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Ask HN: Buying domains for side projects
49 points by ramanujam on Oct 25, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments
I bet many on HN will have the domain buying fetish. i.e) You think of a side project and immediately buy the domain for it. There is also the practice of simply buying a domain just because you thought it was cool. I am one of those people and my reasoning is that if i spend some money and buy the domain, i will have the motivation to get started on the project and it has worked at times.

On the other hand, i have accumulated many domains which seem pretty useless now! I do renew some domains hoping that i will work on it some day. How do you tackle this?

It's funny I had this exact conversation with a coworker just this morning. The company we work for has a portfolio of nearly 1 million domain names, and most of them point to simple placeholder pages with ads.

I personally own about 50 domain names...most that I bought with the intention of using for a specific project that never materialized. With a handful of them I paid a writer in the Philippines to write a dozen articles for each, and I threw together simple wordpress sites with RSS autoposting and they make about $10/mo each, which pays for the renewal fees for all of the other domains.

I suppose in theory I could register 1000 domain names and repeat the process of paying for content, setting up wordpress RSS autoposting, and possibly make $10,000 a month, but I never seem to get around to it, and there's the possibility that it won't be as profitable as I think.

> I suppose in theory I could register 1000 domain names and repeat the process of paying for content, setting up wordpress RSS autoposting, and possibly make $10,000 a month, but I never seem to get around to it, and there's the possibility that it won't be as profitable as I think.

That's what this kid is doing with 500 domains.


Not exactly. He was a bit smarter. He is mainly using free blog services (blogger, etc) so he avoids the annual domain and hosting costs. He also notes that by using blogger he automatically gets more weight from Google searches (I'm not that sure of that though).

There is a risk with free blog services like Blogger and Wordpress.com...if someone complains that you are stealing their content, your account can get shut down instantly. It is also harder to sell your site later (e.g. on Flippa) because you don't own the domain. There is also a better opportunity to pass pagerank around to your own sites using a real domain. You can get a domain for $8/year and considering the small amount of traffic from even a few hundred sites, you could host them all on a small hosting plan of $10/month. So the cost per site for domain and hosting would be pennies.

Do you mind sharing a link to one of these sites so we can "see" how it works?

Here is the first one I made (I sold it back in May on Flippa.com for $350): http://www.techspyer.com/ I learned on this one that I needed to focus on content more than spammy affiliate links.

Here is an example of the content I paid someone in the Philippines to write: http://www.techspyer.com/tag/digital-camera/ (most of the tags have a "buying guide" at the top)

All of the "posts" are just coupon feeds from Linkshare's RSS feed. This site made $10-15 per month for a solid year. The total cost is as follows:

  Domain: $7.49 (GoDaddy)
  Hosting: Free (Unlimited accounts on Rackspace)
  Content: $24 - $2/article x 12 articles
  SEO: $10 in backlinks from SubmitEdge
The total income over 12 months was about $150. I assume the site would have continued to produce $10-15 per month indefinitely with no more effort on my part. I sold it for about 2x yearly earnings (I have no idea why the new owner hasn't activated his own Linkshare RSS feed).

For the other sites, I prefer to keep those private because they are in untapped niches and I don't want to invite competition, but for those I focused on content RSS feeds and AdSense instead of affiliate links and they make about the same amount of money per month.

I'm going to try to do some more of these sites...I keep telling myself that if I registered 1000 domains and put simple sites like these on them at $41 each, I could turn $41,000 into $10,000 - $15,000 per month. Of course the hard part is getting started.

damnit, this is never going to work if we all have the same ideas.. hahaha

where are you buying content for $2 a piece?

This particular writer came from an ad on www.sulit.com.ph

If anyone is interested, even I can generate content at that rate. Mail me, and you can see my writing style at my blog (its in my profile). :)

Is this SubmitEdge service allowed by Google? I thought that google fined paying for backlinks?

With SubmitEdge, technically you are paying someone to submit the links to free directories. You aren't paying the actual sites for the links. SubmitEdge gives you the list of directories and I checked a few out and I was able to manually submit links to them as well, so it seems legit. Anyway, the backlinks showed up in Google Webmaster Tools and the site still has a PR 2 and 3230 pages indexed so it clearly wasn't penalized.

Thanks for sharing.

How did you find your article writer?

Interesting - do you mind if I ask you some questions about this? I'm considering a similar project for slightly different purposes and would love to get some feedback on some things. My email is in my profile if you're willing to chat. Thanks!

Serious question: If you are registering and presumably renewing 1 million domains did the company consider becoming a registrar to save money and make it easier to own/manage that many domains?

