Domain Buying for Fun and Profit

Domain Buying for Fun and Profit

I’ve been hitting the domain closeout bin at Freshdrop.net regularly. I’ve found this site to be a great resource as compared to Godaddy’s site that I have used in the past. I’ve bought several pre-owned, nicely aged, domains over the past month or so and that means I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks starting up new sites of various types. I did run across some weird/crazy domains and I have a few thoughts on buying used domains I thought I’d share.

Why Aged Domains?

Closed for Business

Perhaps you’ve wondered why buy a recently expired domain instead of buying a new one? The answer is simple, Google loves domains with a history. Pre-owned domains have been around for a while and Google gives them a pass on many sandbox algorithms. Of course, if you go nuts and use some automated site generator on these domains Google will slap the site down. But, these domains are great for working in tougher niches and for high volume search keywords where new domain sandboxing can significantly delay the process. If these sites already have PageRank (PR) so much the better and if you find one that matches your keyword research, that’s even better.

Crazy Domains

An Angry Clown

One thing I noticed while buying used domains is that there is some craziness out there.

First of all, people seem to throw away perfectly good domains for no reason. These can be common personal names, keyword rich domain names and so forth. Why they do it and why these domains end up in the closeout bin at Freshdrop I have no idea. You can find some great domain names this way though.

On the flipside, there are domains that a greatly overpriced for what they are. I noticed several domains being sold for $50,000 where there would be little hope of the new site owner recouping the investment. For example, pledgeofallegiance.com being sold for $312,000. Sure, type in traffic, although ‘allegiance’ probably will get misspelled a lot anyway, and the keyword term gets a few thousand search hits a day but it isn’t all that monetizible. You would have a hard time making back the $312K.

I also noticed there were a lot of real estate agent domains up for sale. Wonder why that is right now? I guess a lot of them are getting out of that game due to the mortgage crisis. Another little scam that many real estate agents fall for is that they don’t own their personal name domain. Instead it belongs to their broker who redirects it to their own site and, when the agent quits their brokerage, they put the agent’s domain up for sale.

Another interesting trend I noticed were couples and pets domains like ryanandtricia.com or mydogwylie.com. You’ve got to wonder why these domains didn’t get renewed. That could be a sad tale or just that someone didn’t want to continue to pay $10/year for a domain that had two pages of pictures of the dog or wedding.

Do you have any crazy domain stories? Leave me a comment about them if you do.

My Domain Buying Strategy

Going Overboard Buying Domains

I thought I’d cover a few basics of my own domain buying strategy although it isn’t that unique. A lot of people use this kind of approach to it.

First, as I mentioned way back in my Secret Guide to Social Blogging Success Series, having an blog entourage to boost a new blog is a good idea. If you can buy some well aged, 4 or more years old, domains with PageRank they can serve as your entourage to kick off and support new blogs, whether they’re social blogs or niche blogs.

I stick with .com, .net and .org and avoid other top level domains (TLD). Domains like .tv might be good but are comparatively expensive to renew. You can almost bet that a .info you find will have been used for spamming and you’ll have to spend time getting it back in Google’s good graces. I also don’t look at sites that have fake PR. This may also indicate Google problems that would have to be corrected before anything could be done with the site.

Next, I look for interesting keyword combos that somebody is dumping. There are premium names that have high paying keywords like ‘wedding’, ‘mortgage’ or ‘credit card’ in them but they’re usually way too expensive and the competition too tough to consider. But, sometimes, you can find offbeat ones, long tail ones or simply overlooked ones in the closeout bin. If they have a little age on them and if you work them wisely you can turn them into money earning sites working along the long tail edges of major keywords.

Lastly, I look for domain names that would fit well with niches I’ve already analyzed. For example, if I had researched ‘ants’ and found that it paid well in Adsense I might be inclined to purchase an expired exterminator’s domain. It may not have ‘ants’ in the name but Google may already have in categorized in the niche area I want to work so that can be a help.

Well, there’s my big ramble on buying domain names. Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions on buying pre-owned domains by leaving me a comment.

