A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Domaining

domainsThe buying and selling of domains is big business. You only need to google *domaining* to see a tsunami of information about the subject.

So why is domaining so popular? You’ve probably heard stories about people selling domain names for big dollars. Some of those stories are true.


Domain Sales:

Here are a few of the more high profile recorded domain sales from the past decade:

  • Insurance.com – an insurance quotation site – sold for $35.6 million in 2010.
  • PrivateJet.com – a private jet booking service – sold for $30.1 million in 2012.
  • Hotels.com – a hotel deals site – sold for $11 million in 2001.
  • FB.com – sold (to Facebook) for $8.5 million in 2010.
  • Beer.com – (now parked and unused!) sold for $7 million in 2004.
  • iCloud.com sold (to Apple) for $6 million in 2011.
  • IG.com – a stock trading site – sold for $4.7 million in 2013.
  • Whisky.com – an information site – sold for $3.1 million in 2014.


Domain Statistics

Now take a look at some statistics from Flippa.com, one of the most popular domain auction web sites:

  • Over 400,000 users have registered on Flippa to buy or sell domains.
  • A bid is placed on a Flippa auction every minute.
  • There have been $711,532 in domain sales over the last 7 days.
  • Flippa has sold $122,039,671 in domains since launch in 2009. That’s right – a whopping USD 122 million has changed hands in domain sales on this one auction site in the past 5 years.

So is it possible to make a living from simply buying and selling domains? It is indeed and there are plenty of people doing just that.


Types of Domainers

There are generally two types of domainers in the industry:

1) Those who purchase domains with the intention of onselling them immediately for a profit.

2) Those who purchase domains with the intention of developing them and THEN onselling them for a profit (domain flipping).

As an Internet marketer, I have amassed quite a large collection of domains over the years, (currently numbering around 50 active domains), almost all of them relating to new business ideas or for branding or marketing of existing businesses. However, most of these purchased domains sit unused and unloved in registrar limbo, while I try to find the time to do something with them. Most of them are on auto-renew, but sometimes I’ll simply lose interest or forget and let the domain quietly expire.

Unfortunately, this approach is never going to be profitable. If I was ever going to make a living from domaining, I would have to shift gears and embrace one of the domainer categories above. For me, domain flipping would be the obvious choice.


Domain Flipping

To be successful at domain flipping, you have to be both opportunistic and tenacious. You need to be able to spot domains that have high resell potential and will give you a good return on investment.

According to Flippa, domain sales in the fields of finance, business, home, entertainment/gaming, social media and family related niches seem to out-perform the rest of the market. In terms of domain niches, forums sell well, but struggle to make traffic and conversions, while review sites, gaming, business, hobbies and tech are consistently popular. Internet Marketing sites tend to be short term earners, with low sale prices, but often high turnover.

BUT – and it’s a big but – it’s unlikely you’ll make a profit from simply purchasing domain names in bulk and re-selling them.

Sure, domainers in category 1) above will get the occasional quick turnaround, but ask a domainer which sales have been the most profitable and he/she will tell you it’s the developed domains that draw the big bucks.

Just like an unfurnished or unrenovated house, an undeveloped domain makes it difficult for buyers to imagine what it would be like to use it themselves. As with flipping houses, to achieve a good price for your domain, you need to invest the time to renovate the property. That includes developing it to the point where it has:

  • reliable hosting
  • analytics tracking
  • attractive design
  • quality content
  • good search engine placement
  • consistent traffic
  • trusted link profile
  • revenue generation if possible (e.g. via Google AdSense)

Although building them into your domain will take time, all these factors will make the domain appeal more to potential purchasers and help you achieve the best possible return on your original investment. What you’re essentially doing here is flipping a domain name with potential into a viable business model.

Apart from the domain gold rush, you may have also heard stories about big brands losing their domains to squatters and ransomists. This is also true. The domain industry is ripe with opportunity for the tenacious web-savvy amongst us. Unfortunately, it is also a murky, shark-infested sea and you can drown or be drowned if you’re not careful.

So just how do you get started in this tricky business?

Domain Resources to Get You Started

Below are some useful domain-related resources if you are interested in dipping your toe into domaining:

Flippa’s Domain Selling Guide (PDF)
Flippa’s Domain Buying Guide (PDF)

Domain Auction Sites / After-markets:

GoDaddy Auctions

Sites / Blogs About Domaining:

Domain Name News
Domain Sherpa
Domain Investing

Domain Forums:

Domain State
Name Pros
DN Forum

Domain Research:

Domain Tools
Hoster Stats
Ultra Tools

Domain Valuations:

Free Valuator


Still keen to become a domainer? I’ll leave the final words on the subject to a couple of anonymous domain flipper friends of mine:

“Make sure your price expectations are realistic”
“Don’t release the money until your new domain has been moved to your hosting account”
“If you haven’t developed it within 6 months, offload it”
“Always use a broker!”


