analysis When One or Two Words is Not Enough in a Domain Name

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Most large businesses will brand on a single-word domain name, whether that is a dictionary word, a creative spelling, or a made-up word.

Still, it is true that there is a place for longer domain names. In this article I look at the sales record, at least as indicated by NameBio, for domain names including three or more words.

How Many Words for A Concept?

Sometimes we need two or three words to specify a concept. For example, sold for over $8 million in 2019. Individually health and insurance do not describe the idea of ‘health insurance’. Even though the term is technically two words, it is one concept.

Similarly, ‘New York City’ is technically three words, but it is one concept. Same with ‘AirConditioners’ or ‘HeatPumps’, two words, but one idea.

Don’t concentrate only on how many words, but rather ask yourself if this the minimum possible way to clearly and completely describe a concept.

Multi-Word Domain Expressions

But what about a longer name that is not just the description of a specific product, service, or concept, but rather something more general? Do longer domain names that are short phrases have value?

There is no doubt that at least now and then they sell for significant amounts. Here are a few of the many sales of three and four-word domain names in the .com extension, all documented on NameBio:
Finding Multi-Word Sales with NameBio

You can readily do searches for 3-word or 4-word domain names sales using NameBio:

Tip: Finding Muti-Word Sales on NameBio
To readily find 2-word, 3-word or 4-word sales posted at NameBio, under Category select Dictionary and then under Subcategory choose the type of sale, for example Word Combo (x3) for 3-word English names.​

You can set other criteria such as length, price or extension to be part of the search.

NameBio dictionary category search also supports finding sales of Spanish dictionary words, but not for the multi-word combinations, probably because of too few sales for meaningful results.

Is Rate of Sales Changing?

I wondered if multi-word sales were more a thing of the past, given that many of the major sales listed above were from some years ago. I looked at the total dollar volume of 3-word sales per year, using NameBio data, obtaining the results shown below.

So my premise was wrong, and in fact the data seems to indicate that recent years have been more active than ever in the multi-word segment of the domain market. Note that I extrapolated the 2023 data from a $10.4 million year-to-date volume to what end of year would be if rate remains the same.

While this dollar volume includes both wholesale and retail transactions, the dollar volume is normally dominated by retail sales. In any case, total dollar volume is a useful metric for the overall health.

Keep in mind that changes in venues included and excluded from NameBio may mask the true annual variations.

Retail Sales Price Breakdown

Here is the breakdown by price for sales from the previous 60 months, at $1000 and above, listed on NameBio, and designated 3-word. I included all extensions, but as we see in the next section, most were .com.

Here are observations from the price analysis:
  • More than 75% of the 10,312 sales sold in the $1000 to $3000 range.
  • For every one sale in the $10,000+ range, there were about 30 sales at less than that level.
  • During the last 5 years, only four 3-word sales listed on NameBio sold at $100,000 or more, and fewer than 70 above $25,000.
Keep in mind that some of the lower 4-figure sales, and a few higher ones, will be investor acquisitions.

It seems that, with a few exceptions, three-word domain names are more likely to sell when priced below $5,000. You will need a highly motivated buyer, strong negotiating, or a particularly valuable phrase, or perhaps all three, to sell above $25,000.

Mainly .COM and Some .ORG

For the past five years of NameBio data, I looked at sales of $1000 plus, for 3-word combinations. As the graph below indicates, just over 85% of 3-word sales were .com. Almost 10% were .org. This makes sense, since many cause and call-to-action expressions work well with .org.

There were fewer than 2% of $1000+ 3-word domain sales in .net, and all country codes combined contributed less than 3% of the total.

There were no new gTLD sales of 3-word names from the past 5 years listed on NameBio for more than $10,000, and only 39 above $1000, a number of which seem misidentified .top sales.

Some Major Sales SEO Related

One really needs to dig into the data for comparator expression sales, since sometimes a high-value sale is due to backlinks and authority for a developed site. For example, the doubly-hyphenated name sold for $57,000 at GoDaddy in 2019, but that had been a well-developed site. The same name sold again in 2020 for $100,000.

A Number For Sale Again

I did not do a complete analysis, but from the names I checked, it seems that many of the high-value sales from the three-word category are listed for sale again.

Expand Your Comparators Using GoDaddy Valuator

Many multi-word sales took place at GoDaddy or Afternic, and are not listed in NameBio, unless from many years ago, or individually reported. But you can use GoDaddy valuation instrument to find these comparator sales.

Tip: Use GoDaddy Valuation Instrument to Find Comparator Sales
Find sales not on NameBio by searching a similar phrase on GoDaddy domain worth valuator. For example, I have a phrase that ends in ‘for all.’ When I did a GoDaddy valuation it showed me sales of 9 other names ending with ‘for all’.​

If you are a member of GoDaddy Discount Domain Club, and have access to DomainAcademy, you can use the Valuation Worksheet to find these, and other, comparator sales, complete with date and price.

Using NameBio Search Parameters

Keep in mind that you have the full suite of Placement tools in NameBio.

Tip: Use At The End NameBio Placement Command
I mentioned above finding from the GoDaddy comparator sales that ‘for all’ was relatively popular. Now I can return to NameBio, use ‘forall’ as the search term, and At The End selection under Placement to find 36 sales.​

Similarly a search for sales that end with ‘forsale’ will show many comparators on NameBio.

