How I made $8k+ selling brandables... (and how much it cost me !)

Labeled as sales in General Domain Discussion, started by HDmarketing, Apr 2, 2018


  1. HDmarketing

    HDmarketing Top Contributor VIP

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    Happy Easter everyone :panda::cat:
    As I am doing some kind of recap of my different ventures right now, I thought I'd share the story of my journey through brandables domain names. I think some of the data and resources can help those starting in this field!

    I grew interest in brandables about the end of 2015 ago because I thought it involved a bit of creativity in finding the names AND you could still handreg good brandables. Pretty quick I opened accounts with Brandroot and Namerific and tried to get a feeling of what was a "good" brandable, especially one that could get listed (and hopefully sold!) on these platforms.

    1) Building lists from marketplaces and past sales

    First I built lists of domains found on marketplaces. My goal was to understand the different types of brandables and their price tags.
    In order to do this, I wrote some simple php code to browse and parse the marketplaces' websites.

    This approach was a bit too comprehensive. I realized a better goal was to actually find the kind of names that SELL!! So I used past sales tools like Namebio and and scoured brandable sales lists like the ones compiled and published by users here (e.g. @Doron Vermaat : 1134 domains sold at Brandbucket)

    2) Analysing the lists

    Once I had these huge lists of names (about 70k listed names and 3k sold names), I tried to categorize the names.

    2.1) Sold at Brandbucket

    To give you an example of the kind of analysis I did, here is the results of the "1134 domains sold at Brandbucket" list:

    a) 84% of the names are 13 Letters or shorter

    b) Among the "very short names", you can have:
    • 4L: I decided to not even consider these as they were way out of my buying power and a niche of their own
    • 5L: 13% of total sales. 95% madeup / 5% short words.
    • 6L: 11% of total sales. 55% madeup / 45% combo or sentences
    • 7L: 45% madeup / 55% combo or sentences
    • etc...
    c) "combos" are names built by sticking two words together : Namepros is a combo of Name + Pros... Madeup / combos are built using short words. I extracted most used short words:


    d) Words can be madeup by replacing letters (i => y...)

    2.2) Past sales from Namebio VS. Brandbucket listing

    This is a second example of the kind of analysis I performed.

    Analysing 2278 CVCVCV on Brandbucket, I determined the most frequent first letter was V (13% of the total), followed by Z (8%) and M (7%). And that names started by V started mostly with VO (35%).

    Analysing 1265 CVCVCV sales from Namebio I gathered the following type of informations:

    - more half of the names (54%) started with one of 7 letters (M: 11%, S:10%, C, T, L...)
    - the most frequent syllables were MA, RE, SA, CA etc...

    With only the first Brandbucket analysis in mind I would have started immediately looking for available voCVCVs, but the analysis of actual sales showed me that these accounted only for 0,6% of total CVCVCV sales, VS 4,8% for maCVCVs. 8 times more!!

    3) Choosing a strategy: what kind of names to buy and where to list?

    With data analysed, I had now to choose a strategy to buy names.

    I decided I would apply the following rules:
    • Stick with short names <= 10 Letters
    • Put emphasis on 5L CVCVC / VCVCV and 6L CVCVCVs because they provide more "easy to spell" names
    • Generate combo names with one "strong" word that appears often in the sold / listed lists I had built
    I decided I would use two sources to buy names : handreg and catching dropped domains. My initial idea was to get about 200 names quickly and list half of them on a brandable marketplace and half of them on afternic/sedo/flippa with a landing page that had a for sale banner somewhere. This would be a test before going bigger (let's get 10,000 names! Yay!).

    4) Generating the names

    4.1) Patterns
    I wrote simple pieces of PHP code to generate 5L and 6L patterns and checked availability on Namebright bulk checker. Unfortunately this led to HUGE lists of available domain names. I tried to go through these but after a few minutes I felt every name was okayish and always ended up with hundreds of possible registrations... I decided to narrow the possibilities, for example, with I'd look for repeating patterns ( or patterns with same vowel like With I'd look for CVCVCs or VCVCVs or paterns with double letters at the begining or end : ooLLL, LLLoo...

