What do Domainers Mean by ‘Brandable Domain Name’?

When a domainer is speaking of a ‘Brandable Domain Name’, they’re generally referring to a made-up / invented word that they’ve coined themselves. A popular practice is to morph two simple words together, or tack on an ending to an existing word (e.g. bookpedia.com). Note that there a few differing viewpoints as to how to best come up with a ‘brandable’ domain name that will actually be worth some money.

Brandable Using a Made up word

The skeptical viewpoint says that a brandable domain is just another way of saying “I came up with a goofy made-up word, thought that it might someday have commercial appeal and so I went out and reg’d the .com.” Brandable in this sense has a few problems associated with it:

  1. The meaning of the domain name isn’t clear and that you’d have to explain what the domain name means.
  2. It also implies that you are going to have a difficult time selling these kinds of domain names.

Companies like AirBnB / Etsy pick their company name as part of their creative process. If you’re reging brandable domains in the vein of ‘boovkille.com / landtopia.com / rently.com’ and hoping that your creative process aligns with the latest Madison Avenue marketing campaign or product name or tech startup, you’re basically playing the lottery. There are tens of thousands of plausible sounding neologisms that could be reg’d in the .com TLD alone, but only a few companies every year that are looking to register these types of domains. A quirky brandable domain in the hands of a company about to explode is super-valuable, but in the hands of a domainer it’s much more of a speculative investment. Building a brand upon a name is far different (and bigger thing) than selling a brandable domain name to a company looking to develop it.

Short Phrase Brandable Domains

These are a personal favorite of mine. A short brandable domain phrase hints at what the site is about without spelling it out explicitly. Let’s look at some examples where one person buys a keyword domain for their business while another person buys a short phrase brandable domain:

  • Keyword domain: LocksmithHelp.com Brandable: WheresMyKey.com
  • Keyword domain: CardioExercises.com Brandable: MakeItBurn.com

You can find great examples of oblique phrase branded domains over at http://www.sbnation.com/blogs. SBNation consists of over 300 sports blogs who have each skillfully branded their domain names based on the teams they represent. For example, the Boston Red Sox blog is called OverTheMonster.com (in reference to Fenway Park’s ‘Green Monster’ outfield wall), while the blog that covers the University of Illinois (at Urbana-Champaign) is called TheChampaignRoom.com.

keyword rich versus brandable domain names

Comparing Keyword Domains to Brandable Domains

Domainers still tend to favor exact-match domains as well as two, three even four word domain names. They favor keyword domain phrases with exact match terms that have high search volume.

These types of domains are good for development but might not be the best as far as getting sales enquiries. Here’s a quote that reinforces that view:

What I found is that a new company that builds cellphone apps wasn’t necessarily excited by a domain like CellphoneApps.com. Instead they wanted something short and brandable like Apperly or Appersize. More often than not they would opt for a brandable one-word domain.

There’s a couple caveats that I’d like to point out that still favor keyword domains:

  1. Keyword domains will always have some value. Even if you can’t find a high dollar buyer, a keyword rich domains still has ‘burndown value’ by selling it to a domain name reseller. Brandable domain names don’t have the same burndown value – indeed, many simply expire if they don’t get any enquiries over the course of a few years.
  2. Brandable entities will later circle back and pick up category-defining keyword domains to further cement their leadership position in a field. Trulia.com is fine as a brandable, but you bet they’d take realestate.com too if they had the financial means.


  1. Nice article. I like that you note the advantages of both. I think both keyword and brandable domains have a place on the internet. The difference is that with a brandable domain, you will have to work harder to give it exposure, but the upside is that it is easy to remember and can really build a following. Meanwhile keyword domains are probably easier to rank in Google, but they work better for a niche site that you will spend very little time on.

  2. Keyword domains should entice the user to click the link, it is natural human behaviour after all to click a link with a term in it that we are looking for.

    The term brandable covers nearly all domain names, since even Newyork Lawyers can also be graded as a brandable name.

    2 word brandables are in demand this year, interesting to see how the year plays out with trends.

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