“Not all who wander are lost.”
I have wandered the internet for the past 5 years, learning new things, trying various money-making ventures, and exploring. All great journeys must come to an end sometime though. I needed a purpose. I needed an income. I needed to be able to explain to people what I actually do all day (“internet stuff” is my usual response). Nothing was clicking, and all the work I was doing seemed too small scale after previously running 500 websites and owning 9000 domains.
A few months ago I considered opening a domain brokerage, as I already have several hundred of my own domains for sale. At least I would have myself as a big client. This led me to look more closely than usual at domains for sale and what prices they had ended up selling for. Some of these available domains got me thinking about businesses I could create on them. But I am an introvert and like to keep things as virtual as possible, so unlike being a domain broker, starting these other businesses would be way outside of my comfort zone.
My general plan was to have a killer domain to help me get my foot in the door of a real-world industry I knew nothing about. I would handle the online part and hire people for the offline part. I looked into doing something with ghost kitchens (“cloud restaurants” that exist only for food delivery via DoorDash/GrubHub/Uber Eats). I also researched starting a nationwide home/office cleaning service. Maybe even a nationwide drain unclogging service (Drains.com is for sale for $30,000). But does somebody with a dirty house or clogged toilet really care that much what domain they go to? If I were in the drain business, I would definitely buy Drains.com, but is it enough for me to start an entirely new business around when I don’t have any desire to be in that industry in the first place? Would I be better off instead registering FixMyClogs.com for $10 (it is still available as of today) and spend the remaining $29,990 on marketing?
While I was researching all of this, there was one domain I saw that kept running through my mind: Yachts.com. But unlike most of the others, it did not have an official asking price. When I am creating an imaginary plan in my head for a business I know nothing about and probably will never start, it makes things that much harder to run the numbers when I don’t even know what the domain will cost me. Just to see what would happen, I made an offer of $20,000 knowing, of course, it would be rejected. The owner responded that he wanted “mid 5 figures” for it. I have never been on a yacht and don’t particularly like boats, so I was not sure I would pay what he wanted, but at least it gave me something to think about. A few days later I upped my offer to $40,000, which seemed to insult him. I soon realized he had made a typo and really wanted mid 6 figures for it ($500,000 price range). And he said he recently had a $600,000 offer but it fell through because of COVID. I told him that was out of my price range.
My goal was that if I was going to enter an industry I had no experience in, I should at least get a good deal on the domain. That way if after a year things didn’t work out, I could always sell the name and break even. I did that in the past with other big domains such as Weights.com, Pastries.com, Humidifiers.com, Physical.com, and Adventure.com. I bought them all at wholesale domainer prices; I had nothing to lose.
But even at a crazy high price, the name Yachts.com kept calling to me. Yachting is a $15 billion dollar a year industry, and much more than with most businesses, a luxury image means everything with yachts, so having the best, classiest domain for it could make a huge difference. Just this year alone, there have been these one-word domain sales (as reported at dnjournal.com):
Christmas.com – $3.25 million
Angel.com – $2 million
Exodus.com – $1.945 million
Tattoo.com – $812,000
Blade.com – $503,000
James.com – $440,000
Exclusive.com – $350,000
Skates.com – $150,000
Cows.com – $125,000
DogGroomers.com – $104,000
And previous years had sales such as Voice.com for $30 million, Slots for $5.5 million, Toys.com for $5.1 million, Clothes.com for $4.9 million, Ice.com for $3.5 million, and Whisky.com for $3.1 million. Based on that, Yachts.com selling for $1 million+ at some point does not seem out of the question.
A few days later, I made a new offer of $250,000. He countered with $350,000 and I accepted. You would think that for that kind of money, I would at least have some great idea for Yachts.com to turn it into a multi-million dollar business. But no, my simple plan was that if I spent so much on a big domain, I would be forced to focus all my time and effort on it and eventually figure out what to do. Even though I don’t know about boats, I did at least have some experience with the topic as described in my blog posting from 5 years ago about my BoatDeals.com project. I never did more than set up a demo site for that, but my plan was to offer to buy boats for cash so people wouldn’t have to go through all the stress and hassles of selling their boat the usual way. I never followed through, mainly because I really know nothing about boats. Going forward with it would have of course been foolish, unlike buying the top domain in the boating industry 5 years later, when I still know nothing about boats.
