2017 was the year I became obsessed with premium domain names.
While everyone else was busy with hurricanes, cryptocurrency, and Trump, I was getting deeply immersed in premium domains, more specifically the 4-letter .com kind (also known as LLLL.com domains).
GoDaddy defines premium domains as short, memorable, easy-to-spell names that end in a popular extension like .com which tend to cost a lot more than normal domains. The main reason why they cost more is because they are already owned by someone, indeed, all 456,976 possible 4-letter .com combinations have been registered since 2013.
All 456,976 possible 4-letter .com combinations have been registered since 2013.
Do you think that stopped me? Quite the contrary! I was on a mission to buy my own premium domain – and it turns out that it wasn’t that hard.
If you are interested in buying a premium domain for your business, you are not late to the game, but you might want to read the 5 things I learned spending $1,000 on premium domains.
1. Not All Domains Are Created Equally
With almost half a million 4-letter .com domains to go after, it is quintessential to group LLLL.com into categories, to understand their perceived market value and why some are more expensive than others.
The simplest grouping method is Western Premium vs Chinese Premium.
Western Premium domains comprise all pronounceable names that derive either from dictionary keywords (example: cool, love, body, tree, etc.) or invented words (example: dudu, yolo, fyre, siri, etc). You will soon realize that many renowned brands fall in this category: Coke, IKEA, Nike, Visa, etc.
This type of domains can be also grouped based on letter combination: CVCV, VCVC, CVVC, VCCV (where C = consonant and V = vowel). This is crucial if you consider that there are only 5 vowels that would make a name easy to pronounce.
However, letter combinations are far from bulletproof, since not every letter carries the same weight or value. If you compare qaje.com with pame.com you will notice what I mean. Both have the same vowels, yet the former is harder to pronounce and lacks the appeal of the latter.
Chinese Premium domains (aka Chips) are consonant-only acronyms (CCCC domains) that have been in the rise in China since 2014. While all vowels and the letter “V” have little value in China’s domain marketplace, letters of lower use in English (like Q, Z, J, X) are considered premium.
Here are some interesting examples of Chips: fjly.com, mgtv.com, xmnn.com, tcmm.com, hdyx.com.
This kind of domains are useful if you want to invest in premium domains or become a broker, but if your plan is to launch your business using a memorable brand name, you might want to stick to Western Premiums.
The key is to find a name that is short and easy to pronounce.
2. Domain Auction Marketplaces Can Get You More Bang for Your Buck
Once you are ready to begin your buying journey, there are many ways to purchase your premium domain, and choosing the right option will depend on how much time and money you want to invest.
Here is a simplified chart (prices in USD):
|Buy directly from the domain owner||$50K+||Slow|
|Buy through a domain broker||$25K+||Slow|
|Buy in brandable domain marketplaces||$5K+||Fast|
|Buy in auction marketplaces||$100+||Slow|
The first two options are the most expensive and it could take quite a long time to complete the negotiations. The third option is the fastest and you could find great domains at competitive prices. The last option is by far the cheapest but it could take a while until you find a decent domain.
Auction Marketplaces 101
- Start by browsing a market overview website like ShortNames to get a sense of prices and availability.
- Once you spot a few domains “dropping soon” that catch your attention, track how many people are also interested in them, and create your premium domain shortlist.
- Register for free in different auction marketplaces to start bidding for your selected domains – below is an overview of the top options.
NameJet offers a never-ending list of premium LLLL.com auctions that start at $69 (full disclosure: this is where I bought tois.com).
Desired domains can be added to a “backorder” list until the auction starts – most auctions last 72 hours. Users can bid at $10 increments and the highest bidder wins the domain name.
There are 3 downsides worth mentioning:
- If a bid is submitted during an auction’s final 5 minutes, the timer would reset back to 5 minutes, and this will keep happening until no further bids are received. Auctions close after 5 minutes have lapsed without any new bids.
- Some domains have a reserve price that needs to be met.
- You must be a verified bidder to bid over $2,500.
GoDaddy provides a robust engine to search for domain auctions and they have many premium and catchy names in their database.
The main downside is that you can only bid if you sign up for a GoDaddy Auctions account ($4.99/year).
DropCatch focuses on recently dropped domains. A domain “drops” when its previous owner does not pay the annual renewal fee.
The biggest downside with this marketplace is that there aren’t many Western Premium domains dropping often.
3. Domain Prices Are 100% Subjective
How much are you willing to pay for a premium domain? There is no way to find out how much a LLLL.com is worth for certain.
“Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it” – Publilius Syrus.
Below is a list of tools that could guide you before buying a domain:
- EstiBot: get 1 free domain appraisal per day (NameJet will include the EstiBot valuation in every auction).
- GoDaddy: get free unlimited domain appraisals based on comparable domains previously sold.
- NameBio: find any public and private domain sales using their advanced search feature.
4. Be Prepared to Make Mistakes
If you have ever bid for an item on eBay.com, you must know that domain auctions feel the same way, and the adrenaline can lead to making rushed (and oftentimes poor) decisions.
When I first started, I decided to limit my max bids to $250, to avoid splurging unnecessarily. This was both a curse and a blessing. I ended up buying my first-ever LLLL.com for exactly $250 without really knowing why I was getting that non-pronounceable VCCC domain – and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it.
The advice I wish I had known when I first ventured into auction marketplaces was to prepare a curated domain shortlist to go after.
5. The Importance of a Good Brand Name
Apple, Google, Facebook, they all have one thing in common: they are amongst the most valuable brands in the world. A name is how a company introduces itself to the world – making it an important piece of the puzzle when building a brand.
Below are some ideas to come up with your brand’s name:
- Use the founder’s name like Ford.
- Describe what you do like ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network).
- Describe an experience or image like Lego – derived from the Danish phrase “leg godt” which means play well.
- Take a word out of context like Nest.
- Make up a word like Hulu.
- Find an available premium domain.
Adopting a brand name based on a premium LLLL.com that you acquired is a very clever strategy if you stand by it. This reverse approach can be both affordable and profitable if done right. That is how I decided to launch tois.com.
Adopting a brand name based on a premium LLLL.com that you acquired is a very clever strategy if you stand by it.
On top of every reason described in this post about premium domains, tois.com originated from a combination of egotistical satisfaction and being in the right place at the right time (and having some disposable income).
Like any self-indulgent individual, I wanted to register my first name as a .com, soon realizing that many people had had that idea before me.
I stumbled upon tois.com on NameJet in late 2017 and had an eureka moment: this premium domain contained 4 letters of my first name, in the same order, including the first and last letters (my name is Tobias).
Even though “tois” isn’t a dictionary keyword, it’s a perfectly brandable name that sounds like the word toys, but maintains distance from its meaning. It’s worth noting that toys.com was sold for more than $5 million to Toys “R” Us in 2009. I paid a little over $800 for tois.com.
If you are in the process of starting your business and want to buy a premium domain, you now possess an array of helpful resources to accomplish this goal, with clear steps to follow in order to succeed:
- Understand the basics of premium domains.
- Research the web to get a sense of prices and availability.
- Create a domain shortlist – stick to pronounceable names.
- Sign up in a domain auction marketplace.
- Bid responsibly. 😁