Advice From the Most Successful Domain Owners of All Time – Part 1

I will start out by saying that this is probably going to be the most beneficial series of posts you will ever read on my blog, and I had virtually nothing to do with the content.

Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to meet with and learn from some of the most successful domain investors, domain developers, domain monetizers, and others involved in the domain industry. Recently, I reached out to many of my friends and colleagues, and I asked them for one piece of advice they would give to a part-time domain investor looking to build his business. I believe there are quite a few people who are part time domain investors, and I also believe just about anyone involved in the industry can apply some of this advice to their own business models.

To my amazement, I received nearly 50 responses, and instead of posting them all in one HUGE post, I am going to divide it into 5 parts. With the assistance of WordPress, I have scheduled these to be posted at around 1pm every business day for the next 5 days. I will also create a downloadable pdf (at no cost) once they’re all posted to allow you to have this great advice at your fingertips in one place.

I really appreciate all of the contributions from the industry leaders who contributed, and I hope the advice contained within is helpful to you now – or will be helpful to the growth of your business in the future. As an FYI, I intentionally did not put these posts in any particular order.

Frank Schilling, Name Administration:

I clearly remember walking to the grocery store in the rain, years ago with my wife, doing some fingertip-math, coming to the realization that if I kept repeating what I was doing, I would soon be making $75,000 a month selling traffic. Three times what I was making at the time.   I had acquaintances back then, also in this business, who are gone today.   They sold out, capped out, got sidetracked by sideshows and shopping and booze and drama. They could have done the exact same thing, but they lost their focus.

You need to keep envisioning that goal, that thing you want to attain and strive for, the next deal, the next acquisition or pick-up. If you can dream it, you can do it. In tandem with that, but no less important I also remember getting that first big name. I got it on a drop. In today’s environment, whether you buy it undervalued, or trade for it or even pick it up on a fluke is irrelevant. It wasn’t even that valuable a name in retrospect, but it was priceless at the time because I believed it was valuable. I thought I could build a business to live off this one name. It was one of those names that made me “feel” rich: “Don’t you know what I’ve got here?!? This is like the best name on Earth! I could sell it to anyone with one phone call for $100,000 easy!!”.

Okay, well maybe I was wrong. It was alright, but not that great. But it felt great at the time and it gave me courage, and enthusiasm to ‘focus’ on the next deal. Keep that enthusiasm for whatever it is you’re doing, because the truth is YOU’RE RIGHT if you believe you are, and that enthusiasm will keep you focused on moving forward to find the next transaction, deal or acquisition.

Most of the successful people I’ve met (in any field) allow this simple piston-engine like chain reaction to happen in their lives. Allow it into yours and you’re unstoppable.

Merlin Kauffman, True Magic, LLC:

Take a bigger risk instead of a lot of small ones. By this, I mean that instead of buying ten domains worth $100 each, buy 2 domains worth $500 each, or 1 domain worth $1,000. Bigger risks usually have bigger rewards.

Monte Cahn, Moniker:

My advice would be to look for a diversified approach.   By this I mean, to look for names that have good meaning that are brandible as well as names that generate a revenue stream.   Look also to use the domains in different ways, some for parking, some for micro sites, some for affiliate networking and lead generation.   As everyone knows, some domains generate more money just parked…just like billboards sit usually on undesirable pieces of real estate but make more money showing ads.   Some are better for full fledge deep content websites, however that requires commitment and work to maintain, and to improve.   Working with affiliates offers some additional options as you can steer traffic to CPA or lead generation sites that pay based on conversion, sign ups, or even CPC.

Always look to sell domains for decent multiples.   Most domainers look at a domain sale where you make 20% – 100% profit as not worth their time.   If you buy a domain for $59 and sell it for $120, you just doubled your money…I do not see that happening in any industry right now.   So take money off the table and diversify that money into other types of investments….do not hold everything, look to sell when there is good profit, try to retain a piece of the upside where ever you can. For example, if you sell a higher priced domain, you can negotiate in stock, warrants, options, profit sharing, retain percentage of ownership so that if it does become more valuable in the future, you have upside.

Look to do creative financing and lease to own deals.   We are seeing more and more lease to purchase, multi month and year domain purchase transactions using our escrow services.   This is a great way to buy in and offer others to buy with flexibility rather than all money down all at once.

