How To Value A Domain Name

The extent to which a domain can be branded may be very important in determining value. Domain names that are easy to say and remember, easy to type in, highly reflective of predictable monetizable content, and/or generate a lot of “type-in” traffic (people typing your domain name directly into the address box in their browser rather than finding your domain via a search engine) are highly sought after, and may transact for significant sums.

The size and profitability of the market to which the domain name applies is also important. This directly impacts how easily the domain name can be monetized. Needless to say, products and services that do not lend themselves to e-commerce (directly, or indirectly through selling ad space) will most often have little value.

We could go on almost forever listing factors that impact the value of a domain, but the above gives you a sense of what to consider.

Where’s The Beef?

You’ll notice the discussion thus far has presented no magic formulas for computing the right price to pay for your new domain name. I would love to give you a cool formula with lots of neat math symbols, but sadly things aren’t that simple or elegant. In order to understand what you are going to have to pay, you need to learn a few things about the domain aftermarket.

First, there is way more supply than demand. This at first may sound encouraging, but unfortunately it isn’t. Most domain resellers are very inexperienced, and tend to price their domains way too high, and as a result drive buyers away. Haggling often results in little movement in the price.

Second, the really great names, one or two real word .com domains in high traffic, high margin internet sectors are essentially all bought up. They do sometimes become available for sale, but always at extravagant prices.

Third, you have to be very careful when buying non-generic domain names (domains containing words that are not in the dictionary, or domains containing words that are in the dictionary but combine to form an unusual phrase that the courts will not consider “public domain”). These domains may be protected by a trademark. In such cases, the trademark owner can sue for ownership in court, and quite possibly be able to confiscate your domain without remuneration.

The Bottom Line

At this point you’re probably wondering how much to pay for that domain on the aftermarket. As stated above, I can’t give you a precise formula. I can, however, give you some advice based on the above principles, via reference to contemporary sales history. The basic idea is that I can provide you with anticipated price ranges (rather broad ones) that seem to be well in sync with recent domain auction closings.

At the very top of the spectrum, you have one word, and very high quality two word, generic domains in easily monetizable internet sectors. These may sell for $100,000 USD or more, and will usually have .com extensions, although occasionally some will be in other high value TLD’s (such as .net, ,org, .info, .mobi,, and .de). The very best of these domains may approach $10,000,000.

Global (non-country specific) TLD’s other than .com’s rarely sell for more than $100,000. The best of these, again one word and very high quality two word generic domains in easily monetizable internet sectors, usually sell for between $10,000 and $100,000, but sometimes may go as high as about $250,000. The best country specific extensions, mainly and .de, lend themselves to the same kind of pricing as the global TLD’s ($10,000 – $100,000). Some excellent domains in the .eu (Europe), .se (Sweden), .tv (Tuvalu), and .ch (Switzerland) extensions are starting to command these prices too.

Every week, there are several dozen sales of .com domains in the $10,000 to $100,000 range. These tend to be one to two word generics, but not as easily monetizable as the ones that sell for over $100,000.

There is an active aftermarket in two to three word .com names that are long (10 letters or more) and sell for $2,000 to $10,000. These tend to be generic, although some non-generics may be found here as well. These domains will in general be harder to monetize than the more premium names, either due to industry (not a high profit internet sector) or scope (serve only a subset of a larger sector).

There is also a market in global TLD’s other than .com’s in the $2,500 to $10,000 range. .net’s and .mobi’s tend to dominate this space, although you will also find .org’s and .info’s here. These are generally one to two word generics that are less monetizable than their otherwise equivalent brethren that sell for more.

Certain country specific domains tend to sell in the $1,000 to $10,000 range. These tend to be one word or short two word generics in the most attractive country extensions (especially, .de, .eu, and .tv). Needless to say, these are not as monetizable as their more premium brethren.

If the domain you want does not fall into one of the above categories, you should think long and hard before spending more than $2,000 or so. Admittedly, there will be times when purchasing a particular non-generic name may be unavoidable (e.g., you already have an offline business name which is not trademarked, and need the corresponding domain for your online presence). The key point here is that absent proof of pre-existing heavy traffic, and/or profits from an already deployed web site at the domain, these names are just not that valuable.


~ by Ravi Shanker on June 5, 2009.

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