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I Went Searching for Equality at GoDaddy

How effective is GoDaddy search, with or without AI, at finding Afternic aftermarket domain names? You may be surprised by what I found.

It was recently announced that Afternic is updating their site, and the search functionality in particular. Probably most consider that a positive development, as Afternic search has felt outdated and limited for quite some time.

Back in August 2023 at NamePros, I wrote about the poor status of domain name search at the main marketplaces. Therefore, I first reacted positively to this announcement. Finally, an updated front-end look and search capability at Afternic, with a stronger focus on the GoDaddy brand that carries customer familiarity and trust.

The announcement is somewhat vague, but James Iles, the GoDaddy domain investment community manager, wrote the following:

We embarked on this website redesign with the aim of providing sellers with more readily available information, resources and tools to empower their sales efforts. Buyers, meanwhile, are quickly connected with GoDaddy’s search capabilities.”

Later in the article it adds:

Consequently, we’re streamlining the buyer journey by directing Afternic searches seamlessly to GoDaddy.

So in the updated Afternic, searchers will, it seems, be routed to GoDaddy search capabilities. So I went to check out current GoDaddy search. Here is what I found.

Searching For Equality

I decided to search for the word ‘equality’. I wanted a term that is of high value, could be applied in multiple niches, and that would have many aftermarket offerings.

I also wanted to see how GoDaddy search would respond to a search for a domain name which is seemingly not available in the preferred extension. Therefore, I first searched specifically for equality.org. By the way, that is a nicely developed site by a nonprofit that is focused on inequalities in the education system.

The nonprofit is using the perfect domain name for them, and I doubt very much that it is available for acquisition, but the first thing GoDaddy search offers me is to pay a broker service fee of $69.99 for them to try to acquire the domain name for me.

I went to the more information to see if there was a caveat that often it will not be possible to secure the domain name. Nope, nothing about that.

But search results are my main focus, so let’s move on.

Great Alternative?

At the very top, GoDaddy search promotes a “Great Alternative.” In my case, they suggest that the misspelled equalitys.org, available to hand register, is a great alternative. Really?

Any marketplace depends on it’s credibility. Does suggesting this prominently as a great alternative help build GoDaddy credibility?

When I searched for a different term, GoDaddy search suggested a great alternative .ca domain name. That makes sense, since I am in Canada. At first I was amazed the term would be available to hand register, and was prepared to buy instantly. But then I noticed that they slipped in an extra letter, making it a name probably no one would want. So much for great alternatives.

Poor Promoted Alternatives Shake User Trust

Okay, so first and second impressions of GoDaddy search are not great, but let’s scroll down a few lines to see what else GoDaddy search suggests. It next shows available premium options, particularly those that have paid promotions. As a positive, GoDaddy is transparent, showing if the name is a promoted one. Some of these are indeed reasonable choices. Like equality.club could fit some applications.

However, the second from top name it promotes is in the .sucks extension!

Really? How many people interested in equality issues would think paying $2599 per year, or any amount, for equality.sucks would be the right move? I don’t know how much the registry pays to get promoted, but in my opinion there is no amount that makes it worthwhile for GoDaddy to lose the respect of potential buyers by pushing this name almost to the top.

Imagine if you went by the window, or walked into, an art store, and the first thing you saw was something totally inappropriate. How likely are you to stay around to see something else?

Where Are the Aftermarket Names?

There are great alternatives available when I go to the old Afternic site and simply search for the term equality. The old Afternic shows that .io, .co and .info are available at Make Offer, while .xyz, .online, .app, .world, .cc, .center, .network and many others are at Buy It Now. There are also a number of two-word .com combinations on the old Afternic that make sense. Search there could be improved, for sure, but it is infinitely better than the current GoDaddy search.

So I keep scrolling down the GoDaddy search to the bottom, and how many aftermarket names are shown within the search results? Zero! Yes, you read that right. Not a single aftermarket domain name is listed in GoDaddy search for the term equality.

How many aftermarket names are shown within the search results? Zero!

Nikul Sanghvi of Hypernames pointed this out on X a few days ago. It seems that GoDaddy are experimenting right now with leaving out most aftermarket names. In other searches in preparation for this article I did get a few aftermarket names appear, but very, very few.

GoDaddy AI Search Seems to Not Know About Aftermarket Names

I tried one other thing while at GoDaddy search. There is a button on the top right called Start with AI Domain Search. There is no doubt that Ai enabled hyper-personalized search will be the way forward, so maybe the aftermarket names appear when I search that. I suspect any mention of AI attracts attention, and it will be extensively used.