Work also with a company that is aligned with your interests, secures and protects your domain assets, one that makes money when you do so that they are incented to work harder to help you be successful.

Brett Lewis, Lewis & Hand:

Do the right thing.   Don’t build a business on registering trademark domains, because it will get you sued.   Some of those guys make money and some of them get sued.   Honor your agreements.   Don’t sign agreements unless you plan to follow through on them.   In other words, do the right thing!!

David Castello, Castello Cities Internet Network:

Domain Investor (non-Developer)
1) Only invest in dotCom or Top 10 ccTLDs until you really know what you’re doing (or usually win at roulette in Vegas).
2) Target names that have high end-user potential (most of them will also have high SEO potential).
3) Do not buy a name simply because you think other domainers will want it. Most of them are broke anyway 🙂
4) Read’s weekly sales report.

1) Only invest in dotCom or a ccTLD (if your business is based that country). Yes, you can possibly make money with dotTV, dotME or DotCM, but I don’t believe in working ten times as hard for the same revenue. Furthermore, dotTV does not stand for television, dotME is not about you and dotCM is not typosquatter heaven.   They are the ccTLDs for Tuvalu, Montenegro and Cameroon – and if you think that will never matter down the road think again.
2) Target names that also have direct navigation and built in SEO potential. Steer clear of catchy names with no meaning (for more insight into this read about most IPOs from 1999-2000 – for every there were a hundred more you can’t remember because the names didn’t mean anything to begin with).
3) Learn WordPress or Dreamweaver (or you’ll end up working and taking direction from your webmaster instead of the other way around).
4) Read’s weekly sales report and every other blog out there by a Domainer/Developer (like Elliot’s Blog).

Mike Mann,

Do extensive research on each investment, use all the technology available, invest a lot.

Adam Strong, Domain Name News:


If you don’t go/attend/watch you may miss out on a great deal. I’ve been to many auctions and scored a deal I wasn’t expecting to get. I either thought the domain was going to go higher or had a higher reserve. I may have not seen the possibilities behind the domain until that day or known about some of the revenue/traffic/potential of the domain until that day.   Auctioneers lower prices mid-auction now.   At live events auctioneers are now giving insights in to the domain you might not have known. . . traffic, revenue, etc. New domain inventory gets added last minute.   There’s all sorts of reasons to show up.   I see it on the forums all the time . I hear it from my colleagues all the time.   . . “WOW that was a steal ! I wish I’d have been bidding ”

I’ve been going to auctions outside the domain realm for over 20 years and the same thing applies. . . you just never know what’s going to happen until you show up for the auction.

Chad Wright,, Inc:

Find out who makes the big money in this business, then copy them.

Rob Sequin,

If I had one piece of advice to offer a part time domain investor I would suggest that you know the difference between investing and speculating:

* Purchase quality domains from a trusted source
* Purchase .com domains (with some exceptions)
* Buy and hold with plans to develop
* Buy and hold domains that have natural type in traffic

* Hand registering quantities of domains based on a longer term investment strategy.
* Buying non .com domains (with some exceptions)
* Any traffic or revenue would be a bonus
* Fine if you plan to simply sell domain names
* Fine if you plan to develop a domain or domains to cover a niche you know and like.

Either way, I would suggest that you focus on keywords or industries that interest you.

Andy Botzer, LZ Domains:

Be remarkable.   That’s it.   In anything you say or do keep that your mantra.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Some very good advice here, and if put in context, very informative and enlighting. Nice initiative on this idea, and the post overall. Kudos to you Elliot, and all who contributed to it.

  2. Excellent insight into the minds and philosophies of some very successful people. I can’t wait for the rest of the posts and that PDF.

    One thing, although I completely agree with David Castello’s point that ccTLDs are about the countries they represent and should be used to that end, Tuvalu actually sold the rights to .TV to a startup funded by IdeaLab which has since been acquired by Verisign.

    So .TV actually does stand for television, now.

    Similarly (albeit with less success) Laos licensed .LA to CentralNic to officially market it as the extension for Los Angeles.

    .ME is Montenegro, but you won’t find them discouraging the “personal” use either. So while buying .cm domains for the typo aspect is certainly short-sighted, domainers shouldn’t fear building a multi-media site on a good .TV domain.