This made me wonder if there were also many multi-word expressions that sold with the word ‘for’ in the middle, but for terms other than ‘all’ and ‘sale’ as the last word. I had trouble thinking what the middle word might be, but again, the flexibility of NameBio search to the rescue.

Tip: Use In The Middle NameBio Placement Command
Try different words in the middle position using NameBio In The Middle selection under Placement. As well as ‘for’, try ‘with’ and ‘the’ to find some nice multi-word sales.​

Is This A Good Combination?

With exceptions, most 3-word or longer combinations that are valuable will also be common. This is one place that you want to focus on number of search results, not on search volume. The best way to test is to use the Google search command with quotation marks:

Tip: Is This Expression Common?
Use a quotation mark Google search to see how many times this exact phrase appears in search results. Most expressions that are valuable will appear millions or tens of millions of times in an exact quotation mark search.​

For example, the expression sold for $47,000 on Afternic in 2023. When I did a quotation mark search on that expression, Google indicated more than 37 million results, a very healthy number.

As in all domain investment, focus on quality, and keep in mind that tiny changes in wording can transform a valuable phrase into one that is worthless.

Business or Organization Use Still Relevant

The quotation mark search will not, at least directly, tell you anything about how useful the expression is to a business or service. So while doing your evaluation of a potential multi-word expression, list potential ways the expression you are considering might find realistic use. Is the phrase a possible main website, or only for use in a marketing campaign, or possibly in philanthropy?

Tip: Used Directly by Businesses or Organizations?
Without quotation marks, and with words separated by spaces, enter the expression you are considering in OpenCorporates. Go beyond just the number of results to look at whether the term is being used as a corporate name, or in some other way, and the geographical and type of business that most frequently use the expression.​

For example, when I looked at the expression plug and play in OpenCorporates, there were 1999 active listings, a number using the expression in their name.

Is The Phrase Trademarked?

Both to reduce likelihood of potential legal issues, and to assess how widely an expression is used, you should use one or more of the common trademark search instruments to browse listings for the expression. A Google search can also be helpful. Consult professional legal professionals as needed.

Upcounsel suggests in Is A Phrase Copyrighted or Trademarked? that most phrases will lack the length necessary for a copyright, that is more usually associated with books, plays, films, etc. Depending on the originality of application of a phrase, it may be capable of trademark, however.

What Type of Phrase?

It might be useful to categorize the multi-word name into one of the following. Note the examples are all from sales posted on NameBio, and are .com unless otherwise indicated.
  • Product or Service Match – example CellPhoneCases.
  • Broad Product/Service Category example ForSaleByOwner.
  • Specific Geo Match – example TorontoRealEstate.
  • Cause or Call To Action – example RightToRun.
  • Common Phrase – example IfLooksCouldKill.
  • Specific Site – example VisitSanFrancisco. This is currently used in redirection.
  • Trending Expression – example SmartBlockChain. Categorized as 3-word, but perhaps better considered 2-word.
Keep Track of Recent Sales

As with anything, it is good to stay current with what has sold recently, to help you with pricing adjustments, as well as hold or liquidate decisions. You can readily do this using the NameBio commands cited earlier, along with a time window such as last 3 months or last 12 months. Leanne’s Crunch ID is a handy way to check daily sales.

Tip: Crunch.ID
Each day Crunch.ID publish a nice analysis of NameBio-listed sales. Among the columns are number of words (click on the up or down icon to order on that). In just seconds, you can see how many 3-word or 4-word sales that day, and whether likely wholesale or retail. While the splitting of the expression into words is not always done perfectly, it is a fast snapshot. She helpfully gives dotDB statistics right there with each sale.​

Where To Sell?

It will probably be tough to get most 3-word expressions listed at any of the main brandable marketplaces, since those marketplaces concentrate on shorter names typically used in brands.

Afternic do not permit Camel casing, and as a result many multi-word expressions can become difficult to read.

The Dan marketplace allows Camel casing. Keep in mind that you have four choices (default, standard, brandable, minimalistic) under the Appearance tab, and some of these, work better for longer names.

Share Your Experience

About three years ago I looked at a single year (2019) of sales data for three- and four-word domain names, including where they sold, how many were developed (about 53%), and how the names were being used (in diverse applications with health, wellness and medicine most popular). You can read Sales of Domain Names Containing Three or Four Words.

Please share in the comment section below your own opinions and experiences with domain names consisting of three or more words.

Sincere thanks to NameBio for their superb search interface and valuable dataset of sales data. Also, to GoDaddy for their valuation instrument and the comparator sales data it provides.
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The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.
Domains that match company mottos and trademarks can definitely reach those figures. The sky is the limit (now visit the .com)
Before reading this article I was in a view that 3 word domains are not valuable but after reading sales data. It looks that a good 3 world combination can be acquired.
I like these kinds of domains :)
I currently hand registered (7) three English dictionary word domains.
(5) four English dictionary word domains. (9) three American slang word domains.

Max character length 18. No underscores. Each individual word has a sales history averaging $1K or greater on GoDaddy.

They mostly fall under {broad product / service category} and {trending expression}.
Ty Bob for this amazing article, I like 3-4 words domain names