Brandable Domains: Understanding the Basics

Mar 06 2016

Continuing our brandbucket and brandable domain Discussion.

Last week we did an overview of my experience with Brandbucket and some of the things I’ve learned. I’m going to separate the Brandable content out of the auction recap so it’s easier to find and build off of, as we learn more and build our knowledge. I think this will help us all finetune a brandable strategy that works best for us. Hopefully people will comment and give input on things they have learned and knowledge they already have. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion based on my experience, I could be have way off on some basic things. In any case we can all learn from this process.

brandable domain discussionPrinciples behind Brandable Names: (BN’s)

I’m going to focus on my brandbucket experience,  because that’s what I know. I’ll take a few things from their website, so we better understand and correlate what we learn with what they accept.  If we are going to target BB as our sales platform we obviously need to buy/register names that they will accept.

That’s not to say that other names we own aren’t or can’t be great brands, just that they don’t line up with what BB is looking for. I think that most of these principles will apply to any sales platform.  I’ve never listed any names on the other Brand type sales platforms. 

No matter what type of brandable name we choose, (words or fake words) we need to understand the metrics that make them good brands.  In general BB breaks this into 5 categories which they score internally when accepting or rejecting names. They give each category a score of 0-10 


Say the name 5 times in your head, then say it 5 times out loud. Can you see the name just by thinking about it after a minute? 5 minutes? Brands need to be memorable for obvious reasons. One of the biggest marketers for any company, are the current customers. If they love your product they’ll tell their friends and family about it. If the people they tell can’t remember the name then they lose out on this huge stream of free and effective advertising.

What makes a name memorable?  I think some of these categories run together, but to me a memorable name can be a lot of different things.

Mindshare is probably one of the best things a name can have to make it memorable. If it’s a word or phrase that is commonly used it’s more likely to stick with a person. That doesn’t mean it’s the only metric that matters. Remember that the best BN’s score high on all of these metrics. Remember Mary Poppins? I still remember that stupid word supercalifragilisticexpealidoucous. I don’t know if I spelled it right, or what it even means, but it’s the first thing I think of if you asked me to say the longest word I know. I haven’t seen that movie in at least 25 years, but I still remember that word. It would make a fricken horrible brand, despite the mindshare that it has.


With BN’s, mindshare could be used with word domains, phrases or made up words that resemble other words or industries.  For example substituting a Z for an S, a K for a C or an F for Ph like in Photo. Also adding a prefix or suffix to a well known root word can give the name a certain level of basic mindshare. That simply means that when a person sees that name they automatically associate it with something.  

Keep in mind, just because a name is a well known thing or phrase, doesn’t mean that people can’t be retrained to think of it as something else. Apple for example is a Keyword brand that was re-appropriated by brand experts and marketers to mean something completely different. In the beginning the name had mind share, but only as a fruit, this made it memorable.  

There are other things that can make the name memorable. The length of the name is certainly an important consideration when determining how memorable a name is, there are cases like the one above where the length doesn’t seem to be a factor.  That’s one reason the Chinese love short domains, with letters that aren’t even from their native language. or could mean anything, but is really easy to remember.


Associated with the length are sound and symmetry. I don’t know if symmetry is something BB looks at in evaluating names but it makes sense to me and here’s an example. I recently sold on BB. Forget about what is sounds like spoken  for a minute, and just look at it. Would you look at it? Go ahead and look at it. I think I could remember that name pretty well without ever saying it out loud. The shape is perfectly symmetrical, you could fold it in half and it would match perfectly. To me that’s a good way to make your brand memorable.

It doesn’t sound bad either, and that’s another thing that makes a brand memorable. Pronounceability can be looked at in a couple different ways. Certain sounds can have certain connotations that are intrinsic to the sound, depending on the intended audience. For example if we hear a harsh sounding syllable we’re probably not going to associate the name with, raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but maybe if the audience is German that harsh sound might be associated with brown paper packages tied up with string and unicorns,I don’t really know. The point is that the tone of the syllables can have a lot to do with a certain feeling that the brand is trying to project. We want brands with sounds that compliment each other. Usually the less syllables the better but not always. 

In addition to the syllable tone and connotation, I think cadence is an important memory making benchmark. Cadence can be used to make completely random number and letter domains more memorable, 8675309, 867530 nyee-ine. or GBDB as opposed to XCPQ. GBDB actually sounds pretty cool.



noun: virality


  • the tendency of an image, video, or piece of information to be circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another; the quality or fact of being viral.


It the name capable of this? Is there something about the name that would easily lend itself to virality if associated with appropriate content?

I need to explore this more, I don’t really have a good handle on what would give the name virality.


You want your brand to stand out in the crowd. If it’s too close to some other brand or product people will get confused. You can have a great made up word domain, but if it sounds or looks like an established brand you’re going to have problems. Not only will your message potentially be lost to the other company, they might sue you for infringing on their intellectual property. Again this is just how I understand it.


This metric measures how simple the name is. You see what I did there? I used the word in the definition. These metrics play off of each other but are also their own measurable thing. 


