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Analysing a domain for commercial potential

Discussion in 'Selling Domain Names' started by Edwin, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. Edwin

    Edwin Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    I thought I'd kick off a discussion about how to analyse a domain for commercial potential (always important if you want to eventually sell it)

    My comments below apply to generic domains - by necessity, a very different approach would have to be taken with "brandables".

    When I'm researching a domain name, there are a number of things I look at:

    1) Good keyword volume OR widespread use within the applicable industry.
    The Google keyword tool is a blunt instrument, but it's still a handy way of gauging order of magnitude traffic potential for a domain. However, there are times when the search count is very low but many/most of the companies use the expression in question, either because it's specialist vocabulary they like to fall back on (whereas their customers tend to call the product/service something else) or because the whole niche is low traffic. The latter is particularly true with B2B niches.

    Even if there's low or almost non-existent search traffic, so long as a reasonable number of companies use that expression as the primary way to describe their product or service (clues: it's mentioned in the TITLE, on the homepage, or they say "We specialise in _____" or "Our focus is _____" or similar expressions) then the equivalent domain has potential. After all, a company that's opted to describe their business in a very specific way may be interested in the domain that exactly matches that specific way of describing it.

    2) Does the niche use mainly .com, .co.uk or a mixture of the two?
    If a Google search for the relevant keyphrase shows me that the first 100 results (I have my Google search settings set to display results 100 at a time) are almost all .com, then that might indicate that the niche is dominated by international firms. Are they likely to want a .co.uk? Maybe, maybe not - but it's something to think about. On the other hand, if there's a nice sprinkling of .co.uk results, that's good news.

    It's worth making a second pass search, this time using the modifier "site:.co.uk" at the end of the search string. That way, you can see if there were a bunch of .co.uk sites that just didn't show up because they were bad at SEO and the .com big boys drowned them out. If they have a decent-looking site, it would hint they might also have a budget - and they might be interested in something that could potentially help them to rank a bit better (there's still an exact match benefit, if only because the keyphrase is always baked into every incoming link because it's inside the domain - it's just not going to rocket a site up the rankings like it might have 10 years ago)

    3) Are there any Adwords advertisers against the keyphrase?
    If there are multiple companies bidding agains the keyphrase that matches the domain, then A) they might be potential candidates to buy it and B) it's clearly a commercial term

    4) Is the keyphrase in question the best (or equal best) way of describing the product/service?
    This is the hardest part. It pays to be brutally honest with yourself (so that you don't waste registration/renewal fees) but it's always so tempting to jump on a domain that looks "pretty good" but is just another alternative way of describing something that's mainly described a different way.

    NOTE: You might have a domain that's commercially "better" than the so-called best term if the keyword search figures point one way but the wording on most of the company websites points another (see point 1)

    5) Is the product/service something that would either be the sole business line for a company, or one of a number of core business lines, each of which is important enough to be of interest on its own?
    Gone (sadly) are the day of exact match domains blasting thin affiliate sites to the top of the search engines. So the keyphrase in question has to be something that a company might be excited enough about to create a stand-alone site or an Adwords campaign. You can be a bit looser with this criterion if there's massive search volume (in the 10,000+ range) because that might be enough to persuade a company that had never thought of focusing on that one product to make a special effort just for it.

    An example might make this a bit clearer:
    - furniture YES
    - tables YES
    - oak tables YES
    - walnut furniture YES/MAYBE
    - walnut tables PROBABLY NOT
    - oak dining room tables NO
    - red furniture NO

    Clearly "furniture" and "tables" are "wide" categories that a company might be interested in owning the corresponding domain for. "oak tables" might also qualify, since oak is a very popular wood and there are a number of companies that specialise solely in oak. You can imagine a company with a pro-active marketing team building dedicated sites or ad campaigns around any of those terms.

    "walnut furniture" is niche, but it might be a niche that would interest a furniture company if they provide a range of products in walnut. "walnut tables" is getting too niche to be exciting, because it's a specific product AND a specific niche wood. "oak dining room tables" is an example of the kind of long tail keyword that would have been great in the mid-2000s but is not going to sell today.

    "red furniture" IS a niche, but it's not a niche that seems to get any real search interest. Unless you can identify a number of companies that specialise in red-coloured furniture, it's likely to be a non-starter domainwise.

