5 Things You Should Do Before Buying A Domain Name

Domain Detective

So you have your heart set on a particular domain name. Chance are you’re not alone, and in most cases many other people have also expressed an interest in the domain you’re thinking of buying. Whether you are buying a domain name for your startup, small business, large business, or as an investment, there are five things you need to do before laying down the $5,000, $50,000, $500,000, or $5 million you’ve got in your budget for that one domain that would really make your day.

  1. Use DomainTools to Learn More About The Domain And It’s Owner – The #1 tool used by domain buyers and sellers alike is Domain Tools, period. You can easily use Domain Tools to look back on the domain’s history to see who has owned it over the years, and most importantly who owns it now. Domain Tools also gives you incredibly useful data like how many other domains the current owner has and you can even buy a report to get a complete list of these domains. 
  2. Use NameBio to Find Comparable Sales – if you were looking at buying a house, you’d want to know what similar houses have sold for, the same is true for domain names. NameBio is a free tool that will allow you to search by keyword and a ton of other factors so you can come up with a solid list of comparable sales. Just remember, while two physical houses can be exactly the same, no two domains are the same so take this data with a grain of salt. Insurance.com is one of the most valuable domain names on the planet, Insurances.com is not, little things like an “S” might sound like a next-door neighbor, but they’re not.
  3. Check The USPTO Trademark Database – yes, you can spend $500,000 on a domain name and still lose that domain name in a Trademark dispute, that doesn’t sound like much fun does it? Luckily you can check the USPTO’s database easily by simply heading over to USPTO.gov and doing a Trademark search. While very reputable marketplaces like Sedo or Go Daddy will sell you a domain for big bucks, it could still violate a well-known Trademark, it is up to you to do your due diligence before buying it.
  4. Look At The Link Profile To Check For Spammy Backlinks – there’s nothing worse than spending good money on a domain name just to find-out that someone else has ruined your chances of ranking well, or worse, puts you in a situation that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in SEO triage work to bring the name back to life. Tools like OpenSiteExplorer.org and SEMRush are incredibly important as they will show you the link profile of a domain name so you can make sure you’re not buying a lemon.
  5. Talk to a Seasoned Domain Broker – last but not least, if you’ve never bought a domain in the price range you’re looking at, talk to a broker who knows what they’re doing. Just like you wouldn’t buy a house or an antique roadster without first talking to an expert, don’t do the same with what will soon be your digital address on the net. There are lots of great brokers out there and you can contact me any time for a list of some of my personal favorites.

Sounds like a lot? You can go through this whole process in under an hour, or you can spend days on it if you really want to dig deep. The point is, like an investment, doing your homework could mean the difference between making a good investment or wasting your money on something that turned out to be too good to be true.

Photo Credit: gregwake via Compfight cc

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • John Harrison June 6, 2013, 7:15 am

    Domains shouldn’t be things you just pick up and chuck in with the rest. I’m not saying I haven’t done this too but its great to be reminded that each and every purchase should be researched and thought through. In essence we should all be searching for reasons NOT to buy the name. If you really can’t find one then maybe you found a good investment.

  • Brian Diener June 6, 2013, 9:33 am

    I will also do a simple google search for the domain name to see if anything strange shows up.

  • Tarik Pierce June 7, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Another good tool is MajesticSEO. It helps you decide if the backlink profile is spammy. If it looks good, don’t be afraid to throw out an offer. Make lots of offers. Many times, a domain owner is desperate for cash and you can steal a domain for less than $100. I’ve picked up amazing domains for around $150 and flipped them for $X,XXX. Too many people type in a domain, see it’s taken, then give up or move on to another. Use DomainTools and make an offer. You never know what financial situation the owner is in. This tip alone will be good to your bank account 🙂

  • HowieCrosby June 19, 2013, 3:41 am

    Bullet points 1,2 and 4 are super links. Regarding trademarks, as you know Morgan, I’m from the UK, and I’ve had chats with the UK domain body Nominet about trademarks in the past, but I really need to talk to a lawyer, however, I understand you can still own a similar domain but not provide the same service or product? Such as POLO, the VW car, and the sweet (candy bar) under the same name, still have the same trademarks, but a different product. However, guess who owns the domain, Ralph Lauren. Furthermore, I also like http://www.trademarkia.com for TM’s 🙂 Cheers Morgan, a super post, Howie.

  • Naren P February 12, 2014, 8:03 pm

    Thanks for great advice, the wrong domain selection can get you into trouble and cause you much difficulty later on. Most importantly, a right domain name selection may increase your opportunities for getting better Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings. Taking time to research and learn the history of your domain will be imperative to your long-term success. keep on the good work !


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