Hell.com is scheduled to be offered in a live auction organizers predict will draw bids of more than $1 million. The hot market for domain names, the addresses people often type in for Web sites, is being fueled by the surge in Internet advertising and the ease with which domain owners can make money from ads brokered by the likes of Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.
Sex.com sold for about $12 million earlier this year and Diamond.com changed hands for $7.5 million. The big-money domain-name sales echo an earlier boom, when Business.com fetched $7.5 million in 1999. Today’s live auction of 300 names, by Seevast Corp.’s Moniker unit, includes more than a handful it predicts will generate bids of more than $1 million, including Iran.com, Auction.com and Elections.com.
Whether or not those domains justify those kinds of prices depends entirely on execution. Some of the most “intuitive” domains are “also-rans” in their respective spheres. For example, awkwardly named shopping sites “NexTag” and “PriceGrabber” considerably outperform the much stronger “Shop.com.”
There a numerous such examples where the category leader doesn’t have the best URL.
But if you’re building a brand around a URL, then the seven-digit prices may be justified in limited cases. (See my post on the absence of URLs and branding.) In my little local world, AT&T (then SBC) and BellSouth paid a reported $100 million for YellowPages.com and then tossed out almost everything but the URL.
In one view of the world, “it’s the most expensive URL of all time.” In another view, AT&T bought the brand “yellow pages” on the Internet – something that no US publisher can own offline. Through that lens $100 million doesn’t seem like an outrageous sum.
But yellowpages.com, the most “intuitive” brand in the IYP arena is not the traffic leader (per comScore):
- Yahoo! Sites — 23.9%
- Verizon SuperPages — 20.1%
- Google Sites — 12.5%
- Yellowpages.com — 12.0%
- Time Warner Network — 7.7%
- Local.com — 5.9%
- InfoSpace Network — 5.1%
- Dexonline.com — 4.1%
What does Google mean? What about Yahoo!? What about eBay? And “Amazon” is a word but has nothing intrinsic to do with shopping. These top Internet brands executed and the brand followed.
Of course if you’ve got a brand/URL like “Revish,” “Cyn.in,” “Amigilia” or “Pytagor,” you put yourself at an automatic disadvantage because of the convoluted nature of your brand/URL.
From the WSJ — Hell.com failed to sell: “Hell.com failed to sell during a live auction of Internet domain names on Friday, as no bidders met the $2.3 million reserve price set by its seller. Monte Cahn, chief executive of Seevast Corp.’s Moniker unit that held the auction, said bidding on Hell.com exceeded $500,000, but that was far short of the minimum $2.3 million required for the online address to sell.”