Misconception: To Be Successful, You Need to Have Bought Domain Names Years Ago


I had a conversation via Twitter today that I want to share with you. The conversation piqued my interest when the other person said, “Facebook’s amazing global popularity makes domains less relevant than they’ve ever been.” I mentioned that I was in the midst of a very good sales month, and his reply to that is embedded above.

In my opinion, one needn’t have bought domain names in the 1990s or early 2000s to be successful in the domain investment space. I started buying and selling domain names in 2003 (late compared to many pros), and I don’t own a single domain name from when I started. Just about all of my domain sales are on names I’ve acquired within the prior few months, although I sell a “legacy” name from time to time.

I would imagine almost all of my domain name holdings have been acquired by me post-2006, and if any were bought before 2006, they aren’t of high value. I do think older names may be worth more (depending on the name of course), but I don’t think that a person has to have started back in the 90s or early 00s to be successful at this business today.

Almost every day, I buy domain names in the aftermarket, many with the hopes of re-selling in the short term at a profit. I risk my own capital to grow my business, and nothing is handed to me on a silver platter. My experience guides me, and that is what helps make me determine when to buy and sell.

Although many companies are using Facebook urls in marketing campaigns, nearly all have their own websites and domain names. Perhaps some companies may be more inclined to spend marketing dollars on Facebook advertising campaigns than on domain acquisitions, but I don’t think Facebook has made domain names less valuable. It’s more likely that Google has devalued domain names to some extent, but even that is debatable.

It is my opinion that someone just starting out in the domain investment space can still make a lot of money. I don’t think investing in domain names is a way to make quick profits unless you have the experience and are willing to risk large sums of money. However, for someone willing to learn the intricacies of the business, there is plenty of money to be made.

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Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com 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. This year has been good for me so far. But I am being proactive too.

    I think domains will mainly get recycled via death.

    As these domainers and non-domainers get older…….death can come swift!

    I am sure many many names will hit the auction market.

    Almost seems like it now…nicer names floating around.

    So….get those great early domainers domains when they die…….this will be your chance…no more crying!

  2. @ Paul

    Most of the “old school” domain investors I know are in their 40s and 50s. I think they have a long way to go before dying. Most have formed companies, which will live long past the founders’ death I presume. I would assume sale or inheritance will follow or precede death.

  3. There will always be some new social engine that will purportedly be the demise to domain names (Myspace anyone?). Yes, Facebook and Twitter are beyond enormous and have meaningful impact in the everyday world. However, to think businesses are going to “host” their corporate profile on Facebook would their first mistake. They are both tools to help get the message out to the masses, whatever that message is. But when it comes down to it you play by the rules set up by Facebook and Twitter and all content is theirs, not the corporations. Company’s need a “home base” and that is one of the numerous reasons domain names will always be relevant and needed. I didn’t get into the game until 2007 and I’ve done well without ever paying over $500 for a single name, most of them for under $100. Like you said it’s all in what you know, how much you are willing to learn, and your comfort level thinking outside the box. People that can’t get it done on their own are always going to try and pick apart the success of those that can. Happens in every industry I guess. I also think people just look at direct navigation as the reason for a domain name, but email is just as if not more important. That all important @whatever.com is unique and essential. Just my two cents.

  4. Completely agree with Scott

    If you piggy back on facebook or tiwtter, it is just like getting a free rent/room in a house and have to follow their rules.

    As you know , nothing is free.

    Sooner than later, it will bite your A*ss.

    Why would business rely their marketing brand on someone’s else brand is pure stupid.

  5. @ dcmike

    Totally disagree.

    I think it would take some time to become very wealthy, but it’s certainly possible.

    It would be stupid for someone to do this if their goal is only to “support an average life.” There’s considerable risk with investing in domain names, and there is plenty of reward for those who seek it and treat it like a business. Why would anyone want to risk considerable sums of money to live an average lifestyle?

    I don’t think this is a passive business anymore though. I work as much as my friends who are doctors, lawyers, bankers and other professions – and maybe more. The advantages are that I enjoy what I do, can do it from anywhere, and I answer to nobody professionally.

