Tag - domain name examples

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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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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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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Four Characteristics of Highly Effective Tech Leaders

Mark Zuckerberg - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009

Hollywood has always had a way of glamorizing and rewriting any reality into a two hour entertaining story that captivates us all.  We’ve seen it with biographies and historical portrayals of sports figures, political leaders, musicians and more.  There’s no reason it should be any different for technology leaders.  While watching The Social Network, I couldn’t help but draw some similarities between the Mark Zuckerberg character and that of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs from the late 90’s film, Pirates of Silicon Valley.  Is Hollywood telling us entertaining stories or providing the characteristics of what it takes to be successful?

Four Characteristics of Our Tech Leaders (according to Hollywood):

Be young – One must be a massive success by late teens or early 20’s.  I mean let’s face it, if you can’t be a billionaire before you can legally order your first beer, you might as well hang it up.  I’d even suggest dropping out of college to focus on your first billion.  That formal education will really just slow you down.

Have a superiority complex – It also helps to be better than everyone else.  Our technology heroes, as portrayed in the movies, each had a chip on their shoulder.  Mark clearly outclassed his girlfriend and partner and college classmates, Steve worked people to the edge of sanity and then called them worthless, and Bill was always one move ahead of Steve.

Steal Ideas – This is key.  There is no way to be successful at the billionaire level without stealing the whole foundation of your business from someone else.  It all starts with a good idea… someone else’s good idea.  Mark got his idea from two former college classmates, Steve got his idea from Zerox, and Bill… well Bill took the idea from Steve.  All is fair in love and technology.

Be Deceptive – Stealing the idea alone is not enough.  After tricking your trusted friends or business partners into giving you their great ideas, you must then avoid contact with them as much as possible.  It helps to lie, tell them you’re busy, or down play exactly what you are doing with the idea.  This one comes naturally, it seems.

I have to admit, I love a good movie.  With all that goes into writing a good script, convincing actors, award winning production and direction, it’s easy to see it as real.  As the credits roll, remember that it’s a movie.  Movies may be based in facts, but they are seldom the reality.

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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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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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Real People Doing Real Business

In January 2009, Brenda Jones started 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments for breast cancer. She absolutely hated having to wear those horrific hospital gowns.  So, she decided to make her own to wear.  She came up with a design for a kimono style wrap that opens in the front, comes to the hip in length and has a belt.  “I never dreamed that my design would catch on with other patients but it has.  I have been hand making & sewing them ever since.”  She does not have any employees but does have help from an occasional volunteer.  Her friend, Jeff, is doing all the website work.  It has been up about 8 months now and work is still progressing.

Mike:  The domain name, HugWraps.com, clearly has meaning.  Tell me what you were looking for when searching for the right name.

Brenda:  The name actually found me!  When I tried on the first finished wrap I had made, I immediately thought, “this feels like a nice warm hug”.  So, I combined the 2 words, switched them around and got Hug Wraps.  I have so many people comment that the name is so perfectly suited to the product.  When you think or say the name Hug Wraps….you can actually visualize in your head,  giving someone a nice warm hug.


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

Brenda:  Right now, being so new, we have not gotten that far as to track traffic.

Hug Wraps

Mike: What kind of feedback have you received from your customers?

Brenda:  “What a great name and product”, “Such an inspiring story” , “I came across your name on a Google search” “Saw you on TV or read about you in the newspaper”, “I wish I had a Hug Wrap when I was going thru my cancer treatments”,  “I like your colorful website”

Mike:  How do you go about marketing your product and your site?  Do you use online methods such as pay per click advertising, search engine optimization?

Brenda:  I have gotten a lot of media attention for what I do for cancer patients.  TV, newspaper, magazine, radio and blog interviews have helped me get my story with Hug Wraps all over the country.  All interviews include a  link to my website.  I have made visits to hospitals to personally give Hug Wraps to patients.   Because of all this publicity, I have a large presence on Google search.  When I give out Hug Wraps and the patients love my product, I ask that they help me spread what I do through their emails, facebook and twitter.  I also speak at various cancer support groups, churches and cancer survivor events.

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

Brenda:  Choose a name that comes from your heart.  Something people can connect with on a personal level.


Mike:  Have you faced any challenges with running an online business?

Brenda:  Being online, you can get emails from all over the world.  Sooner or later, the scams start to appear.  That’s frustrating.

Mike:  Anything else you’d like to add?

Brenda: The biggest thing to tackle is fear.  Once you have that under control, roll up your sleeves and get to work.

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Are you a Regular Domainer?

