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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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Does the name have hidden meanings? Look into if the name is used in slang, and also possible uses in different cultures or history.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
New and emerging technologies present an opportunity to register a new domain name and sell it for a profit in a short amount of time. However, this is no easy feat. Most really valuable domain names are already registered. There are some diamonds...some plays on words that make for a good investment, but most of the best, are taken.

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?
 
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The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.
Impact
27,122
Bob, I think adding another tier > 5% (prob even lower). Just a thought - or maybe your intentionally using 20% as the "filter" for having a handful vs. considering them investments?
Always a tradeoff between too many categories and getting useful information.
I agree that having split the <20% category would have helped.
But now so many have voted I think too late.
Thanks for comment.
Bob
 
Impact
1,541
Before 2018 when I had to sell half my portfolio just to keep the lights on, most of my names were hand registered. It was a little easier to slap two lists together and be able to pickup a gem or two through bulk searching. Or before drop catching was huge and I only had to worry if Berkens, Mann, Strong, or Rubin had the same list in their API catchers (they usually did and I ended up buying moniker.com catcher). Was able to reg a lot of nice stuff on the drop in those days, like bomb//media.com and seal//a//deal.com and many others. It's a little harder to find anything decent nowadays and I usually leave my hand registrations to just speculation on future/upcoming trends. Wish trenddomaining.com would make a comeback :P
My portfolio is about 20% hand regs anymore, I only hold 200-300 domains at a time.
 

Somertonian

Established Member
Impact
226
Bob,
Another well written piece as we have come to expect from you. It is good for newcomers and a timely reminder to the rest of the many factors needed to be considered before taking the plunge on hand registering a name. Looking forward to your next post. I wonder what the topic will be? Only guarantee is, it will be worth reading!
 

ThatNameGuy

Restricted (15-30%)
Impact
2,416
Thanks Bob...i started several years ago with hand regs and I'll probably do it 'til the day that I die. Where else for $8.50 or less can you roll the dice with a chance to make a whole lot of money. My last hand reg listed on the reg of the day is/was DiscoverHygiene(y). While it took me a while to learn to spell hygiene, who in the world today wouldn't want to practice good hygiene if it might save your life.

I doubt seriously anyone will be looking this name, but I'm pretty sure someone in the medical equipment business, or someone looking to get into an online business selling masks, soap etc. to defend against Covid-19 would luv to own this domain.

Anyway, thanks again Bob....you're a good friend and maybe we'll get a chance to catch up again some day for a little 9Time:xf.wink:
 

Jv1999

Wander Aimlessly: Redeemed Knight of the Exo-Tower
Impact
3,096
hand reggae are kinda misleading :tightlyclosedeyes:

It's easy to reggae 20 to 30 .coms during a $3 to $6 promo... But you forget that you probably need to hodl those for 2.5 years before a sail. So when next year comes around... Suddenly that shopping spree of 30 domains becomes a nightmare of $245 transfers to GD.

Most people would probably drop... but that's how money is lost.
 
Impact
27,122
I've been a little busy since I posted this, so have not had a chance to respond to the many comments and suggestions. First, and most important, thank you so much for all of the kind comments. I really appreciate them. I am still learning every day in domain names, and feel truly grateful to have the chance to share some of what I discover. I am grateful for this incredible community, so willing to share and help.

To respond to a few of the specific comments...
could you make a post about stats of hand-reg sales?
It is a good suggestion, although hard to answer definitively. I am working on some stats that relates to this, but at least a couple of weeks before I will have time to finish.

Thanks a lot for the multitude of usefull links!
Thanks for commenting on that in particular. My goal is primarily two things: a balanced and fair look at different sides (I know I sometimes fail) and providing the links so people can do their own analysis or research and make their own conclusions.