The photos and clipart in this article are courtesy of iClipArt. Yearly memberships are currently on sale for $29 rather than the regular $99/year.

 


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44 Comments »

Comment by web design newbie
2008-06-29 16:34:47

Well written post, you have answered quite a few of those questions that I could not answer. Will keep an eye out for some older domains.

Comment by jfc
2008-06-29 19:57:56

Hi Web Design Newbie,

I hope you found it helpful.

 
 
Comment by wayne
2008-06-29 19:43:44

I’ve got the same problem, I need to stop buying domains and start building websites! Freshdrop is a little addicting, I keep going back, but have really raised my standards before I buy anything else until I get caught up.

Comment by jfc
2008-06-29 19:59:17

Hi Wayne,

It’s best to approach domain buying with a bit of a method to the madness but it’s easy to say “Just one more” when you’re digging through the closeout bin.

 
 
Comment by John
2008-06-29 20:13:44

Good post Frank. Going through the Freshdrop it’s amazing some of the domain names I’ve come across. I’ve noticed, as you said, a lot of couples and real estate agent names. The only bad thing about Freshdrop is that it’s easy to spend a couple hours there.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 08:31:26

Hi John,

Or the money. Those domains can add up quick.

 
 
2008-07-01 00:01:08

Frank, thanks for the good information. I was under the impression that the Fake Y or Fake N did not matter, that age is the most important parameter. Now I will start paying attention to that column. Yes, freshdrop can be addictive. But if we are diligent to do our keyword research first, we will naturally become more selective.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 08:37:12

Hi Luau,

I would say it depends. If you see a fake PR domain that has just the right keyword combo for you and it is aged then it might be worth buying anyway. It isn’t a solid indicator of Google trouble although faking PR usually means cloaking, sending Googlebot one place and visitors another, which can cause deindexing if Google detects it. People do this kind of trick when they’re trying to sell a domain for more than it is actually worth.

 
 
Comment by Discount Gift Card
2008-07-01 00:03:46

I have to admit I have bought a few crazy domain names. I consider them $10 lottery tickets. If I get lucky and flip them for a profit… good for me. If not it was fun to say I owned it for awhile.

I disagree with John (above) about the ONLY bad thing about Freshdrop being the time spent there. He must have better restraint because it is very easy to spend too much money there too. LOL

Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 08:42:02

Hi Gift Card,

I kick myself for dumping a couple of good, aged, product oriented, PR3, domains back in 2005. I was doing ecommerce on them and decided not to do that anymore. One guess as to what kind of site they are now. Live and learn.

 
 
Comment by Vacation Tips
2008-07-01 00:05:50

Freshdrop should come with a warning “you may get addicted!”. I just bought I nice old domain which will hit the news in about 4 years time: I plan to flip it as the topic doesn’t interest me that much. What would be your advice: put a bit of content up get some PR and then auction it? It doesnt have any PR but is a 2002 domain
Lissie

Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 08:44:26

Hi Lissie,

Build links and get PR. It will be worth more money when it comes time to sell it that way.

 
 
2008-07-01 06:32:38

I’ve bought way too many domains in the last few weeks. The worst experience was a couple of days when I opened the email confirming my purchase and thought “Why the heck did I buy that one?”

I’ll be taking a break for a while now: Time to build, not to buy.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 08:46:37

Hi Karyn,

It’s best to go in with a plan and buy wisely but it’s also easy just to start buying anything that looks interesting at the moment.

 
 
Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-01 08:24:59

Hi Frank, thanks for letting me know about Freshdrop. I’ve used GoDaddy for my domains in the past and was looking for an alternative. There was a rumor last year that Google was buying GoDaddy. Some of us have a touch of googlenoia, and like the idea of an alternative. ~ Steve

Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 08:50:51

Bad news Steve,

Freshdrop is essentially an affiliate site for GoDaddy and a few others. What they do that makes their service worthwhile are the advanced sorting features they have. When looking at AfterNic domains on GoDaddy you can’t find things like age, fake PR and so forth.

