Investing in Call to Action Domain Names

Major corporations seem to like call to action domain names nearly as much as they like their branded domain names. Call to action domains can be more memorable to a consumer than just the brand, and it typically encourages the consumer to take action quickly. They are less expensive than generic domain names, and they’re more readily available.   They can also be more trackable than a standard brand URL.

Call to action domain names are frequently used for a short period of time, usually during a company’s interactive or integrated marketing campaign. They are liked by companies because they can help spread a message, usually in a fun way. They aren’t typically expensive to acquire, and many of the creative ones that incorporate a company’s brand are unregistered.

For a domain investor, the problem with owning these domain names is that there are several obstacles in selling them:

1) The company could easily change a word to differentiate and buy an unregistered version ( could easily be changed to

2) Because they are short campaigns (usually), the budgets for creating the advertisement are typically more limited – with the exception of the Super Bowl and a few other big advertising times.

3) It’s hard to find one of these names before it’s in demand, and to acquire a great number and hold on to them, it can be cost prohibitive.

4) Usually the advertising agency creates the advertisement, and they don’t want to spend their allotted budget on a domain name, when the money can be billed for internal labor costs rather than external unrecoverable costs like a domain name.

5) On a creative pitch, there are usually 5-10 ideas and 3 final ideas presented to the client.   Between the internal agency pitch and the pitch to the client, there isn’t much time to negotiate a domain acquistion.   Agencies won’t pitch an idea to their client unless they know exactly how much a domain name costs.   Getting in touch with some domain owners is difficult, and if they can’t secure the name before the final client pitch, the idea may be ditched. The last thing they want to do is get the client on board with a great idea, only to tell them it’s not feasible because of cost or because they can’t even get in touch with the domain owner.

I get a lot of emails from people asking my opinion on call to action domain names. While I think many of them are neat from a consumer’s perspective, I think it’s very difficult to sell them to a company. I highly doubt a company will tailor an expensive advertising campaign around a domain name, and they probably wouldn’t acquire it for a future campaign (all of this assumes the domain owner is even able to get in front of the marketing decision maker).

My advice is to own a couple of these names if you must (buying them at registration fee), but don’t spend too much money on them.   Buying call to action domain names is more like playing the lottery.

Just for further proof about this, next time you see a call to action domain name, do a Whois History search on it. See if the company was the original registrant and when the domain name was registered. If you see that it was previously owned by someone, drop them a note and ask them about it. I’ve learned some interesting things about domain acquisition strategy (much of it I can’t post because they asked me not to make it public). I think you’ll find that most of the call to action domains that are being used were originally registered by the company using it, rather than being older domains acquired in the after market.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. I absolutely agree on the call to action names. Owning a few which are not to much of “The do it now type” still makes me wonder if I should keep them or throw them overboard for peanuts.

    Best, would probably be to develop them or just forward to a main stream site.

    1.Example: maybe forward to Adwords.
    2.Example: forward to a News channel.

    That is, if there is no time to develop them.

  2. Good post! I never saw the value in these for domainers. The chances of anyone buying them are just waaaaaayyy to small. You’re better off begging for money on a street corner than trying to consistantly sell these for profits.

    [note, please no one respond and tell me what amazing call to action you sold for XX,XXX. It’s likely BS or you’re still in the red from the thousands of crappy ones you’ve bought and never sold]


  3. I like your mindset lol, go ahead and send me your list of call to action names for sale with prices just above reg fee for a profit.

    This is one little diamond field I’d like to keep to myself 🙂



    I don’t own or buy these types of names. Unfortunately, I don’t think you are mining this “diamond field” alone.

  4. You are right Elliot.
    Corporations love call to action domains!

    I have just seen a catchy, funny one minutes ago! (will blog about it soon)

    Corporates are doing a great thing for domainers.
    With all the TV, Radio, Paper adverts using call to action domains, they are effectively educating users to practice direct navigation.

    Domainers should be thankful to them 🙂

    commonly used phrases, sayings are very memorable. One does not need a lot of effort to remember them. Reason being:
    You’ve heard them all your life! You may be using them in your daily conversations. You teach them to your kids.

    the only minor effort involves adding a .com at the end.
    -and a lot of people already know how to do that !

    a mans home is his
    a little bit of what you
    save today save
    blood is thicker than
    compare the
    this is the index page <–(love the collection)
    a friend in need is a friend
    the worlds best

    (none are mine btw)

    What are the chances of someone going to, if they have not seen or heard it before?
    (an exception would be someone who knows french and practices reverse reading, Maybe!)

    call to action is getting big! the bigger space out there is still unexplored! who needs new TLDs ??



  5. just a thought..

    if say, you buy all the lotteries in a lot, you’re sure to win aren’t you?


    Well, sure, but you’d have to buy tens of thousands of variations, costing tens of thousands of dollars and hope that one of them is desired by a company willing to spend lots of money.