    I also set up email alerts for dropping domains through the excellent website To catch these I used Desktop Catcher, a great piece of software I found through Namepros.

    4.2) Combos
    What I call combos are names built by sticking two words together : Bitcoin is a combo of Bit + Coin...

    Remember in 2.1. I built lists of frequent words ? I wrote a small php page where I could enter a word (list of words) and add to it any prefix / suffix from a predefined list.
    For example, here is a short part of my current prefix list :


    I'd then enter the word I want to generate names for (e.g. "Trade") and get a list like the following in the bulk availability tool.

    I would choose my main word ("Trade" in the exemple above) either from my list of words appearing frequently in combos or from what is trending now.

    After a few months I trimmed the list so it generates about 1200 names for the main word. At the start I had more about 5k names. I realized over time that it's better to have a shorter but more efficient list of possible candidates to register.

    Today, on a strong main word like "Pay", I have only 3 possible handregs (and they are not good names I'm afraid). I consider that indicates my list of suffix / prefix is good enough that it generated about 1200 names worth registering, since they are already registered!! With less strong words, of course, I'm left with more names I could register...

    As a side note, I've also used some website name generators, but I've always prefered my homemade solution because I know how I built it and why I chose these suffix / prefix! You'll find these sites in the references below.

    5) Buying and listing names

    With all these rules and tools in hand, I started buying and listing names. I used coupons whenever I could and focused on one brandable marketplace, Brandroot, with the following reasoning. They disclosed somewhere (here on NP I guess) that they sold about 6% of their inventory of about 12,000-15,000 names. I thought I could list about 100-150 domains and thus about 1% of their inventory. Ithought I would have some visibility on the platform and thus have a chance to sell between 3% and 6% of my inventory there. $10/listing + $4 to $8 per handreg depending on the coupon. The experiment would cost me roughly $2k. If I sold 3 to 6 names and get about $1-1,5k after commission, I would be OK.

    Back then, Brandroot had a long approval process, and a lot of my submited names were refused. That was OK as I listed them on Afternic as I wished to compare both platforms.

    6) Results

    These are the results, some of the names have been listed for 2 years now (started dec 2015 but seriously in feb 2016).

    Brandroot : 144 names listed / 5 names sold
    • Kitono: $2,990, got $1,993 after commission. Held 7 months. Handreged because easy to spell CVCVCV with repeating "o"'s.
    • Vamaza: $1,290, got $901 after commission. Held 10 months. Handreged CVCVCV easy to remember with A's only.
    • ExoCode: $1,450, got $815 after commission. Held 1.5 years. Handreged because was an available combo for the word "Code" generated by my php generator.
    • Traverce: $1,625, got $896 after commission. Held 11 months. Handreged because was on a list of brandables previously listed on one of the platforms and I felt it had potential.
    • TradeViser: $2,995, got $1,855 after commission. Held 2.5 years. Handreged because was an available combo for the word "Trade" generated by my php generator.
    So, if we take december 2015 as a starting date, in 2 and a half years I
    • Sold 5 names for $6,460
    • Payed in registrations + renewals + listing about $3,515
    I netted about $3k ($2,945)

    Afternic / Public Whois : 200 names listed / 2 sold
    • Mokono: $500 direct offer, talked up to $900. Held 3 months. Got from Snapnames for $85 because I thought it was a good CVCVCV easy to remember with O's only.
    • Proofus: $1,475 Afternic BIN, got $1179 after commission. Held 8 months. Handreged because was on a list of brandables previously listed on one of the platforms and I felt it had potential.
    So in 2 and a half years I
    • Sold 2 names for $1,679
    • Payed in registrations + renewals + listing about $3,449
    I lost about $1,8k ($1,770)

    7) Conclusion

    The experiment is clearly in favor of the brandable marketplace over regular marketplaces. One could argue that the names I listed elsewhere were the leftover from the brandable marketplace, but I had many CVCVCV names that seem really equivalent to me in terms of quality on both Afternic and Brandroot and I sold more of them on the latter.

