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How To Create Profitable Domain Names

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by Lee Hodgson


Lee Hodgson

About the Author:

Lee Hodgson

DomainGuru.com where domain name registration is made easy. Industry knowledge, and personal advice come together to help you secure the best possible home on the Web.

Lee Hodgson has written 18 articles for DomainInformer.
View all articles by Lee Hodgson...

Earlier this year, I took time out in order to test the widely-held view that "all the best names had gone". In the space of two months, I registered nearly two hundred domain names - one hundred and ninety .coms, and ten .net addresses.

And before you ask, no, I'm not talking about cybersquatting or trademark infringements. All the names I created were new, generic names, unconnected with current companies or their brands.

Before registering any new name, use a site like NameProtect to perform a free trademark check. If there's any clash with a registered trademark, you're better off without the name. I'm sure you've got better things to do with your time than deal with corporate lawyers ;-)

During the two month period I learnt many tricks and techniques of the "name creation" trade. These techniques are normally kept hush hush - if everyone knew about them, how would the domain speculators make a profit?

Well, I guess it's your lucky day. Two hundred names is enough for me - I've taken early retirement from the name creation game. I've decided to pass on what I've learnt so that everyone can have a go. And did I succeed in making a profit? You'll just have to read on and find out.


Step #1 - Get the Tools for the Job

It won't take long to get tooled up for this particular job, here are the must haves:

Internet Account: Kind of obvious, but definitely required :-)

Text Editor: Any text editor will do, even good old Notepad.exe.

WhoIs ULTRA: A marvellous little freeware program that takes the hassle out of checking domain name availability, and really comes into its own when checking multiple domains. The latest version can be downloaded from the author's website - it's only 200K or so.

Gallons & Gallons of Coffee: Not strictly necessary, nor healthy, but definitely helpful.


Step #2 - Understand What Makes A Name Valuable

Unless you have a fair understanding of what makes names valuable in the first place, you will be wasting your time and money registering new ones. For a name to be valuable, it will normally possess the following attributes:

It's Short: The shorter the name, the easier it is to say, remember, spell, and type. The exception to this rule are well-known phrases, which can be quite long and still hold significant value. For instance, 'ForSaleByOwner.com' sold for over $800,000.

It Passes the "Radio Test": If a name is heard on the radio, would the average Net user be able to remember it, and then type it into a web browser? If so, it passes the "radio test". This means that using deliberate misspellings, shortened versions of words, or numbers, generally reduces the value of a name.

It's a .Com: Some specific .net and .org addresses are valuable, particularly one word names, but the most fruitful resale territory for now and the foreseeable future is .com world.

It Has Commercial Application: Remember, you're expecting somebody to pay you hard cash for your name. If the name doesn't make money for the new owner, why would they pay big money to buy it from you?

Financial names hold the most value, simply because financial web sites have the potential for the highest revenues. Always bear the market sector in mind when considering registering a new name. The bigger the market, the more valuable the name.

It Will Have A Large Degree Of "Uniqueness": Personally, this is my favorite way to judge names for value.

Think of the pool of domain names as a pyramid, each brick being an individual name. At the top of the pyramid are the one-word names, then you move down a level to the two-word names, and the further down you go, the more words in each name. At the base of the pyramid, where the names approach sixty three characters in length (the allowed limit), there could be ten or more words in each name.

As with any pyramid, the further you go down, the more bricks there are on each level, and for this particular pyramid, the bottom row contains an almost infinite number of bricks.

The trick with domain names is to find names which are as near the pyramid summit as possible, because there you will find the least number of unregistered names, there will be very few alternatives for a buyer to consider.

If you register names near the base, there will be millions and millions of alternatives. These names have no uniqueness, and hence no value.


Step #3 - Step up the Plate & Register

OK, now you've got a good idea of what makes a name valuable, it's time to try and think up some names of your own. Use the following techniques as a starting point, I'm sure you'll add some of your own along the way. Listed at the bottom of each section is one or more examples of names that I registered using the technique described.

1) The Future: It stands to reason that new technologies require new domain names. And the further away the technology is from commercial application, the better chance you have of finding unregistered names for it.

In order to get in early you'll need a news source that has in depth, up to date news coverage. Start by subscribing to one or more daily newsletters that cover hi-tech.

You could also use web sites that have live news-feed on them - two of the best are Moreover.com and Yahoo.com. Both have an enormous range of news-feeds, and they also use other websites as news sources, and turn up lots of interesting stories and articles because of it.

