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You don’t need a website to make money online — just the URL, or domain name, will suffice. If your old domain name is useful, catchy, or in some other way meaningful, you could be sitting on a goldmine without even realizing it.

Let’s look at how you can make money from that old domain name.

About That Domain Name You Bought…

It’s rattling around in the back of your mind, that catchy domain name that you bought years ago, possibly for an online business, possibly for a creative project, perhaps as an identity for your homepage.

Of course, you never actually did anything with it. In 2013, it was estimated that a massive 40 percent of registered domain names were in fact “parked” (or unused). That’s not far off half!

Close Up of a Website URL
Image Credit: KTSDesign via Shutterstock

Now, if a domain name is unused or parked, it will typically inform a visitor that it is newly registered and to return in a few days when there will be a website to view. But just as common is the commercial approach, in which the domain registrar or web host is making money off your website. It does this by placing third-party adverts, or even notices for its own services.

You don’t want your domain name to be exploited for profit by someone else. But what can you do about it?

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1. Sell Your Domain Name Online

You have several online options when it comes to selling a domain name.

Perhaps the most obvious is eBay, where you’ll be able to create a listing in the Domain Names category (you can also sell websites here), with the sub-type field set to the top-level domain: .com, .co.uk, .net, and so on. eBay will give you the biggest audience for domain names, but there is a good chance that the eyes that see your listing won’t necessarily be looking to buy.

Selling With Flippa Site

If this is the case, you may want to switch your attention instead to Flippa.com’s domains index (which we’ve profiled before 5 Lessons I Learned from Selling My Website on Flippa 5 Lessons I Learned from Selling My Website on Flippa The idea behind Flippa is simple. It’s a sort of eBay where the only category is websites. Read More ), which lists domain names currently for auction — these are just URLs, with no sites attached to them. To start selling, you’ll need to create an account and verify it, and you can list in either auction or classified listing format.

Domain Names That Sell

Now, before the dollar signs roll across your eyeballs, there is something important to consider. A URL such as “bigjugs.com” is more likely to sell (for obvious reasons) than “finebonechinajugs.com,” or, worse, “ericsmilkholders.net”.

Knowing whether your URL is likely to sell or not will depend on some research 10 Unusual Domain Name Search Tools to Find Hot Domains 10 Unusual Domain Name Search Tools to Find Hot Domains Read More and understanding whether the address is catchy or not. Here’s another example: “google.com” is a far catchier name than “wibbly.com” — although at their lowest level, both are interesting and amusing words.

So, if your domain name means something that other people might be interested in buying, something that others can quickly ascertain some value in, then it is more likely to sell.

Auction vs. Classified Listing/Buy It Now

How you list your domain for sale will determine how much money you make from it. If you’re looking for a quick sale, the auction format will prompt people to act before the auction ends and they lose the chance. However, there is a risk that the sale will only reach $1, rather than $1,000.

For a longer listing that is more likely to attract people who are genuinely interested in the domain, eBay’s Buy It Now and Flippa’s classified listings are more suitable. These listings let you set the price you want, although a sale is less likely.

Selling a Domain? Use Escrow

If you’re selling your domain name for a large amount of money, you’ll need to make sure the transaction is secure. The best way to do this is by using an escrow service.

This basically means that the funds are lodged with a third party, who only releases them when the conditions of sale are met. Be aware that scam escrow services exist, so we recommend you use escrow.com, which is undoubtedly the safest.

Feel your URL is worth more than the offers you’re getting? It might be time to think about spending some time on building a website around it, and making some money this way. Twelve months down the line, you should be able to demand a higher figure based on the income generated to date.