I went searching for ‘equality’ with that, simply telling the AI bot as a prompt that I was an organization with a focus on equality issues.

Wondering how many aftermarket names were proposed by the GoDaddy AI search? Zero! Yes, you read that right, not a single one.

How many aftermarket names were proposed by the GoDaddy AI search? Zero!

Give GoDaddy AI Search A Second Chance – Fail Again

I decided to give the GoDaddy AI search a second chance. I have a narrow service match name LandscapeDevelopers.com listed on Afternic fast transfer. So I told the AI GoDaddy Search bot as a prompt that I wanted a domain name for a “Landscape Developer business and I prefer a .com name.”

Did it list my Afternic name anywhere in the search results? No. In fact, did it list any aftermarket domain names? No.

If the trial GoDaddy search is the future of Afternic search, domain investors are in deep trouble.

If the trial GoDaddy search is the future of Afternic search, domain investors are in deep trouble.

Search Precise Name with Extension Does Work

By the way, if you search exactly for your complete name with extension, it does show in the search results. That is, when I do a GoDaddy search for LandscapeDevelopers.com, yes, my Afternic listed domain name does appear, along with hand registration alternatives.

The power of Google in guessing intentions has made people vague and a little careless with search. So just because someone can find the name with the exact domain name including extension as the search criteria, does not mean that most potential buyers will do that or find it.

GoDaddy AI Search Strikes Out Again

I am a reasonable person, so I tried one more time with the GoDaddy AI search. I have the name AutomationScience.com listed buy it now at Afternic. I tried to lead GoDaddy Ai Search to find it in the most direct way I could think. Here was my prompt: “I want to start an automation company, and looking for a name like automation science. I prefer a .com only.” So it happily told me it had success with my search! Great, er maybe not …

The AI bot did get the auto right, but seems to miss out on fact ‘automation’ is a term itself. The word ‘science’ it seemed to just skip over.

Even though I said I preferred a .com, and remember they have my exact word in .com listed right now at Afternic, the GoDaddy AI results showed me 1 .org, 1 .net, 3 .co and 4 .online. And again, zero names from their 24 million Afternic listings.

And most importantly, even though I tried to lead it in the most direct way possible to my Afternic listing, I even said I liked the name Automation Science, it did not list the name anywhere in the results. With the current AI empowered search at GoDaddy I think the chances of anyone finding your name are either zero, or very close to zero.

Final Thoughts

Search can be better. Dan, owned by GoDaddy, while by no means perfect, does show relevant names. I searched the same terms I did in the GoDaddy trials there. Dan allows the searcher to readily configure things like extension, price range, length, although it does require the precise term, rather than using intentional search that would substitute terms with similar meaning. Here is a link to search results at Dan for the term equality with provision only in the .org extension. There is no doubt the result list is infinitely better than in current GoDaddy search, with or without AI.

GoDaddy and Afternic are hugely important to most domain investors. Often, even when the lander points somewhere else buyers will prefer to complete the transaction at GoDaddy. I sincerely hope the final form of updated Afternic search will be good. But my experience with current GoDaddy search was disconcerting to say the least.

I urge the company to rethink and do much better. The announcement says “User feedback will play a crucial role in shaping the future development of Afternic.com.” I hope they will accept this as my feedback. I look forward to search becoming much better, to truly help searchers find valuable names that meet their needs. And along the way, help sellers to move more names.

By the way, I offered suggestions for improving domain marketplace search last summer in a NamePros Blog article: Making Domain Name Marketplace Search Better. We do need personalized AI powered search, in my opinion, but it needs to be comprehensive and smart.

I should note in fairness, that there has also been messaging from GoDaddy/Afternic about possibility to use the beta search capability only available as a domain search tool within the Domain Academy. If you have a GoDaddy Domain Discount Club active membership you already have access to this, and have for the last few months. While this tool is really helpful to domain investors seeking attractively priced names on Afternic, or to inform retail pricing decisions perhaps, I don’t think it is the sort of tool that is optimum for the typical GoDaddy retail buyer, even if it was made available without the DDC membership.

About the author

Bob Hawkes

Domain analyst and commentator with particular interests in quantitative analysis, new uses for domain names, nontraditional end users, and bridging the gap between the domain community and end users. Background in science, research, education, outreach and communications, as well as almost two decades running a small home-based business. My first domain name acquisition was 2001. I hold a modest domain portfolio with legacy, country code and new extensions. Based in western Canada, but my domain outlook is global! My goal is to provide fresh insights and an evidence-based balanced outlook on the domain industry.

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