Domain Investing

People are often surprised when I tell them that rather than investing in the stock market or real estate, my investment focus for the last thirteen years has been domain names. The initial assumption is, the domain name sales space must be tiny, and heck, some bloggers even called it dead back in 2011.

Domain Investing is Dead

As those of us who have been investing in domain names for years know, the industry is not only alive and well, it has been thriving and growing over the years. When I went to NamesCon this year I told some of my friends I was going to a domain investing conference and I kid you not, they didn’t believe me. I had to actually show them the NamesCon website and sent them pictures from the show so they knew I wasn’t pulling their leg.

One datapoint I like to highlight to really get people to understand the opportunities in the domain investing space is the size of the domain industry as a whole. Since I find myself sending people this data more and more now, I decided to do a post about it so I can send them to my blog and you can do the same next time someone says something like, “is there really any money in domains names?”

According to the research firm IBISWorld, the domain industry is $6B and consists of over 17,000 companies, here’s a snapshot of the data:

(Source – IBISWorld)

As for the size of the domain investing space itself, this is an incredibly tricky number to get to because the vast majority of sales (especially big ones) are done under NDA and never reported. That being said, you can only assume, in a $6B industry, yes – there is a real investment opportunity.

Of course, as I say to those who still scoff at the thought of investing in domain names, “no problem – you’re right, there’s no opportunity in domain investing, all the good names are taken and you really shouldn’t buy any!”

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Domain Name Investing

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve heard from numerous full time domain name investors that they’re still seeing steady sales, just at lower prices. This weekend I had a good email exchange with someone I’ve known for years, he said his sales in the five-figure range had fallen off a cliff, but deals in the low four-figure and three-figure range were still very much alive and well.

Today domain investor Josh Reason noted on Twitter that he’s also hearing reports of strong sales activity at lower price points:

Sub $5,000 domain sales

When I was chatting with my friend this weekend I asked him what the split was between inbound and outbound, “oh it’s all outbound,” he told me. This also echoes what I heard a lot from other domain investors at NamesCon this year, it does seem like outbound is alive and well.

A few people have asked me about the best places to learn about Outbound domain sales and in all honesty DNAcademy is my personal go-to and what I recommend to everyone. Mike has done a really good job of not only doing a deeper dive but really sharing what works, what doesn’t, and how to tweak things to get outbound working for you.

I’ve also heard of some really solid deals happening on the high-end, but as usual, many of these go unreported. The most notable sale I’ve seen this year in Rick Schwartz’s sale of ACRepair.com for $1.5M, that’s a strong one and likely will sit in the #1 spot for some time.

It will be interesting to see how the next few months pan out. Nobody knows what the real impact of a global pandemic will be on the domain industry but I do think we’re starting to spot some changes. The key for any investor is to adapt to change because one thing is certain, the world is changing.

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colors.lol

I had absolutely no idea there was a .LOL domain name extension until tonight when I was looking through articles on one of my favorite news aggregators, Y Combinator’s Hacker News. That’s when I saw a link to colors.lol a website that comes up with funny names for hexadecimal colors.

If you’ve ever written a little bit of HTML code then you know that hexadecimal colors are used when you want to color just about anything from text to links to backgrounds. While I’m not quite sure why someone took the time to give these colors funny names, someone did, and it’s actually pretty funny IMO.

While it’s certainly not going to win me over as a .LOL investor, I do think it’s actually a pretty slick use of a .LOL domain. If you’re a web developer I’d probably bookmark this as a actually a pretty handy site if you want to have some fun while picking colors for your next project.

Do you know of any other .LOL websites? If so feel free to share in the comment section below.

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While the Coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, scammers are also flocking to domain names that they can put fake websites on to steal money from people who think they’re donating to the cause.

