Using DomainTools WHOIS History to Research Expired Domain Purchases

As I’ve been keeping my focus on .COM domains this year I’ve found myself becoming a bit of a detective. .COM domains tend to have the most long and rich history since these typically are the first to be registered with any popular keyword phrase.

Understanding the history of an expired domain name before you buy it can help you better understand the development and resale potential of the name. I recently purchased an expired name where I would not have bought the name without finding what I did in the DomainTools WHOIS history…and I’m glad I did since I made $x,xxx on the resulting flip less than two weeks later. (Sorry – can’t disclose the name as I’m under non-disclosure…which I’m finding is more or more common as I sell .COM names to end-users)

domaintools_whoishistoryHere’s the process I followed and why the WHOIS history was so essential to this purchase. I look back to who originally registered the name and found that it was a domain investor in Europe, a year later that investor sold it to a major company in the niche the domain is in. That company proceeded to build a very popular and lucrative
website on the domain and kept the name until now when they let it drop.

Of course I always want to make sure I’m not picking-up a name that someone accidentally dropped so I did some more research and found-out that the company let it drop because they moved their site to another domain. If I were this company I’d keep this domain considering all the backlinks, etc. associated with it, but hey, to each their
own.

Knowing that one of the most reputable companies in this niche had owned the domain and successfully developed and monetized it helped me feel safe buying it as I knew it had good development potential, but also knew that some of their competitors might be interested in buying it – I was right.

I sent an email out to a total of seven different companies and gave them a bit of history on the domain name. Two responded with interest and I ended-up selling it to one of them for a nice profit. If I wasn’t able to see the WHOIS history I probably would have never purchased the name but knowing it’s past history really helped me make this
decision.

It’s fun doing the detective work and along with WHOIS history DomainTools has a number of other excellent research tools that can provide critical information when making a buying or selling decision.

P.S. Just so you know this is not a sponsored post and DomainTools is not paying me to write this. As a tool that I can’t live without I just wanted to give thanks and share my experiences with all of you!

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Tim June 29, 2011, 8:45 am

    How much did you need to pay Domain Tools to do this research for this one instance?

    • Morgan June 30, 2011, 11:35 am

      Hi @Tim – good question! This is actually a monthly fee, I pay $49.99/month for the service and can do many WHOIS lookups

  • Jim June 29, 2011, 8:47 am

    Morgan, great post.
    I have found Domain Tools invaluable of late. Two questions however…

    1) Are you offering NDAs as an INCENTIVE of the sale, or are clients requesting this as a CONDITION of the sale?
    2) Is the information you uncovered using Domain Tools available with a free account or are you using a paid account in order to see more detailed WHOIS history?

  • Guy July 1, 2011, 2:56 pm

    “Of course I always want to make sure I’m not picking-up a name that someone accidentally dropped…” Assuming this is a total newbie question, since you start the line off “Of course…”, but why do we not want accidental drops? Is this an unwritten rule, like not walking across the pitcher’s mound on the way back to first?
    Now knowing this is a no-no, how does one determine a drop was accidental in nature?

    Many Thanks

    • Morgan July 2, 2011, 11:26 am

      @Guy for me it’s just an ethical decision more than anything. Also I’m a big believer in treating other people the way you would like to be treated. If a company forgets to renew a domain that is critical to their business, it doesn’t seem fair to resell it to them for a really high price. As for how to determine if it was accidental you can usually just send an email if you are suspicious and in most cases they’ll let you know.