Joseph Peterson takes a deep dive into sales at NameJet and SnapNames last month.
Domain auctions at NameJet and SnapNames during July were neither record-shattering nor sluggish. And that alone is significant during a pandemic that has hobbled the worldwide economy. By some measures, July’s performance was weak: Only 2 domains surpassed $20k; and the high was $38.3k, which is lower than we’ve seen in other months. But twice as many domains sold for 5-figure prices in July compared to June – 10 in all. Altogether, the 2 auction houses racked up 91 new sales above $2000. That’s on par with 89 during June.
I think the overall volume of sales is a better indicator of market strength than a few high prices. Those fluctuate from month to month – not only due to chance but also based on the decisions of particular sellers to entrust their premium assets to the auction process. During times of economic uncertainty, reluctant domain owners might prefer to hold and wait. Arguably, the very best indicator of domain market health would come from expired auctions rather than seller listings. But I don’t think anybody has continued reporting that data once I stopped writing weekly articles on the topic several years ago.
Let’s dive in! Last month’s top seller was a numerical .NET: 5555.net ($38.3k). DNW readers will know by now that China loves numerical domains and repeating patterns. Even so, this .NET sale is striking, given the price, because .NET has never been China’s favorite. But this wasn’t alone: AX.net ($16.5k) was the 5th-highest sale in June.
Another 7 domains of 4 or fewer characters sold in .COM: P78.com ($8.3k), IBCO.com ($3.9k), V-D.com ($2.6k), 4SMA.com ($2.5k), CFTS.com ($2.5k), PSKY.com ($2.2k), GXFX.com ($2.1k). Some of those may be destined for the Chinese market. But some probably are not. “FX” usually stands for “forex”. And the “SKY” in PSKY.com should probably be interpreted as the English word “sky”.
15 out of the 91 domains in our list were “Not COMs”. But, as usual, only 3 gTLDs feature in the list at all: .COM, .ORG, and .NET. As usual, nothing else cleared the $2k reporting threshold. In 2020, now half a decade after the nTLD program began releasing hundreds of new suffixes, the lack of strong auction results for such domains seems a clear sign of how halfheartedly the market has embraced the “new” gTLDs. If demand were high, then such domains would be recycled via auctions with heated bidding wars. Yes, nTLD domains do get recycled, do sell, and do get used. But the wholesale prices remain lower than $2k.
Continuing a trend we’ve seen for a long time, .ORG is the consistent #2 seller, followed by .NET. At least, in terms of volume, that’s true: 10 .ORGs and 5 .NETs sold above $2k. Often, as was the case last month, top .NET prices exceed those of .ORG.
Chinese.org ($16.0k) was the top .ORG sale – and rightly so. China is an economic powerhouse with 1/6 of the world’s population, after all. And this word refers both to national origin and to language, which more and more people outside China will need to learn in order to succeed professionally in the 21st century. Other .ORG sales include a typo, wwwConference.org ($3.1k); acronyms like RHTP.org ($2.6k) and JIWH.org ($2.1k); and miscellaneous items ranging from UltraLinux.org ($2.6k) and AliceBot.org ($2.1k), whatever that is, to Prostate-Cancer.org ($2.1k). Some of these will be defunct websites with lots of backlinks. Obviously, when a 27-letter, 3-word .ORG sells for nearly 7 grand, there is a back story: InternationalTransportForum.org ($6.8k).
I assume that’s true of these .NETs as well: LesConnectes.net ($2.2k) and WaukeganWeb.net ($2.1k). Kicks.net ($2.5k) is more fun. Who knows how all the bidders in that auction get their kicks? A lot of different ways, one would imagine. Maybe we’ll see what the new owner has in mind.
A couple of .ORGs stand out because they have a social dimension. ICantBreathe.org ($3.4k) is, of course, the dying phrase of George Floyd, whose killing by police in late May sparked a wave of protests in the USA and gained international attention. Some people might find it unseemly to profit by selling such a domain, but for all I know the seller has donated the proceeds. WeChooseTheMoon.org ($6.3k) comes from JFK’s famous speech in which he proclaimed the national goal to land a man on the moon. Those were more optimistic times for the United States, troubled though the era was.
