What Makes a Great Brandable Domain Name – With Margot Bushnaq

What is a brandable domain name and why is the average selling price between $2,000 and $4,000 on BrandBucket.com?

Founder Margot Bushnaq shares her knowledge about what makes a great brandable domain name and how – if you’re a domain name investor – you can list them for sale on BrandBucket.com.

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About the Interviewees

Margo Bushnaq, BrandBucket.comMargot Bushnaq is the founder and CEO of brandable domain name marketplace BrandBucket.com. She is a graduate of Stanford University and is a self-described, “mother, tech geek, design junkie, linguist, aspiring author and foodie.”

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Margo Bushnaq Interview Raw (Non-Edited) Transcript

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People looking to name their new company, product or service have a monumental task ahead of them. They start with brainstorming names, move on to organizing, prioritizing, checking domain name availability, emailing registrants because inevitably all domain names are registered, negotiating, and most likely failing to do a deal and starting over at step one, or you can go to a brandable marketplace that helps companies expedite that process. I have the leading marketplace on today’s show. Stay tuned to learn how to use the website if you are an entrepreneur and how to sell your domains if you are an investor.

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Michael Cyger: Hey everyone. My name is Michael Cyger. I’m the Publisher of DomainSherpa.com – the website where you come to learn how to become a successful domain name investor and entrepreneur directly from the experts.

One of the most exciting and frustrating parts of starting a new company, product or service is actually choosing the name, because you are going to likely need a domain name to go with that brand. And as I mentioned in the introduction, they are all reserved, and if you reach out to a registrant, you are likely to receive a response ranging from an outrageously high priced asking price, all the way down to no response at all.

Luckily, a few brandable marketplaces exist to take away the frustration of trying to negotiate with sellers that have unrealistic or even unprofessional responses.

Today I am joined by Margot Bushnaq, Founder and CEO of BrandBucket.com, the leading marketplace of brandable domain names. Welcome, Margot.

Margot Bushnaq: Hi, thanks, Mike. Nice to be here.

Michael: I said in the introduction that BrandBucket was the leading marketplace because, quite frankly, I am the most familiar with it, even though I have never purchased or sold a domain name on your marketplace. On your overview video on your website, I heard a statistic that since 2007 you have helped more than one thousand startups find their brand. Is that statistic up to date?

Margot: Well, we are about 12 hundred right now, so we have done some good business since we have made the video.

Michael: That is awesome. And what is one or two of the most well known brands purchased through BrandBucket.com?

Margot: Well, the one that we see all the time because it is in our industry is Envato. Are you familiar with them?

Michael: I am, yeah.

Margot: They are a network. It is kind of like a BrandBucket, but for digital asset creators. People who make WordPress themes and videos and music, and it is just a place where buyers of that type of service come and sellers are there, selling what they have.

Michael: Yeah, and it is funny because I was trying to find some really great example that everybody has heard of. I am not sure if anybody has heard of Envato, but I am a customer of theirs. They are an Australian-based company, and I sort of like to think of them as like an Amazon.com of different marketplaces. They bring a bunch of suppliers in, and then they provide the marketplace for those suppliers to sell their software. A couple of marketplaces I have used are ThemeForest.net and CodeCanyon.com. I have personally purchased software from them, and I never realized that Envato was something that they purchased.

They had a bunch of different marketplaces that they developed over the years, and then they needed an overarching company and they came to your marketplace to find that company brand.

Margot: Yeah. Yeah, they have told us before that they wanted something that sounded nice, but very generic and did not really give it indication of what they were because they never knew. They did not know where they were growing to, and it was perfect. It was just nice and generic and they could build their sub-brands under it.

Michael: Yeah, great. I had heard a rumor that LaunchRock.com was purchased through your site, but I could not find any information on that. Do you know if that is true or not?

Margot: No, not us.

Michael: Okay. And you wrote on your About page of BrandBucket.com that before you launched your marketplace you researched what makes a domain name brandable. Can you explain the criteria that go into a great brandable domain name, like Envato?

Margot: Well, that is the million-dollar question.

Michael: It is, and I want to start right off so I suck people into this show.

Margot: Well, typically the word brandable has been used to describe any name that is kind of the opposite of an exact match keyword. It is names that, when you land on it, you do not really know what you are going to get as a customer. It might give you somewhat of an indication. It might give you no indication, like Envato, but they are the type of names that has been historically really hard to sell if you own it because unless someone else though of the exact sound that you came up with or unless somehow happened to think: “BrownSparrow, that sounds nice together,” you are not selling sparrows most likely.

But I have a background in linguistics and the whole thing started one summer after I quit my last job. I was just playing around and I started buying this type of name. And someone came to me and it was for the company I was founding with my husband. We had all these product ideas and we said let’s just kind of build a repository of names that we can pick from. And he asked me flat out, like: “Why are you picking the names you are picking,” and I had to really think about it and I just kind of roped together and it still exists on our blog. It is like the Ten Things I Look at When I’m Looking at a Name, from pronunciation to spelling to just kind of general, uplifting feel because it reminds you of some other word.

Michael: Okay, so I am going to link to that article on BrandBucket.com that has the ten factors, but basically it is opposite of a dictionary definition or what domain investors think of as keyword-rich domain names.

Margot: Yeah, they typically have no type-in traffic or very little type-in traffic. That is kind of the key indicator for a brandable name.

Michael: And I noticed that on your website one of the articles that you wrote was that one of the criteria needs to be non-trademarkable. So, you want to make sure that it is a brand that is uplifting, that can be spelled, that can be pronounced, so when you are doing the radio test, you do not mix things up, but it is also a brand that nobody else has trademarked in the past.

Margot: Well, it can have a trademark on it, but because these types of names do not really say exactly what you are doing, if what you plan to do with it is different than what the previous person did, you can also get a trademark. So, trademarks can be across various industries, but something like Cars.com is very hard to trademark because you are most likely selling cars and someone else might have trademarked cars for car selling. No trademark office is going to give you the trademark on the word cars.

Michael: Right, okay, makes sense. All right, so I have a ton more specific questions to ask you about brandable domain names, and I have some examples that I want to throw out and get your thoughts on. But I want to go back in time and ask you for a little bit more information about the genesis of BrandBucket. You mentioned that you and your husband started collecting these domain names for use in your own business. That was around 2000, or you launched BrandBucket in 2007 I believe, so you were working on your own businesses prior to that.

Margot: Actually that was in 2007. I left a larger company in January of that year, took a couple months off, and then in 2006 my husband had left previously. He started an incubator and he was pulling me in slowly. He was like: “I need help. Come on. We have got lots of products we need to build,” and so with the names that we were collecting, we are very web-centric and we like (Unclear 8:11.4). We do not like to open up a spreadsheet when we can. We like to see things visually, so we made BrandBucket for ourselves. He made logos for the hundred or so names that we had because we never intended anyone else to stumble upon it.

We just made it so that we and the partners we were working with could go somewhere and look at the names that we had, but then lo and behold, Google indexed it, people started coming and saying, “You do not have a price on this. Can I buy it?” We said, “Sure. Okay,” so we priced the names and we started to sell them. And that’s how it was born.

Michael: And these names were most likely purchased for just registration fee, around ten dollars per domain name.

Margot: Yeah, exactly.

Michael: Okay. And when Google had indexed your website of these brands that had logos so that you could more easily look through the list and identify them, was the domain name BrandBucket.com at that time or was it another domain name?

Margot: No, it was BrandBucket, and that is what we called it. It was our bucket of brands.