So far as Google is concerned they’re a domain registrar, although they don’t offer that service publicly, so they can get the info they want without having to buy another company.

Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-01 18:50:25

hi Frank,
I read your blog to read GOOD news, not BAD news… :(
Oh well. As far as google getting info on domains, I know the public information is out there, but I pay extra at godaddy for their privacy registration feature, which I “think” protects my info, but I’m not sure. If google did buy godaddy, I know they’d have access to it then.
But since I don’t have anything to “hide” I not too worried, I just don’t like the idea of any one company knowing EVERYTHING.
Anyway, I do like the freshdrop layout and extra info. I’ll have to see if they have any trade show booths related domains available. Thanks again. ~ Steve

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Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-01 18:54:26

Frank, I just reread your answer above. Do you know if other domain registrars (i.e. google) have access to the godaddy info if one uses the privacy registration. Privacy means that when you look up the domain in whois your info doesn’t show up. I use it to keep from getting spammed, but I assume it also protects the info from the other registrars… do you know? Thanks, Steve

 
Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 19:39:03

Steve,

I think that they do have some level of access to it but it can’t be disclosed. I don’t know if that means that they have to have a ‘Chinese Wall‘ between their registrar office and search and Adwords/Adsense or if they can use it company wide.

 
Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-01 22:00:49

Frank, cool link on the “Chinese Wall”. Like people with a British accent, I always think that people who link to wikipedia for a phrase I don’t know are SMART. I don’t know why, it just seems smart to me. Anyway, speaking of smart, your wiki link lead me so a related link about the “Cone of Silence“. The picture on it cracks me up. I’ve got to remember to work that link into a comment. Oh, I guess I just did.
BTW, if I haven’t said it before, you have an awesome blog. ~ Steve

 
 
 
 
Comment by Vintage Coffee Tin
2008-07-01 09:53:20

Hey Frank,

Nice Post. For the past couple of months I’ve also only bought aged domains via Freshdrop. It’s fun but more importantly you get some useful information. I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a couple of 9 year old domains already. I don’t even look at PR, that can be built up. About the only thing we don’t have control over is the passing of time. If anybody reading this is considering getting into Internet Marketing you need to look at Aged Domains.

Bruce

Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 19:35:06

Hi Bruce,

The only major problem an expired domain might have would be a history of spamming or malware distribution. This will take some effort to overcome and would mean essentially starting over from square one.

 
 
Comment by Lamach
2008-07-01 13:22:15

Saw great domain I wanted to buy, 2 hours left. Went to put my password in, and of course I forgot it. looked for the password, couldn’t find it. Asked for a new one, and it was too late! Why am I so stupid sometimes! Ha Ha! BUT! it was a fake, so maybe not that bad afterall. Thanks for the info.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-01 19:36:14

Hi Lamach,

It always seems like I racing to find my GoDaddy login information, discount codes, etc. when I buy one too.

 
 
Comment by Hybrid Cars
2008-07-01 22:51:33

Is there any resources you recommend where one could learn what exactly to look for and to be mindful of when buying and aged domain. Also how do you check if the pr is fake on a site that is existing already? Thank you very much.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-02 09:01:06

Hi ‘Hybrid’,

Akismet doesn’t like you :(

It’s hard to tell about the fake PR if there’s a parking page up. Sometimes you can discover this by looking in the Google cache or in the Wayback Machine (archive.org). Fake PR will usually have a Javascript that redirects Google-PR-Toolbar-bot to a high PR site while ordinary visitors see the actual site. You can also tell by going to a site that reads the PR remotely like the toolbar does.

 
 
Comment by Buy Gothic Dresses
2008-07-02 08:52:59

I have the same problem that Karyn has. I’ve seen so many great domain names on sale at FreshDrop, and I neither have the time nor the money to develop them all.

Perhaps I have a strange sense of humour, but I also find it somewhat entertaining to imagine why people bought some of the names they bought.

“Wrappers-to-Remember . com”?

Or “KitKatHoneys . com”?

Aren’t you dying to know what business might lie behind those names?

