What’s a Domain Name Worth? Ask a Mountain Maven.

A person wanting to buy one of my domain names, MountainMaven.com, contacted me the other day with an offer of a hundred bucks. Yikes.

People overlook the importance of a good domain name. They underestimate their value.  Having the right name is more important than ever in this crowded marketplace. It can become a company’s most important asset and in many cases the name is their entire brand.

photo of mountain maven

After receiving the unsolicited offer, I realized that if I wanted to sell my domain for what I thought it was worth, I needed to proactively market it.

I purchased MountainMaven.com because it was an easy to remember, two-word name that was also search engine friendly and a top-level .com (TLD). The name Mountain Maven just rolls off your tongue and has a nice aural rhythm and meter to it. I own a couple of hundred more just like it.

Mountain Maven would make a perfect marketing campaign microsite for a corporate giant like Eastern Mountain Sports or Columbia Sports Wear. And how much do you think it’d be worth if National Geographic or the Discovery Channel decided to create a TV series around green mountain living or extreme snowboarding lifestyles? It’d also make a great corporate blog for a large ski company like Elan, K2, or Atomic (or Jake Burton). The possibilities are endless.

I’ve been doing a lot of research for my employer over the last few weeks, trying to create unique product and company names (and the domains to go with them).  It’s hard…really hard, and its time consuming, too.  But there are still a lot of good domain names out there if you know how to look.

My process is pretty much the same as other people searching for a good domain name. I fire up Google and start doing keyword searches based on a broad idea and then I start building out possible domain names from there. I also use keyword tools to create an initial seed list.

For me, it’s kind of like being in a John Nash-like state of mind. Just like in the movie, A Beautiful Mind, I make mental notes of all the keywords I see while searching Google, MSN and Yahoo and I start putting them in different order, saying the name aloud in my head. Once I get one that has a nice ring to it, I type the name directly into the address bar, add a .com to the end, and see if it’s available.

If it’s a parked page with no content, I do a whois search to see how long it’s been registered and when it is going to expire. If it is going to expire within a year, I put the expiration date on my calendar and keep an eye on it. I’ve purchased several domains this way. The user simply lost interest or forgot that they owned it.

If it’s been registered for six years or more by the same person, I move on…that person obviously knows its value. Using a tool like DomainTools.com will tell you who owns it, how long they’ve owned it, when it is going to expire, and how many times it’s changed owners (along with other interesting data about the domain beyond the scope of this post).

Here are the minimum requirements I look for when purchasing a brand new domain name (purchasing existing names will be covered in another post.):

  1. It has to be a (.com). Dot com is the assumed extension when people think about a domain name or type one in a browser. Dot com is still king and will be for a very, very long time.
  2. Needs to be two English language words. Sometimes three if it is really good, but the shorter the better.
  3. The name needs to have a nice sound and meter. It needs to be easy and pleasant to say out loud.
  4. Those two or three words need to identify a business opportunity that I can develop a website around.
  5. It would make a nice microsite for a marketing campaign.
  6. A subject matter that people would actually spend money on. (e.g. A visitor to this domain might buy snowboarding accessories.)
  7. Search engine friendly keywords  (This domain only qualifies if it becomes the name of a television series or a popular ad campaign…are you listening, Budweiser Coors?)
  8. No misspellings. (e.g. MountainMavin)
  9. No dashes or hyphens. (e.g. Mountain-Maven)
  10. No abbreviations. (e.g. MtnMaven)
  11. No prefixes. (e.g. MyMountainMaven or iMountainMavin)
  12. No numbers. (e.g. 1MoutainMaven)
  13. Make sure the name doesn’t have a sordid past. Did the previous owner drop it for a reason? It’s not impossible to build back trust, but you want to make sure past bad press and comments don’t show up when people search for your new name.

Smart companies scour the blogosphere searching for references to their own brand (for better or for worse), and the fact that I mention them by name here in this post is by design. With any luck, one of these smart companies will find this post and make an offer for my domain closer to the $5000 figure I had floating in my head.

At the end of the day, though, a domain name is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it.  I think this one is worth more than a hundred bucks, though. Guess I should start developing it.

3 replies
  1. mark
    mark says:

    Like you say, a domain is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. If youve only had an offer for $100 then thats how much its currently worth. If you thinks its worth more, then your best creating a website for it and earning some money that way. At the end of the day, any .com domain only costs its initial registration fee to regsiter. It amazes me when people think they are worth tens of thousands when they have no-one interested in them. The only real way to find the value of a domain, is to put it up for auction and see how much it goes for. 99% of the time im sure most domains would be sold for far less than the owner thinks they are worth. I think most domain names are way over valued.

    Reply

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  1. […] a great post called “Domaining: To See Is To Believe” that echos my past post about the value of domain names. He’s way smarter than I am and he has articulated the point way better than I […]

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