Joseph Peterson looks into what domains sold on Web.com’s aftermarket platforms in January, and why.
In January, 88 domains sold above $2000 apiece between the two auction platforms, NameJet and SnapNames. 75% of these occurred in a narrow lower range: $2k to $4.3k. And only five domains surpassed $10k.
Far and away, the biggest sale was Koles.com ($73.0k). In comparison, the runners up look more like stragglers: Xinda.com ($22.1k) and FIH.com ($20.4k), followed by BusinessCenter.com ($11.0k) and Though.com ($10.0k).
Whatever the intentions of bidders, the parking algorithm serving up pay-per-click ads at Koles.com certainly believes this domain refers to the sound-alike American department store, Kohl’s, to which 6 out of 8 ads explicitly refer. (That’s true even from my vantage point, visiting the parked domain from a country where Kohl’s doesn’t exist – so prevalent is this association.)
“Koles” would be a common misspelling for English speakers accustomed to “poles” and “holes” and “moles” and not to the Polish surname of the man who first opened a Kohl’s store in Milwaukee, 1927, nearly a century ago. By now, Kohl’s has more than 1000 stores, nearly 100,000 employees, and $20 billion in annual revenue.
With nearly all PPC ads orbiting a single well-known brand, one misspelling away from the domain itself, that brand owner might not seem overly paranoid if they felt themselves targeted. Justified or not, many UDRP disputes arise from just that feeling: When people encounter their own paid ads on a domain similar to their own brand name and for which they can envisage no other legitimate use, they believe themselves exploited. Buying and parking such domains is not without its risks. On the flip side, owning a brand name that fails the “radio test” and not protecting oneself with variant spellings is a costly domain strategy.
Xinda.com ($22.1k) also seems to match an established company, albeit less familiar outside a specialized audience of rock climbers: XindaOutdoor.com. (It’s Chinese, in case you were wondering.) Similarly, FIH.com ($20.4k) shares an acronym with the International Hockey Federation. “But wait!” you say, “The letters are out of order.” Indeed they are. For la Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) is international, after all – French, or rather, Swiss, which explains their .CH website. Really for an organization that purports to be international, .CH doesn’t quite cut it. .COM would. Indeed, since they’re forwarding to FIHProLeague.com instead of using the shorter FIH.ch directly, it seems they’ve already come to that conclusion. But, as a bit of trivia, they also run a website at FIH.live. .COM is dominant, but it isn’t the only game in town.
Although the top 3 sales seem focused on established brands, the same cannot be said of the remaining pair of 5-figure auctions. BusinessCenter.com ($11.0k) is utterly generic. Office buildings and business districts in cities all around the world use this phrase. Meanwhile, Though.com ($10.0k) is so generic that nobody could possibly claim sole rights to the word – though how someone could turn “Though” into a brand has me stumped.
Cornel.com ($3.2k) is 1 “L” away – and 1 lost UDRP away – from a famous university. But not everything is cause for pessimism: Witness Grasshoper.com ($3.1k). Bids were hopping – never mind the “P”s and “Q”s.
If your response to Nhathuoc.com ($3.0k) is “Gesundheit!”, well, you’re not far off. Nhà thuốc is evidently Vietnamese for pharmacy or drugstore. Various websites in this niche contain “nhathuoc” in their domain, and the term appears to be generic – not targeting a trademark.
Politics is in the air, as the USA gears up for the 2020 presidential election. Unsurprisingly, the real world manifests itself in the domain market. That’s obvious in GoVote.com ($8.0k), which might be put to use to drive (or misdirect) voting. In NewAmericanCentury.org ($7.1k) there’s a back story – and, I daresay, plenty of backlinks. This neocon think tank, which operated between 1997 and 2006, included among its founders Bill Kristol (editor of the now-defunct Weekly Standard) and the cuddly Dick Cheney, before he became George Bush’s VP. As recently as 2019, the site was touting American “military strength” as a worldwide boon. But by 2020, it had clearly been captured by a new owner, who touted instead the “best steam mop for tile floors”, “best cordless stick vacuum”, etc. Naturally he kept the think tank’s banner logo.
