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There are loads of great domain names for sale whose acquisition deserves applause. But, there will be times when a seemingly great domain can get you in trouble, too. Ignorance doesn’t help much when you infringe on copyright law or if you end up in court. Know your facts and avoid buying up bum domain names.

Stay Away from Domains with Copyrighted Brands and Terms

A few years ago, when mini-sites were more profitable (pre-Google Penguin update), my partners and I developed a mini-site which sold costumes ( with “brand” being replaced by the company name).  It was a simple 3-page website listing affiliate products. Once it started ranking well in the search results for the exact match keywords, the company in question emailed us a warning and we were forced to relinquish the domain to them. Lesson learned: it’s probably not worth the short term earnings to risk having the domain/website taken away from you and possibly face a fine.

Not only do you need to check if a domain name has been registered, you have to also be careful about trademarked products created by that company. Some companies even trademark mottos which describe their products and developing a website utilizing those words can lead to the same result.

If your goal is develop a website and the domain you are interested in was once a website that shut down, beware of search engine penalization or a spammy back link profile. A simple check for this is to type into Google (substituting the actual domain name) and see if the domain in question comes up first in the results. If it doesn’t, chances are the website owner used questionable tactics to promote the website.

Searching for High Value Domains

Naturally, your budget is going to be the single biggest determining factor when looking for a domain. If the motivation for buying a domain name has nothing to do with website development, then the niche is not a factor. There are plenty of domain sales websites marketing their premium domain names for sale. Once you find one that peaks your interest, you can estimate the range your offer should fall in by looking up the sales prices of related domains on websites such as A broker will present your offer to the domain owner and either accept or reject your offer.

If premium domains are not within your budget, then using searches with multiple filters can help you to sort out the best results. You’ll begin by plugging in your desired keywords, limiting results to .com extensions and filtering out domains with numerals and dashes. These will be the most valuable results in your keyword set. If you come up empty, then search for .net, .biz, .org and .info tld results. All of the above searches will typically allow you to sort by price range, too.

In cases where you already own a business name, if you come up empty on all your desired keywords, you can try adding variations of your company name.  If you own a local business, try plugging your city or town into the search. Every now and then domain owners let their domains expire. That’s when some great deals come along. You can usually subscribe for updates and be notified when new domains become available with your desired keywords. The key is to be patient, educate yourself on the value of domains in your niche and keep an eye on new domain names for sale as they become available.

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Posted by Theresa Happe

Theresa Happe works with a huge marketplace for domain auctions, offering domain appraisals, escrow service and hosting.

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