This no-nonsense guide breaks down the essentials of domain flipping, from initial acquisition to final sale. With the help of experienced domain flipper Chris Green’s contributions to this article, you’ll learn the strategies that could help you turn a profit in the competitive domain market, all while sidestepping common pitfalls.

Let’s get into it. 

Chris Green Chris Green

Chris Green – Domain Flipping Expert

Chris Green helped us get this guide right by giving us the answers to our biggest questions about buying and selling domain names. He is a thought leader in the world of domain flipping and bought his first domain way back in 1999. 

The Essentials of Domain Flipping

Imagine buying a piece of property for $10 and selling it for $10,000. Sounds like a dream? Well, that’s the heart of the domain flipping process for you!

The beauty though is that the buying and selling domain names…

  • Takes a fraction of the time
  • Involves exponentially less paperwork and hassle
  • Costs as little as $10 to buy many domains
  • Can be done from anywhere completely remotely
  • Doesn’t require building and growing a website or business
  • Can be done as a hobby or seriously

This online business model involves snagging domain names and selling them at a higher price, without developing or using them in the interim. 

How Much Can You Earn Flipping Domain Names?

The million dollar question (and answer) is that it varies but many people have earned millions flipping domains. The average domain flipper though should have much more reasonable expectations and just hope that they get lucky and eventually hit a home run. 

Chris Green Chris Green

“My two biggest domain sales were sell.io for $65,000 and merch.co for $35,000.”

You could earn $100s, $1,000s, or 10s of $1,000s. It’s also just as likely though that you might lose some money. So unfortunately, I can’t give you anything close to a real estimate on how much you’ll earn. I’ve seen many people earn big paydays flipping domains but I also know many folks who hoard domains and see little to no return.  

Identifying Profitable Domain Names

Once you’ve decided to venture into the domain flipping business, But how do you spot a diamond in the virtual rough? You should learn how to evaluate domain names based on their value, brandability, and market relevance.

Research Market Trends

In the rapidly evolving digital world, it’s vital to stay abreast of new trends. New domain extensions and modifications can offer lucrative opportunities for domain flipping when they first emerge. Similarly, domains related to new concepts or products can diversify your portfolio and boost your profits if acquired early in their evolution.

So keep your ear to the ground and your fingers on the keyboard, and you just might stumble upon the next big thing.

The two tools I like to use to spot upcoming and current trends are ExplodingTopics (paid) and Google Trends

Factors That Make a Domain Value

With a firm grasp on market trends, it’s time to discuss the value aspect. A domain’s value can be determined by many factors, including:

  • its extension (also known as a TLD, the king is still .com)
  • length (shorter domains are usually more valuable)
  • inclusion of keywords
  • pronunciation (is it easy to spell and read)
  • search volume 
  • cost per click (in Google ads)
  • future projections
  • insider information (like knowing a professional sports team is coming soon to an area)

For example, a short .com domain name that contains a popular keyword and generates a high search volume could be a goldmine.

You might wonder how to appropriately price a domain name. Accurate domain pricing requires assessing the market using historical sales data and domain appraisal tools. High intrinsic value in domains is often characterized by brevity, memorability, and direct relevance to potential buyers. 

Another important aspect of domain flipping is brandability. A brandable domain is short, memorable, and has a clear connection to the business or industry it represents. Think of Google, Amazon, or Twitter. These names are synonymous with their industries and are easily recognized by customers worldwide.

Therefore, when scouting for domains, evaluate their potential for business branding.

See Past Domain Sales History 

Pricing domains feels much more like an art form than a hard science. The price is what people are going to actually pay, but how do we decide what price to list our domains at so we can get close to the highest amount possible? 

The best data we can use is past sales from similar domains. 

There is a free tool called NameBio that allows us to see which domains have sold recently and at what prices. 

Let’s say that I was looking at various domains in the baseball niche that include the keyword “baseball” in them. I could search “baseball” in NameBio and see the recent domains sold with that keyword in the URL. 

NameBio ExampleNameBio Example

Again, this is just somewhat helpful, it is not nearly the same as a realtor setting the price of a property simply based on the comps from the neighborhood. 

There will be outliers and variables that need to be taken into consideration, but we can get a better general idea of what to list our domains at by seeing these past sales. 

Finding Available Domains

Many great domains are available for standard domain registrar rates (typically around $10 to $20 per year). You can search if a domain is available simply by searching for the domain name on the website that you’re using to host your websites.

For instance, I use WPX hosting, so if I want to see if a domain name is available, I navigate to their “check and buy domains” page. 

Find Available Domains WPXFind Available Domains WPX

Again, every legitimate domain and hosting website offers a similar functionality to this.