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Google to Offer Domain Registration

domainsThe domain registrar industry is about to crack wide open, with new evidence that Google is moving into the domain registration market.

The move confirms rumors that Google is serious about selling domains – rumors that began when the Internet giant made DNS changes to GoogleDomains.com in late March, after having owned the domain for several years. Domaining is a thriving industry, growing every year, as evidenced by GoDaddy’s latest IPO announcement.

Google Domains is currently in invitation-only BETA release, but on appearance, will be a fully-fledged domain registration service on public launch, with all the customizable domain features of large registrars.

I’ve requested my invitation to participate and will review the service here on the blog as soon as I can. Watch this space!

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Q and A: What should I do with domains I don’t have time to develop?

QuestionDear Kalena

I would like your opinion on what to do with a domain I have owned since 1999 or so.

I believe the name is highly brandable and would be quite valuable and conducive to a killer business model in the right hands. It is pricechoice.com (I also have .net, .org, .info and .biz). A few months ago, I began designing a model built around cosmetic supplies, but my progress fizzled when I became too busy with clients while moving forward with other projects.

I would be open to a joint venture, case-study project or selling the domains outright. Your thoughts would be appreciated!


Dear Dino

Regarding domains – I am probably the worst person to ask! I own quite a few myself – some with half-baked designs, some with outdated content, some with no content :-)  They are also the victims of a hectic schedule, I’m too time poor to develop them but not keen to sell them.

I have heard the domain after-market is pretty hot these days. There are lots of domain auction sites but I’ve heard very good things about the following as places to sell developed or undeveloped domains:

The other option is to sign up for AdSense for Domains and put up ad code on your unused domains so you can at least earn a little ad income from them while you decide what to do with them.

Good luck!


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Q and A: Is my forwarded domain OK for SEO?


Dear Kalena

I have a site: balirental.net, which is a forwarded URL to a subdomain of surfwomen.com/balirental.

When I view the page source of balirental.net, there are no Meta Tags at all. There is this however, src=’http://surfwomen.com/balirental/’, which, when clicked on, shows all my Meta Tags. Is this hurting my SEO? Do the robots see/crawl the src?

Thanks, Paul

Hi Paul,

There are many ways to forward or redirect URLs or domains – not all of them are search engine friendly.

The technique used on your site is not actually a redirect at all, it uses “frames”, which is a largely outdated technique which is one of the worst methods, and is not doing you any SEO favours at all.

Currently all the search engines see when they look at your site is what you can see yourself when you view the source – i.e. 13 lines of code with no content and no keywords.  At the moment, there is no chance of this domain achieving any sort of rankings in the search results.

Any “content” which is on the page within the frame is all associated with the surfwomen.com domain rather than your own domain.

If you want your domain to be found via search then you will need to develop your own unique content, under your own domain, and get as many good quality links to your site as possible.

Andy Henderson
Ireckon Web Marketing

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Q and A: How important is domain canonicalization to SEO?

QuestionHi Kalena

I use a company that “specializes” in mortgage sites and hosting. Since I am in the process of applying everything I am learning, I saw fit to have my site graded by one of the many online tools available.

The tool showed that my site is coming up for both the www and non www versions of my domain. When I enquired with my host about doing a 301 for my domain to one version, they said

“There is nothing we or you can reset on the Xsites as this is beyond anything we have control over. We do not support any of this nor have the capability for any one else to have it”.

How much is it going to hurt me in SEO if I don’t get this fixed like the site grader suggested?



Hi Alex

What you’re referring to here is domain canonicalization.

Search engines can sometimes index both www and non www versions of your domain, creating duplicate content headaches for you and also link popularity dilution. Therefore, it’s best for SEO purposes if you can stick with one version of your domain and make sure all links point to that version. The www version is my recommendation because most sites will link to you using that version anyway.

Judging by the response you got from your hosts, it sounds like they’re not familiar with the issue of domain canonicalization, which is concerning. If your site host won’t allow you to use a 301 to create a conditional redirect to your preferred version, you probably need to get a new host!

Alternatively, you can use the Canonical Link Element. You can also specify your preferred URL version in Google Webmaster Tools.

My blog post Does the canonicalization of my URL impact my search engine rankings? might also be of interest.

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