strategy Why Is That Domain Name Not Selling? (And Some Things To Do About It)

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It is a familiar refrain within the domain world – I have some great domain names, but I am not getting any sales.

In some cases, the owner may be overlooking weaknesses in the names. However, even solid domain names can go year after year without buyer interest. How is that possible?

There Are So Many Potential Buyers For This Domain…

A few years ago when Mike Mann dropped a large number of domains, I picked up a few, including a two-word .com that could be applied to several sectors, although a barber shop is the most obvious. The name couples a popular positive term, one that sold well in past, with a generic term related to a barbershop. It is not appropriate to share the specific name, since I still have it listed for sale, but as I write the following example, I have that name in mind.

How many buyers might there be for this domain name? According to IBISWorld there are 151,516 barbershops in the US. Of course, the name could also find use outside the US, at least within the English speaking world. About 15% of the world speak English.

For round numbers, let’s assume that there are at least 250,000 barbershops in the English speaking world. Surely there will be multiple buyers for my domain name? How is it possible not a single one of those 250,000 business owners placed an offer for my domain name over more than two years?

What Fraction Are Seeking A Name?

It is not the total number of barbershops that is the right number to use. Rather, we are interested in how many barbershops are either starting up, needing a domain name, or renaming for a better name. That is more difficult to assess, but definitely there are far fewer seeking a name than the total number of barbershops.

The IBISWorld report gives the rate of growth of barbershops over recent years. While growth has averaged 5.8% per annum over the past five years, that is deceptive, as the trend over a decade is only half that. Also, the year-over-year growth for the most recent year is near to zero.

Also, some barbershops will not even choose to have their own website, perhaps using a social media page or local directory or no online presence.

A few existing barbershops will be rebranding, but probably not much more than 1 in 75 of the total number of barbershops are actively looking for a new name. So that reduces the 250,000 to about 3330 English speaking barbershops that might be seeking a name. It is still an encouraging number, right? And if I count over a few years, even better.

The Fraction Willing To Buy An Aftermarket Name

But just because there are 3000+ barbershops seeking a name, does not mean that they will consider my name. Certain business owners, especially of a single small barbershop, have the view, right or wrong, that they can get an acceptable domain name via hand registration, and are not open to aftermarket names.

It is hard to know that fraction, that will depend on the sector, but for barbershops it could well be only 1 in 15 are open to idea of an aftermarket purchase. So that reduces the 3330 down to just over 220 possibilities.

What Fraction Like This Type Of Name?

But those 220+ barbershops that are open to the idea of paying an aftermarket price, will have specific ideas on what type of name they want. Some might want a name that feels elegant, others want a catchy, or short, name, etc. Some might like a name built on a personal name, or some unique characteristic of their barbershop, like location.

If I am realistic, even though I like my domain name, probably not much better than 1 in 10 barbershop owners might consider it the right type of name.

Therefore the 220 potential buyers has now shrunk to maybe 22 potential buyers. This is getting tight, and we are not done yet.

What Fraction Consider This In Their Price Range?

We already excluded those who were not open to any aftermarket price, but within those willing to pay for a domain name, their budget may still rule out my name.

If you look at successful sellers, places like BuyDomains, they offer a range of prices, including some modestly priced. BuyDomains price some names at levels within the budget range of many potential buyers. I did a quick survey of their .com inventory using a few searches, and it seems that roughly 75% of the names are priced $2500 and less, and about 25% are $1000 and less.

Mike Mann tends to ask a wider range of prices, including more high ones, but as @Michael showed in his blog post Don’t Shoot The Moon, about 40% of Mike Mann’s names were priced at $2500 and less, and almost 9% were at $1000 and less. Note that this was based on an analysis from a few years ago, so prices are probably somewhat higher now.

The fraction will depend on the sector and your asking price, but let me assume that my asking price (about $1700 for this particular name) is perhaps eliminating 1/2 of those considering an aftermarket domain name. That would mean that I am now down to about 11 potential buyers for my name.

What Fraction Will Love This Name?

A domain name can get on a shortlist, but not sell unless it is the name someone finds perfect for their application. Those who sell at SquadHelp can see this in practice. Lot’s of names get on multiple short lists, without actually selling.

So thinking about similar names available for sale, what fraction of those considering my name would find it their first choice? Unless a truly remarkable name, such as a name that is incredibly clever and creative, or a name that defines the sector, it is hard to imagine this ratio is much better than 1 in 3 or 4. Applied to the 11 potential buyers from above, this suggests that there are maybe only 3 potential buyers for my name who are likely to choose my name.

What Fraction Will Find Your Name?

What fraction of those who would buy the name, will actually find the name? Perhaps the prospective buyer is only searching at a registrar, and if your name is not part of a fast transfer network, it may not come up.

To domain investors, the obvious way to see if a name is available is to enter the name in a URL and go to the lander. Surprisingly, research at SquadHelp suggested that is not the route the majority of potential buyers follow. Rather, they may Google search the name, or use various search approaches at the marketplace.

