Ask LH: How Can I Sell My Domains?

Hey Lifehacker, So I've bought a few domains for ideas I've decided to build over the years, but these domains are auto-renewing and collecting dust. What's the most effective way to onsell them so I can recoup my costs and hopefully make a profit? Thanks, Seriously Regretting The .sexy TLD

Domain name picture from Shutterstock

Dear SRTSTLD,

Unfortunately, you've probably left this a bit too late. It has become increasingly rare for domain names to exchange hands for large sums of money -- and we only have ourselves to blame.

In an era where Facebook is the most common Google search, people clearly aren't bothering to memorise URLs anymore. This has significantly decreased their perceived value, even among customer-facing companies that used to highly covet an exact .com brand name.

These days, instead of haggling for website rights in the secondary market, most businesses are happy to settle for the closest thing that's available. For example, the popular financial planning app Pocketbook uses "www.getpocketbook.com". Despite the imperfect match, this website is now the top Google search result for "pocketbook".

This is unfortunate for domain squatters but makes perfect sense from a business standpoint: after all, why pay extra for an exact domain name when most of your traffic comes via Google? Sure it might look "cleaner", but most customers aren't even going to notice. The benefits simply don't justify the cost.

Another barrier impeding the sale of domain names is that buyers usually don't know where to look. While there are several online marketplaces such as Flippa and Sedo where domain names are bought and sold, the average web user is oblivious to their existence. In fact, you're probably better off sticking to eBay; especially if you're trying to offload them in a hurry.

One solution is to put up a "For Sale" banner on your domain name's front page. That way, anyone checking for its availability will immediately know the score. Be sure to include your contact details and (preferably modest) pricing so as not to scare prospective customers off. When it comes to setting a realistic price, this Domain Name Apprasial Tool from Flippa can help to steer you in the right direction.

If any readers have personal experiences in this area, share your stories with SRTSTLD in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Domain names are very important for seo if the name has the search terms in it, so they still have a lot of 'value'.

      This is true, but as the Pocketbook example demonstrates you don't need an exact match to reap the seo benefits.

      Yes, but this is becoming eroded over time (and rightly so) as Google seeks to serve the best performing content for a category, rather than the best sounding URL.

    SRTSTLD,

    You should ask an experienced domain specialist for their advice (disclosure: my firm, Domain Guardians, offers such services).

    "It has become increasingly rare for domain names to exchange hands for large sums of money..."

    Not always. Our firm sold BTC.com for $US1M in August: http://www.domaininvesting.com/domain-guardians-sells-btc-com-1-million. We have also brokered 4 other 6-figure domain sales in the past 12-months. There are also many other premium domains that we have not personally sold this year: http://www.dnjournal.com/ytd-sales-charts.htm

    "...most businesses are happy to settle for the closest thing that’s available."

    Sometimes - but this is not advised. I have seen many startups invest in readily available/average domains/extensions. Once they have grown their brand and business, they have then had to pay ridiculous premiums well outside of the domain's original value. If you are not in a position to pay a large amount upfront for a premium domain, explore alternatives, like a payment plan/lease-to-own with the owner. This is where a reputable domain broker can greatly assist you.

    "...you’re probably better off sticking to eBay..."

    eBay is far from the best place to sell domain names. Opt for an experienced domain broker or marketplace to extract the most value from your domain assets. They can assist with valuation, marketing and also provide specialised guidance throughout the sales process.

    Best of luck!

    Until the above "buts" become the be all and end all over domains names, then domain names matter significantly and still have value.

    Domain name messaging can be unsurpassed to develop identity, reinforce branding and increase search engine visibility - not to mention deliver cross-channel recall. Imagine a new non-prescriptive drug, let's call it 'Viraxantium'. Brand it with a compelling missionline, say CognitiveBest.com, and it becomes immediately unforgettable. The domain name makes the drug's mission clear while it delivers an easy-to-remember dot-com link to enable direct response. This is responsive identity marketing. It will work as well on a mobile screen as a radio ad a billboard, and it takes branding to the next level.

    AusRegistry, the appointed registry operator of the .au Top-Level Domain, published a response to Chris' advice here: http://www.ausregistry.com.au/news/response-to-lifehacker-how-can-i-sell-my-domains

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