Choosing a domain, building subscribers, and SEO

FourMinuteBooks

I like to read.  I read blogs and news feeds, but I really enjoy reading books.  I like to learn new things and get new perspectives or new ways of looking at the same old situation.   I also like to throw in the occasional fiction novel as well.  Think about how much you could learn.  I’ve tried other substitutes for reading, such as podcasts…. and they fill a need.   But, I always wished I could read more books and read them faster.

I’m not pitching some speed reading program to you that will allow you to breeze through a phonebook and memorize the entire contents.  I’m letting you know about a cool site linked to a domain name I recently came across.  FourMinuteBooks.com.  Nik Goeke is the man behind it and he has some great tips.

 

Mike:  Tell me about fourminutebooks.com.  What gave you the idea to provide book summaries and how did you know people would find value in it?

Nik:  First, I’d been reading book summaries myself via a service called Blinkist for about a year and really enjoyed it, but didn’t retain as much information as I would have liked to. I knew it wasn’t the first paid service in this area and saw it growing in popularity.

Second, I validated the idea by offering a few free summaries via blog posts and downloads on my blog, where I also put up a sidebar banner ad for Blinkist after joining their affiliate program. This resulted in $300 in commissions over 3 months, without me doing any additional work, which lent credibility to my thesis even more.

Mike:  Did you hand register this domain name?  How did you come to choose it?

Nik: Since I set this website up with affiliate income in mind from the beginning, there were some factors I debated for a while – branding or streamlining? Logo, name, color scheme, I knew making these closer to the Blinkist brand would help with selling, but in turn keep me from making this a proper brand and turning it into something more.

Nevertheless, I initially settled for another, unbranded, affiliate-optimized domain: blinkistreview.com. Very quickly though, I realized two things:

1. The name is uninspiring, boring and non-descriptive for someone who’s never heard of the app.

2. Blinkist’s name is registered, which likely prevents others from using it in domain names.

Clearly, another name was in order. I’d been writing content for two weeks at this point and the average length of posts was 4 minutes. Since one of the key benefits of book summaries is saving time, I thought the 4 minute duration would be a good hook.

After experimenting with a few other numbers and units (like seconds, etc.), I quickly settled on Four Minute Books after seeing it spelled out in various fonts and dabbling in logo design a bit.

By the way: any resemblance to The 4-Hour Workweek is arbitrary, I love that book and Tim’s blog, but it didn’t even cross my mind at the time.

Mike:  Funny, I was actually going to ask if there was any insiration there from Tim Ferriss.  I see you also offer coaching.  In what areas do you coach?  What do your customers gain from the experience?

Nik:   Coaching was one of the first activities I explored in my online career. I was using coach.me to track my own habits and had built up a couple of streaks, and to this day I’m grateful for Tony Stubblebine, the CEO, to reach out when they started their coaching program.

I’ve coached a variety of very specific habits ranging from No Alcohol to Building Mental Toughness to Setting Goals, but have now settled into productivity and project management.

My clients and I have a monthly, 60-minute Skype call in which we move through four questions and tie together loose ends. That results in a very specific action plan for the next month, with three target outcomes and an action plan for each one. I follow up weekly via email to hold them accountable and help them overcome any obstacles until we meet again the next month.

What my clients love the most is the accountability, paired with the outside perspective of someone playing devil’s advocate to their plans and getting them to take the most efficient path, not the one they might be romantic about taking. I only take on a handful of clients at any given time.

Mike:  You write a blog, read tons of books, write book summaries, you’re a student, you coach people, answer at least one question per day on Quora… Where do you find all the time to do these things?

Nik:  I’m very deliberate with how I spend my time. I’m aware we only get one shot at this thing called life, so I’ve decided to NOT invest any time into a few things which quickly become huge time-wasters, such as:

– Staying on top of the news in any form whatsoever.

– Watching TV. I don’t own one. I occasionally watch movies on my laptop.

– Using social media only to produce, never to consume (except for Youtube, my guilty pleasure and TV show replacement).

– Consumption in general. I buy very few things for non-practical reasons and in fact, buy few things at all. Two big chunks of my money go to rent and food and that’s pretty much it. I never go shopping or browse electronics – unless I need a new pair of pants or my phone is broken.

– Cooking. This one I’m not proud of, but I’m not perfect. I spend a bit more on food in order to not have to prepare it myself. One of the trade-offs I’m making that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, at least not if you enjoy the act of cooking itself.

If you cut out the things 80% of people lose 80% of their time on, you suddenly have a lot of time left to do the things you really find meaning in 🙂

Mike:  You also registered your name, niklasgoeke.com, and have content there.  Tell me why that’s a good idea?

