04 March, 2009

Buy My Domain, Episode 2

The story so far: I had a domain for almost two years, but didn’t use it. Instead of letting it expire, I decided to try and sell it. A couple of days of research later, I had an idea of what to do and what to charge. Now read on.

The time: A couple of years ago
The scene: GoDaddy's domain resale site, The Domain Name Aftermarket (now auctions.godaddy.com).

Two days into the auction, I realized that my domain wasn’t going to the center of a bidding war. GoDaddy's certified appraisal system had valued my 11-digit dot-com domain at $622 to $1,617. The market was valuing it at nothing.

I figured I'd try to add to its curb appeal a little to see if I could get close to the appraised price. Step one: Put up a nice little welcoming Web page. Instead of displaying generic "for sale" or "parked" signs, I put up a sample live page demonstrating what the domain could be used for--and, of course, slapped a little "for sale" link leading to the domain auction.

Brilliant though this ploy was, it failed to elicit a single bid at auction. But it did improve the look of the lot, so it seemed like a good thing to do. And so did goosing up the listing a little, though this wasn't as easy. The Domain Name Aftermarket allowed 255 characters to describe an auction lot. Even to someone trained in the noble art of making text fit into highly designed magazine pages, that's quite a restriction.

Then I had a brainstorm: Why not get more hard evidence of my domain’s value? Why not get a second evaluation? At the time, TDNAM was a new kid on the block. Afternic was the grand master of domain name resale—they’d been around for a decade longer than Godaddy’s site. So I threw good money after bad and paid $20 at Afternic for a second appraisal. And it hurt. Afternic reckoned that the current market value of my domain was $200. Ouch! That was less than a third of what GoDaddy had estimated. Afternic reckoned that the domain's potential market value was $1,100—with significant development, of course—and that was about $600 less than the top end of TDNAM's evaluation.

But I’m an honest seller and wanted to look like one, so I cited Afternic's appraisal URL in my auction listing. I thought this made me look like a man with nothing to hide, one who showed due diligence, and one who wasn’t out for a quick buck. Exactly the kind of person I'd like to buy from.

Because it cost me as much as a hardback book, I actually read the advice Afternic sent along with its appraisal. It was generic but it reinforced what I’d already worked out for myself:

· Include the fact that you've had your name appraised. It lets potential buyers know that a third party has assisted in estimating the value.
· Feel free to use all or part of your appraisal notes.
· Always have your domain names pointed somewhere. When someone types in your domain name, have it point to your auction page, your domains-for-sale site, or even a one-page site with your contact information.

Check on the first and third items. I even made a nod to the second item in the one-page site I’d put up. So I'd now followed the best advice of the old lags in the market, and I upped the curb appeal on my little corner of the domain real estate market. I'd done just about everything I could to raise its profile short of taking out an ad in Computerworld.

And all this work increased the number of bids at the auction from zero to zero.

So I shelved the project, but kept my options open. I kept my membership in GoDaddy’s aftermarket site, renewed my domain for another year, and left the domain for sale at Godaddy.

Someday, I reasoned, someone would want to buy that domain.

I was right. But that day wasn’t coming anytime soon.


My price tag so far:

$29 in registration fees; $39.95 in appraisal fees; $10 in membership fees

$79.95 total


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