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 price down from $5000 while sharing a few of my go-to tips on negotiating squatted domains.
Before we begin, I'd like to define what_ _a “squatted domain” is. A squatted domain is a domain name owned by someone with no intention to use it. They sit on it (“squat”) purely for resale purposes. It’s really a dirty part of the Internet that we shouldn't support, but continue to do so because we want those perfect domains.
Of the dozen domain negotiations I’ve had in the past, each played out differently than the last. These are the most common tricks I use to secure my perfect domains. I’ll be using my EmailLove.com and RobHope.com domain negotiations for context.
Step 1 - Try to get ahold of the actual owner.
The owner will hopefully list their contact details on the holding page (the first page you see) of the domain. This is how I got a lead on robhope.com but it’s not as common as it used to be.
If the holding page isn’t clear, try looking up the owner using a WHOIS tool. Go to the registration section and if you’re luck, you’ll get an email address or phone number.
Another sneaky tip is use the WayBack Machine and try find the Contact page of an older version of the website (the video above shows an example of getting an email address through the WayBack Machine).
If the WHOIS details are blocking you with some privacy protection tech and the WayBack Machine is dry as a bone, the domain holding page is most likely under the care of a domain broker. This is where things get more difficult.
Step 2 - Go in semi-low with a concise email, while underplaying your level of want.
For context, here are a few things I should break down for you:
- Going in super low (like $20) is insulting, a waste of everyone's time, and will most likely start the negotiation on a sour note. Shoot for something lower than your intended offer, but still reasonable.
- Domain sharks (AKA “squatters”) are busy and notoriously thick-skinned, but want more than anything to flip the domain for a profit. They don't want to sit on the domain forever.
Case Study #1: RobHope.com
With my name being “Rob Hope”, there is not a chance that I’m emailing this shark from my personal Rob Hope Gmail account. They would identify the matched name; this would increase perceived demand, giving the broker leverage over me.
You can’t seem desperate or give the domain squatter any leverage.
So I emailed the RobHope.com owner using my old hosting company’s email (“Pear Hosting”), acting as “Dave” saying that “a client of mine” is interested. This client is 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. This famous dude is most likely the reason the** **shark_ _is sitting on this domain. Rough for me.
The next action is to launch the first salvo: an innocent and concise email on March 6, 2013.
Case Study #2: EmailLove.com
Unfortunately, the EmailLove.com domain had a broker I had to go through. It’s a trickier process as you are unsure how your pitch is being translated to the actual domain owner.
To start, I made sure not to tell the domain owner I own One Page Love, nor sent from my [email protected]ve.com email address. I sent the enquiry from my personal email saying $500 is all I have for this. I said I wanted it for a fun side project -- which completely waters down my ambitious intentions for the Email Love website.
Step 2 Results:
- robhope.com domain owner asked for $2k - he’s owned the domain forever but I’m thinking we know the real reason.
- emaillove.com domain owner asked $5k - as email is massive and it’s a super brandable domain name.
Nope. No way.
At this point in the domain negotiation, people tend to get emotional (re: desperate or angry). They want to quickly reply with new price -- often with an amount they don’t have. Thus, the next step is...
Step 3 - Wait, cool off, and eliminate alternative domain options.
Time to slam the breaks. Make sure there isn’t an alternative domain that you could use to avoid the pain of this process. Use that thesaurus, and get creative with it.
Remember that, at the end of the day, if you have bangin’ content on a less-bangin’ domain name that people are linking others to, you will likely come out on top. Conversely, a great domain name 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. For example: "One Page Templates".
Additionally, and I’ll be honest here, I can’t wake up in the morning and work on “www.email-love.net” or some other janky domain - no way. It’s just how I’m programmed and I know other entrepreneurs feel the same way (if you are considering not getting a .com domain - this article is worth a read).
I had made an alternative Email-related domain list, but when compared to EmailLove.com, they just felt wrong. This meant EmailLove.com was first prize, and I had made my choice to pursue it. It was time to buckle up.
Step 4 - Send a 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 (do so by withdrawing the remaining amount to make this possible). Then, show this screenshot to the broker or owner, essentially waving the money in front of their nose.
Case Study: EmailLove.com
This is the exact email sent on October 4th, 2018 (3 months after first contact) 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 the money exists. The offer of $1166 is really a decent price served on a platter to them, but it’s still only a fraction of $5k.
The agent replied with a count-offer of $2800. Their exact email:
Still way out my league, especially for a website that doesn’t even exist yet.
Case Study: RobHope.com
Three whole years after the first contact with the owner (July 2017), I tried again acting as a different person with a similar story offering again $200 (sneaky, I know). They replied with a counter offer of $1500.
Then I whipped out the PayPal trick saying I have $500 right now in my PayPal and about a day later... the $500 offer was accepted! 🙏
Step 5 - Deliver the final offer, with good intentions.
But I just can’t sleep at night; tt doesn’t contain the keyword Email and this name might pigeon-hole me to newsletters when I really want to expand to all areas of the Email industry.
I take final aim for EmailLove. I started by telling them I have found an alternative domain (not a lie, I have one I don’t like). I mention that it’s not as good, but the branding deadline is next week, so I had to make the call. I laid out my final-final offer of $1500. Afterwards, I part ways saying that I won't email again and that I respect their decision to say no. As a last baited hook, I offer the owner some insight into my good intentions with the name.
Right at the end, a Hail Mary, asking the agent to please read my message to the owner:
A day later... the $1500 offer was accepted! 🙏
Domain negotiation takeaways:
- **Don’t let the squatter gain leverage **over you.
- Be respectful to everyone involved in the process.
- Be concise with your offers (no fluff until the end).
- Be patient.
Do you have any negotiation tricks?
Please let me know in the comments below! This will definitely not be my last negotiation process, so I'd love to keep learning new ways to improve.
Enjoyed the article?
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 is most likely a behind-the-scenes look into the Email Love branding process.
I hope you found the article (and video) helpful for your next domain hustle - thanks for reading. ✊