Domain Names for Bootstrappers

A domain name overview for newbies.

Last night I led a discussion for the web subgroup of Bootstrap Austin, an organization for people starting or running a bootstrapped business. I discussed finding the right domain name for their businesses without breaking the bank. Here’s the outline I provided.

Rules to live by when selecting a domain

-Never use a hyphen
-Always a .com
-If domain includes a digit, include the spelled out version as well (and vice-versa), e.g. and
-Avoid Web 2.0 spellings ( gets 150,000 visitors a month!)

Radio test: If someone heard your domain, would they know how to spell it and can they remember it?

Reading test: What’s wrong with these domain names?

These rules aren’t just for marketing purposes. There are security concerns as well, like customers accidentally emailing confidential information to the non-hyphen or .com version of your domain. So even if you don’t count on the web for business leads, you should follow these guidelines.

The domain I want is taken, what can I do?

Find out if the domain is offered for sale. Go to and search for the domain. At the top of the search result it may say:

Buy now: This domain is listed for sale at $750.00 on Sedo & Afternic

That means you can go to or and make an offer to buy the domain. The $750 price is just a minimum; the seller might want much more.

If the domain isn’t listed for sale, e-mail or call the owner using information from the Whois database (available at any registrar) to see if they are interested in selling. Keep this in mind:

1. Don’t threaten the current owner, saying you have ‘rights’ to the name
2. Avoid acting too eager, e.g. I’ve already spent $10,000 developing a site that will use this name’
3. Don’t send the email from your corporate email address if you are with a big company (the owner will ask for more money)

What if the owner doesn’t respond?

1. E-mail them again (or call)
2. State an offer amount in the e-mail. This will often get a response because they’ll know you’re serious (or laugh at your offer).
3. If your initial email bounced and the phone number is incorrect, complain to the registrar about invalid Whois data. They will try to contact the registrant and have them update it.

Keep in mind that a domain owner doesn’t have to sell. They also don’t have to respond. Some won’t even consider selling unless you offer $100k+.

How much should I offer for a domain?

It depends. Many good domain names are available for under $5,000. It all depends on the seller and the quality of the name. If you have a few options, you can likely get one of your choices for a few thousand dollars. Generally, I wouldn’t pay for a domain name appraisal’

How should I pay for a domain?

If it’s a significant amount of money, consider using an escrow service. I recommend Afternic (3% fee) or

Where should I register domains?

GoDaddy is the most popular, but also gets a lot of complaints (including taking away a domain from an Austin bootstrap member due to invalid whois data). I recommend Moniker. If you own lots of domains, I’ll connect you with my account manager and you can get $6.95 pricing.

Resources for finding and buying domains :) (expired domains)

Domain Name Wire articles worth reading

Domain scams to avoid

Why you should keep your Whois data up-to-date


  1. says

    I generally agree with these guidelines.

    The general idea of this article (as I understand it) is to avoid loosing traffic through people mispelling your domain name –
    The is a real issue.

    However this issue has to be balanced: what % of your traffic comes from people typing directly your domain name – not a lot.

    If you sell yellow widgets, and is free, go for it – all the traffic you’ll get from search engines will counter balance the few people typing directly directly in their browser.


  2. Andrew says

    Frank, don’t forget about the security part, which is a big deal. When starts getting customer’s credit card numbers via email,’s customers will be rather upset.

  3. Jon says

    3. Don’t send the email from your corporate email address if you are with a big company (the owner will ask for more money)

    is a more often than not a bad practical advice. It works for professional domainers who spam all whois records looking for occasional retarded sellers. But if a business wants one good specific domain, then chances are the seller will not be retarded, that means hope-for-retard approach will probably backfire and result in no reply or a higher price.

    The best chance a small business has to buy a good domain is to explain exactly who they are in the first email.

  4. says

    I saw this mentioned on http://www.SubliminalMessages.Com and agree with the author, but would like to add one suggestion relating to the section titled “The domain I want is taken, what can I do?”

    Buyers may want to consider using NetSol’s certified buying service which, for $19, will allow them to submit a certified offer to the seller. This will often sway the seller to do the deal.

  5. Andrew says

    Jon, note that I said “if you are with a *big* company”. Your last sentence says “the best chance a *small business* has”.

    If you are with a big company, like a Global 2000 company, I guarantee you the domain owner will ask for more.

    I agree that small businesses should say why they’re interested. I’m have a soft spot for small businesses buying domains…more so than another investor trying to get a good deal.

  6. says

    re: domain owners who want too much…

    Boy do I know about this! I wanted to buy – this idiot wants $4,000,000! – it’s not even a premium name!

  7. says

    Unfortunately, sometimes those harmless-looking, perfectly-named domains may have a checkered past. Before picking up a domain name that may be banned or blocked due to previously delivering malware, trojans, or porn, you need to do a background check.

    We’ve set up a free Domain Background Check cheat sheet at – just enter the domain name you are researching and we generate 14 links to domain check, anti-malware, and other tools to quickly check if your domain name is ready for business or is still on parole.

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