Premium
  12. Porkbun (*)
The ones marked with a * are I believe restricted to names registered at that registrar. A few (SH premium, BB, Porkbun I have only a handful at). I plan to give some other brandable options a try in coming year. I have been planning to give biix a try for some time. If a Canadian registrar set up a marketplace with reasonable .ca rates, I would list .ca there for sure.

I list everything at Dan. I list most at Sedo and Afternic. I generally list on the registrar marketplace if there is one. Brandable type names I try at a brandable marketplace if I get around to it and think it might be accepted. All my Canadian related names are at SH White Label.

I also buy and sell names from time to time at NamePros, and have in past sold other places including Alter, NameLiquidate, Epik Marketplace, and DNWE.

I also have my names listed on a personal website, and have another one in early beta that will feature just a certain type of name.

I think registrar marketplaces are often overlooked. They provide a good option in situations where the buyer wants instant assured transfer of the name, and for selling names within 60 day lock. Many of them have superb commission rates as well. Liquidations also work at registrar marketplaces.

I am not suggesting anyone else should use 10+ and I partly use many registrars and marketplaces as a learning experience to inform my writing. Nevertheless, it is good to explore opportunities and know options.

-Bob

PS @Recons.Com I currently have 1186 but a bit deceptive. I always have a few groups of one-year low-cost per domain trials (e.g. 100 names *1.50=$150 trial), one of which is about to end, and the two others will be dropping next couple months. I also have others I try for a year, see if many views or inquiries. My 'keeper' domain number is roughly 500. My certain keepers, many of which I have renewed in advance, is an even lower number.
 
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But the learning curve requires you to actually make these mistakes.
This. 100%.

I meant to stress that more. It is great to read and listen to advice from others, but to some degree to truly internalize, like you say, you need to actually try things and make mistakes along the way. I think it is almost the same for learning anything.

-Bob
 
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I love dictionary names.
Despite regretting a number of the ones I picked up in my exuberance, I admit I still love them too. I will just be a little more alert to potential business use and aesthetics of the name (simplicity, length, audio test) going forward. Even though I listed it as a mistake, I have been able to sell retail 3 dictionary names that had essentially zero established business use, and obviously many passed over. Unfortunately, none are yet in use by the buyers.

-Bob
 
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Thank you @Bob Hawkes so much for your generous sharing. I get something out of each reading.
 
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Great sharing, valuable experience, thank you, Sir.
 
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Thanks @Bob Hawkes. As always, excellent write-up 💛

Here is a couple of my own mistakes at an early stage of domain investment:
  1. Not checking the domain name for spam index or malware status :xf.confused:

  2. Targeting a domain name with only one potential customer. Basically for an existing company that didn't have the .com version of the name. That was a bad business decision and I also felt bad. :cautious:

    So eventually let the name expire and notified the company about it. They actually did register after it was expired.

My suggestion to new investors: while learning from your own mistakes is necessary, what's actually far better is to learn from the mistakes of other people. So keep reading great posts and books and see yourself grow over time.

Happy domaining 🌹
Fayaz.
 
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Dear @Bob Hawkes! Thank You for great article!
You are absolutely right that mistakes are needed. I read many articles on the NP and turned all the mistakes into the virtues. To make a stable profit, I must have a portfolio of 1200-2000 domains. Now I got 400 domains. I have a large family, many children and animals that I found in the streets, I have no free money. I cannot afford to take part in auctions. All my registrations are handmaded. And I have no problem. I have been buying domains since May 2018, soon 5 years.
But. In the first three years, I bought only 90 domains, specially looked at the registration dates.
Accordingly, I have not so bad statistics - I sold a little more than a dozen domains for the last three years. When I had 100 in the asset, I made the first sale, when it became 200 - 2 domains, then 300 - another 3, then 400 - another 4. This fits into the average 1% STR in this business. For each sale, I received at least $ 2000 therefore, what you call mistakes may be the only way for those who do not have initial capital. And I am not worried about "old" domains. Those ones that I bought 3-5 years ago naturally received the status of old-timers. Like good whiskey, they only get valuable over the years, although they had never been registered before and did not have good price. In addition, a lot of marketplaces are inaccessible for me. The inhabitants of my country were driven out from Sedo, Dan and many registrators asked to leave their sites. But I do not lose heart and in spite of troubles, I make good sales and sincerely believe in success.
 
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Great stuff, would have made all the same points, as I have also made these mistakes along away, especially with the "It’s A Word – So What?" & regging in tons of extensions.

In 2021 I was getting a little carried away in one of my niches, which I know well, buying & catching domains in my field that I didn't plan to sell so easily. I was even regging more "brandable" domains that could be turned into a competitor. Took a break, & have been dropping the "brandables" to focus on the keywords.
 
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  1. Dan
  2. Afternic
  3. Sedo
  4. Namecheap Marketplace (*)
  5. SquadHelp White Label Market
  6. BrandPa
  7. Dynadot Marketplace (*)
  8. Sav
  9. NameSilo Marketplace (*?)
  10. BrandBucket
  11. SquadHelp Premium
  12. Porkbun (*)

Where are you seeing the most sales and activity and what type of domains are you selling the most?
 
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