The Brandable Insider: Meet the Man Behind Expired Domains Dot Net

Thousands of domainers from all over the world go to ExpiredDomains.net to search for deals. If you’re like me you visit the site every single day. With scores of filters and options it’s the premier website for sifting through dozens of marketplaces and TLD’s to find treasure amidst the trash. But surprisingly, less than 15% of its millions of monthly page views originate from the USA. Lastly, the most amazing aspect of the site is that it is completely, 100% free!

For these reasons I see Marco Schmidt, the owner and developer of the site, as one of the unsung heroes of the domaining industry. I thought it was time he came out of the IT closet to meet the people he so generously serves.

Hi Marco! Thanks for agreeing to this interview.

You’re welcome.

First, if you don’t mind. Tell us a little bit about yourself. I think our readers would enjoy hearing about your background, your career and your interests outside of domaining.

I’m from Berlin, Germany. I work as a system administrator, but my passion is software development and that is what I do for fun in my spare time. Finding easy solutions for complex problems and if possible automating them is what I like to do. That is why domains are perfect for me. You can automate almost everything.
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The Brandable Insider: What’s Going On at the Pheenix Marketplace?

To be successful I need an edge over the mob of domainers that are scanning the drops at Go Daddy every day. For that reason I like to snoop around the non-mainstream marketplaces in hopes of finding an overlooked, brandable gem. One such marketplace is Pheenix.com.

Last year DNgeek reported on the drop catcher’s new policy of sending all domains with multiple backorders to public auction. But this week Pheenix released some better news. Tan Tran, the CEO at Pheenix, sent an email to account holders announcing that Pheenix had partnered with Escrow.com. He said that this alliance will now allow Pheenix to turbo charge it’s marketplace with new benefits like free escrow service, same day payments, and automatic domain transfers.
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The Brandable Insider: How to Avoid Becoming a New Business Casualty

Several months ago I was surfing NamePros and I noticed a guy in live chat. He said he was looking for domains to buy. I quickly sent him a private message and asked what kind of domains he was looking for. He said he wanted a domain that he could flip and make some money on. I told him every person on NamePros wanted a domain for a profitable flip. Why would they sell you a domain that they could flip themselves? He had no answer for that and I warned him to be more careful and cautious. I told him that without knowing the market he was likely to get ripped off.

I think we all started out with that same kind of naiveté but we know now that, despite the hype, there’s no overnight success in domaining. I think everyone’s heard that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months. I know, I know, some say “my domaining’s not a business, it’s just a hobby.” I say bull. It may be a part-time endeavor but if you’re not approaching it like a business your chance of failure is likely even higher than 80%.

If you’re new to domaining or having trouble becoming profitable, here’s eight tips to increase your chances of success:
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The Brandable Insider: The Keywords of Y Combinator Startups

When selecting brandable domains for purchase and resale it’s important to know our target market. One technique is to buy names similar to the ones listed at our favorite brandable marketplace. This is a good initial strategy but in order to take our skills to the next level we need to stay in tune with the startup industry’s values and trends.

Last month James Iles wrote a great article analyzing the 1100 domain names of past and present members of the start-up accelerator, Y Combinator (YC). He wrote about the dominance of the dot-com extension, the tendency for short brands and the popularity of individual letters. It’s an enjoyable read and I downloaded the file of 1100 domains using the link at the bottom of the article.

For the purpose of further analysis and discussion I compiled the most popular keywords used by YC companies at the start of their domain name. I divided these keywords into three categories based on my personal assessment of each one’s value.
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The Brandable Insider: Screwing Up My First Private Deal

Back when I was a newbie domainer I had lots of ideas about how to make money in this industry. They all failed. But I did have one hair brained scheme that yielded a minor success. This was mostly due to dumb luck.

The story begins when I hand registered the name of a wealthy person. For the purpose of this blog, let’s call him Herman Mankowitz. Mankowitz was not famous but if you searched him on Google you’d see he was a member of a very, wealthy family. After a few months of owning HermanMankowitz.com I was contacted by a young women via LinkedIn. Let’s call her Alice.
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The Brandable Insider: Buy Smart and Be Patient

James Iles is a British domain investor who does a fantastic job of writing interesting and compelling articles for the NamePros blog. This past month he published an outstanding article detailing the domain sales of the flamboyant and highly successful domain investor, Mike Mann.

