It has been established that domain name upgrades happen daily, with hundreds of companies worldwide choosing to improve their digital presence with a better domain name.
While countless companies secure lower-value domain upgrades, we're focused on the top end of the market, specifically, one-word .com domains.
Here, I'm taking a deeper look into the statistics driving one-word .com domain name upgrades. Using a domain upgrades list from Embrace.com, plus some additional data, I will look at common upgrade paths.
The list includes data from 383 domain name upgrades, and for this article, we're focusing on pure domain name upgrades rather than rebrands. Of course, all 383 domain name upgrades I'm analyzing are one-word .com upgrades.
The 383-strong domain name upgrades list largely contains data from 2017-2022, primarily compiled by myself, Elliot Silver, and Jamie Zoch. This five-year period has seen some notable domain names change hands, including Zoom.com, Exodus.com, and Voice.com.
While this list isn't exhaustive, it does give a good overall representation of the most common domain upgrade pathways.
Shorter Is Better
One of the main takeaways from the data is that upgraded domain names tend to be shorter.
The data shows that original domain names are, on average, 9.15 characters, whereas upgraded domains are 5.87 characters in length. You can see the drastic difference in domain length in this chart below.
For domain name upgrades, 67.8% of domains are between four-six characters long.
More specifically, 24.3% of all domain upgrades on my list are five-letter .coms, while six-letter .coms account for 23.5%.
For many companies, then, shorter is better. However, the limited supply of short one-word .com domains makes them prized assets. This list proves that these can be difficult to secure but not impossible for the right motivated buyer.
Other TLDs to .com?
In a recent Off The Market Forever episode, I said that .co domains are the ultimate stepping stone names, meaning that the majority of companies operating on a .co ultimately go on to upgrade to a .com.
Does this data support that? In a way, yes. 7.8% of all companies listed have upgraded from a .co to a one-word .com domain name.
It's similar to .io, with 8.6% of companies listed upgrading from a .io to a one-word .com domain name.
This is what I thought was the most common domain upgrade path; a company begins life on an affordable or accessible domain name and an alternative extension, then upgrades to a one-word .com when it is able to.
However, the overwhelming majority of domain upgrades on this list are from .com to .com, as is evident in the pie chart above.
In other words, the most common domain upgrade path is a company transitioning from a longer .com to a one-word .com.
With that in mind, let's explore how many words each original domain contained.
According to data, 32.9% of companies upgraded from a one-word domain in an alternative extension to a one-word .com. This figure covers all the .co, .io, .app, .ai, and other extensions. An example would be Scale, which upgraded from Scale.ai to Scale.com, moving from a one-word alternative extension to a one-word .com.
One-word domains in alternative extensions are more affordable and accessible, especially for a business just starting out.
For example, Unicorn company Alloy bought Alloy.co for $3,000 in December 2015, just as the startup launched. In 2021, with a $40 million Series B round under its belt, Alloy bought Alloy.com. Media Options' CEO Andrew Rosener represented the seller in that transaction.
While plenty of companies do transition from a one-word domain in an alternative extension, the most common combination here is a company moving from a two-word domain to a one-word .com.
An incredible 62.9% of companies analyzed upgraded from a lesser .com to a one-word .com. That's an overwhelming majority. It shows that many businesses opt to stick to the popular .com extension but settle for a low-grade domain name to begin with.
This figure mainly covers .com to .com upgrades where a company drops a filler word to move to a one-word .com. For example, Fintech company Ramp launched on TryRamp.com before upgrading to Ramp.com.
Suffixes and prefixes, then, are popular.
Suffixes and Prefixes
As I mentioned above, many companies use prefixes and suffixes in domain names when they are starting out.
This is pretty logical as a company can either hand register or buy one of these domain names from the aftermarket. Either way, the cost is minimal.
Buy now, pay later start up Zilch, for example, acquired PayZilch.com in 2018 for just $650. The company, now worth more than $1 billion, upgraded to Zilch.com in 2021.
With founders rightly focusing on their product or service, a domain name is often low on the list of considerations.
In terms of prefixes, 25% of companies on my list upgraded from a prefix domain to a one-word .com.
The most popular prefix was "get", accounting for 19.5% of all prefixes listed. Companies such as July (July.com), Room (Room.com), and Latch (Latch.com) began with a "get" prefix.
Other common prefixes include "my," "try," and "join."
A total of 154 companies started life on a suffix domain, with "hq" being one of the most common. Slack, the messaging platform, launched on SlackHQ.com before dropping the suffix and moving to Slack.com.
Other prefixes offer insight into brand products and services. For example, crypto company Ballet began on BalletCrypto.com before acquiring Ballet.com in 2022.
Multi-Million Dollar Domains
One of the reasons that businesses upgrade their domain names once they're established is cost. Thanks to the short supply and desirability of one-word .com domains, they can cost a significant amount of money, and seven-figure deals are common.
While most multi-million dollar domain deals are never revealed to the public, this list does contain a dozen domains that sold for $1 million or more.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it represents one of the prime reasons why domain upgrades happen.
All 383 companies on our list were savvy enough to secure their ultimate domain name upgrade.