Jeff Fields owns stayregularnow.com along with his wife Neda. They live in Austin, TX where Jeff works on the business full time and Neda works in the IT field. Both of them have a passion for naturopathic medicine and the ways it can bring healing to the body.  On a side note, Jeff contacted me because he was pretty busy during the interview process.  His exact words were, “I’m a little backed up.”

Mike:  Tell me how you became involved in this line of work?

Jeff: Our business was born out of an interest in helping people that suffer from chronic constipation. We had several friends and family members that complained of not being “regular” and having painful cramping and gas. The doctors they visited often just prescribed additional fiber or diagnosed them with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Our knowledge of natural solutions for this issue led us to send our friends several bottles of different supplements in the mail. We called it giving them the “Gift of Regularity”.  Sure enough, about a week after the bottles arrived, we started to get feedback that things were going “smoothly”, if you will. We decided that if we could combine the ingredients together into one holistic supplement, we could help a lot of people that had limited options. We bid out the project to different facilities that complied with Certified Good Manufacturing Processes (cGMP) and StayRegular was born!

We are a new company, having started full operations in the summer of 2010, though our site has been online since 2009 in one form or another. This is because we did micro-testing without the product being available to establish baseline levels of demand prior to ordering the product for manufacture.

Mike:  What characteristics were you looking for when selecting a domain for your business?

Jeff: We wanted to have the name of the product (StayRegular) in the domain name, but found that the name itself was already taken and the owners wanted a decent amount of money for it. At the time we were just starting out (the product hadn’t even been produced yet) and so we decided to just add “now” to the url and buy that fairly inexpensively.

In retrospect it might have been good to purchase a hyphenated name or a name with more keywords in it, but we felt it was important to build up the brand, even if it took meant more work on the SEO side initially.

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

Jeff: Since the site is fairly young our traffic is increasing every month. But last month we had about 1,000 unique visitors and it continues to improve as we rank for more keywords and continue to build content on the site.

End User Domains

Mike:  You offer a 110% money back guarantee on your product.  Has that worked well to help those customers that might be unsure about making a purchase?

Jeff: Absolutely – we say “no questions asked” and we mean it. The guarantee shows the trust we have in the product and the extra 10% is effectively a “thank you” to the customer for trying the product, even if it didn’t work for them.  We’ve had a very low return rate so far so I think the pros have outweighed the cons.

Mike:  How are you marketing the website?

Jeff: We started with some PPC ads but found that they were expensive and didn’t convert as well as organic search efforts. Since then we have focused primarily on SEO. Our strategy mainly revolves around building up good quality content on the site that will be useful to people seeking help with this issue.

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

Jeff: Try to choose the right one the first time because once you’ve put the SEO work into a domain you won’t want to throw that ranking authority out if you switch to a new domain. I think you can either go with the branding URL like we did or find a keyword with decent traffic (and low competition) that hasn’t been bought and go for that to get a jump on your SEO.

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

Jeff:  We probably won’t sell it without selling the whole business  (which is currently all direct sales), which we are not looking to do anytime soon.

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

Jeff: One of the best things about working in this particular sector is the plethora of puns that are available to have fun with. When I walk through a crowd at a party and here someone saying something like “Your full of sh&%!”, I just hand that person a business card and I’ve done my good deed for the day 🙂

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Branding, SEO and Social Networking

Go See Campus helps high school students and parents plan campus visits online and make the most of the college search. Its signature application, The College Trip Planner, is a first-of-its-kind web tool that connects users to tours, information sessions, and other admissions activities at hundreds of schools. They can download campus maps, get parking directions, and make travel arrangements from the site. Dates and times are saved in itineraries students can take on the road.

According to founder Kevin Preis, the site had a quiet launch in March 2010 to prepare for the fall admissions season. It is managed by Augmental, a company that provides content development services and search engine optimization to clients in a variety of industries.

Mike:  You chose a brandable name for your online business, GoSeeCampus.com.  What characteristics were you looking for in a domain name?

Kevin: I wanted a domain name that was both descriptive and evocative. Go See Campus explains what the site helps you do, and it also brings to mind the college trip experience. Marketing research and search engine optimization were key factors in choosing the final domain name. While other names I considered were descriptive, Go See Campus tied most closely with my audience’s sentiments about hitting the road to visit schools: excitement, nostalgia, and so on.

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?

Kevin: I purchased the domain name directly from a domain registrar.

Mike:  Can you share the traffic stats your site receives?

Kevin:

59% Direct Traffic

21% Referring Sites

20% Search Engines

Mike:  I see a screen shot on the site that shows a pretty cool feature.  Potential students can select colleges and majors and see what percentage of applicants are accepted.  How do you collect this data?  Are there other, similarly cool features?

