Storage auction website operator TCL Media Group recently bought a new domain name designed to make it more competitive in the online auction industry.

The Dallas-based company now operates OnlineStorageAuctions.com and has merged VirtualStorageAuction.com and StorageAuctionForums.com into the new website.

“The domain itself was an incredible purchase,” said Travis Lane, principal of TCL Media Group. “We got a really good deal on it. It is such a crucial domain for the online storage auction niche.”

Lane declined to disclose the purchase price. The previous owner of the domain wasn’t operating a business through OnlineStorageAuctions.com.

“Somebody had been holding the domain for three or four years,” Lane said.

A hot property

Lane said he had inquired in the past about buying the domain, but he decided against it at the time. He recently changed his mind after realizing how valuable the domain was. Lane launched his first auction site, VirtualStorageAuctions.com, in April 2013.

“We hoped the industry would embrace the term ‘virtual storage auctions,’ but it embraced ‘online storage auctions’ instead,” Lane said.

Lane said that owning the domain that matches the most commonly searched keywords for his industry has propelled his business to the top of Internet search results.

“We’ve been operating the new domain less than two months,” Lane said, “and now rank number one on Google, Yahoo and Bing.”

online auction

New features

Along with the new domain, OnlineStorageAuctions.com comes with several improvements over TCL Media’s previous auction websites. A zoom tool makes it easier for buyers to examine the contents of storage units that are being sold. As with in-person storage auctions, potential buyers can see a unit’s contents from the outside looking in.

Another new feature is a widget that lets sellers cross-post auction information from OnlineStorageAuctions.com onto their own websites.

OnlineStorageAuctions.com also has a new version for mobile devices.

Ad-based revenue 

Self-storage operators aren’t charged to list their auctions on OnlineStorageAuctions.com. Buyers don’t have to pay any fees either. Instead, Lane said his company earns revenue from advertising. The business also accepts donations.

The business model of OnlineStorageAuctions.com differs greatly from that of its chief competitor, StorageBattles.com. That auction site charges both the buyer and seller a 10 percent fee on the winning bid. Earlier this year, StorageBattles.com merged with another auction site, StorageTreasures.com.

Since acquiring the new domain, Lane said the number of online auctions listed with his company has gone up. The company has listed about 15 auctions so far this month, compared with a total of about 70 auctions since the company first launched, he said.

Getting operators on board

One major task ahead for Lane is marketing online auctions to self-storage operators, some of whom have been reluctant to embrace the practice. In some states, the legality of online storage auctions is not clear-cut.

Lane said online storage auctions typically allow operators to recover a greater percentage of unpaid rent compared with live auctions, and they also reach a bigger group of prospective buyers. Lane said he surveyed buyers and found they were willing to drive up to three hours to pick up the contents of a unit they bought online.

“Most of the live-auction storage buyers are not willing to drive more than 20 or 30 minutes,” Lane said.

Another benefit to operators is that online auctions keep large crowds from gathering at a facility for live auctions that may drag on for several hours, Lane said.

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Alexander Harris