Flipping Hand Reg Domain Names in 6 Simple Steps

The blog here at Rookie Domainer is still fairly new (obviously!) and I've been trying to share the steps I go through to make a little side money as a domainer, albeit a rookie domainer!  Before I get too far along with the detailed steps  and get us deep into the thick of it, I thought it would be good to provide the high level view of what it is I'm doing on a regular basis - so here are the 6 critical steps to hand reg domain names and sell them for a little extra cash.
  1. Ideas You need to have ideas for domain name research, especially hand regs.  It's a fine art to find that elusive nickel in the haystack.  It's not difficult, but it's not super easy either - to find that little keyword domain gem that has been picked over or overlooked by domainers before you. If you sit at your desk to do this research without ideas, you'll get lost quick and waste a lot of time looking at domain niches that are obviously well picked through(<-considering you just sat at your desk and thought of it, it's highly likely someone else has already done that!).
  2. Buy the domain(s)  Run your ideas through Google Adwords Keyword Tool and sift through what's available with the GoDaddy's Bulk Registration tool. Use common sense of what sounds right, check who's paying for ads, and how many people use that term - then if it feels right, buy it!
  3. Park Parking your new domain name gives it a little more showroom appeal.  A prospective buyer can get a better idea of how they might use the site if it's got some images and content/ads on it, then if it's a standard GoDaddy parked page.  It's also possible that your buyers may click on some ads while viewing your wares leading you to get some little passive income off the site before you unload it.
  4. Solicit buyers Google the exact phrase of the keywords used in your domain name - this becomes your basis for leads.  You'll want a crafted canned letter to reach out to these potential buyers.  It's best to click on their site, either from the Google search results or on the ads, and contact the company directly.  If they have a marketing email or president/owner/CEO email - those are best to use, otherwise use the general email or any email they provide.  Don't forget to perform a whois and send your solicitation to that email as well. With those, I typically avoid contacting the email from the whois if it's obviously an internet firm.  I've run into more webmasters that argue the merits of keyword domain names and attempt to out talk their clients from transactions with me, that I'd rather not engage them.  You would think they would understand the worth of these names, but perhaps they're so focused on design they don't truly understand SEO or that they are so proud of their work, they believe their clients don't need any additional help to get noticed online. I shoot for 30 companies to contact.
  5. Wait For responses... sometimes people get the email on their phone and email before you've sent all 30 out, sometimes you wait until the next day or week, sometimes you wait all year (<-Note: That means you weren't able to flip the name!). Sometimes the wait includes negotiation.  You may have asked for $300, they may have offered $150.
  6.  Close the sale Once you've agreed to sell the name, you transfer the domain to the buyer's GoDaddy account and issue a PayPal invoice.  They get the name which helps promote their business and you make a little extra cash
6 easy steps to riches beyond your wildest imaginations! Ok... not exactly, but this is how I flip domains in a nutshell and make a little extra spending dough.  In case you need a little more than the brief blurbs above, and these steps are definitely more detailed than what I've described, then look for other posts I've got up. Steps 1-3 have already been covered in prior posts.  Steps 4-6 will be included in future posts. 
Again, if anyone is reading this and your new to the domain game like me, or interested in jumping in and have questions I might not have answered for you - please provide comment or email me. Helping others will help me get better too!