Nik:   Unless you’re very clear about a certain company, topic, niche or brand you want to build, I highly recommend when first starting to blog, do so in your name. And if you make it a brand domain, buy your name too and throw a one-page resumé on there.

I didn’t have THE thing I wanted to write about when I started blogging in September 2014. I just knew I had to start talking. My thinking was: ideas, niches, topics, these come and go, but I will always be me.

I’m glad I made that decision. It’s allowed me to stay open in terms of topics (with phases, for example in 2015 I talked a lot about productivity) and has turned the people who now follow the blog into loyal fans of myself, not just a certain topic or idea I shared.

I’ve pivoted multiple times and start new projects all the time. With a personal blog, I can take the audience with me, wherever I go.

It’s just not the same if you have a brand name and alienate it over time.

Mike:  How many monthly visitors do you get to your fourminutebooks.com domain per month?

Nik:  Right now, it’s just over 20,000 unique monthly visitors. The site exists since January 11th, 2016 (with 3 weeks prior preparation, initial content writing, etc.) and has attracted 100,000 visitors in its first year.

Mike:  Can you tell me how many subscribers you have and what are some good methods of attracting subscribers to a website?

Nik:   After combining my email lists from Four Minute Books and my personal blog in March 2017, I’m at about 11,000. Don’t let that confuse you. I’ve been building my email list for 2.5 years and have tried every tactic in the book.

The first 6 months? 100 subscribers.

After taking a course just about list building in 2015? 1,000 subscribers in 6 months.

With Four Minute Books? 1,000 subscribers in 3 months, cut the time in half.

When I started giving daily answers on Quora in 2017, it jumped after a while and now I’m at 1,000+ new subscribers per month.

What worked? Doing all of it. And not quitting. And figuring out which ones worked best for me. The only practical advice I can give is to go through all tactics, find the ones that are the most fun and feel right for you and keep doing those for however long it takes to see the results you want.

It compounds too, as it gets faster over time, because old efforts still expose new people to your work.

Mike:  What do you recommend for other online businesses to help get traffic to their sites?  Are there any secrets?

Nik:  The best secret I can reveal is, I think, that people are best off stopping to look for secrets and invest that time into creating the best content they can come up with and then release that into the right context, where it’ll hit its mark. Work is the differentiating factor here.

That said: if you can make SEO work for you, that’s a wonderfully sustainable source of traffic. With my blog it’s been hit and miss, but with Four Minute Books, it worked like a charm. That is, after publishing daily for 6 months without seeing results, it worked like a charm.

Two possible options to look at SEO:

1. Can you create a consistent keyword structure by following the same formula for every post?

For example, Four Minute Books is all about book summaries, so I stuck with [book title] + [summary] as the structure for all keyword optimization.

I realize that’s not possible for every blog or topic, so…

2. Can you create massive, one-stop-shop resources that solve problems for under-supplied keywords?

For example, if “how to make fudge” had a lot of searches, but almost no good tutorials in the top 10, that provides a great opportunity for you to try and create the best content out there by giving people one resource that covers it all.

Recipes, pictures, instructions, where to buy the ingredients, what it should look like, videos, fun variants, and on and on.

If you can make the best guide on how to make fudge, your reward will be all that traffic from people who search for a solution to this problem, but have so far been disappointed by what’s out there.

Don’t worry about link-building and optimization so much – it’s about creating great content that serves the people that are searching, not the engines.

Nik’s hub is his blog, where you can find links to all of his other work, content and current projects. This is what he’s up to right now.

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15 billion views every month

wiki

Wikipedia depends on donations for it’s existence.  It’s well run and has been very useful to many people over the years.  I was recently in contact with Samantha Lien, Communications Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation.  Samantha was kind enough to discuss Wikipedia with me.

Mike:  Can you tell me how Wikipedia got it’s name?  Obviously, the wiki model blended with encyclopedia, but what made that the perfect name? 

 

Samantha:  “Wiki” refers to the wiki software that Wikipedia is built on. It’s actually Hawaiian for “fast” or “quick.” The wiki software was first created by a computer programmer named Ward Cunningham in 1995. “Wiki” combined with “-pedia” to reflect the free, online, collaboratively-written encyclopedia we know today.

 

Mike:  While everyone is familiar with Wikipedia, can you explain more about what the wiki model is and the benefits?

In a world with endless information of varying quality, Wikipedia aims to bring reliable, neutral information on millions of topics to every single person. Wikipedia is written by volunteer editors, who collaborate to write articles on almost any subject area — from history, to science, to the arts. Over the years, editors have developed various policies and guidelines that guide their work on Wikipedia. These guidelines differ based on the language version, but generally they have three core content policies in common: (1) neutral point of view (2) verifiability and (3) no original research. Information on Wikipedia must be presented from a neutral point of view, representing significant views fairly and without bias. It must also be backed up or verified by reliable sources, allowing readers to check the origin of information by viewing the citations at the bottom of every article. Finally, Wikipedia does not publish original research. Instead, information on Wikipedia must be attributable to published, reliable sources that have already been evaluated and are known for reliability and accuracy.

