Top Selling Domains
Domain names can be a big business. While it’s unlikely we’ll see the price tags that some of the earliest top-selling domain names brought in, there’s plenty of lessons that modern domain investors, as well as website builders, can use to pick the best domain names in the present.
What are the top-selling domains of all time? What present-day lessons can we learn from them?
Diving into this list shows a variety of very different domain names and topics, but there are some commonalities worth taking a closer look at.
Let’s get into it!
- Top Selling Domains
- What Are The 25 Top Selling Domains?
- 3 Insights Into The Top Domains Ever Sold
- 5 Things That Make a Domain Valuable
- Wrap Up
What Are The 25 Top Selling Domains?
Using NameBio’s extensive historical database of domain sales, we were able to extract the top sales of all time. Here they are:
|Domain||Price ($, MM)||Sale Date||Sale Venue||Age (yrs)|
3 Insights Into The Top Domains Ever Sold
1. Domain Age Breakdown: Average Age at 25.5 Years Old
We analyzed the number of years these domains have been live, or in other words their domain age. Here are the high-level stats:
- Average age was 25.5 years old
- Minimum age was 20 years old
- Maximum age was 31 years old
This shows the importance of age when it comes to the value of a domain. However, it would be also remiss to not point out an obvious fact: many of the most popular names, search terms, and abbreviations would have been among the first domains purchased when the Internet was becoming a widespread thing.
Does this mean age doesn’t matter? Of course not.
The age of a domain is important in the eyes of search engines. A domain that has had traffic for years or even decades also creates brand knowledge and authority a new site simply won’t have.
However, the reason these names are so valuable is not just because of their age. Branding and topic matter, as well. A domain name that is 30 years old but a random collection of letters won’t be worth the large numbers these bring in.
2. TLD Breakdown: 100% of Domains are .COMs
This should come as no surprise. Despite the excitement many “domaineers” have had with the new TLD extensions over the past decade, all the top sales still come from .com domains. There are multiple reasons for this.
The World Recognized Standard
The .com is by far and away the most popular TLD in the world. This data chart from Statista shows that .com websites make up 52.3% of the world’s websites as of April 2021. The .com was the first widespread TLD and it has long since become the base standard.
Also consider that if you are selling a domain name, country-based TLD like .ru, .in, or .uk require a person to physically live in those nations to register it.
A business that is a .com seems professional. That’s the extension expected, that’s pretty standard for what people are looking for in an online domain name. If the website is instead built on a .net or .info or country-based TLD, it just doesn’t carry the same weight.
Buyers want to see a .com and so do most people looking for information online. That credibility factor makes .com more valuable than the other TLD options.
SEO.com straight-up states in the first paragraph that the .com is always their recommendation for a TLD domain when it is available.
3. Parked vs Businesses on Domains Breakdown
20 of the top domains redirect to a business site of some kind. For example, FB.com redirects to Facebook.com. Clothes.com redirects to Zappos.com. Toys.com redirects to ToysRUs.com.
Surprisingly. IG.com, which one would assume is owned by Instagram, is not redirecting to Instagram. It could be that the sellers of IG.com are not interested and are holding out for a much higher offer. Long term, I envision Instagram would purchase IG.com.
The remaining 5 domains within the 25 redirect to a “parked” or “dead” page. Most likely these are domain investors that are holding these for an offer.
The domains that are parked include:
5 Things That Make a Domain Valuable
There are multiple factors that go into what actually makes a domain name valuable. Most extremely valuable domains meet most of these variables, though sometimes even just one or two can be enough for the right domain name.
1. Recognizable Brand
YP stands for Yellow Pages, FB stands for Facebook: these are clearly recognizable brands.
While it can be impossible to predict the next giant company, looking ahead to possible abbreviations or shortened names that aren’t copyrighted can lead to big domain cash in. FB used to be just two random letters put together.
Even outside of the top list, a brandable domain name that is easy to spell, easy to remember, and easy to market makes it much more likely that the name will end up being valuable.
A name that’s hard to brand has less upside.
2. General Term Domains of High Traffic and High Value Topics
Notice something about many of the domain names on the list that aren’t tied to major companies or brands? They’re on terms that get massive amounts of traffic and topics with huge industries behind them.
Wine, beer, health insurance, diamonds, clothes – these are all very general topics that produce massive amounts of money. If someone wants to be seen as the major player in an industry, or one of the top ones, then those domain names would be a major authority indicator.
That includes topics that are sometimes considered “seedy” like the common words for adult movies, or the casino.com example.
If you can find a simple domain name that is one or two words, one topic and represents a major industry, that’s a needle in a haystack and a very valuable find.
A domain name needs to be easy to market. Every single domain on that list above hits this trait. Whether because it’s a common topic, abbreviation, or short and simple, these are domain names that are easy to memorize and market.
This is true of any domain name: the most valuable ones are going to be more marketable than those that aren’t.
4. Domain Name Age (History)
Aged domains are a category in and of itself within the overall domain industry. For most domain names this is because it indicates a history. This might be because the aged domain has a robust backlink profile that can boost SEO efforts on a new site.
The older a domain name, the more likely it is to have a history. Keep in mind that depending on the niche, not all histories are necessarily good. However, those domain names that have a long history can potentially lead to something special.
5. Emerging Trends
Remember when the trend was to put “e” in front of words to make it “online?” Email, ebook, ebook readers, efile, etc. Many of these domains wouldn’t pan out. However, some did. Imagine if you had the domain emoji.com prior to that term catching fire.
Trying to get ahead of emerging trends is a high-risk strategy for domains, but it can lead to some potential high reward situations if the trend plays out.
A .Com TLD
While there might be certain winners among the many new TLDs that are being released all the time, .com is not only standard but is the most valuable TLD. They’re not losing ground, either.
Not only is the .com still considered the standard, but that TLD is only becoming stronger and taking up even more of the market.
While it’s not realistic to believe a brand new domain is going to grab a multimillion-dollar sale, understanding the lessons that the top-selling domains teach creates good guideposts to keep in mind when looking for the next domain name to invest in.
Sticking to those guideposts will increase your chances of investing in a diamond instead of a dud.
Mushfiq is a prolific investor that buys, grows, and sells online businesses, specializing in content websites. He has done 180 website flips to date and several have resulted in 6-figure exits. He runs a free newsletter, The Website Flip, where he discusses growth case studies, guides, and shares sites for sale that anyone can purchase.