Kevin: Thanks, I’m pretty excited about it as well! The data sources throughout the site are a mixture of publicly-available information and primary research. The college search tool you mentioned lets students find schools in which they have interest. Then, they can add these schools to a college trip plan. It saves students and parents tons of time because they can learn about different admissions activities on each campus and then create their itineraries.
GoSeeCampus

Mike:  How do you market the site?  Do you use online strategies, offline strategies, or both?

Kevin: Yes, it’s a combination of offline and online, including social media, search engine optimization, partnerships, and public relations.

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

Kevin: Domain names are extremely important, but finding a good one is not as rare as you might think. Start with understanding your audience and how the product serves it, and then work through the related keywords and semantic phrases. There are a few good domain name suggestion tools that can help you as well.

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

Kevin: Whether you blog, Tweet, or share content in other ways off-site, remember to keep your brand name consistent. For example, I stick with Go See Campus on Facebook or Go See Campus on Twitter. If someone has snatched up your name on these sites before you could, look for other ways to tie back into the brand or to slightly vary your account name. Better yet, look at the availability of a brand name on major social media sites before you settle on one for your website.

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The Hangover Cure, Just In Time For NewYear’s

Anthony Adams is the creator of  THC-The Hangover Cure, an all-natural dietary supplement formulated to, you guessed it, help with hangover symptoms after a night of debauchery. Adams has grown his brand using low-cost online marketing tactics like blogging and search engine optimization. The Hangover Cure has customers in 40 countries and six continents since its creation 2 years ago.

Mike: Tell me how you came into the Hangover business.

Anthony: I was laid off from IBM in early 2009 and had been kicking around the idea of starting a hangover prevention supplement since college a few years before. I had no formal knowledge of the supplement industry or selling online or anything like that so it really started from scratch. Luckily, my mom has a background in holistic medicine and supplements and she helped put my product’s formula together with my friends and I serving as guinea pigs, albeit very drunk ones. I officially formed my LLC in February of 2009 and a month later had my first batch of The Hangover Cure ready for sale. My site has been online since March of 2009 if memory serves me correctly. I currently employee two full time employees and work with a number of outsourced fulfillment houses and drop-shippers as well as independent distributors worldwide.

Mike: Word on the street is that those in the domain industry can party. Does The Hangover Cure really work? How?

Anthony: We can party! If I didn’t believe in its effectiveness I would never have taken it as far as I have. Obviously nothing is going to help you if you go out and drink a bottle of whiskey or something crazy like that but for people who want to go out and have a few drinks with friends during the work week and then function the next morning in the office, it’s a lifesaver. The Hangover Cure is formulated to prevent every symptom of a hangover, which no other product on the market does. So you rehydrate your body with water and electrolytes, replenish your body with vitamins and minerals you lose during a night of drinking, and prevent toxins from building up as a result of your liver metabolizing alcohol. We also added amino acids like L-Glutamine to help with digestion and upset stomach the next morning. Like I said, it does have its limits but we have customers worldwide who swear by it.

Mike: DrinkTHC.com is easy enough to remember once you’ve been introduced to the product. Tell me what you were looking for when selecting a domain name?

Anthony: This is actually my biggest regret with my branding. I knew nothing about SEO when I started out and I originally purchased www.the-hangover-cure.com, which is still active, before getting frustrated and moving to www.drinkthc.com because I wanted something that was easy to remember and couldn’t be confused with a competing hangover site. It’s also a short, 8 letter URL. While it does work “drink” into the URL, which is nice, I really wish I had a domain with the term “hangover cure” in it without being too wordy.

Mike: Just poking around, I found the following names available:
hangover-cure.net
hangovercure.co
thehangovercure.org and
thehangovercure.co

Had you considered hyphens or the dot co TLD when making your selection?

Anthony: I have since purchased www.thehangovercure.net and www.thehangovercure.com which I have yet to really develop. If I could start over I would have just gone with www.thehangovercure.com but by the time it came up for sale, I was already far enough along in the SEO and marketing process with www.drinkthc.com to go back. I might eventually have www.thehangovercure.com redirect to www.drinkthc.com and start promoting that domain more. I had never considered a dot co when I started out though, although I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I still think a dot com is king in the short term.

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

Anthony: My site typically ranks in the top 4-5 Google search results for “hangover cure” which can drive anywhere from 30 to 200+ people a day to the site, depending on time of day. We typically get the most traffic on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which I assume corresponds with people waking up with a hangover, going on Google searching for “hangover cure” or “hangover drink” etc. and finding my site naturally. I think over the past year we have consistently averaged 3,000 hits a month.

Mike: Do you have online marketing strategies that you follow (google ads, seo, banners on other sites, etc.?)

