As a consultant I work with and for marketing directors, VPs and senior executives. As business issues arise, they like to gather the creative and strategically-innovative minds together for review and comment, so I am often pulled in to discussions of side issues not directly related to SEO and web performance, but aligned with long term web performance and/or competitiveness. One of those issues is domain names for projects and businesses. What domain name to use? What domains to get or buy? Usually, there is a branding consultant on task as well, usually from the ad agency or PR firm.
But we don’t need them any more.
I exaggerate. But we don’t really need what they used to do, anymore. They used to brainstorm on domain names, coming up with possibilities that properly reflect the corporate values, touch the target market, enable the right kind of branding, etc. But now all the domains are taken. The name consultants are coming in with agendas… seemingly trying to pitch and sell a particular domain name they know is available or have held available, but treading carefully due to obvious conflict of interest. What else can they do? No one wants to go domain fishing… typing in candidate after candidate only to see it’s taken. That’s an endless and useless exercise in many cases. All the domain names are already taken.
Or are they?
The domain aftermarket is exploding, offering lists of domain names for sale. Those lists have become our naming consultants. The people with the skills to navigate the domain aftermarket are doing the work. The list says XYZ.tld is available, and keyword1keyword2.tld is available. Those are candidates, and they even come with prices. How easy is that?
As the market matures, I expect domain aftermarkets to improve their search and suggestion tools because it helps sell domains. Who loses? Everyone but the AgnecyGuy wins on this one. If they were smart, agencies would collaborate with domainers and aftermarkets to acts a brokers for excellent domains, but I doubt that is possible with today’s players and the culture of TheAgency model. Brainstorming on domain names without a clear opportunity to get them is expensive and disappointing when largely unproductive.
Wise advice would be, pre-announce the understood need for a domain with a vision statement, and spread the word to your marketing, advertising, and SEO consultants in advance. They can look for available candidates using their available skills, tools, and connections, and carry the burden of due diligence right thru to the meeting where they pitch their ideas. Domains come with prices, and cost is a consideration, so let that market compete to set prices before you have to pick from the pool of candidates. Once you pick, it should be a simple matter of the transaction. If the vendor/agency/consultant can’t deliver on the domain, they haven’t done proper due diligence, and their own reputation suffers.
As the domain aftermarket matures, the marketplaces will assume all of this responsibility. You will enter your vision statement via proxy, set your price range, and wait for responses. Brokers and domainers will reply with candidates, expertly graded for non-branding value. You get your list of candidates with “by now” prices and auction reserves. Domain acquisition specialists may independently approach webmasters of active domains, to form partnerships that can sell you the domain if the price is right. It’s happening now, even though you don’t see it.
SEOs and Internet business consultants are doing all of this now, using their expertise and connections to manage the inefficient marketplaces offering domain names. Clients pay the market prices for the actual domains, as well as the consulting fees. As the marketplaces mature, the domain prices will increase and the need for consultants will diminish, unless they hold domains out of the aftermarket. And that brings us back to domaining… and the way clever agencies could hook up with domainers directly… oh, wait. I already said that wouldn’t work with today’s agency players and culture. Too bad.