To make it simple, domaining is the business of buying, selling, developing, and monetizing domain names. And if you are domaining, well then congratulations, you’re now a domainer.
As the Internet continues to grow, so does the demand for domain names. Domain names are basically digital pieces of Internet real estate. And you know how valuable it is to invest in real estate.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is what you type into your URL bar to access a website. In technical terms:
A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet. Domain names are used in various networking contexts and for application-specific naming and addressing purposes.Wikipedia
What is a domainer?
Domainers, as defined by Wikipedia, are individuals whose profession is the accumulation and dealing of generic internet domain names. Now that we got that all squared away, let’s talk about investing in domains, selling domains, domaining tools, and even some real life domaining examples.
Notable Domaining Investments
There are many premium examples of domaining to refer back to. Many of these are purely “right time – right place” listings:
- AsSeenOnTv.com – $5.1 million
- Insurance.com — $35 million
- PrivateJet.com – $38 million
- Express.com – $1.8 million
- Rock.com – $1 million
- Porn.com – $9.5 million
Most of these domain names were acquired by domainers early on when the Internet first came around. Others have been simply flipped over time. But then there the millions of domain names that are sold every single day for various amounts, ranging from $20 to $100,00. Keep in mind, the average cost per domain for a domainer is about $9. Some examples are:
- pow.com – $100,000.00
- soundandfury.com – $10,000.00
- renewableenergy.net – $7,778.00
- accommodation.com – $286,000.00
- laba.com – $99,000.00
- 7777AV.com – $31,151.00
Needless to say, with the correct investments, you can turn $9 into at least a few thousand in a relatively short period of time. Now, what you’re here for – how to get started with domaining.
How to Choose Domain Names to Invest In
When it comes to searching for and purchasing a domain name, there are four simple factors to consider.
These factors are key when purchasing a domain that is readily available. There are a few more factors when you’re purchasing a deleted or expired domain name.
Smaller is generally better…contrary to popular belief. At least when we’re talking about domain names. The smaller, or shorter, a domain name is the better it is. Ultimately, we want to stick to under 10 characters including the TLD. So for example, google.com is a great example. So is uber.com, lyft.com, drive.com, etc.
The downside of this is that the shorter the domain name the more scarce it is. So finding and buying something that fits here, especially a single word, is extremely hard.
Shorter domains are ideal because they’re easy to remember, generally more creative, and they’re very easy to type in on both desktop and more importantly, on mobile.
Now, you can get creative with short one-word domain names. Like wzrdry.com. Domains like this are always in demand and can garner strong value. This of course is dependent on the industry and search volume of the term, which builds into the next point.
Keyword Strength for Domain Names
As noted above, there are two factors that fall into keyword strength for domain names. The industry the domain name resembles and the overall search volume of the term.
The keyword strength is valuable when its comes to SEO and organic search. So, though long, distressedshoes.com is a great domain name because it is keyword specific within the fashion industry. Domains like these are ideal for those who focus on affiliate links and general link building.
To know how valuable your keyword is I suggest the following tools:
I’ll create followup posts on how I use these in another post.
To keep the connection of factors rolling, let’s move into memorability. When it comes to domaining goes hand in hand with keyword strength.
Memorability is just as important as the previous factors, it also ties into the final factor with TLDs. Let’s go back to the example of distressedshoes.com. As stated, this is a solid keyword within the fashion industry. People who are following a trend will not only know this keyword but will be ready to buy.
From the point of view of someone who is looking to acquire the domain name itself it provides strong organic search growth but even better, it provides an easy to remember domain name for customers to share with other people which drives sales. With memorability comes trust. Which is where TLDs come into play when domaining.
Choosing the Right TLD
TLD is short for top-level domain. When you see .com, .net, .org you are seeing a TLD. Then there are gTLDs which are the next generation of TLDs that consist of stuff like .xyz, .pro, .re, .lol, and .club.
