How to Buy a Taken Domain

I’ve been buying new domain names for projects and thought my journey could help a couple of people. So I’ll share how I’ve bought domain names that were taken or not openly available.

Your work or business probably needs that specific domain name or a close variant of it. But they are all taken.

Since I publish books, I’ll use the writer example. If you belong to the 21% of published authors who rely on their writing to earn an income, it makes sense that your name or a domain name related to your work should be the one you use.

So when you enter your dream domain name into a web browser, you’d any of these three things:

  1. Nothing — read, “This site can’t be reached”
  2. An active or partially active website
  3. Domain for sale

These three scenarios will likely be your experience when you think up your dream domain and enter it in your browser to verify availability.

Regardless of which of these three things happened, you can still find and buy your dream domain. Let’s find out how.

The Three Experiences with Taken Domains

Nothing. The domain name you entered into your web browser returned a blank page like the one below. So you found nothing associated with the domain, or the display read, “This site can’t be reached.”

How to Buy a Taken Domain

Active or partially active website. Didn’t turn a blank page? Then it probably showed you a website with some content on it. This could be a page full of ads, a welcome page, a coming-soon page, or a fully functioning and active website.

Domain for sale. If you didn’t see any of the two types of pages described earlier on, then you probably saw a page offering the domain for sale. Like this page from BuyDomains:

How to Buy a Taken Domain

We have broken this guide into scenes 1, 2, and 3. Each scene explains how to buy a taken domain based on what you might have experienced when you typed it into a browser.

So how do you respond to each of these scenarios or scenes?

Scene 1: When Your Browser Shows Nothing

If your browser shows nothing, it could mean any of these three things:

  1. The domain is available and not taken
  2. The domain is expired
  3. The domain owner isn’t using it

What to Do If the Domain is Available and Not Taken

This would be your dream come true. It means your dream domain name is not taken after all. Go ahead and register it as quickly as you can.

But how do you know the domain name isn’t taken?

Go to Scalahosting and type in the domain name you want to verify into the search box.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

Click the Check Availability button, as indicated in the image above. You don’t have to enter your domain name at this point.

On the page that follows, under Actions, click Register a New Domain.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

Now, enter your domain in the search box. Your search results will show if your domain is taken or not.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

If the domain is not taken, you’ll see the message, “Congrats, Your Domain Is Available!”

However, if you go through this process with a different domain name, say techcontentlabs.com, and that domain name is taken, the message will be different.

You will see the message “Sorry, techcontentlabs.com is unavailable,” as you can see in the image below.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

If the domain name you want is taken, then you’ll want to find out if it’s expired but not available yet, or the owner isn’t using the domain name.

What to Do If the Domain is Expired or the Owner Isn’t Using It

So you’ll need to find out which one is the case — expired domain or the owner isn’t using it — and then buy the domain name.

If the Domain Is Expired

Note that domain ownership has expiration dates, so no one owns a domain name forever. To keep their domain ownership, the domain name holder must pay a renewal fee every year or every few years.

To know if a domain is expired or not, go to ExpiredDomains and enter your dream domain name in the search box. The service is a free domain search tool dedicated to expired and deleted domains.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

ExpiredDomains houses expired and deleted domains only. So you’re free to register the domain name if you find it in their search result.

Sometimes ExpiredDomains may show you a domain that is expired but will be available for you to buy at a later date. If that’s the case with your preferred domain name, you can use Godaddy to make a backorder.

To make a backorder, go to Godaddy and click on the three horizontal stripes you’ll see right on the top left-hand side of the home page. See the image below.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

You’ll find a menu. Click on “Domains.”

How to Buy a Taken Domain

You’ll see a Domains menu, scroll to the bottom, and click “Domain Backorder.”

How to Buy a Taken Domain

You should now see a page looking like this one below. You can place your domain backorder for as low as $ 17.49.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

Think of a backorder like getting a numbered ticket at a bank, supermarket, hospital, or anywhere you’d have to wait in line. So when you make a backorder, you’re basically asking your domain name registrar to put you in the queue to buy the domain when it’s available.

