Scrabble points can be a helpful barometer for the value of letters in short domain names.
I was talking about short domain names with fellow investor Nat Cohen recently when he mentioned Scrabble scores. He noted that one of the domain names we discussed had the best possible “Scrabble score.”
What he meant was that all of the letters in the four letter domain are worth just one point in Scrabble. Scrabble tiles have points according to how difficult the letters are to place into words. There’s a strong correlation between these scores and the frequency of the letters in English.
All of the vowels and most common letters are worth one point. On the other extreme, letters like Q and Z, which are harder to place into words, are worth 10 points.
The letters in the domain we discussed are very common because they’re worth just one point. So, by that measure, it’s a good domain.
Nat said he’s been using this concept as one way to measure domain values of three and four letter domains since the mid aughts. He noted that it’s just one measure and it isn’t perfect.
Scrabble scores are based on frequency anywhere in a word, but for short domain names what matters is the presence of the letter at the beginning of a word since they’re often used as acronyms or initialisms.
This is especially the case with vowels. ‘U’ is a common letter in the middle of words, but not as much at the start of words. So while ‘U’ (1 point) has a higher frequency than ‘W’ (4 points) in words, it actually has a much lower frequency than ‘W’ as the first letter in a word.
And while ‘X’ is worth eight points in Scrabble, it can be a good letter to end a three letter domain with because of its connotation for financial exchanges.
Nat stressed that while the Scrabble score is helpful as a rough guide, domain investors should always dig deeper and consider all factors. And keep in mind this valuation technique is only relevant to domain investors; when an end user comes along their initials are their initials. When I acquired DNW.com as an end user, it didn’t matter than W is a less common letter because that’s a letter I needed to match my brand.
It’s also an English-centric analysis; other letters are more popular in different languages. We all remember how the Chinese domain boom made vowels less valuable and letters like X more valuable.
Here are Scrabble scores by letter:
(1 point)-A, E, I, O, U, L, N, S, T, R
(2 points)-D, G
(3 points)-B, C, M, P
(4 points)-F, H, V, W, Y
(8 points)- J, X
(10 points)-Q, Z
Interesting idea! Your article sent me down a wikipedia rabbit-hole, where I learned that the creator of the original game based it on a letter frequency analysis from articles in the New York Times. Pretty impressive given that he probably built the data set with pencil and paper.