Picture this: You’re looking to purchase a domain name. You are starting a company or rebranding your company, and you need a premium domain. The first thing you do is choose a domain name that will provide the best access to your target audience. But upon completing your search, you find that it’s not available because it’s already registered with another owner.
What to do now? You have a couple of options. First, you could perform a WHOIS search to try to find the owner, contact them and make an offer for the domain. Or, you could use a different domain name. As the founder of a domain sales and acquisitions firm, I’ve learned the ins and outs of buying domains firsthand. This article will discuss your options:
Find the domain’s owner.
The first step in finding the owner of a domain name is to perform a WHOIS search on the domain name. The WHOIS search provides information about the domain, such as the name of the registrar, where it is registered, the name of the organization that owns it, the date it was created and updated, and sometimes the contact information of the owner.
The issue with using this method to find the owner of a domain is that many registrars now offer WHOIS privacy service that blocks personal information from appearing on WHOIS searches. With the advent of new privacy laws, many registrars are eliminating WHOIS information all together.
So, what can you do if you can’t find the owner via WHOIS? Well, this is where my job gets fun. It starts with going to internet research websites such as EstiBot or DomainIQ that provide historical WHOIS data from years back or snapshots of what was on the domain name from years ago. Like Hansel and Gretel, you follow the crumbs. After a long hunt, it is quite rewarding to find whomever you are looking for.
Make an offer.
Once you find the owner of a domain name, you need to make an offer for the domain. This begins the negotiation process. There are a multitude of issues that you can face during the negotiation process, which, if you are unprepared to handle, might end in frustration and financial setbacks.
So before you enter any negotiation, you should have a good idea of what the domain is worth. The domain market is continuously evolving, but there are some key metrics that you can use to appraise a domain, such as the extension, length and spelling.
Realize you are probably not the only interested party in town. Most premium domains have had people interested in them over the years. In my experience, more often than not, the current registrant is not the original owner; they probably paid a premium themselves.
To begin negotiating effectively, be honest. Telling someone you are a student and need it for a personal project is not going to score you any points. Additionally, make a fair offer. Telling someone the domain is not being used so they should almost give it to you is not going to work.
Make a list of alternatives. Make a deadline. Create a budget based on factual information. Then write a professional email that entices the domain owner to respond to you.
Consider alternative domain names.
If the domain of your dreams is simply out of your reach financially and negotiations have failed, you still have options to choose from.
Many factors can affect the value of a domain, and they all come down to the potential return on investment for the prospective buyer. Consider which factors are the most important for your specific needs. For example, if you only operate in Germany, a .de domain would be perfectly acceptable, and you wouldn’t have to splurge on a .com.
Ensure you’re prepared if you hire a broker.
Some business owners choose to hire a domain broker to help them navigate the challenges of obtaining a new domain name for their companies. If you’re thinking of doing this, remember to have a phone call with the broker to go over their experience and the acquisition process. Conduct some research on them. Make sure you understand how they charge, and make sure you know whose best interests they represent in the transaction: the buyer’s, seller’s or their own.
As a broker myself, I know that a domain broker should be able to add instant value to the decision-making process. I have had countless discussions with companies that are just entering the naming phase and do not really understand what they should budget for the domain they want. You can ask your broker to help.
While talking to the broker, I suggest you be honest. I never understood why people might not tell the truth about their lifestyle to their doctor; they are only fooling themselves. I believe the same applies to talking to a domain broker. If you hire a domain broker to represent you, tell them the history with the domain you are trying to acquire. Did you already make contact with the seller? If so, how much did you offer? What was communicated to the seller?
Discuss with the broker your deadlines and budget, and be realistic about how much it might cost. For example, I’ve worked with some companies that have six-figure budgets that will allow them to acquire one-word domain names. Once they hear that perfect name within a reasonable price, they are buyers. That said, I have also worked with buyers looking for two-word .coms that had budgets in the thousands-of-dollars range.
Finding the right domain for your business is as important as the location of your physical space, and even more so if your business is e-commerce based. Your domain can determine the outlook of your business for years to come.