    I must admit I've lost interest in trying to list names on Brandroot though. They have now over 20k names and I'd need to add about 70 to reach back my 1% exposure. I hoped to sell between 3 and 6% of my names there, but the end result is 3,4% in two years => less than 2% per year. In short, the waiting game gets a bit boring... I don't know. Maybe I should liquidate these and buy myself some bitcoins ;)

    I tried to launch my own marketplace to see if I could have more success than with Afternic. Called it So far I only got a few price inquiries after 1 year of it being online. I'm pretty sure I don't have the critical mass for it : I listed xx / low xxx names. My guess is that below 1,000 names it's hard to get a marketplace effect where you can generate traffic and get visitors interested in more than one of your names.

    That was quite a long one! Thanks for reading this far. Hope that gives food for thought to some of you :)

    8) References

    Past sales brandables
    DNGeek: Brandable domain name sales of past week

    Past sales websites
    Namebio: link to past sales : link to sales above $1000 in 2018

    Bulk check for available names

    Expired names email alerts

    Dropcatcher software

    Brandable platform I listed on
    BrandCombo (my own)

    Generate Names
    Lean Domain search: generate names for the word Robot
    Portmanteau generator: Travel + Velocity = Travelocity
    The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.
  2. s.azis

    s.azis Established Member

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    @HDmarketing Thanks for sharing this valuable information
  3. hookbox

    hookbox Top Contributor VIP

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    It just goes to show you that the real money is owning the marketplace and not concerning yourself with carrying costs on hundreds if not thousands of names. All that traffic that your names provided also helped sell the "house" names at 0% commission out of their pocket. Just like with a casino the house always wins.

    You netted $2,495 off your Brandroot names while Brandroot pulled in $5,330 from commission and submit fees from all the hard work you put in from those same names. They did nothing but provide a landing page. It truly is insane that they get 30% for doing such little work.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  4. Truth alone triumphs VIP

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    Great post, thanks for sharing.

    Brandroot commission is literally a RIP-OFF. Bandits !!
    You are only getting like 55%. You pay when you list, you pay much much more when you sell. And of course, they rip you off for Logo design as well. Why not pay for that from the rip-off commission you earn.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  5. hookbox

    hookbox Top Contributor VIP

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    That's right. I didn't even factor in the logo fees which can definitely bump it over 40%.
  6. Haykay2005

    Haykay2005 Top Contributor VIP

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    Comprehensive analysis. Nice one
  7. stub

    stub PRO VIP ★★★★★★★★★★

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    Very well written and clear. Would you consider this project a success or failure? I would consider it a failure if you add in your time and energy.

    I also came to the conclusion that CVCVCV were the correct domains to be investing in. I used BrandBucket. I never sold 1 domain. But perhaps I just didn't have the economies of scale. I also see quite a few of these domains dropping. So there must be something "magical" between the domains that drop and those developed, which might require your obvious analytical skills :)
  8. Furquah

    Furquah Brand Ambassador INDIA Staff VIP

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    I highly recommend every newbie to go through this insight full article. Thanks for sharing with us @HDmarketing . I wish you get more sale.
  9. premkumar

    premkumar Top Contributor VIP

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    Great share, I did very much same like you, did analysis, created a .Net code to get brandbucket Sold patterns and registered Brandable domains, only thing i didn't do is not used brandable market place. Instead used Afternic and undeveloped.

    I am not sure how much i spent or my net profit. I didn't maintain account. But i did sold couple of domains in 1k to 2k range. Not much profit for the time and effort.

    About your, you just have only 23 domains. That won't going to be a testcase, it need atleast 500+ domain to see some kind of result and conclusion
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2018
  10. Anjani

    Anjani Established Member

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    Thank You! Takes the wind out of my sails:xf.grin: Even a part timer would have made $75000 ( Real Job) in the same period with less
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2018
  11. efizi

    efizi Established Member

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    Many thanks for this analysis. I had to bookmark this so that I can come to read again.
  12. Pierre Barnard

    Pierre Barnard Top Contributor VIP

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    Well written. Thanks for sharing this valuable information! What a journey.
  13. Recons.Com

    Recons.Com Top Contributor VIP

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    great write-up!

    Thank you for sharing. So you actually made around $1.1K, not $8K in 2 years of experiment with about 350 names?

    I'd say BR part of your experiment is success, but brandables with just Afternic listing will probably not pay for their renewals.