    6) Can I easily identify potential buyers for the domain?
    (NOTE: this exercise doesn't mean for one second that any of the potential buyers WILL buy it, but if you can't even identify them in the first place it's pretty much a dead domain from a commercial perspective)

    6.a) Looking on Google (I've highlighted the Google search terms in blue/bold)
    - Search for intitle:"keyphrase" (if it's more than one word, then put the whole thing between double quotes so that you're checking for pages that contain the whole keyphrase). This shows you results where the keyphrase is in the title of the page. That's always a good indication of its importance. What you're looking for in particular is pages where it's in the title of the homepage or the "about us" page (you can tell from the URL in the Google search snippet)
    - Search for intitle:"keyphrase" site:.co.uk so that you're limiting your results to .co.uk sites
    - Search for "keyphrase" (a last quick check to see if anything jumps out at you - here, you'll be looking at results that have the keyphrase anywhere on the page, not just in the title)

    6.b) Looking on LinkedIn
    (The easiest way is probably to search LinkedIn via Google)
    - Search Google for "keyphrase" site:linkedin.com - you're looking for people/companies that have "keyphrase" in their descriptions. You can then visit the pages and see which are in the UK, can you identify their existing URL, key staff etc.
    - Log into LinkedIn then do a search for keyphrase and customise the right-hand options to limit the results to the UK

    6.c) Looking on Twitter
    - Log into Twitter, then do a search for for keyphrase and click on the "People" tab. You will then see all the people and companies who have keyphrase within their descriptions. From there, you may be able to identify UK based companies that would find keyphrase relevant to their business and/or points of contact who you could approach.

    6.d) Looking on Companies House
    - Go to https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/
    - Search for keyphrase
    - You'll get a list of all the companies that use keyphrase as part of their company name (if you've got something nice and generic like a colour or a fruit or something like that, there might be hundreds)

    Phew, I think that's covered enough ground for now! I hope others will be encouraged to weigh in with their own tips and tactics...
     
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  2. Domain Forum

    Acorn Domains Elite Member

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    articles.co.uk
     
  3. Edwin

    Edwin Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    Nearly forgot a very important bit: is the keyphrase one that has commercial intent?

    You could have a search phrase with 100,000 results because it matches a famous quote or a song title or an upcoming film or something, but if there's no reason why any company would want to build a site on it or advertise against it, it's not going to get you very far!

    However, purely informational searches can have commercial intent if there is a clear product/service that addresses or solves that particular thing. For example, some common medical complaints might have huge search volumes - if the medication to address that complaint is big business, then it's possible that one of the companies making it might want to build an informational site as a lead gen or public information exercise. Possible doesn't mean likely, but at least it's something!
     
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  4. Edwin

    Edwin Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    BTW, here's an example of a keyphrase that is no longer interesting: "choker necklace" (we have but are just about to drop the matching domain)

    It gets 12,100 searches, so from that POV it's very promising. But it's a subcategory of a subcategory (jewellery->necklaces->choker necklaces) and the search results are overwhelmingly dominated by big ecommerce players, none of which are going to want to build a site on it.

    As a thin affiliate site back in the day, it could have generated some nice commissions if SEOd a bit. Now, I don't see enough commercial potential to hang onto it (especially not at Nominet's higher price and with the .uk coming along to double the cost again).
     
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  5. dee

    dee Well-Known Member Acorn Supporter

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    @Edwin cheers. Thats all useful stuff.
     
  6. dog

    dog Active Member

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    Great info and write-up @Edwin.

    Yes, understanding search intent is important but can be difficult. Is it to buy products, for info, or both? It takes practice and time to understand keywords and SEO.
     
  7. aZooZa

    aZooZa Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    From personal experience, and I'm sure others do this also. If you have a non-TM co.uk or .uk and there's a live exact .com, visit the .com page and see if it's a business that operates or has branches/affiliates in the UK.
     
  8. Edwin

    Edwin Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    Good tip! I also check to see if there's a company actively using the hyphenated version of the domain, or the singular if I have the plural (or vice versa).
     
  9. ian

    ian Well-Known Member

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    In addition to checking if the .com is already active, it is also worth checking if the .uk.com exists, or any variation that includes ltd in the name, such as productltd.co.uk or productlimited.co.uk etc.

    I find Duedil (or similar) handy too to search for potential companies; rather than Webcheck, because at least with Duedil if a website is present (not always accurate!), you have a potentially easier route to contact than resorting to snail mail.

