If you don’t know the importance of a great domain name yet, then you’ve been missing out. Domain names send a message and set the tone for your brand and your business. Not only that, selecting the right one can be quite lucrative both in practice and if you ever decide to sell it.
That doesn’t mean just anything will work however, there are a number of dos and don’ts when it comes to creating a domain name. If you want a truly great one that will make your brand recognizable, you’ll want to follow some of the key strategies that we’re going to go over here in this guide.
Not only tell you about the most expensive domains ever sold, but we’re also going to enlighten you on just what makes them great, and how to capture some of that greatness for yourself so that you too can make the most of the internet.
Table of Contents
Creating a Great Domain Name For Yourself
Domains do more than just name your website, they represent your brand, your products, and your intentions as a business. Creating a great domain name is more than just picking something catchy that folks can remember, though that is part of it in some cases.
Your first consideration should be the top-level domain (TLD) you choose. You may already know this, but TLDs have a trust hierarchy to them. Not only is there a trust hierarchy, but there is less recognition the further you go down the list of top-level domains.
Knowing which ones are the most trusted and recognizable by users is likely your first step to creating an outstanding domain name of your own.
Try a .Com Name First
The top of the TLD heap in the United States is the .com domain. While other countries typically use a shortened abbreviation of their country’s name, such as .jp for Japan and .ca for Canada, for some strange reason, that trait never took in the United States. This means that if you’re looking for the most trustworthy and recognizable top-level domain you can get, then .com is the one you look for first.
The hierarchy of trust trends downward from there in the United States, but if you’re looking to do business in another country, such as China for instance, then you want a domestic domain to facilitate marketing and growth in that market. It can be tougher for U.S. websites to rank in other countries, particularly those where search engines perform differently than the Google we are all used to.
The best domains are usually .com domains but all is not lost if you cannot get one. Just be mindful that the further down the list of TLDs you go, the less trustworthy they are considered. Some industry-specific TLDs like .tv fair well because they are relevant to the business or entity they are attached to. This is similar to the domains .org and .edu which are tied to specific entities.
Keep it Simple
Like we’ve talked about, the name you choose matters a lot in terms of whether your domain has value. It has to be easy to remember, relevant and relatable. It must also do this in as few characters as possible.
Think of it from a logical perspective using real-world examples. Google is only six letters (not including the TLD) your bank, social media, and other things are all under ten characters. There’s a valid reason behind this.
Users don’t want long complicated names, they want things that are easy to remember and that signify something to them. You wouldn’t name your website antidisestablismentarianism.com and expect folks to remember it or want to type it into a search bar either.
Users don’t like special characters either. The rule of thumb is simple words that have meaning and are ten letters or less. If you can stick to this formula and still display your brand, then you’re on track to having a great domain name like the ones on our list later in this guide.
On Brand is Best
Your domain name can be considered something of a signifier of what you do. Say, for instance, that you sold shoes, if you owned the domain shoes.com, chances are this would be a popular domain, it would be valued highly, and more importantly, people would know exactly what they are getting when they click.
However, if you sell tires and you own shoes.com then you might want to consider selling that domain, because not only is it not on-brand for your business, you’re likely to wind up with some seriously confused and aggravated users. When we say “on brand”, we mean, relevant to what you do. If you can’t get a name that says exactly what you do in a word, then another descriptor may work too. For example, to go back to shoes, if you can’t get shoes.com then you can try other synonyms such as footwear.com. This still gets the point across of what you do, it ticks the box of ten letters, and it’s easy to remember.
We probably don’t need to say this, but we will anyway, check before you register. No, we’re not talking about hotel check-in, we’re talking about registering your domain name. Just because a particular name isn’t taken under a particular TLD doesn’t mean it isn’t a copyrighted brand name that someone else is using.
Companies will often trademark terms related to their business without actually establishing a domain name associated with it. Do your homework and don’t infringe on anyone else’s rights in the process of building your brand. A trademark fight is not something a business wants to deal with.
The Most Expensive Domain Names Ever Sold
For this list, we’re ranking them by the actual dollar amount they sold for, not for how good or bad the name is. Along with each name, we’ll describe why it sold for that amount.
1. Business.com – $345 Million
Yes, you are in fact reading that right. A single domain name sold for almost half a billion dollars in 2007. While this number is arguably quite absurd in its own right, the domain was originally purchased in 1999, right in the middle of the .com boom for a hefty $7.5 million.
The reason for the exponential increase in price is due to the fact that two very large companies attempted to buy the domain name after it was originally purchased in ‘99. Although the purchaser may have had second thoughts after the purchase considering they filed bankruptcy just two years later.
The generality of the domain means that it could potentially draw in traffic from anywhere on the web and could be tied to any sort of business. While this isn’t a typical branding strategy, we could see how a domain like this used in the right way could have loads of value.
2. LasVegas.com -$90 Million
When we talk about genius marketing strategy, this is what we mean. This domain was purchased by the owner of VEGAS.com in an effort to drive all possible travel-related traffic to one of the two sites.
The purchase was made by a travel agency for Las Vegas and the initial payment to the domain holder was $12 million with payments continuing for the balance until 2040.