Park your Domain Names before Flipping

Once you have some ideas down, vetted, and domains bought - you're thinking, "Now, I'm ready to flip this domain name!"  Not quite, at least that's not my approach.
When you first register a domain name on GoDaddy, it becomes immediately parked with GoDaddy.  What is parking?  In layman's terms, registering a domain means you just bought the rights to the name, it doesn't mean you have a full fledged web site yet.  In order to do that, you must host your website with some service (<-future post) and your domain name will direct users to that site.  In the case of parking, it's a quick, no frills way to host your site and potentially earn some passive money.  Passive money is made by a myriad of ads the parking company throws on your page.  Any clicks made by visitors to your site result in the advertiser paying for that click - the profit shared between you and the parking service.
Check out WekivaSprings.net, this is a domain name I left parked on GoDaddy.  Not real exciting.  Not making any money - I'll explain that in a bit.  Also, as you can see, the name is expiring. This is a name I bought with the intent to throw some content on, and affiliate links (<-future post too) but realized a little too late that I bought a misspelling of the name I was targeting... real bad rookie mistake.  Wekiva Springs is a senior facility, but Wekiwa Springs is the park name I wanted.  Chalk that up to a learning experience for the rookie.
The reason this site is not earning me money is because GoDaddy charges owners for the right to profit share on any revenue your pages parked with GoDaddy make.  And I have not paid them for that right because:
  1. This name won't earn more than what it costs for this service. 
  2. GoDaddy parked names looked horrendous.
Both reasons are why every other name I have is not parked with GoDaddy, but the latter is why I prefer to park my domain names before flipping.  I believe (albeit, have no proof) that if a prospective buyer visits your site and it appears polished, it gives them a better sense of what they can do once they purchase the domain name from you. It may even give the allure, assuming the buyer doesn't check the whois, that you didn't just buy the name because it looks like you put a little work into it. Also, should your prospective buyers click around the site, while they're reviewing it - well, you just made some ad revenue for yourself.  This happens quite a bit for me.  Again, it doesn't amount to me quitting my day job, but every nickel from the haystack helps! Hand reg names will not make you a millionaire when you park them, or even if you throw content on them.  However, they can (not always) earn 10's-100's per year, far surpassing the cost for annual registration.
There are several parking services available.  Some will only accept high end domain names, so your $8 hand reg likely won't cut their mustard.  But others will accept any name, like SmartNames. I've been using SmartNames to park all of my names.  They appear to have the best interface with customizable themes and it doesn't take long (~10 mins) to get a site up and running.  Check out these two sites I have parked with them:
  1. GainesvilleBiomassPlant.com This is what their standard parked site looks like, but I've customized the theme, using renewable energy, and added several other items including Google Analytics and Adsense (<-yep, future post!).  
  2. ChromeAxleCovers.com is using their storefront parking.  It's a market place that allows a visitor to price shop, and if they buy something, you get a share of the revenue.
  3. They also have an informational parking option, that compiles several theme related blog feeds and incorporates ads.  I'm not currently using this option.
With the ease of interface, options, and clean look - I think SmartNames is the way to go... BUT, I haven't really used any other parking service.  I was recently accepted by DomainApps to park names with them.  They have three tiers of service, the first one is free.  I plan on parking some names there and will provide feedback here after I have some experience with them.
There's one other cheap, no frills route if that's your method. Google Adsense for Domains will allow you to park your name in a similar fashion and look to GoDaddy parking, but they don't charge for the revenue sharing.  I would, at the very least, use this option than leaving your name on GoDaddy because you'll get a cut of the revenue from any clicks that may occur while your prospective buyers are perusing the site.  Keep in mind too - you WILL NOT sell every name you buy, so in the long run, you'll want these names monetized (parked where you make revenue) so you earn something from it, if only for the one year assuming you don't renew the name.
To sum it up, names parked with providers other than GoDaddy, will, at the very least, pay you some revenue if your buyers make some clicks, and can potentially aid in your buyer getting the vision of what they can do with that domain name and lead them to buy it from you.


How to Find Decent Domain Names to Hand Reg and Flip

One of the first questions I get asked when I mention to people that I domain is, "How do you select the names you buy?"  We'll address that shortly.  The follow up question is usually, "Who buys them from you and why?" You've got to understand who and why before you get into selecting the names.
  • The Who Any business that promotes their products and services online.  Ideally, you'll find companies that use pay-per-click(PPC) advertising or already own several keyword domain names for marketing purposes.  These companies are already paying for online marketing, understand search engine optimization(SEO), and will understand the usefulness of the name you're offering them. But just because they don't know, doesn't mean they won't buy either.
  • The Why I'll illustrate this with an example.  ACME Inc. has a company website, ACME.com. If the brand isn't well established(and even if it was, but you're a new buyer that never heard of it), you may just gloss over the website when you google "roadrunner rockets" because you didn't know that's what they specialize in.  However, if ACME also owned the domains BestRoadrunnerRockets.com or RoadrunnerRockets.com, those names are more likely to drive you to visit their site because the domain name clearly reflects the search term(aka keyword) you used.  There's a lot more to it and you can read up some more here, but as long as you understand this basic premise - you're good!
When you're hand reging names, you've got to understand you're looking for the nickel in the haystack.  What's that mean?  That means there's some work involved to find good, relevant keyword domain names that are worth flipping that are still available to hand reg.  Those nuggets that you do find, will not be thousand dollar value type names either.  Domaining has been around nearly as long as the Internet, so we're sifting through the remnants of what's been clearly picked over numerous times.  Now having said that, don't let that discourage you because legitimate domain names are still out there to find and flip, but let that help keep your expectations realistic. I've flipped hand regs for as little as $75 and as much as $600.  At about $8 cost for me, that's a 900% to 7,500% return on investment.  Not too shabby!  To that point, you might think, "Well, why didn't the company just hand reg the name for $8?"  Like I said, nickel in the haystack - I find most, if not all, of my customers are willing to pay a few hundred dollars for something I bought for $8 because they understand the work involved.
Now that you understand who might buy a domain name from you and why, you've got to come up with some names to buy.
  1. The best way to do this, is write down every different industry, service, product, or whatever it is you see throughout the day that you know there's businesses online that deal in whatever that is. I find just sitting in front of the computer without ideas from the day yields minimal results, so make sure you keep track of what piques your interest throughout the day.
  2. Plug that name idea into the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. On the left, under Match Types, only have "Exact" checked. This will tell you how many times(monthly average) that exact keyword or phrase has been typed in a Google search. I like to sort hi-lo on Global Monthly Searches.
  3. Download the list to Excel.  Replace the brackets ([,]) with spaces. Copy the list of domain names, up to 500.
  4. Paste the list into GoDaddy's Bulk Registration tool and sort thru what's available.  For starting domainers, I'd only focus .com's for now. Hopefully, you find a name or two you like.
  5. Google that particular keyword(s) you identified to see if there are relevant returns with multiple companies providing that service and any ads.
  6. If you feel good about it, then register it. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter for frequent GoDaddy coupon code updates!
I've included a short video here walking you through this process.  If you have any questions, please include them in the comments below.  Also, if anyone is following along and is about to register their first name, by all means, shoot me a quick email to see if I think your name is a solid buy or not.

