Most domain name investors start out with hand registrations. Many later move on to acquiring domain names mainly through expired auctions or closeouts. While it is true that many of the best domain names were registered long ago, creative domain investors can occasionally find worthwhile names available to register. Hand registration is particularly applicable to niches such as new social trends, emerging technologies, and some types of brandable names. The thread for reporting completed domain name sales includes many recent hand registrations. In this article I look at some ways to evaluate a potential hand registration, along with hints for finding available names. Things to Consider in Hand Registrations What makes a domain name worthwhile is not much different depending on whether it was obtained through purchase from another domain investor, via an expired auction, as a closeout, or by hand registration. Here is a list of possible considerations as you evaluate a potential domain acquisition. Who would want this domain name? Whether you plan outbound marketing or not, compile a list of potential end users. These could be specific possible users, as well as categories, for example shoe stores. How would potential users benefit from this domain name? Look critically at the list of potential users, and ask how they benefit from having this particular domain name. Is the name more descriptive? Is it easier to remember? Does it convey a more positive message? Have names similar to this sold previously, and if so, when, and for how much? The main resource for this will be NameBio. For two-word names, look at sales of names that started and ended with each word, as well as the relevance of the combination. I find it helpful to exclude probable wholesale transactions, and then order the rest of the sales by price. Then place this potential acquisition within the list in terms of quality. You can expand the pool of comparator sales by using DNPric.es or by examining comparator sales given in a GoDaddy automated appraisal. While comparator sales are important, keep in mind past sales are backward-looking by nature, and there is no guarantee that names selling well in the past will continue to do so in future. What is the type of end user for this domain name? Is this a name that is likely to be used by a business, or might it be more suited to an organization, a professional, or for personal use? If a business, is it more likely for a national, international or local business? The type of user will have implications for probable selling price, as well as the pool of potential users. What will be the use of this domain name? The previous point looked at who would use the name, while this looks at how the domain name will be used. Would the name be used as the brand and main website for a business, or used to promote sales of a specific product? Is it a name to be used in a promotional campaign, or for support, philanthropic activity, or some other use? By considering both who might use the name, and how they would use it, you will be able to more accurately predict price and probability of the name selling. How popular is this term? This is not relevant to all types of names, but I find it helpful to perform two Google searches, one with the simple search, and one with the terms inside quotation marks. For two-word legacy domain names I would search on both Word1 Word2 and ”Word1 Word2”. The latter gives a much smaller number of results, with only that precise wording and order. For new extensions, unless it is a generic extension such as .xyz, I do similar searches on a single word name with Word Extension and ”Word Extension”. I find Google Books Ngram Viewer helpful in comparing technical terms, but keep in mind the lag in statistics represented in Google books. How used is the term? While you could do your own search on social media handles, similar domain names in website use, etc., the demand feature recently added to NameWorth is a convenient way to see this. You can do 5 searches per day, up to 20 per month, on their free account plan. At the time of writing, NameWorth only covers .com extension domain names. For certain types of names look at search volume and advertiser statistics. This is not applicable to made-up words, or some other types of domain names. The easiest way to find this information is Estibot. It shows both exact and broad search statistics, and advertiser cost per click with recent history. You can do two free Estibot searches per day on their system. Of course a simple Google search, and seeing who is advertising, is informative as well. Do businesses often use the words in this domain name? Use Google and business lists to determine how frequently names with similar terms are used. One tool I find particularly helpful is OpenCorporates, which claims to be the largest open database of companies in the world. Are there registered trademarks? Is the term generic or narrow? Search the main trademark databases such as TESS and the WIPO Global Brand database to check for existing live trademarks or trademark applications. Note the application categories. Is the wording correct? Double check that the wording and spelling are correct. This might be a good time to ask a few friends from outside domain investing if the name sounds right. Almost correct domain names seldom sell. Can the name be interpreted in other ways? Sometimes a compound name can be split in different ways, with totally different meanings. Be particularly careful of names with a plural first word. Does the name have hidden meanings? Look into if the name is used in slang, and also possible uses in different cultures or history. What is the competition? Are names of similar quality available to hand register? Are similar aftermarket names available, and if so what are the prices? Tools like Dofo show names listed for sale across the major marketplaces. For multi-word names, use the Dofo advance search feature