I must say, when I was doing some domain research, I though to myself more than once : "this is, this is criminal".

These were domains dealings with quite serious subjects and just seeing them sitting there full of ads, making it so very much difficult for me to acquire, absolute gorgeous domain names, just felt not only immoral but purely and simply criminal.

Of course I got over it and moved onto domains which were available and suitable and just as good, but, and this is not to you personally but companies who buy such domains names en mass hopping to profit, simply, find a way to make money which allows you to get sleep at night.

Squatters are pretty vile. I've never had the opportunity, but I've heard such domains can be obtained relatively easily if you have an existing legit company(doing actual business) and can threaten litigation.

That seems extreme, but I think of it like real-estate: If your business buys a warehouse, you may have to hire an exterminator to clean out all the parasites that have set up their nests therein.

> ...I think of it like real-estate: If your business buys a warehouse, you may have to hire an exterminator to clean out all the parasites that have set up their nests therein.

With real-estate I'd think of it more like considering a property that has squatters in it already, together with the long and uncertain task of evicting them (or paying them to leave) if you decide you want to commit to buy.

i have a personal domain (jcs.org) and i just create a subdomain for a new project. it lets me put it online quickly and it also means i'm not tied to the name if i want to change it.

sometimes i finish a project and it never moves (http://metra.jcs.org/) because i can't find an appropriate domain name.

though as someone else suggested, try http://hntrades.com/ to buy/sell/trade unused domain names.

I recently instituted a "no domains after midnight" rule. I've dodged a few bullets with that one.

I'm sitting on a 3-month-old gem: theomnomnom.com

Purchased time: 2am.

Hilarious potential: check. Chance that I'll touch it before the renewal reminder email: 20%

Would you be willing to lease the domain to someone with a good idea?

email me andrew at aawsolutions.com

Me too. I kind of went through a "buy domains like crazy" phase a couple years ago but have since kicked the habit. Now I won't let myself buy a domain unless I have some other work done for it first. Although it only costs me $7.50 a year, the cost adds up a lot after a while.

Where do you get your domains for $7.50 a year? I remember GoDaddy used to have it that cheap but I think they've increased their prices recently, right?

They always have rotating coupons for 30% off. You can find the most up-to-date ones here: http://www.techbargains.com/vendor_detail.cfm/393/GoDaddy-co...

I only register the domain for a year, and if it expires in the year without me doing anything I let it go. I mean, it's been an entire year.

Good thought! I did the same thing and let a few domains expire this year. If i have not worked on it for a year, there is a good chance that i will never do it in the future. Better ditch it and focus on other things!

Same. Except now I regret one of them that I need, and has since been taken up by a parker. My fault that I didn't get around to it, but it's annoying.

I think the important thing is to have some measure of self-control; if you buy a domain for a project, promise yourself that you won't buy another until you've either: (a) built the project, or (b) sold/traded the domain or otherwise used it in some gainful way.

Disclaimer: I've got a bunch of domains that I purchased for personal projects and never got around to. But at some point, I realized I was just wasting money and promised myself not to buy any more until I finished at least one of the projects.

Hmmmm, I have 49 domains. That's costing me $400 a year. I'd say a good two dozen are active(ish). They just seem to accumulate...

for the 36 that are inactive, put up a quickie site like I did and in theory you could be making $360 a month (assuming $10/month per site). Even at $1/month per site you would make $432, or enough to pay for all of your domains.

I am totally guilty of buying domains for side projects and then not following through.

I own 17 domains, 5 of which are currently actively hosting meaningful content or webapps. I went through a scrub of the ones that are unused, and realized that I need to let some go.

Here's a list of ones I'm letting expire. If you have a meaningful project idea for one of them let me know.

concoctail.com geogames.org gpsrpg.com istherewind.com jamhunt.com runubc.com

how in the world do you come up with those names? what was their appeal to you?

I've encountered this same problem multiple times.

The fix: don't buy the domain until you are ready to launch the project. This allows you to build without having to adapt your project to a domain name. It's much easier to find a domain that describes your project after it has been completed. It also saves you money if you never carry out your grand ideas.

I'm going to be a little contrary and say you should register as many as you can when u can.

I have over 300 domains, but the value in a good domain is well worth the cost over the years. TouchArcade.com is one I picked up before I had a solid plan for its use. Now it's annual revenue dwarfs the "wasted" money on domains.

I don't really consider it a negative for my years-old untapped ideas to cost me a token amount of money per annum. If my unused twitter accounts did the same, I'd probably have a few more active projects, or a few fewer dormant ones.