    Your own marketplace: good thinking, but could be implemented better. The marketplace does not leave the premium feel, which is important if you are selling a premium product. Did you have more names there and just removed them?
  14. Brandworthy

    Brandworthy Established Member

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    Interesting discussion - thanks for sharing.
    For your initial investment of just under $7,000 + your time you netted less than $1,200 in profit over 2 years. That approximates to <9% annualised return on funds assuming a zero opportunity cost of your time/effort. The renewals will be a further drain and that profit will be totally wiped out without another sale in year 3 (albeit unlikely). At the numbers you've achieved you really need to scale up to make it worthwhile, and even then there's no guarantee you'll retain the sales rates. Tricky business is this domaining.
  15. BrandVenue


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    Looks like Brandroot did well to sell your hand registered names. Don't know Why many users complaining about 30% Brandroot commission. I wonder if it's not because of Brandroot marketplace these hand registered names would have sold ever (Kitono , Vamaza, ExoCode, Traverce, TradeVisor). Brandroot didn't give just a simple landing page, the exposure you got in your names which lead to sales wouldn't have happened unless you listed those names on Brandroot.

    Even Afternic / SedoMLS takes 20% commission. Why would anyone want to avoid listing on any brandable marketplace because of 10% commission difference, specially when brandable marketplaces always outperform Afternic / SedoMLS (for hand registered names) in terms of sales price and sale through rate.
  16. Brandworthy

    Brandworthy Established Member

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    30% + logo fee, which for a $2K name is $700 commission. 35% at the average sales price.
  17. Bayan

    Bayan Established Member

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    Great article! You have the talent for writing a very good book mate, that should be your next project.Good luck(y)
  18. BrandVenue


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    for hand registered names that's still better net profit and sale through rate than afternic / sedo.

    from his CVCVCV example
    Kitono sold at Brandroot for $2,990, $1,993 after commission
    Vamaza sold at Brandroot for $1,290, $901 after commission

    Mokono sold at Afternic for $900, $720 after commission
  19. frank-germany

    frank-germany domainer since 2001 / musician VIP

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    you can only get what you ask for
    afternic is in no way worse then brandbucket
    in selling brandables

    - to me
  20. HDmarketing

    HDmarketing Top Contributor VIP

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    About Brandroot and commission, to be fair with them, I think they do more than just set up the landing page. They provide a logo, they say they pay to promote their website.

    Of course you may miss some sales because customers interested by your name may switch to another one on the platform. Of course you are in direct competition with their own "house" names and your portfolio helps better the marketplace and hence increase their own sales, but at the end, they sold more of my names than me by myself!

    This is why I wanted to start my own marketplace, and since I have past experience in online marketing, I thought I could be good on the promotion side. But it's too much work for me in the end to reach critical mass.

  21. autobot

    autobot Established Member

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    You can turn this into a book. Thanks for this great piece
  22. HDmarketing

    HDmarketing Top Contributor VIP

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    Now I'd say a complete failure. The aim was to build a self sustaining business that brought in profit and required only a few minutes of work a day : check the drops, register, list, pay for listing and wait for sales. But I lost faith in the whole process. I hoped for a higher sell rate : 6% would have been great to keep me running, but less than 2%, with my portfolio size, that means a sell every 6 months. Too low to keep the excitement.

    But when I look back, I spent a nice time doing research (I love that part, I have a PhD in theoretical chemistry) and I didn't need that money to pay the rent. So one could say I did that as a hobbyist.

    To be honest, I don't think I found the magic recipe for CVCVCVs. What I can tell is that today, I only watch for CaCaCa and CoCoCo patterns!
  23. HDmarketing

    HDmarketing Top Contributor VIP

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    Yes ! The $8k was to bring your interest ;)

    The idea was to bring all my inventory there, but the whole process of having logos made and uploading the names gets exhausting once the first excitement has gone...
  24. HDmarketing

    HDmarketing Top Contributor VIP

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    I agree with you @Brandworthy ! I'm thinking about unloading/liquidating. But I still have this little demon that says "put in a little more effort to select what has worked in the past and trim the rest..."

  25. frank-germany

    frank-germany domainer since 2001 / musician VIP

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    you need more perseverance

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