Anthony: I like Google AdWords and used it starting out but organic SEO is really the name of the game. I spent about a year learning SEO and it’s helped out my business tremendously with all the free advertising and site traffic we get from all over the world. I do use banners on other sites but this is primarily to get a good link back to my own site vs. actually getting clicks from it. I always recommend getting SEO work done on the competitive, expensive PPC terms and then maybe putting a little AdWords money out there targeting long-tail, niche search terms that are going to be much more affordable.

Mike: What advice do you have for others that have a product to sell online? What has roadblocks have you overcome?

Anthony: I know there is a big push out there for businesses to use Twitter and Facebook and social media in general and that’s great, but it’s not the core focus of your business. Focus on SEO, it’s insanely more effective than sitting around all day Tweeting and posting updates on your Facebook page. I would avoid advertising on Facebook. I tried it when I started out and the results paled in comparison to Google AdWords. And I think the reason is that with Google, people are telling you what they want, right then. If someone searches for “buy hangover cure” they are allowing me the opportunity to put my business in front of them. It’s reactive vs. being proactive like virtually every other form of advertising on the planet and just bugging people. We TiVo through commercials, we change the radio when an ad comes on, etc. Same thing with Facebook. Just because my Facebook profile says I like the movie “The Dark Knight” doesn’t mean I want to buy some company’s Batman statue for $99. But guess what, if I am bored at work and messing around on Facebook and I see that ad with the little picture of something that looks like Batman, I might click it and cost you $4 out of curiosity. But I don’t have my wallet out, I never told you I want to buy something. Compare that with someone going on Google and searching “Buy Batman Statue” and I think it’s pretty clear what has a higher conversion rate.

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

Anthony: Unless you have a huge financial backing, which most start-ups don’t, get yourself an SEO-friendly name that works in one or two keywords. A site like Hulu can spend millions on TV commercials educating people on what Hulu is, but the name Hulu is essentially meaningless outside of being easy to remember and short. Most of us can’t afford to play that game. That’s why I wish I started out using www.thehangovercure.com for my site selling a hangover cure. DrinkTHC.com is short but means very little. And don’t be afraid of .co, .net, .me, etc. Just focus on SEO and getting quality links to your site and you will get customers.

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Turning Passion Into a Successful Business – LoveSongs.com

Vincent James creates custom love songs for couples and families worldwide for many occasions including Weddings, Anniversaries, Birthdays and holidays. Over the last several years he’s written dozens of custom songs for clients in the US and abroad including Canada, Austrailia, UK and Singapore.  Vincent also owns the domain LoveSongs.com and shares a little bit about his business and the domain.

Mike:  Can you give a little background on your business?  How long you’ve had your site online, etc.

Vincent:  I started LoveSongs.com just about 10 years ago.  I was just searching online looking at different things and found the domain parked and immediately I thought wow….my musical style is love songs and it would be absolutely amazing if LoveSongs.com were for sale (at the time it wasn’t listed for sale).   So I contacted the owners of the site and it turned out they were looking to raise some funds for another site they were building so yes they were interested.  Within a few weeks I had launched the first incarnation of LoveSongs.com

Mike:  Has has owning the domain impacted your business?

Vincent:  Actually before I had LoveSongs.com I had never written custom songs before.  I had written many songs both for myself as an artist and sometimes for other artists.   But it wasn’t until after I had launched the first version of the website that I started thinking what would make sense for the domain.   So the domain actually helped create the idea for custom songs even though its something I could have been doing all along.

Mike:  Who contacts you for custom love songs?  How does the process work?  Do your clients provide you with the background information and you take it from there?

Vincent:  I get contacted by couples looking for a wedding song, husbands and wives looking for anniversary songs and guys/gals just looking for a very special gift for a holiday or birthday for their significant other.    I email out a questionnaire for them to fill out and I ask them to tell me as much information as they feel comfortable in sharing.  I then sit down at the piano and use their story as inspiration to create their song.   Whats interesting is some of the best songs I’ve ever written were custom songs… simply because the inspiration came from real people and real emotions instead of something I was dreaming up in my head.

Mike:  What has been the strangest song request you’ve received?