Just to be clear here. Not everyone who registers a domain name with the word “coronavirus” in it or “vaccine” in is a scammer. There are certainly examples of people who have registered domains with these words in them and done good things with them to help make a difference. One of the best examples is Go Daddy who owns Coronavirus.com and forwards the domain name to the World Health Organization information site on the deadly virus.

That being said, scammers are going bananas and registering a high volume of domains and using them as the home of fake websites that are stealing critical funds intended to go towards hospitals and people impacted by the virus, and putting that money in the hands of criminals.

Now NameCheap, one of the world’s most popular domain name registrars is taking a stand.

Domain registrar Namecheap on Wednesday said it would no longer be accepting any new domain applications including the words “coronavirus,” “covid,” and “vaccine,” among other versions of words and phrases alluding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Los Angeles-based company says the measure is to prevent abuse and fraud from sites trying to hawk fake products and misinformation and otherwise capitalize on the ongoing global health crisis.

(Source – The Verge)

I personally think this is a good move on NameCheap’s part. Yes – people can register domains with these terms in them to do good…but sadly what we’re seeing now is that the vast majority of these domains are being purchased by the digital truckload by scammers.

As we all know, domain names go a long way towards adding legitimacy to a website or online business. This is why great domains sell for millions of dollars every single week – an domain can immediately give a website trust and authority…the challenge is, if the website behind it is a scam, that authority goes to a bad cause.

Congrats to NameCheap, I know this was probably a tough decision, but to me it shows a company that’s not afraid to put morals over profits.

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Must Read

While the Coronavirus and what to do about it has been a polarizing topic in some ways, in other ways it has been a great unifier as we all come together as a global community, and in the domain investing world, as proud Domainers. As I’ve written about over the last few weeks, it has been great to see the domain investing community in particular come together, support each other, and help as each of us navigates the complexities in managing our lives amidst a global pandemic.

I think the hero of the day award should probably go to Michael Cyger, he’s been holding massive Zoom get togethers with domain investors around the world. I saw him mention on Twitter today that the most recent Zoom had 92 people on it at one point! Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend, but fortunately, it’s because we are insanely busy at Bold Metrics and we’re working 10+ hour days every day. If we do get a break in the action I would love to join!

A lot of domain investors are wondering what they can do to optimize their domain portfolio and investment opportunities as we move into this next phase of life as we know it. It’s very likely that in the short term, things will change pretty rapidly, and after that, things will hopefully go back to “somewhat” normal, but they’ll likely never be the same.

Domain Investors from around the world have chimed in to share their two cents on what each of us can do as domain investors to thrive in this new normal. One that I’d like to highlight, hence the name of this post is Efty, who put together a really solid article on how to prepare your domain investment business for tough times.

Here’s one of my favorite points from the article about portfolio hygiene that I think is particularly important now more than ever:

Domain Name portfolio hygiene means reviewing the domain names you own on a regular basis and determining which ones to keep and which ones to liquidate or drop. You can do your domain portfolio hygiene review either once a year or once a month when you sign in to your registrar to renew domain names, but regardless — it is necessary to do on a regular basis to maintain a healthy and profitable investment portfolio. You only need to ask yourself three questions to maintain a healthy domain name portfolio:

1. How long have you owned the domain name?
2. How many unique visitors does the domain name receive per month?
3. How many offers have you received on the domain name?

(Source – Efty Blog)

If you aren’t using a platform like Efty’s to manage your domain portfolio, i.e. if Excel has been your go-to, there’s never been a better time to make the move and get things organized. While these are tough times for so many people around the world, we can all do our part first by staying home and reducing the spread of infection, and second, by thriving so we can take the lemons the world is giving us now and making some damn tasty lemonade.

This weekend I’ll be spending quite a bit of time in Efty myself really getting things organized and ready for what’s ahead. There’s a lot you can optimize, and usually all you’ve needed is time…now, there’s no excuses, we all have the time. Thanks for reading and stay safe!

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This afternoon I finished a conference call, looked at my email, and saw a notification from Escrow.com, I had just sold a domain. Cool beans, this is part of my normal life and the strange thing about being a domain investor, you never know when a domain will sell.