    Google checks are also very handy by searching for "product uk" to focus your search results to those trading in the UK or with a UK domain. I used this method when finding the buyer for verb[couk], as search just "verb" wouldn't have presented the desired results.
     
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  10. Edwin

    Edwin Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    Either that, or click on the greyish "Tools" (visible on the right hand side under the search bar, after you've done whatever search you want) and change the "Any country" pull-down to "Country: The UK". Google will immediately redo the search with results supposedly limited to the UK only (it's pretty accurate, actually, from experience)
     
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  11. TallBloke

    TallBloke Active Member

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    With the aim of contacting them to see if they're interested in your version of the name?

    If so, under what circumstances (if any) does it become what nominet might consider as an "abusive registration"?
     
  12. Edwin

    Edwin Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    A lawyer would definitely give you a safer answer, but here's how I see it...

    If the domain is a generic applicable to a specific product, service or industry (rather than a "brandable" generic) then it's probably ok. But it depends on what the company you're thinking of approaching is doing with their version.

    Specific generics:
    - diamondrings.co.uk
    - bookkeepingservice.co.uk

    Brandable generics:
    - green.co.uk
    - mousetrap.co.uk (yes, there's a mousetrap product of course - handy for catching mice - but it could also lend itself to being used in a brandable way)

    If you're approaching somebody who's selling diamond rings on diamondring.co.uk and you want to sell them the domain name diamondrings.co.uk then I don't see there's any real risk in contacting them. It's a ridiculously obvious name and the use to which they're putting their own name effectively "proves" its genericness.

    If you're approaching somebody who's using mousetraps.co.uk to promote their viral marketing service, and you want to sell them mousetrap.co.uk then that's probably going to open you to at least the potential of an "abusive registration" challenge (the irony being of course that if you had never approached them in the first place, and you kept the content on mousetrap.co.uk "neutral" or mousetrap-the-product related, it would be much MUCH harder for them to attempt such a challenge)
     
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  13. Edwin

    Edwin Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    Where it becomes trickier is if you own domain name "generic expression" and they're "generic expression ltd". Not because I think there's any real risk that they could take your name from you (assuming that "generic expression" is an example of a specific generic, as per my previous post). But simply because from experience a lot of people see red at what they THINK is you having taken their domain (yes, even if it was registered well before they incorporated). Emotion trumps logic every time. And the logic's broken in their mind anyway, since they're thinking "we'd have it if it wasn't for you little &&%$*" whereas the reality is they wouldn't if it was a commercially valuable term - somebody ELSE would.

    So while you'd probably win a DRS if they chose to take things that far, I wouldn't deliberately poke the sleeping Ltd company bear...

    (I am only talking about the situation in which there is a company that is incorporated with exactly the same name as your domain name, apart from the "Ltd". If they're "something something generic expression Ltd" that's different.)
     
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  14. TallBloke

    TallBloke Active Member

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    Thanks @Edwin for the good examples.

    Am sometimes a little bit concerned when contacting companies with a "great fit for you" domain because of the abusive reg issue. I wonder how often it occurs?
     
  15. dog

    dog Active Member

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    There are lots of cases of this going either way.

    Companies file frivolous UDRPs all the time. "That is our domain!" is something heard often.

     
  16. Federer Portugal

    Federer Active Member

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    We have been marketing domains to end buyers worldwide for almost a decade and we have never been hit with a UDRP or legally challenged in any form. Just a few C&D letters/emails when a few of the domains we owned flirted with a trademark or 2.

    As long as you are marketing generic domains relating to generic products/services (and that would prove to be a great naming upgrade), you'll be fine. Many companies that do not buy our names even thank us "for thinking of them".

    Our most effective method for marketing UK names is simply:

    Google.co.uk
    "Keyword" .co.uk


    Only contacting companies where the green URL link stops after the first "/" or the 2nd "/" (higher relevancy).

    Example for the domain MechanicalSeals.co.uk (we sold the .COM) :

    Google.co.uk > "mechanical seals" .co.uk

    edcoseal.co.uk/
    acumenseals.co.uk/
    rhondamaseals.co.uk/mechanical-seals/
    mercuryltd.co.uk/mechanicalseals.html


    I prefer not to contact companies with results such as:
    saywell.co.uk/products/manufacturers-supported/eaton.../mechanical-seals/

    "1-2 depth" have worked great.
     
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