Vincent:  Hmmm….I’ve done a song for a child’s pet horse (“Magnum Opus”) and I’ve done a song for Lionel Richie’s birthday that was commissioned by his official fan club (“So Many Songs”).   Perhaps the most interesting song I’ve done was for a radio station contest a few years back.   The station DJ’s and I both expected the winner to request a romantic song for their love….however the contest winner was a young mother who had recently given up their child for adoption..she wanted a song to tell the story of how she felt so she could play it for them some day if she ever got the chance.   I wrote the song and recorded a basic demo in one night and they aired it the next morning on the radio.   Being a parent myself I was so touched by the song that I did a full recording of it and included it on my “One More Night” CD and have played it out at many shows to tell the story.  The name of the song is called “So Many Things” and you can hear it at www.lovesongs.com/adoption

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

Vincent:  We get approximately 1000 unique visitors per day from all over the world..maybe 30-35% from the US and the rest from every country you can imagine.

Mike:  I see you have Google Adsense on your site.  Does that generate significant revenue for you?

Vincent:  I wouldn’t call it signifcant but it definitely covers the cost of running the site and I’ll also be using that revenue to do a full remodel of the website next year.    Most of the income I currently generate off the site is from the Custom Songs.

Mike:  Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow (google ads, seo, banners on other sites, etc.?)

Vincent:  Currently we do not…all the traffic we receive is organic in nature from the Search engines or people just typing in LoveSongs.com .   Once the website is remodeled in early 2011 we will be utilizing several online advertising methods to draw in new traffic.


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?

Vincent:  Yes and I definitely wish I had the foresight to register it myself several years earlier 🙂    What I usually tell folks is that for the price I paid for LoveSongs.com I could have gotten a brand new compact car..the difference is 10 years later the car would probably be gone and 10 years later the domain is still going strong earning revenue.

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

Vincent:  I might be willing to sell it some day but the asking price would need to be significantly more then what I originally paid for it.   I have gotten dozens of offers over the years…most have not included a started price but the few that have usually start out close to what I originally paid.

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

Vincent:  I’m absolutely amazed how the internet has allowed me to write and record songs for people all over the world.  In the past year alone I’ve written songs for clients in Austrailia, Canada, India and Singapore.   I’m just thrilled to be able to share what I do with so many people and cultures across the globe.

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Zap Your Crap

William L. Horvath II is the owner of Laser It All,  specializing in custom etching of company branding.  He owns a couple of domains and agreed to share his experiences.

Mike:  Tell me a little bit about the business and how long you have been in operation.

William: It started in 2007 when I read an article about Limor Fried doing laser engraving on laptops.  Making a (very) long story short, I purchased a laser and asked my wife to take the lead on that business, which was started as a subsidiary of my other company, DoX Systems.  We originally operated under the name Tech Tattoos, and were focused on the B2C market for laser engraving of electronics.  After we started discovering what else we could do with the laser (on glass, stone, tile, wood, plastic, etc.), we decided the name Tech Tattoos was too limiting, so we came up with Laser It All.  We spun Laser It All off as its own company this past April, and my wife (Jen) is now the majority shareholder.

Mike:  You own LaserItAll.com as your main website domain.  How has owning the domain been beneficial to your business?

William: Aside from being eponymous with the name of the company, the domain name captures the essence of what we’re about, which is that we can laser engrave, mark, or cut just about anything.  The benefit is that it clarifies to our potential customers the great variety of things we can do.  As a result, we’ve gotten a lot of work that, in the software business, we call ‘corner cases’: Odd, challenging jobs (like engraving a tile surround for a fireplace, or cutting acrylic for a one-off R&D project) for which the laser is a perfect solution.  These kinds of needs don’t come up for any particular person very often, but when they do, it’s nice for them to know a solution exists.  To be candid, we make more money off the large B2B orders (such as a conference organizer who’s ordered a large number of laser-etched moleskin notebooks from us to give away as swag), but the corner-case kinds of jobs are what makes it fun.

Mike:  You also own ZapYourCrap.com as a secondary name that is currently pointing to the main site.  Catchy name.  Tell me where you came up with this and how you use the name to promote the business.

William: Kudos goes to one of my DoX Systems staff, Brian Knoblauch, for coming up with that domain name.  It turned out to be ‘marketing by accident’ — When we were just starting out, the domain for our original name, techtattoos.com, was already taken, so we snagged tech-tattoos.com.  I knew that most people would never remember the hyphen if they saw it in (e.g.) a TV commercial, so we started brainstorming ideas for an easy-to-remember domain that captured the essence of what we were doing (laser engraving of electronics) at the time.  Thus ZapYourCrap.com was born.  It turned out to be a great move — Everyone laughs, and remembers it, when they hear it.

Mike:  Do you do any form of marketing?