Michael: One of the things that I like to ask entrepreneurs that come on here is how they pick their domain name. When I interviewed Steven Boal, CEO of Coupons.com, it was clear. He wanted the generic domain name so that he could show up at the top of search engines, so that when he went and bought advertising, it showed up as Coupons.com. People know exactly what they are getting. With BrandBucket, you could have thought of BrandLocker, BrandCash, or BrandMarketplace. Why did you choose BrandBucket? Do you remember?

Margot: No, it was just completely. It came from a conversation with one of our partners. We said, “Let’s look in the bucket.” It was actually called the bucket internally in our office, but we went to go get a domain name to put it up so we could see it, but TheBucket was probably taken or something. So, the double-B sounded kind of nice, so it is BrandBucket. It is our little bucket of things that can become our brands.

Michael: Yeah, so that alliteration, the two Bs, is a popular naming convention. So, that was one of the thoughts that you had at that time?

Margot: Yeah. Yeah, if we are going to name a company, we like to have (Unclear 10:32.5) nice, even if we do not intend for anyone else to hear it at first.

Michael: Yeah, awesome. All right, so buyers and sellers are clearly necessary to make any marketplace successful. You could have a billion products, like on Amazon.com, but if nobody actually goes to the website, all the suppliers are going to be disappointed and of course you are not going to have a business because you will not be able to sell anything. On BrandBucket.com, how do you bring both buyers and sellers together?

Margot: They are very different processes. The buyers have been historically hard because people usually find you through search and now, as we have been around a while, word of mouth is a huge push, a marketing tool for us. But we get the comment all the time. When people come and buy a name, they say this is amazing. I wish I had found this five years ago. And we are disappointed because we were around five years ago, but it is very hard for people to find us. They do not really know that something like this exists.

And so, it is becoming more commonplace and I think as the number of companies grow, there has just been this huge boom, especially in the tech field of new apps and new web applications. A new product is started every five minutes it seems, and all these people are very tech-savvy, and so I think it makes sense to them that I wish there was a company out there where I could choose a name, they Google it and they find it, and now they are not so surprised. They are like: “Okay, I had that idea, so now it makes sense.”

Michael: Yeah. So, are you mainly targeting tech companies that are starting up new products and services?

Margot: It is the majority of our buyers. They are the types of people who understand what a domain name is, how the transfer process works. They are just much more comfortable with the process of buying a name immediately. Just putting their credit card in and getting a name. With more brick and mortar-type buyers, they do contact us because they find us, but there is a lot more walking them through the process and how it works and making them comfortable with it.

Michael: And a brick and mortar-type company that sells – I don’t know – linens or candles or books. Would they actually find any domain names that might fit, that might give that feeling of what they sell in their store on BrandBucket.com, or is it completely a different path because they are likely going to name it the city name plus adjective or a noun, or they are going to go with some other name that is more geographically focused?

Margot: Yeah, you do get a few. You get a few that actually are thinking longer-term. They think outside their geographic area. They think they want something creative because the store down the street that sells seashells has a creative name and they want one too.

Michael: Okay. So, they can either brainstorm ideas and then contact the owners, like I have mentioned in the introduction, or they can come to a BrandBucket and then search by keyword or search by category and try and find what they are looking for.

Margot: Yeah.

Michael: Do you have any additional information about your typical buyers, such as age ranges, product or services, or funding levels that they typically have when they come into a marketplace like yours?

Margot: We do not get too much information. The one thing I do know is it is probably about 70 percent male, but I guess in the tech industry that is right about right. But ages, if we do connect afterwards, they are probably middle age. Younger people, I think. I should say I feel so old saying that. I think kind of like the kids right out of college do not know yet how much time it saves them to kind of come and just find a name, and get it done and have the name today and not obsess about it for weeks and weeks. I think we get the more mature buyer. That person who has started more than one business already and they understand that the name really…If it feels good to you and you can say it and you can share it with your colleagues, just go with it and save yourself the time because your time is so valuable in the long run.

Michael: Yeah, definitely. Time is money, but when you are younger and you have plenty of time, you will spend the time to do the brainstorming, to think about things for weeks, to look at other advertising, and to try and pull it in, and I think it is part of the development process that a lot of entrepreneurs like to go through and more mature entrepreneurs or successful entrepreneurs would rather just short circuit that process and go with a brand. So, they can come to you.

And the prices are set on BrandBucket, so it is not like if they said they had one million dollars to spend on a domain name and a brand, you would increase the price. The prices are already set.

Margot: Exactly, but you wonder sometimes. People, especially if they are familiar with domain name buying in the past; there is a level of trust that you have to build. And our trust level every year is getting a little better. We have so many of our purchases. Probably about 85 percent do not even negotiate and do not even inquire. They just buy. So, that to us is a huge vote of confidence, but the other 15 percent kind of feel you out. Like are you real people? Is this price for real? Am I going to get the name or am I just going to get the name for a year? They want to be reassured that you are not going to lookup who they are, and they email from a generic address so you cannot lookup that they are some big guy from Yahoo or something.

Michael: Right. That is interesting. All right, so how many domain names are listed for sale on BrandBucket.com today?

Margot: We just hit the six thousand mark.

Michael: Wow. So, six thousand. I remember reading some articles in the past. I think only about a year ago that you were at 15 hundred domain names.

Margot: Yeah, our goal for this year. This has been our strategy. Where we are seeing the market go and, like I mentioned before, the influx of just new businesses, especially in the tech field that need names, we made the decision to increase the marketplace, to increase the numbers and really to service more people. There were a lot of people coming, liking the idea, and signing up to our newsletter because there was not quite anything that fit. So, if we can expand the marketplace and if we can make it very searchable and have people find what they need to find, which is something that we are putting a lot of work into, then we do not think there is any reason to stay small. There are a lot more people out there and there are a lot of people that need names.

Michael: Right, so that is the key. Right? Like with every single marketplace out there, if you only have ten domain names, you can see them all on the homepage and it is a snap. They either have what you want or they do not have what you want. But when you get into six thousand and growing range, trying to uncover the gems that may interest a potential buyer is the hard thing to do. So, how do you make sure that you are being the most efficient possible? If there is a certain number of domain names that will make a buyer purchase and if you give them too many choices, it makes them uneasy. They cannot decide between domain names because there are too many choices. How do you manage that too few, too many choices to give the buyer the best feeling about their experience?

Margot: That, again, is the million-dollar question (Unclear 19:58.4) working with. We are making search front and center and we are putting a lot of work into the correlation of the names in the backend. So, things that if you are looking at a particular name, what are names like this as far as style and as far as maybe underlying keyword? Our inquire button. We have kind of made it more prominent and we are actually thinking about even making it more obvious that there is a team here behind the scenes to help you. And we get at least a couple people, two out of every five people that inquire ask for help. They say, “I like this one, but can you maybe suggest some others?”

Michael: Oh, interesting. So, they will actually reach out to you and say, “I like the color purple, but I do not know if you have any other colors. I could not find any,” or something like that and they want to talk to a real human being, almost like you are a broker.

Margot: Exactly, yeah.

Michael: And so, you typically provide those types of – let’s call them – broker services or support to the customer that it is something that a buyer should expect if they go to BrandBucket.com.

Margot: Yeah, we do and we appreciate when people get in contact with us. And it is funny. Like going back to kind of your gut feeling on a good name, someone will come to us and say they like a name and want some more suggestions, but more than half the time they end up going with the one they originally liked.

Michael: Right, so they feel like they need to do their due diligence and review enough of them. Now, what if they came to you, Margot, and said, “I really like this domain name that you have on your website, but I was also thinking about this one, which is not listed on your website. Will you go and try and negotiate a price for me and tell me what the price is?”

