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
â€¢ Never use a hyphen
â€¢ Always a .com
â€¢ If domain includes a digit, include the spelled out version as well (and vice-versa), e.g. 8ball.com and EightBall.com
â€¢ Avoid Web 2.0 spellings (FlickEr.com 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: Whatâ€™s wrong with these domain names?
These rules arenâ€™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. Soâ€¦even if you donâ€™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 DomainTools.com 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 Sedo.com or Afternic.com and make an offer to buy the domain. The $750 price is just a minimum; the seller might want much more.
If the domain isnâ€™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. Donâ€™t threaten the current owner, saying you have â€˜rightsâ€™ to the name
2. Avoid acting too eager, e.g. â€˜Iâ€™ve already spent $10,000 developing a site that will use this nameâ€™
3. Donâ€™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 doesnâ€™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 theyâ€™ll know youâ€™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 doesnâ€™t have to sell. They also donâ€™t have to respond. Some wonâ€™t even consider selling unless you offer $100k+.
How much should I offer for a domain?
â€œIt dependsâ€. 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 wouldnâ€™t pay for a â€˜domain name appraisalâ€™
How should I pay for a domain?
If itâ€™s a significant amount of money, consider using an escrow service. I recommend Afternic (3% fee) or Escrow.com.
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, Iâ€™ll connect you with my account manager and you can get $6.95 pricing.
Resources for finding and buying domains
â€¢ SnapNames.com (expired domains)
Domain Name Wire articles worth reading