  6. To summarize… The perfect .com domain name won’t really make or break you at the end of the day 🙂

    Whatever you are trying to accomplish, there is always a number of ways to go about doing so. Whether it is running a business, advertising campaign, etc.

    They help, sometimes a lot… Sometimes a little. It all depends on the scenario.

    I like the write up as a whole.. It is accurate.



  7. I see the greener side of CTA Domain Names myself, and an interesting market ahead for them. These won’t be big dollar sellers like one worders or good keyword specific names. But good/catchy CTA Domain Names that can be exploited by savy endusers and ad companies, can probably bring some nice $XXX and ‘perhaps?’ $XXXX sales to some. And for $8-$9 regs, worth holding and working them a few years to those endusers/ad companies, for a nice roi. I agree with you Elliot, these are not ones to ‘fill’ a portfolio with, but having a couple nice ones in one’s portfolio may well be worth it.

  8. Any opinion or thought’s on Owen’s GrandNames site??


    Owen is a marketing whiz and has some great connections with many marketing decision makers. When he buys a call to action domain, he probably already has an idea for how it can be used and exactly who can use it. He can also write up a compelling argument for a company to use it and get in front of the decision maker at that company.

    Most other domain investors aren’t equipped to do all of that as Owen can.

  9. Great Post Elliot – I didnt own any of these style of domains until today.

    I think well i’ll invest some cash and see if I can get nice ROI.

    Here what I picked up for Reg Fee!

    Nice easy to remember domains and who knows if they shall generate interest or revenue.

    Also I would normally stick with .com but they were taken so lets see if these are going to sell.



  10. Great post Elliot, I agree 100%

    I see them more like a poster ad marketing campaign, a temporary but catchy way to attract the attention of people who have almost become immune to the “usual big brand names”.

    Fantastic for marketing but the possible combinations when you’re talking about a 3,4 or 5 word phrase domain is massive so as a domainer the chances of ever selling it is tiny. As mentioned its easy to tweak the words around and come up with something else for reg fee…these guys are smart ! did’nt even fetch that much in the drops recently !

    A couple of the ones I like is used by Honda and used by Ariel.

    I am a big fan of Two Word call to action domains like VisitScotland – FlyDubai – SailEurope etc

    great blog !

  11. I guess what we should do here is talk about the types of call to action names.

    Elliott, are you speaking of quotes/sayings, VerbNoun, or AdjectiveVerb-vice versa etc. types of call to action.

    If you can, cite some examples so we can get a better idea of which you think is good and don’t think they’re good

    There are some call to action names I’m not fond of and I don’t think are worth investing too much in, BUT the ones Gazzip mentioned above (VerbNoun) at the end of his post are the ones I really like. I do like other styles but they have to be exceptional…



    It’s not that I don’t like them per se, its that I don’t think companies will buy them from domain investors for the amount of money it would take to cover all of the other domain names they register (so I choose not to buy them for my portfolio). From what I gather, most people who do register this type of name owns dozens or even hundreds in some cases. If they get lucky enough to sell one, it might be unlikely that they will recoup the money from all of these names combined.

    Sure, great names like,, or other common phrases are great. However, less common phrases that I see registered aren’t a good investment, IMO. I don’t want to cite examples of names though because I don’t want to personally insult someone for registering a name I don’t like.


    People, note that Elliot’s “moral of the story” is that so-called “Call to Action” (CTA) domains are mainly bunk. He is 100% correct.

    The reasoning behind CTA domains creation by ad agencies is simple:

    Ad agencies buy domains that are longtailed and frankly, forgettable, because they are only meant to last for the “life” of their advertising campaign, which is usually less than 90 days.

    Ad agencies are the people who pitch these self-serving domains to the corporate marketing directors and their VP’s to accept a campaign “theme” or not. The ad agency then introduces a domain name that MATCHES their campaign “log line”, or lead-in theme.

    The ad agency involved in creating the corporation’s prodserv campaign does NOT want to introduce a natural one word category killer domain to their client, because then the domain name becomes the “real value” of the campaign, as opposed to the time and effort to create the ad campaign by the ad agency.

    Simply put: The ad agency hired by the corporation buys longtailed and temporarily-relevant domain names in order to bolster THEIR idea for an ad campaign. CTA domains die off quickly after the ad campaign dies, and have no value beyond the traditional ad mediums being used: TV, Radio, Print. For online advertising, the corporations do not continue to use CTA domains, and they usually will end up expired after a year or two.

    If you have a good CTA domain, try and build your OWN ad campaign around it, if you expect that a large company may want to use it. I guarantee you (Ask Rick Schwartz to back this up) that ad agencies don’t want to go head-to-head with domainers with one word category killing domains. Ad agencies are scared of powerful domainers such as Rick, because one good domain name can kick their asses with eyeballs-to-product ROI.