I covered The Many Ways People Might Discover Your Name earlier in the NamePros Blog. The more of these you have covered, the better the chance your name will be found by the potential buyers.

Even if 2 out of 3 potential buyers will find your name, that reduces from 3 to just 2 possible buyers who are likely to choose my domain name.

There are other factors we have not considered, such as the possibility that the buyer needs a payment plan, but you don’t offer one, or the only payment methods don’t work for them. They may be distracted by another name option suggested by the marketplace.

But even considering none of those, we see that 250,000 possibilities shrunk to just 2 in our example. The factors we assumed are not precise, and will depend on the name and sector, but the exercise has shown how few potential buyers there may be for a given name.

Improving The Odds

So what can you do to improve your chances of a sale?
  • Concentrate on sectors with strong growth. A useful resource to see how many new businesses are starting each month within a sector is the US Census Monthly Business Start Interactive Graphs.
  • Get only the best names, remembering that your name not only needs to get to a short list, but actually be the chosen name.
  • Pricing is hard, but carefully consider the sweet point for pricing in the sector. Price your name within the budget of many potential buyers. This is easier if you make purchases at attractive prices, and don’t waste money on names that will not sell.
  • Make your name easy to find in multiple ways. Make sure the lander works, it is listed on marketplace(s), consider fast transfer networks to get in the registration stream, make sure that a Google search will find your name, etc.
  • You may only have a few possible buyers, so don’t let any leads evaporate. Respond promptly and professionally to offers. Make sure that your lander builds confidence in the purchase and transfer process.
  • Eliminate barriers to ownership. Consider offering lease-to-own and support for multiple currency options.
There are other possibilities, such as using targeted outbound to increase eyes on a name, or some form of promotion.
The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.
Thank you sir, very enlightening.
I’m new both in this business and on NS.
But every time I see one of your articles I enjoy reading it , as it helps me to learn.
Just wanted to say thank you !
Great article.

Regardless of portfolio size, sales are usually streaky.

The lack of sales is normally a result of the following factors -

1.) Bad domains. It's hard to sell bad domains for any price.

2.) Domains priced too high. Domains need to be priced in relation to quality.

3.) Not enough inventory. More domains = more potential sales.

4.) Lack of exposure. You need to have decent landers, and list domains on popular venues.


to me, the term barbershop, is a poor example to use.

because unless you are going to have a franchise, then most barbershops thrive on "word of mouth" and/or the styles they do for their clients.
also, typically they are one man/woman operators with maybe a couple of stylists/barbers who "rent" chairs in the shop.

having worked in hair care industry for years, i've spoken to and been in many of these shops, sometimes trying to sell hair products to the owners.

point being, when they "name' their business, usually it's "first name beauty shop or first name barbershop, or it could be named after it's street location. ie: 71st barbershop.

so, that is one of main reasons why a barbershop name may sit for long time, before it ever gets any offers.
for most of them, it doesn't make sense to pay a premium for a domain, when they can just "make-up" something.

on other hand, i have '" which has received numerous inquiries and a couple of offers since acquiring it....and it has earned some ppc too.

in 2007, i sold for $600, which is still online.
so, it might be best to acquire something brandable for that market.

Thanks for your input @biggie.

I should have been more clear but the name does not include the word barber or barbershop or hair, but is a generic term that might find use with a hair salon or barbershop or certain specialty type of retail store. It is general enough things like pet grooming possible, so I probably should have started with a higher initial number taking those into account, in retrospect. The specific name was just to provide a point of reference for the calculation, and is not particularly relevant.
with a generic term related to a barbershop.

most barbershops thrive on "word of mouth" and/or the styles they do for their clients.
I think your point about barbershops in particular depending mainly on word of mouth is well taken. After drafting this I looked up the barbershop I use, and it appears to only use a Facebook page, and not that much really. They depend on location, and, as you say, word of mouth to attract customers.

Thanks again,


PS Congratulations on your sale and suggestion. I did sell a .ca last year that is in use by a hair salon. But it is a first name that could have meant many things, a fashion or luxury brand or something else. I had that in mind when I applied the fraction about type of name. Your sale would be another type of brandable that a buyer in the sector might want. I think many buyers come in with a strong preference re type of name, so any particular type will not apply to all potential buyers.
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Brilliantly researched article as usual from Bob Hawkes, amazing insights into just how difficult it is to find a buyer for your life-changing domain name.
Excellent Bob.....i'm sure you've heard me say, "if it's to be it's up to me". Very few "end user" consumers know this industry exists much less understand how it works. There was a time my portfolio consisted of 15 or 20 decent restaurant names like Yum21(.)com and CatchGrill(.)com. I believe I still own both names, but I haven't had a single offer, even for $100. So who might be interested in these names? Well, people whose aspirations are to get into this business like recent graduates of some of the top culinary schools. Wouldn't you think someone who has mastered the art of grilling fish might be interested in the name "Catch Grill"? Possibly so, but unless I'm able to educate culinary students on the importance of a good name, just listing at Afternic or Dan is like pissing in the wind.