  6. For someone to say you had to be in domains years ago to be successful today is just a way of letting themselves off the hook. It allows them to believe they missed the boat then and don’t have to try now.

    One billion people on earth are on Facebook, and the other 5 billion aren’t. Of the 1 billion that are on FB, not all are regular users. FB and Twitter are important, but they won’t replace domains. As an aside, I’m starting to see Google Plus being used on tv now.

  7. You can over come things with hard work, Elliot is a prime example.

    Those who think otherwise about this business are either not working hard enough or work on the wrong things.

  8. There’s still plenty of opportunity. It’s just not ‘easy money’ anymore.

    Those early domainers from the ‘easy money’ era definitely define broader perception of the domain industry in the eyes of the public. People see them, what they did, how they did it, in about a half-second realize that those opportunities are now gone and dismiss the entire industry as a bygone opportunity.

    You can still make money, it’s just not easy anymore (and you can’t be a blithering idiot, either)

  9. Two things, first- if you look at the DNJournal sales chart & Flippa sales (which I will admit, sometimes leaves me scratching my head and Im sure Im not the only one) there is certainly money to be made in domaining. And thats just the public info, there’s TONS of people supporting a wonderful lifestyle from strictly domains and lots of other places where domains sell for big buckaroos.
    Second- the people stating there is no money in domaining are probably the ones who have tried and failed and don’t learn from their mistakes and apply. They don’t know the value of brushing yourself off, picking yourself up, admitting defeat and trying again with a different approach. Their the ones not willing to put in the late hours and hit the pavement. Too lazy to send the emails, write the content, tweak the site, go over the analytics and adjust, form partnerships, make agendas and milestones chart, deliver on deliverables, do some due dilligence and scour the aftermarket for gems. Too lazy to read and learn, then go read some more and learn more. The sad part is, most of this can be outsourced too, there’s no excuses. You can ultimately be your own demise if you allow yourself to be.

    If it were that easy to make money domaining- everyone would be doing it, right?

  10. For the record, I’m not a fan of Facebook. Facebook is unique in the sense that it’s lasted as long as it has, and will probably be here for a while. However, part of that is due to technology that wasn’t being implemented during the myspace days. Now, the evil genius of Mark Zuckerburg is using aforementioned technology. It’s become so intertwined with our every day lives. But to say that Facebook will always have the broad impact that it currently has and that it has (or will) kill domain investing is a pretty naive statement. Thousands of startups are born every year. All of them need a domain. As long as the internet is based on ip addresses, domains will be a priority asset of any company. If domains were passe’, then we would still be logging into TheFacebook.com, instead of Facebook.com 🙂 There is more than enough money to be made in this industry, and will be for a long time.

  11. I think Facebook is a great complementary marketing tool for businesses. I don’t believe it should be a replacement for a website.

  12. Uncork the champagne. I agree with BS!

    I am one of those old farts- old enough to start out before their were domains in something called the branding business and the pony thing that’s changed now is you need to add a dot and three characters to the brand you invent and it has to not only just not be previously trademarked in your field, but not in use as a url.

    Names are thus in shorter supply and whether we have typed them or now will speak them to navigate to where we want to go, those who hold them have the cards. It’s like the Middle East and their oil.

  13. Those who can and will, do.

    Those who can’t or won’t, don’t.

    For as long as domains remain an imperfect market, opportunity will also remain.

    Which means forever.


  14. Look at Morgan Linton , he started like 2 years ago. And Michael Cyger. He’s already a sherpa and he started like last year. It’s not hard at all.

  15. Elliot,

    I am glad to hear that you are so passionate about domaining as a viable way to create wealth. I can only infer that you have already achieve a level of success at least comparable to an income of a successful cosmetic surgeon. BTW, did I told you I own CosmeticSurgeons.CO? 🙂

    With any entrepreneurial endeavors…it is a combination of art, science, gut, creativity, knowledge and experience..and of course luck.

    The problem with entrepreneurial endeavors..and I do think domaining is an entrepreneurial endeavor is that you can not tell someone goto school, learn this trade for x number of years, when you have acquired the skill, you will make between $xx,xxx – $xxx,xxx per year.

