Tag - domain interview

How are you managing your domain list?

Luciana Bruscino has worked in the technology arena for over 15 years. She has always been fascinated by new technologies. She is particularly enthusiastic about the WordPress.  Chad Edwards, a friend, assisted her in the development of the My Domain List plugin. He has been involved in the buying and selling domain business for over six years.

Together, they have experience in setting up wordpress servers, creating and implementing wordpress templates, plugins and a variety of websites using similar technology (PHP, Javascript/CSS, MySQL, etc). Developing a wordpress tool to assist domain owner seemed to be the right fit.

Mike: I’ve seen some other domain management systems, but I think this is the first I’ve seen as a WordPress plugin. What made you decide to take this route?

Luciana: We chose the WordPress framework because of its maturity as a technology as well as the number of sites using the framework. In our experience, we noticed that there weren’t many similar domain-focused plugins products in the market. Therefore, we thought it would be good opportunity to provide domain owners (I like to call them domainers) with a way to quickly setup their domain portfolio on their own site without the assistant of a website developer.
The wordpress framework also allows the My Domain List plugin to be easily installed and setup. The plugin leverages WordPress features to enhance the domainers experience by allowing them to customize their domain list via WordPress Shortcode and summarize the domain offers in the WordPress Dashboard.

Mike:  Price is reasonable. Can you talk about the number of sales to date?

Luciana: I am pleased to say that the plugin has been gaining popularity. I believe we achieve that by understanding the needs of the domain owners and proving good customer service.  The sales have been on a steady increase and it met our initial expectation. Most importantly, we are getting good feedback from our customers on the plugin’s features and on the great support we provide. Customers have been pleased and that is the key for increased sales. We encourage users to continue to provide feedback so we can continue to improve the tool to fit the needs of the audience.

We sell the plugin exclusively through Code Canyon, premium domain sales site.

Mike:  How are people using the plugin today? Is it to manage their portfolio or to list their domains for sale?

Luciana: Customers are using the plugin in various ways. They use the plugin to market, manage and promote their domain portfolio for sale. The My Domain List plugin offers many features to allow domainers  to use the plugin for their current needs. Because of features such as pagination, table sorting, and filtering, some domain owners use it to simply list their domain portfolio and link it to a sale site. Others take advantage of feature such as Price Setting and the Make Offer button to receive leads from their own sites. Also, because the plugin pulls data automatically from the WHOIS database, some domainers use the plugin to manage their domain expiration and registrar information from the Admin panel.
From my perspective, the My Domain List plugin seems to be fulfilling the needs of most domain owners.

Mike:  What made you decide to create the plugin in the first place? Was it a problem you were trying to solve for yourself?

Luciana:  We decided to create the My Domain List plugin for domainers because we saw a lack of domain driven tools in the WordPress framework. During our research, we didn’t find a tool that encompassed features such as pagination, make offer button, customization, WHOIS data, and table sorting into one tool. So, we thought a plugin with these capabilities would be beneficial. We also thought creating a WordPress plugin would provide domain owners with the ‘ease of use’ advantage, so they can start promoting their portfolio quickly. Another strong reason for creating this tool was to alleviate my partners struggle with setting up his domains for sale on his site. My Domain List plugin solved his needs and the needs of many other domain owners with large, medium or small domain portfolio.

Mike:  It says on your site, and you previously mentioned, that the plugin collects the latest WHOIS information. Can the user import a list of domains or does it require manual entry?

Luciana: In the current version of the My Domain List plugin the users can simply add a list of domain names separated by comma or in a new line to a textbox in the Admin page. Once the user saves the domain list, the plugin uses a built-in API to collect the WHOIS data for each domain name. The data automatically populated for each domain is owner, registrar, extension, and expired, created and changed dates.

In the Professional version of the plugin, currently in works, the user will have the ability to import the domain names as well as other custom meta-data from a .csv file. The current import capability will also be available.

Mike:  You’ve decided to use a hyphenated domain name. Did you weigh that against the option of a non-hyphenated domain?

Luciana:  Since we created the website with the purpose to simply document the plugin’ features, we didn’t spend too much time looking for the best SEO domain name available. The hyphenated website was created with the intention of promoting and providing support and helpful information for current customers. The truthful reason for using the hyphenated domain name is that my partner already had purchased the my-domain-list.com name and we thought it fit beautifully for the plugin.

Mike:  Do you have any other ideas for programs or plugins that can be beneficial for domainers? Can we expect to see other products from you?

Luciana: This is a great question. The answer is Yes. I am currently working on the My Domain List Pro version for the plugin. This version compiles a list of feedback from the customers to provide a more robust and scalable domain tool. The Professional version will have many of the features in the current version, but it will be enhanced to support category filtering, customized currency, meta data (i.e description, thumbnail, redirect URL),  SEO options, Buy option via Escrow, Paypal, etc.

As a promotional campaign, we are willing to give 5 copies of the Beta My Domain List Plugin Professional edition. (Editor’s note: post a comment to be eligible and 5 random names will be selected).
Another plugin that I have developed that I believe is beneficial for WordPress users is Notify On Action. This plugin is available free of charge . This plugin allows you to send email notification based on a pre-determined template. The user has the freedom to decide when the notification is sent based on any action on their site. For example, this plugin works well with My Domain List plugin if the user wants to be notified or notify the customer when an Offer is made. Simply add the code provided by the Notify On Action, to the action code of the Make an Offer button and set up the template on the Admin site. If you need assistance in bundling the Notify Action plugin with your My Domain List plugin contact me at support@my-domain-list.com.

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What’s in a dot Name?

The other day, I received an email asking me to confirm some of my contact information. The email stated “Some of your contacts use WriteThat.Name, a new service that updates address books based on the linguistic analysis of email signatures.”  What first caught my eye was the dot NAME tld.  But really, what a unique concept.  I reached out to the creator to learn more.

Philippe Laval founded Kwaga two years ago with a simple idea in mind: help email users truly benefit from business data that is nested in the messages they receive. To do so, he leverage the experience he had in semantic technologies and actually strengthen it with a team of NLP (natural language processing) experts who have been enthusiastic about the idea. They are now 10 people strong, fully dedicated to making email the productivity tool it once used to be!

Mike:  Tell me about your service, WriteThat.Name.  What is it and how can it help people?

Philippe: Well, WriteThat.Name is a perfect illustration of my goal: it keeps your address book up-to-date automagically! Basically we recognize the signatures in the email you receive, and either we create the contact when it isn’t in your address book or we update the existing one – with a new mobile number, for instance.

We launched WriteThat.Name mid-May and have already created/updated over 100K contacts for our users! Talk about saving time…

Mike: What is your experience with the .Name tld?  Why did you choose this over a .com?

Philippe: There was a great debate over what we should name this service, but finally landed upon WriteThat.Name because it instantly describes what it does – writes the name and contact information to your address book. Nevertheless, we do have WriteThatName.com registered as well.

Mike: Have you or your company owned any other domain names?  How important do you feel the domain name WriteThat.Name is to your service?

Philippe: As a web-based company, our domain is as essential as the window display is to a shop along the street. This is the first thing that our customers experience, so we took great care in deciding on the perfect one.

Being a French-based company, we have registered WriteThatName.fr as well as the .com and .name domains. We also have both Kwaga.com and Kwaga.fr.

Mike:  WriteThat.Name takes a good feature of Gmail, adding contacts automatically, and makes it even better.  Where did the idea for this come from?

Philippe: I got tired of searching in my mail account for the number to call from the car every time I was late. I thought there must be a way to automate this, and, voila, WriteThat.Name was born…

Mike:  Tell me about your revenue model.  It looks like this is a pay service.  Did you consider selling some form of advertising as opposed to charging users?

Philippe: WriteThatName costs only $3/month or $20/year for each subscribed email address. The first month’s subscription is free. And $20 seems really low compared to the time spent searching for the right contact info! Compare this to the price of a virtual assistant: for $20 you can have a virtual assistant for one hour OR WriteThat.Name for a full year.

We opted to forgo the route of selling advertisement as our detection system looks through your messages to find contact details and link them to a signature. We want you to be confident in our respect for your privacy. However, if you still think it’s too expensive, we also have a referal program where we’ll give you another full month free for every referral that signs-up to WriteThat.Name.

Mike:  Kwaga is the parent of WriteThat.Name.  What is Kwaga and what’s the company’s goal?

Philippe: Kwaga was founded in 2008 by me (founder and former CEO of Sinequa, an enterprise semantic search engine vendor) along with a team of seasoned software entrepreneurs, backed up by top computational linguistics and development talent. Kwaga has created KwagaContext for Google Apps Email that enriches the Email experience by providing more context about senders: social profiles, previous conversations and smart action-reminders. Kwaga is a privately held company. SeedCamp and Kima Ventures are both shareholders and have provided seed-funding.

Mike:  Are there any other problems you’re focusing on that we may see a new service for in the future?

Philippe: At Kwaga, we are looking for new ways to enable people to continue working inside their preferred e-mail application and benefit from SmarterEmails™ without altering their habits. We are currently working on some extensions of WriteThat.name and will soon get back to you on that! In the meantime, please take a moment to check out our videos and screenshots to learn more about what we can do for you!

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Meat.org – How powerful is this?

Lately, I’ve picked up a few dot org domains.  There are still some great keyword dot orgs to be found at decent prices.  While conducting a search, I came across Meat.org and the message it conveyed.  I reached out to Joel Bartlett, Director of Marketing for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to find out more about how they are using the name and how they are leveraging domains.  I’m not a vegetarian by any means, but I can’t deny the impact this site has at first glance.

Mike: I came across the domain Meat.org and the strong message it conveys. How valuable has the domain name been in your campaign?

Joel:  Sir Paul McCartney famously said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” The next best thing to having glass-walled slaughterhouses that expose the cruelty of the meat industry is showing people actual video footage of slaughterhouses. We’ve found that nothing is more effective in changing minds and hearts, and that’s why the centerpiece of Meat.org is “Glass Walls,” our exposé of the meat industry narrated by McCartney.

Mike:  For those who have not visited the site, can you explain what the main message is that you are trying to convey?

Joel:  The best thing that you can do to stop cruelty to animals is simply to go vegan today.

Mike: Does PETA own any other domain names?

Joel: PETA has many domains for our various campaigns. On RinglingBeatsAnimals.com, you can watch PETA’s undercover video footage of Ringling employees beating elephants with sharp, steel-tipped bullhooks (devices that resemble fireplace pokers) and view photos of how baby elephants are stretched out, slammed to the ground, gouged with bullhooks, and shocked with electric prods in abusive training sessions that go on for several hours. On McCruelty.com, you can join PETA’s campaign to get McDonald’s to stop practices such as scalding live birds and instead adopt a less cruel method of slaughter. PETA has many more sites, including CanadasShame.com, DKBunnyButcher.com, and even LettuceLadies.com.

Mike: Did you acquire Meat.org as the original registrant or did you purchase the name on the after market? If the latter, can you explain the process that you went through?

Joel: Meat.org was created as a pro-vegetarian site by a forward-thinking animal rights activist in 1998. The site was given to PETA for free in late 2005 in order to take the message to even more people.

Mike: While dot org is often used for non-profit organizations, have you found it to be any less significant than a dot com name?

Joel: PETA does own both .org and .com domains, and when possible, we buy both for our websites. For our primary site, we feel that the .org is important because it highlights that we’re working for good—not for profit.

Mike: Can you share the number of visitors the site receives?

Joel: Meat.org has received close to 1 million page views in the past year! Every day, people who come to the page take the pledge to go vegetarian. Visitors to the site can also order a free vegetarian/vegan starter kit filled with delicious recipes and tips on switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Mike: How has the meat industry reacted to Meat.org?

Joel: Our site’s subtitle is “The Website the Meat Industry Doesn’t Want You to See.” We know that the meat industry is feeling the heat from PETA’s online work. The following excerpt from the industry publication Feedstuffs provides just one example:

It took Hormel Foods Corp. 117 years to build its brand’s credibility but just moments to lose much of the consumer trust the brand had established, according to Brian Stevens, Hormel’s director of pork procurement. Stevens, speaking to delegates to the National Pork Forum in Dallas, Texas, reviewed what happened last year after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released undercover video showing abusive behavior toward hogs by workers on a farm from which Hormel procured hogs.

PETA released two videos and demonstrated at customer sites, and animal abuse charges were filed against the identified workers over the course of four months— all of which created considerable media coverage, he said, adding that the consequent negative publicity generated more than 30,000 calls, e-mails and letters to Hormel, as opposed to 1,500 that were generated by the company’s largest-ever product promotion.

Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?

We encourage everyone to watch the “Glass Walls” video narrated by Sir Paul McCartney on Meat.org and take the pledge to go veg.

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Gary Vaynerchuk on Domains, plus – get a free copy of his new book

Gary Vaynerchuk is well known as a social media early adopter, successful author of Crush It!, and of course, wine guy at DailyGrape.com but did you realize he knows domains too?  I had the opportunity to talk to Gary about his new book, The Thank You Economy and we touched on domaining as well.  If you haven’t heard him speak in the past, you’re in for a treat.  In addition, I have 5 copies of Gary’s book to give away.  Watch the video and leave a comment below to be entered to win one of them.

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Charlie Sheen – Domainer, Exclusive Interview

What’s not to like about Charlie Sheen. Talented actor, role model, and now he is entering the domain world. In this Sully’s Blog exclusive, you’ll get to hear some of Charlie’s thoughts and strategies around domaining. Not just the mechanics, but the philosophies that separate him from the rest of us.

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You can still find generic domains

Maria Falconer picked up the domain name Rambles.com to base her business on.  I love single word generic domains so I asked her a few questions about he choice and her business.

Mike:  Tell me how you came across the domain name Rambles.com.  Was it available to register or did you purchase it from someone else that owned it?

Maria: The url was being held by a ‘squatter’, someone who really had no intention of ever using it, but wanted to drive up the price on the domain and resell it (editor’s note: that is not a squatter).  I tried to reach an agreement with the current owner one-on-one, but the numbers they were asking for were just outrageous. Just when I began to fear that I would have to choose a new domain name, I got word that rambles.com was being auctioned. I was extremely lucky in that the current owner chose a really fair brokerage/auction site to sell the domain. I managed to acquire the domain for a fraction of what the owner was asking. When the owner tried to back out of the deal, the auction firm made them stick to the agreement. I love Sedo!

Mike:  Tell me why you chose that name and what it means to you.

Maria:My shop is really the ‘Seinfeld’ of online stores. There is really no ‘plot’.We have everything, but nothing specific. So, I wanted to choose a domain name with a little ambiguity. I do believe that life, like art, is journey (or ramble). I also wanted to convey that the story takes a myriad of really different, unrelated ideas and expresses them in jumble (like rambling). So, rambles.com just seemed perfect.

Mike:  Can you tell me how many monthly visitors the site receives?

Maria: Just under 5000 and growing fast.

Mike:  The site is an ecommerce site and contains a wide variety of products.  Why did you choose not to focus on a specific niche?  Has that worked to your advantage?

Maria: I wanted to cast a wider net. I know that my interests change from year to year and I bore very easily. So, I wanted to make certain that the site was constantly fresh and new. I want to continuously reinvent the site. I want our audience and customers to come to expect the unexpected. I want them to visit the website and say ‘Wow! That’s new! I’ve never seen anything like that before!’

Mike:  What are some of the challenges you have faced as an online business owner?

Maria: Gosh, so many.  I think the greatest challenge is building buzz.  The internet is like one giant high school hallway.  It’s a popularity contest. So, you really have to work at it.  I really had to learn that the hard way. I had to learn that most people today spend very little time, relatively, ‘surfing’ the world wide web. Most people get on the internet with the intention of visiting a specific site. So, you need to catch them before they log on.
What people will never tell you is that creating buzz offline is absolutely vital to your survival online. So, you really have to build a great relationship with your local publications and reporters. Print advertising is just critical, but you have to careful. You can spend $2000 on print ad and not attract a single visitor.

Online advertising is hugely expensive. Building relevant traffic is even more expensive.

Building an air of accessibility for your company is key. Yet, finding the time to blog, tweet and update your Facebook status, all while trying to build your business, can be such a struggle.

I certainly haven’t conquered all of these obstacles yet. I’m learning as I ago.

Mike:  Your page has quite a few Facebook likes.  What other strategies do you use to promote the site and the business?

Maria: I tweet like mad. Unlike Facebook, I really haven’t found that Twitter has directly led to sales. However, its a good ‘awareness’ tool. I also blog. I advertise with Google. I also advertise on design and craft blogs. Currently, I’m trying align myself more closely with some of the local craft festivals. Making a name in the ‘real world’ will hopefully translate to sales online.

Mike:  What advice would you have for someone looking to start an ecommerce site?  What is required to do so?

Maria: I don’t think there will ever be another Amazon. We (people in general) just aren’t as enamored or in awe of the internet as we used to be. So, don’t have those types of expectations.
Unless you have a great deal of money to invest, plan on it taking about five years before you can say with any certainty whether or not you’re venture is a success.

Find out who your competition will be, realistically, and spend some time interviewing at least observing them. This can really help you adjust your goals and avoid pitfalls.

Get a mentor to guide you through the landmines of paperwork.

Overall, make sure that you  love what you do. It’s been said many times before, but it’s true. If your hearts not in it, you won’t persevere through the tough times…and all businesses have tough times.

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Matt Damon & Water.org

Nicole Wickenhauser is the Senior Communications & Development Manager at Water.org. Water.org is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization committed to providing safe drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries.

Mike: Tell me how Water.org came about. Who founded the organization?

Nicole: Water.org traces its roots back to the founding of WaterPartners in 1990 by Gary White. In July 2009, WaterPartners merged with Matt Damon’s H2O Africa, resulting in the launch of Water.org, co-founded by Gary White and Matt Damon.

Mike: What is the overall mission and goal of Water.org?

Nicole: Water.org is a nonprofit organization that works to provide access to safe water and sanitation in the developing world. Our vision: the day when everyone in the world can take a safe drink of water. We have transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America with access to clean water and sanitation. Last year alone, we reached 266,000 people with access to these most basic life necessities.

Mike: What are some of the projects you are currently focused on?

Nicole: We currently have active programs in Haiti, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and India. In 2010 we launched a tool that allows anyone to follow real-time project in several villages in Haiti. We plan to highlight other geographies in my.Water.org in the future so that people can follow the progress of programs in their area of interest and see what goes into implementing a sustainable and holistic water and sanitation project.

Mike: Matt Damon is a spokesperson for Water.org. What is his involvement in the effort?

Nicole: Matt is very involved with Water.org. Thanks to his support, countless new people know about the water issue and Water.org’s work to address it. Matt’s involvement ranges from traveling to Water.org project sites in India and Ethiopia, to talking to people about Water.org and the water crisis at the Critics Choice Awards and on shows like Letterman, to participating in meetings focusing on Water.org strategy.

Mike: Do you know how the organization came into possession of such a high quality, and fitting, premium domain name with Water.org?

Nicole: Water.org’s Executive Director and Co-Founder Gary White is a very forward-thinking person. In the early nineties, we reserved the URL www.water.org.

Mike: If readers are interested in helping or contributing in some way, what types of things can they do?

Nicole: The first thing people can do to see new and relevant opportunities to participate and stay informed is to sign up for our monthly updates: http://water.org/signup. The second way is for people to join us online to help spread the word. We post a lot dynamic information in Facebook and Twitter. We also have a lot of great videos people can watch and share on YouTube. People can learn more about the water crisis here and follow our work in real-time. And lastly, educate others; teachers can use any of our certified lesson plans.

We encourage people to share facts, videos, photos, stories, etc, with their networks or post on their blog. Together, we can make all the difference in the life of someone in need of clean water.

The third way is through creative fundraising initiatives. The efforts of our supporters are critical to providing the funding needed to conduct our programs. We have a free personal fundraising tool for individuals or groups.

We also just launched Team Water.org, a nationwide community of endurance athletes passionate about bringing safe water to those in need.  If someone has a business and wants to promote our work through their product, they can learn more about a cause marketing partnership here.

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Solving The Domain Puzzle

Colin King is 58 years old and the managing director of Jigthings Limited. He and his wife have spent their lives developing a business in the UK, supplying garden centers. Ten years ago, a large international company came along with an offer to buy the business. They jumped at the opportunity to have some financial security in their lives. Since then, they have been developing two online businesses – Jigthings and Education Quizzes.

Mike: Colin, can you give a little background on your business?

Colin: About 9 years ago we developed a range of products specifically for jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts including boards, cases, frames, tables, etc. because we recognized that there was a gap in the market for such products. At first we sold to distributors and retailers (as was our custom with the previous business) but then realized that the Internet was the ideal place to sell niche products. It was much more appealing to us to get retail margins than wholesale margins! The business is run by myself and two others. The UK site has been online for 6 years and our USA site for 3 years.

Mike: How did you choose this name, jigthings.com, and how has it impacted your business?

Colin: Our brand name is “Jigthings” and when we started our internet business here in the UK it seemed logical to trade as jigthings.com. At that time we had no idea that the name of the domain had any relevance to search engine rankings and to be honest we had never even heard of the term “Search Engine Optimization.” By the time we came to start our USA operation we had learned that a URL containing important keywords was of great help in getting up the rankings quickly. Inevitably many of the very best keywords had already be used in domains registered by other people – it would have been nice to have “puzzles.com” or “jigsaws.com” but these had already been taken. Research using the Google keywords tool suggested that the most often-searched keywords that were not already someone else’s domain name were “Puzzle Organizer” so that is what we went with. The results were astounding – we got to the number one position in the Google rankings for “Puzzle Organizer” in only a month or two whereas it has taken us much longer to get other key phrases near the top.

quiz domain

Mike: The UK version of the site goes by Jigthings.com. How does the traffic volume of the site compare to the US site?

Colin: We get about 50% more hits on the USA site than on the UK site although our search engine organic rankings are much better in the UK (we have been going for longer in the UK). We put this down to the fact that there are about 5 times more jigsaw-doers in the USA than there are in the UK and the competion in the USA is stronger.

Mike: I’m curious why you chose a .com for the UK site as opposed to .co.uk?

Colin: We always hoped that the business would become “International” and a .com therefore seemed the logical choice. If I were starting a business that was aimed solely at the UK then I would go for .co.uk. For a business operating solely in the USA or internationally I would go for a .com.

Jigsaw

Mike: Is it difficult to run a business in the US from the UK?

Colin: No, it is surprisingly easy. Most of our products are made in China and they go straight from the manufacturers to our warehouse/fulfillment centre in Olean, New York. From here in the U.K. we answer e-mailed customer queries and we have a telephone line whereby US customers can telephone us but only pay domestic rates. We have a good fulfillment house in the USA and they guarantee to dispatch orders the same day provided that they receive them by 12 noon. There were some teething problems but now it is just as easy to run our USA operation as it is to run our UK one.

Mike: Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow?

Colin: I think that S.E.O. is king! If we were selling products in a very competitive market (like TV’s or computers) then I know it would be difficult to get to the top of the search engine rankings. As it is, we have comparatively few competitors and therefore our job is much easier. In the beginning we tried all sorts of advertising but by far the most effective for us was pay-per-click. Initially we were spending about 20% of our total turnover on pay-per-click but now that we are better known and we have good search engine rankings we spend only 4% on pay-per-click whilst our turnover is still growing strongly.

Mike: Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

Colin: Unless you have a strong brand name that people will be likely to search for then go with a domain name that includes keywords that they WILL search for. I am ever more convinced that keywords within your domain name give you a fantastic boost up the search engine rankings.

Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?

Colin: When we started the business I was far too arrogant. I read that to successfully navigate your way to the top of the search engine rankings you need to research how other people use words in search phrases. I thought that I knew all about that – surely everybody thinks the same way that I do, don’t they? Evidently not, as has been learned from expensive mistakes!

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What to do with a Butt Ugly domain

Judy Roberts described herself to me as “a lady with an idea that decided to take action.”  One of her favorite quotes is: “Ideas don’t keep, something must be done about them” -Alfred North Whitehead.  She thought that if there were other people already selling ugly sweaters that there must be a market, so she just ‘went’ for it!

Mike:  buttuglysweaters.com is an unforgettable name.  How did you come up with that?

Judy: I wanted a name that covered all the different genres of ugly sweaters and I wanted to stand out.  I mean, if you’re looking for an ugly sweater, wouldn’t you rather have one that’s butt ugly?

Mike:  Is there really a market for ugly sweaters?

Judy:  People have been buying ugly sweaters for years.  However, they really just started having ugly sweater parties for the past 3 or 4 years.  These types of parties can occur at any time of the year.

Mike:  How does one go about marketing ButtUglySweaters.com?  Is there a butt ugly target market?  Do you use online marketing such as SEO or banner ads?

Judy: I use the AscenderCart shopping cart to help me appear high in the search results.  The AscenderCart helps me with all the on-page and in-site SEO.  I accompany that with a few links and my blog.

Mike:  I can’t imagine that you produce all the sweaters that you list for sale on the site.  What advice would you have for others looking to start a site in a non-competing line of products.  How difficult is it to get started?

Judy:  You’re correct, I don’t make the sweaters.  I have several suppliers that provide me with the sweaters.  We accent some sweaters with “ugly” stuff to make them uglier.

Find a supplier that can help you meet the demands of your market.   One’s business is only as good as oneself and those with whom one partners.

Starting a business isn’t too hard.  It’s all about finding something one is passionate about and building a business from that passion.  One can’t succeed in a field in which one is not joyfully passionate.  You need to love what you do.

Mike:  What is the volume of traffic the site sees on a monthly basis?

Judy:  I launched the website on September 1, 2010 with modest hopes in selling a couple hundred dollars of ugly sweaters.  I was astonished by the quantity of sweaters I sold and how much I earned.  In the first 90 days we had over 4,500 visitors who found the site using over 430 phrases.  The amount of traffic continues to increase, but I expect as Spring and Summer role in the traffic will decrease.

Mike:   What advice do you have for others who are searching for a domain name for their business?

Judy:  Find an easy to remember domain name.  The domain doesn’t need to be solely a keyphrase; it can be something like bobslawnmowers.com or terryspooltables.com.  Those are memorable while not being 100% keyphrase based.

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What makes for a catchy domain?

Marty Guerin is the founder of Elephant Surf – a San Diego surfing company making a revolutionary lower body rash guard and compression short for surfers to wear under their boardshorts, called the Trunks.  Marty’s domain caught my attention and I thought I’d ask him about it.

Mike:  Can you give a little background on your Elephant Surf?

Marty:  We’ve been in business for about 3 months now, with a lot of help from friends, but only one official employee – myself.  Since the company only sells online, the site has been online since the inception of the company – 3 months ago.

Mike:  elephantsurf.com is an interesting name.  Tell me how you came up with it and what you were looking for in a domain name.

Marty:  It was a simple choice really; Elephant Surf is the name of the company.  What better way to maximize SEO for the website than to have the search words right in the domain name?  Also, it’s only two words and it’s pretty unique and memorable.  When I tell people the website address, they always remember it the first time without me ever having to tell them again.

Mike:  Your main page has a great image/marketing angle, that I won’t give away.  Do you receive many comments on that?

Marty:  We receive tons of comments on that.  I don’t want to give it away either, but without saying too much, people usually say that they burst out laughing the first time they visited the site.  We hope that people will tell others to visit the site if only to check out the homepage.  It’s also a little bit of a teaser and makes people wonder what our flagship product is rather than shoving it in their faces the second they land on the site.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives?

Marty: Day to day it varies widely – anywhere from 30 to 350 unique hits per day, and rising.

Mike: How do you market your site?

Marty: We use a variety of different advertising/marketing methods. From conventional advertising like banner ads on surf websites and Google AdWords, to more fun and local approaches, like our Beach Stamp campaign that we ran last summer and plan to run again this summer. There are some pictures and a description on our blog. We also use facebook and twitter, especially during promotions like the Vote for a Free Tee Giveaway we ran last month. Using social media to drive site traffic isn’t really a sustainable method, but to get the word out quick about a promotion or a new product, they are awesome.

Mike: What would be the best tip you could provide to others looking to start online businesses?

Marty: Be a sponge and soak up absolutely everything you can about online business, SEO, marketing/advertising, etc. Blogs just like this one are an incredible resource – use them. Also, have a sweet website. No one wants to buy from someone using a template and PayPal buy-it-now buttons.

Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?

Marty: Don’t Surf Naked. Seriously.

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Quick Interview with TelephoneNumber.com

Michael McManigal is an entrepreneur, with several companies, and the President of TelephoneNumber.com.  Michael answered a few questions for me on his domain and his business.

Mike:  TelephoneNumber.com is a fantastic domain name.  Tell me how you came to own this domain.

Michael:  Years ago, I owned about 50 toll-free vanity numbers.  A company was interested in one of my toll-free numbers, and while talking on the phone with them, they suggested I should get a domain.  In fact, they even registered it for me, as the domain service was so new I didn’t even know how to secure my own domain.  The gentleman asked what domain I wanted and TelephoneNumber.com was the first one that came to mind.  He couldn’t believe it was still available!

Domain Names

Mike:  I imagine the visitation statistics are off the hook (sorry, couldn’t resist).  What does your monthly traffic look like?  Any idea how much comes from type-in/direct navigation?

Michael:  Due to various reasons, we do not release number of visits.  The site does rather well, as we offer free information.

Mike:  How do you market the site you have at TelephoneNumber.com?

Michael:  TelephoneNumber.com has never been truly marketed other than search engine optimization.  We do list our domain on some of our iphone apps, like The Pizza Finder.

Mike:  Did you have other domains as well?

Michael:  Many.  We have:

reverse411s.com
check-inLIVE.com
SmartPhoneNumber.com
ezLike.com
WhoClickedMyGOOGLEad.com
4Chores.com
ClaimTracking.com
TheDrinkBandit.com, and more

Mike:  Any advice for start ups or business on choosing the right domain name?

Michael:  If possible, obtain a short domain name.  Always secure a .com as opposed to another domain extension.  Even if it’s great, people will always mis-type as they are use to the .com

Mike:  I notice the site has a premium, pay service for further searching.  Is this the primary means of monetization?

Michael:  Correct, we charge for reverse lookups for un-listed, non-published, and cell phone numbers.  We did charge for banner advertising, but severely limit ads so the website appears less cluttered.

Mike:  Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point?  Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?

Michael:  We get unsolicited offers all the time.  I am not looking to sell the domain, but if the right price came along, I’d be a fool not to consider it.

Mike:  What can users expect when visiting your site?

Michael:  TelephoneNumber.com is an online yellow and white page directory.  We’ve also created an app where users can store their phone numbers in case their cell phone is lost, stolen, or damaged.  We also have another app in development, but are unable to disclose until it becomes public.

TelephoneNumber.com has also created SmartphoneNumber.com which uses keyword dialing instead of numerical dialing.  We feel this project will be a huge success for under TelephoneNumber.com.

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Do you have paper feet?

Jimmy Tomczak believes in the sand beneath his toes. With tides of passion for social entrepreneurship, Jimmy is surfing his way to social impact by launching a company that specializes in creating uncommon goods for the collective good. Jimmy’s eco-functional gear made from upcycled outdoor advertisements has been sold around the world and featured in national media. Inspired by the beach, his Paper-Feet minimalist billboard sandals are TOMBOLO LLC’s first success. Managing his own ventures since 2001, Jimmy has been recognized for his achievement by StartingBloc, Sparkseed, and the University of Michigan. Jimmy is introducing youth to hands-on social business through everyday exploration and adventure that create stories we were meant to share.

Mike: Can you give a little background on Paper-Feet?

Jimmy: I’ve been working on the Paper-Feet concept since summer 2009. I first publicly announced the shoes at a pitch competition that November after I filed intellectual property and patent paperwork. The first Paper-Feet.com went live around that time as well. I began taking information for pre pre-orders on the site via Google Docs. The best part was that instead of just requesting people’s typical name, address, phone, shoe size… I added the questions “What is your favorite adventure? (Tell us about the time of your life)” and “Why Paper-Feet?” I used the larger boxes for these queries thinking the occasional fan who came across the site might want to write a sentence or two more than the standard info. Turns out almost everyone left an amazing personal anecdote: from beaches and VW beetles to, I’m not-even-kidding, that one time in Mexico – in addition to remarks like “Paper-Feet seem tailor made for me.” I officially incorporated TOMBOLO LLC in fall 2010. I plan to launch the new site with the new brand this spring.

Paper-Feet.com

Mike: Tell me a bit about paper-feet products. Where did the inspiration come from?

Jimmy: I’ve always loved the beach and the great outdoors: camping, boating, fishing – all the barefoot activities too. But sometimes being barefoot is not practical, especially if you’re not used to walking without shoes. I wanted to make a transitional “shoe”; footwear for toughening up the feet and getting to being barefoot more often. The first version was made with Tyvek from shipping envelopes. Because they were white and thin, it literally looked like I was wearing paper on my feet. The name “Paper-Feet” and the paper-thin concept stuck but Paper-Feet are now made with upcycled billboard material. The giant roadside outdoor advertisement displays are wrapped with a one-piece 14×48-foot PVC vinyl material that’s a lot like a thick pool tarp or poly cover but thicker and more durable. The waterproof, durable, UV-resistant properties of the fabric work well for both long-term advertisements and minimalist footwear.

Mike: How did you move from the idea to actual production?

Jimmy: Rapid prototyping and countless iterations helped with the move to a sellable product. I would cut the material into different variations, sew, assemble, and test. Most didn’t work for one reason or another. When I found something that did, I would try it out in all conditions. If it didn’t perform as expected I’d fix whatever was wrong or ask people their opinion on how to make the needed corrections. When I had a design that was ready for other people to try I began looking for places to make the shoe and understanding how to grade the sizing. Not having money to go abroad for production, and knowing the value of
local, ethical labor, I found a place in Michigan through friends and networking introductions. I’m not a shoemaker – I studied neuroscience at the University of Michigan. Seeing the random connections between such juxtaposed subjects gave me a unique perspective on the creative process.

Mike: You mention filing patent paperwork. Are your sandals patented? If so, did you find the process to be easy or difficult?

Jimmy:The sandals are patent-pending. For a first-time inventor the patent application process is challenging and always expensive. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has some helpful resources and there are also “patent it yourself” books and resources out there.

Mike: Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives?

Jimmy: Because we’re not pushing the marketing until the spring retail buying season, paper-feet.com receives only a fraction of our target traffic. The new site will be much more interactive with the ability for fans to upload their stories, photos, and videos while sharing information with each other. Over the past 30 days we’ve received over 5,000 page views.

Mike: Any concerns with a hyphenated domain?

Jimmy: I understand that the hyphen is less than ideal, but it works for now. The worst part is explaining the address aloud. “Sure, check out Paperfeet dot com, that’s ‘Paper-hypen-Feet, yes, paper-dash-feet dot com.” Gets old after a while. I plan to use the new ecommerce platform we’re working on with a new domain featuring our overall brand.

Mike: Do you have any online marketing strategies?

Jimmy: To me Paper-Feet’s online marketing and sales is all about sharing our story with others. The more people becoming educated about what we’re all about and being open to barefooting, the better. Anytime someone engages in a conversation with us or about us online, I consider that a win, and a win-win for everyone really. Every time there is good press a few more people find out about us and share our message with friends. We’ve been featured on BoingBoing, GOOD, Mother Nature Network, AOL News, The Wall Street Journal and several other online destinations. Moreover, the social entrepreneurship community is incredible. Early on I was recognized as a Sparkseed social innovator for Paper-Feet. Sparkseed invests in college entrepreneurs championing their companies that both do good and do well. This kind of marketing speaks for itself.

Mike: Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

Jimmy: Really understand what your purpose is going to be all about when it’s big. Think all the way through to the death of your brand – what’s the epitaph for your company? Is the domain name slick enough to be etched there as well? Now bounce back to today where your business idea is actually solving someone’s problem. People say the name must be compelling enough for them to remember and share with a friend. If the concept truly solves a problem, people will talk, share, and blog about it and Google’s magical SEO unicorns will make rainbows for your business.

Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?

Jimmy: Because of the simplicity of paper-feet.com, the best way to interact is via Facebook or Twitter Send a message this way anytime! I’d like to encourage you to follow our footsteps and stay tuned for the official launch of our next adventure this spring and the best way to do that is via our newsletter.

Thanks and remember
Get-outside-and-live!

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Do You Have Me in Your Portfolio?

Natasa Djukanovic works at .ME Registry as Sales and Marketing Director. For the past two years, she played a crucial role in communication and cooperation with registrars and partners, as well as in marketing and promotion of the new .ME brand. Before she decided to switch to domain industry and join .ME Registry, she worked for the national airline for 8 years as a business development director. Her job included implementation of new technologies and procedures. From 2007 to 2008 she worked as CEO of a local bank in Montenegro.

Mike: When did .ME originally launch and when was it made available to those outside Montenegro?

Natasa:  .ME, the country code TLD was assigned to Montenegro in 2007, shortly after restoration of the country’s independence. The Government immediately recognized its potential and decided to make it available worldwide, so they issued an RFP, and our JV between GoDaddy, Afilias and ME-net won the bid. .ME was launched in May 2008, and opened the worldwide registration in July 2008.

Mike: I know there are some great sites out there based on .ME, such as About.me. What other site’s are you aware of that are using the TLD in the United States or internationally?

Natasa: Apart from Fb.Me (facebook), Wp.Me (WordPress), Vk.Me (used by Russian largest social network) and Ti.Me (Time magazine) which are all used as URL shorteners, there are some really good examples like Flavors.Me (customer-friendly personal website builder), News.Me (New York Times personalized news application), Call.Me (name says it all), Blog.Me (used as a blogging platform by Naver.com, the largest search engine in Korea), Fits.Me (virtual fitting room for online clothing retailers), Join.Me (screen sharing application), Formspring.Me (social network) and many more. The biggest value of .Me is actually usage by individuals for their personal websites.

Mike: There are some premium .ME domains that have been reserved and I found a list of them here (http://www.domain.me/premiumdomains/index.html). How does one go about acquiring one of those names?

Natasa: The allocation requirements are briefly explained in the Non-Auction Allocation Criteria. We expect interested parties to send an application where they will list their references, outline of the business and marketing plan, describe the intended use in details, provide traffic analytics from their existing online projects/websites/businesses and the required upfront fee. We are opened for cooperation and ready to propose amendments to the application before the final review which our team conducts jointly with the Government representatives.

Dot Me

Mike: How is .ME treated by Google? Can it be setup to be indexed like .com, .net and others?

Natasa: .ME is treated by Google as any other gTLD, same as .com, .net etc. Google permitted geo-targeting of .ME domains in 2009.

Mike: In your opinion, what is the future of TLDs with .CO and the other new proposed TLDs? How does this impact .ME?

Natasa: We are aware that bringing new TLDs to the market will make an impact on every Registry, because we work through the same distribution channels (the registrars). However, after everything settles down, only the TLDs that establish recognizable online presence and have inherent marketing value will continue to grow. Since .ME has both these characteristics, we are sure it will not only keep the steady growth but achieve its full potential in the forthcoming years.

Mike: What would you say is the biggest advantage to owning a .ME?

Natasa: In the world of  domains it is really important to stand out of the crowd. .ME is short, memorable and recognizable, perfect for a personal website, blog, email or a catchy marketing message. Try to forget a service named Join.Me, or a blog with the name Beautiful.Me or just something as simple as YourName.Me. As said before, inherent marketing value, reflected in the possibility to easily create call-to-action or personalize users’ online presence is .ME’s biggest advantage.

Mike: Anything else you’d like to share?

Natasa: We are very proud to be a part of .Me team. Shortly after the launch, .ME gained a big number of supporters and it is their enthusiasm and positive energy what gives us additional motivation to continue promoting and building .ME brand. To get to our customers as close as possible, we set up the fan pages on major social networks like Facebook (fb.me/dotme) and Twitter (dotmetweet) as well as our personal blog www.exploretheworldof.me. Therefore, we would like to encourage them to send us  feedback and suggestions on our work so far. After all, .ME is about YOU expressing Yourself.

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Lead Generation Solution for Domainers

Jason Brian is the founder and CEO of AutoCricket.com and LeadBeaver.com, two top insurance lead sites that have seen incredible success since their launch just two years ago.  Jason sat down and answered some questions for me about the domains and the businesses.

Mike:  When did you start your businesses?

Jason:  In 2008, I launched my first company AutoCricket.com. It searches hundreds of databases to give consumers the best possible rate on their auto insurance.  Call it, a one-stop shop for bargain hunters.  They simply head to AutoCricket.com and enter their basic information.  Within minutes, knowledgeable insurance agents contact consumers with their FREE quote.

With the success of AutoCricket.com, I decided to launch Leadbeaver.com in February 2010 — angled more towards agents, rather than consumers.  In October, independent insurance agency CB Insurance was launched, along with 877-FOR-INSURANCE.  Basically, I want to have all angles of the industry covered.  Consumers and agents won’t need to go anywhere else to find what they need.

We’ve steadily built our business over the past two years to become a leader in the industry, and a trusted name in the community – employing 12 full-time and 35 part-time associates.

domain names

Mike:  You have two very brandable names for your businesses; AutoCricket.com and LeadBeaver.com.  Describe what you were looking for in choosing the right names?

Jason:  I think understanding the purpose of both of the sites is the first step in choosing the right names.  AutoCricket.com was designed for consumers, so I wanted something memorable.  The concept of a cricket is unique.  There’s no other company out there using a cricket and crickets are usually synonymous with luck.  The cricket also has a unique audible sound.  The original concept for our marketing efforts was to include a sound – with a concept – that people could easily identify.

LeadBeaver.com actually started as an office joke, if you can believe that.  The concept began with what is now the site’s tagline — “Dam Good Leads.”  In this case, we designed LeadBeaver.com to be edgy in what is traditionally a stuffy, corporate environment.  The whole lead industry is typically very nerdy and corporate.  This was kind of like a “Go Daddy” mentality in that we would use catchy slogans, logos, etc. to create a buzz.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that your sites receive?

Jason:  Probably close to 50,000 visits between the two sites per month.

Mike:  What type of marketing do you use to promote the sites?

Jason:  We’ve done almost every type of traditional advertising, aside from television.  We’ve run radio spots, put up billboards, even sponsored a series of country concerts at a national venue.  That’s a great way to create a brand, but we haven’t necessarily seen a direct result in leads generated.

We find, however, that search engine optimization, google adwords and other types of online advertising really create more of an opportunity for us and generate a higher volume of viable leads.

Mike:  Many domainers today are looking to lead generation as a means for generating income.  Is this something that LeadBeaver.com can help with?  Can people sell you the leads they generate on their sites?  How does this work?

Jason:  Yes, as long as the lead quality is there, they can sell the leads they generate on our site.  Or, they can host our forms on their site.  Whatever leads they generate, we do a revenue share because they drove the traffic to the site.

Mike:  Did you purchase these names from someone else or were you able to register them?  If purchased from a third party, what was the process you went through?  Will you share what you paid for the name?

Jason:  We registered them through GoDaddy.com.

Mike:  Any advice for start-ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

Jason:  It really depends on the industry. Short and sweet is always good.  Dot-coms are usually associated with something that’s more professional vs. a dot-net or dot-us. I would also avoid using hyphens.

Mike:  Any other information you’d like to share?

Jason:  Always surround yourself with people who you consider to be smarter than you.

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Update: Sully’s Blog Goes Video (Video now viewable)

I’ve been working on quite a few video interviews over at MO.com and I love the direction that is taking. There’s nothing like hearing and seeing people talk about their experiences. There is so much more to be gained by seeing as opposed to the written interview. Written interviews are great, and they have their own list of positives. But you don’t always feel the emotion or passion behind the interviewees.

My first video interview is with Antonio Centeno of aTailoredSuit.com. A special thanks goes out to Antonio for volunteering to be the first video interview and helping me work through some of the kinks.  Let me know what you think.

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Meet a Domain Investor

If you’re a domainer and feel you have an interesting story or strategy to share, contact me.  I’ll be happy to feature you if your story will contribute to the domain community or provides helpful information to others.

Andy LaPointe is a domainer with over 200 domains in his portfolio, including a good number of generic names. He owns bartendertraining.com, tartcherryrecipes.com, startafoodbusiness.com, and others. He uses his domains in several different ways. He has followed this strategy over the past 12 years. Andy started purchasing generic domains in 1998 and has sold some generic names over the years, too.

Mike:  Tell me a little bit about what you do as a domainer?

Andy:  I look at myself as a marketer and I just happen to market my products both online and offline. I started my internet business in 1998 while I was working in the corporate world as a mutual fund wholesaler and in 2005 I officially resigned from the corporate world to work full time on my internet business.  I am basically in three main niches with sub-niches within the main niches. Because of my background and training I am in the following niches: finance, technology and health and wellness. I am a firm believer in joint ventures and partnering with others when building businesses.

In addition to developing domains, over the years I also have sold a number of domains from my portfolio including debtfreemillionaire.com, shopinyourpajamas.com, exerciseforlife.com and others. The lowest price I sold a domain from my portfolio was $27 and the highest was several thousand dollars.

I currently have three employees on my payroll, I also work with several freelancers on a per project basis ranging from website design, graphics, etc.  My sites have been online since 1998 and depending on the niche I want to enter I purchase an additional 2 – 15 domains per year.

Mike:  You own several names such as own bartendertraining.com, tartcherryrecipes.com, startafoodbusiness.com and others.  It looks like you’re monetizing each of them and it different ways.  For example, bartendertraining.com looks to be using a combination of Google Adsense and an e-book that is for sale,  startafoodbusiness.com looks to use a different technique.  Tell me about some of the strategies you are using on these sites.

Andy: You’re exactly right, depending on the niche I am in, I use a combination of several different techniques and strategies. I believe in having diversified streams of income from my business. These income streams include affiliate income, Adsense, sale of a digital products, selling banner ads on my sites, sale of physical products, etc.  Following this strategy keeps my income well diversified.

For example, the strategy behind www.bartendertraining.com is a direct navigation, so I use Google Adsense and the sale of an e-book as monetization strategies for this site.

The domain www.tartcherryrecipes.com is a site with the sole purpose of capturing emails and building a list for my food related domains. I have several domains in the food niche all collecting emails and building a list for my most recent venture www.startafoodbusiness.com.

As the name implies, www.startafoodbusiness.com teaches people how to start a food business. This is a membership sites that provides step-by-step strategies on taking a food recipe from idea to market. At first glance this may seem like just another niche I entered, but the reason I entered this niche is in addition to my online ventures I also have several offline ventures including a food business. Since 2001, my partners and I have created several food brands, so we have a lot of experience and credibility in the food niche.

In fact, one of my food brands, www.traversebayfarms.com  has won 14 national food awards, so not only do we know about great recipes but also how to start and run a food business. We also have a number of testimonials from Hollywood celebrities and a number of celebrities using our food products. I make sure to use domains as a way to communicate these awards and testimonials to enhance my offline business.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that your sites receive?

Andy: Like many internet marketers and domain investors, the traffic volume of my domains vary widely. I have some that are rank over 1,000,000 on Alexa and many that rank under 100,000. For example, I own an article directory site.  This was a site my partners and I purchased a few years ago when it had an Alexa of approximately 250,000 and since then we increased the ranking to approximately 14,000. This site falls under the niche of technology in the three niches we are in.

Mike:  How are you marketing the sites?

Andy: We use a combination of both online and offline strategies. Due to the rising cost of Adwords, we are focusing on organic ranking for many of our sites by using linking building and organic SEO strategies. I am also a firm believer in cross promotion and cross marketing.

Mike:  What are some other domains you own?

Andy: We have over 200 domains in our portfolio spread across the three niches I mentioned before. In fact, just recently we just picked up three domains that we think are really good and are in the process of developing them. These domains are: www.socialblending.com, www.socialmediablending.com and www.yourinternetconsultant.com  These domains are a play on the increasing interest of offline businesses beginning to market online and the blending of social media into internet marketing.

Mike:  Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

Andy: In addition to purchasing your company name, one of the best strategies to follow is to use descriptive, generic domains. This will not only prevent you from getting involved in a trademark lawsuit but if you pick the right generic domain it can explode your business.

Before we enter a niche we conduct detailed searches online and offline about up-and-coming phrases for the niche we are in or want to enter and we try to grab these up-and-coming phrases. For example, several years ago when affiliate marketing started to get popular the generic phrases were “affiliate marketing”, “associate marketing”, “affiliate advertising”, ”associate advertising”, etc.. If you could, you would have wanted to grab those type of domains and build a business around them. That is why we grabbed the social domains I mentioned before, because social marketing is only going to grow in the future.

Mike: What is your overall goal for your domains?

Andy: The main goal of our portfolio is to provide cash flow for my business, while the secondary goal is to sell them for the right price.  The majority of the domains in our portfolio are currently developed or are in the process of being developed.  We follow the strategy of collecting ongoing cash flow from our domain properties. When we purchase a domain, we have a plan on developing that specific domain to produce a cash flow for our business.
People can contact me at www.andylapointe.com

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Getting the most out of premium domains

Left of the Dot has developed a platform to enable premium domain name holders to lease sub-domain inventory to small businesses, creating significant new, recurring, revenue streams for the domain holder. The monetization service leases these “Marketing Names” along with a fully-equipped, ecommerce-ready website to small businesses giving them a highly-brandable web presence.  Co-founder, Chris Jensen gave me the first opportunity to ask some questions.

Mike:  LeftofTheDot.com is pretty descriptive of what your company represents.  I think we’ve all seen sub-domains in use, but can you tell me where the idea to base a business on this concept came from?

Chris: John Lyotier, our Co-Founder, and I have been talking about this business model for at least 10 years; our contention has always been that great domain names should bring together subject matter experts and their customers. In practice most of these experts are individuals or small businesses – they want to be online, they want to be found and they want to control their own message. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of them building a web site is a daunting prospect, all the great domain names are gone, SEO is a foreign language and they don’t want to pay a strange geek every time they need to change their site. Left of the Dot solves all those issues; we build them a good starter site, they get access to a great domain name (that they could never afford to buy), the SEO takes care of itself and they have a simple toolkit to make their own changes. When you combine that with a low monthly fee and no long term contract it is an easy sell, people instinctively understand and like the model.
It has become increasingly clear that great domain names need to be turned into profitable business units if they are to realize their true potential and value, you can’t rely on parking any more. Experience shows that Domainers are hardly ever the best people to build out these sites because they are not subject matter experts and they do not live and breathe that business vertical. What Domainers really want is a low resource, low risk, high return business that has multiple sources of reliable revenue and which increases the value of their domain name. In a nutshell that is Left of the Dot.

Mike:  I first saw your work in action with Beef.com, as I blogged about last year.  What other names are you leveraging this concept on?

Chris:  Yes, you were really quick on that, we only reached out to a few ranchers and you were straight on to us! Beef.com was our proof of concept site and the domain owner has been a great partner for us, very supportive. We have a new look Beef.com in the works that will be out soon and which implements many of the lessons we have learned over the past several months. Our second site launched was www.Villa.com which we are very pleased with, because it is performing exceptionally well. We have 2 more sites in production with a February target launch date and another dozen or so names lined up in our delivery funnel.  I can’t give you specific names until they are ready to go but they are all single word, premium generics.

Mike:  How do owners of the core domain, like Beef.com, make money?

Chris: From multiple sources; the domain owner gets an agreed amount from each sub-domain, we manage advertising on the main site with a revenue share and each site has a specific business model that we share with the owner. Our target is that the ad revenue alone should exceed parking revenue because our sites attract search engine traffic and link traffic as well as direct navigation traffic. This means that the site specific revenue and the sub-domain fees are additional sources of revenue to the owner.  For many of the domains we work with, we are building real, functioning businesses supported by sales and marketing which increases the overall asset value of the name.

Left of the Dot

Mike:  While I know the concept has been in beta, can you share some statistics on your success to date?

Chris: It is still early because www.villa.com was the first site on our new platform, however I can say that we are already exceeding the previous revenue by a considerable factor, traffic is growing, the number of sub-domains is ahead of target and the site specific business is generating income. So all in all we are very pleased at this stage.

Mike:  How are sub-domains treated by search engines such as Google?