Here’s what that process looks like inside of a similar program, Namecheap.com.

Domain searching availability namecheapDomain searching availability namecheap

Another one of my favorite ways to find available domain names is with a tool called LeanDomainSearch.

With LeadDomainSearch, I can enter a general keyword and it will show me currently available domain names that have that keyword in them somewhere. 

For instance, let’s say that I think that the baseball niche has some great potential. I’d start by typing a keyword like “baseball.”

Lean Domain SearchLean Domain Search

Next, I can choose filters that show me the available domains in whichever format I am looking for. 

I can then see the results and if I like one of them, I can click and buy the domain directly from the website’s affiliated host or search the domain in my preferred domain registrar like WPX or NameCheap (this is what I do). 

LeanDomainSearch available domainsLeanDomainSearch available domains

I’ve written at deeper length about LeanDomainSearch here.

NameCheap has a built in tool that works like this as well in their “BeastMode” setting. We can enter parameters like keywords, price points and LTDs to see a variety of available domain names for purchase. 

Namecheap BeastMode SearchNamecheap BeastMode Search

Acquiring Domains: The First Step to Flipping

There are three primary methods to acquire domains: registering fresh ones, buying ones owned by someone else, or seeking out expired ones and snagging them when they become available.

Registering New Domains

Starting from scratch? No problem! Domain registration is extremely easy and the most affordable way to buy a domain. All you need to do is select a reputable and high-quality domain registrar, and the process can be completed promptly.

However, when selecting a domain registrar, take into account aspects such as the transfer process, pricing, expiration policies, and domain privacy options.

I prefer to use WPX hosting for hosting my domains and buying the ones I intend to use myself BUT I like and recommend NameCheap for flipping domains.

Chris Green prefers GoDaddy. 

Chris Green Chris Green

“I’ve used Godaddy for a long time and I’ve been happy with their prices and services. There are tons of registrars and they are all good at what they do. It’s easy to forward a domain to another website or social media profile, and because I have so many domains registered, I do get discounted prices which keeps me with them.”

Another tool that is popular for finding domain names is InstantDomains.com. What separates it from the others is that they offer a mobile app that lets you browse available domains more seamlessly from your smartphone. 

Buying Premium Domains That Are Already Owned

Not all domains worth flipping are listed at the lowest default rates. For instance, someone might be selling a domain for $1,000 but you believe it could eventually sell for $10,000. This is a risky investment, but these sorts of deals are often the most lucrative. 

There are a number of ways to find premium domains for sale. 

#1 A Domain Name Marketplace

There are several 3rd party websites that facilitate the buying and selling of domain names. Some of the big names include. 

#2 Organic Browsing and Cold Outreach

Many people have no idea that they are sitting on a goldmine domain name. You can proactively email domain owners and offer to purchase their domain. 

You can find the contact information of the domain owner to reach out to them via the WHOIS contact database.

Find Domain Name OwnerFind Domain Name Owner

If the owner of the domain name has completed their WHOIS information, you will be able to locate their contact info so you can reach out to them with your offer.

If the domain already has content on it, you can search the website for a contact us page and go that route.

#3 Inside of a Domain/Hosting Website Search

Many domain registrars like NameCheap and GoDaddy show basic and premium domain names.

You can go through these websites to purchase premium domain names directly. 

Premium Domain Name NamecheapPremium Domain Name Namecheap

If a domain name isn’t listed for sale, you can often times choose the “Offer” button and submit an offer price to buy the website that is then sent to the owner for review. 

Offer to Buy a Domain NameOffer to Buy a Domain Name

This service is usually facilitated by a 3rd party broker like DomainAgents.

Hunting for Expired Domains

People buy domains and don’t renew them annually. Domain flippers like Chris say that they regularlly let dozens of past domains expire every month.

Finding and buying these expired domains can be a goldmine of opportunitiy. 

Expired domains often offer established link equity, traffic volume, and stronger domain authority, providing significant advantages over new domains.

The beautiful thing is that there are free and paid tools we can use like ExpiredDomains.Net to find them before anyone else. 

To use all of the features of ExpiredDomains, you’ll need to set up a free account. 

Here’s how Chris Green does searches in ExpiredDomains.

Chris Green Chris Green

They have a ton of search parameters that you can use, but I only use a few main ones. I search for specific keywords (either ‘startswith’ or ‘endswith’) and I only want to see expired or pending expiration domains (domains that are listed for sale will also show up in these search results and I’m generally not interested in those). I will usually remove domains that have numbers or hyphens in the name. I generally only want to see .COM domains although I do like to see .CO, .IO, .AI, and sometimes .NET.

