Rick Schwartz and Chef Patrick recently posted about dropping crappy domain names. I completely agree with this, but I think the bigger problem is that many people can’t distinguish whether a domain name is decent or crappy. The great ones are obvious to most, but some people have problems where they believe a domain name is good and has value, when in fact, nearly everyone else would say it sucks.
In my opinion, there’s no way you can beat a generic term or phrase with a brandable name. Of course, you can sell a brandable .com name to a willing company for a lot of money, but chances are good that those who have done it own thousands of brandable names and need that big sale to break even or possibly make a bit of profit. Always look at the big picture, and when you do, I think you will see that generic keywords will make you a lot more money in the long run.
One way to make sure you are buying generic .com terms is to focus on verticals you know – at the very least when you are first starting out in the industry. If you are a direct marketer for example, think about all of the types of products you use (business reply envelopes and flash drives), phrases you discuss (return on investment and presentation deck), and services you use (telemarketing reps and call center monitoring). Write a bunch of these down and see if the phrases as .com domain names are registered.
For the names that aren’t taken, put those phrases into keyword tools such as Vurr, Aaron Wall’s Keyword Tool, and Google Adwords keyword tool, and see how many people are searching for those exact phrases (correct spelling and all). Depending on the tool and the phrases, results can vary. For a sanity check, compare your long tail phrase to the short tail to see what the difference is. For example, if you look up “call center monitoring” in one of the tools, cross check it with “call center” so you can compare how many people are searching for the long tail vs the better short tail. If the numbers look good, it might be worth registering.
Another piece of advice is that if English isn’t your first language, you might not want to register English .com domain names. On occasion, things get lost in translation, and even the slightest change can render a name worthless. Instead of focusing on English .com names, perhaps you will have better luck focusing on names in your primary language. ccTLDs are hot, but I am sure people also search with their language + .com, so if you want to stick with .com, that may work, too. Don’t force it though.
It’s important to focus on verticals that you know, because you may end up registering dozens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars worth of domain names that nobody will ever want to buy. A year from that point, you will be stuck deciding whether to renew those names, the fruits of your time spent a year prior, or to let them drop and take the realized loss. IMO, stay lean in these times and only register good names.
Remember, it’s my opinion that you can’t go wrong with .com. Also, remember, it’s generally better to own 1 domain name that is really worth $8,000 than to register 1,000 average domain names at a cost of $8,000. At least if you need liquidity, it will be easier to get cash by selling ONE name than by trying to sell 1,000 domain names.