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How to invest in expired and aged domains

Before we get into domain name investing let’s tap into your artistic side for a second.

When you think about it, art pieces can go on incredible journeys. They’re created, showcased, sold, resold, and often re-housed. A painting, for example, can go from a dusty garage to a renowned gallery for millions to see.

While the creator is of course important, often, it’s the investor that understands where things should be shown, who should see them and why they might be valuable in the first place.

For yourself, thankfully, you don’t need to buy out Picasso to win big. In fact, some investment alternatives are far simpler and much quicker.

What is domain investing?

In short, domain investing involves acquiring valuable domain names and selling them on. Domain name value can come from many different areas. Maybe it’s short and easy to remember. Perhaps it contains popular keywords or fits with an emerging market.

Wherever the value, it’s good to think of domain investing as being similar to real estate investing. Investors buy virtual homes or land and hope the price appreciates, similar to our golden-eyed art investors.

Using their instinct for value, domain investors could acquire domain names in several ways. They might:

  • Buy them from existing owners
  • Register domains that aren’t yet registered
  • Buy expired domain names

To understand high-quality domain investments, however, you need to know what drives a high-quality investor.

Who are domain investors?

One of the things domain investors look out for is domain names that haven’t been renewed. Sure, domain owners have time when it comes to renewing a domain name after expiry, but if they fail or decide not to, the domain is made available again. Check out what happens when a domain expires in this post.

Top-class domain investors wait for the second these domain names expire. They’re eager to snap them up before competitors or buyers. Sure, sometimes names are acquired by buyers wanting to use them for their websites. But most of the expired domains are re-registered by domain investors — aka “domainers”.

Domainers aren’t just looking for expired domains though.

There’s also the potential prize of aged domains. Older domains can reshape your brand or drive traffic in new ways. But as is often the case, things aren’t as obvious as they seem.

So, to truly experience what’s in it for a domainer you need to learn about the very markets they invest in.

The expired domain market

Millions of domain names expire every month. These are domains that people decide they no longer want, need, or occasionally forget about. As you’ll know, things can change in an instant when it comes to business. Brands can fail, owners can retire, and so on. When this happens, domainers begin their process.

But they can’t be everywhere at once — they’ll need some help to find expired domains.

Several services can help you get domain names the moment they are released. These sites are called drop-catching services. Sites like NameJet and DropCatch will do the job.

They use computer systems to grab domains the instant they become available. If just one person is interested in a domain name, they can acquire it for a fairer price. The services hold auctions for domain names that are in demand.

With so many domains dropping each day, domainers need to know which domains are becoming available and need a way to separate the good ones from the bad ones. Unsurprisingly, they hope to buy the best domains for the lowest auction price possible.

But how does the market work for aged domains, and what would you, as a domainer, be looking for exactly?

The aging domain market

Every domain name has registration details, like the registration date and a registrant’s name. This information, among other data, is stored in the publicly available Whois database.

It’s worth noting that you can use the Whois database to assess expired domain names too. Whatever your use, the important bit here is that this database includes a timestamp for when the domain was registered. This information is vital for navigating the market and finding aging domain names.

For context, if you use Whois Lookup for domain namecheap.com, you’ll see a creation date of 2000-08-11. This means the domain was registered on August 11, 2000.

Symbolics.com, the oldest .com domain name registered, has a creation date of 1985-3-15. Most domain names were originally registered in or after the year 2000. There were 10 million .com domains registered in 2000, but now there are over 150 million. So, just like an art collector seeking rare originals, you’d struggle to find these older names on the market.

But hold on, even if you found a domain name so old that your instincts are now screaming at you to buy it, why bother?

What makes a good aged domain name?

Like a fine wine or treasured antique, domain name investors often place a high value on “aged” domains. The basic premise is that the best domain names were registered a long time ago, so the older the domain’s registration date, the better the domain.

This can be true — but there are a lot of caveats.

Savvy early adopters registered domain names in the 1990s, sometimes even earlier, and have held onto them for a long time — you can’t go back in time to register great domains that people snapped up in the ‘90s.

But if you have the opportunity to buy one, like someone needing to sell off their rare art assets, it’s likely to be a better domain than something you could have registered in 2005 or 2020.

Identifying age is just a starting point, however.

