page title icon How I Evaluate and Acquire Expired Domains: 9-Step Framework

There are many resources for acquiring brandable domains such as hand registration, a fellow domainer, or “the drops”.  But one of the most popular methods is trolling the vast pool of domains that expire daily.

Aside from the expiring domain auctions at places like GoDaddy and SnapNames many domainers look for gems in the GoDaddy Closeouts.  This is a precarious task since all the domains that reach the Closeout marketplace have already been examined by dozens of other domain investors and have been deemed unworthy of a bid at auction. 

Therefore to be a successful Closeout domain buyer one needs an eye keen enough to see treasure where others saw trash.

Everyone will have their own method but my process for reviewing and researching Closeout domains goes something like this.

Be selective

I read an article in the New York Times recently about a guy living on government assistance that dumpster dives every night for items he can sell on the street.  But he’s a smart diver. He only goes to the best dumpsters, like the one at Mark Zuckerberg’s house. It was here that he recently found an upscale hairdryer, coffee machine, and vacuum cleaner – all in good working order. 

So if we’re going to dumpster dive for domains we want to review the best inventory we can find.  I use the GoDaddy filter but there are also lots of free software programs available (do a Google search) for this purpose as well as some great filter tools at the free site

My Process To Buy Expired Domains

Once I’ve assembled my filtered list, I go through and pick out the ones that interest me. Usually I’ll review several hundred domains and end up with a list of about a dozen that I want to consider for purchase. Out of that dozen I’ll buy one, two or three. Or maybe none.

I sort through them by taking each domain through the following steps of analysis.

  1. By the numbers – Short names are more marketable than longer names.  I give priority to domains that are 10 letters or less and have 2 or 3 syllables.
  2. Say it loud, say it proud – I make sure the domain is easy to pronounce so I say it out loud multiple times and check to see that it flows off my tongue and is spelled just like it sounds.
  3. Da botz – I take the Estibot valuation with a grain of salt but for me it’s still a piece of the puzzle. If it has a significant valuation then I want to find out why.
  4. Search me – By doing a Google search I can find out if there are any current or past companies, products, services or trademarks that make use of the primary keyword or entire phrase. I check the number of exact match search results and look for URLs with that term (site: XYZ). I also look for companies that might want the Closeout domain as an upgrade. I also check to see if it’s a term that’s used in a specific field and/or in general commerce.
  5. Age-ient history – I check the domain history at HosterStats to see how many times, if any, it’s been dropped and where/how it was used before its most recent expiration. Sometimes I’ll see that the domain was previously published at a sales platform like Afternic, Undeveloped or BrandBucket.
  6. The brand buckette – I search BBs inventory of more than 50 thousand names to see how the sounds or words within the domain I’m considering are used and priced in their listings. 
  7. Private stock – I check my personal database of more than 3,000 brandable domains that have sold on the various brandable marketplaces and been reported in a wide variety of public sources (including the platforms themselves) over the past 4+ years. These are sales that you will not find at Namebio.
  8. Crunchy style – When considering domains with keywords that I’m not familiar, I’ll visit Crunchbase and see how many startups are currently using that keyword and for what industries. (Tip: You’ll get more search results if you enter the keyword but do NOT hit enter)
  9. Bio data – Another good resource is NameBio where one can to see the past sales history for a given keyword or keyword combo.

Last but not least

At the end of the day, brandable domains are subjective.  This is why a domain rejected at one brandable platform may be accepted at another and/or sell when listed privately on Afternic or using an Efty landing page. 

I’m personally convinced that a very significant part of a brandable domainer’s success is his/her personal judgment, gut reactions and intuition as much, or more, than anything else.

That decision-making ability is a synergy of domaining experience, internalization of cultural trends and a talent for the subtleties of sounds and words. For this reason, brandable domain success can be particularly challenging for those who have English as their second language.

I give the greatest weight to my personal evaluation.  But the finer aspects of judgment and intuition can vary from day to day and I like to have my gut reaction echoed or informed by as many objective data points as possible. 

In the end, though, the purchase of a non-liquid, expiring domain is a leap of faith in a very speculative industry where even the right domain acquisitions have only about a 2% chance of finding an end-user before their due again for renewal.

Real life example:

Looking through the GoDaddy Closeouts today I see the domain I’ve sold a lot of two keyword domains that start with the word “up.” I don’t know why – but they’re very popular. So right away this domain has my interest.

Oasis has a strong positive connotation but it’s not a word commonly used by startups for branding. So I have some hesitation too.

Let’s take a closer look using some of the methods I’ve described above.

  • It’s short at 7 letters but a little long on the syllables (4). It’s easy to say but oasis is not the easiest word to spell.
  • Estibot valuation = $0
  • Only 64k exact match search results in Google. No companies or products currently use this phrase. I found about a dozen websites that use the word oasis in the URL. They include a famous band, a coffee shop, a sports team, a dating site and a school.
  • It’s a young domain that’s been continuously registered since March 2017.
  • Only one domain listing with the word oasis at BrandBucket.
  • More than 20 domains that start with Up appear in my brandable sales, database. However, there is only one sale that contains the word, oasis.
  • Crunchbase lists 25 organizations whose names start with, oasis. This is a very strong indication of widespread acceptance and adoption in the startup community. However, all the organizations are using it as the first word in their brand not the second. Even more importantly, the companies have names like Oasis Dental, Oasis Insurance etc and only a few use it as a 2 keyword brand like OasisSystems, OasisActive and so on.
  • In the past year there were 8 sales reported on Namebio that contain the word, oasis.

In conclusion

This domain is short, easy to say and has a positive and uplifting feeling. Brandables that begin with Up have a strong sales history.

However, the word, oasis, is hard to spell, has limited brandable and Namebio sales history, and only a modest amount of usage in existing company URLs and startup company names.

In the end I decided to pass on buying this domain as there were too many minuses and not enough pluses.

I hope this information has been helpful in expanding and refining your preferred method for evaluating potential acquisitions in the expiring domains section of the aftermarket.

Analyzed by Doron Vermaat

Doron Vermaat is the co-founder of domain name investor platform, Efty. He is a prolific domain investor who owns a porfolio of domains and also blogs about it. Prior to Efty, he served 10+ years in senior sales and business development roles. Check out Doron's LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

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