to find names listed for sale that includes the term. What names are very similar? With American and British spelling, plural and singular, hyphenated and non-hyphenated forms, there can be very similar names. With respect to plural and singular, and spelling options, I usually do a Google search to see which is more popular. In a few cases it might make sense to hold both parts of a pair, either for defensive purposes, or to offer as a set. How registered is this term? This does not directly make a name worth more, or less, but it is an indicator of how many different people feel the name is potentially useful. For single words, use Dofo to first search on the term without the extension given, and then click on all extensions. It will show you how many are registered and for sale. How strong is the extension, and what are trends in that extension? The analysis I did on how sales volumes and prices have changed in the last few years may be helpful. Also, keep in mind certain types of names sell in certain extensions. For example, many of the high value .cc sales are numbered domain names. Look at the registry for the extension, and measures of actual web use. What is the history of the name? Even names currently available to hand register frequently have a history. Fortunately the free tool HosterStats provides a listing of previous registrations and deletions, and the WayBack Machine allows you to look at how the name was used in the past. Timing Hand Registrations While it is natural to get excited about a name you just thought of, consider delaying any registration until you have carefully thought about all aspects of the name. One advantage of hand registrations is that there is not the pressure of a time-limited auction with other bidders. Yes, sometimes names will be taken by someone else, but simply waiting a day or two will help you not register names you will later regret. When you do decide to hand register a domain name, make sure you get a good deal at a good registrar. In a previous NamePros Blog post, I covered tools to find the best prices, and other ways to save money. Promotions change constantly. I find that it is best to maintain a list of names that you are considering registering, and be prepared when a great promotion comes along. Occasionally there are good deals in multi-year registration promotions that make sense for long-term investments in new extensions. Getting Ideas for Hand Registrations Most who effectively hand register get ideas from many places, including technological developments, society trends, literature, songs, news, etc. There are dozens of name generators that suggest available names using provided keywords. One of my personal favourites is LeanDomainSearch. Some NamePros members post lists of domain names available to hand register, such as this series started by Silentptnr. At this section of NamePros you will see many other lists of names available to hand-register. There were several .com hand registration contests held last year, and scrolling through the entries gives a good idea of hand registration thought processes. Here is a link to the initial contest hosted by Want2learn. Browsing the inventories of the brandable marketplaces provides insights on the types of names that are possible business names. With more than 2 million views, this thread where NamePros members share recent hand registrations is a great source of inspiration as well. It is interesting to see how what is available to hand register has changed over the 12 years of the thread. Think Quantitatively Some find it helpful to think quantitatively. Taking into account considerations listed earlier such as potential use, comparator sales, etc., estimate a likely retail price for the domain name. Subtract from that price commissions and other costs to obtain a net price. Considering the quality and demand for this domain name, along with industry-wide average sell-through rates, approximate the probability the name will sell in the first year. Multiply the net price by annual probability of sale, and compare with the cost of holding that name for one year. For example if you estimate the net proceeds from retail sale of a particular domain name would be $1200, and the probability of sale in one year is 1%, then you should not spend more than $12 to hold the domain name for one year. Of course the numbers are highly uncertain, so quantitative thinking alone can never provide a firm answer on any potential acquisition. Final Thoughts I find it helpful to try to talk myself out of registering a domain name. If I can’t convince myself not to register it, then maybe it is worthwhile. Remember that in most cases portfolios with higher quality names, will also be more profitable. It is best not to register domain names of marginal quality. I find it helpful to ask myself, Would I highlight this particular domain name if asked to present my portfolio? If the answer is no, then it is probably best not to register that name. If I have nagging doubt, that doubt will probably also be in the mind of prospective buyers. But if the answer is an enthusiastic yes, perhaps this is a rare unregistered gem. Many regret doing too many early hand registrations of limited quality. I encourage, particularly those new in domain investing, to read the articles linked in this post on starting out in domain investing. There are many NamePros threads on the topic of hand registering domain names, such as this one recently started by 4alexia. In that thread experienced investor Silentptnr offers this balanced comment. While I have included mention of a number of specific tools in this article, it is not meant to be a comprehensive look at tools helpful to domain investors. This NamePros thread where members share tools they find useful provides a broader set. I definitely think there is still a place for hand registering domain names in 2020. Why not share your own advice, tips, and techniques in the comments?