I like to sort these domain search results by domain LENGTH to see the SHORTEST domains first. I also like to sort by domain AGE so that I can see the domains that have been registered for the longest amounts of time that just now expired. You’ll find lots of domains that were originally registered in the 1990s that have just recently expired.

One trick that I like to use is to see expired .COM domains where the .NET extension is TAKEN. This means that at least someone else out there thinks that the domain name is valuable enough to register the .NET and they likely don’t realize that the .COM is now available. This a huge sign to me that the domain might be more valuable than others and using these search methods will give you an entire list that you can quickly look through to try to find some great domain names that recently expired.”

Here’s what a very simple search for expired domains with the phrase “baseball” and a filter that shows the shortest domains and only deleted (which are expired and priced at default low rates). 

ExpiredDomain-Net Filter View ExampleExpiredDomain-Net Filter View Example

Once you’ve learned how to use ExpiredDomains.net, you might find yourself becoming addicted to the thrill of the hunt. There are some real gems that people just let expire for reasons unknown.

Backlinks and Domain Value

Many people buy domains not just for branding purposes, but for SEO reasons as well. A website that has been around for awhile and has many other websites linking to its pages has value in something called “link equity.” Owning a website with link equity (or “high domain authority) is an asset to anyone looking to drive organic traffic to other websites because it can be used as a resource for link exchanges.

Some people also buy domains that have little content but high link equity and then start creating more content on them to get a quick start in search engines. Google prefers websites that are established and have backlinks pointing to them, so these websites can be a cheat code to quick growth. We can check the link equity (or domain authority) of a domain name using tools like Moz or AHREFs. These are often available as expired domains. 

But remember, due to their limited availability and existing valuable attributes, they often command higher prices than new registrations.

Seeing the History of a Domain Name

Many domains once had something on them. We can use a tool like Archive.org to see exactly what a website used to look like. 

You’ve maybe heard of this tool when it was called “The Way Back Machine.” Just enter your domain url and search and choose a point in time to inspect it. 

This can be useful in deciding a domains current worth and future value. 

Seeing the Previous Owner of an Expired Domain

We can view historical WHOIS data using this link -> https://research.domaintools.com/research/whois-history.

This will help us see previous registration periods for expired domains. It can be useful to know if a domain had been registered for the past two years or the past twenty years when considering how valuable a domain could be. A domain that was held for 20 straight years, for instance, likely has more value than one that was held for 1-2 years or sat available for many years in a row. 

How to Sell a Domain

Selling a domain name is a 7 step process and the services and tools you use can vary. 

How to Sell a Domain Name OverviewHow to Sell a Domain Name Overview

Here is the process of selling a domain name you own. 

#1 Research Comparable Sales

#2 Set Listing Price

#3 Complete WHOIS Directory Information

#4 Create a Listing on a Marketplace (Optional Buy Recommended)

#5 Wait for or Find Buyer

#6 Use Escrow Service to Hold Funds of Sale

#7 Transfer the Domain to the Seller

Using a reputable 3rd party auction site to sell your domains will automate most of this process for you. Using a company like auctions.godaddy.com will help you get past the frustrating parts of listing a domain like creating your own sales page and doing SEO for it to find your own buyers. 

Choosing the Right Platform to Sell Your Domain

The initial step in domain selling process is identifying the suitable platform. When choosing where to list your domains, it’s important to consider factors such as:

  • Commission percentage
  • Listing fees
  • Traffic rates
  • User experience
  • Customer reviews
  • Additional features

These can impact the success of your domain listings.

Get familiar with major domain marketplaces like GoDaddy, Sedo, BrandBucket, and Afternic, each offering unique advantages and the services of a domain broker, making them popular domain sellers to sell domain names.

Building a Successful Domain Portfolio

Once you’ve made a few successful flips, it’s time to aim higher. Building a diverse and profitable domain portfolio is the key to long-term success in the domain flipping business, just like successful domain flippers have done.

Diversifying Your Holdings

A diverse domain portfolio can be compared to a balanced diet. It’s important to have a mix of domains, from high-value premium domains to short, catchy ones and niche-specific names. A diversified domain portfolio offers protection from industry changes and market fluctuations, providing a more stable and potentially profitable business.

Managing Domain Renewals

Similar to how a car needs routine maintenance, your domain portfolio also requires regular attention. Managing domain renewals is crucial to ensure valuable domains remain under your control. Set reminders for domain renewals and use automatic domain renewal features to prevent important domains from accidentally expiring.

A systematic approach to managing domain renewals is essential for the growth and sustainability of your domain flipping venture.

Is Domain Flipping Legal?

Domain flipping is completely legal, however, there are legal concerns involved with copyright and trademark infringement. 