Of course there is an inherent risk in hi-tech investments, just ask any bio-tech stockholder. Many promising technologies fail to make a significant commercial impact, but if you latch onto the right technology early enough, the rewards could be massive.

You'll be facing a lot of competition though, especially from industry insiders. It's no coincidence that the majority of good WAP names are registered with Scandinavian individuals, since Scandinavian companies pioneered a lot of WAP technology. To beat these people to the punch, you'll have to get in early and take a risk or two.

My Examples: LiquidTrading.com, SmartphoneTV.com

2) Dictionaries: Most of the usable English language words have now been registered, but there are many salable foreign language words still up for grabs, not to mention longer English language words. The Spanish language in particular is attractive, since it is the second most widely used language on the Web, but has many fewer domain names registered.

WhoIS ULTRA will come into play here. Instead of logging onto the Net every time you find an interesting name, just type the name into a text file. When you have a hundred or so interesting names, load the text file into WhoIs ULTRA and check them all at once.

Specialised dictionaries are another good source of names. The key here is that they don't just contain single words, but subject-related terms as well.

Try scanning a dictionary of business terms, marketing terms, real estate terms, even tax or banking terms. Don't forget to jot down interesting terms so you can upload them later for checking.

My Examples: Cambiste.com, TaxMeasures.com

3) Article Headlines: This method is similar to (2), in that you are searching for short, meaningful phrases within particular industries. Any publication could yield results, but your best bet are the specialist sections of daily newspapers or topical magazines. They are loaded with industry phrases, and are also bang up to date.

My Examples: FlagshipFund.com, TouristHub.com,

4) Generic Terms: A generic term is simply a term that represents a particular subject or industry, without referring to individual brands. For example, "credit cards" would be the generic term for the credit card industry, and the generic web site name would be credit cards.com.

Web users are getting increasing domain name savvy. Instead of attempting to locate a web site for their topic of interest using search engines, they are guessing at web site names by typing a generic name straight into their browser.

This makes generic domain names very valuable, because once a web site owner has the name pointing to their site, there's no other expenses involved in attracting a steady stream of site traffic for years to come - a rare form of promotion indeed!

You might guess that since generic names have such value, that they would have all been registered by now. It's certainly what I would have assumed, but it's not the case at all. I prepared a text file containing 50 or so world languages, and used WhoIS ULTRA to search for the *Language.com. I found around ten of the names were still unregistered, even for languages with many millions of speakers.

I'm guessing that some of these names are still not registered today. Go take a look...

My Examples: ThaiLanguage.com, Swedish Language.com

5) Buzzwords / Hot Topics: Sometimes subjects that have been dormant for ages get picked up by the media and become white-hot topics of debate, at least for a short while.

One great example was the furor that was created last Christmas over the lack of security on high profile web sites. A day didn't pass without news that another web site had been a victim of a "Denial of Service" attack, or had thousands of credit card numbers stolen.

Such bolts of publicity lightning create an opportunity, because they raise the profile of a certain industry, in this case, the Internet security industry.

My Examples: SecureDealing.com, SecureDeposits.com

6) Prefix popular words with single-letter abbreviations: This is a fairly simple way of generating new names. Just find popular words, phrases, and prefix them with any of the following abbreviations:

'i' - Internet, Interactive,Instant,I

'e' - Electronic

'u' - You

'v' - Virtual

The most valuable names are normally 'e'-prefixed, but it just depends on the word you are trying to prefix. For instance, both ePhoneBanking.com and iPhoneBanking.com work - uPhoneBanking.com doesn't. As with all names, say them out loud before registering them - if it doesn't sound right, its probably not valuable.

My Examples: eSideload.com, ePhoneBanking.com, eSecureDeals.com, iSecureSolution.com

7) Combine Keyword With Popular Web Site Suffix: There are several hundred suffixes that are popular across a spectrum of web sites with two word domain names - here are just a few:

*Auctions, *Bid, *Biz, *Central, *Deal, *Exchange, *Find,

*Guide, *Index, *Market, *News, *Search, *Secure, *Submit,

*Watch, *Web, *World, *Universe

Use the wild-card feature of the domain name search tool at Marksonline to find out just how popular they are. If you type in "*World" for example, you will get a list back of all the domain names that have been registered using that suffix.

Popular suffixes have thousands of associated domain names registered, and if you can think of a good new one, you've got a domain name with resale potential.

