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iGoldRush Blog   October 2011

Acquiring Domain Names, Part I (Hand Registering Domains)

October 26, 2011 in News

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:

  • Hand registering domains
  • Aftermarket acquisitions
  • Drop catching and expiring domains
  • Premium domain auctions

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

"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

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 (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). If you have any questions feel free to post them below!

About Michael: Michael Law is a domain investor and an active blogger at 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.

15 Responses to Acquiring Domain Names, Part I (Hand Registering Domains)

  1. Can’t wait to read the next parts of your series 🙂 Which registrar(s) would you recommend?

    • Hi Frank and thanks! I’m not promoting any particular registrar there are a lot of good ones out there. Just make sure the one you choose is legitimate and has good pricing.

  2. “About Michael”

    It was forgotten to mention “A real friendly guy also”

  3. Great tips Mike!

  4. Thanks Duane and Ron!!

  5. Great article Mike! Keep up the good work and I’m looking forward to your next article!

  6. This article is as good as Michael is! Thanks for putting this crucial info very succinctly, a very useful resource for the beginners.

  7. Thanks so much Oscar and Sunny!

    I should add that I believe for some, hand registering domain names with good potential comes easier than for others. When I was registering a lot of names, I would browse through lists of available domain names or WTB sections of domain forums to help me get ideas of types of names to register.

  8. Really good information and some nice ideas. Can’t wait to read more by Mr. Law.

  9. Re: Hand Registering Domain Names

    I am relatively new to domaining, maybe two years in, and I, myself am finding not only mild success, but a very promising tomorrow in ‘Future Trend Domain Names’

    if u r willing to do your research and are also committed to that research, meaning u agree to hold on to these names until maturity, your overall investment will be minimal compared to the return.

    I have focused primarily on emerging technologies, such as holographics, Telepresence, haptics, 3d, solar and more… probably around ten different technologies in total as these industries are many and can spin your head.

    another thing I am noticing about product bs services is that many product domains are easier to flip to other domainers (which usually means reseller prices), while services are a plenty and easier to flip to actual businesses, as long as the sky isn’t your intended price 🙂

    nice piece – looking forward to the rest 🙂

  10. Good advice and if I may add, one area where hand regs can still be had – and flipped – are geo-targeted domains. Especially small-to medium-sized cities (at this late in the game)

    city+keyword or city+service

    things like:

    Or, directional+keyword/service

    Granted, it was easier to determine value under the old Overture tool, but all is not lost.

    There are many, many small businesses who share these names who STILL don’t have a web presence. These names can be flipped for low- to mid-xxx on a regular basis.

    Don’t get greedy. They’re typically not going to spend 2,500 on their name. But 300 here, 500 there – and the occasional 1,500 for a highly competitive keyword – and it can work.

  11. Pingback: Saturday Tidbits | – Domain Name Publication – News, Trends and Analysis of the Domain Name Industry

  12. Where can I find part 2 to this series? I tried searching, but could not locate it, thanks.

  13. Awesome thanks for the quick response. Also one more question what does hand registering mean exactly? Does it mean thinking of domains to register and registering new domains at a registrar such as or does hand registering also include registering deleted domains, expiring domains etc.

    The term hand registering implies people are using some software or automated script to register or search through bad domains quickly?

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