Notice the .ORG? It wasn’t alone. Out of 88 domains, 8 were “not .COMs”: 7 .ORG and 1 .NET. Europe continues to demonstrate a higher tolerance for hyphens than the rest of the world: Tourisme-Midi-Pyrenees.com ($2.5k) is French and refers (no surprise) to the mountain range shared by France and Spain. But there are exceptions to every rule: 2 other hyphenated domains sold in English: Career-Line.com ($2.5k) and Security-Assessment.com ($2.5k).
An excellent Spanish brand name, in my opinion, is MuyBien.com ($3.1k), which would translate literally as “very well” but which is used as a standalone expression much as English speakers would say “Great!” or “Alright” or “OK”. Coste.com ($4.2k) would be “cost” in Spanish – but possibly only in Spain. In Latin America, I’ve only come across “costo” with an “O”; and arguably the plural would make more sense as a cost comparison site. Herstal.com ($3.9k) is a municipality of Belgium.
The French word “éternel” so resembles its English cousin “eternal” that it has been used as a brand name – no surprise – to market perfume. Yet I can find no record that Eternel.com ($3.7k) has ever been put to use. About time! AGift.com ($4.1k) is interesting because we don’t often see “a + noun” domains floating high up in the sales charts. They’re uncommon as brands as well. But succinct little specimen may prove an exception there too.
Miyoko.com ($2.1k) is a woman’s name. According to Miyokos.com, “Chef Miyoko Schinner … invented the category of artisan vegan cheese.” That’s a big market, actually. And since “[s]he’s now reinventing the entire dairy industry”, big aspirations might require the non-“S” version also.
EMC2.com ($3.4k) is as close as domain names can get to Einstein’s famous formula equating mass and energy, since not even IDNs can produce the “=” or “^” of E = mc^2. A few years ago, vowel-less 4-letter .COMs featured regularly in these charts, even dominating them. Now the 4-letter domains that rise above $2k are mostly pronounceable: CLAB.com ($8.1k), VALL.com ($7.3k), MEID.com ($4.0k), STMP.com ($3.8k), OSIA.com ($3.7k), and VORP.com ($3.0k).
Yet the pronunciation of CLAB.com is ambiguous. Is it “C-Lab” or more like “clap”? And who will ultimately own it? Candidate topics include everything from bank automation to nuclear waste: Comité Latinoamericano de Automatización Bancaria (Spanish) or Centralt mellanlager för använt kärnbränsle (Swedish). MEID.com ($4.0k) would be pronounced as “Me + ID” if it refers to a mobile equipment identifier. Your phone might have one. As for STMP.com ($3.8k), although it looks like a permutation of the SMTP email protocol, it also matches the stock ticker for the company, Stamps.com, which is a clue for pronunciation.
It’s impossible to cover the full list of domains in detail. Among the best – for reasons of investment value, aesthetics, and utility – are those I haven’t mentioned. Strong 2-word generics include ElectricAuto.com ($7.0k), PrivateBankers.com ($2.6k), and LowerCosts.com ($2.5k), ResearchPapers.com ($2.0k), and GroceryBags.com ($2.6k). (The movement to prohibit or tax plastic grocery bags for the sake of the environment has led to real business opportunities for attractive reusable substitutes.)
Longer domains also did well: GlobalRealEstate.com ($8.1k), RealEstateSoftware.com ($4.1k), and BuildYourBusiness.com ($2.1k). That said, “real estate” functions more like a single term than as two separable words. English single-word domains were scarce, although Though.com ($10.0k) ranked 5th overall. Moulders.com ($2.5k) corresponds to one or more kinds of industrial machinery. So that domain may be worth its weight in gold to a manufacturer or distributor. (Don’t scrutinize that metaphor too closely.) Technically, Apport.com ($2.9k) is an English word as well. Ages ago, it meant “bearing”. And it has a technical meaning involving – I kid you not – poltergeists.
Notable “brandables” include Metronet.com ($9.0k), Serval.com ($5.6k), BagTags.com ($5.4k), Chems.com ($5.3k), Akademi.com ($5.2k), Vertix.com ($3.8k), eReads.com ($2.5k), PetCafe.com ($2.4k), Ntegrity.com ($2.4k), and BrainWay.com ($2.2k).
Bitcoin enthusiasts with a ShortFuse.com ($3.4k) will be unhappy if I don’t mention the inversion CoinsBit.com ($4.6k). All the Alessandros in the audience will want to know about Alessandro.com ($7.2k). And if there’s anything else you’d like to add, add it, and we’ll take it under Advisement.com ($2.0k).