As the Lead Ninja over at domain name consulting firm Name Ninja, I get asked so often by people for help selling their domain names that I figured I should finally write a blog post about this topic that I can refer them to. What follows is some general advice for the layperson that already owns a bunch of domain names and would like to increase the odds of these domain names selling. Although this advice is based on my two decades’ worth of experience buying and selling 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 an ‘Aspiring Domain Speculator’ looking for a few tips to finally move some of your dusty old domain names, then read on…
WARNING: I am going to be brutally frank here, and I may piss off a few readers, but I want you to go into this with your eyes wide open.
Let’s begin with two important things you need to understand and accept:
Most of your domain names are 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 three-word English language .com domain names that directly relate to 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 move in your lifetime. Of course there are going to be exceptions to this, but they are, by their very nature, exceptions. Here’s something you probably didn’t know: the most sophisticated domain investing companies run by super smart people will pop the champagne corks if they manage to turn 3% of their domain inventory annually. Yes, only 3% is considered a massive victory! The hard reality is that secondary market domain names are not very liquid assets. This probably means that most of your inventory is not good enough quality to ever sell. Sorry.
It’s still a horrendously inefficient market
While the domain name secondary market has made great strides over the last decade, there is still a huge disconnect between the folks that want to buy a domain name – and would be willing to pay serious money for it – and the ability for those folks to actually and easily buy that domain name. Most end user buyers don’t know where to look for secondary market domain names, don’t know how to contact the owners, have no idea how to actually purchase and transfer a domain name, and are generally confused and frustrated by the whole apparatus. The more you can do to soften the edges here the greater the likelihood you will sell some of your domains.
Domain Name Sales Tips
OK, now that I have beaten you up about the quality of your domains and the 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’. The best thing you can do, and really the first thing you must do, to boost your domain name sales is to make sure that your domains resolve to a page that, one way or another, indicates that the domain is for sale and provides some way for the prospective buyer to contact you or purchase the domain right away, whether that be email, phone, chat, or whatever.
There’s a bunch of easy ways you can accomplish this. Your domain name registrar may provide you with a free one-page Website service, 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; more on that in a moment. Another more sophisticated option would be to “park” your domain with one of the leading domain parking companies (such as DomainSponsor or the very state-of-the-art DomainNameSales.com) 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. List your domains in the leading domain name sales marketplaces
Not everyone knows that domain name sales marketplaces even exist, but thanks to the fine marketing efforts of the marketplaces more and more people are figuring this out every day. Since these marketplaces are selling millions of dollars’ worth of domain names every week, it’s important that you expose your domain names to these potential buyers. List your domains for sale, preferably at a fixed ‘buy it now’ price, on these leading domain name marketplaces: Afternic and Sedo. (I will cover Go Daddy in a moment…) Domains with fixed ‘buy it now’ prices are way more likely to sell than un-priced ‘make offer’ domains in these marketplaces, but either way you should at least make sure your domains are listed with these marketplaces. There is no fee to list your domains on Afternic and Sedo, but if your domain sells through one of these marketplaces expect to pay a 10-20% sales commission.
3. Take advantage of Go Daddy’s massive reach
Love it or hate it, Go Daddy dominates the domain market with its greater than 50% market share. If you really want to crank up your secondary market sales, and your domain names are already registered with Go Daddy, enroll your domains in Go Daddy’s Premium Listings service. The Go Daddy Premium Listings service is free to participate in, super easy to configure, and – most importantly – is a major and highly efficient sales channel. In fact, for some domain owners this is their number one sales channel. There are a few catches, however, if you want to take full advantage of this channel. One, you have to put a fixed price on your domains. And two, Go Daddy’s sales commission is a whopping 30%, but worth it in my opinion because they move a lot of domain names. Here’s an expert tip: the typical Go Daddy buyer isn’t as price-sensitive as the folks shopping on Afternic and Sedo, so you can add 10-20% to your list price on Go Daddy without it negatively impacting your sales velocity compared to the other marketplaces. If your domain names aren’t already registered with Go Daddy, you can still get your domains some exposure on Go Daddy via Afternic’s DLS network or Sedo’s MLS network … or if you are feeling really ambitious and have the technical chops you can transfer your ‘retail’ domains to Go Daddy.
4. 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! Most buyers are turned off 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.
5. 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., domainsales@[yourcompanyname].com. Trust me, you cannot be too obvious about this!
6. 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 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.
7. Have realistic price expectations
We all hear in the popular media about those rare six and seven-figure domain name sales like hotels.com and beer.com, but what folks don’t realize is that these deals represent less than 1% of all the transactions. It would be awesome if you were able to sell one of your domains for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars (and I genuinely hope that you do), but chances are that’s not going to happen. 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. For help pricing your domains, ask the domain name marketplaces for assistance or seek the advice of your friendly neighbourhood domain name expert.
By following the domain name sales tips that I have outlined above, you will vastly increase the odds of your domains selling. I wish you much luck and success in doing so, and please let me know how it works out for you.