Margot: We do not do that. We are busy enough as it is, so we try to focus on what we are good at. So, we can give them some advice on how to work with that if it is owned by somebody else, but in the end we just say, “If you decide to go with your other option, we are here. It is here and you will be able to buy it.”

Michael: Great. How many domain names would you estimate are submitted to you to BrandBucket.com for review and potentially inclusion on your marketplace per week?

Margot: Per week about 250 to 300.

Michael: Wow. And of those 250 to 300 domain names that are submitted per week, how many are actually accepted?

Margot: That really varies. Up until this year, when we were keeping the marketplace very small, we were really, really strict and our acceptance rate was about eight percent. We have increased it. Probably on an average week we take maybe 25 percent now, but we are seeing a trend of our current group or current community of domain owners. They are learning what we like and what we do not like, and so weeks where we do not really get a new people coming in to submit and it is just all of our regulars, we can get acceptance rates up to about 70 percent because people do not even register something anymore if they do not think that we are going to like it.

Michael: Will you get some people that will send you names that are not even registered yet just to see if you will accept them, and then they will go and register them?

Margot: They try. We have had to put a ban on that because that takes a lot of time. That is not our business. We are not an evaluator of names.

Michael: Got you. So, you accept typically one of four domain names. Of the three that are rejected, are they typically keyword domain names? Are they you cannot understand them; you cannot spell them in a radio test? Are they all those reasons? Why do you typically reject three out of four of them?

Margot: All of those reasons. Either you cannot really figure out how to say it. Well, we will be sitting here, a group of us, and we will be looking at it and we will have three different pronunciations come out. If there is even a moment of hesitation, of looking at it, squinting at it, then that is not a good sign.

Michael: Yeah.

Margot: If it is a keyword name, if the market is just really, really too niche, so BlueTropicalFish.com. It is like yeah, there is probably a buyer for that out there somewhere. There is some guy who specializes in blue tropical fish and he will buy that name. It is not saying that it is a bad name. It is just we do not want to. We want to have a name that at least is open to the possibility of a couple different kinds of businesses because therefore it increases the chances that it is going to sell.

Michael: Right. So, if I came to you with Blue.com.

Margot: Blue.com.

Michael: Yeah.

Margot: Oh yeah.

Michael: If I came to you with Tropical.com, you would like that.

Margot: Of course, yeah.

Michael: Okay. So, words that people know how to spell, that they can pronounce, that can have multiple categories, products and services being used are ones that you definitely like. So, we have talked about criteria. Now, let me ask you this. What is the sales price range? What is typically the lowest price that you will list a domain at on your marketplace and what is the highest?

Margot: The lowest is right about one thousand dollars. We are trying to keep in that 995 range. For a lot of people that is a no-brainer, especially the amount of time that they are saving. And it is not only worth it to us, especially the work it takes to go through escrow if it is any lower than that.

Michael: Right.

Margot: On the high range, the handful that we have that are above the 20-thousand mark, they are really just the more really sought after. Really short or kind of keyword-based. And we do not have too many of those, but our sweet spot is right in the two to four-thousand-dollar level, and that is where our average sale price sits anyway.

Michael: Okay, so your average sale price is still in the two to four-thousand-dollar range.

Margot: Yeah.

Michael: Okay. So, this is the point of the show where I am going to ask you a bunch of questions about real world companies that are selected brands because I feel like when I have an expert like you on, talking about a specific topic, I want to try and ground the things that we have talked about in real world application so people can say, “Ah, I see what Margot is saying now about that.”

Margot: Okay.

Michael: So, here is the first example. DomainSherpa.com has recently changed hosts. We are with a company called Linode. Have you ever heard of it before?

Margot: No, I have not.

Michael: Okay, so it is a medium-sized hosting company. I saw on Wikipedia they do somewhere around 20 to 30 million dollars, so it is a good sized company. I say Linode. My CTO say Linode. So, right off the bat we cannot pronounce the company’s name the same way. Is that a bad brand when that happens, or the fact that it is spelled the same way it is does not really matter if you pronounce it the same way?

Margot: It would get a ding from my side. It would be on the cheaper side because of that ambiguity. If I were the owner of that brand, and I am not sure they want to do this, but giving some history as to why you picked the name. Like my guess is that they either started with or the hosts currently are Linux-based. So, if you tell people that you are Linux, then Linode would be my guess as how it is pronounced. But maybe they do not want to put out there that they are only Linux because they are planning on expanding, in which case maybe they should not have chosen that brand.

Michael: Yeah. So, they are Linux-based and they are Node-based, so that is where the Linode comes from. So, you just helped me figure out what the correct pronunciation is. Thank you for that.

Margot: Sure.

Michael: So, if I came to you with three domain names – Linode.com, CloudHosting.com, and LinuxNodeHosting.com -, which of those three would you accept on to BrandBucket?

Margot: Linode.

Michael: You would not accept CloudHosting.com.

Margot: No, not necessarily.

Michael: Because it is an exact match domain name. People are looking for hosting in the cloud.

Margot: Yeah, and it is a tough call because I would love to broker that sale. It is probably a very expensive name, but at the same time it is not. If someone wanted CloudHosting.com, they would go find it themselves, and we have been and always will be there for the people who want to find the type of name that they may not have thought of by themselves.

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Michael: Yeah, I have no doubt you are going to see a ton of domains being submitted. I know people that have tens of thousands of domain names. Do you have the capability to accept, say, five thousand domain names in one fell swoop and add them on to a portfolio of a user on Freemarket.com.

Michael: All right, next example. Not many people remember AirBnB.com, a marketplace for booking accommodations. Started in August 2008 as AirBedandBreakfast.com, an online portal for thrifty travelers that wanted a place to crash on people’s airbeds or sofas. Do you remember that, Margot? AirBedandBreakfast.com.

Margot: I did not know the history of it. I have always wanted to know where the air came from, so it is the airbed?

Michael: Airbed, yeah, or people’s couch. So, is AirBnB.com a good brand and domain name for the company?

Margot: No, absolutely not. That is one of my pet peeves. When people ask me what a bad brand is, it is that one.

Michael: Why?

Margot: Because air, to me, says air travel because they are a travel site. So, it sounds like either they used to or they plan to provide airfare. They have expanded way beyond bed and breakfasts. It is people’s apartment. I do not want to offer breakfast if I am up on AirBnB. And just all around it does not say what they do.

Michael: Interesting. So, if I go on to BrandBucket right now, would I find a travel or accommodation category to search for a brand that satisfied this online accommodations marketplace?

Margot: Yeah, one of our categories is travel and it is pretty filled out. We get a lot of names that we think would do well in the travel sector.

Michael: Awesome, all right. Let me ask you another one. A slew of very popular websites launched with typographical errors. We have all heard of Flickr missing the E, Reddit missing the A, Tumblr missing the E, Fiverr, Digg, or products like Blu-Ray that is spelled Blu instead of Blue, so it is missing the E. My wife particularly dislikes misspellings when they have anything to do with education, like KidsKorner, where corner is spelled with a K. Are these good brands for companies, products or services, or are they shooting themselves in the foot by using these types of misspellings?

Margot: I think they can be good brands. Our rule of thumb for misspellings like that, which you will see on BrandBucket, is it really is best if the spelling can be explained in one sentence. So, Digg, but if you had Dygg, then it just gets way too confusing. The listener really has to stop and think about that. They’re like: “Why? Okay, Dygg.” But if you can explain it in a way, Tumblr with no E, then it can grow. It can last I think, because then when someone is typing it in, they just have that phrase in their mind. It becomes part of the tagline in a way.