Once the deal closed, and I was staring at the blank screen of a site that was Yachts.com, reality hit me and my first thoughts were, “what the heck did I get myself into?” and “I probably paid too much for it”. But soon my entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and I started acting as the captain of my own destiny. The most obvious use of Yachts.com would be for a yacht brokerage (yachts are sold very similarly to how real estate brokers do it, and the commission is usually 10%). Only 2 states require a license, so pretty much anybody can call themselves a yacht broker. I think if I hired brokers to work for me, the Yachts.com domain would give them a huge advantage. And I even found some ways I could do it where I stay 100% online and get a commission for referring potential buyers and sellers to a real yacht broker.
I also took a deep dive into the world of electric boats. There are a bunch of new companies that want to be the Tesla of the ocean. The growth will be huge for this, but it is not something I can easily make money from, and more importantly, having the Yachts.com domain for it would not help that much. The topic is exciting and disruptive enough that any good domain would do. Next, I did a lot of research into autonomous (self-driving) boats, which has enormous potential, but again not something I can easily get into.
Peer-to-peer boat rentals are another area I considered. This is part of the whole Airbnb/VRBO/Uber sharing economy craze, where people rent out their boats directly through an app with no broker involved. Yachts.com would be a great name for that, because trust is a big issue with those types of services. But some of the reviews I read of the existing companies that do this said it was the worst experience ever, and that their boat was canceled at the last minute ruining their entire vacation, or they were charged for damages to the boat they didn’t cause, and other similar problems. Airbnb sometimes has similar issues with people not getting what they expected, but at least they can still go to a hotel instead.
Finally, I settled on offering yacht charters. These are luxury boat rentals, usually for 5-10 days, with a captain and crew catering to your every need. It is easier to broker those because no license is needed, the prices are much lower than with buying a yacht, and there is a multiple listing service brokers can use, like with real estate. I made an arrangement with an existing charter broker to refer customers to them in exchange for half of their commission.
The current version of Yachts.com is just a temporary, one-page demo. Soon I will be adding 50 travel destination pages, and also profiles of various yachts people can charter. This will help it in the search engines and also make it look much more like a real site. I will post another update on this blog once I make some more progress.
That’s a good price and investment, congrats Eric!
Great stuff- can’t wait to read the next part of the story! Best of luck- awesome name to build a business on!
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You got a bargain on that name.
Also it is nice to see your post again.
I am not sure it is really a bargain, but it has potential. I need to turn it from an unused domain into a real business, and that will make it worth a lot.
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Congratulations . I own Yachtk.com (Yacht King)
Congratulations! Nice name . All the best.
Great story and interesting read. It seems like you would benefit by finding a partner to help build this out and execute a business plan, having followed your blog and story for many years, there were a lot of starts/stops along the way and it might help to focus on the things you’re great at doing and leverage the expertise of others to help get this venture to reach its potential.
Yes, I am sort of partnering with an existing yacht charter broker. More like a preferred affiliate type situation but mainly they deal with all the customers.
i had been talking to those MI guys for the last 8 months..
he told me that he’d had offers between $400-600k in the last 36 months
and even as recently as 3-4 weeks ago he gave me no indication that a deal could be had below upper 6figs range… 350k is a steal, i would have easily outbid that had i known 🙂
nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier for Eric and even more so that he’s going to develop it… diamond in the rough asset, hope it earns you generational wealth sir!
Yes, they told me the same thing so I am not sure why they sold it to me for less . Maybe COVID changed everything. Sometimes people reject offers but then need cash all of a sudden so maybe their situation changed. I would be happy for them to comment here on it.
i hated his method of communications, couldn’t get him to just take a call or even use direct email…
i was trying to put together a deal with a buddy who has been leasing some yacht domains from us for several years, he owns https://www.yachtcreators.com/ and was willing to do an asset trade, a yacht for the domain, but the guy wasn’t interested.
i can put you in touch if you want to see what he has to offer as a trade.
i had bench marked the domain as low seven-figures for him
I didn’t mind using his custom messaging system, but it seemed strange that for what may have been the biggest domain sale he ever had, he was slow to respond and completely ignored many of the questions I asked. On the other hand, he was pleasant to deal with and is a domainer so he knew about escrow and how it all works, which made things easy.
