Those starting a new business online often wrongly assume the only way to own a domain name is to register a new one using a domain registrar such as GoDaddy.com.
But the truth is, buying an existing domain name can give your new business venture a head start by giving you a distinct search engine advantage.
The reason for this is that older and existing URL’s are given greater preference compared with brand new domains. With over 90% of all online transactions originating from an online search, having strong search engine visibility is absolutely vital.
Moreover, around the same percentage of search engine users also only ever click on results that appear on page one, so if your business is not found here, is it not likely to ever be found.
There are essentially two ways to appear on page one:
1. Pay for a sponsored listing where the advertiser is charged per click
2. Optimize your website so it ranks higher in the natural search engine listings.
Here’s why grabbing an existing domain can help with both of these.
Older domains help boost search engine visibility
Search engines order their results by relevance using an algorithm. Although the details of their algorithms have never been made public, experience has shown that the age of the domain is an important indicator of a site’s overall authority. Thus buying a brand new domain puts any new business at an immediate disadvantage compared with existing sites.
New sites can often be what is known as Sandboxed, meaning the URL’s true ranking value is held back for an unspecified number of months. This helps deter those who want to build a site using short-term, underhand tactics but of course also impacts new sites wanting to optimize using more legitimate tactics.
The way to overcome this potential problem is by buying an existing domain – either one that has expired or to purchase an existing URL on the open market.
(i) Buying an expired domain
An expired domain is where the owner has failed to renew the domain with their chosen registrar. Once the domain has expired and the suspension period has ended, the domain becomes available again for anyone to register for themselves.
These are the best type of aged domain to buy because they cost the same price to register as a brand new domain. If you find a domain that has expired, simply go to a registrar site, type in the domain name, complete the checkout process and the domain is yours!
There are several websites that list expired and expiring domains. You can usually search using various criteria such as by Keyword, Age, or the number of backlinks. Older domains that have a high number of backlinks are the most sought after, so if you can find one that is relevant to your business this will really be worth acquiring.
If you find a domain that is about expire, you have two options for acquiring it.
1. You can either wait for the domain to ‘drop’ and then try and register it yourself.
2. You can use a service like Snapnames.com who has special software that will help ensure you successfully register the domain before anyone else.
Remember if it is a popular or lucrative URL, there will be many other people trying to register it once it has dropped.
(ii) Buying an existing domain name from an individual or company
If you cannot find a suitable domain that has expired, you may want to consider buying an existing domain name from an individual or company. A domain can be bought and sold like any other commodity. First you must find the domain you want to buy and then contact the domain owner with your desired opening bid.
Domains may also be available at auction on sites such as buydomains.com or sedo.com. Sites like these allow users to bid for domains meaning there is no need to contact the owner directly. It is also worth noting that many, less popular domains will have a ‘buy it now’ price, meaning there is no need to negotiate on price (unless you want to).
Keyword Rich domain names are a powerful marketing tool
Domains that contain popular search terms are of particular high value for the reason mentioned earlier. Getting a keyword rich domain name not only puts you at an advantage with regard to search engine optimization and sponsored advertising, it is also great for branding purposes.
If you are a new business that sells one particular product such as ‘blue widgets’ for example, acquiring the domain bluewidgets.com or bluewidgets.net would be a huge advantage.
Here are some useful tips for those intending to buy a domain privately…
(i) Work out the value
This can be done professionally using a domain valuation service. However if you don’t want to use this method then look at the price of similar domains at auction and try to workout what the seller will be looking for. They may already have the domain listed for sale with a minimum bid price but if the domain is not listed you will need to contact the site owner direct. You can find their details using the Who.is look up service which will give you the name of the domain owner and normally a contact email address.
Some domain owners opt out of this service in which case your only choice is to contact them via the company that provides the opt out service, who will then forward your email on to them. Note they are not under any obligation to reply in this instance.
(ii) Place your bid
If the domain does not have a set price at auction, then you will need to make a bid yourself.
Some advice: do not bid your maximum price initially as it will not leave you any room to negotiate. Equally do not make a derisory bid as this is just wasting the domain owner’s time and will be a cause of aggravation.
Depending on how badly you want the domain, you may want to start with a low (ish) bid to see what the reaction is from the owner. If you are keen to own it without delay you may want to go in with a fair but final offer. For example you might want to state that you will…”…offer $2,000 for this domain – final bid. I have the money ready to transfer now using PayPal or Escrow”. Doing this makes it clear you mean business and are ready to make the money transfer right away. One thing people who sell domains hate are time wasters.
Another tactic is to ask the domain owner for a ballpark figure without disclosing how much you are prepared to pay (which also helps to avoid wasting time).
For example you could ask them which ones of these offers is in the right pricing bracket…
That way you will know whether you are prepared to bid in the price range that the domain owner is looking for. Remember a domain is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it.
Consider also that a domain could be listed for a high price but if the owner is having trouble fetching that price then you may be able to acquire it at a much lower cost. Expect to pay a higher price for domains in the finance, legal or insurance sector, as these will reflect the monetary value of the services to which they are associated.
(iii) Make the transfer
Once you have agreed on a price you will need to get the domain owner to transfer the domain over to you. Most domain owners like to be paid using PayPal. However if the domain price is high then you may want to use a service such as Escrow which acts as a holding area where you can upload the payment while the transfer is initiated. Escrow will charge a fee for this but what this does do is help to ensure that if anything does go wrong with the transfer you have a much stronger legal case to gain ownership of the domain or instead get your money back.
One final point…
Domains do retain their value so although buying a keyword rich, aged domain may seem expensive in the short term, over time that domain name will accrue further value.
About the Author: SJ is an online marketing professional who writes in a series of different niches. He is also the founder of the pension portal 123annuityrates.co.uk where those who are retiring can secure a better annual income by comparing different annuity providers.
Graphic Courtesy of Salvatore Vuono and freedigitalphotos.com