I just discovered that the majority of my handregs have been registered (and dropped) in the past, even many of my brandables! But I am still not sure if this is a good or a bad sign, any thoughts?
Yes, when I first was hand registering a few two-word com I thought they were my unique creations. Later I discovered tools like DomainTools, DomainIQ and HosterStats, and now realize that almost all of my creations in fact someone had registered previously, and let drop. In his book @jmcc points out that a few names get registered and dropped a lot of times. Is that good or bad? I would say mainly good - it means that others who invest in domain names have seen worth in the name, so it is one indicator beyond our own that the name has worth.

the certainty (or very high probability) of my handreg being sold to an investor (e.g. in this forum) for at least the hand reg fee before the renewal time (so I don't lose any money).
A very good point. It is definitely true that some types of names sell well to other domainers (fairly broad appeal, aged .com) so as you say odds are you can get at least a few bucks from them if you decide to drop. I also did not mention parking, but if you can acquire a name that more than pays for annual registrations, the pressure to sell it quickly is removved.

I consider backorders and backorder auctions a version of a hand reg
Yes, you make a good point. While officially a hand registration is when the domain clock has been reset, it is a very tiny difference between getting it on closeout, a backorder, or having seen it on a list but wait until it actually drops and it is officially a hand registration again.

It takes time, effort and quick fingers, but they can be found.
I agree!

Hand registering domain names for resale in today's massive domain name marketplace is an art form and I know there are a number of fellow NamePros members who are artists at hand registering names for a nice ROI.
I totally agree and admire those who do it consistently. The Report Completed Sales thread shows that certain members turn hand reg into good ROI over and over.

My Best Part.
Interesting you should say that, as the idea of asking yourself if you would feature this domain is maybe the most recent idea I expressed in the thread. I plan to try that test more myself moving forward.

I posted this on Twitter last night
I did not even know Bernie was into domain names! :xf.grin:

I wonder what the topic will be?
Everyone should feel free to suggest, either in comments here or by DM, ideas they would like to see written up. I have a number of dozen of partly finished ideas at any time, so it is not like I have run out of things to write about, but really, the NamePros Blog belongs to us all, and I want it to reflect what things are of most interest to the community.

That is a pretty kind comment @arjun29 - thank you. In balance, I should add that I am working on becoming an expert in domain investing, according to this definition of expert (sorry not original but no idea of source - been using it for decades) "an expert is someone who in some area of study has made every possible mistake." So please don't be too much like me, people! :xf.wink:

Speaking of which, even though I think most or all of the points made in the article have merit, I don't, even now, follow them. I just made a hand-reg yesterday that breaks a number of them, and I think about to make another now.:xf.eek:

Thanks to all who have voted (275 as of writing). Results do not surprise me that much, but interesting to see how many hand registrations are in different people's portfolios.

Have a great weekend, and thank you once more:xf.smile:. I thought this topic would be of interest, but surprised a little that it has garnered so much interest and support.

Bob
 
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Fadi H

BrandNameSolutions.com
Impact
1,042
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Impact
27,122
So now somewhat more than 300 people have voted....
  • only 7 people (about 2%) have no hand registrations at all
  • but almost 25% have less than 20% of portfolio in hand registrations
  • about 16% are completely hand registrations, nothing else
  • a little more than 41% have at least 80% of portfolio in hand registrations
Thanks to everyone who has contributed - as NamePros polls go this is a pretty high voting number.

This poll was by number, and I suppose that had I asked by dollar value, the results might have been rather different. Like if you have a few low $$$$ acquisitions that is more than many hundreds of hand registrations, at least initial costs.

Bob
 

franka46

Established Member
Impact
332
I am not a big investor ,even after about 12 years domaining I still consider myself a hobby domainer..
The most I enjoy is finding a good name myself ,handreg it and sell if for any profit .
I have around 1100 domains but that does not mean that I keep them for long or renew them every year.
If no interest in any of them ,I let them expire ,I lose $9 ....
 

Reddstagg

The-Billionaire.com
Impact
2,664
I rarely hand register domains, but I often have a domain name epiphany and quickly search to see if it’s available. 99% of the time they’re already registered of course. How many of you search for availability anytime a domain name idea pops into your head?

Good morning,

I'd be what you could call an eclectic domain investor as I have just about everything apart from .kitchensink.

I often think of something so leftfield I'm convinced I've found a winner only to discover that someone has beat me to it. Random does not do it justice.

I currently have a maybe/standby list of names in the region of 1,850 names as I might be researching something completely unrelated when I might see something and I make a note of it in the modern way.

I take a screenshot on my phone and update my spreadsheet when I am at my PC.

It works for me but others may have their own methods.

Regards,

Reddstagg
 
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