Investors won’t buy a domain just because it’s old. They will also consider metrics such as the popularity of the keywords in the domain, how many top-level domains it is registered in, the market potential, and more. For the ‘’more’’ part of that last sentence, take a look at great domains to help with domain investing.

In short, an “aged” domain can be a great sign of quality. But beyond that, a domain age can also be used as an indicator for other information. Domain value is determined by a relationship of properties, one being expiry.

What makes a good expired domain name?

Let’s answer the above question with a list:

  • The same name is registered in multiple extensions — Great minds think alike. If many people register the same domain in extensions like .net, .org and .biz, that means there’s demand for the domain. Owners of the other extensions might want to buy the matching domain in a different extension.
  • The domain contains dictionary words — Since most companies search using a keyword, domain investors seek domain names with dictionary words in them. Some look for domains containing “hot” keywords such as ‘crypto’.
  • It doesn’t contain hyphens — Hyphens are generally among a few no-nos for domain names, so excluding domains with hyphens from an expired domain search can whittle down the list.
  • The keywords have search traffic — Domain names that match common search terms are often in high demand. Various tools show Google search volume (and even advertising costs) for the keywords in each domain name.
  • The domain is short — All things considered, people want shorter domain names. Many domain investors limit their search to names that aren’t too long, either in terms of the number of words in the domain or the number of characters.

Things to avoid with expired and aging domains

You need to know that both domain expiry and domain age can be seriously misleading when it comes to signs of quality. If you’re seeking investment success, then you’ll need to know where you could fail.

Things to watch with aging and expired domains:

  • Markets are changing all the time — Just because a domain name was valuable way back when does not mean it holds value today. Blu-Ray may have been popular a decade ago, but would blu-ray.com be worth buying today?
  • People have and always will register low-value domain names — Anybody can get excited by a domain name idea and register it. Sure, value can change over time but not all old domains have guaranteed value when they come to you — a painting isn’t valuable only because it’s old!
  • Domain names can be registered with multiple extensions — Just because your favorite domain name has recently returned to the market doesn’t mean you’ll profit from buying it. Someone else may own that name with other TLDs (like .com or .org) and that might interfere with traffic. In other words, having one Galileo piece won’t attract many if there’s a full gallery’s worth next door.
  • Some names may have expired for a reason — As you know, something might be old but it doesn’t mean it’s good. The same can be said for expiry. Domain name owners are usually given 30 days to renew a domain name… it’s not always due to forgetting if they don’t.
  • Old or expired domains can have bad-quality backlinks — SEO is a big consideration when it comes to domain name investing. Let’s look at online linking, for example. If a domain was referenced via backlinking by thousands of low-quality posts then that domain won’t be ranked as well by Google.

Domain name analysis

Okay, so you have some criteria to find valuable domain names. Great. But how could you possibly apply these criteria against millions of domains?

One website to try is expireddomains.net. This service lets you apply dozens of screening criteria against databases of expiring domain names.

Luckily for you, expireddomains.net is free to use. Some people also use the automated domain name appraisal tool Estibot to search for the most valuable domain names.

And spotting aging domain names is even quicker.

Heading over to the Domains Marketplace at Namecheap is a great start — each domain listing will show you the year of registration. Simple.

If you want to go a step further, some domain investors use domain age as a filter to make sorting lists easier. They set a minimum age for domains when sifting through lists to weed out domains that are less likely to be valuable.

The best domains for you

Have an eye on a domain name that is expiring soon? Want to try your hand at domain investing?

Take a look at expireddomains.net to familiarize yourself with the market and think about getting started. If you manage to spot a valuable name already then register your domains with Namecheap quickly.

Alternatively, if you’re wanting to grab yourself an older domain name then head over to our Domains Marketplace. Here you can find a wide range of domains up for sale by their current owners, at price points set by their owners, as well as the year of registration.

Alternatively, you can use the Whois database for timestamping needs. Check back often, as there are always new domains at all price points available.

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Andrew Allemann avatar

Andrew Allemann

Andrew is the founder and editor of Domain Name Wire, a publication that has been covering domain names since 2005. He has personally written over 10,000 posts covering domain name sales, policy, and strategies for domain name owners. Andrew has been quoted in stories about domain names in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and Fortune. More articles written by Andrew.

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