For over two decades I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of business professionals acquire domain names that are of strategic importance to them. As part of the client onboarding process at my domain buyer brokerage company Name Ninja, we always ask the client if they’ve made any previous attempts to acquire the domain. Most clients are shrewd enough to not try to acquire the target domain on their own – they leave that up to us – but we’ve also seen several overly enthusiastic clients make some innocent domain buying mistakes that have hurt their (and our) chances of getting the desired domain for a reasonable price.
Because we keep seeing people make the same damaging mistakes over and over again, I’ve compiled the following list of the seven most important things people need to be aware of if they hope to buy a domain name that’s owned by someone else.
- Never try to contact the domain owner directly. This is the single worst move you can make because it risks revealing your identity as the buyer to the domain owner. Think about it from the perspective of a domain speculator (a person who specializes in re-selling desirable domains): if someone from a Fortune 500 company is contacting you asking about buying a domain name, wouldn’t you demand a higher price? On a related note, please don’t try to outsmart a domain speculator. If you think using a free email service like Gmail or Hotmail and a fake name is going to hide your identity from a seasoned domain speculator, you’re dead wrong. These guys and gals specialize in uncovering who a potential buyer is, and you are probably giving them all sorts of clues about your identity without realizing it.
- Don’t keep re-visiting the landing page or Website associated with your target domain name. Not only are you increasing the traffic to the domain, which most domain speculators use as a metric to help them determine which of their domains are more popular and therefore warrant a higher asking price, but you risk revealing your identity as the buyer. If a savvy domain speculator notices that one of her domain names is suddenly getting a lot of traffic via the IP address of a major bank, she’s going to assume that the next purchase inquiry coming in (even if it’s anonymous) is from someone representing that bank.
- Don’t submit an inquiry or offer for the domain name via your domain registrar or the domain’s landing page. By doing so you not only risk revealing your identity as the buyer (yes, even if you use an alias) but you are also expressing unnecessary additional interest in the domain name. Worse, you may also inadvertently be contractually obligating yourself to pay a brokerage fee to the registrar regardless of whether or not you end up buying the domain through them.
- This one seems obvious but you’d be amazed how many times I’ve seen people screw this up: Don’t publicly announce the name of your new venture until you’ve gotten your target domain name. I remember one client who prematurely issued a press release about the name of their new spin-off venture and within 24 hours the list price of the target domain they wanted tripled. The owner of the domain, a very savvy domain speculator, had seen their press release and immediately cranked up the price of his domain name, and who could blame him? I still refer to that incident as “the $10,000 press release” because that’s how much extra it caused the client to fork out for the domain.
- Don’t register a bunch of alternative TLD versions of your target domain immediately prior to you attempting to acquire the target domain. If you do, you are telegraphing to a savvy domain speculator that you are really, really interested in their domain name because why else would you have registered the .net, .org, and .info versions at the same time. Already registered some other versions of the domain? Please make sure they are hidden behind a Whois privacy shield … and for heaven’s sake don’t forward these domains to your corporate Website, which blows your cover. Once again, a seasoned domain speculator is going to investigate what other versions of the domain may already be registered and will use that data to try to figure out who the buyer is.
- Hold off on filing a trademark until you’ve gotten the matching domain name. You probably didn’t realize this, but trademark applications are posted online in several searchable databases. Some unscrupulous domain hustlers monitor the trademark databases for new trademark applications and then immediately go and register the matching .com domain name in the hopes of re-selling the domain for profit. Even legitimate domain speculators (as opposed to the ‘black hat’ hustlers) will check trademark databases to see if someone has recently filed a trademark that matches their domain name. This is all part of their standard procedure for trying to figure out who the potential buyer might be.
- Don’t get ‘married’ to your target domain until you know for sure you can get it. Far too many times I see clients fall head-over-heels in love with a domain that they will never be able to get. Avoid painting yourself into a corner by assuming you’re going to get a specific domain name. Make sure you have multiple options (or at least a Plan B) and give yourself (and your domain buyer broker if you’re working with one) enough time to find you a suitable domain name that can be acquired.
If you’ve read this far you might have gotten the impression that buying a domain name from someone else can be a complicated and risky affair. You would be right. If you go about things in the wrong way you could end up delaying your important launch, overpaying for the domain name, or ruining your chances of getting the domain at all. I’m not saying you have to hire a domain buyer broker to help you (although that would make my day), but I’d strongly encourage you to avoid making any of the seven innocent mistakes I’ve described above.
Good luck and happy domain buying!
Domain name expert Bill Sweetman is the President & Lead Ninja of Name Ninja, a boutique domain name consulting firm that helps companies acquire, manage, protect, and profit from their domain names. Bill has provided strategic domain name advice to major companies around the world for over 20 years.
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