This article lists a selection of free tools to help evaluate a domain name. It covers how you can quickly determine how many similar names are registered or for sale, prices of sales of similar names, the popularity of the name for business use, and the history of the domain name. In about ten minutes of research you will be able to put together a basic profile to assist an acquisition decision. In How Many Extensions Is This Name Registered? What: Number of top level domains (TLDs) in which the term is registered. Why: This is an indicator of popularity. Also, some of the owners of these names might want to upgrade to your domain name. Generally, better names have been registered in more extensions. How: There are multiple free tools to show number of TLDs. One of the easiest is DotDB. Simply type in the name and press search. It will show the count and list of extensions registered for that name. It also lists longer registered domain names that include the search term. The latter is important for assessing potential upgrades. While basic search is free in dotDB, you can use power features with one of their plans, including API access in the Expert plan. Another option is Dofo. Simply enter the term without the extension, and then press search. Then click on the View All Extensions button and to see the number of TLDs the name is still available, registered, and listed for sale. One advantage of Dofo is if you click the For Sale button, it will include price information for buy-it-now listings. This will help you assess competition for your name. Both tools allow search on single or multiple word domain names. Keep In Mind: While number of extensions is often correlated to domain worth, that will not always be the case. Also, it is mainly an indication of how valuable domain investors find the term, which may, or may not, be the same as demand among potential end users. For the most important extensions, check not just registration, but if the domains are developed or for sale. In some cases you may find that the domains have been registered in many different extensions by the same investor. Have Similar Names Sold Previously? What: Sales in this exact name, or related names. Why: In general, when similar names have sold for good prices in the past, especially the recent past, odds are better for sales in future. How: The main tool here is NameBio. The powerful NameBio interface is pretty intuitive, but here are a few tips. If researching a multiple word domain name, you will probably want to do several searches, looking at sales including one of the terms at a time. The starts with shows all sales with that term at the beginning, while the prefix is more limited, requiring that what follows is a complete word. For example if I do a search starts with for health the sales of all of HealthInsurance, HealthyAmericans, HealthCareSolutions and HealthCare are listed, but if I switch to prefix search, only HealthInsurance and HealthCare show up. Sometimes the sales list is dominated by a use you are not considering. For example, if I search for sales starting with down many of the reported sales are the word download. I can eliminate those by making my search phrase down!download, reducing the number by about half in this case. Any sales with the term after the ! are excluded. By clicking on Price you can order a list in ascending or descending order. Date ordering is similarly done. I generally do a sorting by price, and then try to decide where the name I am considering would fit within the overall list in terms of worth. Do keep in mind that NameBio contains both wholesale acquisitions by domain investors and retail sales. Also, the average price can be deceptive if there is one huge sale including the term. While basic use of NameBio is free, you can eliminate the startup advertisement, and use a host of power features, as well as access sales less than $100, through one of the membership plans. In addition to NameBio, comparator sales can be found using the free GoDaddy Appraisal tool. There are a few comparator sales at the top right, and more at the bottom of the page. The information regarding the value of each keyword can also be helpful. Keep In Mind: While sales data is certainly important, it should be kept in mind that it is backward looking, that is information on how well the term sold in the past. That is not necessarily indicative of how the term might sell in the future. How Used Is This Term In Business Names? What: Is this term part of many business or organization names? Why: If many companies have chosen a similar name in the past, it can be an indication of how likely such names will sell in the future. How: There are multiple ways to check this, including LinkedIn searches. One of the best free tools is OpenCorporates, which bills itself as the largest open database of companies in the world. It includes almost 190 million company names. Basic search in OpenCorporates is easy - just enter the term and press the search icon. On the results page you can select an option if you want want only active companies and organizations. Note that OpenCorporates will include both current, and past or also known as, names. The distribution across jurisdictions, different US states and different countries in the rest of the world, is shown on the right. One tip is to use both broad and more specialized search results. Let’s say I am considering a domain name creative solutions. I can do OpenCorporates searches on creative, then separately on solutions, and finally by using quotation marks search on ”creative solutions”, which will only show businesses involving both words. In this particular case, there are over 11,000 results for the combination, but more than 200,000 for just the word creative alone. Note that unlike a Google search, quotation marks means with all terms, but not necessarily exact. For example, a business called creative business solutions would be included. You don’t need to register an account to do basic searches on OpenCorporates, but will need one for advanced search and also to go deep into search result listings. Keep In Mind: There may be multiple listings for related businesses, so do look at the actual listings. Also, this is an indication of how business names have been chosen in the past, and may not necessarily be reflective of future popularity. One also needs to be alert to potential existing trademarks. How Is This Term Usually Used? What: How frequently, and how, is this term used? Why: How a name is normally used, and what