Michael: So, I have heard some domain investors talk about this and say that people can only remember two or three things. So, they can remember BrandBucket, but they cannot remember the .COM, but everybody uses .COM, so it is a given. But if it were BrandBucket.me, then they have to remember Brand, Bucket, and then it is a .ME, or if it were Digg, then they remember it is a .COM. Do you think that that is a fair way to think about things? That people want either just two things, like two syllables to remember, or is the less, the better?

Margot: Definitely. Yeah, there is a lot of psychology behind that. Your attention span is only so much. Your retention ability is only so big. And so, if you are going to have a name with two words or two syllables, then it is probably best to have the .COM unless the extension is part of the name, like About.me. Then it is about me, so it is easier to remember. But I agree with that, yeah.

Michael: So, which is better: AboutMe.com or About.me?

Margot: I would think that they are probably trying to get or have already gotten AboutMe.com for those people that type that in, but just kind of being the next generation, trendy site that they are, I think About.me works for them. It really is just who you are and that image you are trying to portray.

Michael: Okay. So, in that case, they could go for the .COM, which is a generic. AboutMe: three syllables, or they can go with About.me. So, basically it is a brand. They are going for that web 2.0 or that online and going with the .ME, which is a little bit trendier. It has been trendy in the past, but then they want to make sure they cover their bases, so they get the .COM.

Margot: Yeah. Yeah, their audience I think is more just the very young entrepreneur. They are more accepting of the other extensions, the .MEs and the .IOs.

Michael: Yeah. So, it seems like single-word domain names are always the most desirable position for brandable domain names. Uber, the online demand ride company started out as UberCab, for example, and CrowdTilt, the crowd funding platform rebranded as Tilt recently. I ran across another one called Handyman that just rebranded as Handy.com. What advice do you give to startups that are looking for a great brand, like these single-word .COMs, but they do not have the single-word .COM budgets yet?

Margot: I would say that there is always room to rebrand. I just got an email that TaxiMagic, an app I actually use, completely rebranded as Curb, which all name altogether, but again they went for the single-word .COM. Do not overreach. I mean unless you are funded and you can afford the single-word .COM, just get something that is similar or get something with two words instead of one, like all these examples you gave.

Michael: So, if they wanted Curb.com from the beginning, but they could not afford it or the asking price was unreasonable or beyond the funding levels of the company, would you suggest going with a keyword, generic domain name to start with to try and get search engine rankings and maybe a better cost-per-click on Google because people can clearly identify what it is, or would you say go for Curb, but add an adjective to it, like EasyCurb.com or something like that?

Margot: So, what was the first part of the question? Get something more generic?

Michael: If they want Curb.com, let’s say, would you recommend going with a generic keyword to start with, like TaxiCompany.com, or something generic that might show up better in search engine rankings?

Margot: No, I think, again, it really is the type of company that you are. It is who you are as a culture and where you come from and your audience that you are speaking to. So, I think if Curb is trying to speak to the 20s to 50-something people who are using Uber, but who want to use taxi sometimes, having something a little more brandable and less keyword domain name is going to get you in the door with those people now. You might alienate them if you have something too generic.

Michael: Yeah.

Margot: But if you are looking at a very global, very wide age range audience, and that is who you are as a culture, then you would go for TaxiRide.com or something a little more generic.

Michael: Okay. Fred Wilson, a well known venture capitalist and Co-Founder of Union Square Ventures once provided some numbers from his personal portfolio, the Union Square Ventures’ portfolio, saying that 17 of 26 companies that he funded “made complete transformation or partial transformations of their businesses.” So, they changed what the business focus was between when the investment was made and when they exited, maybe sold to another company or what have you. If 65 percent of funded startups by an established VC firm pivot – change directions -, what recommendations do you have about how businesses and domain names should be selected?

Margot: That is actually one of the biggest pushing points that we have; is that if you go to the more invented type of name, you have no problem with pivoting whatsoever. If you are in ads or analytics and you get something with ad or analytic in your name, even if it is brandable, even if it is from us, but then you move away from that, you are stuck and you either have to buy another name or, like AirBnB, you have to continually explain why your name is different than what you actually do.

Michael: All right. So, let’s spend a few minutes chatting about the nuts and bolts of selling brandable domain names on BrandBucket itself. How would an investor who may be watching this show go about having their domain names listed for sale on BrandBucket?

Margot: Well, signing up is very easy. You just come and signup. We do not have any kind of acceptance process on who we work with. And we have probably 35 hundred registered domain owners right now, so a lot of people that we are working with. And you can either right off the bat start and submit ten to 20 names that you think would be a good fit and hear back from us, or if you have a really, really large portfolio and would like more advice on ‘I think this name might fit’ or ‘why don’t you just take a look and pick out a couple, so I can get a general idea’, we do do that too.

Michael: You do.

Margot: I personally do that.

Michael: So, if I have one thousand domain names, rather than me going through them, I would submit all one thousand to you and say, “Margot, what do you think?”

Margot: Yeah, I think if you have. I mean I am not going to look at a hundred thousand maybe, but if you just have a small sampling, then I can give you a general idea of like you seem to be more keyword-based, but this one might work and that one might work. Just to save some time because there is a lot of heartache really if you spend the time and you put all thousand of them in our submission form, which only takes ten at a time, so that is a long time spent by you to enter them all; then only to get lots and lots of rejections. I would rather kind of curb that from the beginning and just give you an idea of what you have that might work.

Michael: So, is that on purpose that you only allow ten per submission, because you want to create the process and have a little bit more a hurdle so people do not submit a hundred thousand to you?

Margot: Yeah, we want people to go through our site and try to match what they have to what we sell. And it is much easier just to dump everything, but if you can try to look through your own and pick the first ten or 20 that you think are a good fit, that saves everyone a lot of time.

Michael: Okay. And when I submit them, do I have to tell you like I think this would be a great web 2.0 name, or I think that this is a good travel and accommodations category, or do I just submit them and you tell me what you think?

Margot: We do have a notes field. It is especially helpful if it is a term that we are not familiar with or if it means something in a different language, something that we might not catch right away either on Google or just by looking at the name. But it is not necessary really. Just the name speaks for itself most of the time.

Michael: Okay. And a lot of the Sherpa’s that I bring on the show, on our discussions and reviews say if you have to explain a domain name, it is not a good domain name. Do you agree with that statement?

Margot: No, not necessarily.

Michael: Okay. So, in the brandable space, sometimes it might be acceptable to explain a domain name, like Linode.

Margot: Yeah.

Michael: Okay.

Margot: Yeah, if it is invented, then there really is no explaining it, but if it is sort of a combination of terms, like Linode, then sometimes explaining it helps people remember it.

Michael: Yeah. A majority of the domain names on BrandBucket appear to be .COMs. I see a lot of startups today using .CO, .IO, top-level domains, but I do not see any .CO and .IO domain names on your marketplace. Do you not accept them and advise tech startups not to use them?

Margot: We actually just last week launched the portfolio of 240 .LYs, and the reason for that is because we have been watching the market. We keep a close ear to the ground on what people are using for startups and it is much more acceptable now to use .CO. .IO is hugely popular with the new startup crowd, and .ME may be, but we are going to really, for those extensions, limit our selection to kind of more premium versions of those.

Michael: Okay. So, what would be a good example of a premium .IO?

Margot: A dictionary word that already ends in IO, and so the first part of the word would be left of the dot.

Michael: So, a domain name hack, where you incorporate the extension into the word itself.

Margot: Exactly, yeah.

Michael: Okay, so you like domain name hacks on BrandBucket.

