How to find valuable names in the domain aftermarket

This article was originally published on Oct. 12, 2015, and was updated on October 30, 2019.

There are many paths that might lead you to the domain aftermarket — that magical place where you can purchase already-registered domain names. These can include domains currently in use by other people or names that are actively for sale on a marketplace like GoDaddy Auctions.

Maybe you’re looking for a perfect website address for your small business and the domain name you want isn’t available for new registration — so you head over to the aftermarket. Or perhaps you’ve decided to dabble in buying and selling domains and you’re ready to build your investment portfolio — you’re destined for the aftermarket.

With countless strategies, many marketplaces, and tens of millions of domains represented in the aftermarket as a whole, it can be challenging to narrow down the best way to find valuable names.

Here are some tips for mining for valuable names in the domain aftermarket.

Snagging a specific domain name

You’ve won half the battle if you’re after a specific domain name. Now, you just need to figure out who owns the domain, how best to contact them, and how much to offer for the domain.

With some new privacy laws recently enacted in Europe and making their way in various forms to other locations, it has become a bit harder to find the owner of a domain in some cases.

Most registrars have some way of dealing with this that allows for both the privacy of the individual registrant while still allowing a way to contact them. GoDaddy, for example, uses a link at the bottom of the WHOIS that allows you to contact the private domain owner.

Related: How to tell who is the owner of a domain name

Building a domain investment portfolio

If you’re working on building up a portfolio of investment-quality names, begin by focusing on domains you know will have value.

Once you identify your niche and the keywords you want to buy around, head over to GoDaddy Auctions. Log into your account and then click Advanced Search. Narrow your search by keyword, TLD, price and age.

GoDaddy Auctions Advanced Search

Pay particular attention to these factors when reviewing the results of your search:

Age of the domain

In general, the older the domain name the better, as it’s probably been off the market for a longer period of time. While you can still register great domains today, many of the best names have been registered for a long time already, so searching by age helps narrow this down a bit.

Top-level domain (TLD)

Some TLDs sell better than others in the aftermarket. For instance, it’s typically easier to resell a .com than a .biz domain. This isn’t always the case, but it pays to aim for more popular domain extensions.

Price range

This is about your budget. If you have $500 to spend, why waste time looking for names priced above $500?

Buying format

There are a few key auctions types with different rules that you should understand when you’re wading through the aftermarket:

  • Buy It Now priced auctions: If you want the domain, you buy it for the “buy now” price.
  • Timed auctions: The names are put up for sale with a certain timeframe for the auction. The highest bidder when the time is up wins the name.
  • Offer/Counter Offer listings: These auctions are won through negotiation between the buyer and seller. The seller lists the name for sale with a minimum offer they are interested in accepting to engage the potential buyer. Once the initial offer is received, the seller can accept, ignore or counter the offer. The buyer can then accept, reject or counter the seller. This process continues until both parties come to a price they can agree on for the domain.

Not sure what options are best for you?

Watch the video below to learn what kinds of domain names we see selling on our aftermarket. In it, Paul Nicks, the vice president of the domain aftermarket at GoDaddy, shares what domains sold well and some best practices for reselling domain names.

Think like a buyer

As you sort through your results, put yourself in a potential buyer’s shoes. Would you buy the domain if you were in their business?

Honestly, how much explanation would it take to make sense to the buyer? Picture yourself calling a photographer and saying, “I have a great domain to help you drive more traffic to your website, saycheez.biz. Well, actually it’s spelled c-h-e-e-z, not c-h-e-e-s-e. What’s a .biz? Well, it’s just like a .com but it’s spelled .biz …”

The more you have to explain the domain, the harder the sale.

There are some really exceptional domains in every TLD, and there are times when a keyword like “cheez” can anchor a brandable domain. The point is to think through the conversations you will have with potential buyers; if you suspect they’ll be difficult, you might want to pass on that particular domain.