    So you see, that’s why not everyone is an entrepreneur – and therefore not everyone will make it as a domainer regardless the amount of effort put into it.

    But, since buy/sell domain names has almost no barrier to entry, it makes a heck of a hobby. For some of us newbies, we may discover that we have a talent for such dealing and eventually turn a hobby into a successful business.

    For those who are good at this, but just starting out, should celebrate and plan on getting more aggressive going forward, BECAUSE Mr. Silver is tell you that there are money in them names. Cheers!!

    But, I am still a Poor Uncle – Damnit!

  16. I have an idea of how to kill facebook influence or at least reduce its influence by 60% to 70%. I know the secret. I will start this project next year(2013). I know something facebook does not even conceive.

  17. Let’s see you do this for 10 years staright.

    Mostr likely by selling to other domainers LOL

    I doubt you are making what an successful professional with elite education in a “good job” earns (same age as you) eg investment banking, doctor, management consultant etc
    Let alone talking about hedge funders, entrepreneurs etc who make real bucks

    Sure…you can cite a few examples of people who have ‘made it’ in domaining
    Bah – survivorship bias. Outlier.

    As for Josh of JP…LOL
    That’s likely chump change compared to the above examples.
    So how much is he worth?
    6 figures?
    7 figures?
    8 figures?
    Cos too many domainers in this industry claim success by their say so alone & from hearsay.

    Sorry – “working hard” in domaining is meaningless.
    Unless you’re paid by the hour.

    In domaining $100,000 is big money.
    In business it’s $100 MILLION

    Marchex sells $2M of domains per quarter – and it’s big news in the domaining world
    In the real world $2M is small potatoes

    Fact: There are more millionaires, and certainly deci-millionaires from just those 100’s of lucky Facebook employees alone (who did diddly squat apart from being in the right place, right time) with shares – let alone from the whole history of millionaires created from start-up shares, than there have been millionaires created from domaining.

    I doubt you will ever be able to afford a decent sized apartment in the Upper East side…more like Queens.

    Comparing apples & oranges.
    Domaining is chump change compared to some of the real money in the real world.

    You sound like the type of guy who tried ‘day trading for a living’ – and failed.
    Then you tried ‘poker for a living’ – and failed.
    Now it’s domaining for a living…

    Keep on talking big man, I want to hear you talk in 10 yrs time…see where you’re at compared to the top 10% of earners in EMPLOYED jobs.

    (I’ll spare the comparison with internet entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers etc who who make more in 1 year than the Schwartzs and Schillings have in net worth).

    PS: I’ve seen this movie before where people who thought they could make a living

  18. @ Aggro

    I appreciate the time you took writing all of what you wrote, but it seems that because you haven’t made tons of money in this business, you don’t think others can either. Your whole argument is pretty silly though. I don’t need to make $5 million a year to live comfortably, and I don’t need the stress of managing billions of dollars in assets as a hedge funder.

    I have no interest in discussing my net worth or annual income with you or anyone else. I make far more money for myself than I would have been making in the corporate world – even 10 years from now. I’ve been doing just fine since leaving my corporate job in 2008 to focus on my business full time.

    Sure, some hedge funders probably make more money than me, but I would never have gone into that business, so it’s a moot point. Corporate CEOs and some successful entrepreneurs with large companies probably make more, too. I have no interest in operating a huge company nor do I have an interest in adding stress to my life by managing capital or making billion dollar deals. I live a great lifestyle, and it’s all because of the domain business.

    I’ve never tried day trading or poker for a living, and it’s a known fact amongst my friends that I am a terrible poker player.

    I don’t think everyone will make money investing in domain names. I think most are far better off doing it as a hobby to supplement an income and see where it goes. That’s how I got my start and I was fortunate enough to do well. I agree that it might be a different landscape in 10 years. One thing I’ve done is built additional revenue streams, like advertising on this blog and other websites I operate. Revenue from those websites is up considerably, and the plan is to keep growing those in the event domain sales go down in the future. They’ve been stable or growing over the last few years.

