Domain-Name Auction Strategy Masterclass: NamesCon 2017

Monte Cahn (RightOfTheDot) and Jonathan Tenenbaum (NameJet)

Monte Cahn (RightOfTheDot) and Jonathan Tenenbaum (NameJet)

The RightOfTheDot auction is coming up Monday, January 23. NamesCon attendees got some pro tips ahead of time on how to successfully sell a domain through auction.  Monte Cahn, president and director of RightOfTheDot, and NameJet General Manager Jonathan Tenenbaum, were on hand to sharing this figuratively and literally valuable advice in their Meet the Expert session: Tips for Selling Your Domains Through Auction.

Now the RightOfTheDot auction is a key experience here in Vegas during the conference. "Create a market in the room," said Cahn, "to raise the value through competition." Lower reserves typically mean overall higher prices, since people get into it sooner and get more passionate about it. This includes new TLDs, which will appear in both the live and online extended auctions. 

The ABCs of .xyz

.xyz is a popular extension, said Cahn, but not yet valuable on the level of .com. ".net is getting squeezed a bit by the other new TLDs," he added. Meanwhile, .org is associated with charities and non-profits in most people's minds.

Tenenbaum said that .com is the biggest TLD they sell, followed by .net. .xyz is up and coming, though. Cahn also rated .club really highly, based on how it's being developed by organizations already using it.

"Things that make linguistic sense and flow right," said Cahn, are most valuable to him when creating an auction list." "The tidewater for this entire industry raises when there's value in any extension," he added: this is still an industry in its infancy. " Websites are so easy to build today, there's very little between an idea and a live site.

The new TLDs allow a far wider range of URLs that make linguistic sense, noted Cahn: for example lasvegas.info instead of lasvegasinfo.com.

On Trend

There's also a lot of virtual-reality stuff submitted in this auction, Cahn said, which is on trend; but he pays extra attention to stable industries. "I don't get it right all the time," he says, "but I'm pretty close!"

"What is the value of the name in the marketplace versus is the reserve reasonable," noted Tenenbaum. Three-, four-, and five-digit names were bought and sold in the Chinese market like commodities, said Tenenbaum: This is to highlight that names sell better in some forms than other, and value can be in the eye of the beholder.

How many names you have to sell is also a factor, said Tenenbaum: two valuable names may not be seen as valuable—in an auction scenario—as a fistful of slightly less-valuable names.

"I don't want anyone to undersell their domain name," said Cahn, "but I want a win-win situation between buyer and seller."

It Happens So Fast

"Live auctions are kind of new to us," said Tenenbaum, adding, "We had a ton of success last year." Over 75,000 domains were submitted for this year's RightOfTheDot auction, which Cahn personally curated down to a more manageable number. (Still, NamesCon attendees should get registered for your paddle sooner rather than later. You can do this right by the NamesCon Info Desk.)

This year's auction is a keyword-driven market, said Cahn, as opposed to the types of name that are big in the Chinese market. "We have about a three-hour window for the live auction for 143 names, said Tenenbaum: "That's like a domain a minute."

History of Expertise

Monte Cahn registered his first domain in 1995, thought the health-care industry. He read his friend's son's thesis paper on how domain names were like real estate. The light bulb went on, and Cahn registered 2,000 names as quickly as he could: "As I was selling medical equipment during the day, I was registering domain names at night." Remember, these were the days of Netscape, pre-Google. 

Turns out his friend's son was right, and Cahn's career pivot began in earnest in 1996. In 2004, Cahn ran his first domain-name auction, using a whiteboard. The next year, he scaled it up, using an old-school auctioneer. He stopped auctioning for several years, but Cahn got back into the auction game for NamesCon a few years ago.

Cahn's is one of many stories of reinvention that you'll discover at NamesCon. Be sure to talk to one another as much as possible over the next few days.