Comment by jfc
2008-07-02 09:04:54

Hi Gothic,

There are several that I’ve seen that were obviously used for adult or some other ‘bad neighborhood’ operations. I’d avoid these if you’re planning to use BANS or other eBay affiliate methods. eBay has canceled the accounts of a few EPN members because they were directing traffic to eBay from ‘bad neighborhood’ sites, even though the sites were innocent enough now.

Comment by Buy Gothic Dresses
2008-07-08 14:19:26

Interesting … I had no idea. I’ll start doing my homework even more carefully than I have been. Thanks for the heads up.

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Comment by Luxury Paris Hotels
2008-07-03 02:31:59

I am trying very hard to stay away from freshdrop until I at least get one or 2 pages on all the ones I already own! I just got sandboxed on a new info that I have been developing with a niche blog so its probably time to work the older domains. Does having a site which is older than 2 years guarantee a non-sandy experience?
Lissie

Comment by jfc
2008-07-03 08:36:14

Hi Lissie,

Older domains are less prone to sandboxing according to the conventional SEO wisdom. However, they’re still subject to other algorithms that might create a sandbox-like experience for them.

For example, if you bought a 10 year old domain and did certain things that raised red flags you would probably be penalized. Generally these would be having a lot of links or a lot of pages virtually overnight. However, you would probably not get a penalty for legitimately bringing traffic using techniques that would put a new domain in the sandbox quickly, such as following trends.

 
 
Comment by xeldec
2008-07-04 19:06:37

I also have to lay off FreshDrop for now. I too have many things on my hands at the moment. Haven’t even worked on some new domains yet. :)

Comment by jfc
2008-07-05 11:51:48

Hi Xel,

Akismet is still mad at you. :(

I’ve been going on a buy/build/buy/build cycle for a while. I did a ‘buy’ one in February and I just went through another ‘buy’ cycle so I have about 20 new sites to get up and running. That’s a lot of work!

 
 
Comment by Halim-Belajar SEo
2008-07-05 11:37:12

You have a really good point in above post. I am not quite sure to buy a old domain because afraid it could have a bad history or being banned.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-05 11:49:33

Hi Halim,

The thing to do is check out the site first to see if it’s indexed in Google. Just go to Google and enter site:domainname.com and see if anything comes up. Even if there is a parking page it should show something. If you’re lucky, you might also get cached pages. You can also check the whois information for the site and this will often tell you if the site is banned or not. You can also go to the archive.org Wayback machine and view some past pages. This can help too. You can get all this in one shot with the SEOQuake browser plugin.

While this won’t necessarily capture all bad behavior by a previous site owner it will catch a lot of it.

Comment by Halim-Belajar SEo
2008-07-06 06:26:09

Thanks for add info!

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Comment by Colon Cleanse Geek
2008-07-05 17:44:41

Great post enjoyed reading your information on domain buying. We have purchased a number of domains this way but have to warn people of fake pr’s this has happened a couple of times to us:-)

 
2008-07-06 07:17:15

[…] Frank (OpTempo.com) discusses domain name buying and his strategy. […]

 
Comment by local movers
2008-07-07 15:39:06

From what I’ve heard there is quite a bit of money to made in typos. It’s always easy to find new emerging domains too!

 
 
Comment by Denise
2008-07-13 12:45:45

I just checked it out, thats a cool tool for domain buying. Lots of relevant info given. Thanks for sharing.

 
2008-11-22 23:44:00

I’ve bought a few aged domains, but usually the ones that work for me are just the projects where I buy a brand new domain that fits a goal that I have already set out.

 
2009-02-05 20:47:16

I’ve really been thinking about doing site flipping as a business model for some time but just didn’t know too much about it. Thanks for sharing the info and links. I’ve bookmarked it and will take a closer look later.

 
Comment by SirNicolaus
2009-07-10 18:35:56

anyone use a site called dnssaleprice or something google it it has history on domain names and what have sold in the past and for how much and the look up is free! it is a nice research tool!

SirNicolaus

 
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