While we can’t explain the actual dollar amount, the fact that one entity now controls pretty much all of the search traffic for a particular city is a smart move from a marketing and branding standpoint. Now whenever a user searches Vegas or Las Vegas, either domain will pop in the SERP, which is what the buyer wanted.
3. CarInsurance.com – $47 Million
Right about the time the internet was really taking off, an online marketing agency went on a bit of an insurance-related domain purchasing spree. The end result was this massive purchase. Not only is this one of the highest domain purchases ever made, but it was also one of the most lucrative. By the end of their buying spree, the marketing agency had figuratively and quite literally cornered the search market for insurance-related searches of all types.
This gave them instant leadership in the space and allowed them to capitalize on what was then an emerging market. Despite the heavy price tag, the right strategic maneuvering paid off.
While the same tactic is less likely to work now, the idea of creating a niche for yourself, and then working to acquire domain names associated with that niche still carries over. When creating your own domain name, this can be applied in a more practical sense.
4. Insurance.com – $35.6 Million
Another one from the same acquisition, this domain was one of the main purveyors of insurance research on the web when it was bought up as the 4th highest-priced domain ever. This purchase gave marketing agency QuinStreet almost complete control over all things insurance on the web.
You can see here the way that one domain lends itself to another and as you branch out around specific niches within the same industry you can capture different parts of the same market.
5. VacationRentals.com – $35 Million
This listing exemplifies another part of marketing strategy on the web. You see, it was bought with the exclusive intent of making sure that a competitor in the space could not own it. This kept them from cornering traffic in the vacation space, even if there was no intent to actively use the domain for benefit.
While this isn’t for everyone, limiting the options of the competition by buying keyword-specific domains is a great marketing strategy for keeping certain markets open or at least keeping them from being cornered.
Ideally, you would purchase a domain to position yourself within a market where there is share to be had, but if you find yourself in a position where competition may try to take share away, you could always buy up domain names that are relevant to that market.
6. Internet.com – $18 Million
While not technically the next highest on the list of highest priced domains ever, we put this one next on our list because of the scope of the purchase and the fact that it may literally be the most easily recognizable domain on the internet or at least the intent is there for it.
Part of another acquisition by QuinStreet, this purchase included a large batch of domain names, with this being the crown jewel. This gave them a large deal of control over users searching for information on the internet and internet.com could quite literally contain anything on the internet and still be relevant.
7. Insure.com – $16 Million
You’re probably sensing a pattern, but this last one is another one bought by marketing giant QuinStreet. While other domains offered insurance quotes and shopping, this one focused on providing content around the insurance space.
This allowed them to cover not only the commerce end of the space but the informational end of it as well.
Giving users relevant information is a large part of what building a brand is about. Having an insurance content site under their umbrella lets them gather queries related to insurance questions, rather than just marketing to users looking to buy something.
The Bottom Line About Domain Names
Rather than over-sell you on how you should buy a domain name and hope to sell it, the purpose of this guide was to show you the value of a good domain name. Domains are valuable because they do what they are supposed to do, drive traffic to a particular brand or subject.
The first thing you should have noticed about the domain names on our list is that they were all .com names. Like we stated at the beginning of the guide, .com is the most trusted and recognizable TLD in America, and is still widely accepted around the globe as well. This gives you an instant edge over all of the .net, .biz, and other lower-tier TLDs. Sometimes you have to settle, but if you want maximum performance from your domain name, you have to shoot for that .com name. But, if the .com domain is no longer available, you have other options. I personally like domain hacking tools like these.
The second thing to think about when it comes to your domain name, is what is it intended to do besides drive traffic and build your brand? Are you looking to make sales? Are you looking to become the number one information source in your niche? Then the domain should reflect that also. To truly carve out a niche for yourself and your brand, you need to be able to clearly deliver on the promise of your brand and that starts with the domain name you choose.
Should I Buy and Sell Domain Names?
The question of whether you want to try and make money off buying and selling domain names really comes down to whether you want to spend the time and money involved. It may sound like an easy practice, buy up a bunch of cheap domains and wait for some rich company to buy them, but in truth that doesn’t work very often.
Most domains don’t have much value. They only acquire value if the space is highly competitive and there are businesses looking to capture a portion of the market. Other than that, you’re looking mostly at waiting long enough for a name to become relevant and someone to make you an offer.
Beyond just buying the domain name, you also have to consider the cost associated with hosting a website. This means either paying a web hosting service or buying one outright (or financing your domain name) and holding onto the domain name in perpetuity. There are domain name watching programs that watch for domain names to come up for sale because the turnover on domain names is fairly consistent. Most people don’t own a domain name forever.
If you have the time, patience, and budget to buy up great domain names, and then wait on them to sell, you can certainly make money doing it. Just remember the rules we’ve covered in this guide about what makes a domain good or bad before you start buying. Anything short of a great domain is going to be a waste of money. If necessary, consult with a marketing agency or get other help when trying to find a domain.
As you can see, the most expensive domain names all have some of the same traits. Short concise names that are relevant to a particular niche. They all have the .com TLD and pretty much tell exactly what they are at a glance. Following these keys are crucial to creating a successful domain and brand.
If you choose to buy and sell domain names, just know that choosing the right ones and figuring out how to monetize it are the most critical components to succeeding online. If the site has existing traffic and backlinks, then it could be that much more valuable.
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