This is the first article in a series, documenting the step-by-step approach I took to turn a $300 initial investment into $10,000 in 3 months, working only a few minutes a day. In a later article, I’ll also share the mistake I made that cost me at least another $8,000 on this same flip.
My heart started to beat a little bit faster and I could feel my palms get sweaty as my double-take confirmed that I wasn’t looking at a typo. There it was on the NameJet pre-release list, with a marvelous “0” in the “bidders” column next to it: BetterParenting.com. Its scheduled release was still weeks away, but it had gone unnoticed so far, and I had no desire to alert potential suitors to its presence. An early bid would push this name out into the spotlight, so I just wrote myself a note: Keep track of this domain.
The Problem with Pre-Release Domains
Pre-release names can be a fickle friend — offering the hope of a drop that may never come. These domains can still be redeemed by their current owners up until just before they are released to the affiliated drop-catch company. After several weeks of stalking, I was afraid that this is exactly what happened to BetterParenting.com, as just days before its scheduled release, the name vanished from the NameJet pre-release list.
Prior to buying an expiring domain name, it’s important to do your due diligence — find out what was on the site before, who’s linking to it, what kind of traffic it’s getting, etc. I had done that on this domain, and having looked it up on archive.org, I knew what the previous owner’s site looked like. That’s why I was surprised to see a parked page now displayed instead of the old site (promoting an author of parenting books). It looked like the name was redeemed but not by the previous owner… it seemed a little shady.
End-Around Domain Acquisition
Fearful that I was going to miss out on the opportunity to acquire a name I knew I could win with, I got aggressive. I logged into my DomainTools account (an invaluable resource for flippers who buy domains or websites) and pulled up the historic whois records for the domain. I identified the previous owner of the domain (who was technically still within their redemption period) and picked up the phone.
After asking for the gentleman listed as the domain owner, I introduced myself and made a play for the domain.
“Hello, this is Eppie Vojt,” I said. “I’m calling about a domain name you own that just recently expired — BetterParenting.com. Did you intend to let the name go or was it just an oversight?”
The elderly man on the other end of the line responded — he had been using the name to promote parenting books authored by his wife, who this year had passed away. He no longer had use for the domain and had willingly allowed it to drop.
“You know, I’m really interested in buying the domain, and it’s still in its redemption period. If I pay you, would you mind contacting your registrar to put the name back in your account, and then you could transfer it to me? I’ll pay you $300 for your trouble.”
He agreed. An email was sent to the domain registrar requesting that the name be redeemed, but the registrar was reluctant to cooperate. Due to the private whois record, I can’t confirm exactly what happened, but my suspicion is that the registrar had hoped to keep the name, test it with a parked page, and potentially sell it on their own – avoiding the need to share revenue with NameJet. I fear this happens more frequently than I’d like to believe. After some additional back and forth, the registrar relented and returned the domain. A day later, it was pushed to my account. BetterParenting.com was mine, at a cost of only $300.
Money Made Before Any Work Was Done
I knew I was set to make a good sum of money — sold just as a brandable domain, I would be able to make a solid multiple on my initial investment. While not a high volume exact match name, BetterParenting.com had a lot going for it:
- It was an old name
1998 registration history, technically transferred without dropping, long developed history
- It was PR4 — though I would have preferred a stronger link profile (more links), it did have some decent quality links pointed to it (several Yahoo Directory links, .edu links)
- It had built-in brand clout
When you hear “Better Parenting” you instantly think credibility. It sounds like it’s a legit magazine, right? This could be leveraged for free content, link exchanges and securing sponsors for giveaways. It also suggested the possibility of an offline venture (launch a print magazine).
By acquiring a good domain at low cost, I had essentially already made my money — made entirely possible by leveraging the right tools, and aggressively pursuing the targeted name. Now it was time to develop the site and increase the potential return.
A quick note — the strategy I employed to recover this domain after it vanished from the pre-release list is a great technique to use when you’re targeting a domain that you are pretty sure you won’t be able to afford at auction. If you see 70+ people targeting a dropping name and your budget is limited, use DomainTools to find the owner’s contact info, then get in touch with them directly to see if you can bypass the auction.
If you’re looking to find dropping domains with high PageRank, inbound links, or traffic, I highly recommend using FreshDrop — the interface is a little awkward to use at first, but the service provides invaluable information about domains that are about to become available. Think of it like your domain metal detector (only not as nerdy and way more effective)!
The next article in this series will cover the development plan I implemented, how I secured lots of free content, how I augmented that free content by hiring talented writers at a very low wage, and how I started to drive traffic to the site. Eventually, I’ll get to that $8,000+ mistake (I promise).
P.S. — If you don’t want to miss any of the articles in this series, be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed.