Hello, My Name is Awesome

Founder of naming firm Eat My Words, Alexandra Watkins is a recognized expert on brand names with buzz. An animated guest on TV news shows, she is frequently quoted in the press and has been featured in leading business publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Inc., and Entrepreneur.

Alexandra graciously provided me with permission to share a free chapter from her book, Hello, My Name is Awesome.  The chapter is entitled “Domains:  Strategies, Secrets, and Silliness.”  It’s a quick read.  I’d love to hear your feedback and reaction to her 3 domain strategies and 5 domain name secrets.  Please post your comments below to share your perspective with others.


Organic Domains – Do you qualify?


Roland LaPlante, Chief Marketing Officer of Afilias, spoke to me in the past about .INFO being the forth most popular domain gTLD in the world. Today, he shares the current outlook on .ORGANIC and what qualifications are needed to own a domain with the TLD.

Mike: Describe for me how .ORGANIC will be seen as the exclusive online destination for members of the organic community.

Roland: While many companies and organizations associate their business with “organic,” there has been no easy way for consumers to identify the ones that are truly in the organic business. They would have to dig into these organization’s web sites to determine their authenticity. Until now! Today, companies registering for a .ORGANIC URL will only get the URL if they pass our verification process. For example, if a farm is USDA Certified, we will check with the certifier to ensure that they are really certified.

Over time consumers will have two reasons to know that EVERY .ORGANIC site is authentic. First, their experience will tell them they are visiting a community member. And second, search engines will begin to rank .ORGANIC sites higher as they become recognized as authoritative and authentic. The growing importance of the organic market coupled with the careful .ORGANIC verification process will enable .ORGANIC to stand apart as the real deal in the organic business while making it easy for consumers to identify and find truly organic goods and services.


Mike: How is registration going for .ORGANIC?

Roland: This URL has only been made available for a few weeks and we have already received hundreds of registrations. Some prominent members of the organic community have embraced this protected new space and plan to have sites up soon. These include:

  • Rodale Institute
  • Stonyfield
  • Applegate
  • Bitsy’s Brainfood
  • NibMor
  • OMRI: The Organic Materials Review Institute


The .ORGANIC team was at the Natural Products Expo East 2014 in mid-September, one of the biggest trade events for the organic community on the US East Coast. .ORGANIC was enthusiastically received by both the exhibitors and attendees – many went back to their business teams at home with plans to deploy their own .ORGANIC sites.


Mike: Would you recommend that existing businesses pick up a .ORGANIC domain to supplement their existing site? If so, why?

Roland: Absolutely! A .ORGANIC web address is one of the most powerful differentiations an organization in the organic industry can leverage to build awareness, credibility, and consumer interactions. Having the word “organic” in an organization’s URL really says it all when it comes to branding and reinforcing your “organic-ness.”. Imagine having the word organic in every email, every package, every ad—everyplace an organization uses to get the word out. A .ORGANIC address makes every communication work harder to differentiate an entity as authentically “organic.”

Beyond branding is the ability to capture whole organic categories. Since the .ORGANIC top-level domain is still new, many great generic terms are available. A great example: Alpine Valley Bread just registered “bread.organic,” thereby establishing themselves as THE place on the web to purchase and get information about organic bread and bread making! Participants in every organic category are now looking to see if they too can get a good generic name (note—they must be verified as eligible and must use the name in conjunction with the term they register).


Mike: Do you believe consumers are adapting well to the new TLDs and will .ORGANIC integrate well?

Roland: A recent research shows consumer trust is growing in new TLDs: the number of people stating that they would only put faith in heritage domain names dropped from 54% in 2013 to 39% in 2014. Moreover, 18% stated they would prefer to buy from a branded domain, e.g. “shop.adidas” over “adidas.com/shop,” up from 13% last year. What’s even more interesting is that 13% would feel that brands are “behind the times” if they were not using branded domain name extensions. Consumers “get” the purpose and benefits of new TLDs and I am confident we will begin to see a shift in consumers’ behaviors once companies start building out their sites on these new TLDs.

Specifically for .ORGANIC, it is such a natural fit with and a much needed differentiation for members of the organic community. We have every confidence that consumers will quickly embrace the new .ORGANIC domain as they see how easy it is for them to find and access web sites of verified organic community members.


Mike: Where do you see .ORGANIC in a year from now? 5 Years from now?

Roland: The .ORGANIC domain extension is the logical next step for the organic community. In addition, we expect it to really be a game-changer and will grow very quickly in the next 12 months. Qualified organizations who don’t have a web site on this domain will soon be seen as behind the times. Further down the road, say 5 years from now, .ORGANIC will become the standard in separating the “real” organic companies from the rest. Qualified organizations will simply be expected to have a web site on the domain.

What do you know about co.com?


co.com LLC is a global domain name registry that offers businesses, organizations and individuals, short, memorable and recognizable .co.com domain names through a worldwide distribution network of domain name registrars and resellers. co.com LLC is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA and was founded in 2013 by three entrepreneurs with more than 40 years combined experience in the domain name industry.

Mike: Can you explain CO.COM. This is truly a domain name that is being repurposed, is that correct?

Ken:  .co.com is an SLD (Second Level Domain) in which registrations are at the third level. The .co.com Registry will be accepting and supporting registrations just like any other extension (.com, .net, .biz, etc.). We will accept registration through our accredited registrars, maintain a centralized database, and maintain the zone file so names can resolve on the global DNS. .co.com will be available to any business, organization or individual.

Mike: Why CO.COM as opposed to some thing else? Does the “CO” hold some significance?

Ken: “CO” means “company”, so it is very broad and generic. In countries where there is an existing .co.countrycode extension, it has taken on even broader meaning of “commercial” entity. Most smaller businesses were not even online when the very best .com domain names were registered. Demand for domain names ending in .com continues to be very strong with 30 million + new domains begging registered every year. Most of those names are long, hyphenated or not very memorable.

The introduction of .co.com is a second chance for businesses to get a short memorable domain name ending .com (e.g. plumbing.co.com, realestate.co.com, gold.co.com, solar.co.com, tour.co.com, companyname.co.com, anything.co.com). Many businesses with an existing .co.countrycode name which is targeted at a specific country, also have international customers. They will use a .co.com domain to market to those customers.

Mike: Do you have any insight on how search engines… Google, for example, will treat CO.COM names?

Ken: Google, of course, does not share details of its search algorithm. The primary factor in page-ranking .co.com websites will likely be no different than those for other extensions, with fresh, relevant and engaging content being primary factor influencing ranking. Having said that, exact match domain names do have some influence. Short memorable domain names, including those with generic words that are long gone in .com, are available in .co.com. The combination of great content and an exact match .co.com domain name is ideal. It is also very rare for a co.countrycode domain to be ranked highly when searches originate outside of the country. A co.com address will likely be viewed by the search engine as a global domain name, which should help with global ranking.

Mike: The timing is interesting, along with the beginning of the new gTLDs being released. How will CO.COM fit in with the competition?

Ken: We believe that launching along with the other new extensions, at a time where consumer awareness of new naming alternatives will be very high, could provide a major uplift for .co.com registration volume. Most of the new gTLDs launching now are focused on specific niches or verticals. The more broadly applicable new gTLDs will not launch for quite some time. We are suggesting to registrars that when a user searches for a domain, and the .com is not available, and there is no strong signal for one of the new extensions, that they suggest a .co.com. With 30 million + .com domain names registered every year, and hundred of millions of searches taking place, .co.com is very well positioned..

Mike: Are there any sites operating on CO.COM at the moment? If so, what are some examples. If not, what are some that are in the pipeline that you are aware of?

Ken: Of course, our registry website is live at http://registry.co.com. A number of major global brands have registered their .co.com domain name. There are others in the pipeline, but it can take many months and even years before their is a significant online presence in any extension. We will certainly be highlighting the many excellent websites we expect to appear in .co.com, especially those that represent examples of the various use-cases for a .co.com domain name (Use of short memorable generic words, International marketing for companies with a co.countrycode domain name, etc.). Use of .co.com domain names if the most effective way to raise awareness and is the key to a sustainable business model in any new extension, so expect programs that incentivize and reward use.

Mike: You have a sunrise period from February 24 to March 23. Followed by the landrush and general availability. What will the pricing look like in these periods?

Ken: Registrars will determine the retail price, and each of them has a different business models and offerings. As with most extensions, we expect retail pricing to vary quite a bit between registrars and to change as we enter the various launch phases Sunrise (Now), Landrush (begins April 8), and General Availability (begins July 8). Having said that, we do not expect the kind of complicated pricing schemes and high pricing levels seen in some of the new gTLDs. Registrants should shop around and select their registrar based on a number of factors, including price and what other services and support are offered.

Mike: What is your 5 year vision of CO.COM. Where do you see the company in the not too distant future?

Ken: Five years is an eternity on the Internet and technology world, but we will work to help small and medium size businesses compete effectively. Many small businesses will take the opportunity to register a short memorable .co.com domain name ending in .com. Businesses with .co.country code domain name spaces will be utilizing .co.com for their international marketing in a significant numbers. We are working on what we believe will be some very compelling value-added services that will help businesses manage their online presence, get found, find customers, and convert site visits to revenue.

Launching a Business on a Generic, Exact-Match Domain Name


A mutual friend recently introduced me to Jon Yau.  Jon purchased StockPhoto.com in January, 2013.  Today, StockPhoto.com is an online stock photo business operating on a well polished website.  Jon was kind enough to answer some questions about the domain and the business.

Mike:  What led to your purchase of StockPhoto.com?  Your history as a CPA with a Management Information Systems background isn’t necessarily an obvious path to the acquisition of a stellar generic domain name.

Jon: I’ve dabbled a little with domains before and used to listen to Monte Cahn’s podcast a lot when he was with Moniker. I was always inspired by the interviews he did with Marc Ostrovsky, Rick Schwartz and Brian Null (amongst others) – I knew deep down that eventually I would try my hand at developing a generic, exact-match domain name.

You’re absolutely right. I have a very nice career away from the web space (as a consultant) that I enjoy very much. However, I’m 43 years old and felt that there was one startup in me that needed to get done. I wanted to build something cool from the ground-up, or at least look cool going down in a fiery ball of flames :) and so had been refining my requirements for a few years before the Stockphoto.com domain name came up for sale.

I wanted:

– Something in the B2B segment

– A digital product so I would not have to worry about physical logistics and fulfillment

– To be in a growth market

A number of products such as themes, software, music, ebooks etc. would have fitted the bill, however, Stockphoto.com was by far the most attractive proposition that arose and was hard to walk away from.

I agree with your sentiment that my professional background isn’t necessarily what you would expect but it’s certainly come in handy. Formulating the financials, working with attorneys, project managing the software development effort and then defining the processes required to support the business is made a little bit easier given my prior experience. This leaves me time to focus on the business building functions such as sourcing quality inventory and making sales.


Mike:  Do you own any other domain names?

Jon: Apart from Stockphoto.com, I’m most proud of ManagedFund.com (the equivalent of mutual fund in the UK, Australia and parts of Asia) and BroadwayNewYork.com. Neither are developed at the moment. Perhaps one day :) I also own 3248.comwhich has significance in the Chinese (Cantonese)-speaking part of the world.


Mike:  You’ve been pretty transparent about the fact that you purchased the domain on Flippa.com and paid $250,000.  In fact, I really enjoyed your post on the Flippa blog.  What made you decide that the $250,000 “buy it now” price was a fair value?

Jon: There’s no exact science or formula but I estimated (via Compete) the traffic that I could get from direct navigation as well as Search, then I applied a conversion factor plus a rough operating margin. For a given level of inventory and sales, I figured I could make a reasonable return on the initial outlay. However, the value of the business I could build could exceed $250,000.

The truth is, however, is that this is my mid-life crisis :) As long as it was within the budget (and there’s not a whole lot of offline businesses you can setup successfully for less than $250,000) then the question was whether this was something that could ‘scratch my itch’. I could’ve bought an expensive car that I would only get to drive on weekends, or blown it on travelling only to find myself back at the point in my life where I was looking to dig in and make a creative stand. Sometimes it’s a bit more than how the numbers stack up. As long as it’s roughly profitable and growing steadily, I’ll be more than happy.

The CPA in me could give you a million reasons why it’s worth less than the $250,000! However, the romantic/dreamer/domainer/punter in me just wants to know one thing:

How cool would it be, if you could hold your own in a straight-up, toe-to-toe against a NYSE-listed Goliath worth over 2 billion dollars with little more than a slingshot of a generic, exact-match domain?


Mike:  Having launched on September 9, You’ve got a few months post-live under your belt.  How are things going so far?  Are you seeing the level of sales you had hoped for?

Jon: The initial launch was nothing more than ‘Lean Startup’-inspired test of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Armed with one superstar photographer (Sergey Nivens) and 57,000 images from his amazing portfolio of stock photos – will they come? Will they buy?

We generated enough sales from the first month on to leave a little profit on the dinner table after Sergey’s commission, webhosting and other back office expenses. All without any paid advertising or PR. So from that point of view, it gives me confidence to grow the business.

My focus now is to recruit other superstar stock photographers with great portfolios to add to my inventory. If my theory is right, then we should see at least the same level of search-to-sale conversion, if not a better sale-to-inventory ratio. We might even improve our returning customer count.

2014 will be a year to consolidate on our initial learnings and then aim for growth in quality inventory.


Mike:  What is the volume of traffic you’re seeing on the site?  How much of that is type-in traffic?

Jon: I’ll just say that the volume of traffic was, thankfully, higher than the estimates I initially came up with using the Compete data. Over three-quarters of all unique visitors are via direct navigation and over 80% are those that have never been before. Traffic has been consistent since the domain name came out of escrow in January 2013. I installed Google Analytics along with a Mailchimp email sign-up form and up until I launched in September 2013, I was tracking traffic as well as building a list (segmented between photographers, image purchasers and those that were just tyre-kickers).

If I am able to increase my inventory for the same level of quality, then I expect that returning visitor component to increase. Recurring sales should also slowly increase as the website becomes more ‘sticky’ for image purchasers.


Mike:  As you pulled the trigger on StockPhoto.com, were there other domain names you had your eye on, or was this really a focused plan?

Jon: No, this was the first opportunity that arose which made me sit up. It fit all the criteria I had in mind (see above). The Buy-it-now price really forced me to ask myself if I was serious about this web startup idea. After much soul-searching and discussions with those in my life that mattered most, I decided that this would be the blank canvas upon which I was happy to put my name to. There weren’t any other domain names that fulfilled the prerequisites and had that ‘Wow’ factor.

If something like ebooks.com or themes.com came up for sale, I would also be just as interested. However, they didn’t and you can only make a decision based on what you know at the time and also what is available to you in the marketplace.

Like I said, I’d love to develop ManagedFund.com in the future but at this time, Stockphoto.com is my baby.


Mike:  What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with starting an online business?  What advice do you have for domainers looking to do the same?

Jon: I was asked an interesting question on Warrior Forum (http://www.warriorforum.com/main-internet-marketing-discussion-forum/869058-250-000-domain-name-guy-crazy.html) – “What if that domain didn’t appeared at Flippa? Do you think that you would do worse if you have purchased any new .com and spent 249.991K on branding and advertising?”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either approach. I didn’t take the latter path because my skillset does not include any branding, SEO and advertising. I would be competing with guys on the Warrior Forum that do conversions and SEO-related stuff for a living. I would get lost in the crowd before even making it into the ring to fight Goliath. I’m a pragmatist. I don’t want to take a knife to a gunfight (as the line in the movie goes). If I had the same budget then I would want as much of an advantage as I could get – UPFRONT. Not in Round 12. And the most valuable commodity on the internet is web traffic.

Other than that, I’ve been really happy with the way things have panned out. The domainer community has been very supportive. I’ve been able to slowly add more photographers and sales have been consistent.

Other than the above, my tips are:

–        Writing detailed business requirements on how your business should work

–        Documenting functional specifications on what that means at a website/user interaction/use case level

–        Making sure you build enough fat into your test cycles

–        Keeping your eye on the bigger picture (What am I trying to achieve in this phase?)

–        Remembering to have fun and laugh when you pick yourself up off the floor


Mike:  Any parting advice on buying domain names, what to consider, what to look for?

Jon: Traffic, traffic, traffic J (And read Sullysblog!)


Domains at Cost / Where has Rob Monster Been?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on a regular basis and, as you may have noticed, I’m starting to ease back into things here on SullysBlog.com.  Just prior to the holidays, I had an informative conversation with Rob Monster of Epik.com.  A few years back, I interviewed Rob when he was preparing to take the domain world by storm.  Things have shifted a bit since then and I thought it would be a good idea to catch up on what Rob and Epik have been up to.  As the title suggests, Rob also mentions that registering domain names at cost is available to domainers, no coupons needed.

I’ll plan to have this and future videos transcribed, but I wanted to get it out there as soon as possible.  Check out the video and let me know your thoughts.