What if the domain name isn’t expired?

Find the domain owner.

If the Domain Owner Isn’t Using the Domain

Use a whois lookup like Who.is or the one on Domain.com to find the domain owner and then reach out to them and make an offer. When on the Domain.com website, you’ll find the whois tool by using the navigation, Domains >> Whois Lookup. See the image below.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

Use the contact information you find to contact the domain owner and negotiate the price. Don’t be afraid to ask for 50% to 75% off their initial price. Remember that the seller doesn’t make money unless someone buys the domain.

Scene 2: When It’s an Active or Partially Active Website

In the second scenario, when verifying if your dream domain is taken, a web page does show up. An active website with content, a coming soon page, and the like.

Since this domain is attached to an existing website, what do you do?

Obviously, seeing a website might suggest that the domain owner isn’t ready to sell it. But reach out anyway.

Find their contact on the website and reach out. Alternatively, use a whois lookup as we discussed in the section before this one, to find their contact details.

Remember, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get a perfect domain name if you don’t have that budget. So if the domain owners are demanding more money than you can afford, walk away.

Scene 3: When the Domain Is for Sale

The third possibility is that the domain is actually for sale. That’s good news, but only if you have the money to buy it and your due diligence suggests it’s safe.

Taken domain names would sell for at least hundreds of dollars. Most of them run into the thousands, even millions, of dollars.

Oftentimes, domain names you find for sale are available on a domain marketplace like BuyDomains, Flippa, GoDaddy, Sedo, and other premium domain sellers.

If you’re new to making a blog, it might be hard to justify buying this type of taken domain name. Mostly because of the cost, but also the technicalities of getting it without making mistakes.

Why People Buy Taken Domains That Are Pricey

These pricey domain names are called premium domains. Here are common reasons why people buy them.

Help people find your blog: If your website visitors are going to try to find your blog by using a taken domain that closely resembles yours, then buying that domain probably makes sense. For example, if your domain is Looks.com and lots of website visitors may try to find your blog using Look.com.

Secure your brand: You may want to secure your blog from fraudsters and impersonators or from letting your competitors take advantage of your brand.

A fraudster can register a lookalike domain name and then pretend to be you. So they’d easily defraud people trying to visit your site but entering the wrong domain in their browsers. Your competitors can also use this tactic, but to take potential customers away from your business.

This point might explain why Hotels.com and Hotel.com lead to one website. Hotels.com sold for $ 11 million.

Gain more blog readers: If a particular domain is popular with a large number of people who might be interested in reading your blog, then consider buying that domain.

This point probably explains why the popular digital marketer Neil Patel bought Kissmetrics.com for half a million dollars.

Registered brand or trademark: You may want to buy a domain name if it has your registered trademark or brand name on it. It’s for this reason that Facebook bought fb.com for $ 8.5 million.

You like the domain name: For the love of the domain name, you may just want to buy it. Although this doesn’t always make business sense, it might still be a valid reason for you to buy the taken domain.

As you might notice, the first three reasons for buying a domain name are not suitable for beginners. Your blog is probably not a business yet, so no serious competitors. More so, if you’re just starting a website, you don’t know who your most ardent readers are yet.

While the last two reasons may seem valid, they are almost impossible if you don’t have hundreds, thousands, or millions of dollars to spend on the domain alone.

However, if you’re undeterred, here are some pro tips to help you make a good decision.

Two Pro Tips for Buying Premium Domain Names

You can buy a taken domain name in two steps

  1. Do Your Due Diligence
  2. Negotiate and Buy

Do Your Due Diligence

You want to verify if a domain is safe and valuable before you buy it. Doing your due diligence is important because an otherwise good domain name may have

  • Trademark restrictions
  • Been blacklisted
  • A poor reputation
  • Been marked for spam or security vulnerabilities

It may also have other issues.

Don’t panic. You can use some tools to verify a domain’s viability before buying it.