  3. PS: On 2nd read, that Wikipedia article says that the country of Tuvalu got 20% of VeriSign in the deal. In other words, it implies that Tuvalu still owns 100% of the ccTLD and has been simply negotiating away long-term managing/marketing/operating rights to VeriSign until 2012 (I’ve also heard 2016).

  4. David:

    I agree Tuvalu is and always will be the legal owner of the .TV ccTLD (barring unforeseen political events) I’m just pointing out that they did officially license it’s use and so it’s not like it’s being mis-used when sold/traded/developed as the “television” domain.

    On the whole I completely agree with I believe your point was, ccTLDs should be used for sites relating to that country but in this case Tuvalu decided it was “ok” and that is their right as a sovereign nation.

    In fact, that article you link to states:

    Intended use: Entities connected with Tuvalu

    Actual use: Marketed commercially for use in television or video-related sites; can be registered and used for any purpose

    My only contention is with your statement “dotTV does not stand for television” which implies using that way is improper or foolish.

  5. David:

    I’m fairly sure that Tuvalu owns 20% of dotTV and not 20% of Verisign, the article is just poorly worded. 20% of Verisign would be a substantial income indeed.

  6. Jeremy:
    My brother and I have always believed that domain names are like real estate. And all real estate is subject to the laws of their country. Laws and countries can be change in a heartbeat (I know families who owned millions of acres in Cuba before 1959). A LOT of people in the media ridiculed the people of Tuvalu for their deal. Now, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that Tuvalu gets all starry eyed when the Verisign contract expires and decide they want to change the deal? Sorry, but I would not be advising anyone to invest a chunk of their time and money in any TLD that even has the remotest possibility of that sword hanging over their head.

  7. David:

    I will definitely concede that point. In the stock market that is known as political risk and you are entirely correct, it’s a real factor.

  8. Jeremy:
    And that was the only point I was trying to make. When I started monetizing in 1997 I thought, “Hey, this is cool.” However, when it started making big money I started thinking, “Are we safe here? Can the city take away the name? How do I protect us?”

    In the end, it turned out we were fine, but I’ll never forget when the neighboring city of Palm Desert filed suit to take away from Art Davis. That was in 1999 and I got every little sleep that night until I called my attorney the next morning and he explained that under trademark law in the US they couldn’t do that.

    By the same token, let’s say someone does all the right moves, works their tail off and builds a successful media empire with Houston.TV. At some point you will find that banks, investors, potential partners, etc will start poking around and doing their due dilligence. And believe me, I would not want to be sitting in the hot seat having to explain to the them that the owner of the TLD for my brand is ultimately a tiny island in the Pacific.

  9. Elliot

    Best post by you, all time!! Going be reflecting on this for many years to come Elliot and appreciate it very much! Hope you got Scott day, Kevin leto on things and so many great domainers and developers!

    Your willingness to spend hours on your blog has helped many people imo.

    Also like to thank the 50 people in taking the time to do this. Have to admit elliot, shocked still that you haven’t met Frank in person.

    Will this be an all time record of traffic for elliotsblog? Bet it will.

  10. great stuff…thanks El. and the people that responded.

    Being spread too thin is a problem to watch out for…we see people with tens of thousands of domains and want to emulate them…but their train has a momentum that’s hard to copy. A few great names should be enough to win with.

  11. Yes, .TV does not have anywhere near the acceptance of .COM (and I don’t expect that to change). But you can much more easily acquire a nice keyword .TV than the equivalent .COM. Perhaps it is like investing $1000 in an emerging market mutual fund versus $50 grand in the S&P500. I acquired my first .TV domain in 2008 and given my late entrance, in a year and a half have acquired a decent portfolio of keywords I couldn’t dream of having in .COM. But I’ll admit I frequently get offers for .COM domains but am yet to receive an offer for a .TV.

  12. I am 95% com but do own,,,,, and many other top .tv. My premium renewals on these between $500-$1000. If I bought the .com on these it would of cost me “Millions” of $$$$. If I sold these right now my return on investment would be better than 99% of people who are selling there .com. To me it’s all about ROI, nothing less, nothing more.

