I paid $1500 for the EmailLove.com domain. Yup, it’s a boat load of loot, especially in South African Rands (where I’m from). Here is a behind-the-scenes look (article and video) at how I got the domain down from $5000 while sharing a few of my go-to tips on negotiating squatted domains.
Before we begin I'd like to define a squatted domain is a domain owned by someone with no intention to use it. The sit on it (squat) purely for resale purposes. It’s really a dirty part of the Internet we shouldn't support but continue to do so because we want those great domains.
Each negotiation, out the dozen I’ve had in a past, played out differently. These are the most common tricks I use and I’ll be using my successful EmailLove.com and RobHope.com domain negotiations for context.
Step 1 - Try get hold of the actual owner
The owner will hopefully list his contact details on the holding page of the domain. This is how I got the robhope.com domain but it’s not as easy as it used to be.
If it’s not clear, start by looking up the owner using a WHOIS tool. Go to the registration section and it’s you’re lucky - you’ll get an email address or phone number.
Another sneaky tip is use the Way Back Machine and try find the contact page of an older version of the website (the video above shows an example on getting an email address on a submit page).
Assuming the WHOIS details are dishing up privacy protection info and the Way Back Machine is dry, the domain holding page is most likely pitching to buy or enquire about the domain. This is where the domain broker comes in and things get more difficult.
Step 2 - Go in semi-low with a concise email while underplaying it
A few things I must break down here:
- Going in super low like $20 is insulting, a waste of everyones time and will most likely start the negotiation on a sour note.
- Domain sharks (aka squatters) are busy, thick-skinned but you must understand they want to flip the domain for a profit. They don't want to sit on the domain forever.
With my name being Rob Hope there is not a sausage I’m emailing this shark from my Rob Hope Gmail account. He would identify the matched name and this would increase demand.
You can’t seem desperate and give the domain squatter any leverage.
So I emailed the RobHope.com owner using my old hosting companies email, acting as a DAVE saying, hey a client of mine is interested, he’s located in South Africa and willing to pay a maximum of $200.
Not helping this negotiation is this famous British dude also called Rob Hope - hence why I said my client was from South Africa and this is most likely the reason the shark is sitting on this domain. Meh.
Here is my concise, innocent email on March 6th 2013:
Unfortunately, the EmailLove.com domain had an agent I had to go through. It’s a trickier process as you are unsure how your pitch is being translated to the domain owner.
To start I of course didn’t tell the domain owner I own One Page Love nor sent from my [email protected] email address. I sent the enquiry from my personal email saying $500 is all I have for this, I want it for a fun side project - completely watering down my (ambitious) intentions for the Email Love website.
Step 2 results:
- robhope.com domain owner said $2000 - he’s owned the domain forever but I’m thinking we know the real reason.
- emaillove.com domain owner said $5000 - as Email is massive and it’s a super brandable.
Nope. No ways.
So at this point in the domain negotiation you get emotional and want to quicky reply with new price - often with an amount you don’t have.
Step 3 - Wait, cool off, eliminate alternative domain options
Time to slam the breaks. Make sure there isn’t an alternative domain to avoid the pain of this process. Use that thesaurus, get creative.
Remember at the end of the day if you have banging content on a shitty domain that people are linking to, you will likely win. Conversely, a great domain with terrible content will likely lose.
That said, having a domain including your main industry keyword eg. Email - holds weight for sure. My main project onepagelove.com includes the phrase "One Page" and I'm confident this influences why I rank for most "One Page" related search terms. Example: "One Page Templates".
Additionally, and I’ll be honest, I can’t wake up in the morning and work on www.email-love.net - no. fucking. ways. - it’s how I’m programmed and I won’t apologize (if you are considering not getting a .com domain - this is worth a read).
So I made an alternative Email-related domain list but tied in with the LOVE branding from One Page Love, meant EmailLove.com was first prize. It’s time to buckle up.
Step 4 - The convincing counter offer
This next trick has worked maybe 50% of the time for me but I’d highly recommend trying it. You start by taking a screenshot of your PayPal or bank balance at the amount you are willing to pay (so withdraw the remaining amount to make this possible).
This is the exact email sent on October 4th 2018 (3 months later) with a counter offer of $1166.61:
The PayPal trick tries to get them excited knowing they are 1-click away from the amount - we have proven exists. $1166 is really a decent offer on a platter, but a fraction of $5000.
The agent replied with a count-offer of $2800. His exact email:
Still way out my league, especially for a website that does not exist.
3 whole years later (July 2017) I tried again acting as a different person with a similar story offering again $200 (sneaky I know).
He replied with a counter offer of $1500.
Then I whipped out the PayPal trick saying I have $500 right now in my PayPal and 24hrs later the $500 offer was accepted! 🙏
Step 5 - The final offer with good intentions
I’m sitting on my best domain option with newsletterlove.com but I just can’t sleep at night. It doesn’t contain the keyword Email and this might just pigeon-hole me to newsletters where I want to expand eventually to all several areas of the Email industry.
You start by telling them you have found an alternative domain. It’s not as good but it’s branding next week so you have to make a call now. Then you part ways saying you won't email again, respect their decision to say now but these are your good intentions for the domain.
Here is my final offer using a Hail Mary (asking the agent to please read my message to the owner) right at the end:
A day later the $1500 offer was accepted! 🙏
Domain negotiation takeaways:
- Be respectful to everyone involved in the process.
- Be concise with your offers (no fluff until the end).
- Be patient.
The full timeline on the RobHope.com domain negotiation was 4 years and the EmailLove.com domain was 6 months.
Do you have any negotiation tricks?
Please let me know in the comments below... these will definitely not be my last so I'd love to keep learning new ways to improve the process.
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If you'd like to see more articles/videos about how I'm building Email Love - I have a dedicated Building Email Love Newsletter that sends only when I publish new content. Next up if most likely behind the Email Love branding process.
I hope you found the article (and video) helpful for your next domain hustle - thanks for reading ✊