Does the Brand match the domain? Is it preferably on a .com? If it’s not on the .com are there minimal or no other variants to remember. Every time there’s a variation from the norm to make a name brandable, there’s a chance that traffic will be lost.  Good BN’s reduce the amount of variables to a max of 1. So something like a 2 word domain probably won’t work if both the first and second words are modified, or if there’s a modification to a word and it’s on any other TLD than .com.  Remember these aren’t laws they’re just principles.

The BB website has an a great example of brandability. They use Google as an example and compare google to I think. While is pretty much the category, you’re stuck with being just a searchengine and nothing else. There’s no room for the brand to expand or be anything else. They make a good point and say that if google would have gone with SearchEngine, it never would have become the brand turned Verb that it is today. Where’s America Online at now days? I actually have no idea what happened to them, but yahoo and google are still around.  
So that’s what I see as some of the basics principles of BN’s. There’s always more we can add and learn. That’s it for now. If I was at all organized I’d tell you what the next topic will be, but I’m not, so it will have to be a surprise.

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About the author

I grew a beard while I was on vacation. I had to shave it off to go back to work.

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  1. Mike Maillet

    Good article! Although, this is the first time I have ever heard of ‘symmetrical’ domains, not really important to me, but makes sense. I like names that pass the ‘radio test’ with my wife, and names that you can easily make a logo for. I am a buyer and a developer, and I find tons of Brandable gold on Ebay, believe it or not! -Mike Maillet

    1. Post author
      Josh E

      Hey Mike, Thanks. I don’t know if the symmetrical thing is just my own imagination, but I really think there’s something to the way the name looks. I look at them like a bunch of shapes that compliment each other, in relation to making it memorable. I think that someone that didn’t speak the language could identify the shape or at least remember the shape over a random shape. The same concept should transfer, at least to some level, to people that can read and understand the language. The radio test is good too, but there are lots of names that sell that don’t pass the radio test.

  2. John Harrison

    Nice article Josh. I’ve always wondered how people succeed with their brandables. I had a few names at BB about a year ago. I think in quick succession, Michael Krell, Margot and another brandable expert were on Domain Sherpa and I quickly caught the brandable bug! I could never afford to build my inventory though so I only ever had 10 or so brandable names.

      1. Post author
        Josh E

        to elaborate. “a Lot” of names is relative. I’ve sold names when I only had a few listed. The cool thing is that now that my names are published I can sell them wholesale for 20-60 each, somewhere in there maybe more. That gives me a great out if I want and adds instant value to the name.

    1. Post author
      Josh E

      While it is a numbers game with brandables, it’s really no different than any other domain niche. If I have a quality supply of products in any industry or niche, I’m going to sell more If I control a greater share of the supply, as long as demand is there. Another point to take away, is that once accepted or published on BB, the name becomes liquid automatically.

      1. Post author
        Josh E


        You can move pretty much any BB published or accepted name for 2-3 % of the suggested or published price on namespros or by reaching out to other sellers.

    2. Post author
      Josh E

      Hey John,

      When I started I submitted keyword names that I already had. I didn’t go out and seek any made up words or anything like that until I had a bunch that were already in my portfolio published. After that I tried to get a feel of what was being accepted and what was selling by looking through the site, or reading the sales report that they send out. Then I started actively pursuing names that I thought would be good fits, mostly just going through the drop lists.

  3. Keith DeBoer

    A lot of people think that the ‘invented’ names are just junk with high price tags and that any grouping of consonants and vowels will get published on BrandBucket etc. Those of us who are BB sellers know differently. There is a method to the madness.
    A good invented name is easy to say and spell. It passes the radio test and it feels familiar. Lastly, it evokes some kind of image, however vague. For example it has a fashion feel or a techy feel to it etc.
    Patterns like VCVCV or CVCVCV help give it flow but even the patterns can go awry and produce ‘bad’ names. Here’s one example: Yesterday sold on GoDaddy for $377. I wish the new owner well but in my view this is not a good brandable name. Why? It doesn’t flow. It has repeating ‘O’ sounds which is good but the mouth has to move from the fish shape of ‘o’ to the wide open mouthed ‘h’ sound. Say it out loud a few times. It feels awkward. Also, it’s not clear how it is pronounced. Is it ‘ah’ like Ottawa? Or is ‘o’ like ‘Oh’. This confusion and ambivalence makes it much less valuable.

    1. Scofield Yeh

      I do admire the hardwork to create a made up brand word, and I do believe a made up word could be a well known brand name like Rolex. I am just curious about the percentage and time need to sell one?
      By the way, Otoha is a common Japanese female name.

    2. Tony

      Keith, yesterday was not a pure brandable play at $377. It is a Japanese first name and that also makes it a pretty good brandable.

      1. Post author
        Josh E

        Thanks for Sharing Tony. That’s the thing with short domains, there’s been quite a few times I’ve picked up a short pronounceable name to find out it actually means something to someone somewhere.

  4. Scofield Yeh

    Great article Josh, I have 2 questions about the brandable domain names.
    First, singular or plural is good for brandable? Like supermodel or supermodels? I notice that most of the model management agencies use models for their brand name?
    Second, what do you think about a letter plus a noun or a noun + a letter? Like SpaceX or XSpace? afresh or fresha?
    I am a Chinese so please forgive me if these questions are to basic for you.

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