Anyway, i'm tired of pissing in the wind thus I recently registered the domain

Thanks again Bob!
One more factor that may impact your name sale probability is competition - how many similar names are on the market (including unregistered ones). I would call it replaceability.
One more factor that may impact your name sale probability is competition - how many similar names are on the market (including unregistered ones). I would call it replaceability.
Indeed important. The article that will be my next NamePros Blog post picks up on the competition angle in particular.
Very good example, Nice.
Thanks Bob. Amazing post, as always!

I have a question... "make sure that a Google search will find your name, etc."

This one has always been my major concern. I don't understand how the marketplaces don't care that much about this. It can give them a competitive advantage as well!

I noticed that my SH premiums are getting indexed on Google, while my pointed domains are not.

What about Afternic? Do they rank on Google for their specific keywords?
I have a question... "make sure that a Google search will find your name, etc."

This one has always been my major concern. I don't understand how the marketplaces don't care that much about this. It can give them a competitive advantage as well!

I noticed that my SH premiums are getting indexed on Google, while my pointed domains are not.

What about Afternic? Do they rank on Google for their specific keywords?
Yes, SH seem to be most advanced on this, getting names indexed and they also put the premiums up on the products part of Google. Not sure if people really buy domain names from Google product page, but it must not hurt.

Dan names do get somewhere on Google search. Let's say you have the domain name Example.TLD for sale on Dan. If you do a Google search on [domain name Example] I have found that names I have on Dan do get listed, not always near top, depending on how common the name is, but will appear. I just tried it for one of mine, it first had a bunch of sponsored ads, then a couple of registrar sites, but then it came up with Dan listings, still on page one, first for a name someone else has listed, then my name.

I have wondered if names with descriptions at Dan get indexed more effectively. The one listed higher than mine has a long description with a time limited call to action.

I tried another, a more unique name, and actually the Dan listing is at the top of Google results, after ads.

I have both of these names also on Afternic and Sedo and at least in the first number of pages of Google results they do not appear.

I haven't done a full test, but I think names on the other brandable places appear as well.

By the way, Efty listed names seem to appear high, at least for the first term I checked an Efty listing in another extension appeared higher than either Dan.

I am still surprised people search by a domain name that way, but I guess I use Google search for other things in life in a sort of comparable way.

One reason that seems to have been missed is the domain market has been weak this year, even last year with only certain categories and types of names flourishing. Sales are down overall, prices are down which we can’t really take the blame for outside circumstances.

I am all for examining how to improve, hone, examine etc a portfolio but sometimes its simply out of our control and you just ride it out.
This is a spot on domaining article. Thanks Bob.
There could be several reasons why a domain name is not selling. Here are some potential factors and suggestions on what to do about it:

  1. Overpricing: One of the main reasons a domain name may not be selling is if it is priced too high. Conduct research on similar domain sales and consider adjusting the price to make it more competitive and attractive to potential buyers.
  2. Lack of demand: It's possible that there is simply a low demand for the specific domain name you are trying to sell. Evaluate the market and determine if there is a niche or target audience that could benefit from the domain. Consider reaching out to potential buyers directly or marketing the domain in relevant communities.
  3. Poor marketing and visibility: If you haven't effectively marketed your domain name, it may not be reaching the right audience. Utilize various marketing channels such as social media, domain marketplaces, forums, and email newsletters to promote your domain. Highlight its unique features, potential uses, and any additional value it offers.
  4. Limited exposure: If your domain is not listed on reputable domain marketplaces or platforms, it may not be getting the exposure it needs. Ensure that you have listed your domain on popular marketplaces like Sedo, Flippa, or GoDaddy Auctions. Additionally, consider engaging with domain brokers who can help connect you with potential buyers.
  5. Lack of perceived value: If your domain name does not convey a strong sense of value or relevance to potential buyers, they may be hesitant to invest in it. Consider enhancing the perceived value by highlighting any existing traffic or revenue associated with the domain, showcasing its brand potential, or demonstrating how it aligns with current industry trends.
  6. Inadequate negotiation or communication: Your approach to negotiations and communication with potential buyers can greatly impact the selling process. Ensure you are responsive, professional, and open to negotiations. Be prepared to answer any questions or concerns potential buyers may have, and be flexible in finding mutually beneficial terms.
  7. Time and patience: Selling a domain can take time, especially if it is a niche or specialized name. Be patient and persistent in your efforts. Reevaluate your marketing strategies periodically, make necessary adjustments, and continue to explore new avenues for exposure.
If I may add to your great list, Bob, ...

What % may wish to own the domain for defense?

Could the domain be used as a lead generator or marketing campaign and forward to a page on the site?

Learn more about outbound sales strategies.

You write such thoughtful and informative posts, Bob; thank you!