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Domain Name Decisions

So, a quick thing: As I mentioned in a couple of earlier posts, I’m starting a little online store, and part of the idea is that I’m selling a type of product that isn’t that easy to get in Canada as in the USA. You can buy this type of product at some stores, but not a ton, and in a lot of cities and towns, your options are very limited. There’s no really good (ie. reasonably priced) way to buy online from a Canadian company, so a lot of people are stuck ordering from the U.S., and paying import fees and border fees and whatnot.

So since I’m mostly concentrating on Canada, I think it’s important that the store’s name communicates that. A lot of the value the store gives is that I’m shipping thiese items from inside Canada, which should make things faster, and cheaper. I bought the following domains:

buyXXXXcanada.com

buyXXXX.ca

buyXXXXcanada.ca (just backup for the .com version)

and just plain buyXXXX.com was already taken, and I’m sure they want $20,000 or something for it (the XXXX is a common 4 letter word).

Hey you know what, I just got curious, and I phoned the company (Afternic) who owns the .com version of it, and asked how much it was, just for the sake of this blog entry, and they wanted $9999. I talked to the guy a teeny bit, and I think I probably could have negotiated this a lot lower, but I honestly don’t know what it’d be worth to me – would I pay $500? Maaaaaaaaybe, but I don’t know if I’d get a huge return for that price, even if the store does well and lasts a long time. So the price is, predictably, way too much for me, but really, it’s not as insane as you might expect. Actually let me go on a tangent here:

There are big brokering companies that buy a huge amount of domains (this one mentioned they have 11 million on hand), and then sell them, and it’s interesting to me that the prices are not always nuts. I’ve phoned about a couple of other domains in the past (also just for curiosity), and they’re never as bad as I expect. The big domain broker companies obviously have a decent feel for how much people might actually pay, but if you ever approach just some random joe-schmo who owns even a mediocre domain you want, they always think they’re going to get $50,000 for it, and I think maybe sometimes (but very rarely) they do. I think it’s less and less common though, and I would bet if you saw a chart of domain prices, it’d be steadily falling.

I don’t have a ton of domain selling or buying experience. I’ve always been very, very interested in the whole field, but I’ve only sold one domain. It was a 5-letter, made-up word, and I owned the .com version of it for 8 or 9 years, but never did much with it. Then, in 2012, a guy emailed me saying he wanted to buy it. I think we had a brief exchange, then weren’t in touch with each other for 6 months, at which point he came back and was more serious.

The guy wouldn’t tell me exactly what he wanted it for, but he did say he was just some random guy with a business idea. I did as much digging as I could, and I couldn’t find anything to suggest that he was actually a front for some big company that could pay me a lot more, so after a bunch of negotiating, he agreed to buy the domain for $1250 (I think his initial offer was $250 and my first counter was $2000). When he finally launched a site, it did indeed turn out that he was just a guy with an interesting product (some kind of mask to help you sleep if I recall).

I own Pitas.com and I’ve never, ever received any remote interest from anyone in buying it. I have never tried to sell it, but I imagine if I did, it wouldn’t be that desirable – what would possibly go there? Years and years ago, I looked up a bunch of fast food names, and none of them had anything up other than “Domain For Sale” notices. Hotdog dot com, Hamburger dot com, Hamburgers dot com, Chickenwing dot com, etc. – I’m sure they were all registered a long, long time ago, but none of them have ever had anything interesting there.

This is actually what I find very frustrating about the domain name business: For the most part, it seems like there are a huge amount of domain names for sale, and so, so, so, so many of them just sit around forever, unused, because nobody really needs them. Having a great domain name is nice, but as people become more web-literate, and also just type business names into Google more, the value is less and less.

I think as the general value of domain names goes down, the amount of people looking to buy “special” (anything over $100) ones also goes down, so the domain brokers are relying even more than ever on making all their profits from fewer and fewer sales. This means that when they actually have a potential buyer on the hook, they’re going to want to get the max value from the domain the customer wants. I’m not explaining this well I don’t think, but anyhow yeah, it’s too bad. There have certainly been times in the past where I’ve wanted a certain domain name, and phoned, fully knowing that they’re going to ask for $3000, and fully knowing that I would never pay over $200 for it, but also knowing that nobody else will ever want that domain, or do anything with it. So it just sits there and is never used.

Anyhow, back to my little store: I don’t actually mind, in this case, that I can’t get the buyXXXX.com version of the name. It might actually be a good thing, because just owning buyXXXX.com doesn’t actually signal that I’m focusing on selling to people in Canada. It might be nice if I ever branch out and really start trying to market outside of Canada, but I don’t really anticipate that happening; it’s definitely not some goal I have anyway.

So I had to make the decision between buyXXXXcanada.com and buyXXXX.ca and to begin with, I went with the .com version, and I set up the commerce software to go along with it, and had the whole store set up there.

But then, I really got thinking about which of the two is better, and it was very, very tough for me to decide.

On one hand, the longer domain is a .com, and it also has the Canada keyword inside the name, so if you’re a potential customer and you see that name, it will signal you right away that it’s a Canadian business.

On the other hand, the .ca name is shorter, and a bit catchier. It also feels a little more like an actual brand name, just a little less generic, you know? It doesn’t have Canada in the actual domain name, but I do think that here in Canada, people are quite used to .ca domain names, and I think that on first encounter, having .ca in the domain might be just as good a signal of “Hey this is a local business” as having Canada. If you read any article on domains, they always say something like “The dot com name is king!”, and I still mostly agree with that for a lot of websites, but I think people outside of Canada probably have no clue how common and accepted .ca names are here. I don’t think the idea that people will go to the .com version by accident is that big a deal here.

So, in the end, I went with the shorter buyXXXX.ca name, but I’d definitely like to hear any opinions from people reading this. Heck, it’s not too late to switch if I’ve made some huge horrible mistake haha! (Although I think that even if I picked the wrong name, it’s unlikely it would be a really catastrophic mistake – maybe it makes a 2% difference to traffic/sales long-term or something).

Okay, so this was 1400 words on “I chose between these 2 domain names, but I’m still not 100% sure I was right” haha, which is kind of par for the course on this blog. I have a few upcoming entries, and I’m very close to actually launching the store properly, at which point I’ll actually talk about what it is, link it, etc.

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