Wikipedia is based on an open model: every edit make to Wikipedia is publicly available, so anyone can go back and evaluate how an article has changed over time. It is constantly changing with the world around it. Wikipedia invites all to participate in the creation of knowledge, and strives to make free knowledge a reality for everyone.

 

Mike:  How many views does the site get per month and how are you able to handle all of the traffic?

Wikipedia is viewed more than 15 billion times every month. Collectively, the Wikimedia sites are accessed by more than a billion unique devices each month. This high volume of web traffic is sustained by about 1200 servers, which are run by the Wikimedia Foundation. We have an Operations team of about 20 people who keep all of this running smoothly.

 

Mike:  It still costs money to run a non-profit organization.  Where does the funding come from?

The Wikimedia Foundation is funded primarily through small donations from millions of individuals around the world. The average donation is about $15 USD.

We also receive donations through institutional grants and gifts (see benefactors). Every contribution is valuable, and we are grateful that so many people find value in Wikipedia and want to sustain its future.

 

Mike:  What is the Wikimedia Foundation?  What other Wikimedia projects exist?

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that supports and operates Wikipedia and its sister projects. These sister projects include Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, and Wikivoyage, among others. You can find a full list of all twelve Wikimedia projects, here: https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Our_projects.

At the Wikimedia Foundation, we keep the Wikimedia sites fast, secure, and accessible no matter where you are. We support local communities of volunteers around the world with grants and programs to improve and enrich the knowledge on the Wikimedia sites. We develop programs and initiatives to expand access and support free knowledge globally. We defend our users and the Wikimedia sites when they are threatened legally or otherwise. We do this and more to support our vision — a world in which everyone can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

 

Mike:  What ties, if any, does the Wikimedia Foundation have to MediaWiki, the free and open-source wiki software?

Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia free knowledge projects run on MediaWiki, a free open source software written in PHP. This means that anyone can use and re-use the code produced on MediaWiki.

MediaWiki was first launched in 2002 by software developer and Wikipedia contributor Magnus Manske. Lee Daniel Cocker rewrote it later that year to help scale the software. MediaWiki is used by several other projects of the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation and by many other independent wikis around the world, including NASA.

 

Mike:  Does Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, have any for profit ventures?

Jimmy Wales does have several for profit ventures, including Wikia and The People’s Operator.

Although Jimmy continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, we are not affiliated with his ventures outside of this role.

 

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When I stopped hand registering domains, these 3 things happened

When I began as a domainer, I started with hand registered names and resold a few.  That gave me a taste of what was possible and I was all in.   Since that time, I have bought and sold a few premium domains, but always enjoyed the hand reg hunt for undiscovered gems.   Recently, I proactively took a break from  hand registering domain names and I thought I was going to end up with a post about how I benefited from the experience. How it made me a better domainer.  I thought I was going to end up writing about how it allowed me to focus on higher quality domain names and how my profits increased overtime.  But instead…

I lost focus

As I stopped the daily hunt for names to hand reg, I lost my focus on domaining.   It wasn’t my top of mind passion.  I slowly drifted from DBR, my favorite domain forum, and missed out on all the interactions between the sharp and ever learning domainers at every point in the experience spectrum (this was a huge loss).  I stopped browsing Domaining.com multiple times a day and reduced to just a few times per month.  I pretty much stopped blogging entirely.
It was those quick plunges into Godaddy, whenever the mood struck me, to see if a random name was available that actually kept the passion burning and my mind focused on domains.  Not that hand regs are the core of what I do.  In fact,  I probably look up and find 100 available names for any single hand reg I buy.  I typically maintain an inventory of less than 100 hand regs at any given point.   It’s the thrill of the hunt.

I became less creative

I know a guy who does a crossword puzzle from the newspaper everyday and wont rest until he completes it.  He says he does it to keep his mind working.  I haven’t purchased a paper copy of a newspaper in 15 years.   I had my own way of keeping my mind challenged.

Always trying to come up with good names everywhere I went kept me sharp.  Think about it, it’s like constantly trying to solve a puzzle.  You see something, think a little differently about it, and try to come up with one or two word dot coms that may not have yet been snapped up.  Then you think of variations on that.  Then that leads you to another related domain area to think about.  Sure, the effort doesn’t typically result in a cash cow, but neither does a crossword puzzle.

Cutting back on this exercise definitely had a noticeable impact.  I was just generally becoming less creative.  I noticed that I wasn’t quite as quick with solving problems.   I was less engaged and less interested in solutioning issues that I faced in other areas of my life.  I stopped giving creative business advice to friends.  It just wasn’t as fun or as easy as it once was.