Future posts will include how to price your domain name to flip, as well as how to market the name and what to do with names you can't flip.  We're only getting started here!


How to Buy a Domain Name

The question is simple enough, it would seem the answer is too. Go to the domain store, try a few on, and buy the one you like, right? Wrong!
Let's first make clear your understanding of what 'buying a domain name' actually means.  A domain name is the actual name you type in a web browser to get to a website, like www.RookieDomainer.com.  I bought that domain earlier this week when I decided to launch this blog.  When you 'buy a domain' you're really registering the existence of the name for some period of time, usually in years. I registered RookieDomainer.com for 1 year and as long as I always re-register the name before expiration, I 'own' it in perpetuity. 
There are several ways to identify domain names to purchase (<-subject for a future post) and even more ways to actually buy a name.  We'll go through some of the latter here:

Hand Registrations aka Hand Regs
Essentially, the cheapest, simplest, and purest way of domain buying. When I bought (registered - I may use these interchangeably) RookieDomainer.com  yesterday, all I did was come up with the name, went to GoDaddy, searched if it existed which it did not(obviously!), and I registered it.  I could try to explain how GoDaddy knows what's taken and what isn't, and what ICANN is, but at this point it's irrelevant.  All you need to know is that you go to GoDaddy, type in your idea for a domain, see if it's available, and if it is - buy it!  Make sure you google 'GoDaddy coupon codes' or visit back here.  GoDaddy typically has 30+ different coupon codes running, which we'll try to keep updated here - so if you ever pay retail for your registration at GoDaddy, then you've made your first rookie mistake. Right now CJC599V is getting .Com's for $5.99 (works limited) and a more reliable CJC799FAT $7.99 .Com's works every time.  Retail at GoDaddy for .Com's is $12.99 and I've never paid retail - one rookie mistake I've not done.
Now, I've talked only about GoDaddy and if you were wondering - they are not the only domain registrar. They are just one of the easiest, sometimes the cheapest depending on coupon codes available, and most popular.  This is important to a domain rookie because while you're learning about domaining and what can be done(parking, forwarding, transferring ownership when you sell it, etc), you'll have limitless information on the web to help you out.  Plus, GoDaddy support is quick and reliable, having bailed me out several times I know this to be true. Hand regs are definitely where the domain noob should begin their adventure and practice for some time.

Domain Marketplaces
Marketplaces are where domainers post their domain portfolios for sale.  Basically, it's like Ebay for domains.  You can sell and buy there, you have buy it now prices, you have auctions, and you can negotiate prices.  Some domains are priced for wholesale (basically a domainer looking to sell to another domainer) and others are priced for retail (domainer looking for a business entity to purchase the name).  Rookie domainers should stay away from marketplaces until they can decipher the difference between retail and wholesale. Sedo and Afternic are two of the better known ones out there. I have my portfolio listed for sale with them, but have yet to acquire a name through either.