If you use a brands trademark in your domain name, you run the risk of them accusing you of something called “cybersquatting,” which can actually lead to legitimate lawsuits. 

To avoid this, conduct thorough research to ensure your domains do not infringe upon trademarks or copyrights. Never buy a domain thinking that an existing brand or company will want to come and buy it from you. For instance, 

How can you tell which names pose issue? Head over to https://www.uspto.gov/ and navigate to their trademark search tool

Let’s say I had the chance to purchase a nonsensical but brandable domain name like “Boogle.com.” Although my commonsense radar what start to go off and I’d assume that since the word is so short, easy to spell and read (aka, brandable) and random that someone has surely trademarked it. 

Domain Trademark infringement cybersquatting exampleDomain Trademark infringement cybersquatting example

There is a wordmark for “Boogle” so I would avoid this domain (even though it’s just an example). I’d only buy this sort of domain if it came with the trademark as well. 

Recommended Tools and Services for Domain Flippers

Tools make domain flipping possible. Here are the ones we mentioned in this article (and a few we didn’t but think you should know about). 

Where to Buy Domains:

  • NameCheap – The best combination of affordability and usability of all the domain registrars. They do offer hosting but it isn’t great and the savings are not huge but the ability to transfer domains is easy. They make it easy to submit offers to buy privately owned domains and provide tools to help you find available names in specific niches using keywords and phrase matching.
  • WPX – This costs $4 more per domain than Namecheap but it has better hosting and support, if you want to build an actual website and not just park the domain, this is what I recommend).
  • GoDaddy – What Chris and many other domain flippers use. 
  • InstantDomains – An easy way to find domains but the kicker is their smartphone mobile app. 

Where to Sell Domains:

  • Auctions.GoDaddy.com – Chris prefers this for listing his domain names for sale. 
  • Sedo – Another popular domain name marketplace for buying and selling.
  • AfterNic – Advertised as the world’s premier domain marketplace. It’s not as big as GoDaddy, but it’s close.
  • Flippa – Flippa is a marketplace for buying and selling internet businesses. This is typically for full scale businesses who are driving revenue already, but it can also be used to sell domain names.
  • NameLiquidate.com – Chris Green says that this is “a great site to list domains that you have registered but that you don’t plan on renewing. You can throw them on NameLiquidate before they expire to see if anyone else is interested in them. If you have a lot of domains that you’re tired of paying renewal fees on and you just want to see if you can get something for them before they expire, this is a great option.”

Tools to Find Expired Domains: 

  • ExpiredDomains.Net – There are so many domains that expire every single day and you can find all of them at ExpiredDomains. They have a ton of search parameters that you can use, but I only use a few main ones. I search for specific keywords (either ‘startswith’ or ‘endswith’) and I only want to see expired or pending expiration domains (domains that are listed for sale will also show up in these search results and I’m generally not interested in those). I will usually remove domains that have numbers or hyphens in the name. I generally only want to see .COM domains although I do like to see .CO, .IO, .AI, and sometimes .NET
  • Sav – There are a lot of services out there that will attempt to register expiring domains for you as soon as they are released back to the public. Some charge ahead of time and some only charge you if they are successful in registering an expiring domain for you. I’ve used a few of them and I’ve had the best luck with Sav. They only charge me if they are able to get the domain and I’ve just had more success when using them compared to some of the others.
  • Catch Club
  • Domain Hunter and Gatherer – A paid tool made for SEOs who want to find high authority domains that are expiring or have expired.

Tools to Find Trends

  • Exploding Topics – Find trending niches and products.
  • Google Trends – Free tool to see how a topic is trending over time.
  • AHREFs – The premier SEO tool on the market. You can use AHREFs to analyze a domains link profile and see it’s history. This is especially useful when buying expired or premium domains that offer more to the buyer than just the name itself. 

Other Tools:

Summary and Takeaways

  • Domain flipping is something almost anyone can do. The costs vary from as low as $10/year per domain purchased to much higher if you decide to try and flip already expensive names for even higher prices. 
  • Most domains you buy won’t ever be bought for prices you hope. It’s a numbers game that involves a lot of action and long term holding periods, waiting for the right buyer to come along.
  • We can proactively buy and sell domains leveraging available information like WHOIS and simple cold outreach tactics.
  • .COM domain names are still the gold standard, but many other LTDs like .IO and .CO are growing in popularity and can have high resell-ability. 
  • The rule of thumb factors that impact a domain’s value include length (shorter is better), LTD (.COM usually is ideal), spelling and pronunciation (easy to spell and read), brand-ability, popularity of included keywords and projected growth in term popularity. 

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