Margot: Yeah.

Michael: Okay.

Margot: And with .ME, anything that is a verb .ME obviously would make sense as kind of saying it out loud on the radio as a test.

Michael: Like Date.me or even About.me.

Margot: Yeah, exactly.

Michael: All right, and have you had much success in selling .LYs or .IOs or .MEs in the past on BrandBucket?

Margot: Well, we have only had them for a week. So, we have had some inquiries, but no sales yet.

Michael: Okay, so up until this point it has been almost entirely .COMs?

Margot: It has been entirely .COM. There has not been anything else.

Michael: All right. Who sets the price on a domain name that is listed for sale, the owner or BrandBucket, or how is that done?

Margot: We learned over the years that people really preferred us to suggest the price that we think it would sell at because our vision is that the marketplace as a whole makes sense together. You do not want to have two names side-by-side that are relatively equal as far as pronunciation and spelling and have the prices be completely out of whack. So, when you submit it to us, you submit it without price. We suggest a price back and you are always allowed to contest it. If you really strongly believe that it is worth more, you can email us and we can talk about it. But in general, most people just take.

They know that we sell names at the prices we suggest, and so they just take it as is. Our interface allows the domain owner to increase it (Unclear 43:57.3). Decrease it by 20 percent at any time.

Michael: To decrease it or increase it? I am sorry, Margot. We had a small, little hiccup there on the video.

Margot: You can do both. So, if you want to take our suggested and then start it that high, you can bump it up by 20, but then if you want to try and clear it out, you can put it all the way down 20 percent lower than our suggested. But we like to keep things in a general range.

Michael: Got it. I see domain name Deco.com listed for 75 thousand dollars. Social.ly listed for 119,995 dollars. Thrivist.com is only at 2515 and Nuub is only at 1560. I cannot spell Deco, and that has a price up at 75 thousand dollars, where Nuub might be easier to spell and it is only at 1560 dollars. How do you guys come up with pricing?

Margot: Actually my last company that I worked at was a security company that employed hackers, and the term noob is actually very derogatory. And so, the type of company that would like that name or would want to use that name, like most likely it would be used for (Unclear 45:20.9), in my opinion. Has a lot smaller budget, where we (Unclear 45:29.9). We look at it as in decorate or art deco or decor, so that is a much larger market, and so both of those being four letters, they are premium. Nuub is probably a lot cheaper for four letters than normal just because of the negative connotation, but then the not positive, not negative connotation of deco, but then just the much larger buyer pool makes it that high.

Michael: Got it. All right, and Social.ly is one of those domain name hacks that we chatted about. You recently started a partnership with the owner of a bunch of these .LY domain names, like Ask.ly, Answer.ly, Service.ly. I remember when Bit.ly actually went down because I believe the Libyan Government took down the whole domain name or something to that effect. Was that a consideration of yours when you decided to take on these 240 .LY domain names that were a country code controlled by a country in the Middle East?

Margot: Yes, and we do not think it is a problem anymore. The owner of these domain names is actually the company behind Register.ly, and the Libyan Government got a lot of flack for what they did many, many years ago and they have put in place now. They know this is a business that people are being supported by this and they cannot really come and do something that would affect people on a global scale. There are users outside of their borders that they are affecting when they do this.

Michael: Yeah. You state on one of your blog posts, Margot, that Pinterest is a great domain name. It is a combination of pin, like pin board, and interest, like what interests you. What is a better name and why: Pinterest.com or Pinterests.com, the plural?

Margot: I have always felt that plural names are not as good as a brand because it is stating what you do and not really what the company is. And actually it carries over to generic words as well. So, sofas, if you are going to land on it, you are going to probably assume that you are going to buy a couch. But sofa is much more open. You can have an advertising company, like come sit on my sofa, or just something. You are not necessarily going to buy what you are landing on when it is a singular name.

Michael: Makes sense. So, if Pinterest was not around today and I came to you with Pinterest.com and Pinterests.com, and I said, “Hey, it is a place where you can collect things that interest you, maybe it is pictures, maybe it is articles, or whatever,” you would say, “I like the singular better because it is more of a brandable.”

Margot: Yeah, exactly. And just the kind of anal linguistic side of me, the S at the end of a word is very hard to hear. It is a very soft sound, so you might get people not hearing it and mistaking it for the version without the S.

Michael: Yeah, good point. Domain name investors always look at their domain names and think that that one could be a million-dollar business, but neglect to think about how much work will need to go into the business to make it that and it is just not the domain name. On the flip side, I see businesses making six figures using terrible domain names and I wish they would spend ten thousand dollars or 25 thousand dollars to acquire a great domain name that is going to last them the length of their business. How do you advise your suppliers of domain names at your marketplace to have reasonable expectations and then also advise customers that like hey, your business is going to be around more than just one year or two years; this is going to be an asset for you company? How do you try and bring everybody together in this middle playing field?

Margot: Well, with the domain owners it really does take some time sometimes, especially if you have a true belief that it is worth a certain number in your head and we disagree. Our argument really is you probably paid ten dollars for this, maybe a couple hundred if you bought it aftermarket. No other business in the world has the kind of return on investment if you can buy something at ten and sell it for two thousand. Nothing else. So, to us, two thousand dollars in pocket now allows you to do so much more, get other names, and just really move on with it. I do not know. Like there is something to be said there. There are some names that we have sat on for a long time, that we truly believe are strong brands, and we get buyers coming in and we say no, and then everyone is allowed to do that.

There are certain things that just tug on your own heartstrings that you do not want to let go of, and that is completely fine. But for the ones that really, if you want to make a business out of it, just come and list it for what, at least in our seven years of experience, we think it will sell at. And for the buyers, you mentioned that as well. It is, again, the argument of what is your time worth and just how many hours does it take to find one that you can buy and multiply that by what your hourly rate is, and there you go.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. So, once a domain name is listed for sale on BrandBucket.com and a buyer comes along, they click the buy now button because it is just acceptable to them at that price, what are the major steps that go through until that buyer owns that domain name?

Margot: It is a typical escrow process, and the transfer can happen really quickly where the domain is registered now and what the buyer wants to use is the same place. It is just a push to our escrow account and then a push over to the buyer. Then it takes the five to seven days if it is moving registrars, but usually everyone is very responsive. The sellers get on it right away. They follow our instructions. The buyers are eager to hear kind of what the process is going to be. We tell them what it is, and then they respond to the emails when they need to.

Michael: So, you actually do a full escrow process, where you take the money and you take possession of the domain name and then move them across to each, the buyer and the seller.

Margot: Yeah.

Michael: Okay. And do you do the escrow yourself, or do you use a third part escrow company like Escrow.com?

Margot: We do the escrow ourselves.

Michael: Okay, so that makes sense. And then when somebody pays, say, four thousand dollars for a domain name, how much is the commission that BrandBucket keeps and how quickly is the seller of the domain name paid?

Margot: We keep 30 percent, and that is just a flat 30. That covers all of the credit card fees and everything. If it is moving into our account and we have to pay the one-year registration, we do not ask for any extra for that. We are covering that. And the seller gets paid as soon as the domain has changed hands and we are sure that everything is all good and everything is looking correct. We do our payouts right now twice a week, so it is usually whatever payout day is closest to you at that point. Sometimes it is the same day, sometime it is a couple days away, but it is really fast.

Michael: And do I get it like ACH electronic via wire or via check? How does that work?

Margot: Right now we do PayPal, but in a couple weeks we are going to have a few more options.

Michael: Great. And I see every single domain name has a logo associated with it. Is that my responsibility as a seller to create the logo, or how does that work?

