If you want to publish a website, the first thing you need is a domain name. Domain names can be registered from registrars such as GoDaddy, but with more and more people hoarding and trying to “flip” domain names, it is very hard to find one that is available. If you are starting a website for your business called Adventure Web Design and www.AdventureWebDesign.com is taken, what are you supposed to do?
The cool thing about domain names is that you can buy them secondhand. Buying a secondhand domain name pretty much means working with the current owner to agree on a price and then complete the transfer. There are many domain name markets out there such as Sedo and Flippa, but domain names listed for sale on those markets are extremely expensive and not worth your money. The best way to purchase an owned domain name is to find one that the web designer is not using, then contact them directly about it.
- The first step you will want to take is to figure out a list of about five domain names that you would like. Visit their website and see if they are either parked (showing nothing but ads) or blank. If the web designer has content on the website you want, it will be much harder and more expensive to buy the domain. When I decided I wanted to buy the Omega Web domain name, it looked like this:
- Before you get yourself too excited about a particular domain, you will want to check its background history. If a domain name was ever associated with an adult or spammy website, stay clear! Google and other search engines block some spammy websites and if you buy them, your website will never show up in search results. To check the history of a website, visit the Alexa Wayback Machine.
- After you have confirmed that the website is safe of a bad history, you will want to see if Google is indexing the domain. Go to Google and type in www.DomainHere.com, replacing “DomainHere” with the domain you are interested in purchasing.
- Next, you will find out if the website has any Google Pagerank. Pagerank is a system of numbers (1-10) that ranks websites according to reliable content. To find this out, go to PR Checker. The higher your Pagerank, the more likely it is that your website will show higher in Google, but keep in mind that Pagerank is also related to the category of content that is on the website. If you are opening a zoo called Wild Adventures and www.WildAdventures.com was an amusement park website with a Pagerank of 3, the Pagerank will go away since you are changing the category of content. Pagerank changes every few months, so keep in mind that you can always earn it back.
- After you have determined that the website doesn’t have a bad history and figured out the Pagerank, you are ready to check the Whois information. Whois information for a domain name shows when the name was created, what registrar it’s registered with, who owns it, and the contact information for the owner. To check Whois information, I use Whois.com.
- On the Whois information, make sure the domain is at least a year old. Google trusts old domain names because they feel that if it was registered every year since 1997, then it must be a reliable source.
- The first step to contacting the owner is to send them an email. Be polite in the email and ask the owner if the domain is for sale. Do not make an offer yet! If you throw out a number, the owner of the domain will have an advantage.
- After about 48 hours of not hearing anything back from the domain owner, try calling the phone number listed on the Whois information. Beware that if the owner lives in a foreign country, it may be hard to reach them, and if you do, they may not speak English.
- When you’re on the phone with the owner, be polite and simply ask if the name is for sale. Do not make an offer right upfront. When you do make an offer, make it reasonably low, but not too low that you will offend the owner. Some people will want thousands of dollars for their domain name, but some people don’t know what they have. The owner of Omega Web clearly didn’t know what he had because it was first registered in 1995, has a Google Pagerank of 1, and he sold it to me for $150. Sometimes you will get lucky, but most of the time the owners will ask too much for the domain name. Just spend within your comfort zone and think realistically… If I spend $500 for this domain name, will I have a return on my investment?
- After you have agreed on a price, it’s time for payment. I suggest using PayPal because it’s traceable, reliable, and won’t cost you anything. As for transferring the domain name, I would suggest doing a registrar push instead of a transfer. If the owner of the domain has it registered with Name.com, make a Name.com account and have them push it to you. Pushing a domain is free and it transfers the domain instantly. If you want to transfer it to GoDaddy or a different registrar, it will take about seven days and the owner could always cancel it and steal your money… Have them transfer it to your Name.com account instantly, then transfer it to wherever you want yourself.
Of course, no business venture is ever going to be that simple… It took me a week of calling at least twenty different owners before I settled on OmegaWeb.com. Be patient, be persistent, and learn to walk away if the owner is asking too much money.