William:  We’ve done newspaper ads in the Toledo City Paper, as well as TV commercials.  Of the two, the TV commercials had a much more significant impact (Though to be fair, we didn’t spend as much money on the paper ads.)  We also tried the yellow book, and put up a place page on Google.  Renee Pinter (our general manager) has been doing a good job keeping up with our social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) campaign.  We’ve gotten most of our B2B business, however, by networking: BNI meetings, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce events, EPIC (the local young professional’s organization) events, etc..  We’re also currently running a promotion with a coupon that you can bring in for $5 off an order of $25 or more, or that you can give to a friend, in which case she gets the $5 off her minimum $25 order, and we’ll pay you $5 in cash as well the next time you’re in.  We just started this campaign a couple of days ago, so it’s too early to tell how effective it will be.

Mike:  Are you aware of any keywords or phrases that you rank well for in the search engines?

William: I’m personally not aware.  I’m not terribly concerned about that problem at the moment, as we’re not doing online sales yet.  Once we move into the national marketplace, SEO optimization will become a much bigger issue for us.

Mike:  what advice do you have for anyone looking for a domain name for their business?

William: It’s great to get YourCompanyName.com, however there’s a lot(!) to be said for getting something easy to remember, even if you have to resort to one of the lesser-used TLDs.  Whatever you select should ideally be directly related to the products or services you provide — That (in my opinion) is what makes it truly ‘catchy’.   A used car company might be able to get A1234567.com, which is easy to remember out of context, but if their potential clients are thinking about cars when sitting at the computer trying to remember the domain they saw for two seconds on a billboard, I’ll bet they’d do better with WeAreInTheUsedCar.Biz.

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10 More Great Keyword Domains in Action

Here are some more great examples of keyword domains being used intelligently.  Business that understand the value of a keyword domain are at an advantage over those that do not.  Keyword domains rank well with search engines and the businesses also benefit from a high percentage of direct navigation or type-in traffic.  Companies large and small can take a lesson from this list.

  1. Laces.com goes to CustomPins.com
  2. tvProtectors.com loads tv-armor.com
  3. Buckets.com goes to Plastican.com, maker of plastic buckets
  4. Charms.com to Tootsie.com
  5. Jumping.com is the site for All American Trampoline & Swing
  6. EyeDrops.com forwards to Restasis.com, prescription eye drops
  7. Open.com loads American Express
  8. Pens.com is the site for National Pen
  9. Paints.com is CI Coatings website
  10. Airplanes.com is used by The Airplanes Channel
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5,500 Hits Per Day – ToeRings.com

Tracy Hoogenboom is the owner of ToeRings.com. She is married and the mother of triplets (21) plus one (19). She has worked from home for the last 20 years. She has contributed to the non-profit world at Sidelines National Support Network, and created an online support program for pregnant moms over 15 years ago. She started ToeRings.com in 2001.  She is the second parent of triplets I have interviewed this month.  As a parent of triplets myself, I assure you this is purely coincidental and not some triplet parent cult thing.

Mike:  Can you give a little background on your business?

Tracy:  Launched the site in Oct 2001. I hired a guy who developed the first online banking software to design a simple site for me. That original site was up until May of this year!  Over the years we have managed with 1-2 extra helpers in the busy season May – Sept. My two daughters and their friends have been my employees.

Mike:  What gave you the idea to start ToeRings.com?

Tracy:  About 12 years ago I went on a trip to the beach with my friend, and she took me to a booth at the local art festival to get a fitted toe ring. I was shocked how many people were waiting to get fitted! When I went home I was buying urls for investment and looked up toerings.com and it was available. I was not thinking of starting a company, but to purchase the name to re-sell at some point.

Mike:  Has has owning the domain impacted your business?

Tracy:  Well, it’s about the best domain name you can have for the business. Honestly, there were a few old-timers out there who had been in the business for years who called me and asked what my intentions were with the website. I think having the name shows the business is legit but a good site design helps as well. It doesn’t look like a click and build.

Mike: Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives? Any idea what percentage comes from people typing the domain name in (type-in) the url vs. searching?

Tracy:  In the summer we get about 5500 hits per day and about 35% of those are direct hits.

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

Tracy:  I have tried several of the PAY marketing strategies and found that they were overly expensive. I’ve recently done ads on Facebook at about $20 a day, but did not see many sales conversions coming from that. All my money has gone into SEO, making sure I get the top spot on Google search. Article linking and keywords that work are also important. I also keep all my customers on a Constant Contact database (we have about 12,000 email addresses at this point) and make sure my regular customers get emails re: special offers. For instance, we are positioning for an email to go out in the next week or so targeting holiday sales and gift certificates.

Mike:  Did you have another domain for your site before this one?

Tracy:  No but I have several other names that point to the site.

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

Tracy:  Domain names are very important. Always try and keep them short and get the .com if it’s available. Get several that are similar and point them to your site. When you tell your customers to go to your site, they will probably not remember a url that is several words put together. Try and be creative, but chose something that is spelled and pronounced easily. I recently bought toeringwholesalers.com to use as my wholesale site.