Related: Tried-and-true tips for buying and selling domain names for profit

7 steps to narrow down your name search in the domain aftermarket

Once you have what you consider a list of strong names for investment, take a few more steps to further narrow it down:

  1. Buy what you know.
  2. Check domaintools.com.
  3. Check archive.org.
  4. Look up previous sales by keyword and TLD.
  5. Consider variations on a domain that you’re thinking of selling.
  6. Check the name’s popularity in Google search results.
  7. Stay away from trademarks. 

Let’s look at each step.

1. Buy what you know

If you’re an expert in a particular subject, trade, etc., and the domain makes sense to you, then it’s probably a good name to buy.

2. Check domaintools.com

Look up the domain to see what other TLDs are registered. It’s not a good sign if you’re buying the .com and none of the other TLDs are registered. It’s also a red flag if you’re buying the .us domain and you see that the .com, .net, .org and .info versions are all registered but in use by domain investors instead of end-users. This means less demand by end-users and lots of alternative options.

3. Check archive.org

In many cases, archive.org will show you what was up on the domain throughout the years. It might signal low demand for the domain if the website that was attached to it was continually for sale.

With this step, you are not looking to see if there was a business operating on the domain that you could sell the domain back to. You are simply looking to see if other people in the past thought this would be a valuable domain name, too.

If the name was only a landing page for a decade advertising it for sale with no buyers, then it’s probably not a good one to pick up to try and sell yourself.

4. Look up previous sales by keyword and TLD

Use sites such as namebio.com and dnjournal.com to research previous domain sales. Check out the typical sales price range for your target keyword to ensure that your purchase price makes sense.

It’s always important to check the current market.

Prices and popular segments change over time, so it is good to keep abreast of what is selling in the market and the current pricing you can expect.

5. Consider variations on a domain that you’re thinking of selling

Can I, for example, easily use ArizonaHomes.com, AZhomes.com or PhoenixHomes.com as a business domain? Are there a lot of available alternatives that make sense for a real estate professional to use instead of my domain? Do I own ArizonaHomes.net and want to sell it for $1000, but the owner of ArizonaHomes.com has it for sale for $500? What alternatives do my potential buyers have to my domain I am offering? You get the idea.

If there are a great deal of better or very similar alternatives, maybe you should rethink investing in a particular domain and look for something else.

If all the domains mentioned above are being used by companies selling homes in Arizona and I have PhoenixHomes.com for sale, then the name may have some real value to a new business. It’s unlikely that an active business using one of the other names would want to start over with a new name. However, a new business may be very interested in PhoenixHomes.com.

The main point here is, the fewer viable alternatives to a domain that there are available, the more your domain name may be worth.

6. Check the name’s popularity in Google search results

Another way to check your idea is to check Google search results for your word or phrase or the number of other TLDs registered already in that SLD.

A TLD would be a top-level domain like a .com or .org. An SLD, or Second Level Domain, would be what precedes the TLD. So for example, with exampledomain.com, “exampledomain” is the SLD and “.com” is the TLD.

The reason for checking Google in this step is to see how popular the domain may be. If I have an idea for a domain that I think is valuable, it’s a good idea to research if other people will also find value in it.

If you were to look at a practical example, you can see a word like cars has a lot of search results, and a lot of registered TLDs using cars as part of the SLD.

There are hundreds of potential TLDs.

If cars is taken in many of them, this shows that a lot of people are thinking along the same lines as you. Meaning, you likely have a valuable name to invest in, as many people see value in registering this word or word phrase.

7. Stay away from trademarks

It’s always wise to steer clear of any potential trademark infringements. Businesses work hard to build their brand. Buying a domain name that infringes on their mark may be tempting to try to turn a quick buck, but can get you into serious legal trouble. On top of that, it also gives people who invest in domain names as a business a bad reputation.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but it’s generally best to start with a conservative approach. Get a better feel for what will sell instead of grabbing a trademarked domain — and losing money.

Wrapping it up

Finding a winner in the domain aftermarket doesn’t have to be a struggle. With a bit of research and legwork, you, too, can successfully mine the domain aftermarket for those hidden gems.

Want to learn a bit more? Visit our collection of domain investing articles for more tips and suggestions from domain investing pros.

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