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How to Buy a Domain Name That is Already Taken

I went through a 1.5 year journey looking for that “perfect”
domain name to expand our business. Along the way I found things such as “premium”
domain names, generic domain names, aftermarket domain names, and all kinds of weird
things such as WHOIS and an entire culture of people who were smart enough to
take a gamble with the internet and buy up the registration rights of generic
keyword domain names, and then have the guts to hold onto them, or have the
guts to double down on these domain name registrations during the tech bubble
collapse of the early 2000’s.

I actually found out about this whole concept when doing a
simple domain name search on GoDaddy and finding that my desired domain name
was unavailable, BUT they presented me with some options right above my
unsuccessful search of what they called “premium” domain names. Now, conspiracy
theorist I am, I actually thought that GoDaddy was taking the domain name words
I was searching, and not letting me register them and then wanting me to pay
more for them because I was interested. Further digging found that there is
this thing called WHOIS, where you can look up people and I found that some of
those domains were registered 10+ years ago, so obviously GoDaddy wasn’t going
out and snagging domains I was searching for.

I called GoDaddy to ask about these mysterious domains for
sale, and they said they were owned by “Domainers”. So I googled “domainers”
and whambaloneybooza!!!  Wow! This is a
whole culture!!  There are aftermarkets,
forums, and an entire industry of people buying and selling domains. So if you’re
looking for that perfect domain name, and find that it’s not available, try
typing it in the address bar first. If it has ads on it or doesn’t seem like its
being used, the odds are, you could reach out to the registrant with a whois
search, send them an email or call and they will probably sell it to you for a
price. If there’s a link to buy it there on the site, I wouldn’t use that,
because it might just go off to some broker or random website where it’s for
sale, and that website is going to charge the person in control of the domain a
sizable commission that ultimately ends up getting paid by you because that
person will want more money.

Here are some things to avoid:

There are websites that sell aftermarket domains. SEDO is
horrible. You could buy a domain there, pay them, and they don’t actually get
the domain for you. Some Jerkoff in Germany will just tell you that you’re on
your own, here is some contact details of a person you actually were going to
pay, but they didn’t want to sell you the domain once they saw who you were, we’ll
refund your money. Then next thing you see is that this domain you just paid
1200 bucks for is now listed for 10,000. SEDO reminds me of website scams that
you saw in the early days of the internet.

So you can buy aftermarket domains on GoDaddy and SEDO. They
both basically suck to buy from. I bought direct from a guy named Rick Latona
and another from Rich Green with buydomains. These were two people whom were
very professional and very helpful. They actually gave me great tips about the
industry. The bummer was that 4-5 domains into this process, I kept thinking if
I was going to launch a second website, that it should be freaking fantastic!
Not just ok. So I kept thinking the grass was always greener with a different
domain name. I finally stumbled onto the phrase “starting a business”. This
seemed like the biggest phrase possible in my industry that was still relevant.
There are terms like LLC or Corp or Inc or Corporation, but those are getting
SO many searches that aren’t really relevant to someone actually forming an LLC
or corporation or starting a business that I didn’t want to mess with those
terms. So my heart was committed to startingabusiness.com.  When I emailed the person who owned it, I was met with an absurd for sale price.  I
think like a year later they came down into my range a little more and we
finally were able to do it. I still paid too much… but I was motivated. I
really don’t think anyone else in the next decade would have paid what I paid,
but that’s all you need. One price that someone is willing to sell something
for and the other person is willing to pay. There’s no way to actually put a “value”
on a domain name.

Something to remember when talking to a domainer is that
this is the art of negotiation to them. There is no loss to them if you don’t
buy. It costs them like 10 bucks a year to keep the registration rights of a
domain name, so who cares if they hold onto it for another 10-20 years in case
someone comes around and offers them 2 million bucks. On the flip side, if you
can’t afford what a domainer wants, the odds are that almost everyone else can’t
afford it either and that domain name isn’t going anywhere. So if you take the
emotional part out of it, because if the price is way too high, you’ll have the
opportunity to buy it down the road as well.

Another interesting thing when communicating with a domainer
is that some of these people are total jerks. A lot are totally playing a game
with you. I have never been dealt with so rudely as when I email a domainer
about a domain for sale. Often they will make dumb unintelligent comments about
your business and your domain name. Some of them actually think they understand your industry which is pretty funny. It’s important to understand who you’re
dealing with right away. If you contact them, and they treat you with respect,
they have a full first and last name and signature info in their email, respond in a timely manner, they don’t play a game with you and give you an actual price that they would sell the domain to you for, you have something to work with.  The odds are these people have some normal business sense and you could accomplish something.

The following are responses I got from domainers that if you get one of these, you should just give up on them. They are not going to be worth your time.

Responses just to walk away from:

-If they take a week or more to get back to your email, they
are playing a game trying to get you emotional and create a BS idea that you
better act quick while you have them. These are game players and scumbags. Some
idiot in Utah even a few months ago lost out on a sale from us because he just
didn’t respond to our emails in a timely manner. These people that purposely
wait a week to respond to you are adolescent idiots and should be avoided like
the plague.

-“We’ve had this domain scheduled for development, but we
might entertain good offers.” This is a total lie.

