Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thoughts on Domain Market Choices

Introduction

I recently wrote a long post on the Namepros site with my thoughts regarding options for listing and display of domain names.  In particular I look at Afternic, Efty, Namecheap Marketplace and Undeveloped as options, as well as your own web site.  I have slightly refined the post for display on the blog.  You can see the thread with my comments and those of others here.

I have recently listed about 25% of my domain portfolio on Afternic, and about 60% on Undeveloped. For a somewhat longer time had Efty landing/market for the majority of my domains. I have listed a variable number of my domains on Namecheap Marketplace, and I do have all of my domains on a personal website, and most in a catalog there. So far all of my sales (20 low value ones) have been on Namecheap Marketplace, either directly or after making communication via my website. Here are my thoughts on each of the options I have tried (I have not used Sedo or Flippa so they are not covered here, even though popular choices).


Afternic

Afternic is one of the largest networks of domain names for sale (about 13 million domains listed as I write this), and they claim that they reach the largest audience  (25 million or 75 million audience according to whether your domain name qualifies for the premium network).  (to get it need both be registered with one of the fast transfer supported registrars like Namesilo or GoDaddy) AND it be an extension they support (.com .net .info .org .biz .pw and a few others but no new gTLDs) and the price be BIN and within the supported range. Their commissions are (20%), and they have a $15 minimum. I have not had a sale so can't comment on how smoothly payout is via Afternic. 

They seem to have an unusual approval process for adding new domain names - I never handle poor taste, adult themed, drug, political, or get rich quick type domains, or those with obvious trademark issues. When I list at Afternic about 90% get approved instantly, but the other 10% often sit for a week under review. I have given up and listed elsewhere several of these domain names, so I am not sure if they would eventually be approved.  Afternic really need to provide better feedback on why a name is under review and when it is likely to be approved. 

I tried parking a few domain names with Afternic, but I really dislike that even though the domains have a buy it now price, all the person entering the domain name in a web browser first sees is a page telling them to phone Afternic and they will give them the price. I think a lot of potential purchasers would like to see the price, before deciding whether to telephone an agent.  Another issue is that the user does not see any of the description of the domain name even though one is entered (and can be seen if they do a search on the domain name on the Afternic site, rather than entering it exactly in a browser).  So I no longer park with Afternic. 

With Afternic you can readily create a link that will take the purchaser to the domain names you have for sale in your portfolio - e.g. my current Afternic listed domain names are at this link

You don't pay fees with Afternic until your domain name sells, so why not give it a try if you have some domain names to sell?


Efty


Efty is great for handling your portfolio (note that it is not a marketplace in the sense of the others, although you can make your own personal Efty marketplace).  When you add domains to your Efty portfolio they automatically use Whois to fill in the details of your registration settings such as where registered and expiration date.  Efty is a great way to keep track of a large domain portfolio, and as such has no real competitors.

Efty allows you to have buy it now prices, and also to accept offers, with a range set for those offers. You can direct a domain name so that it acts as the central place for all of your Efty listings.  For example, mine is www.frugal.bid. Note that they only show a few recently added names at the home page, but if you scroll to bottom of page you can find see all that are available, and can search by extension, subject or other ways.

Efty recently offered a secure option for your marketplace if you have all but their most basic type of account.  It is also possible to make a link for each domain name that takes it to a secure lander.  This is an important advantage, especially in light of the upcoming Google Chrome changes requiring secure sites in order to not have a user warning.

When you sell a domain via Efty you are essentially handling the sale yourself, even though escrow options and both  PayPal and now Stripe are integrated with the platform. The plus side of this is that you don't pay any commissions (Efty do have a monthly fee, however). On the down side, there is not a third party acting as an intermediary for the transfer (unless your escrow choice does that). 

The PayPal (and I presume Stripe, although have not used that yet myself) integration with Efty is smooth. However, when you have a sale, it is not like the others with a third party handling it. So far I have not managed to get a legitimate offer via Efty. 

I like the choice of themes at Efty, and their landers are fast compared to Undeveloped. I like somewhat the text plus multiple bullet points display format at Efty, but find it too restricted on length of text (and once you implement BIN with Paypal link the bullets no longer show). You can add logo to make the market look more attractive, although the resolution is limited. 

People probably won't find your domain except by entering the exact name in a web browser or being directed from links at your own website or social media accounts. 

If you have domain names to sell and have not tried Efty you should, and they have a 30 day free trial period. The people who run Efty are very responsive, and the system is very easy to use. The service keeps getting better, and once you are past a few dozen domain names to manage it really helps to have a service like Efty.


Namecheap Marketplace

I like Namecheap a lot as a registrar, and when you have names registered with them it is very easy to place them for sale on their marketplace. I really like how fast and automatic the purchase and transfer is for both buyer and seller.  I have explained the transfer process in a previous post that you can read here. 

I have both bought and sold domain names via the Namecheap Marketplace numerous times, and without exception the process has been fast and smooth. You find a domain name that you like, add it to your cart, sign up for a free Namecheap account if you don't already have one, pay for the domain and you are done.  They will automatically move the domain name from the sellers to the buyers account.

Namecheap handle everything, which makes the transaction secure for both buyer and seller. The seller will get an email saying that the domain name was sold, and the funds are released 5 business days later (you can only take out into PayPal after you have $100, but can put any amount into your account to purchase new domains). The commission is a straight 10% (the price per domain must be between $1 and $1000).  Note that the minimum was recently reduced to $1 from $5, so it is now even better as a place to sell bargain domain names.