    Thanks, Jim

  13. everything .tv sucks but i just couldn’t help myself but to grab one of those on the cheap last week..

    new vblog coming real soon… i am looking for content providers ;D

    hit me up asap

  14. Well done Elliot!

    This stuff is Gold!!

    In other industries people are not so open and sharing with this type of information.

    I have paid thousands of dollars over the years for this type of industry specific information and most of it is not as good as what is being shared by these great folks on your blog.

    Thanks very much to all of them for contributing and a great idea of putting it all together at the end in a PDF.

    Say Hi to Karen for me!



  15. There is not a unique way to succeed in domaining and it’s very interesting to read all these different advices.

    This is invaluable for domaining enthousiasts.
    I strongly recommend to bookmark this serie of posts.

    THANKS Elliot to make it happen and congrats to the domainers who accepted to share their experience.

  16. I like the advice about buying and holding. If it works offline, why not online. The internet is not going anywhere.

    Also thanks to Elliot and many others for thumping into our heads the importance of owning .com as well as search keywords in the domain.

    I own one ccTLD (.ca), a developed website with links to it, and two nice keywords in the domain. The worldwide search traffic is abysmal. After owning more than 50 websites now I know if I owned the .com the traffic there would be a different story.

  17. Must read series for domain investors! Good initiative.
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  18. @ BULLS

    For a different perspective, don’t just settle for the biggest and most-read blogs as you indicated, read the blogs of EVERY domainer you have ever heard of. Read what they have to say. WHY?

    Because I remember when Elliot, Mikey Berkens, and Dub-A first started their blogs/newsites, and I actively promoted them to my clients and associates in this business. I was a member of when Dub-A only had about 30 readers, if that. I liked his writing style, his dedication, and I decided to support his efforts because he was obviously someone who was going to rise to the top. If would be at the top if someone could post a photo of him blitzed out of his mind at a conference.

    El-Sliver, I noticed him a few years ago (he’s already a star and he started back in 2005!) and started advising him, also asking him for a link, but the genius of Domaining Startups seemed scared to be involved with the madman of domaining… Rick Schw…. I mean… Stephen Douglas (me). Finally, he asked around, I paid him $100k, and it added my blog link to his site.

    Berkens, he just exploded and rose quickly because he had hot news, and hotter domains.

    Francois ( is a character, and when he really learns English, WE’RE ALL IN TROUBLE!!!) How many of us domain bloggers depend on Francois? Admit it, all of us do.

    ATOM and The FRANK – – the best of the best inside news… a must read. If only to get ATOM riled up, make sure your comments call him to the mat, where he usually will pin you. Frank will outwit you in kindness and logic… somehow.

    Ron-Jack — still the king. is THE place to go every week.

    But there are 15 other domain blogs, the two Jamies, the Chef, the Wanna guy, Gilmour, and lots of others. This one site, run by a guy some say is outta control… has some decent stuff now and then.. they call him the Viking. I don’t recommend that the weakminded read his blog, because they could become “tainted”.

    Great article and idea, El…

  19. I want to add an apology to anyone I may have offended here.

    There are a lot of people I didn’t email or forgot to email. This was sort of a spur of the moment idea that I had last Saturday and figured, what the heck, I will send a bunch of emails and see if anyone is interested in giving advice. I used the auto fill on my Mac mail and started going through the alphabet and sent emails to a bunch of people I know.

    I was blown away by the quality of most responses – and just the fact that so many people were willing to share.

    There are a lot of successful domain owners who I didn’t email either because I don’t know them or simply forgot to email them when I was sending them out. If I forgot to include you, my sincere apologies.

  20. Hi Elliot,

    This has been most informative, so thanks a lot to you and the other gentlemen have been very helpful.
    Unfortunately I got into this game a little late but I am not giving up.
    I am definitely going into development trying to find names with traffic is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
    As I said I am going into development but pretty much starting from scratch.

    Keep up the good work,
    Dick St Cyr

  21. plan what you are aiming to do focus on that domain or domains that can make it for you.

    Go with your guts and if you have the buzz with the name then you know its right. look at the development potential of the name as thats where it is at the moment forget parking its dead.

    use pool and snapnames for those $ 60.00 drops you would be suprised what you can pick up and flip for 10 to 20 times the cost.

    picked up many $60.00 drops then sold them for $12.000 to $18.000 one mans junk is another mans goldmine.


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