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

Tracey:  If the price was right I would consider selling the domain and the business together as it’s a nice little package. Right now we have just finished a major update and overhaul to the site’s design and functionality and we are continually looking for ways to improve and increase business.

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

Tracy:  People are usually very interested in knowing how to start an internet business. Start small and don’t expect miracles overnight. Have something unique to sell or offer. Learn from mistakes, because there will be mistakes. (I did a Google adwords campaign and it end up costing me $700 in one week!) Beware of overseas orders. Know what it takes to run a business all the time and have coverage when you go on vacation so there is no lapse in processing. Get good help from website developers – you pay for what you get.

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Twelve Days of Christmas: A Great Domain, SEO, and Results

Twelve Days, a company that offers gift items related to the Twelve Days of Christmas, was founded by the mother and son team of Mary Ellen Wolfe and Jonathon Wolfe.  They were inspired by a Christmas tradition of hanging small gifts in little boxes on their Christmas tree.  The pair always thought that other families would enjoy this tradition, too, and reserved twelvedays.com  years before the business became a reality.

Mike:  Tell me a little bit about the business.  When did you decide to move forward with the idea and how difficult was it to do so?

Jonathon:  Though we’d had the twelvedays.com domain for several years and had discussed the possibility of building a business around our family’s Twelve Days traditions for just as long, we decided to make the business a reality a little over two years ago, in the summer of 2008. Since we decided to focus on bringing our family’s way of celebrating the Twelve Days to the world, that meant we had to design sets of small gift boxes that could hang on the Christmas tree.

While packaging is usually an afterthought, for us it’s the actual product, and it had to be designed well enough to be worth spending money on. Now, I’m a web designer/programmer by trade, and pretty confident in that area, but I had never done packaging design. It was a whole new world to learn about — materials, prodution processes, manufacturers, and logistics, to name just a few topics we had to dive into. So, yes, you could say it was difficult at times.  But, being a family operation, that loyalty has kept us going through the tougher times.

We weren’t able to find a manufacturing partner with the right mixture of design quality and reasonable cost in 2008, so 2009 was the first year where we were really “in business” and generating sales. Our product design definitely benefitted from the extra time, and in hindsight we’re glad to have launched later but with a quality product — the “release early, release often” mantra that works so well for digital businesses doesn’t necessarily apply to businesses selling physical products.

Mike:  I’m sure the Christmas holiday season is your busy time.  Do you still do business in other times of the year?  What are your visitation statistics in your peak month?

Jonathon:  Oh yes, the prime holiday shopping season is definitely our most busy time, by far. But, it doesn’t drop off a cliff right after Christmas — there is a bit of residual search volume related to Christmas in January. And, the rest of the year, there is a trickle of sales and the occasional wholesale/partnership inquiry out of the blue. Overall, however, this has proven to be an even more seasonal business than we expected, which has its plusses and minuses. We don’t have to have all the machinery to fulfill a lot of orders in place year-round, but then we are really crushed during the holiday season, which is a busy enough time as it is!

Our traffic last December peaked at ~10,000 visits, with most of that being organic search traffic, which I think is respectable for a site whose content and inbound links were nearly brand-new. Thankfully we were able to get some good inbound links from packaging design aficionados. We are starting to see a nice ramp-up in search traffic this fall, and expect to see quite a bit more organic search volume this holiday season due to the site being older, more inbound links, and more keyword-rich content that’s well-written and worth sharing.

Mike:  In what way would you say the domain twelvedays.com has contributed to the success of your business.  As opposed to WolfeGifts.com or some other name?

Jonathon:  We did consider using other, more “branded” names for the business, and even registered some other suitable domains like boxation.com. But, in the final analysis, we felt that twelvedays.com was the best we were going to be able to do by far. Literally millions of people search for “12 days of Christmas” and related topics every December, and most of the sites on the topic are pretty atrocious.  Twelvedays.com was available, is made up of only on-topic keywords (with no filler), and was short and simple enough that we felt that we could build a high-quality brand around what had previously been a generic term. So far, people like and immediately get our company’s name, and I think the domain has helped our search traffic.

Mike:  In our email correspondence, you mentioned your SEO efforts.  Tell me more about that.  What are some of your targeted key words?

