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Bob Hawkes

In Domain Names, How Long Is Too Long?

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By Bob Hawkes, Nov 12, 2020
  1. Bob Hawkes

    Bob Hawkes Top Member NameTalent VIP Gold Account Trusted Blogger

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    Earlier this month ScienceAndTechnologyResearchNews.com sold for $2025 at GoDaddy. That was the first sale over $2000 during the last 5 years of an unhyphenated domain name longer than 30 letters, at least from sales recorded on NameBio. It was not the longest name sold by far. For example, in 2019 TheLongestListOfTheLongestStuffAtTheLongestDomainNameAtLongLast.com sold, also at GoDaddy, for $1025. I thought this was a good time to consider the question: How long is too long for a domain name? The answer is not as obvious as one might think.


    Outlier Sales

    Let us first consider the two sales noted in the introduction. They are definitely outlier sales, with the worth based on the development history, rather than necessarily the inherent quality of the names. TheLongestListOfTheLongestStuffAtTheLongestDomainNameAtLongLast.com is a nicely developed site, and has been for some time, covering topics such as the longest roads, rivers and lives lived.

    While ScienceAndTechnologyResearchNews.com does not resolve at the time of writing, back in 2017-18 this was a well developed site with strong authority and backlinks - you can use the WayBack Machine to see how the site looked then. Especially given online advertising opportunities in science and technology, the domain name was probably acquired hoping to benefit from positive past use.

    While some long names are outlier sales related to search engine optimization, SEO, long names do at times sell on their own merits. I looked at 3-word (and a few 4-word) major .com sales in a past NamePros Blog post. This year we saw a $300,000 sale of a 19-letter domain name.


    What Do We Mean By Domain Length?

    The answer to this question seems at first obvious, but there are other ways to look at length than simply the number of characters in the second level domain. Here are some possibilities.
    • Number of characters left of the dot.
    • Number of characters combined on both sides of the dot.
    • Number of words in the domain name.
    • Number of syllables in the domain name.
    There is also a difference between visual and audio length. For example the brand KFC is just 3 characters when written, and shorter than the brand Lyft, but when pronounced Lyft is a single syllable lift, whereas KFC is three syllables pronounced as kay eff see. A large number of syllables may sometimes lead to audio confusion, while a short visual look is important for names that you want clients to remember after seeing them. The relative importance of audio and visual length will depend on application.

    If we count characters on both sides of the dot, there may be an advantage to country code extensions that are just 2 characters long, particularly those extensions such as .it and .me that can also be spoken as a single syllable. The domain hack li.me, used by a scooter sharing service Lime, manages a single syllable across both sides of the dot combined.

    New extensions vary from 3 to many characters. Some extensions are easily remembered as a single common word, even though long, while other extensions, like .cyou may need an explanation. The minimum length allowed for a new gTLD is 3 characters. Is there an advantage to short extensions, like .top or .dev, compared to longer ones like .technology or .international? Personally, I think it is the memorability and familiarity of the extension that is more important than simply the number of characters, but opinions vary.


    Length And Prices

    For several domain extensions, I used the NameBio database to look at average prices as a function of domain length. I restricted my attention to sales from the last 5 years, and looked at the .com, .org, .co and .io extensions. I excluded domain names with hyphens or numbers from this study. The results are shown in the following graph, with the blue line showing the average price for .com, while the corresponding .org, .co and .io results are shown underneath.

    PriceLength5Yr.png

    Note that I have not included results for 2 and 3 character domain names, which would be well off scale for .com. The average sales price of a 2-letter .com is $1 million, with a median price of $900,000. The 3-letter .com average is about $66,200 over the past 5 years.

    The correlation of average price with domain length, while present, is weaker than I expected, if you eliminate the 2 and 3 letter sales. The upward blips at 5 and 15 letters in the .com results are due to the impact of a single stellar sale on the average, voice.com that sold for $30 million in 2019 and HealthInsurance.com that sold for $8.133 million, also in 2019.

    There are changes in relative average prices with domain extension. Except for the voice.com impacted length, .co average prices are higher than .com for domain names of length 4 to 9 letters, while .com is significantly higher for longer names.

    If we consider only long domain names, the difference between .org and .com prices is insignificant.

    For long names, the relationship between average price and length is weak.

    It should be kept in mind that NameBio is a mix of wholesale and retail sales, and that average prices can be misleading, particularly if the ratio of wholesale to retail sales changes with extension or length, as is likely to be the case.