Who is Mike Mann? Business Insider describes him as a man who “became a multi-millionaire by being an obsessive, compulsive, domain buyer.” Mann is also the owner of DomainMarket.com which has $4 million in annual sales.
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The Brandable Insider: Shopping for Domains Using Automated Tools and Curated Lists

Having a full time job means I have to wake up extra early each morning to get my domaining work done. I also work on my domain business in the evening but my morning shift consists of researching and reviewing the hundreds of auctions closing on that day. I look for sales ending at GoDaddy, Flippa, Snap Names, Pheenix and NameJet. Since each platform has thousands of daily auctions I use a wide variety of automated search tools and curated lists to save time.

Automated Tools

  • ExpiredDomains.net is an amazing platform that’s used by domainers around the world. It’s advanced search tool accesses tens of thousands of domains at multiple marketplaces in a matter of seconds. The website is the work of a man called Marco who lives in Germany and provides this amazing service for free. He deserves a heap of gratitude for providing us with this super helpful tool at no charge.

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The Brandable Insider: The Domains That Got Away

I bid in a lot of auctions but most of the time I don’t win em. Why? Well in a word, it’s because I’m cheap. At least that’s one way to look at it. I prefer to think that it’s because I’m a careful investor. I’m dedicated to acquiring domains at under market value. So I’m always looking for deals. The downside to this is that it requires a larger amount of my time. I recognize that at some point that is going to become an issue and I’ll need to adjust my business strategy. However, at the present time I’m still operating under the lean-startup business model and its normal to work long hours to bring a new venture to a stable level of profitability. Profits and sales are up big this year for me so 2017 is likely to be a year of reevaluation and adjustments.

The average domainer sells about 2% to 5% of their total inventory each year. This means acquisition and renewal costs must be carefully controlled lest they eat up all the potential profits. My present business model is to create a small to medium return on my investment (ROI) by catering to an end user demographic that buys moderately priced brandables in the $500 to $3,000 range.

With that in mind here are some some examples of domains that I was interested in acquiring but bailed out on when the bidding went beyond what I felt was a price that fit with my lean business model.
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The Brandable Insider: You’ve Got an Offer, Now Don’t Blow the Deal!

This week I stumbled upon some apt advice from an unlikely corner of cyber space. It was from none other than Ivanka Trump. In my opinion, Ivanka has her head screwed on a little straighter than her Dad and I respect her for it. Furthermore, in her role as Executive Vice President of Development & Acquisitions at the Trump Organization, she’s earned a reputation as an outstanding, real estate deal maker. I think her negotiation advice is spot on and transfers well to the domaining industry. Here’s a few of her negotiation principles and how I’ve applied them in my domain negotiations over the past few years.

Meticulous Preparation – First thing I do when I get an inquiry is to try to figure out who is making the offer. I search the web for the email address, the email handle and the website that the email address originates from. I continue to search until I know who the person is and where they work and what their interests are. If I can’t find any information about the person and the email is generic (like Stan659@yahoo.com) then I’m suspicious that they are hiding something. I will often say politely that I get lots of email offers and I can’t take their offer seriously until they email me from their business address. This gives me more info and allows me to take the lead in the negotiation process.
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The Brandable Insider: How I Spent My Summer Brand-Cation

Being from a cold weather state I take a work break in the Winter and head for the tropics. That means while you’re camping in the Rockies, waiting on line at Disney World or taking selfies in front of the Eifel Tower, I’m drinking lemonade in front of the computer. You’d think that wouldn’t be helpful since traditionally summer’s the slowest season for domaining. But less domainer traffic also means fewer bidders (and less competition) at the expiring domain auctions. So I spent my days reviewing drop lists till I couldn’t see straight. To my surprise, at the end of the season I ended up with some decent brandables from places like GoDaddy, NameJet, SnapNames and Flippa.
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