Joseph Peterson takes an in-depth look at Web.com’s aftermarket sales in May.
Once upon a time, people learning how to build websites and perform SEO went to a Lycos-owned tutorial site called WebMonkey.com. It had its ups and downs, shuttered in 2004, reopened and re-closed in 2006, etc. In 2008 the property was purchased by Condé Nast, which operates Wired, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker, among other brands. Even though WebMonkey has reportedly been inactive since 2013, it’s still surprising that such a high-profile company would allow the domain name to expire rather than pay roughly $10 to keep it. But evidently they did. And the property sold for $65,500 at auction last month. Oops?
Another defunct brand, MartianWatches.com, sold for $8.3k. Meanwhile, TataDocomo.com ($2.1k), was or is a mobile network operator in India. As recently as 2019, the company merged its customers with Bharti Airtel. So it’s shocking that they’d allow a domain, which was in use as a website until very recently, to expire. But inattention to corporate domain portfolios is face-palmingly common.
When the domains that branded once thriving websites are abandoned, the market will often compete to preserve them for the sake of old brand equity or back links. Independent of the former owners, such domains have value. But if there’s a suspicion that the old owners dropped the ball and will want their domain back, I daresay bidders will compete for the chance to sell it back to them – with an added profit margin. All too often, the company that lost the domain is itself bidding to regain it.
Personally, I wouldn’t touch a domain that is narrowly identified with a single well known brand – not least because of the risk of losing it through the UDRP process. A cursory glance at last month’s auctions shows a few where bidders didn’t share those scruples: NBCSN.com ($2.4k) corresponds to NBC Sports Network, which rebranded as NBCSN in recent years; HaaretzDaily.com ($9.0k) looks a lot like the longest running Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, which is based on Haaretz.com; BarclaysBank.com ($3.0k) is more than a bit like the British investment bank, Barclays, found at Barclays.co.uk; StMarysMadison.com ($2.6k) clearly refers to St. Mary’s hospital in Madison, Wisconsin; SpheralSolar.com ($2.0k) is far too close to the solar-power company, Spheral, found at SpheralPower.com; DeaStore.com ($2.6k) must surely refer to TheDeaStore.com; etc. One can make an argument that GNLaw.com ($2.0k) can be used for a law firm other than the one found at GNLaw.co.uk. But how many web monkeys typing on how many keyboards does it take to come up with AntonyAndTheJohnsons.com ($3.8k) by sheer coincidence? The band has been active for 20+ years. Who bids in such an auction? Fans, I’m sure.
Whatever the prudence or ethics of such purchases, successful domain investment usually focuses on names with broader utility. Consider how big a market / subject is embodied by ChinaArt.com ($6.3k). And how many investors are looking for WholesaleRealEstate.com ($2.3k). Jewish families in countries as far flung as the UK and Argentina might look for a JewishSchool.com ($3.0k) in which to enroll their children. People everywhere move house and ship items from time to time, and we tend to get price quotes online. That makes ShippingCosts.com ($2.3k) and MovingCosts.com ($2.1k) potentially great lead generators. ROSystems.com ($5.3k) is a natural authority site for reverse-osmosis water purification, especially given the fact that many companies that provide this service already write about “RO systems” on their websites. To me, the plural of CookiesDelivery.com ($3.8k) seems a bit awkward; but I expect it does reflect how people actually type the 2 words into search engines – beginning with “cookies” and adding “delivery” as a qualifier. So perhaps it’ll work. Hey, whatever gets cookies to my doorstep!
It’s an election year in the USA. Perhaps that explains the sale of CityManager.com ($7.0k) and CityCouncil.com ($4.0k). CordlessDrills.com ($2.6k) is self-explanatory. Chainless.com ($3.6k), however, wasn’t immediately obvious until I saw nothing but chainless bikes in SERPs. These last 2 are perfect for e-commerce. So is BeeHouse.com ($4.3k) for all the beekeepers out there. HealthLawyer.com ($4.0k) seems overly broad, but it is memorable.
There is also a long list of 2-word “brandables” among last month’s top-performing auctions: DataMatrix.com ($9.6k); BuildingWorks.com ($9.6k); GenerationNext.com ($7.4k), which refers to the youth of today; CollegeView.com ($7.1k); ApartmentFinders.com ($6.3k); BlueRaven.com ($4.0k), which sounds like a pub;
BankFreedom.com ($3.9k); InfoScan.com ($3.6k); HoneyHill.com ($2.2k), which is also the site of a battle during the American Civil War; PixelSoft.com ($2.2k), which is a few decades late to be imitating a name like “Microsoft”; and PornHunter .com ($2.0k). Some make use of bland positive adjectives, which works well for AgileSales.com ($3.5k) but seems rather vague for SuperiorBank.com ($2.9k), InnovativeHealth.com ($2.9k), and SageAnalysis.com ($2.8k). Sometimes the simplest combinations – like adding the prefix “my” or “your” – outperform much more inventive names. Just look at MyAdvocate.com ($18.5k) or YourTour.com ($7.1k).