The Chinese.org auction may be about China yet aimed at non-Chinese consumers. It doesn’t strike me as the sort of domain that principally appeals to the Chinese domain market. That said, acronyms and numerical domains aren’t China’s sole interest, as a couple of Pinyin domain sales attest: XueWei.com ($12.5k) and MingYing.com ($2.5k).
Other non-English domain sales include Raden.com ($12.5k) and Cigale.com ($3.5k). The latter is French for “cicada”. A variety of businesses around the world have named themselves after this rowdy insect. Although Raden.com may look (or even be used as) a brandable neologism, it has an important Japanese meaning: 螺鈿 refers to a 1300-year-old decorative technique for inserting mother of pearl into lacquered wood. Given how beautiful these raden objects can be (and how suitable they are for e-commerce), I imagine this use case explains the $12.5k price paid for the domain.
Speaking of big Asian economies, Asiana.com ($19.0k) was the #3 sale during June. I’d classify that as a neologism (brandable), since I’m not aware of any language in which that’s a word. Certainly, that’s the right label for creative misspellings like Kushion.com ($4.2k) and Stact.com ($3.0k), which sounds like “stacked”.
The list of 2-word brandables is much longer than the list for single-word neologisms: WhiteEagle.com ($5.5k), NeonBurst.com ($5.4k), CyberDog.com ($4.8k), DigiEffects.com ($4.6k), StrongGirl.com ($4.0k), TopProperties.com ($3.7k), PokerWorks.com ($3.7k), GivingChange.com ($3.7k), MySQLTuner.com ($3.6k), ChooseLove.com ($3.2k), AlgoLab.com ($3.0k), RideGuide.com ($2.9k), LexChat.com ($2.5k), ChangeHeart.com ($2.5k), BrainTec.com ($2.3k), LeadCarrot.com ($2.3k), VaultIt.com ($2.1k), TrackLink.com ($2.1k), HappyCapital.com ($2.1k), EcoFitness.com ($2.0k).
New domainers are easily misled by such sales into supposing that a newly invented domain name will or can or should sell for mid-4-figures at auction. Yes, with luck, invented “brandables” often do sell for such amounts to a single motivated buyer … but not to a group of competing bidders. Most of the high prices paid for “brandable” domains at auction are explained not by the quality of a newly invented name but rather by the existence of established end users who’ve been using the brand name already for many years. Or the price may be due to the backlinks attached to a defunct website. Either way, wholesale domain buyers become interested and bid at that level because the name is old and established – not because it is novel.
Examples of this include Itris.com ($4.7k) – which corresponds to websites found at itris.co.uk, itris.com.ar, itris.nl, and itris-automation.com, which belong to at least 3 different Itris software companies – and Todis.com ($2.7k). The latter matches a well known Italian supermarket chain, which already operates Todis.it. Similar to Itris.com, AirSea.com ($3.7k) would be an upgrade for a long list of logistics companies with inferior domains: airseaworldwide.com, airseagroup.com, airseadg.com, airseacontainers.com, airseahou.com, abc-airsea.com, etc.
All of the following domain names match at least one (and often multiple) established brands: SauerConstruction.com ($5.2k), BankOfGeorgia.com ($2.8k), OneWorldFutbol.com ($2.6k), Molinare.com ($2.5k), RodaleWellness.com ($2.4k), BoiseCreative.com ($2.3k), BishopsGate.com ($3.7k), HempLine.com ($2.5k), Dukao.com ($2.2k), Cirtech.com ($2.1k). In the interest of space, I’ll let you look them up on your own rather than provide links and descriptions. I doubt TheHivesBroadcastingService.com ($3.0k) is an upgrade for anyone. It looks more like a defunct website, purchased for backlinks.