A top-level domain is one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet. The top-level domain names are installed in the root zone of the name space.Wikipedia
There are over 1,000 TLDs. Now, while that is find and dandy, it’s not really that great. The majority of folks get stuck when you mention something even like .co instead of .com. They’ll think you’re dumb or scammy. Imagine what they think when you mention a domain ending in .xyz.
Many folks will say this is great from a branding point of view. However, at the end of the day, the majority of online users really only know and trust 3 TLDs. .com, .gov. and .edu.
I personally always prefer to focus on .com. Occasionally .net, .org., .me, and .co. Pro-tip for that last one. If you buy something ending in .co, like wowzly.co, go ahead and buy wowzlyco.com. Of course, also see if wowzly.com is available, too. Package them, slap a sweet branding kit on it, and sell it to whoever might be interested.
Making Money From Domaining
This is what you’re here for. How does one make money from domain names. You now know that you have to find and buy the right domain to then to sell it. But just like real estate, there are multiple ways of selling domains. There are also some basic do’s and don’t’s of it all.
This is just like flipping real estate. Buy something at a lower price and then flip it with market demand. So, maybe you see that “epods” are the next big trending thing. Someone is selling epods.com for $427. You buy it. You then immediately mark it up. You might even make a nice landing page and branding kit to go along with it to drive home the value of the domain name. A few months later, you sell it for $9,201. Congrats! Rinse and repeat.
Domain flipping is pretty time consuming. For me, this is more of a full-time hustle rather than a part-time one. You will need to be versed and in the know of what is going on within industries and specific keywords. The people who really do well here also have connections who are interested in specific types of domain names. Once again, kind of like real estate itself.
Keep in mind that domains don’t increase in value purely on age. There has to be a market. if the keyword is shrinking then guess what, so is the a value of the domain.
This is purely speculation, if you ask me. Domain name speculation to be precise. This is when you’re buying a creative domain that fits into an industry and/or keyword, or have purely acquired a domain out of creativity. Imagine if you had the idea of a one-page search engine at the same time many others did. Yet, you thought it would be neat to name it google. So, you went out and bought the domain google.com.
A few months or years past and boom. You sell it for millions. Or you don’t. You’ll never know with the traditional sense of this business. Nowadays there are brokers and websites that pool together these brand ideas and help pitch them for a cut. Which I’ve listed in a tools section below.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me briefly cover what you should not do when domaining. Keep in mind, domaining should be a creative and skilled task, not so much….hacky.
The Don’ts of Domaining
You may or may not have heard of stories about people buying domain names relating to an already existing domain. Like googl.com (catching the typo). While this is not exactly illegal in most places, it’s definitely the wrong path if you’re new to domaining.
Don’t Be a Brand Squatter
Buy domain names that are unique and clever, not ripping off another brand as I just mentioned above. It’s that simple.
Watch out for scammers who are trying to hi-jack your domain names or sell you domains that they don’t even own. Nothing in life is perfect, especially online. People are out there looking to take advantage of domainers. Be diligent in your communications, if you’ve not had domaining talks with someone you don’t know, then there’s a good chance they’re just out to get you.
Don’t Go for Broke
Domaining is a form of investing. You wouldn’t invest into anything else if you had no guarantee on return, so create a budget that fits your income and lifestyle before you purchase your first domain name. Domaining is normally a long game, so keep that in mind with every single purchase.
Domaining is an already popular investment opportunity. You will be entering into a market with seasoned pros with million dollar portfolios and even more novices with “newbie” portfolios.
The 10 Basics of Domaining
As you can imagine, the business of domaining is huge and established. I like to suggest the following 10 Basics of Domaining for those who are just getting started and even for those who just need to make a slight improvement to their current strategy.
- Educate yourself. I’m not going to list out any domaining resources here because they constantly change. I did my own research when I got started. You should, too.
- Invest in what you know. Similar to investing in stocks. If you’re fluent in a specific industry, say restaurants, then focus on domains relating to hospitality. You’ll be able to speak to the value much easier on your domaining journey.