Name Drops
I described above that owning a domain name is really registering a domain name with the right to continue to renew the registration forever.  What happens to a domain name that the owner fails to renew?  Well, after some period of time(varies from registrar to registrar), the name is dropped(released). In theory, a domain name drop means you could go to GoDaddy, type it in, and it would be available for hand reg.  However, if it only worked that way - it would be too easy.  Tech-savvy domain companies have designed software that snatches up good, expiring domain names when they want them the millisecond they become available, essentially beating everyone to the punch.  These companies allow domainers to peruse the inventory of soon to be available expiring names and bid on them. When the name drops, the company buys it (assuming there was at least one interested buyer) and allows all buyers to compete in an auction to ultimately buy the domain. NameJet, SnapNames, and FreshDrop are three of the more popular domain name drop procurement services available. Name drops, like marketplaces, are definitely not the place to start your domaining efforts. I have dabbled in name drops and purchased one name(GrillFanatic.com), but not actually through auction. I saw the name dropping and since no one bid on it, I waited to see if it would actually just drop - which it did! I bought it for my usual $8 at GoDaddy rather than the minimum of ~$60 had I been the only bidder on the name drop service.

Ever gone to a website and seen a 'for sale' sign? Or gone to a website that looks real shoddy, has irrelevant content, or is simply loaded with tons of ads?  These are strong indications that the domain is probably parked (<-to be explained in a future post) and the owner may be interested in selling it since they've done little to nothing with it.  In these cases, you can use the contact info on the site to see if they are interested in selling or perform a domain whois search(<-also to be explained in a future post) and contact the owner.  They may or may not be willing to sell, and if they are, expect some heavy negotiations.  Craigslist and Ebay have domains sales listings as well. 

You now know the ways a domain name can be bought.  Soon, we'll get into how to select the right name to buy to flip, how to market the name, and all the other good stuff domaining has to offer.


The Day I Became a Domainer

Let's hit a couple of high points, disclaimers if you will, before I delve into my introduction to the domaining game.
  1. A domainer is someone who earns a profit by buying and selling domain names. The strategy is very similar to the stock market: buy low and sell high. 
  2. By becoming a "domainer," I do not purport to be an expert or professional by any stretch of the imagination. I simply buy domain names with the intent to sell them for more than what I purchased them for.
In my circle of friends and family, I may be known as an entrepreneur, a schemer, a creative financial thinker, a small business man, a gambler, and a plethora of other things related to risk/reward financial ventures.  Unfortunately to date, I've not had a great deal of tremendous success on my endeavors but my wife kindly reminds me that all successful business people do not triumph on their first outing - in fact, they struggle through multiple failures, so I guess I have to keep working for it.
At any rate, that recognition prompted a co-worker of mine to approach me with a business idea.  He told me that a friend of his works from home, on the computer, pulls down 6 figures (probably), and loves what he does.  I've heard of people making money off the Internet, but never knew someone that knew someone that was actually living off it. What could this be? Does he design websites? Does he provide tech support? Does he sell merchandise? Does he write blogs? Is it porn related?
"Nope. He flips domains." My co-worker told me.  Flips domains? What is this madness? My co-worker worked to explain it, "Well, so I guess he goes on GoDaddy and buys names and then sells them to businesses."
My analytical synapses fired. What names does he buy? How does he buy a name?  Did the name exist or did he invent it? Who does he sell them to? For how much? How does he find these buyers? How does he actually sell it? How much does he make per name? How many does he sell a week? How much is start up? And this is an abbreviated version of the questions I shot my co-worker.
His simple reply, "That's why I'm sharing this with you.  My friend said he'd walk me through some things to help me get started, but I thought you'd be a great resource to bounce things off of, so why don't we both see what this domaining is all about."
That was the day,about 2 years ago, I became a domainer.  I've learned a lot since then and probably have at least 100,000 times that to still learn. The domain game is constantly changing.  The avenues for diversifying your approach to the game are numerous.  Do you focus on hand reg's and small flips? Or do you go to auctions and look for high dollar names? Do you develop site content or park? Do you write your own content or pay someone? This is just the very tippety top of the gigantic domaining iceberg we're crashing into.  I hope to share my successes and failures with you here, in hopes that I continue my learning journey as well.  I'd like Rookie Domainer to become a resource for people like me - upstart domainers, looking for supplemental income, and real, honest, helpful discussions on what domaining is all about.  In order for me to be successful, I'll need readers to visit often and provide comment, feedback, and click some links(<-that's my flagrant way of saying, "I'd also like to make a little money off this blog!').

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