I logged-into Escrow.com, accepted the transaction and made myself a sandwich. No, I don’t make myself a sandwich every time I sell a domain, that just happened to be the natural course of things today. But I don’t sell enough domains for that not to be possible so now I feel like I should just start doing that…I digress.

Then I got a text from Josh Reason, the founder of DNWE, first congratulating me on the sale, second saying the WHOIS info didn’t match so double-checking if it was my name. I double-checked.

“Doh!” I responded.

I had made a typo, and in the process accidentally listed someone else’s domain (which for the record was better than mine) for sale, and it sold. So I guess technically I did sell my first domain through DNWE, it just wasn’t my own name.

It’s a lesson that we all need to learn the hard way every now and then. Double-check, heck – triple check when you’re typing in a domain name, even if you own the darn thing you still might get it wrong.

I’m a big fan of DNWE, love the UX, love the idea behind it, and Josh is awesome so also really like the mind behind the machine. Thanks to Josh for reaching out to double-check, most services would never do that and this would have been a lot worse. Oh and here’s to me selling one of my own names on DNWE sometime soon!

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Morgan Linton and Jason Sheppard

As many of you know we’ve been in self-quarantine since March 3rd at our place in San Francisco. We started earlier than most but now I’m very glad that we did given how quickly everything has progressed. But I want to take a break from the negative news you’re reading and talk about something positive, the changes we can all make to optimize our time at home.

So far, while I’ve been home I have binge-watched zero TV shows, in fact I’m barely watching TV at all. Instead I’ve decided to spend my additional free time doing two things:

  1. Increasing my Japanese study from 30 mins a day to 1.5 hours a day
  2. Learning how to make hip hop starting with Timbaland’s Masterclass

It’s been a dream of mine for years to learn to speak Japanese, and long before that I had a dream of making hip hop. Yeah, I know, you didn’t see that coming, but there’s a bit of a backstory to it.

When I was thirteen I entered a rap competition put on by a local radio station here in the Bay Area. The winner of the competition would get their rap played on the radio and then have a music video made that would air in Australia. Long story short, I won the competition and a film crew flew out and shot a music video of my rap, which aired in Australia. Unfortunately, this was before the Internet and all my attempts to find the music video haven’t panned out.

That inspired me to start taking music more seriously…and then I discovered computers, got into web development, and well – that derailed my music dreams. Now that I’m at home, all day, every day, with really no end in sight I decided, it’s time to dust off that dream and give it a go.

I’ve been hearing good things about Masterclass so thought I’d use that as a springboard. Timbaland is one of the most talented producers out there and so far I’ve been really impressed with his Masterclass. This weekend I started learning Logic Pro as the class expects you to be able to use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), and well, I don’t know anything about DAW’s so I’m starting with the basics.

This weekend I made my very first track in Logic Pro and yesterday I created a Soundcloud account and posted it there and shared it on Twitter. My thought is, why not just get it out there as I progress? If I’m going to make music I need to get used to sharing it with the world out of the gate.

A little later I looked on Twitter and saw a tweet from Jason Sheppard, a domain investor I wrote about last week who is also a professional DJ. Here’s the tweet:

As the tweet says, Jason did a mash up layering “Gimme 50” on top of my song, and well, I really like it! You can listen to it below:

 

If you’d like to follow Jason or me on Soundcloud, here’s links to each of our profiles. Really looking forward to putting together some more jams with Jason and continuing my journey back into hip hop.

Follow Jason on SoundCloud

Follow Morgan on SoundCloud

Thanks for reading, and for listening. If you want to hear more music let me know and I might just add my latest track to my sidebar…of course if you think – “hey I just want to read about domains, stop with the music stuff!” let me know that too.