A domain must not violate ICANN’s trademark policy. That is, if your registered domain name carries the trademark of an existing business or entity, then they can claim the domain name or ask you to delete the domain name.

Before you buy a domain name, do a trademark search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. You want to ensure the name isn’t associated with a registered trademark.

Next, you want to ascertain the domain has not been used by spammers in the past or posed any cybersecurity threats. For this verification, you can use MXToolBox to generate a domain health report.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

If the domain name isn’t trademarked and it’s healthy, you want to delve into the historical data of the domain name. Specifically, you’ll want to figure out

  • Who registered the domain name
  • When it was registered
  • The last time the ownership was renewed
  • The domain name service hosting it

Use a whois checker to find this information. As pointed out earlier, Domain.com offers you a free whois lookup tool. It also provides links to other useful whois lookup resources to help you find exactly what you want.

Lastly, you can look at the content history. If the domain you’re considering is housing or has housed content in the past, you can look that up using the WayBackMachine.

Enter the domain name into the tool’s search box and click “Browse History.”

How to Buy a Taken Domain

You’ll get a calendar view of the domain’s past and present content activities. So you’d know, firsthand, what has happened in this domain as regards content.

Negotiate and Buy

It’s time to contact the domain owner. Most marketplaces list the prices of their premium domains. So you can determine if the price of the domain is within your budget.

These domain marketplaces also let you negotiate with the domain owner. If the domain isn’t listed on a marketplace, use the contact on the website where you discovered the domain or the whois lookup contact to reach the appropriate person.

Go beyond placing your bid. Outline other reasons why the price you’re bidding is the best rate for the domain. Where possible, ask for more favors in addition to buying the domain.

How to Negotiate and Buy a Taken Domain Like a Pro

Point out any security, legal, search engine, or reputation issues you discovered during your research.

You could offer the seller to pay for the domain in installments. If possible, ask the seller to include other TLDs associated with the domain name. For your technical needs, ask questions — does this site use WordPress or Joomla, or Wix, if it’s an eCommerce store.

Try to secure your purchase with a money-back guarantee if you can. A money-back guarantee can be useful if you eventually find something slipped through the cracks during your due diligence.

Money-back guarantees can be a little tough to arrange, but a seller might be willing to agree to it for a limited time, like 30 days after the purchase. So for that period, the money you paid will be with an escrow you both agreed to use.

If you’d spend money settling any issues related to past ownership — bad reviews and reputation management, for example — make sure it’s deductible from the selling price.

In short, find any areas where you’ll have an advantage and use it in your negotiation.

Consider Hiring a Lawyer If You’re Buying an Expensive Domain

Of course, if you’re going to be spending a lot of money, you want to be very cautious. Hence, consider bringing a lawyer to help with your negotiation.

Your lawyer will help you draft a domain name purchase agreement. But for small purchases, you might not need this type of extensive contract work.

What’s a “small” purchase? That’s for you to decide. Some people advise that you get a lawyer if you’ll be spending $ 200 or more. But you can set your limits higher, say $ 1,000 or higher.

It’s always better to use an escrow service like Escrow to manage payments. It’s risky to transfer money directly to the seller by wire or electronically.

Buy and Own the Domain Name

You’ve completed the transaction. It’s time to own what you bought.

Your seller should have changed their domain ownership records. The new record should reflect your details, including your legal name, email address, and phone number.

Following ICANN regulations, you’ll need to verify your domain name within 15 days after purchase, or the domain will be suspended.

So you’ll receive an email like the one in the image below. Click on the verification link in that message to open a verification page.

How to Buy a Taken Domain

On the verification page, you’ll find a button or link to click and verify your ownership of the domain. Click on it to complete your domain registration.

If you didn’t receive this verification email, reach out to the domain name registrar and the seller.

It’s time to buy your dream domain name.

Remember to use the tips, free resources, exclusive deals, and discounts provided for you here. They will save you money, time, and energy.

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Author: Nicholas Godwin

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