Margot: We have a community of logo designers. The marketplace is actually this really kind of funky, rich thing, where we have three different groups of people working on it. We have the domain owners, the buyers, and the logo designers. And they are essentially working for no pay upfront. They are working on the hope that the name sells. And when the name sells, they get an award. So, we kept it like that just to keep the quality of logos very consistent. We approve the logo designers based on their quality of work, and just we have very strict guidelines. They get a guide on what we are looking for and they have to adhere to it just to keep everything looking the same and nice and browseable. You do not want too many crazy things going on when you are paging through.

Michael: Right. So, as a way to keep the BrandBucket standards consistent and high, you control what designers get into the process. So, if I am submitting a domain name for Linode.com, I cannot submit my own logo for it, even though I might have a great idea and even though I might be a fabulous designer.

Margot: Yeah. If you can prove to us that you are a fabulous designer and you have a portfolio out there public, then we accept you as a designer on the platform. You can use your own, but in general most people just kind of one-off their logo, and it is not their job. Like we want people who design for the name.

Michael: Got you. And how much can I be awarded if I create a logo that sells with a domain name?

Margot: The awards are one hundred to five hundred, and the domain owner is actually choosing which level they want to be awarded. And that price is added on to the price the buyer pays, but the higher awards are only offered to our best designers, so that is kind of a way for people to say, “I want something maybe just a little bit better than the rest of the designs on the site, so I am going to up my award a little.”

Michael: So, I submit a domain name to you. You accept it. You come back to me and you say, “Mike, I think it is worth two thousand dollars.” I say, “Fantastic, Margot. Let’s go with two thousand dollars.” And then I get to say, “Well, I want to pay five hundred dollars as an award if the domain name sells to the logo designer,” so then you actually list it for sale on your marketplace for 25 hundred. And when it sells, five hundred goes to the designer, you keep 30 percent of the two thousand dollars, and then PayPal me the rest.

Margot: No, actually when we suggest it at two thousand, two thousand is the price that we think it will sell at. So, then you will come on and you will see 70 percent of that. (Unclear 55:46.8).

Michael: I am sorry. We locked up just for a second there, Margot.

Margot: Minus like one hundred dollars, which is the–

Michael: I am sorry. We locked up just for a second. So, the two thousand dollars is the price that you think it can be sold at, so then how do your 30 percent commission and then the award get taken out of that number?

Margot: We have a little slider, and I do not know. Just like little fancy worksheet-type thing inside of each domain, and you can see what your in-pocket is and then you can adjust the logo award and you see what the total price is.

Michael: Awesome. Okay. All right, so once I have the domain in there, it all becomes very clear to me how much I am going to get from the sale.

Margot: Yeah. Yeah, we want everyone to know the exact number they are getting, and that number does not deviate.

Michael: All right. And if I list a domain name for sale on your marketplace and then a week later I get contacted separately from somebody else that typed in and came to my website and contacted me from WhoIS or something, am I allowed to sell it or is it an exclusive listing on BrandBucket?

Margot: We ask for exclusivity. So, we ask that if that does happen, and a lot of times people find the name on BrandBucket because they are the kind of name that it is very rare that someone else is going to type in, and then they go to WhoIS and they try to negotiate it lower. We have a large portfolio of names on the site and that happens to us, so we know it is happening, but we appreciate the sellers who come back and forward the buyer to us. And if they want to negotiate it a little bit, we can give a discount code for the shopping cart, but it is rare. Most people, once they find out that the buyer wants to sell through BrandBucket, just come and they buy, and they actually feel more secure that they are buying through an escrow agent at that point.

Michael: Yeah, that makes sense. And if I go to other marketplaces that are typically website marketplaces, but they are selling domain names, like Flippa or Freemarket, I can pay extra to highlight my domain name on the homepage or in the search engine listings. Do you do any of those extras, where you take an extra commission or charge an extra fee in order to highlight a certain domain name?

Margot: We do not. We did in the past and there was no correlation really whatsoever that we could track that having something featured helped its sale. We sell things that have been on the site for seven years, and you are just waiting for the right buyer to come along for this kind of name. So, we have decided it really does a disservice to the buyer to be pushing things in front of them that are not relevant to them, so we want to make it completely open, have their search dictate what they see, so they can find the right name.

Michael: Makes sense. And so, if I do list a domain name on there, is there a minimum amount of time that I have to list it on there? Is there a point where I can say, “Margot, it has not worked out. I want to pull it down, or I am going to let the domain drop and I want to pull it down from the marketplace”?

Margot: We ask for 30-day notice. So, if you want to take it off, just give us 30 days to keep it listed. So, usually if you are planning to let it expire, that 30 days works because you know ahead of time that it is going to be dropping. Otherwise we do not like people to try it out for just a month and then leave because a logo designer did do some work and there is no chance that they are going to get paid if the name does not have a chance to sell. So, just for that reason alone, we like people to give us a try for at least six months or so.

Michael: Yeah, that makes sense. What is the average age of sold domains on BrandBucket?

Margot: As far as how old they are when they were first registered?

Michael: As far as how old they were from the time that they were listed on BrandBucket to sale. Do you find that most domain names are two years old on your marketplace, or do you find stuff that comes on this week is selling at a higher rate than domains that have been on there for, say, seven years?

Margot: It really varies. There is no average whatsoever. We see, just from our own portfolio, things, like I said, that we have had up from that very first listing of 150 names that were just for us. Something will just sell all of a sudden that has been up there that long. We have considered letting it expire. We are like: “What the heck? Let’s just keep it one more year,” and the right buyer finally came along and they found it. But then there are other things that are great names and the seller wants to just clear it out and it is a great price, and in that case, something will go really fast right when it is listed.

Michael: Yeah. Do most buyers on BrandBucket.com negotiate and use that little negotiate button on a domain name, or do they just pay the retail price?

Margot: We get over 90 percent retail price.

Michael: 90 percent of people just click the buy now button.

Margot: Yeah.

Michael: Wow.

Margot: Well, no, no, no. Sorry. I would say maybe 80 percent click the buy now without even ever talking to us, but then the other 20 that talk to us. We tell them our prices are what they are for a reason, and they say okay and then they buy.

Michael: How important is it to have a logo associated with a domain name?

Margot: To the buyer I do not think it is that important at all. We get some people asking for the logo files after the sale, and most of them that do ask for it just use it temporarily, until they kind of develop their own identity. But for us, that was the differentiator and that has spawned a thousand knock-off sites just like BrandBucket. There are so many of them now, but really before BrandBucket this did not exist. The idea of a visually pleasing way of looking at a set of domains. And that I have to give credit to my husband. He is the designer and he is the one, even for our own internal meetings, just said, “I do not want to look at a sheet. I want to look at something just nice,” and so that was his doing.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah, me too. I hate looking at my own portfolio. It is like there are too many domains. Hey, in June 2013, a little bit over a year ago, you told Ron Jackson over at DNJournal.com that your revenue was on pace to hit one million dollars by the year end. Did you hit one million dollars in revenue in 2013?

Margot: We did.

Michael: Are you on pace to hit one million in 2014?

Margot: Yeah, we are. We actually are on pace to exceed last year.

Michael: Awesome. What number are you going to hit for 2014 do you anticipate?

Margot: Oh, I cannot say that, but a lot can happen in the last three months. We are above last year, and I would say if we stay on track, we will hit the million sometime in November rather than sometime in December like we did last year.