My Examples: FashionAuctions.com, FreewareNews.com, HolidaysGuide.com

8) Combine Keyword With Popular Web Site Prefix: This method is identical in principle to (7) - except that you are you are looking for popular prefixes rather than suffixes. Here are a few popular web site prefixes:

4*, Cheap*, Click*, Free*, Go*, Instant*, My*, Search*, Secure*, World*

If you can find a good keyword to go after one of these suffixes, then you might well have a valuable name on your hands.

My Examples: InstantGaming.com, 4SQL.com, SecureTraining.com, ClickSubmit.com

9) Benefit-Based Names: This is one of the most creative and little known ways of producing new domain names, and hence is a great source of new dot coms for any inventive person.

The idea behind a benefit-based name is to express some benefit to the customer in the domain name itself.

As an example, a language school might choose to register its company name - nothing wrong with that you might say. But when a user is confronted by a list of 50 web sites in a search engine, they will choose a name that offers some benefit to them, something that fulfills a need - given the choice, would you click on FluentJapanese.com or IZCJapaneseLanguageSchool.com?

My Examples: FreeGoldCard.com, ExoticThailand.com, FluentJapanese.com

10) Put Two Short Keywords Together: This is one of the more risky ways of producing new names, but it's fun, creative, and also has the potential for big rewards.

This technique is beloved by branding firms. They combine two short, powerful words (or partial words) to create a new name. Often, the name makes no or little sense as a phrase in its own right. The name has to be branded, but that actually increases its value rather than reducing it. If a name is going to cost $1 million to brand, what's another $20,000 to purchase it in the first place?

Here are a few names in use produced with this method:

AskWeb.com, DataCert.com, WaveLink.com, WebEver.com

If you can come up with a couple of good, short keywords that fit nicely together, you might have a real hot name on your hands.

My Examples: EarnShare.com, PostSecure.com

11) Acronyms: Now that all the 3-letter acronyms have been registered, the battleground has moved to the 4-letter acronyms.

Cross-check any interesting 4-letter acronyms you come across at acronymfinder.com to see whether they have a standard usage. If so, they will be much more valuable than a random -letter assortment.

My Examples: 4SQL.com

12) Growth Areas: It makes sense that those areas of the web that will expand the most will also need the most new domain names. If e-commerce is involved, so much the better.

Research firms such as IDC and Forrester Research are a great source of pertinent information surrounding the web, and particularly, the expansion of e-commerce on the web.

For instance, Forrester Research predicted in 1999 that by 2004, the number of e-commerce enabled Health & Beauty web sites would increase from 509 to 10,335. That's a 20-fold increase, or to put it another way, 9826 new Health & Beauty sites that need domain names. Why not one of yours?


Final Tips:

  • You don't need to use all twelve methods listed above. Choose just a few, and you should be able to create dozens of interesting names.
  • Only register names for a year at a time. You can always renew the registration at year's end, if you haven't managed to sell it before then.
  • Not all the names you register will have value. We all come up with a few duds, especially after a few beers! At the end of the first year, review all your names, and decide whether to "keep them or dump them". Don't consider dumping a small percentage of names as a disaster. It just demonstrates how much you have learnt in the the intervening year.
  • Domain name speculating can get very addictive, but keep the potential earnings in perspective. There are thousands of other people round the world trying to do the same thing as you. Don't spend more money on names than you can afford to lose.
  • Find a friend you can trust to give you an honest opinion on your names, before you register them. It will save you a lot of money.
  • Think about specializing in one particular industry - this is particularly important if you have very limited time available. You're less likely to succeed trying to be a jack of all trades, better to be a master of one. You could specialize in finance, sports, travel, health, entertainment, shopping, or any of the other categories that exist on the web. By specializing, you will get a much better feel for what you are doing, and will develop a good "nose" for valuing names in that particular category. You may even be considered an expert in the niche you inhabit.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot to answer the question at the top of the article. Did I make money registering two hundred domain names in two months? The short answer is yes. I have already sold ten names, more than earning back the registration money in the process. I've also turned down offers for another twenty or so names.

Some names I will never be able to sell, most I will sell for a thousand dollars or less, but a few names have real potential value. But it hasn't been easy, and certainly not the instant gold-mine some domain speculators would have you believe.

Speculating on domain names is a lot of hard work, but it's enjoyable, an intellectual challenge, and far removed from the "geeky cybersquatter" image that is commonly portrayed. Give it a go, you've got nothing to lose, except the registration fees of course.

Article provided exclusively by DomainGuru. No reprints are allowed unless expressly stated in writing.

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