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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 for sharing!
(comments about selling side)
Epik has big problems, but a landing page like Epik's landing page and associated marketplace can work better than other marketplaces. You can get leads without listing anywhere. If you list, you may be competing with many intermediate people without knowing it.
Dynadot landing pages show: prove you are human, captcha, which is very annoying.
Sedo invites lowballers, and their search function is totally useless.
Dan, domains don't resolve.
Fixed price+fast transfer can be the best method, but not tried yet.
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Bob, you are a true gem to the domaining industry! Thank you for putting together this information in a single, concise write up. I have quite a few friends that want to get into domaining but don't really understand that its not all black and white.

It's absolutely crucial to make some mistakes along the way if you want to survive in this industry; the key is not making the critical ones others have been impacted by in addition to entering the game with wildly unrealistic expectations.

My approach on finding buyers has always been to go direct. Finding a business with a crappy domain with terrible SEO is incredibly easy. If I need to extend in-house financing for a SMB that would truly benefit from a name in my portfolio, I make it happen. This is the only additional advice I can provide to folks running into significant challenges with selling acquired names.

Keep up the great work Bob!
Thanks Bob

Where are you seeing the most sales and activity and what type of domains are you selling the most?
My apologies for overlooking responding earlier.

My own portfolio and sales are too low to make any statistically meaningful conclusions.

Also, I only listed the marketplaces I use, because someone requested the information. But it is not like they are equal in my portfolio in any sense, one has 3 listings, another essentially my entire portfolio. My point was to use the right marketplace for that name, and a single marketplace is probably not optimum for every name, unless you have a very specific type of name.

If I go back the last 4 months, my 8 retail sales have been Dan, Dan, Dan, Afternic, Dynadot, Afternic, Dan, Dan. For me, Dan of recent months is way more active than it had ever been before. Whether that is adding the GoDaddy branding or something else, or simply my personal small number statistics, or even the type of names I am concentrating on now, no idea. I went years with only a Dan sale here or there (except small ones closing there). Also true, though, I have recently more of my landers pointed there than earlier. If I go back over a longer time period, though, I have had retail sales at Namecheap, Alter, Epik, SH White Label. I have not sold any yet at the brandable marketplaces, but have less than 10 each at each of SH and BB.

But my small number statistics are completely meaningless. I think, if you ask the big sellers, most will tell you Afternic has most of their sales, or in some cases Dan or Sedo. But a number use only their own market site, or use a service like Efty for all their landers and sales. Others concentrate on brandables, and preferentially sell at SH or BB.

What sells? Every kind of name sells if right quality at right price after enough holding time. That is not to say every domain name will ever sell, but every type of name that is high quality. I have a very diverse, but small, portfolio so my statistics means nothing.

Of course .com sells by far the most, but by far the most names listed for sale are .com.

The trick is finding something which is a good balance of reasonable acquisition prices, good actual use in term and extension, and available names of high quality with reasonable demand. It is easy to say this, but hard to do it!

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