2. Run Ads With Cheap/Free Hosting

What if you have some web space attached to the URL? Perhaps you want some? The best option here is to find some cheap hosting, or use a low-cost or free hosting solution to create a website 10 Ways To Create A Small And Simple Website Without The Overkill 10 Ways To Create A Small And Simple Website Without The Overkill WordPress can be an overkill. As these other excellent services prove, WordPress is not the be all and end all of website creation. If you want simpler solutions, there's a variety to pick from. Read More . Perhaps you’ll use WordPress as a content management solution (others options are available). You might even take a DIY approach to website hosting Host Your Own Website On Your Raspberry Pi Host Your Own Website On Your Raspberry Pi Need to run a website but can't afford the hosting costs? One way around this is with the low-powered Raspberry Pi, which is more than capable of running basic web server software. Read More .

Once you’ve done this, various monetization options are available for you, from running network ads or affiliate ads to mixing them up with some content.

Use Google Ads

Google ads are everywhere. You’ve seen them, you’ve clicked on them, you’ve probably been annoyed by them. They’re unpopular, but they make money, so using them on your old domain name’s web space makes sense.

You can sign up for the Google Adsense program, but others, such as Kontera and Chikita 3 Contextual Ad Alternatives To Adsense 3 Contextual Ad Alternatives To Adsense Read More , are available if you have a distaste for Google (many do).

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to copy some short snippets of code to your website and display the ads.

Set Up Affiliate Link Ads

An alternative to network ads, you can manually place affiliate advertisements on your website to try to get clicks. The most popular and profitable of these are probably ads for Amazon and eBay, both of which will pay you a commission for purchases made on their sites after a visitor has clicked a link.

Use these links to get started:

Amazon Affiliates Promo

You’ll find a large selection of options with each of these programs, some of which will be adding static ads, whereas others might be the inclusion of multimedia ads on your web space.

Take a look at how to make money with an eBay and Twitter account Use IFTTT To Save & Make Money Use IFTTT To Save & Make Money Perhaps the best way to stay informed of special offers online is to embrace IFTTT, the popular data combination service that allows you to process data from websites and RSS feeds into something useful for... Read More to see how effective affiliate website programs can be.

3. Add Content

We all want the web to be a better place. One of the most powerful tools we have in this regard is quality content. So how can you add quality content without creating it first or adding to the vast deluge of spammy websites that dominate the web?

You’ll have to go looking for it, but if you can identify YouTube channels or Twitter accounts that somehow chime with the URL of the website, you could be in luck. All you’ll need to do is embed the feed (Twitter offers a built in tool for embedding tweets Privacy Concerns You Should Know About Embedding Tweets Privacy Concerns You Should Know About Embedding Tweets As Twitter struggles to address a rampant abuse problem on the social media network, it has brought another well-argued issue to the surface. Should publications be allowed to embed your public tweets without permission? Read More by a user, or on a topic, on your website) and accompany it with adverts, as described above.

Choose the Right Content

New content will invariably result in an increase of page views, which means a great chance of generating ad revenue. But what content should you add? Well, as with the point above that meaningful, catchy URLs are more likely to sell, so you should choose content that matches the website address. For instance, if your URL is “portable-ac-units.com,” then use videos from the YouTube channel Portable AC Experts. Similarly, if the URL is “DoctorWhoMerchandise.co.uk,” then perhaps include tweets from the Twitter account an official Doctor Who This Show Has Been Running 50 Years! Top 9 Websites About Doctor Who This Show Has Been Running 50 Years! Top 9 Websites About Doctor Who Doctor Who is a geeky TV show that has a very extensive catalog of information that spans over fifty years, and it would be foolish for anyone to say that they know everything about the... Read More toy manufacturer, Character Toys.

Keep in mind, however, the fact that your website will need some promotion. Perhaps setting up a Facebook page and/or Twitter account to publicize it will help here.

Maximize Your Profits

With so many ways to generate cash from an unused domain name, it makes sense to get started as soon as possible. This is true residual income, and if done in the right way can result in a nice monthly bonus for you, with little repeat work required.

Is your URL making money at last? If you can get it to pay for the initial outlay, you’re onto a winner. Perhaps you want to take the profit making further? Then perhaps it’s time to sell.

Do you have an old website domain name knocking about? Perhaps you ignore the annual emails about its automatic renewal? It’s time to do something about it. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments box below.

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