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Domaining / Passive Income

How To Pick A Domain Name For A Start Up

These guys really like their domain hunting.

These guys really like their domain hunting.

So just to be up front I ended up using a domain I already had in my account instead of buying a new one.    I have a couple hundred domains sitting around from working online for the past 15 years,  I figured instead of buying one, to dig in there first and see what I had bought back in the day, it’s actually how I decided to sell the product I’m selling.   I have to say there are a lot of bad domains in there in hindsight, it’s pretty funny to see them all in there.  A lot of them you think are some killer great name, but then looking at them now I wonder WTF was I thinking.

So I’m a die hard .com fan, thats probably being an old fart tech wise, but I’ve always used the big TLDs like .com/.net.  I know there are all sorts of extensions out there these days and I’m sure at some point in the future .com will be obsolete.   SEO (Search Engine Optimization) wise I’ve heard things all over the place and to be honest as fast as things are going, I have a feeling the new TLDs that are out there are probably fine.

That being said I’d still stick with a .com for right now.  People, especially older people, are now accustomed to typing in .com after everything.  So if you’re trying to brand a name the path of least resistance is grabbing a .com name.  The last thing you want to do is be pick the domain and lose a chunk of your hard earned traffic to your competitor over at

Next!  Keep it short!  I try to keep a max of 15 characters in the name and a max of 3 words, but always try for 2 words or less.  No crazy spellings of words like carz instead of cars; no dashes; no numbers.  Keep it as simple as possible.  A good rule of thumb is to verbally tell 10 friends your potential domain name and ask them to spell it, if more than 9 of them have a problem spelling it then move onto another one.

I personally like to keep the name descriptive as possible and stay away from any funky names that are hard to brand.  Brandable names like Google, Yahoo, Bing are great for people who have a budget to brand that name.  Plus its pretty much impossible to snag a good one word brandable name any more.  For a passive income or something like we’re doing I like just grabbing something with my company or product in the name.  It’s much easier for advertising as people who might click on your name have a good idea of what they’ll find there.   If you were looking for web hosting and saw the list of 3 names, chances are you’d click right to the 2nd one since you know what it is.

It may seem like every possible domain name out there is taken, but if you get creative you can usually come up with something good.   Throw the words like My, Your, Great, Easy, Fast, whatever else in front of what you’re selling and see if it works.   I always jump over to and play around with a ton of adjectives and variations until something clicks.  Or go to google and search for “domain name ideas”; there are a ton of little sites out there that help you randomly generate names.    Don’t stress yourself out too much trying to find that PERFECT name, just go with your best fit, there’s a lot more stuff to worry about than the domain.   There are some huge sites out there with terrible names, so a domain isn’t everything, it’s your follow through.

If you have a little bit of cash check out, there are a ton of domains on there for sale.  If you find one you like make sure you offer a lower price than it’s listed for.  A lot of those domains are over priced and the owenrs will actually accept quite a bit lower than the price you see.

Lastly feel free to hit up any taken domains owner directly.  If you goto a whois service like Whois.Net you can see who the registered owner of the domain is.   I always shoot them a quick email from a non-descript google account just asking if the names for sale.    Usually it’s a quick message like “Hi there, I was just wondering if your site is for sale?  It’d be a good fit for a project I’m working on.  Thanks!” .  The reasoning behind the gmail account is so that if you have a web presence the person can’t google you to see more info about you.  If a search of your email comes back with a CraigsList post to your vacation home you’re renting out, then the domain owner is going to see some dollar signs and make you pay a premium for the name.  If they reply just try to get them to make an offer first; you don’t want to come in and offer $5,000 if in reality they’d sell it for $200.   If they want you to make an offer first just shoot low, like 50% of your total budget and see what happens.

I actually picked up the domain I’m using as a dropped domain at auction.  If anyone is interested in how you buy dropped / expiring domains at auctions just post in the comments.  I’m partially addicted to buying dropped domains and would be more than happy to crank out an article of how I go about doing it.

Looks like I paid $320 for this name, ouch!   But you can buy a new domain for around 10 bucks.  All the registrars are about the same.  I personally use Moniker alot, but GoDaddy or any of them will do, just make sure you put the name on Auto-Renew!  Learned that one the hard way before.

So here’s where I currently stand financially on the project:
Samples From Alibaba:  -$130.00
Domain Name:  -$320.00 (Usually will be only $10 – I just overpaid at dropped domain auction)
Total Income:  -$450.00

That domain name really pushed me back a bit, going to be a little bit of extra digging to get out the hole!


How To Buy Dropping & Deleted Domains

Dropped Domains

So Many Dropping Domains, So Little Time

Every day, tens of thousands of domain names expire and end up for sale in a crazy little internet marketplace. I’d always heard about it but never got around to really looking at it until recently. I’m still no expert, but I’ve had fun grabbing some good domains here and there. Actually, I recently picked up a pretty good name and looked back at the historic whois to find it was one of Tony Heirchs (The Zappos Guy) domains he must have let expire or forgot to renew.

That’s the beauty of dropped domains, every now and then you can find these little gems hidden within mountains and mountains and MOUNTAINS of some of the worst domains you’ve ever seen in your life. I’m sure we’ve all at some point registered a domain, only going back a year later wondering what the hell you were thinking when you bought it. Sifting through the dropped domains every day you have to think that there are a lot of people drinking & buying domain names.

So from what I’ve understood is when a domain expires it goes into some sort of holding period at the reigstrar for another 60 days beyond that original expiration; in what’s called a redemption period. If it’s still not renewed at that point it gets dropped for good from that owner and goes up on the chopping block.

Every day at around 2PM there’s a mad dash of domains that are released for the general public to pick up. There are a couple places online where these lists are made public (signup for more info). It’s fun to scour those lists and grab whatever you can as they come up at the basic domain registration fee.

Now, here’s where it got confusing for me. Everything above is all good unless a dropping domain has been backordered at a service like snapnames or namejet. Basically what happens is, if you know of a domain that is expiring soon you can backorder it through one of those services. If more than 2 people backorder a domain it goes up for private auction between the people who backordered it.

The backorder fee is around $69 and you only pay if you get the name and no one else has placed a bid. If other people have backordered then shit hits the fan sometimes with the private auctions where I’ve seen bidding go as high as $10k+ (which isn’t horrible for some of these names). You can only bid and watch the auction if you’ve backordered it, so I’d recommend making sure you at least back order any domain you’re semi interested in. You’re not committed to buying it and it is pretty fun watching the bidding on some of the names.

Be careful not to get caught up in the bidding and overpay for a mediocre domain. Also be careful to check trademarks and other issues that could arise. I’ve seen some “Realtor” domains sell for a chunk of cash, which will only end up getting the winning bidder a nice letter from the Realtor Company’s attorneys.

If you want more details on this just grab the premium membership. I’ll list all the places I’ve used to look up and bid on domains. It’s a lot of fun and you can really grab some good names to either flip or use yourself. In the past 6 months I’ve flipped about 15 names I’ve picked up at these auctions and made a nice profit. I’ve also bought another 20 or so which are more long term investments.

It’s truly as close to digging for internet gold as I can think of. So far I’ve only got a few small nuggets, but maybe someday I will hit that motherlode.

If you want more info on buying names or want tips on how to flip the names once you’ve bought them let me know and I can post what’s worked for me. We can also dig into domain parking and what to do with any unused domains to make the best of them.