- Establish your tools. I’ve listed out some domaining tools below, but these are just tools of my own preference. You’ll come across many more with your own research. From there you’ll be able to build your own toolbox to help you win.
- List, don’t hold. It blows my mind to find out that people purchase domain names with WHOIS privacy and then just let them sit in their accounts. You have to get your domains out in front of people if you want to make a sale.
- Fully understand the tech. You’ll understand this more as you do your research. You should fully understand how domain registration, domain transfers, domain expirations, domain deletes, domain drops work. It’s also in your favor to understand what website hosting is and how it works.
- Don’t buy it and forget it. There’s no point in holding on to worthless domains. You need to actively monitor the value and strength of keywords in your domains. If it’s worthless come renewal then let it go. Don’t become a hoarder as it only hurts your bottom line.
- Strategize. Don’t be afraid to start small. Do your research, find something that you believe in, get it listed, and let it rip. Set yourself a timeline, say 90 days. If it doesn’t get the attention you were hoping then take a minute to learn why and make adjustments as needed for your future investments. That being said…
- Don’t be afraid to pivot. I’ve seen far too many folks go cold after bad buys. Nothing is guaranteed with domaining. Hell, nothing is guaranteed in life. At least take that away from this post if you decided against investing in domain names.
- Understand that you will lose. This builds off of the last two a bit. Not every domain name will sell for millions. Some not even for thousands. Some won’t sell at all. Again, do your research, set a logical sell price, and hold for as long as it makes sense. If you decide you’ll only hold a domain for 10 years no matter what, then stick to it.
- Network. This is something to keep in mind no matter what you do. Domaining, while established and well known, is still a niche business. So, find networks online and off with like-minded folks. You may even find someone who knows someone looking for a clever name for their dreamy startup.
My Must Have Domaining Tools
Alright, like the rest of this article, take it all with a grain of salt. You are playing with finances here. I’m not a financial advisor. What I do might not work for you. As mentioned above, do all of your own research so that you have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
- Name.com (affiliate link) – This is my go-to for buying and managing domains and has been since they first got started. Use my affiliate link to get a $5 credit on your first domain. I also love Name for their additional tools…
- Name.com Expiring Domains – This handy tool shows you domains that are expiring soon. Best of all, it shows you traffic that they are still receiving. This is great for backlink building (more on this with another post).
- Name.com Deleting Domains – Another handy page for domains that have deleted. Great for finding domains that are established and have keyword value (if you know the keywords you’re looking for).
- Keyword Tools – I have a few that I refer to…
- Google Trends – This helps you spot what is trending now and also lets you examine historical trends. Great for finding breakout trends.
- Ubersuggest by Neil Patel – An insanely freemium tool for getting a better read on your keywords of interest.
- Ahrefs – A paid tool that is just loaded with a ton of keyword information. This is great for those domainers focused on SEO, as well.
- The Hoth SEMRush Backlink Tool – I use this to see the value of established backlinks for expiring domain names.
- ExpiredDomains.net – You can probably guess what this tool does. It’s a bit more complex that Name.com’s expiring and deleting tools. It does lag a bit, so I use this mostly as a lead gen tool along with Name’s tools.
- Wayback Machine – I use this purely to see what type of content an expired domain had along with how far back it went. This helps to align the domain with content to leverage established backlinks and rankings.
- Selling Domain Names – I use a few tools depending on my strategy.
- WooPilot.com – To quickly set up a self-hosted WordPress website. Use coupon code ‘domainer’ to get 50% off of hosting.
- Divi by Elegant Themes (affiliate link) – I prefer to use Divi to build quick landing pages and websites for premium domains that I sell.
And that’s it. You might be able to tell that domaining is “easy” but also requires creative and critical thinking. I have a few other posts to add to this at a later date. But this is a good starter for those just wanting to get started.
Domain Name Consulting
Need help getting started or just need some help coming up with a brand name? Part of my consulting involves creative thinking, which includes branding. Feel free to book some time with me here.