Many niche website builders start their first site on a brand new domain. This makes sense since they’re inexpensive, there are nearly endless options, and it’s not the smartest use of resources to spend thousands on a domain name before understanding how money-making niche sites work.
A strong domain name can be a powerful tool for building a website or redirecting juice as an SEO move for another.
Buying a domain name from someone, and doing it well, takes some skill and practice. Read on to learn about the process and how to make sure you get a good deal when buying a domain from another owner.
Due Diligence Before Buying a Domain From Someone Else
Due diligence is a crucial part of the process. Due diligence isn’t just about finding and avoiding potential landmines but also spotting good deals based on the history of previous sites on that domain name.
Three main points stick out when doing due diligence before buying a domain name.
1. Check For Registered Trademarks
Trademark infringement is a problem and is the one legal situation where it is possible for an outside party to legally block a site or repossess the name. Trademarks are protected, that’s why they exist.
If there is a registered trademark that matches the domain name, pass on it. That is a domain name that can be taken back at any time, and it’s a legal morass you don’t want to end up in the middle of.
If no registered trademarks exist that match the domain name, then you can move on to the next due diligence steps.
2. Check What The Domain Is Currently Being Used For
The history of a domain name is important. Has it been a landing page advertising the domain on sale for years? That is okay, but it can lessen the benefit of good backlinks that point to the domain.
Is there a hobby site on the domain? The start of a niche site that needs a lot more work and care? Those are good signs, especially if there is no sign of spammy link building.
Be wary if you find anything in less reputable niches as this often causes a huge black mark with Google that makes it very hard to scrub from Google’s penalties and sandbox.
3. Check if a Website Has Ever Been Built
Even if the domain isn’t currently being used for anything, a good history of being a hobby site, an informational site, or having a great backlink profile all add to the value of that domain. These expired domains come with enough of a history to help you skip the Google Sandbox and rank your site in its niche quickly, then build off that authority with content and future SEO work.
If the history shows a questionable website, that’s a major red flag and needs to be a concern.
6 Steps How To Buy a Domain That Is Taken
Buying a domain name is a process, but just because someone else owns a domain you want doesn’t mean acquiring it is off the table. There are often options, starting with the following process.
1. Find Out Who Owns The Domain Name
This is a crucial first step. If there is a “For Sale” page on the domain URL you have contact information. If not, the best step for finding this out yourself is seeing if the domain owner’s contact information is publicly listed on the ICANN lookup tool (previously commonly referred to as the Who.Is database).
This used to be common, though many registrars automatically offer privacy now, resulting in the only public information being the registrar with whom the domain name was last purchased.
If this information is not public, consider the services of a domain broker.
2. Figure Out What the Domain is Worth
There are going to be multiple factors that go into this. If it’s for a VC-backed startup then branding is the driving factor. For website flippers or niche site builders brand is important, but finding a domain with some backlinks or a positive history with Google matters.
Backlinks to the domain and history of the domain can make a huge difference in how valuable a domain name is to any individual.
The more good backlinks and the better the history, the more the domain is potentially worth. Especially if it is brandable in a high-value niche.
3. Contact The Owner
If you have direct contact information, great! If not, then look at using a domain broker. These brokers, especially the ones tied to well-known registrars like GoDaddy or NameCheap have access to tools and resources that make it more likely for them to find and reach out to domain name owners you might not be able to contact.
You want to already have a price range in mind before reaching out. Even if you have the owner’s contact information, if they don’t respond it might be worth reaching out through a broker because the more professional appearance coming from an organization might make the domain owner more open to responding.
4. Negotiate The Purchase
Negotiate the terms of the deal. Sometimes this is easy and the owner is happy to be rid of a domain for a profit, other times the two sides might start far apart on price and terms. There is no set standard for domain names so everything is up for negotiation.
Look at getting a good deal, but keep in mind you need to offer a deal that gets you the domain.
5. Use Escrow to Transfer the Money
Always use escrow. There is never any excuse not to use an escrow service, and if the other party refuses then that should be a deal breaker. Escrow.com is one of the most popular options and is a great standard choice for online transactions.
6. Consider Backordering a Domain You Want
Putting in a backorder doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it, but you might be surprised how many great domain names end up not getting renewed. Instead of fighting for others at an auction, if you put in a backorder and are the only one, you get first dibs to buy it before it goes public.
This can be a great way to get a good but neglected domain name with an unresponsive owner.
How To Backorder a Domain
Backordering a domain is a relatively simple process. The first step is to use the ICANN tool to search for the domain names you’re interested in. Most backorders offered have a one-year limit, so make sure to list the domains that expire within 12 months.
Go to the domain backorder service you trust most (most major registrars offer this service) and double-check their terms of service to make sure the service works for your specific needs.
Purchase the backorder (or multiple backorders). Some will ask you to type in the name of the domain, others are set up so you simply press a button to backorder a domain that comes back as taken.
Whatever the process with your registrar, confirm on the receipt that the proper domains have been backordered.
Keep an eye on the email. I also like having everything listed in an Excel spreadsheet or Google equivalent so I can open it up at a glance and see what days I especially need to pay attention to.
You will need to register the domain in most cases. The backorder fee is just to reserve your spot in line to buy the name if it becomes available. Once that goes through, you then need to act to secure the domain name to your account.
Pro Insights From Experienced Domain Buyers
Buying the right expired domain can be a great way to jump-start a new niche site. However, it can be a bit tricky in the beginning and it’s easy to make some mistakes when you’re just starting out.
Here are two major things to watch out for:
Don’t Get Too Emotionally Attached
Decisions need to be made without any emotion. There is a certain amount of worth that a domain name will have. Even if the name is good and brandable, if there’s limited authority then there is limited value.
Don’t let your heart get set on a name and cause you to overpay – or ignore much better opportunities that are out there.
Don’t Overpay For Domains Without Authority
While a memorable name is good, if there are no backlinks, no history, no authority, or very little of it, don’t overpay. A domain name can sound great and be incredibly brandable.
But if it’s been a premium domain for sale since 1999 with no owners, it doesn’t matter how good that name is, it won’t do the work that a domain that used to house a hobby site and still has some good blog backlinks pointing to it will.
Do the due diligence and look at things analytically so you don’t overpay while making an emotional decision. Even a good domain is going to have a certain amount of worth, but there’s a point where the price just isn’t worth it.
A good domain name is worth paying for, but only up to a point. To tip the scales in your favor just remember the following takeaways:
- Make sure there are no trademark issues with a domain name
- Look at the history of a domain
- Type in the domain to see if a microsite or landing page is up
- Using a broker can be a great way to get a deal done
- Consider using a backorder for a chance at an amazing domain name about to expire
- Don’t get emotional – don’t overpay for domains without authority
Follow these takeaways and you’ll have more wins than losses when it comes to buying quality domains for building profitable sites.