    I have written about this many times on my blog at

    If anything, ad agencies are mosquitos that see great domains for their clients as vampire bats, sucking out potential revenue from their clients that the ad agency wants to suck themselves.

    Hmmm… last sentence is bordering on a Judd Apatow movie clip. lol

    Hope to see you all at Domainfest 2009!

  13. Here’s an article I wrote on DNBizBlog (no longer published). The Heinz reference in the article refers to a previous writing in which I was responding to a post by Mr. Frager. He had written a post that insisted domainers didn’t “get it” and that Madison Avenue didn’t need them. (I’d point you to that post but he deleted it shortly after I left a comment.)

    It was interesting to see him become believer.

    Domain names have always been about creativity, so there aren’t many real rules in creating them. As for their profitability, I think that’s in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure the saps that bought Citi stock at $25 a share last year (now at $1.78) wish they’d looked at domain names. Is $500 enough profit on a $10 name? Is an average of profit of $84 each enough profit on 1000 reg fee domains?

    Anyway, I thought your readers may be interested in the original article:

    Call-to-Action Names
    ASN5 November 2007

    No doubt,,,,,, and are all great “call-to-action” domain names – for their niche. They are similar to great domain names in that they are the shortest possible way to say what’s being said. And even though what’s being said can sometimes make for a fairly long domain name, they’re easy to remember.

    Call-to-action domain names are valuable, but less so than pure generics because of their generally niche nature. So to find an investor grade value in a call-to-action domain name it should be in a high-dollar niche or be a generic.

    Since you’ve already been immersed in the Heinz-related campaign from the last article, I’ll continue using those facts for my example and have you consider the domain name

    That domain name meets the criteria for a call-to-action domain name, but its also a generic. When I hear, I get the right idea; it makes me think of “Let’s see you do better!” Of course, the question becomes, “Do better at what?” It could apply to almost anything. That’s what I call a non-descriptive generic.

    Non-descriptive generics aren’t as valuable as descriptive generics (,, etc.), but they are still investment grade domain names. Unfortunately for that particular generic call-to-action domain name, there is a problem that decreases its value. The problem is and are what I call twin domain names. Like real twins, they aren’t technically identical and they look a lot cuter when they’re together. Unless you are selling to the owner of the other twin, the value of these names individually is typically substantially less than half of what their value would be as a pair.

    This particular case demonstrates a rare situation where you have twin generic call-to-action domain names that are extremely brandable. But since you could never own the “Let’s see you do better!” concept without owning both, they actually diminish each others value greatly when separated. In a perfect world they would both be owned by the same individual or company and as such would be quite valuable given the apparent direction of video on the Internet.

    As a side note, I’m guessing the folks at Smith Brothers know all this, as they registered about the same time they registered and then acquired And, since Heinz’s name isn’t on the WHOIS registration, maybe the ad agency already has the idea to eventually make Heinz just one of many such contests ongoing at the site.

    If so, that would highlight the problem I am discussing. You see, a couple of guys named Robert and Brandon are already working to put together that exact same thing with the domain name. So in real time you can see how these competing interests will devalue each of the domain names unless they can partner or come to some kind of purchase agreement. If they can’t, more often than not it turns into a very long waiting game.

    Another variant of this problem can be found in homophonic twins, such as and These are the twins where one is maybe just a little bit prettier than the other. The first domain name is a valuable niche call-to-action domain name, but a cable or satellite company would most likely not want to invest in marketing and advertising using that domain name unless they also owned the other one, which obviously is not a call-to-action domain name.

    In conclusion, unless you feel confident about the industry niche associated with a call-to-action domain name, you may want to pass on all but the generic ones. And if you end up with a domain name that has a diminished value due to a twin, you should move as soon as possible to try to work something out with the other owner.

    (On that last point, in theory both owners should be a strong potential buyer and a strong potential seller at the same time. Because of this awkward position, a useful strategy is the offer to either buy or sell at the same price. This will avoid a lot of bloated negotiations by leaving the other owner very little wiggle room – they can’t very well say your price is too high and at the same time refuse to sell for the same price.)

    Happy Domaining!


  14. Hi Elliot
    What are you’re thoughts on renting generic call to action domains for a set period of time or for the length of a particular campaign?

    I have “” for example and think it would be great as a call to action for a ebook someone might be promoting… do you know of trusted sites that I could rent out such domains? Or have any tips on this type of strategy?


  15. I think that good call to action domains and tagline domains are the perfect compliment to QR codes. QR codes are very powerful, however many people miss them because of time or distance. If they can be complimented with great, even generic call to actions or taglines, that are not too long and are familiar and memorable then that could be a boon for advertisers. I guess if an adertizing firm could secure say a few hundred taglines or call to action domains then that would be worth a fortune to them.


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