Where are they now – The Top 500 Domain Sales of All-time Analysed

Big domain sales are fascinating, unpredictable and sometimes confusing.

I’ve been gathering and analysing data on the top 500 domain sales ever recorded (pre-2013), more for fun than anything else.

Its been exciting to look at the biggest publicly announced sales our industry has seen and find out where they are now.

In this post I’ll share with you some of the data I have gathered and analyse the dataset for trends and interesting information.

In future posts I’ll be taking a look at specific domains and their story since they were bought.

The data

I wanted to see how successful big ticket domain buys have been.

Essentially I assumed that these domains were bought to be developed, which in most cases is true.

Disclaimer: This exercise in data analysis is purely because I think the data is interesting, I am not attempting to glean any important lessons or to establish causal relationships from what is a biased dataset.

The average domain on the list sold for $651,209.47, a tidy sum that’s for sure and was typically sold in November 2007 with domain sales being recorded as early as January 1997 when business.com sold for $150,000.

The domain would later be sold to Winebaum’s eCompanies Ventures for $7.5 million, a record at the time. Winebaum’s eCompanies Ventures developed the domain into a successful business directory and sold it to R.H. Donnelley for $345 million in 2007.

2008 had the most sales that made the top 500 with 79 while the late 20th Century and early 21st proved to be lean years for big domain sales.

Despite having the largest volume of sales, 2008 was just pipped to the post in terms of total sales value ($) by 2010 who’s average sale price was bolstered by large sales like sex.com, fb.com and slots.com for $13 million, $8.5 million and $5.5 million respectively.

Probably the least interesting statistic is the average purchase price per year.

But when you combine the # of sales, total sales and the standard deviation of the average sale price per year you get an excellent view of the type of year you’ve had.

I’ve excluded pre 2003 data as the number of sales per year was insufficient to lend a useful average sale price.

Standard deviation by the way just a measure of how spread out each year’s sales are. A large standard deviation suggests a lot of large sales and a lot of small sales with very few near the mean. A small standard deviation suggests all the sales are close to the average.

2010 who’s average was so heavily affected by the three large sales I mentioned earlier has the highest standard deviation whereas 2011’s data was least spread out, with sales clustering around the average.

Basically this means that we can trust the 2011 average the most and the 2010 average the least.

Alexa Rank

The mean Alexa Rank for the 500 domains was 3,529,668, on average these big ticket sales are getting just a trickle of traffic.

This is pretty shocking as you would expect such high value domains to be more successful after development.

Nonetheless the correlation between a higher sale price (and presumably better domain) and Alexa Ranking is -0.144. A small relationship (again: not necessarily causal and definitely not a representative dataset) that shows increased traffic for higher priced domains.

Correlations run on a scale of -1 to 1, with a negative number representing a negative relationship i.e. one goes up the other goes down. The closer the correlation is to either -1 or 1 i.e. the further away from 0, the stronger the relationship.

Domain Length

Domains were on average 6.656 characters long and their frequency distribution by length is below:

o.co is the sole one character domain which Overstock.com acquired in July 2010 from the .co registry.

homeownersinsurance.com was the longest domain in the top 500 at 19 characters, commanding a $570,000 price tag from Carlos Lagomarsino, who also owns HomeInsurance.com and several other premium domains in the vertical, the site though has yet to see much traffic with an Alexa Rank of 2,147,520.

The 41 two character domains commanded an average price of $563,419.122 all but one of them – cd.net which sold for $189,930 was a .com.

Below is a graph of the average sale price for each domain length (the bars which are associated with the left axis).

Graphed as the orange line is the number of domains out of the 500 for each domain length (associated with the right axis of range 0-70), the orange line is the same as the above graph and is there to represent the amount of data being averaged (obviously the 1 character average is less interesting than the 2 character average as there is only one sale of a 1 character domain).

There is a nice peak at 4 and 5 character long domains which represent how valuable one word domains that actually mean something are.

Obviously it’s harder to find a meaning for many of the 2 and 3 character domains like vu.com vs. beer.com.

# of Words Per Domain

Out of the 500 top domain sales ever, 416 were 1 word domains, 77 were 2 word domains, 6 were 3 word domains and just 1 was a 4 word domain.

That 4 word domain was ForSaleByOwner.com which sold for $835,000 in January 2000 to the Tribune Company, owners of the Chicago Tribune, an old media giant who operate the site successfully to this day.

Here’s a neat graph of average sales prices by # of words, along with the number of domains for each word count i.e. 416 for 1 word, etc.

I’ve excluded the sole 4 word domain as it distorts the graph.

Its obvious at least for this dataset that as you have more words in the domain the lower the sale price.

DMOZ

148 of the 500 domains are in DMOZ. With a .2038 correlation between the domain’s sale price and being in DMOZ, I guess the chances are if you pay millions for a domain your more likely to develop it into a site worthy of being in DMOZ.

PageRank

Ah, my old friend PageRank, always the subject of debate and controversy.

Turns out the average top 500 domain now has 3.144 units of PageRank with a mild relationship – a correlation of .2144, between a high sale price and PageRank.

BBC.com top of the field with this data point, the only domain to achieve a PageRank of 9.

Search Volume

In case you haven’t heard I’m a little obsessed by search volume, exact match search volume that is. My drop list software after all is unique and incredibly useful because it provides US monthly exact match search volume, CPC and competition, none of the useless broad match data if you use my software :)

When you split up your average top 500 domain into its keywords and check its global monthly exact match search volume you get 1,223,676 monthly searches, with 140,744 of them coming from the US.

There’s also a good relationship between a domain’s sale price and it’s keywords’ global search volume showing a .3756 correlation is US only counterpart also displaying a close relationship to a domain’s sale price at .358.

“fb”, short of course for Facebook had has nearly 5 times the global monthly searches of the second most searched domain porn.com, fb.com way out in front of the field with 226 million global monthly searches on Google.