I wouldn’t be interested in trading the domain for a yacht, mainly because I have no desire to own a yacht. If I ever go on one, I would probably like it and then want one, but for now it is not something I care about. I appreciate the offer though, it can never hurt to make offers.
Congrats! You made a great purchase. Excited for you whenever you blog it is a must read.
Yachts.com is one of the golden domain names I tried to acquire in 1995-97. It’s worth far more than what you paid. Impressive!
Thanks. I never knew it was for sale until a few weeks ago.
I think the real challenge here is how are you going to advertise it or promote it? I doubt SEO will bring in enough traffic nowadays. How much type-in traffic does Yachts get? Somehow you are going to have to suck people that are offline and get them online. I think you should just sell it to Steven up above and make a quick 50k and move on fast!!!
It only gets around 30 visitors per day right now, but not all of that is type-in. Yes, getting traffic is always my biggest problem. I need to figure out how much I make per visitor to see if I will make money advertising it. I am also open to selling it for a good profit but would rather at least try using it first.
Looks like there was a site on there before . . . was it making any money before ?
I’ll be following your progress. Congrats
The seller didn’t answer any my questions about it, but it only gets 30 visitors a day the starting the day after I bought it, so whatever he was doing was not significant. He had a lot of link trades but it seems that does not help much with Google any more. He had a lot of subpages about various types of yachts but it was all for seo, there was no actual business on it. 4-5 years ago it looks like he tried selling yacht for sale listings though but it was not like that when I bought it so I assume that did not do well.
I made 27 cents from it so far over 2 weeks, from Google search ads, using my simple one page version you see now.
I looked up [yacht charters] on keyword planner for Microsoft ads and even if you give them the maximum CPC and you buy all the clicks! You will only spend $44 a week and get 12-16 clicks to your site. At 30 clicks a day you must have all the yacht traffic on the whole internet already! Haha. Maybe you should make a Yachts.com magazine and have a website with some kind of yachting community on it?
Your Check here to Subscribe to notifications for new posts doesn’t work. It sends you an email with a link that sends you to a page that doesn’t exist.
I checked now in Google Keyword Planner, and it projects it would get 43 clicks a month at $1.29 each. But if I add related searches like “yacht rentals” and “yacht vacations” it goes up to 1000 clicks a month at around that same price. My plan is to create some other yacht related sites to drive traffic to Yachts.com, in addition to paying for ads.
Thanks for letting me know about the subscription problem. I tried now and can’t figure out how to fix that broken link, but what I did instead is add a blog subscription box to all the pages on the site.
It was this one: Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.
I just always click all three checkmarks.
I get the email when you write a new blog but I never get the followup comment email when you or anyone replies.
Thanks, I was not aware of that problem. I tried fixing it today but nothing I did worked, so I posted a question about it in the support forum for the Subscribe2 plugin that I used, at https://wordpress.org/support/topic/follow-up-comments-problem/#new-topic-0 . Hopefully they will tell me how to fix it.
A good domain name is important, but traffic is equally as important, obviously. In my opinion, SEO is a definite must for something like this. Given that it is such a good domain, hopefully you’ll have backlinks that were going to the previous site. One simple suggestion you might consider is taking any expired domains that used to deal with yachts/boats/charters/etc., buying them (or if you already own some, just the next step), and then 301 redirecting them to yachts.com. This will help increase your relevancy in that niche and start to create some DA.
Besides that, congratulations on the great buy!
Yes, Yachts.com had a lot of backlinks, but when I rebuilt the site from scratch I redirected the error pages, and Yachts.com still only gets 30 visitors a day. So I am adding a lot more content to it, to help with SEO.
That was a right decision to buy yachts.com. It’s a luxury market fro very rich and exclusive customers, and $350K is a bargain price considering yacht prices.
Thanks. $350k may not be a great price for it for a domain speculator, but if a real yacht broker/builder owned it, one sale from using the name would cover the entire cost.
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