Chris: Provided the sub-domains are tightly relevant, contain valuable content and provide a positive visitor experience they do very well. For example we have one name in development that has 300 pre-existing sub-domains and over 150 of them rank 1 – 3 for their term in the Google SERP’s. We know that Google is, quite correctly, constantly on the lookout for people that are gaming the system and one of the strengths of our model is that real experts have a vested, financial interest in making their sub-domains as valuable to visitors as possible. We believe in the old adage that if you are fair with Google, Google is fair with you. And since every domain name represents a silo of knowledge around a specific vertical or topic, and every sub-domain – though treated as its own site in the eyes of the engines — supports this silo of knowledge, but with a more-specific concept match, then this becomes valuable, relevant information for the search engines themselves. In short, we are being nice to Google.

Mike: Do you think some end users will see this as a better alternative to some of the newer TLDs, such as .CO?

Chris: Definitely, with any non .com tld you are always faced with the battle of inspiring potential visitor confidence and creating SEO from a standing start. Would you rather buy mexicanvilla.co, build a site, create content, try to get it to rank as a new site on a new domain name and manage your own hosting or would you rather pay a monthly fee to have www.Mexican.Villa.com that comes with a starter site where you simply add your content, that gets legitimate support from a large, authority site and where the hosting and technical support are taken care of for you. Domainers may like option 1, but the vast majority of individuals or small businesses favour the second option, it is simply easier, more accessible and lower risk.

Mike:  Are you currently accepting domain submissions for the LOTD service?  If so, what criteria are required to qualify?

Chris:  Our plan is to launch no more than a few sites per month initially and we have enough premium domain names available to us for a while. The response from Domainers has been excellent. With that said we are always looking for great names that we can work with and our individual site launch schedule is flexible as we are offered new names.
Our current primary categories are Business Categories, Geo Domains and Professions. We are also interested in rolling out to Product Categories and potentially Social Groups. At this stage all of our names must be premium, category defining and .com.

Mike:  What means are you using to get the word out about LOTD?

Chris: Well, so far we have had great support from our existing contacts within the Domaining industry. Many people have contacted us to ask about Left of the Dot, offer help or suggestions and suggest names that may be suitable. We have presented a couple of times at TRAFFIC and we will be at DOMAINFest. We realize that there are a limited number of people that own suitable names and we will approach these people on an individual basis.
We have a detailed marketing and publicity plan for each of the sites that we launch and these target the individual markets specifically. You are probably more likely to hear about Left of the Dot via one of our sites than you are about us as a company – exactly in the way that you heard about us!

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Checking in on Auctionpus

Auctionpus hit the scene last year and I talked to founder Andrei Polgar back in May.  I thought it would be interesting to check back with Andrei and see what’s new, what’s changed, and what he has learned in the short time he’s spent in the auction space so far.

Mike:  It’s been a few month since our last discussion.  What have you learned about domain auctions in that time that has passed?

Andrei: I’ve learned the most important lesson after adding the marketplace and noticing that we’ve been moving a lot of inventory as of that point. Most people would rather simply drop by every once in a while and analyze a large-ish list like the one we have at our marketplace than visit the site each day. All of our domains are priced to sell and I’m glad to see that I’ve managed to generate quite a few win-win situations through Auctionpus, especially after adding the marketplace.

Mike:  Who do you feel is your competition in the auction arena today?

Andrei:  The thing is, each auction site pretty much has its own niche and Auctionpus makes no exception. In my opinion, the existing platforms complement each other and that’s great for the industry IMO.

Mike:  Are you seeing any consistencies in the types of domains that are being submitted?  How about the types of domains being sold?

Andrei:  To be perfectly honest, most of the domains that are being submitted wouldn’t sell and since I don’t want people to lose money by listing domains which probably won’t receive bids, I prefer to simply not list them and focus on my own portfolio instead.  My company owns a lot of great domains, mostly two and three-word exact match dot coms and I price them to sell, so focusing on my own portfolio makes sense at this point. Relying on third party submissions is tricky because most people either submit domains with no inherent value or decent domains priced unrealistically.

Auctionpus
Mike:  Has there been any change in the average sale price you are seeing?I noticed that today’s bidding reserves were all set at $45.  Have you found that to be the most effective reserve or are you still experimenting?

Andrei: the average price of the domains we auction daily is $45 and as far as the marketplace is concerned, you can either buy domains directly at $65 or send them to auction at $55. Most of the domains are bought directly through our marketplace and as a result, $65 can be considered our average sales price. Back when starting out, I was aiming for an average sales price that was about 8 times higher than the current one but you know what, if “investment grade domains at wholesale prices” ended up being our niche, so be it. Investors get to buy great domains which they can easily flip and we move inventory, so as long as win-win situations are being generated, it’s all good.

Mike:  What has been your best sale to date?

Andrei: We’re not even listing high priced domains anymore and while we might experiment with some 4 or 5 figure domains in the future, I’ve decided to brand Auctionpus as the place where you can buy investment grade domains on the cheap even though that wasn’t my initial plan. At the end of the day, we’re here to keep buyers happy and if it’s wholesale they want, so be it 🙂

Mike:  What are your plans for running and promoting AuctionPus.com for the rest in 2011?

Andrei: Branding Auctionpus.com as the #1 place where you can buy domains at wholesale prices is the name of the game. Some platforms focus on keeping both buyers and sellers happy, we focus exclusively on keeping buyers happy by pricing our domains to sell. As long as we’re moving inventory and generating win-win situations while we’re at it, the business model will definitely not change.

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Two Guys, a Domain, and a Garage Sale

Jonathon Papsin is the co-founder and CEO of Tag Sell It Inc. He currently specializes in residential real estate brokerage in New York, NY. When not working the real estate market and meeting with clients, Jonathon is focused on business development and managerial operations of Tagsellit.com.

Matthew Dorman is the co-founder and CTO of Tag Sell It Inc. Matthew works as a technology consultant for Fortune 100 companies that have offices in New York, NY. Matt specializes in the technology development and handles all technical customer service issues. Matt has also built 4 iPhone Applications for the company.

Mike:  Tell me a bit about the company and Tagsellit.com.

Jonathon: Tagsellit.com is a virtual garage sale website, launched in 2008 to help people who didn’t physically have a front yard or garage to create a virtual garage sale. It’s a free service enabling sellers to post an unlimited number of items with photos on our site for sale (ideal for city dwellers). For buyers, it connects them with garage sale bargains from around the country, virtually. It’s great for someone looking for a unique item they wouldn’t otherwise find in their neighborhood weekend yard sale.

We’ve been in business since October 2007, but didn’t launch the site until May of 2008. We had a lot of background work to accomplish in order to produce a site of this size with so many capabilities. Currently Matthew and I run the entire site by ourselves, we each own the company 50/50.

Mike:  tagsellit.com is a unique concept.  How did you arrive at the idea for this site?

Jonathon: I’ve always been intrigued by repurposing secondhand items. When I was a kid I used to scout out cool and novelty items at flea markets and garage sales. In college, I was an entrepreneur using eBay to sell secondhand goods and items for friends. It was a fun side gig for a college student. Once I graduated and landed my first apartment, I had quite a few items I wanted to get rid of at once and eBay wouldn’t cut it and Craigslist was frustrating because they discourage virtual sales (listing more than 4 items). I set out to design a garage sale website that would enable people who rented apartments (like myself) or didn’t have a front yard or garage (city dwellers) to upload and unlimited number of photos of items from around their homes they wanted to sell. It’s perfect if you don’t want to go through the effort of an entire weekend garage sale, you can discreetly sell your items while they stay posted on our site for 30 days.

Mike:  What characteristics were you looking for when searching for the right domain name?  Do you feel like you captured exactly what you were looking for?

Jonathon: I was searching for the domain name in October 2007 and didn’t know much about domains and their relevance to search engine optimization. It took a solid hour of playing with words to land something I was excited about. Initially I didn’t feel entirely confident in what I had captured, but after a few imitator sites popped up, I feel that our domain name is special and has a unique value. If you break down our domain name, Tag Sell It, we emphasize the “Sell It” part, meaning we want people to sell their items. Tag comes from “Tag Sale” which is what I grew up with in the Northeast, referring to yard sales or garage sales.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives?

Jonathon: Our site’s services and purpose is sometimes subject to the seasonal nature of garage sales. Our traffic peaks in the summer months and slows down in the winter months. I think once more people realize they can use our site to buy and sell year-round the cyclical nature might flatten itself out. We average about 30,000 uniques per month at this point.

Mike:  You’ve received reviews from some pretty large media outlets such as about.com, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.  Is there a secret to getting that kind of coverage?

Jonathon: At the beginning of 2009 when our site emerged out of beta testing, we immediately hired a local PR company to help us spread the word about what our business does. They did a decent job at getting us some local press, but nothing remarkable and we felt like we were spinning our wheels, so we didn’t maintain that relationship for very long. Being mentioned is nice but when our name is mentioned, it has to make a “call to action” statement to readers. For example, I didn’t agree with the NY Times article at all, it had a negative connotation to it and the fact checking on the article was poor.