I wasted time

Checking out availability of names or thoughts that popped into my head throught the day was a welcomed break from what ever I was doing.  Let’s face it, there’s probably not one of us that takes enough breaks in the day.  I’m sure I could dig up some research or statistics that would support my claim that taking breaks makes you more productive.
When I took breaks to brainstorm some domain names, they were short breaks.  A matter of minutes.  It felt productive even though you could argue that I was still wasting time.  Buy it occasionally resulted in an easy sale and a few bucks.
During “the break” when I wasn’t looking up domains, I would do other things online to try to fill the void.  I would watch stupid videos and visit mindless websites.  I would click on the link to see what “20 celebrities from the 90’s look like today, number 7 will shock you.”  Before you know it, a half hour has gone by and I have nothing to show for it.

So what’s next?

Hand registering domains is fun for me.  Even just the act of brainstorming possible domain names.   I enjoy it.  It motivates me and I truely believe it keeps my mind sharp.  Besides, it’s even more fun when you find a gem and flip it.  So I’m back at it, spending some of my time exploring the art of hand reg’ing.  Hey, that just gave me an idea…

The first rule of Sock Club…

Sockclub.com

It’s overused, but I couldn’t resist the title.  Sock Club founders, Noah and Dane, began Sock Club because they wanted to share their love of socks with the world. They started small, curating awesome socks from other labels, and soon decided that they wanted to focus on American manufacturing. Now all of Sock Club’s socks are designed in Austin, and proudly made with cotton grown and knit in the Southeastern United States.

 

Mike:  I love the idea behind sockclub.com.  It looks like you can buy socks on demand or have them delivered on a subscription basis.  Do I have that correct?

Dane:  That’s correct.  We started as a gift service that signed up loved ones to receive socks once a month.  We’ve become so good at making socks that we’re building a brand.

 

Mike:  To be honest, I can’t think of a better name for your business.  I mean, sockclub.com defines it.  Can you tell me how you acquired the name and was it a difficult process?  Can you share the price you paid?

Dane:  Thanks.  We started with the domain sotmclub.com which I bought for the base rate of available domains about $10/month.  Once the business started to get traction my brother convinced me over Christmas that I needed to buy the domain sockclub.com.  I bought the domain for $500.

 

Mike:  How do you think sockclub.com compares to a name like NoahAndDanesSocks.com?  In other words, how important is the domain name to your business success?

Dane:  Our domain name is not only important in the minds of our customers to establish trust it’s also important for search engine results.  We come up first if you search “Sock of the Month Club” largely because of our domain name.

 

Mike:  These socks are American made.  Aside from that awesome fact, what makes these the greatest socks ever?

Dane:  Socks like creating anything great is more of an art than science.  We work closely with a super old american industry that has been doing this for generations.  They really do know everything about making socks and have a real mastery of it.  We control every aspect of our production.  We source cotton from southeastern United States with a high thread count.  A high thread count means that strands of cotton in the yarn are longer which makes the cotton stronger but also softer to the touch.  We dye our cotton to get the 40 colors we chose to keep in inventory.

But most importantly we have an incredible design team that makes beautiful socks.  I would say we work through at least hundred designs which are all amazing to decide on one design to make the sock of the month.

 

sockclubsocks

 

Mike:  It says on your website that you and your cofounder started the company because you “wanted to share their love of socks with the world.”  Love?  Is that a strong word?

Dane:  Nope.

 

Mike:  It’s not easy staring a company and selling a product online.  What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs out there looking to launch a similar business?

Dane:  I think if you’re going to compete with Amazon and the other big guys you have to offer something they can’t or at least is so niche they don’t want to.  For us that’s a very unique gift experience and a great product that you can’t get anywhere else.

 

Mike:  With the newer TLDs available, did you consider a name like sock.club for the business?  Why or why not?

Dane:  I didn’t.  I think once there are more successful companies who use those unique domains it will be a more viable option.  Right now when I think about buying domains I focus on .com.

 

Mike:  What have you found to be one of the best ways to spread the word about your business?  Is social media a big factor?  Pay per click?  Organic search?

Dane:  For us organic search and paid search are the most successful.  We are working on doing more business through social.

Sock Club is based in Austin, TX and sells Sock Subscriptions and Custom Socks.

 

When great domains are put to good use

You’ve seen my posts in the past.  I love seeing excellent keyword domain names in use, even if that means they redirect to another site.  It drives me crazy to see these names on parked pages with lame links to irrelevant content.  On the other hand, when I actually get a result from typing in a name, it’s like   the planets have aligned.  I know that value is being appreciated and the names have found a good home.  Here’s some recent examples I have come across.