Other “brandables” are so short than they look and feel more like single words: Certik.com ($10.5k), DataGo.com ($5.3k), EverGo.com ($3.8k), Outlanders.com ($3.0k), Musican.com ($2.5k), to name a few. Breedr.com ($2.8k), of course, is just 1 “E” short of being a real word. So is Musican.com, but it would be pronounced differently. At least 3 are related to finance: FinServ.com ($3.0k), FinShop.com ($2.5k), Financeable.com ($2.2k). UMark.com ($2.7k) corresponds to a brand of software for photo watermarking, which protects the image’s copyright. Nevertheless, someone acting in good faith could use the name in a completely different way. Caino.com ($3.2k) might look like a neologism, but it’s actually a commune in northern Italy.
Just because a domain matches a pre-existing brand name, that doesn’t mean the brand is being targeted unfairly if the domain is offered for sale. Frequently, many websites / products / organizations share the same name (or very similar names) without conflict. And a matching domain could be purchased by any 1 of them or used by a newcomer to brand a non-overlapping project. Examples of such domains include Antea.com ($4.8k), which might be an upgrade for antea-int.com, anteaprevencion.com, anteagroup.com, et al. Corpy.com corresponds to an AI company based in Japan, which already operates sites in English and Japanese at Corpy.co and Corpy.co.jp. They’d be the most likely buyer, but it’s easy to imagine an unrelated project using this name. As for NamasteYoga.com ($3.0k), the brand name is so cliché that there must be dozens of small local companies called “Namaste” offering yoga lessons. Take namasteyogastudio.net, namaste-yoga.net, namasteyogastudio.com, ilovenamaste.com, just for starters.
One prime niche for domain investors has always been single-word .COMs. That includes the national currency of Israel / Palestine, the Shekel.com ($15.0k). Not a bad price, if you ask me, for something in daily use by millions of people and directly tied to money. It could be used for Forex, banking, finance in general, or even as something non-financial – as a stand-in for place and culture, perhaps for a local magazine. Incidentally, StandIn.com ($2.6k) also sold. That’s not the only dangling preposition that could be classified as a single word: CarryOns.com ($2.8k), which refers to small luggage at an airport, was a great bargain. That’s another domain ripe for e-commerce.
Some single-word .COMs are a bit more obscure. An imbalance in the hormone Seratonin.com ($2.2k) has been tied to depression. So that domain might lead to medical treatments. Libation.com ($3.7k) is an archaic term that shows up naturally enough in placards at museums and sometimes in stilted poetry. Also in the title of a play by Aeschylus. It means a drink poured out as an offering to the gods – wine, blood, coca-cola, all of the above. How do you turn that domain name into a 21st-century brand, I find myself wondering. GangPlank.com ($3.6k) is equally archaic but more familiar due to pirate movies. Same question there. I’m also curious about Selves.com ($2.0k); but I see potential there as a title for a game, book, or movie.
The 2nd-highest sale was a 3-letter .COM: KPH.com ($25.0k). Back in 2015, we used to see about 10 0f these per month. When it comes to acronym and numerical domains, the pace of sales has clearly slowed since the Chinese surge. But such sales have never stopped. Last month, there were 2 other 3-character domains – 1 with a hyphen and 1 with a numeral: F-M.com ($3.7k) and BL7.com ($2.5k). Also, there was not only a 5-digit but also a 7-digit numeric: 13320.com ($2.8k) and 5211314.com ($2.5k). And, of course, a couple of pinyin items: BaiMeng.com ($7.1k) and HuanMao.com ($6.4k).
None of the 5 LLLL.com domains that surpassed $2k last month are in the vowelless, “V”-less style known as “CHIPs”: REAF.com ($12.7k), EHUO.com ($5.0k), KUIK.com ($4.4k), TOPQ.com ($4.3k), AQOL.com ($2.0k). That fits the tendency we’ve been observing lately.
There were 7 sales of “Not .COMs” – none of them nTLDs, as usual. 5 were .ORG and 2 .NET: Inhalants.org ($14.5k), Nectac.org ($12.7k), FERI.org ($4.6k), AfricaAction.org ($3.5k), JE.net ($8.3k), OAK.net ($4.9k). Having bought and sold American.org, I found the price paid for AmericanHS.org ($8.8k) to be surprisingly high; but there might be a back story to the domain.
Last month there was a surprisingly large contingent of personal names – from the unusually spelled Elanor.com ($2.7k) to Hendriks.com ($5.3k), Harter.com ($4.5k), Siger.com ($3.4k), and Pangburn.com ($3.1k). One of them, Rowan.com ($22.7k), was the 3rd highest sale last month. All I could think of is Atkinson – a.k.a. Black Adder and Mr. Bean. But it’s more likely to be yarns.