As for the other press we’ve received, the majority has been our own efforts, seeking media opportunities online, contacting individuals and using our own networks to help us get introduced to the decision makes to write about our service.

Mike:  How are you marketing the site?

Jonathon: Early on we used to advertise on Google but having boot-strapped the development of this business, we became very budget conscious and decided to pay off our debts first.

Currently our marketing strategy revolves around Social Media, including Facebook and Twitter. Those have been great incubators for our website’s growth.

Mike:  Did you purchase the name from someone else that owned it?  If so, what was the process you went through?  Will you share what you paid for the name?

Jonathon: Since our domain name that we chose is unique, we didn’t have to pay much at all when we purchased it through GoDaddy. I think altogether for the 10-year domain name ownership and rights we paid about $100.

Mike:  Any advice for start-ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

Jonathon: I would say having something short and unique is ideal. You want to have something memorable. I think one thing that poses a challenge to us is the need to state our name clearly, some people miss it when you say “tagsellit.”

Mike:  Any other information you’d like to share?

Jonathon: Whatever it is you do online, just have fun with it!

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Lori Anne Wardi – Director at .CO Internet S.A.S.

Lori Anne Wardi is a Director at .CO Internet S.A.S.  Working closely with both agency partners and all the members of .CO team, Lori Anne is primarily responsible for overseeing the registry’s marketing strategy, business development, and global PR and communications efforts.

According to Lori Anne,  every achievement that .CO has enjoyed to date, without exception, has been the result of the combined efforts of an incredibly smart, creative and cohesive team.  While marketing may not be in everyone’s job title, Lori Anne believes it is a role that the entire .CO  team fully embraces — from the CEO onward — and recognizes to be an integral part of everyone’s job.

Mike: What is the goal and purpose of cointernet.co?

Lori: .COinternet.CO is the corporate website for .CO Internet, S.A.S., the registry responsible for managing, promoting and administering the .CO domain. From COinternet.CO, we have a platform to speak to the wide range of individuals, organizations and businesses who are interested in learning about .CO domain names — from domain registrars and resellers; to brand owners, domain investors, registrants and end-users; to members of the press and industry analysts.

The site is our corporate “home base” and where we keep the world updated about our plans, policies, auctions, events and upcoming opportunities. Our blog is, in particular, becoming an increasingly important element of COinternet.CO/blog – as it let’s us quickly and easily stay in touch with the .CO community.

The other website I want to point out is www.Opportunity.CO – this is where we showcase all the great things people are creating on .CO domain names.  I encourage anyone who has developed a site they are proud of on a .CO domain to submit it to our directory on Opportunity.CO for all to see!

Mike: Tell us about the goal and purpose of the .CO domain itself?

Lori:  These days no matter who you are, what you do or where you live, branding your online presence has never been more important.  At the most basic level, our aim is to offer people around the world the opportunity to brand their online presence with a truly global, recognizable, and credible domain name — the perfect web address they may have always wanted, but until now, thought they could never have.

Beyond branding, our goal is to build the premier global platform for opportunity online.  We want to inspire millions of people to stop wishing, hoping and thinking about those big dreams, innovative ideas, noble aspirations and lifelong goals they’ve been carrying around in their hearts forever — and to start turning them into realities.  With a .CO domain as a platform – the opportunities people can create for their lives and their livelihoods are truly endless.  Helping to bring these opportunities to life is what we are all about.

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Mike: Tell me how .CO gained so much support?

Lori: Since our launch, we have experienced an extraordinary amount of support. So far, over 600,000 domain names have been registered and that number continues to grow — as does the number of fantastic developed web sites that are popping up every day.

I think there are a lot of reasons for the support, the most basic of which are hard work, good planning and careful industry engagement.

Before we tried to sell our first domain name, we did our best to ensure that our product would be world class – including a very strong policy framework.  From partnering with Neustar as our registry back end technology provider; to partnering with Deloitte to ensure that the rights of brand owners were protected throughout the process; to partnering with the world’s leading domain registrars and resellers to distribute .CO domains around the globe — we knew early on that we would need premium partners to create and maintain a premium product.

We also took a lot of care to understand our target market – and the broader competitive landscape. Domain names are not a commodity product – and in all of our marketing efforts we did our best to speak directly to the hearts and minds of the people who buy domain names – not to the industry itself.  I think this has definitely helped us to garner support.

We’re pretty inspired by what we are doing – and, hopefully, some of that comes through – and that gets translated in a way that makes marketers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, small business owners and others who buy domain names excited about doing the things that inspire them – on a .CO domain name!

Mike: What was Colombia’s motivation behind opening the TLD up globally, while other countries like to restrict registration to their own countries?

Lori:  While some countries do seek to restrict the registration of country code top-level domains, more and more countries are beginning to liberalize their domains.  Not only are more countries allowing foreign registration of domain names – but more are also actively promoting their domains internationally.

The decision of the Colombian government to liberalize its country code came as a result of nearly 10 years of debate and consideration.  Colombia had been approached countless times through the years by folks who recognized that .CO was a unique digital asset with broad global appeal – and requested that the domain be “opened up” globally.

The letters “CO” are meaningful, memorable and recognizable across countries, continents and languages.  Not only does “CO” literally mean “company” in many places, it is also the pre-fix that means “that which you do with another” (e.g., “COmmunicate,” “COllaborate,” “COnnect,” for example) – which helps to easily expand the viability of the .CO platform to a wide variety of purposes that go far beyond just business or commercial use.

After an intense public consultative process with the local Internet community, Colombia put in place the necessary legal and policy framework to ensure that .CO could be rolled out globally in a safe, secure and stable manner. Ultimately, this led to an intense government procurement process, where .CO Internet SAS was awarded the contract to manage, operate and promote the .CO domain.

Mike: It’s been said that .CO is treated similar to .COM, .NET and .ORG as far as search engines are concerned.  Is that true?  Could a good .CO out rank a .COM?

Google has said, specifically, that “we will rank .CO domains appropriately if the content  is globally targeted.”  Webmasters now have the functionality to be able to specify global use by using the geo-targeting options in the Webmaster Tools that Google provides.  The answer is that Google does treat .CO domains in the same way as it treats as other generic top level domain names – like .com, .net and .org.  There are many cases of .CO domains ranking well in the search engines – and they simply require that people build quality sites, focus on adding unique, relevant content, and gaining back links, etc.  All the same things that help any website rank will ensure that websites build on .CO domain names will rank as well.

Mike: What are some premium .CO names that have been developed?

There are tons of them and more coming every day.  You can see a variety on www.Opportunity.CO .  Some of my personal favorites are www.Angel.co , www.BZA.co, www.TMG.CO and www.Challenge.CO .  Also, in one of the most exciting developments for us, Overstock.com has rebranded all of its international sites to www.O.CO   — and have been using the domain in all of their national television advertisements.  I think that was our first “TV” debut!

Mike: How is .CO doing in the aftermarket?  Are the names reselling well?

Lori: The reports we are getting from the pros like Kathy Nielsen, VP of Sales at SEDO, is that .CO is doing very well on the secondary market, especially considering how soon after launch it is.  You can get a sense of just how well by visiting a site like www.NameBio.com and doing a targeted search for .CO domain sales.  There are a good deal of them – and the numbers are very strong.  This said, our focus right now is on the primary market and helping to inspire people to build their names.  As the market for developed sites becomes more active, the secondary market will only get stronger.

Mike: What statistics do you have on .CO in general?

Lori: To date, individuals, organizations and businesses in approximately 200 countries worldwide have registered over 600,000 .CO domains.  While these numbers shift from month to month to some degree, the following numbers are true as of today:

  • 90% of all .CO registrants have purchased only 1 or 2 .CO domain names each.
  • 99% of all .CO registrants have purchased 10 or less .CO domains each.
  • And only 1% of all registrants have purchased 11 or more .CO domain names.

These numbers are interesting and encouraging as they suggest that we were successful in our initial goal of attracting real end-users – and limiting those interested only in massive speculation.

Mike: What is the future of .CO for businesses?

Lori: We live by the statement that “Anything is possible in the .CO era.”
We see the .CO domain as a platform for opportunity online – and the possibilities for what you can create with a .CO domain name are endless.

In the next few years we hope and expect to see .CO grow to comprise a significant portion of the fabric of the Internet – loaded with small and growing businesses, thriving communities, aspiring entrepreneurs and people from around the world fulfilling their dreams and making their homes online on .CO domains.

Mike: Anything else you would like to add?

Lori:  Mike, thanks so much for the opportunity to speak to you and your readers.  Two last things: first) stay tuned for this year’s Super Bowl, when the hot new Go Daddy .CO Girl will be unveiled!  And second) i.CO will be up for auction in the coming  weeks. Talk about Hot!  Visit www.i.CO for all the details — and please, spread the word!

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