Don’t buy domain names out of fear or ignorance

As you’ll know if you’re a client of ours, if there’s any advice we can give you on any aspect of online marketing, we’re delighted to help. My colleagues and I are only ever an email away. Of course, you might be using an advertising agency to run your Google AdWords campaign, and I’m sure they’re just as helpful. But I digress. The other day I had an email from a client, saying: “What do you think of this?” It was one of those occasions where being smart enough to ask the question avoided being taken for a ride.

Attached was an official-looking email from a marketing consultancy. The email said that: “My company has decided to sell one of our internet addresses, would this be of interest? From an SEO point of view, this domain name will drive substantial targeted traffic to your website for years to come.”

This domain name was relevant to the client’s products, so this wasn’t some untargeted spam. Because of this, the client genuinely wondered if it was worthwhile buying.

Now, everybody likes generic product domain names. It’s always nice to say that you own the .com for “bluewidgets”. But are you actually going to use it? One of the best ways to sell anything is to frighten the prospect that if they don’t buy something now, a competitor will get this unique opportunity. And that’s exactly what drives the domain name market, so be careful.

I’m not sure in this case if my client had any use in mind for the domain, but let’s suppose they did. The domain was being offered for sale for nearly £500. Could it be a good investment? If it was a long-established domain, with lots of quality links, and no association with spam, then quite possibly. The first thing to look at, therefore, was the site’s history. And if I had a little cartoon of a horse falling at the first hurdle, here’s where I’d put it.

The domain had been registered for the first time a week before.

In other words, here was a company going around, finding unusued .com domains for products, registering them for £10, and selling them on for fifty times as much. Nice work.

So my response to our client was: “Did you want this domain last week, when it was available for £10? Because if you didn’t, you don’t want it this week for £500 either, especially as your purchase would mainly be based on the fear that a competitor might buy it.”

I was glad to have saved the client from wasting money. But there’s a nice coda. Before writing this article, I looked at the WHOIS record for the domain. And yes, it’s been bought by our client’s biggest competitor. How we laughed.

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