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Domain Trademarks

I wrote an article yesterday about the domain name Stagram.com which is expiring and currently at $41,500 at Go Daddy auctions. I pointed out that this domain name is a typo of Instagram, a company owned by Facebook who is famous for aggressively defending their Trademarks.

While this domain is two letters off of Instagram, maybe it would be considered a typo, maybe not, I’m not sure. Is the definition of a typo domain a domain that’s exactly one letter off or would this make the cut?

Either way, I didn’t get it last night, it seemed like a pretty big risk to me and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the whole thing. This morning, I woke up to find a couple of comments about the backlink profile – apparently this domain name has a ton of backlinks and solid Domain Authority.

I know people buy domain names for backlinks all the time, I have multiple friend who do this, have done it for years, and have seen great results. I don’t do it myself but I get it. At the same time, I know people that have gotten absolutely clobbered buying typo domains, many of them end up regretting the decision.

Still, I’m confused. If a domain has a great backlink profile does that make it less of a Trademark risk? It still feels like whoever buys this domain is going to always have to worry about getting slapped with a UDRP. Am I missing something? If a typo domain has a solid backlink profile does that make it immune to UDRPs?

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Well here’s an interesting one – Stagram.com is expiring and yes, like the title of the post says it’s now over $40,000 with two days to go. As we all know, if it’s at $40,000 now with two days to go, it’s going higher the question is how high, and why?

At first I was scratching my head, why would people be so interested in this made up word? Maybe you figured it out quicker than me but a quick Google search game me the answer – it’s one letter off of Instagram.

So, yes – people are bidding this because they expect that some percentage of people who are typing “Instagram” will screw up, type “Stagram” and end up here.

This seems like an incredibly risky domain name to buy IMO. Facebook has been known to be pretty intense when it comes to chasing after trademark and typo squatters and well, this seems like one they’d go after. To spend $50,000 on a domain just to lose it in a UDRP seems silly to me but maybe I’m missing something.

What do you think? Is it just me or does this seem pretty ridiculous?

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I’ve said it many times before, but it never hurts to say it again. What makes the domain industry truly unique is the number of experts who share their advice for free. Rick Schwartz is inarguably one of the most successful domain name investors in the world, and when he came back on Twitter last year and started sharing advice, me and many others were listening, and still are.

One of the best videos Rick has put out is about how so many domain name investors are under-pricing their domain names. In the video he makes a good point – business owners have a lot of expenses and even the sign for their business could cost $20,000+ so a domain name, the home for their brand online, should be worth a lot to them.

First, stop what you’re doing now and watch this video, it’s two minutes and seventeen seconds long and is absolutely spot on. Okay, now back to the topic of my post.

A domain investor who has been in the industry for seventeen years shared his biggest sale yet, a three word .com – PlantToGrow(dot)com for $24,500 through Afternic. The investor shared the sale with the community on NamePros in this thread, and gave special thanks to Rick for his advice in the video I shared above. Here’s a bit more about how this investor changed his pricing strategy over the last year:

I’ve been buying and selling domains for over 17 years. Prior to August, I’d been selling about 60-70 domains per year to end users, but last year I revised the prices on about 30-40% of my domains (see below). The reason I increased pricing on many of my domains was because it really felt like I was underselling many domains and leaving too much money on the table.

While this has been the second 5 figure sale since August and my average sale price is much higher than in prior years, my overall sales have not really been higher.for the last 12 months as the higher prices on the top 30-40% of my names have likely decreased the quantity of sales. Maybe I’ll try to fine tune this over time to see if I can achieve the right balance.

(Source – NamePros)

As you’d expect, the quantity of sales would decrease as prices increase, but with a higher average sale price, making the same amount of money while maintaining more of your assets is a win-win IMO.

I find myself adjusting prices on my domains all the time and this definitely gives me some food for thought. Of course there’s a balance, and everyone has a different portfolio but it does make you think about how much money you might be leaving on the table.

Huge congrats to the seller, great name, great price and good insights on pricing from Rick to bring this all together!

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