I was recently talking to another startup founder who is looking at renaming their company. He discovered the world of expired domains and just started buying, and buying, and continued until he had about 20 names. His idea was simple, pick one out of the 20 to brand around and then sell the other 19 for a healthy profit.
Here’s the problem, my friend has never bought expired domain names before and he made some critical errors. I saw three major mistakes in his purchases, some of which were so bad that I told him he should force-drop the names to avoid legal issues.
If you are making any of these mistakes it could cost you a lot more than you think.
- Buying a domain that violate trademarks – this is #1 for a reason. I know more people than I can count on two hands that have paid over $10,000 in legal bills for violating trademarks. Some of these are easy to spot, i.e. don’t buy something like FacebookMobileAds.com and expect not to get a nice C&D from Facebook, but others are harder to spot. Luckily you can do a quick check at USPTO.gov for free to determine if a name you are thinking of buying violates an existing trademark.
- Buying a domain that was used to run a scam – there are a lot of scammers out there on the net, and as you’d imagine, they pump and dump domains. I always do a quick search for the domain name I am looking at buying followed by the word “scam” to see if anyone has reported someone running a scam on that domain name. As a startup founder this is critical, the last thing you want to do is take your legitimate business and suddenly brand it around a domain name associated with some kind of scam.
- Buying a domain name with a bad backlink profile – I have also seen this happen a number of times. Someone buys a domain, pays to have some blackhat SEO company build a bunch of backlinks and then gets de-listed from Google. They then of course let the domain name expire since it’s of no more use to them. If you buy this domain you could inherit those backlinks which means you may have to spend a long time getting each individual link disavowed, no fun.