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Acquiring Domain Names, Part I (Hand Registering Domains)

This is a four part series on how to acquire domain names from my perspective.

In this series, I will talk about how I go about acquiring domain names and the strategies I use. Remember, this is not an all-inclusive guide on every known strategy or industry tool – it is my guide that I am sharing with you on how I determine what types of names to buy and how to acquire them. This series will be broken down into four parts:

So, let’s get started.

Hand registering domain names, while usually very exciting, ‘hand regging’ names is usually more of a learning experience for those new to domaining. When I first got into domain names, I spent quite a bit of money registering domain names that I look back on today and say “what the heck was I thinking”. There’s something exciting, some will even say addictive, about the rush that comes from pushing that submit order button when registering a domain.

Before we get into registration strategy, I want to give you a little bit of advice about choosing a domain registrar. I’m not here to promote any specific registrar, but what I have learned is that it is easier to choose a single registrar to house the bulk of your portfolio. Your preferred registrar should 1) be ICANN accredited 2) have competitive pricing 3) offer good, same day customer support. Be careful, there are many ‘fly by night’ registrars out there that offer ‘too good to be true’ registration specials. Stay away from those, as it’s not worth it losing your money or domains. Instead, find a trusted registrar that works well with your needs.

Hand registering a domain name at DomainIt.com

"Hand registering" a domain name.

To date, some of my best sales were domain names I registered as the ROI on that type of sale is usually out of this world. However, a majority of the first 300 names that I registered were dropped, sold for less than registration fee, or given away. Find a room full of domain investors and 9 out 10 people will tell you the same story, unless the registrations were from a long time ago. Now, that does not mean that there are no good domain names out there left to register, but they’re better to use for a business or for building a portfolio.

If you are looking to build your portfolio by picking up solid hand registered domain names, my biggest piece of advice is to be picky, really picky. It’s easy to spend fifteen minutes looking up available domains and come up with a list of a dozen or so names you think are great. Before registering all the names on that list, what you should do is be really critical of the names. I have two methods, one for keyword/product names and one for brandable names.

Let’s start with registering keyword domain names. I love keyword and product domain names because if you choose the right ones, the chances of resale are much higher as are the chances of successful monetization. When you’re on the hunt for solid keyword domains to hand register, it’s important that you use tools to help you analyze the keyword value.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool [1]

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

By far and away, the most important tool to use if you are looking to register good keyword or product domain names is the Google Adwords Keywords Tool [2] (GAKT). This tool can help you analyze the amount of search volume a keyword string commands as well as the average estimated PPC.

Another tip I have about keyword or product related domains is that if you are registering domains to build a portfolio, start out by sticking to niches that you are familiar with. If you have a background in law, you will naturally know what keyword strings in that niche make sense and which keyword strings just sound funny or awkward.

Registering brandable domain names can be tricky. I see these types of names as more of a gamble because the chance of someone coming along and really needing the domain name you creatively registered is slim. I have made money selling brandable names that I registered, not because I had a startup company knocking on my door, but because I am usually more willing to flip a brandable name that I hand register for a 10x – 100x profit than I am a keyword domain.

Keep in mind, when registering brandable domains, there are two types to consider: made-up one word names or word combination type names that are not a real phrase, keyword or product. In both cases, it’s really important to remember that brandable domains need to be short, easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember. I’ll go ahead and say that if you are looking for a great, pronounceable four or five letter .com to hand register, you are not going to find it and are better off looking in the aftermarket.

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to hand registering a brandable domain is to remember the idea is that someone (maybe even you) is going to eventually build a brand with that name. If that’s the case, I think it’s very important to also reserve the matching Twitter username. Social media is a massive part of company branding these days and this could make or break your sale. In fact, I’ve heard of sales of brandable domain names falling through because the buyer preferred a name that had the matching Twitter handle.

Okay, so I’ve gotten through this far without even mentioning anything about what extension is best to register. Well, you probably already know the answer. If searching for domain names to hand register you are probably finding that you are hard pressed to find a good .com available. The reason is obvious, you know the saying “.com is king.”

That’s okay though because you are going to be really picky anyway, right? I would definitely recommend sticking to .com names if you are looking to buy names specifically to resell. There are occasions when you will find great .net or .org domain names – these will most likely be solid keyword or product names and not brandables. When registering brandable names, you should always stick with .com.

In this article I have focused on strategies for registering domain names in the most traditional extensions and English language. Now, keep in mind there are many great opportunities to register potentially valuable ccTLD, IDN and alternative extension types of names. I don’t dabble too much in ccTLD’s or IDN’s but I am invested in re-branded ccTLD’s like .tv, .co, .me, and other gTLD’s such as .biz. My best bit of advice for registering domain names in these extensions is to stick to one word (with the proper ending) or premium two word keyword/product names.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and I look forward to sharing more insight with you in Acquiring Domain Names: Part II (Aftermarket) [3]. If you have any questions feel free to post them below!

About Michael: Michael Law is a domain investor and an active blogger at NameTalent.com [4]. Based in Colorado where he hosted the Rocky Mountain Domain Conference in February 2011, ‘Mike’ has been domaining for close to ten years and has sold his fair share of domain names. With the recent decline of PPC, his investing strategy has changed to quality over quantity and over the next few articles he will share some of his ideas and techniques with iGoldRush readers.