I recently evaluated all the domains I had accrued, took a critical look at all the apps I wanted to built for them and at what state they were in (if at all) and decided to ditch 50% of them.

It felt ...liberating. :)

I've stopped myself from buying domains for projects. I also force myself to let a domain expire if I don't use it within a year. It's extra motivation to shit or get off the pot.

hopefully the pot gets pretty dirty. :)

I never start by buying the domain. Instead I spend a bit of time to write down the concept, see if it sticks.

It's only later that I look for a name for the project itself, and I buy the domain at the same time (it's a kind of whois brainstorming).

I've managed to accumulate about 150 domains, almost all of them were bought with an idea in mind (quite a lot are duplicates/complements/variants to the main idea).

This year I listed all of the ones that didn't have websites yet on sedo, and set all of them to a couple of hundred pounds each buy-it-now. The idea is that either I focus on building an idea quickly, or risk that someone who thinks he has a better idea than me snaps the domain name up in the meantime.

Hasn't worked. But, so far three of those domains have been sold, so that essentially covers all my domain name renewal fees this year.

Perhaps I should drop the prices to increase the pressure on myself.

You post a large update in a place where you value your integrity stating that the goal you were going to achieve will be accomplished by a certain date (that appears reasonable).

In my case, it was to tweet that we'd be selling our latest discs (http://twitter.com/Thisoneisonus/status/27176693962) on a certain date, and then coding through the night a couple of days before because I didn't want to look like an idiot to our 5,000 obsessive Twitter followers :D

I'm just like you. But I've started winding down my portfolio of ones I know I'll never get around to building. The interesting thing for me has been to see some businesses spring up with the same concepts for which my domain names were bought. That's happened with more than a few of my domain names.

I've also been fortunate to have a couple of my domains result in unsolicited bids ... generating enough profit to cover the carrying costs for the 20 still in my portfolio. Just got a completely unexpected offer for one last night.

For every three domains I buy, I probably keep one longer htan a year. And only half of those stay longer than two years (1/6). But those that last longer than two years are generally gonna stay around for a while--I bought them because I like the name, not because of a project sitting in my mind. Eg, AffinityScore.com just has a nice ring to it and would make a nice social ranking product or services business. (If you google "Affinity score" it's most often used by people describing EdgeRank...)

I'm shaking my head right now. Literally 5 seconds before checking out the HN home page right now, I just finished the checkout process for yet another sideproject domain :)

Someone just released this last week: http://hntrades.com Post your domains there and get something for them.

I used to buy tons of domains for all the ideas I have or planned to do in the future. The problem is ... most of the time, I could never get around to work on it. Either because one idea took up more time then expected, etc. Now I will just register domain once I'm almost ready to launch.

Looking at the rate startup fail, I guess it's quite alright to not get the domain I want. If things do work out, I can always rebrand it later.

I'm the same, currently just have 3 though - om.gd - we.gd and whi.im - things planned for all of them, but am also interested in getting something going with them sooner than latter. Very interesting the money some people are making from links and basic content... hum...

Tempted to work up some decent ideas into ebooks, and have sites specific to each - just making sure they don't look spammy/rubbish. No point if they do.

You can use a subdomain of your personal website for testing. There will still be a good domain name available when the project is ready to launch.

Because your idea is good, but not seven dollar good?

I mean really, if you're going to the trouble to fire up the IDE and actually write code for a new project, aren't you already a little bit committed? Like committed enough to spend four billable minutes worth of income on the domain name as insurance that it won't be gone in a few months' time?

I only buy .coms, which means I have to be very creative in thinking up names. This on its own is a good throttle on buying names. Lately, I've been toying with the idea of using subdomains from http://freedns.afraid.org/ to host small projects that don't warrent a domain name. I do wonder what this would do to search rank though.

Someone just emailed me today about one of these 'side project' domain names.

Back when I was a business noob I would register domains for just about any bright idea. It got expensive.

What I do now for those, 'on the shelf domains', is simply a white page with an email and a brief message explaining the domain is for sale.

A few inquiries so far, nothing much, we'll see how today's negotiation pans out.

Bah, it was only a $100 offer! I'm holding out on this one for $1k.

Actually I have 5 domains left that are all 6-7 letters and make really sounding words. Bought them 6 years ago, holding on to them and use them whenever I start up a new company.

I consider the purchase price of a new domain to be the first, and one of the best, barriers when vetting new ideas.

If I come up with a sweet idea, I sit on it. If after a few weeks the idea is still burning a hole in my pocket, I'll purchase the domain.

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