There are two big advantages to buying on the Namecheap marketplace. ICANN have a 60 day transfer restriction in general - after a domain name has been newly registered or changed ownership normally you can't sell it to someone else for 60 days.  However, you can sell it during this period on the Namecheap Marketplace as the ownership transfer is all done via one registrar. A second big advantage is that when you purchase on the Namecheap Marketplace ihe new owner does not need to add an extra year of registration (normally when the name is transferred to the new owner at a different registrar in addition to paying the cost of the domain name sale, the new owner needs to add a year of registration at the new registrar). As many of my domains are registered already for multiple years, this is a big advantage. 

For those buying a domain to set up a first website, the excellent hosting at reasonable prices that Namecheap offer make it easy for purchasers to buy your domain and be up and running quickly. I think we underestimate how important this is to new end users. Namecheap recently updated their shared web hosting options, and they are cost competitive for the feature set offered.

You can easily make a single link that will always be updated with what you have currently listed - e.g. mine is here. You can only list domains registered with Namecheap on their marketplace, however.

One big limitation is that the Namecheap Marketplace has its own search (under the Domains tab there is a Marketplace setting).  A lot of potential purchasers will not realize that this is necessary, and totally miss seeing your names.  I so wish they integrated their Marketplace listings with their general domain name search.  I have not figured out the conditions, but some of your domains will show up there.  I think they need to have a price that is some multiple of the renewal fee, and that they need to be set for some minimum sales period (but I may be wrong as some show and some do not).

Namecheap Marketplace has a $1000 limit, and the amount of traffic you will get will be limited to Namecheap Marketplace users and any others that you direct there. I don't find it an effective price to sell domains at more than tens of dollars in price normally.  In summary, I find the Namecheap Marketplace an excellent place to buy and sell domain low value domain names, but not a good place to find available domain names.

Undeveloped

One of the fastest growing sites for resale of domain names is undeveloped.com (although their total number of domain names is much less than Sedo or the Afternic network).  For sellers undeveloped have a really simple commission structure,  just 9% of the sale price with no minimum.

They offer purchaser assurance by handling transactions as a third party and most of the time the transfer is done within 24 hr.  They claim that since 2014 there has not been a single transfer with problems, which is an incredible record and one that gives potential buyers confidence.  They have recently made the currencies shown adapt to the region of the seller.  

As a seller I find the landing pages more elegant at Undeveloped compared to Efty.  It is easy to point your domain name servers so that those entering the domain name are pointed to your undeveloped listing. However, at least from North America their landing pages are somewhat slow to launch  (they apparently are working on improving this). Undeveloped allow you to add more text than Efty.  You can readily have offer or buy it now prices, and they provide some research on what things facilitate sales (e.g. having a buy it now price and showing who you are rather than just using a username). 

You can make a single link that will go to your portfolio of names on Undeveloped, although only a few will show up at first (my Undeveloped portfolio is here). 

There is no doubt that Undeveloped is becoming more popular, with both sellers and purchasers. If you look at the Namebio high value sales so far in 2018 they are solidly represented. I hope they will become the goto place for potential purchasers to look for domains, as I think they treat domain sellers and buyers really well. Since you don't pay until your domain sells, why not try out Undeveloped for yourself, if you have not already?

Your Website

I have recently started going back to pointing my domains at my personal website (NamesThat.win).  I think this has advantages.  I can control how the domains appear, and also highlight other domain names in the similar category.  I provide a section that lists all available names alphabetically, as well as a catalog that has them divided by theme.  Depending on the domain name I sometimes make the domain name when entered go to the alphabetical list, while at other times it directs to a catalog category . For example, if you click on www.nanodevice.co you can see how this works - you go to a catalog page with all of my nanoscience related names.

Other Options

There are of course other options, the most obvious being Sedo and Flippa, as well as selling domains to other domain investors on Namepros.  Since I wanted to restrict my remarks to sites I have actually used, I am not providing comment on them here.  Another option worth considering, especially since it does not have fees if you have only a small number of domain names to list, is Tough Domains. One of the other posters on Namepros pointed out that Namesilo have a marketplace that is similar to that of Namecheap - I may well try that out in the not too distant future, but have not done so yet. 

If you are looking to mainly sell to other domain name investors at wholesale prices, the vibrant domain community NamePros is an excellent (and free!) option. You can set up sales with buy it now prices, auctions, or even as part of a bundle of domain names. Also, don't overlook browsing the Requests section of NamePros where members post requests for domain names they are looking to buy.  


Final Thoughts

You should not think of making a single choice, as you want to get your domain names into as many eyes as possible. If you do list a domain name at more than one place, however, it is safest to have a buy it now price at only one place, so there is no chance that it can be simultaneously purchased by two different parties (and then take down the buy it now when you have an offer you plan to accept).

I think those of us in the domain community need to think carefully from the perspective of a potential end user.  That person wants a simple and attractive way they can find good options with price information available up front.  They want a purchase process that is both smooth and trustworthy and relatively fast. Finally, since most will want to establish a web presence with the domain they have just purchased, the steps to go from obtaining the domain name to hosting should be easy and reasonable in cost. 

That leads me to believe that the best option, even though it is a bit of work, is to have your own website with a wealth of attractively presented information, but have links where the actual purchase can be done through a third party such as Undevelped or Namecheap. I have done that now for  my domain names (see the alphabetical list here). 

I also plan in the months ahead to launch user services that will provide assistance with both the purchase and followup.  That is, if desired, I will help the purchaser individually with the steps in buying the domain through a linked marketplace (and make it available for a BIN at their preferred place), and also provide follow up assistance with getting the DNS settings right, and getting a hosting package, again if desired.  

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