– “Let me talk to our board or investors and get back to you”
This is almost always a game, but as long as you understand it and don’t take
it personal, it might be worth entertaining this bologna. I actually had this
one guy act like he was talking to his brother and put me on hold every 10
seconds or so. It was really funny. I eventually gave up on him.

-“we’re looking for opening offers in the x,xxx range”.  This is my most epic absurd experience in the
Domain aftermarket. I was trying to buy a domain from Marchex or Archeo or
something. These people are the worst I ran into. So I give him an offer in x,xxx
range, and then he came back and said, thanks, now we need an offer in the
xx,xxx range…. I’m like what?   So just to be stupid, I gave him a 10,000 offer even though I didn’t even think it was worth 10K and wouldn’t have paid that, at this point I was curious what his response would be. He then said something like: ok, I have spoken to
management, and now that we know you’re serious,  we need an offer in the xxx,xxx range.   Huh??? This Marchex Company just really doesn’t get it and they are very
scuzzy. If anyone asks you for an “opening” offer, it means you’re trying to
kick a 75 yard field goal through a pole that is mounted on wheels and there are a couple
dudes in the end zone trying to move it every time you kick. Just give up on
trying to work with a company or person like this.

-“Please take a look at this all-time once in a lifetime
highest domain sales report on this DNJournal place. You see, sex.com sold for
like 13 million dollars a decade ago, and that makes every domain on the planet
kind of worth millions. Please let us know your similar offer for  blahblahblah.com” This is again such an idiotic thing to tell someone interested in buying something. You think I care about once in a lifetime sales? The funny ironic thing about this, is that all
this does is prove how little the domain I’m trying to buy is worth. Because
when you look at all the domain sales on these reports, and look at it like an
actual property appraiser would, (taking the recent averages) it makes the
domain you’re trying to buy worth way less than you were even thinking you
could offer for it. These people that do this are out of touch with reality.

-There’s a company in the Caiman Islands that has a ton of
stellar domains. They get so many offers that they don’t have to treat you like
any type of normal business transaction. They are not worth your time to even
communicate with.

 

So in summary; I would only communicate direct with the
person behind the domain name by starting off finding them on WHOIS. If they
initially seem like decent people, you should work with them. You could probably
strike up a deal. If they play games with you, take it from me…. They are not
worth your time. They live in an alternate reality and it’s just never going to
work out. You should move on to something else.

 

Here are some interesting things I have found out during
this journey:

 

-You don’t actually own a domain name. You only lock down
the rights to keep paying a renewal fee to a domain name registrar.  Much like you don’t actually own a telephone number, you just are the current person to pay the registration rights to keep that telephone number in your control.

-Most of the awesome domain names out there are taken and
they are not being used, so this creates an enormous opportunity for you if you’re
up for it.

-Domain names are controlled and governed by an organization
called ICANN. This organization doesn’t really appear to actually enforce any of the rules it has. BUT trademark law is its own thing, and if you feel a domain is
violating your trademark, you should just sue them in Federal Court and destroy
them. You can go through an ICANN process to try to get domains turned over to you. It costs about $1600. BUT this is just for the domain. You’re still going to want to get your complaint into the federal courts to really have any true resolutions.

-WHOIS is basically a public registration of who currently
controls the domain name you’re interested in. WHOIS does not have to be
accurate. Many people put fake info on WHOIS, and if you complain to ICANN
about it, they do not do anything to force people to use accurate info. So
there’s a ton of domains out there that have fake WHOIS info on them.

-A lot of domains are under “Privacy”. If you do a whois
search, you’ll see some weird email address listed like   startingabusiness.com493243294u9f9sdf9dfj9f9fj9dfj@privacyregistrationservicesfromchina.com
or something stupid like that. If you actually email that address, the domain
name registrar will automatically forward your email to some email, somewhere.
If the person controlling that domain wants to, they will respond to you.

-The process of actually transferring a domain to you from
the seller is SUPER simple. You can set up a free account at GoDaddy. You
purchase a “domain transfer”. The seller “unlocks” the domain wherever they
maintain the registration. Godaddy emails the seller a couple codes in an
email. The seller forwards that email to you and they give you the “authorization
code” they get from their domain name registrar. You log back into Godaddy and
enter the two codes in the Godaddy email and the authorization code and you’re
done. It will take about 3-5 days to get into your account. If you want
immediate access, you can just set up a free domain account wherever the seller
keeps their domain name registered and they can push it into your account. The
idea of “pushing” a domain name into my account seems sketchy to me, so I would
try to get it out of that registrar and into another one as soon as possible.
If someone can simply push a domain into your account, I have to think someone
that that company can simply “push” it back out…

 

I am so glad to be out of the market. It was exhausting and
a serious distraction to my job. If you’re in the market for a better domain
name than you currently have, there are options. The odds are that your perfect
domain name is available. It’s just going to take some hard work. Most
domainers have reasonable normal prices. It’s like anything. You’ll have to use
your judgment to decide if they are going to be worth your time. It’s very
exciting to have a cool, powerful domain name.

This is kind of my closure venting to a long process that
was really eye-opening and all in all awful, but hopefully 5 years from now, I’ll
think it was the best thing I ever did.

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