WorldOfEscher.com ($3.2k) is more interesting because the only established end user that I see would be the publisher or author of a book about Escher. We don’t often see domains purchased for 4 figures merely for use as titles – not for big-budget Hollywood movies, let alone for books. Mainly the buyers who choose to spend larger budgets on domain names are doing so for the sake of a company website or named consumer product. Why don’t people spend larger amounts for domains that match the titles of books and movies? After all, books are products too; and titles are just names. I suspect it’s partly due to distribution. Books are sold indirectly through merchants like Amazon and less often through a free-standing, dedicated website. Meanwhile, movie producers know that they can advertise and bring people to theaters regardless of the quality of the domain they’re using. Also, the attention paid to a movie release is temporary, unlike a company or core product with ongoing long-term sales. But I digress. If you don’t know the work of artist M. C. Escher, treat yourself.
There are always a few domains for proper names – first names, surnames, geographical names. And July was no exception: Boyles.com ($4.7k), Hanny.com ($3.6k), Mecri.com ($3.4k), Lilan.com ($2.3k), MilwaukeeCounty.com ($2.3k). Apparently FLDNC.com ($2.2k) was once used for the Florida “Do Not Call” list as a way to fend off robocalls.
June was exceptional because 4 out of the top 5 sales were single dictionary words. During July, this was true for 2 out of the top 5. But only 1 of them is a common word like “joggers”, “bartenders”, “psychotherapy”, or “galaxy”. And this one has a negative connotation to overcome: Sewer.com ($30.0k). Given that negative connotation, “sewer” is not as flexible for branding purposes as, say, “galaxy”. But if the domain is applied literally to sewer construction or servicing, then it will be a perfect fit for companies in that niche.
Flack.com ($18.7k) was the #4 sale last month. While this is an English dictionary word, it may not be the word you’re thinking of. When a public figure incurs criticism, we often say that they’re “catching flak” or “taking flak”. But you’ll notice this word is spelled oddly – ending in “k” not “ck”. So “flack” might just be a common misspelling of “flak” in this sense. On the other hand, it might refer to a relatively obscure word for a publicity agent (a “flack”) or a verb meaning to promote (“to flack”). Whatever the idea behind this domain purchase may be, it’s a strong name, capable of being branded in many different ways. This word reminds me of a book I read years ago with one of my favorite titles: “Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers”. As a bit of trivia, you may be surprised to learn that “flak” is an acronym – short for German anti-aircraft guns, “Fliegerabwehrkanonen”.
Other dictionary-word .COMs are fairly obscure. When I think of a stentorian voice (meaning loud), English actor Brian Blessed comes to mind. Or maybe Morris Robinson, a rising star in the opera world:
But what sort of brand will be Stentorian.com ($2.7k)? Multicasting.com ($2.4k) – more commonly “multicast” – is a technical term for computer networks. Meanwhile, Spinet.com ($2.6k) is a small harpsichord. This domain would actually be a good investment for a manufacturer of such instruments:
About 16 domains are real-world phrases. Two of these reached 5 figures: BestPick.com ($14.5k) and GeneralCounsel.com ($13.8k). Given the cost of tuition at private colleges, MusicSchools.com ($7.0k) is a good buy. So is MusicStudios.com ($5.3k), since every major city provides venues for musicians to record in.
HeyBaby.com ($6.1k) could theoretically be used for fashion, cosmetics, dating, and so forth. However, if aimed at women, this phrase might be too leeringly creepy for self-aware brands in 2020. It might be more successful if adapted (as a sort of pun) for literal babies. PerfectTen.com ($5.3k) might be familiar because Perfect10.com sold one month before for roughly 10 times as much.
Other 2-word phrases include GoldSeal.com ($5.6k), ArgonOil.com ($5.4k), SchoolDays.com ($5.1k), FloorTape.com ($4.5k), IPLegal.com ($4.4k), EcoTourist.com ($3.0k), BigParty.com ($2.4k), GoodEating.com ($2.4k), and BBWP*ssy.com ($2.0k). Porn domains don’t usually fetch prices big enough to appear in these charts. Of course, Sex.com was one of the high-water marks for domain sales, and plenty of adult-themed domains have sold for more than $2k. But fetishes subdivide in a nearly endless list of subcategories. So I wonder if this domain is a defunct website with backlinks. You can check if you’re into that sort of thing.
NineSquare.com ($3.0k) refers to a kind of game/sport. I’d never heard of “9 square in the air” until preparing this article. To me, it looks something like volleyball. Has anybody ever played it?