What to look for when buying a domain name

March 21, 2009 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

I often get questions from people about my opinion on domain values, domain valuation, and what to look for when buying a domain… especially from people who want to get into the domain speculation and aftermarket business. I just wrote the following response to a colleague that I thought I would share:

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{Billy Bob},

In my opinion, there are very few names that are available in the primary market that are considered ‘investment domains’. There are discounts in the secondary market, however, as many people who purchased domain names as speculators over the past couple of years with the assumption that they would be able to monetize a domain via parked revenue. This revenue has decreased by 50% in the past year, so many of these holders are over-leveraged and liquidating some assets.


The names that are good, in my opinion, are ones that reside where there exists a clear consumer intent of what the domain offers. Something like “JuiceCalifornia.com” does not communicate this. CaliforniaJuiceCompany.com does communicate that value. In the former, a person does not know what resides at the destination, in the latter, one would expect to see a California Juice Company.


There are also three measures of value in my opinion:

  1. Value to you – If you build out the domain with a business that is enhanced by the domain itself. Can you use the domain to build it out with SEO and turn it into a real company (using the domain to drive relevancy, organic traffic, and better quality score results for your PPC campaigns), giving you a competitive advantage in an even playing field.
  2. Value to others: a domain that is worthless to me might be MayneIslandPlumber.com. However, to a plumber on Mayne Island, this domain could be worth a fair bit. Domains that sell to the end user always generate considerable more revenue than names that are resold to other speculators. So make sure if you are buying a domain for resale rather than development, think about how many potential buyers you might have. With the above example, there may be only 1-2 plumbers on the island described above. If the don’t buy it, the domain is relatively worthless.
  3. Value to the collective: Some domains, namely those with direct navigation, linked, or organic traffic have value based entirely on its ability to be monetized at a set rate through various parking services. Your chances of finding a domain like this are slim as software automated this many years ago and unless you can find a just born concept (new words, new trends, etc). And if you would get a domain that monetizes at a certain rate, many of the large domain owners could out monetize you anyway (their advertising revenue share will always be greater than the small player), so they are capable of paying rates that you would not.

I tend to like the domains of the first point above, identifying domains that could be built out that communicate a clear value proposition and give you brand presence allowing you to compete with the big boys right off the bat. My model lately has been to identify under-performing business assets (e.g. poor parking revenue producing names] that have these traits:  sufficient search volume, high transactional value, and others who have blazed the trail for you and proved that there is economic activity online for your domain.

If you are considering buyin a domain, there are a few good acid tests right off the bat to see if a domain has value:

  • Search for the exact match domain on Google (i.e., search “keyword keyword” with the quotes. If there is advertiser depth, as in more than one advertiser, at least someone thinks that this search phrase has relevance and has value (they are paying for it afterall), and probably could be monetized.
  • Use the Google keyword tool [or similar tools] to see if people are searching on the concept that the domain represents, using both exact and broad match search values. Obviously, the more people searching for the term, the better
  • Ask a friend that if they went to “UniqueDomainName.com”, what would they expect to find. A good landing page should meet consumer expectations and match relevance. The domain name is a good start for this. When I ask a golfer what they expect to find at my golf reservations website  teetimes.net… the answer is simply, “I don’t know… tee times?”
  • And the final one, that could be done quickly, is ask yourself, “How big is the market, is it growing, and do people turn to the Internet for information on the core economic aspect represented by the domain?” For my SMS marketing and text messaging venture, Texts.com, the market is expected to be a $150 billion market by next year and 20 billion texts were sent in Canada last year alone (growing at 100% per year

I hope this helps.

John

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Anyhow, I am not sure if this helps anyone else or not, but my few minute reply to my colleague turned into a pretty long, rambling email. I thought it would be good to share this knowledge with others. What do you think… agree or disagree with any of the points?

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Entry filed under: domain names, Ramblings. Tags: , , , , .

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