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Art of Pricing a Domain Name

Yesterday, I blogged about the “Art of Selling a Domain Name,” and I want to take a step back a bit and discuss an important step in the process: Pricing. If you price your name too high, it won’t sell, and it will set a price ceiling for the name. If you price it too generously, you won’t achieve as high of a return as possible. There is an art to pricing a domain name, and I would like to share my own personal process for pricing my domain names when I sell.

For the sake of this blog post, I will use my domain name AlcoholCounseling.com as an example, and I will set a sales price for the name at the conclusion of this.

When I decide to sell a domain name from my portfolio, I look at a variety of factors in order to determine the price, including:

1) Traffic the name receives
2) Revenue the name receives
3) Google listings for the “bracketed term”
4) Advertisers on Google
5) Comps of recent sales
6) Gut feel
   

Although I don’t buy my names based on traffic or revenue, I know that many of my clients pay close attention to these figures. The amount of natural traffic a domain name receives is important because it shows how many people are looking for something on that domain name without having to incur advertise costs. I also use the Overture search tool to get an idea of how many people are searching for the phrase or keyword of the domain name I am selling. For AlcoholCounseling.com, the traffic is light, only receiving about 1/2 a unique per day.

The revenue is important because a name might receive very little traffic, but the revenue per click may be very strong. Conversely, a domain name might receive a ton of traffic, but the click through rate might be low and the revenue per click might be low as well. This is important because if a name has strong revenue, a developer can build compelling content, increasing search engine traffic, and dramatically the revenue produced by the name. For AlcoholCounseling.com, the CTR is about 25% and the revenue per click is around $1.50. It is important to keep in mind that revenue share and CTR will differ for each parking provider and can be very different. This is one reason I only use this as a guideline.

I use the number of Google listings for the word or term in my domain name as an indicator of how much information is being published about the topic. It is likely that there is a parallel between the amount of information available and the number of people looking to find information. In the case of “alcohol counseling,” there are 154,000 Google searches for the topic. It is important to put the term in brackets, otherwise the results will include all pages that use alcohol or counseling, which is deceptive.

The number of advertisers who are paying per click is also a good indicator of the importance of a keyword or phrase, and thus the value of it. The more advertisers, the more competitive the bidding is, and that may mean a higher revenue per click figure. In the case of “alcohol counseling,” there are 8 sidebar advertisers, and there are 2 top advertisers, which is very strong in my opinion.

In order to get comparisons of other sales (both recent and historical), I like to use DNJournal’s Domain Sales chart or DNSalePrice.com. I also reference personal sales and other sales that might not have been published. For AlcoholCounseling.com, I would compare it to other psychology, rehabilitation and counseling domain sales. I have been fortunate enough to have sold a few similar names, so I have a good internal base. There have also been several public sales ranging from $3,500 – $10,000, which is in line with names I’ve sold.

Just like a real estate broker, I spend countless hours analyzing the domain market. This has given me a good “gut feel” for certain domain names. I also take my clients’ needs into account. I think about their verticals, their needs, and the types of names they buy as well as the price they would consider for this name.

In the case of AlcoholCounseling.com, I will set a price of $5,800 for the domain name with the hopes of a quick sale. Of course, if you are interested in acquiring the name, drop me a note or post a comment.

***Updated***

I just want to add that these are the most important factors I consider when setting my prices. There are plenty of other considerations, including: whether the other extensions are owned and used, registration date of the name, prior sale price/listing of the name, amount of inquiries the name has received in the past….etc.

Art of Selling a Domain Name

Ed from Michigan asked me to discuss how to sell a domain name, and I am happy to give some pointers. There are many factors to consider once the decision to sell has been made, and each factor can have many implications.

The first thing I do is evaluate the domain name based on its natural traffic, revenue, estimated number of searches (Overture or Wordtracker), number of Google listings for the “bracketed term,” number of advertisers for the term, and comparisons of recent sales of similar names from DNSalePrice.com and DNJournal.com. Using all of this information, I determine my ideal sales price.

With my price in mind, I decide whether I should target an “end user” or a domain investor. End user sales can be more lucrative, but they can also be very time consuming. Conversely, selling a domain name to a domain investor will almost certainly yield a lower sales price, but the sale may be completed more quickly because there are less hurdles to leap to close the sale.

In order to sell the name to an end user, it is important that the name be a one word .com or “category killer” name to avoid wasting anyone’s time. For example, I wouldn’t try an sell a name like AwesomeDevices.com to Advanced Micro Devices, however, I would consider selling Devices.com to them if I was interested in selling it (which I am not).

If I decide to sell the name to an end user, I first compile a list of potential buyers. The next step is to hone in the decision maker for each end user company. More often than not, an email to the Whois contact will not yield a response. Keep in mind that while I may think this particular domain name would suit them well, they may not feel the same, and they may not respond regardless of their thoughts. I would also target each company’s advertising agency in an attempt to close the sale. If all of this fails, I would try to contact a broker or possibly another domain investor.

It is very important that the domain name be generic when contacting end users. An attempt to sell a domain name can possibly be considered bad faith if it isn’t 100% generic. If you are unsure, consult an attorney.

In order to sell a domain name to another domain investor, the domain name must have a clear meaning, and it should have some inherent traffic. Unless the domain investor intends to develop the name, he will usually want to know the traffic and revenue generated by the name. Although I have never sold a domain name based on revenue, I believe it’s important to be honest about these figures. If you are dishonest once, it could cost your reputation, something that is most important in a small industry like this.