Michael: Awesome. All right, we talked about a year ago you had 15 hundred domain names. Today I saw 6,007 domain names listed. We talked about .IO and .CO domains, which are CCTLDs. I wanted to ask you about all the new gTLDs that are coming out. This week alone there were 16 new gTLDs, gTLDs being general top-level domains, like .COUNTRY, .APP, and .WEBSITE. Do you feel the process of naming companies will change over the next five to ten years to incorporate more of these descriptive top-level domains?

Margot: I think it will. I think if only because people insist on paying just registration fee for their new company name, now there are a lot more options. Now a lot more people can actually just get a business name for a lot cheaper. What we believe and what we are banking on is that for the premium .COMs there is always going to be buyers for that. There is always going to be people who (Unclear 1:04:06.0). Like you said, you can only remember a couple of things. So, if you want to remember something left of the dot, then it is best to have the .COM, but there are going to be a lot more of the gTLDs in use and we are going to see people accept them more.

Michael: So, would you consider listing a domain name like Blue.app, or is that too narrow that only app developers are going to use a domain name like that?

Margot: I cannot say at this time. Like we really have not seen enough of them in use to really say what we are or not going to do. At this time we are not going to accept those, just because it does have a very specific niche, but you never know. I would have never guessed that .IO would be the new extension of choice for young startups, but it is. You cannot really say what is going to happen.

Michael: Yeah. On an interview you gave Raymond Hackney at TLDInvestors.com in the past, you said that your buyers have usually moved beyond domain name hacks and misspellings and appreciate domain names that are spelled the way that they sound, so their customers do not have to think too much. You are listing .LY. I see on your website that you have domain names, like Phzl.com. How do you reconcile the fact that domain name hacks, misspellings and you are willing to consider these going forward? Domain names like Phzl.

Margot: There are lots of types of buyers out there. We do have a majority of our buyers who are more mature and who want something like Envato that is exactly how it sounds, but then you get the people who come and they say, “You know, that is really cool and that really speaks to me, the Phzl. I like that,” and so we think that there is something to it. There is something about a name being memorable regardless of how it is spelled. And so, if it looks good to you and feels good to you and you want to go for it as your brand and you are concerned with having a four-letter name, which a lot of people are, I feel like they can get hung up on something short. To me it is more important that something has fewer syllables than how it actually appears when you type it.

Michael: Yeah. Okay, so you are willing to consider some of those domain names that are brandable like that. I noticed in the footer on BrandBucket.com that you have an affiliate program. And I know a lot of investors and domain name blogs are always looking for affiliate programs to earn extra income. They will recommend domain names that are selling on other marketplaces just to try and get a commission and earn some extra income on their blogs. How does your affiliate system work?

Margot: It is through Commission Junction. So, you sign up as a publisher to our program. We approve you and then you get unique links and banners that you can use. And any person that is sent to our site, if they buy within 90 days, you get 15 percent of our commission.

Michael: 15 percent of the 30 percent that you take in the commission.

Margot: Yeah.

Michael: Okay. Wow, so for a domain name that is selling for 75 thousand dollars, that could be a nice chunk of change. I also saw on Raymond Hackney’s website that in the past you had shared information about, at that time, the 680 domain name sales that had sold. Names ending in ZO, 18 names ending in LY, 17 names ending in IO, all the way down to S was the most popular domain name letter to start. And that was actually Raymond doing all the analysis from the domains that were listed. I do not see any information on your website about domain names that have sold since that point. Do you offer that information so people can make their own analysis?

Margot: At the time we never actually published sale-by-sale what was happening, so the information that Raymond saw and that everyone else saw was just names that would go to the end of our list. So, if you went to the last page, you would see things with sold tags on them, and that could give people a pretty good idea of what was selling, but we still had a lot of people who would buy and ask us to remove their name immediately. But I would say what Raymond did was pretty accurate. Like not everyone asked for it to be removed immediately. We do get most people asking for it to be removed at some point or another because our search engine page is conflicting with their new company.

Michael: Right.

Margot: So, we made the decision just based on the buyer and just to build more trust, which we think has worked, to not show any sold names anymore on the site. It gets sold. It disappears. It is removed from the cache. It is removed from everywhere. And because of that, people are kind of speculating on what is selling. There is less visibility than before, but we are still toying with how to kind of give back that pseudo-confidence that people used to get seeing sold names.

Michael: All right.

Margot: We are working on it. We do not want to make it public because our customers do not want it public, but we need to obfuscate it somehow. Just let people know what is going on here.

Michael: Sure. So, we talked a lot about brand, a lot about brandable domain names. Anybody that buys a domain name likely is going to have some sort of social media outreach and a lot of times the social media handles, the usernames at Twitter or Facebook, let’s say, or Pinterest are available on domain names that are just made up words. What advice do you have for companies who cannot get the matching social media usernames to match their brand that they purchased from BrandBucket?

Margot: Well, in the case of where the handle is not being used, our experience, especially with Twitter, is it is pretty easy to get the handle transferred over to you. If you file for a trademark and can prove to Twitter that you did, you can get that. My experience with Facebook and Pinterest is less so, but I think it is roughly the same. But in general, I think not having the match does not hurt you that much, because these sites, their search is so robust. If someone just searches for BrandBucket, they are going to come up with all the different options. If you link to it from your own site, to me that is how a lot of people get to your Twitter page; is from your website. They click the little bird. They go over to Twitter. It does not really matter what your name is at that point.

Michael: Okay, so you do not think it matters as much, just like the logo that you are selling with the brand. Have you ever thought about selling social media handles along with the brand and domain name on BrandBucket.com?

Margot: We get people asking if any of the owners have the handles, so we know it is important, but I think that is crossing the lines of the terms of use from Twitter and Facebook. I do not think you are allowed to advertise that you have them and that you are selling them.

Michael: Yeah.

Margot: So, no. We have considered it, but we are not going to do it.

Michael: All right. If you have spent the past hour with Margot, I recommend that you head over to BrandBucket.com. Take a look at the marketplace. Give it a try. Click through. Put your cursor in the search box and you will see all the options, all the categories pop up, and there is a lot of fantastic domain names and a lot of people going over to BrandBucket to look for their brands. So, if you are a domain name investor, think about listing your domain names there. If you have any questions for Margot, please post them in the comments below this video on Domain Sherpa and I will ask Margot to come back and answer as many as she can.

Margot, I assume that you have brands that match BrandBucket on Twitter. Can people follow you there and see what is going on with BrandBucket?

Margot: Yeah. Yeah, again, @BrandBucket is our main Twitter handle, and we have a separate one for the feed of new names, so you can follow us on both.

Michael: Oh, great, all right. So, go over to BrandBucket and follow them on Twitter.

Margot Bushnaq, Founder and CEO of BrandBucket.com. Thank you for coming on the Domain Sherpa Show, educating us about what makes a brandable domain name valuable, and thanks for being a Domain Sherpa for others.

Margot: Oh, thanks, Mike. I appreciate it.

Michael: Thank you all of watching. We’ll see you next time.

Watch the full video at:
http://www.domainsherpa.com/margot-bushnaq-brandbucket-interview/

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38 Responses to “What Makes a Great Brandable Domain Name – With Margot Bushnaq”

  1. Nameably says:

    Margot has talent. She saw opportunity in names that domainers took as low value.

    The brandable domain names is a new market that shows once again that if you put your brain to work you can succeed.

    Thank you Michael for sharing so much value with these interviews.