    To address your comment:

    “I doubt you will ever be able to afford a decent sized apartment in the Upper East side…more like Queens.”

    My wife and I own our apartment on W. 72nd Street in Manhattan, so that is an incorrect assumption.

  19. If you have a lack of understanding of bussiness, growing opportunities and the incredible growing opportunities of the fledgling business called the internet, the Gutenberg Press of the 21st century you dont have an entrepreneurial bone in your body.

    I was on the internet in 96…I saw people like Rick and the Ham brothers realize the opportunity…also saw unknowns like a good friend here in Tallahassee start from nothing and sell domains like Volka.com and Camping.com.

    While their vision and monetary success are a fact these same guys as entrepreneurs see the new opportunities the new direction of this business and stay three steps ahead of it regardless of its twists and turns.

    I remember a guy in the early 2000’s saying “who the hell would ever watch video on that small cell phone screen”.

    Domains and the internet haven’t even seen their hay day yet…it’s still in its infancy the futures so bright ya gotta wear sunglasses…but only for those that have vision.

  20. Very interesting comments Aggro.

    As someone surrounded by entrepreneurs my whole life, and a cousin that does 1 Million EUR in a month selling diamonds. I believe I know a fair amount about business already.

    Talking figures, yes domains may seem like peanuts in comparison to “real” business, but Elliot made it pretty clear that he doesn’t have to answer to anyone professionally, and that trade off is far better than the reward imo. What I’m saying is, yes there are guys out there rolling in the mega millions while we talk 50 000 USD a quarter, but the amount of stress and responsibility they have is immeasurable.

    I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather quietly get on with my domain business, go on to live till 80 without too much stress than be the classic 42 year old tabacco factory owner who dies of a heart attack while on holiday (and that happened just last year to one of the biggest confectioners in the world – on the Forbes list and all)

    At the end of the day, billionaires are made every few days. This industry is very young, it teaches almost all aspects of business, which may come in handy one day. A a partiallly-stress free, very good lifestyle is far better to me than an insane lifestyle filled with stress 24 hours a day.

    I know a guy who runs an airplane maintenance company (responsible for signing off planes for take off) the guy makes REAL money in comparison to many small-medium business owners, but he doesn’t sleep at night. And I believe hedge fund managers are in a similar boat. With new regulations they can now be jailed for losing/risking too much money.

    Yeah we aint driving Lambos and Ferraris, but which real entrepreneur/hedge fund manager ever did within 5-10 yrs? Give us some time to prove ourselves. I’m not saying its the best industry (even though I personally believe it is). I’m saying as a trade off to what is required and demanded from all the other industries out there, the domain industry is pretty awesome.

    There is not one industry where anyone from any background without any specialized knowledge stands to make more money than in the domain industry.

    I’m 23, I have a degree, I earned more last year from domains than any of my friends who went on to take a job. At the same time I have a friend a year older who earned 5x what I did just as a BONUS. (You guessed it, finance industry) but with all the stress 🙂

    Bottom line, you’re comparing the figures of the domain industry to those from industries that are decades and centuries old. The crazy thing is that Frank can be put next to these real estate moguls and hedge fund magicians. There are many more like him operating quietly in the background earning REAL money in an industry only 10 yrs old. Your logic is flawed, I rest my case.

    I’m already seeing some young extremely competitive entrepreneurs in the domain industry right now, and don’t be surprised that in 20 yrs time to see a few names on the Forbes list, allong with the words “Source of Income: Domain Names.”

    Kind Regards,
    Mr Nobody from Africa.

  21. I just stared this week, after extensively searching for a domain for my own media company. I stumbled across your blog and many other sites while looking for info about .co’s and then spent about 50 hours just researching the industry and putting together documents and cheatsheets for myself.

    So far, I’ve made an investment of less than $200 and have sold $650 worth of domains, but also have hotdate.org, talkdirty.org and forexs.org registered which I hope will do OK for me if I can find buyers.

    I will put that $650 back into buying more domains this week and hope to continue to add high quality names to my portfolio.

    Buy cheap, sell high! Sounds easy enough 🙂

    Thanks for the great resource that you provide for us here.

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