Naturally, the next question is about finding other domain investors who might be interested in buying your names. My best piece of advice is to use various outlets such as the domain forums or even Ebay to make contacts within the industry. You can list your names there, and when someone buys a name from you, there is always the opportunity to upsell other names of interest. Another option is to contact a domain broker who may have more connections within the industry. Typically, brokers charge anywhere from 5% – 15% of the total sale, and can be an invaluable resource. If you are looking for a broker, drop me a line and I will put you in touch with a couple people I know.

If you are honest with yourself and set a reasonable price, the sales process is much easier. You generally shouldn’t expect to sell a newly registered name for thousands of dollars, as it just isn’t likely to happen. People with thousands of dollars to spend on a domain name typically do enough due diligence to know you just paid $8. Selling domain names is much harder than buying domain names. I think people should do their due dilligence, research the market, and specialize in a niche before spending recklessly.

Searching the USPTO Database Using TESS

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I think it’s important for domain investors to search the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) database before buying a domain name – even if it’s a generic name.    The USPTO operates a system called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), which allows you to search for trademarks using keywords and search terms.    If there is an application for a trademark, a live trademark, or a dead trademark, the search results will have that information.    

To perform a trademark search, you need to navigate to TESS and perform a “New User Form Search.”    The results will include when a trademark was filled (and by whom), the class of trademark, how the trademark is to be used, whether the trademark is live or dead and several other important notes.    If you have any questions about whether you can register a domain name for a particular usage, its always good to consult an attorney who may be able to advise you.    This is particularly important if you plan to develop a business on the domain name.

Trend Spotting & Domain Names

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One of the smartest things a domain investor can do is read the newspaper, watch the news, follow popular culture blogs (like TMZ.com), and even observe kids at the mall in order to spot trends and capitalize.

There was a television commercial for Ameritrade a few months ago showing a father responding to his daughter’s request for money to buy jeans, and his reaction was to buy stock in the company that produces the jeans. Domain investors should do the exact same thing, but instead of buying stock, we should buy relevant domain names. For the domain investor with a good amount of cash, he should have been looking to acquire a name like Jeans.com or Denim.com, and for people without that type of income, names like JeansShop.com or JeansOutlet.com could have been good buys.

One of the keys to buying valuable domain names is to acquire names that are meaningful and would be desired by others. Owning a name that is either the generic category killer for a popular trend or a name that represents part of that category is usually a good buy. Stick to generic names, and you should come out on top.

Buying stock in a growing company is fun, but you really have no control over the performance of the stock. Owning a domain name in a growing industry is much more fun, and you completely control how you develop, monetize, or sell the name.

“Brandable” vs. Generic Domain Names

I frequently see people trying to sell “brandable” domain names. To most experienced domain investors, brandable suggests that you need to explain what the name means and why you think it is valuable, which usually means a difficult time selling it. In most cases, brandable names aren’t good buys, especially as a short term investment.

By nature, copywriters, art directors and others involved in the creative process are very attached to their ideas. Deep down, almost every creative person wants to win a Cannes Lion, Clio or an Echo, and they want to win because of their idea. They want to be inspired from deep within themselves rather than developing someone else’s idea. I don’t think it makes sense that some domain investors think that a cool/hip sounding domain name will help inspire a marketing campaign or product name, which would seem to be the reason to register it.

On the other side, some people register these names hoping that a company will use that particular term or phrase in a new product and then seek them out to buy it. While I know of a couple people who did have success with this, there are many more brandable domain names registered than companies willing to buy them. It’s like buying a lottery ticket. Sure, once in a while it may be a good idea or even pay off, but more often than not, you will end up wasting your money.

In my opinion, if you can’t afford to buy a high value keyword name and choose to register new names instead, I recommend sticking with generic keyword phrases. Put two or three related keywords together to try and create strong sounding names. Use “quoted Google searches” to see how many references that term has in Google. Generally, the more references, the more interest in that particular topic. State specific keywords can be good, too.

Registering new names can be a thrill. Knowing what to register is what can save you hundreds of dollars.

‘Tis The Season – For Online Spending?

rick-schwartz.jpgEach year before the holidays, domain investors wonder whether the coming season will mark a breakthrough for interactive marketing campaigns. As online media continues to grow and thrive, we continue to wonder why companies still devote so much advertising spend on traditional media (print/tv) when statistics seem to indicate that people are spending more time online than reading the newspaper.

Will this be the year companies devote the appropriate advertising spend for online activities? Rick wonders aloud whether companies will finally “get it” and convert some of their traditional print and television advertising dollars into online spends. My gut says this won’t be the year, but I think things are beginning to change. Interactive marketing is fun, less inhibited, and better able to engage the viewer… I digress, but more on that in a future post!

From Rick’s Blog:

“So will THIS be the online Christmas many have always expected? Will the same sorry folks be marched out to tell you not to spend online? How dangerous it is? Marched out like a political attack machine because they know their days are numbered? These people who are funded by those with most to lose. Is this the year they get it? Can they figure out that Google is approaching $800/share for a reason? That they are the fastest growing, most valuable company in the world for a reason? Can they figure out that the newspapers are not only going down in circulation but in readerehip as well?? Same with other mediums. And talk about “Stickyness”…….Imagine how many MINUTES someone used to read a newspaper or magazine and how many minutes they read now?”

Read the rest of this post here.

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