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Domain Aftermarket Wipes Out Domain Name Consulting

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.


  1. Dominers and search marketers look at domains as the ‘new rel estate.’ I wouls not be surprised if domainers and agencies take this analogy further, in the near future, by acquiring flotillas of domains then renting them for specific campaigns. If that does not sound realistic–after all, once you begin using a domain why would you dispose of it?–try and tell me all of the domains that appeared in advertising during the last Super Bowl? If a domain is sufficiently generic there is no reason it could not be re-purposed every year or so. Also, if done properly there could be real advantages to renting a crusty old domain, both financial and for SEO.

    John Andrews replies: Thanks Thomas. I saw domain leasing at the DomainRoundtable conference. It’s something new and getting a good serious test. If it works others will quickly step into the space. We did have several discussions about it, and the biggest concern was domain tarnishing, followed by valuation of earned traffic and relevance. Domain owners (like landlords, I suppose) are afraid “renters” will trash the domain (spam with it etc) as it becomes expendable at the end of the lease term. It seems that leasing with an option to buy is best, because everyone will re-value the domain as an asset at the end of it’s use, looking to capture the added value. Of course that makes leasing more complicated, and less attractive to less the less-sophisticated “renters”. One big domainer said he had leased a few domains with an option to buy, and regretted the buy price afterwards in a very big way due to domain aftermarket appreciations.

    Saturday, August 18, 2007 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  2. Linda Stevens wrote:

    Right brained in a left brained domainer world! I am so happy to see this post! For years I have lamented this disconnect between domainers whose criteria for value is the number of clicks generated or the brevity of the name, and the end users – companies seeking to do commerce on a well-named web site. I recognize that placing a value upon names without the use of logarithms would be pretty much imposible, but it is frustrating to submit names for auction which are simple, descriptive and “sticky” and have them rejected simply because they do not meet some formula which has been concocted arbitrarily by a committee of domainers. I know finding a name which would serve as a terrific brand is pretty much a subjective exercise. Sometimes it just takes a gut feeling to imagine its value to a company, or how it could be built out to become a web business. It is frustrating to navigate the web and find all these dead-end sites which have never been developed – just parked pages. There are some things in this world which cannot be easily quantified. I am searching for markets for my names other than the parked “this name for sale” sites or the auctions. I have noticed recently that the sales prices from most auctions are pretty dismal, so there must be some other way to get these names to market. Any suggestions? Someone mentioned branding companies and naming companies. Should I approach marketing or PR departments with my portfolio?

    Saturday, September 8, 2007 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  3. Jean Guillon wrote:

    Is this the publication of already existing forum content ?

    Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 5:08 am | Permalink
  4. Zach Hoffman wrote:

    In today’s market companies are not appreciating the underlying value of domain names available on the marketplace. Domain name characteristics that companies need to develop a fundamental understanding of include:
    1) The value associated with acquiring a generic keyword domain name. In today’s marketplace generic keyword domain names open a strong opportunity to build your brand related to the generic keywords a domain name may describe.
    2) Domain names allow companies to communicate a message to a marketplace at the primary level of their message – the domain name.
    3) Presence a domain name can add to a Sponsored Search Marketing (PPC/CPC) Ad and the Organic SEO value a strong keyword domain name can add to your success.
    4) Yes an algorithm can be programmed to find domain names – as mentioned above, but there is still room for domain name consultants in the marketplace. In actuality I feel domain name consultants will become an emerging market and valued by market leaders in specific industries.
    Domain names are the cornerstone to any strong Internet Brand/Business. In today’s economy almost every business needs to have a strong Internet Brand or Internet Business presence to stay competitive in today’s marketplace – and the core of this is the Domain Name.

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink
  5. I completely agree. The domain name aftermarket has wiped our the need for domain name consultants. Everyone is a domain name consultant these days.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

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