it is associated with, will strongly influence suitability for a business name. There is nothing worse than acquiring a domain name, and then learning of some negative association you had overlooked. How: First do a simple Google search on the term. Go through at least the first several pages of results, seeing what sort of sites appear. You can also use Wikipedia to help identify different ways a name is used. For example, recently I have became interested in the concept of quantum supremacy. The basic idea is that quantum computing will reach a stage that it can solve problems that other computing techniques could never solve within any reasonable time period. I was interested in both quantum supremacy, and the broader idea of technical supremacy. I had not originally considered, though, that the term supremacy is also associated with white supremacy, so possibly some businesses may be wary of using the term. Wikipedia will show the various ways a term is used in music, film, society and more - for example here is the supremacy listing. Basic Google search is based on perceived intention. That is, rather than searching for the exact term, Google uses artificial intelligence to suggest what concept the searcher probably had in mind. Sometimes when you are considering a domain name that is a phrase, however, you want to know about use of that exact phrase. Google searches including quotation marks will do that. For example, searching ”prepare best” shows only results with exactly those two words in that order, about 500,000 pages, whereas a prepare best search without the quotation marks yields over 700 million results, around the general topic of being well prepared. Many searches with quotation marks yield surprisingly few results. In the last few years lots of news stories, and even a television program, have been concerned with genetic forensics, but an exact quote search on ”genetic forensics” yielded less than 10,000 results. Take out the quotation marks, and that jumps to more than 4 million results. Exact numbers in Google search vary with location and user search history. Many two or three word phrases typically have some tens of thousands of results in Google search with quotation marks. Some months ago I was considering acquiring the three word name IdeaOfMine.com. A major consideration in the decision to pick it up was that a Google search on the exact phrase ”idea of mine” yielded over 65 million results. That alone does not mean that it is a good domain name, but does indicate that exact phrase is frequently used. You can use multiple searches to determine relative popularity of singular and plural forms, and different spellings. In the case of new extension names, I usually do searches both on the term alone, as well as on the term with the extension included. Keep In Mind: While search popularity can correlate with demand for a name, many terms are very popular, but without much commercial value. Therefore, as with the other measures, don’t use this in isolation. Does This Name Have A History? What: Has this name been registered in the past? Was it used? Why: This is one possible indication of desirability, and can also help you avoid names with a dubious past. How: The first step is to check the Whois record. This can be done, for currently registered names, using any registrar Whois search. More complete results are provided by DomainTools. In addition to providing registrar, status, creation date, and expiry, it will also tell you about IP, registrar and hosting histories. For example it may indicate under hosting history 14 changes on 7 unique name servers over 12 years. This gives an indication of earliest recent registration, and the registrar history will tell you how many times it has dropped. It can probably be debated whether a name which has had multiple owners who let it drop is a positive or a negative. Many investors did think it was worth registering, but multiple investors were not able to sell the name. You are permitted several free searches per day at DomainTools without an account. Many features are added with a DomainTools plan, although pricing is significant for an individual investor. Another free way to get the history, at least the period since 2000, for a domain name is HosterStats.com. Just enter the name in the Domain Hosting History box, and you will be shown the years of registrations and deletions, and where the name has been hosted. Since some of the big sellers, such as BuyDomains and DomainMarket, include a notation in the Whois record of their site, you can see names that they held, in some cases. Dofo can provide basic history on a domain name as well. Enter the name with the extension, and then click on the View Details button on the right. As well as the basic information on current registrar, expiry and creation date, it will show a small list of recent records. If a name you are considering does have a history, it is always a good idea to check whether there was an active website using Wayback Machine. Simply enter the domain name, then select from presented options a date to see how the website looked. There are various other tools to establish the reputation and backlinks profile of a domain name. Just because you are able to hand register a domain name does not mean it has no history. Keep In Mind: A name that appealed to multiple previous investors is one indication of strength, but those owners did not manage to sell it. However, it is possible that recent trends, or past inappropriate pricing or promotion, may mean that your prospects of selling the name are better. Please Share Your Ideas While it is great having measures for different aspects of a domain name, they are insufficient by themselves for a full evaluation of any name. Numbers can provide insights, but ultimately whether it is a great name with strong value to a business or organization is central. There is a great thread called I Use This Tool…, started by Silentptnr, that includes a much more extensive listing of domain research tools. In 2016 James Iles put together a NamePros Blog post on five tools for effective domain name research. Note that there is no longer a free option in DomainIQ, mentioned in that article. I have restricted this article to a small set of tools for domain name analysis. I covered some other tools in the NamePros Blog post on saving money on domain names, and as part of the article on hand registering domain names. I hope readers will share through the comments free tools that they use in domain name research.