    Length And Number Of Sales

    While for some lengths the average price does not depend strongly on length, I was interested in how different the number of sales is for domain names of different length. I plot the data for .com sales from the past 5 years below. Out to about length 16 letters, the number of sales remains strong for all lengths. That is probably reflective that many sales are 2-word .com domain names, and many words are 6 to 9 letters long.

    NumberLengthCOM5YR.png

    The number of sales of long names drops off much faster in .io, where there are fewer than 100 sales for all lengths past 11 letters. The drop-off with length is even stronger in .co, with fewer than 100 sales per length for all above 10 letters.


    Final Thoughts

    While it is important to keep the number of characters, and also the word and syllable count, in mind, a simple rule will not tell you if a particular domain name is too long.

    I think the key point is whether the domain name is as short as it could be to clearly define the idea. For example, NewYorkCityAirConditioning.com is, strictly speaking, 5 words, 8 syllables and 26 letters, but none of them are unnecessary to fully express the idea.

    Ask yourself if your domain name has unnecessary terms that are easily replaced with alternative words. In those cases, there are many competitors for your domain name, and that will impact value and sales probability. For example, as I write this, the domain name GreatConditioners.com is available to hand register, even though it is both positive and descriptive and passes the audio test. The reason is that one could replace the name great with many alternative words, like super, superb, fantastic, perfect, etc. Therefore the domain name is not unique enough to command a high price on the aftermarket.

    Going back to one of the examples of the introduction, even though 5 words, 10 syllables and 32 letters long, it might be argued that ScienceAndTechnologyResearchNews.com is as short as it could be to exactly express the idea of the site.

    It is likely that optimum length is different for a brand compared to a secondary domain name that is to be used for marketing. A great many brands are just 2, or even 1, syllable long, and often have no more than 10 characters. You can get a good idea of desired length by looking at successful brands, and also names that have been selected for inclusion in the brandable marketplaces.

    A marketing name is more likely to be longer in order to exactly describe a product or service. Too short a name may not specify that product closely enough. For example, conditioners.com would be a great name, but by itself it does not tell me whether it refers to hair, air, or some other type of conditioners. While in theory one could use the third level domain name to specify that, e.g. hair.conditioners.com, and in fact run parallel sites for both on a single domain name, the use of third level domain names has not yet achieved much traction, except for certain country situations where they are the standard.

    For phrase domain names, the question is not so much the total length, but rather is your domain name precisely a commonly used phrase. An easy test for a domain name phrase is randomly cover a few letters, and ask if someone will still recognize the phrase.

    Why not share your thoughts on questions of domain length in the comments?



    Thanks to NameBio for the data used in this analysis.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2020
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  4. Bob Hawkes

    About The Author — Bob Hawkes

    Domain analyst, writer and informal educator, with particular interests in domain name phrases and non-business uses for domain names. I am a risk averse domain investor who only invests modest amounts in a variety of extensions and niches. Don't hesitate to contact me - I like to help!

    This is Bob Hawkes's 65th blog post on NamePros. View all blog posts

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  5. Comments (36)

  6. pb

    pb Top Contributor VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    It's too long when it's difficult to read. Common phrases can be 4 or 5 words and still make sense, while gibberish domains are already too long at 6 characters. However, I would argue that for 4-5+ word domains it would make a lot of sense to secure a corresponding 4-5+ letter domain...
     
  7. The Durfer

    The Durfer Top Contributor VIP Gold Account

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  8. Joe Nichols

    Joe Nichols Common sense consultant VIP

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    Great post, Bob! This point is particularly valuable:
    Many domainers get so caught up in domain length, they fail to recognize that they are buying names that, while not "overly long", are not unique enough to be valuable.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
  9. Erwin

    Erwin Established Member ★★★★★★★★★★

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    Another great article.. thanks for sharing..

    recently I purchased a 19 character domain name via GoDaddy auctions.
    While long (and the amount paid for it a little high), the name exactly describes in two words what the product is & where it originates from.
    So, to answer this question; I think that 19 characters is not ‘too long’

    The name now forwards to my Jewellery business..
    AustralianJewellery(.)com
     
  10. HotKey

    HotKey Made in Canada VIP

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    Good article.

    Along with PB's response, readability, is memorability. They probably go hand in hand. So no matter how perfectly descriptive the domain is, it is useless for branding if it is too long for folks to remember. There are exceptions of course, like the examples given, but have to always look at the context surrounding them.

    It's funny, oft' we can use the same brush for different paints; short or long domains.
     
  11. centreurope

    centreurope Established Member ★★★★★★★★★★

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    Thanks Bob, nice article!
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
  12. Daniel Owens

    Daniel Owens Top Contributor VIP Gold Account

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    There is no such thing as a domain being too long. Longer domains especially 5 word domains have more value than two or three words because they get better seo then their shorter counterparts.
     