  2. Alex says:

    Excellent interview and great insights

    Many thanks,
    Alex

  3. Mike says:

    Michael,
    Thanks for this interesting show and the introduction to Brandbucket. I have similar tastes in brandables to Margot and I now have 26 names up and for sale. It has taken about 4 weeks to get them approved and logos designed. Now I wonder how many buyers are out there and if any of them will sell. We’ll see.
    Mike

  4. Excellent interview which is totally expected from DomainSherpa.

  5. Vic says:

    Another excellent program Mike – Margot has put together a great site, but I’m now spending money on brandable domain names.Hopefully some of them will sell if they are accepted! But the whole concept sounds excellent, especially as selling names is the most difficult part. Hopefully Brandbucket will get even more exposure as more domainers sign up.

  6. John Harrison says:

    Hi Michael and Margot,

    Excellent interview! I pretty much went straight to BB and submitted a few names, 2 of which have been accepted and I’m currently waiting for logos. Very exciting! I had known of BB before but hearing Margot speak and explain really sells the business.

    Well done both!

  7. Lori Pope says:

    I wanted to post a follow up note here regarding my experience in submitting to BrandBucket.

    On 9-22-14 I submitted 72 domain names (10 at a time) for review – I received an email stating that it would be 4-6 weeks.

    On 10-2-14 I received a response from BB that 5 of the 72 names I submitted met their criteria. BB put their suggested price on the 5 names they accepted and their system allows the seller to increase or decrease the price by 20% of what they have set it at.

    I chose to list 4 of the 5 that were approved. One of the names had been priced much lower than the estibot appraisal and much lower than I would consider, so I decided not to list that specific domain with them.

    I completed the process of filling out the description for each name, paying the $10 per name and changing the DNS info. I also had to remove these 4 domain names from the sellers that I had previously listed them with, as BB wants exclusivity.

    The whole process took about 10 days. The communication was excellent and the online process was very clear and easy to follow.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how creative they will be with the logos. I’ll follow up with another post when I sell any one of the 4 names I have listed with them

  8. SerryJW says:

    M & M …Just a fabulous interview. It was very informative to anyone new to ‘brandables’.

    Thanks,

    Serry

  9. Brandon says:

    Michael and Margot, thank you, very informative.

    Margot, Question

    It has been a few month now that domainers on forums are questioning the reasoning of why does it take BB a month up to 6 weeks to get a response on domains submitted. Than a further 2 – 3 weeks to have it listed, if accepted. Total +- 2 months.

    If their anything BB is doing about this lengthy time-frame from domain submission to response, than to being listed if accepted?

    1. Hi Brandon,

      We do get that question a lot. The wait time is something we know is a pain point, and we are working on it. Regarding the time from submission to approval: the short answer is that we actually take time with each name; we say it, sometimes ask the person next to us to spell it, Google it, and then if it passes we need to then give it a price that makes sense compared to other names already in the marketplace. A set of 10 names can take up to 10 minutes to finish.

      The long answer is that approvals have historically been done by me and me alone. Earlier this year when we decided to ramp up the inventory I started working with a team, and we’re still refining the process and changing things because we want to get it to a sustainable rhythm while trying to maintain a consistent quality.

      The time from acceptance to publishing was always very fast up until May of this year. At that time we not only started accepting many more names, we also added a couple of larger portfolios. Because of that we hired additional designers and writers, who have all been working out well. I’m happy to say that since July the publishing time is back to normal!

      1. Lori Pope says:

        On Average – how long after you have accepted and listed a name, does it begin to generate interest? How long on average does it take for the name to sell?

  10. stacy says:

    Margot,

    Nice video, question: do you still register domains to post on your site or are you completely relying on your sellers submissions. 2nd question is : if you are still buying names are only registering them or are you participating in drop auctions as well?

    1. Hi Stacy,

      I register new domains on and off…recently it has been mostly off, and we are relying on our sellers and new partnerships to build the inventory.

  11. I was hoping you were going to ask questions about BB competition.What are these new marketplaces costing BB, why is BB better etc.?

    1. Lori Pope says:

      Great Question Tommy. I’d like to know too.

    2. I treat interviewees I invite on the show like guests in my home. In general, I try to ask tough questions to understand a topic and have a meaningful discussion, but I always try to be fair in my questioning. Unless I have a specific reason to ask a question about competitors, I usually find it to be of bad form.

  12. Lori Pope says:

    I’ve only just started watching DomainSherpa and I can tell that I’m in the company of many talented and knowledgeable domainers. I feel privileged. Can anyone advise on this…What do you think about the gTLD .Cards? I recently purchased Kids.Cards — Is this a good buy?

  13. Kassey says:

    Very educational! Taximagic.com now redirects to goCurb.com and Curb.com is a music site, so I guess they settled for a 2-word domain name. What’s the point?

  14. Hello Michael,

    Great insights on what makes a domain brandable. Most of my portfolio is brandable domains and I’ve been using BrandBucket for several years now to both sell domains and design logos.

    Interesting take on singular vs. plural names. I try to avoid it if possible by creating a made up name or register both the singular and plural.

    I think for some names like paperclip.com vs paperclips.com the plural is better, because who is manually typing that in looking to buy just one paper clip?

  15. Adam says:

    “it is very hard for people to find us. They do not really know that something like this exists.”
    hmmmmmmm

    Great interview though. Thank you both for your time.

  16. Lori Pope says:

    Michael and Margot…it was a very exciting and informative discussion. Thank you soooo much!

  17. D. says:

    Brandbucket, Brandroot, Namerific are good market places but it can take an age to get a name up and running, the bottleneck can be hearing back and the logo design. They will all say this picture is improving and it might be but it can take weeks from start to finish.

  18. Lori Pope says:

    Can Margot explain the Vote button and the credits?

    1. Hi Lori: I don’t see any “vote” button or word “credits”. Where on BB are you looking?

      1. Lori Pope says:

        Once you get an account you will see a “Vote” button where you go to list domains. To the right there is a box that says “votes” and credits. I voted for 50 different domain names and noticed that I had 5 in the voting box and 5 in the credit box. What are these used for?

        1. Hi Lori,

          Thanks for asking! The voting you see when you are logged in as a registered domain owner is our way of giving domains that were submitted but not accepted by our staff a second chance. The names are passed by a jury of your peers in a sense. :)

          You’ll see a lot of junk in there — because these were rejected names — but some decent ones as well. You’ll be shown two names side-by-side and you pick the one you like more. The algorithm over time brings the best names to the top.

          The credits you receive for voting can be used towards the $10 listing fee for your names accepted to the marketplace.

  19. John Tyson says:

    Great discussion, especially the examples of good versus bad types of domains. This list is great for a reference post. Instapapered :)

    1. Thanks, John. Much appreciated. Thanks for taking a moment to post a comment.

  20. Noor Manji says:

    Great show Michael, signed up on brand bucket………look forward to the next show.

    1. Thanks, Noor. Let me know how it goes.

  21. Rashid Y says:

    Thank you so much for the great help you offering here. You are really icons of the web, and I really admire you. I’m still a begginer in domains and I learn a lot from you. Thank you so again!

    1. Much appreciated, Rashid. Thanks for posting a comment.

  22. TL says:

    Very interesting.

  23. Jones says:

    Awesome interview. I started it and couldn’t stop watching!

    I recently read a thread over at NamePros about BB and now I think the other competing site just has sour grapes. I think Margot is a straight shooter, and I’ll definitely submit some domains for sale at Brand Bucket.

    Nice interview, Michael. All my questions are answered now.

    1. Thanks for taking a moment to post a comment on the interview, Jones.

  24. Hello Michael, longtime watcher; excellent video and interview. I will definitely submit a few of my premium domains to the brandbucket marketplace. First time commenter!

    – Jason.tv

    1. Great to hear, Jason. Let me know how it goes, please.

      Thanks for posting a comment. I love it when long-time watchers post a comment for the first time! :)

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