  13. CraigD

    CraigD Top Contributor VIP

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    How long is a piece of string?

    As pointed out above by a fellow Aussie, when you try including the word Australian in a domain name, it's going to be long no matter what the other word is.

    Thanks again Bob!
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
  14. topdom

    topdom Top Contributor VIP

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    ScienceAndTechnologyResearch.news

    is available.
     
  15. topdom

    topdom Top Contributor VIP

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    accidental dupe.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
  16. Ostrados

    Ostrados EpicName.com VIP

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    Excellent stuff..
    You are spot on about the difference between marketing names & brandable names
     
  17. GreatBrand.in

    GreatBrand.in Established Member

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    Thank you, Prof. @Bob Hawkes for another masterpiece.
    When I read the blog heading, I thought you might talk about how long (waiting period before the sale) and criteria for the decision to liquidate domain ;)
    Funny though but this could be another important topic for research and might be the findings and outcomes provide some insight, worth to know for all of us :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
  18. Domaindogged

    Domaindogged Top Contributor VIP Gold Account

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    Hi Bob

    For long names, the relationship between average price and length is week (weak)

    But as always what great interrogation of data.

    "Ask yourself if your domain name has unnecessary terms that are easily replaced with alternative words. In those cases, there are many competitors for your domain name, and that will impact value and sales probability. For example, as I write this, the domain name GreatConditioners.com is available to hand register, even though it is both positive and descriptive and passes the audio test. The reason is that one could replace the name great with many alternative words, like super, superb, fantastic, perfect, etc. Therefore the domain name is not unique enough to command a high price on the aftermarket."

    Excellent valuation metric. Greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
  19. unmark

    unmark Established Member ★★★★★★★★★★

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    Thanks Bob! Great article (again)! Sometimes so many things in our domaining life are so objective. Hard to know when long is "too long", and short is "too short".
     
  20. Zagalee

    Zagalee Established Member

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  21. Dotorium

    Dotorium Upgraded Member Gold Account

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    Thanks Bob


    if you take the 5 domains they are necessarily more valued overall than the 3 or 4 domains, first of all you have few combinations in 4 and 3 than for the 5 and therefore more likely to have dictionary words in 5 , in addition to that you have more possibilities to have combinations which correspond to the words of 6 or more by removing or adding letters on the 3 and 4 while keeping the same meaning, not to mention of course the possibility that a 5 can have in brandables
     
  22. karmaco

    karmaco Top Contributor VIP

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    I think the most telling thing from this article is every letter count added over 10 letters is a consistent decline in sales volume. Short is almost always preferred.
     
  23. pb

    pb Top Contributor VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    The chart presents the number of sales per domain length but we don't know how it stands against the number of registered domains of a given length. Looking at my own portfolio, I have significantly more 9-10 letter domains than 11-12 letter domains so it wouldn't be surprising if I also sell less of those, even though the STR might be similar or even higher.
     
  24. DomainRecap

    DomainRecap Top Contributor VIP

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    I have noticed that domain sales venue filters are progressively decreasing - for example, Sedo used to have 12 letters as their last stage in their filter slider, but I just checked today and that has quickly dropped to only 7.

    Even I'm surprised about that number, but it should tell you a lot about what potential domain buyers are searching for in 2020.

    Personally speaking, I've always felt that 12 letters was the point where you started getting out in the weeds and should probably start coming back to shore.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2020
  25. Ariff BD

    Ariff BD Top Contributor VIP

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    Do you also have Australian jewelry . Com.au?
     
  26. Ariff BD

    Ariff BD Top Contributor VIP

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    I had my longest domain chinaisthefuture.com sold in my fifth month of domaining in namecheap, below 100 $
     
  27. oldtimer

    oldtimer Do some good for humanity and the environment VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    Great analysis Bob, but just because I hand registered the domain HeatingAndAirConditioningSystems.com last month didn't mean that you had to go and write a whole article about it. :xf.wink:

    "Heating And Air Conditioning Systems" has a lot of google search results and even though it's a very long domain, but it describes an actual product that most people recognize and look for.

    IMO
     
  28. digitalpandit

    digitalpandit Established Member

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    @Bob Hawkes Your posts are like a gold mine. Thank You again.
     
  29. Erwin

    Erwin Established Member ★★★★★★★★★★

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    I ran a check on that, it seems that the jewellery (English spelling) is taken.
    I’m not too concerned about registering the Jewelry version as Aussies don’t spell it that way..
     
biix
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