Jonathon:  Our top targeted keywords are “Twelve Days of Christmas” and its variants (12 Days, etc.), as well as “Christmas”, “Gifts”, and “Boxes”. Thankfully, those are the keywords that Google thinks we’re most relevant on (except for “heirloom”, which we’re not optimizing for, but that’s fine.) As you can see from the attached Google Analytics screencap, we’re seeing our highest volume of search traffic on these terms.
twelve days
We think that this has been working for us due to a combination of the keyword relevancy of our domain, decent on-page optimization (page titles, img alt text, keywords in copy, etc.), and the fact that our inbound links, while not extremely numerous, have good link text and have come from high-quality sites.

Mike:  What, if any, other marketing strategies do you employ?  Do you advertise on websites or participate in PPC marketing campaigns?

Jonathon:  We did a lot of PPC advertising with Google and Facebook last year, and it brought plenty of volume, but frankly for us it’s not a winning strategy. Our product is unique and takes some explaining for people to understand, so we can’t monetize PPC or CPM traffic as well as other Christmas-related keyword advertisers. So, this year, we’re focusing on SEO, link-building, and some offline advertising opportunities to very targeted audiences (for instance: http://californiarevels.org/).

Our long-term goal is to make our site the best-in-category for the Twelve Days of Christmas and to not be in the business of buying our traffic (except through our hard work!) We may never beat the Wikipedia page due to their ridiculous domain authority, but we can definitely have a best-in-category site for our niche.

Mike:  What advice do you have for others looking to select a new domain and start an online business?

Jonathon: Buy a great domain 10-12 years ago! I’m joking, but if I had’t had the foresight to register twelvedays.com a long time ago, we probably would not have been able to afford to buy it.  I still kick myself for not registering dictionary-word domains back in college when Netsol was the only game in town. In hindsight, $70/year (which is what it cost back then) would have been a great investment!

Seriously, I think the best asset in looking for a domain is creativity…unless you have deep pockets. I personally use domainsbot.com to explore domains, and look only for .com domains without hyphens. It’s getting harder and harder, but if you’re not set on a short domain name, you can still find good keyword-rich domains at times. I have personally never bought an already-registered domain, but I have sold enough over the years without trying to pay for the portfolio of domains I keep around.

As for starting an online business, for those who need an online store, I highly recommend Shopify. It’s well worth the money (and this is coming from a guy who could do all the infrastructure himself if he wanted to). I also think it’s amazing how many high-quality inexpensive design themes are available for Shopify, WordPress, and the other major platforms. It’s an amazing time to be an entrepreneur, as so much value can be gotten for so little money.

I would also highly recommend finding a partner you can trust instead of going it alone. Even if you are just reselling a product, or don’t have physical inventory like we do, starting a business is a LOT of work, and it’s not as easy as all the gurus out there who just want you to buy their book (or ebook) say.

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

Jonathon:  I’m sure your audience is mostly male. So, for the guys out there, I’d just like to plug our Twelve Days gift boxes as a great way to score points with your lady — they love the design, that they hang on the Christmas tree, and the anticipation of opening one small gift on each of the Twelve Days. Speaking from experience, it takes some of the pressure off of Christmas gift-giving, since they appreciate the whole process and think it’s so romantic that you don’t have to focus so much on finding that one (expensive) knock-her-socks-off romantic gift.

For enduring that self-serving plug, I set up a 10% discount code just for your readers. Just enter “SULLY2010” during checkout if you want to take advantage of it.

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50,000 Unique Visitors a Month on a Hyphenated Domain

Don Cole is the owner of Shower-Curtains.com.  A solid keyword, hyphenated domain.  He has been working in ecommerce for over 10 years.  A programmer at heart, Don actually got into ecommerce because of a connection with a vendor and because “back in 1999 anyone who worked with computers was supposed to be making money on the Internet.”  He’s worked with databases and programming since the early 1980’s and found moving into ecommerce an easy transition as it was more about the programming than marketing.  Since 1999, he’s owned a few websites and sold off a couple of them.  He also started Your Store Wizards which is a company that helps out Yahoo! Stores with programming and marketing (primarily for comparison shopping engines).

I’d also like to mention that Don is the proud father of newborn  triplet boys 🙂

Mike:  Can you give a little background on your business?  How long you’ve been in business, number of employees, how long you’ve had your site online, etc.

Don:  Shower-curtains.com, previously BuyBathware.com, was started back at the end of 1999 and has always been an online business only.  We’ve never had a retail location and don’t care to.  It started as many ecommerce sites do, with a drop ship arrangement with a vendor.  As the business grew we moved away from drop shipping to warehousing almost all our inventory.  Through the years we’ve fluctuated in what we carry (Buybathware.com carried more full lines of accessories versus Shower-curtains.com carring primarily shower curtains) and moved our locations and adjusted employees accordingly, but we’ve survived well.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that shower-curtains.com receives?

Don:  For traffic, obviously as rankings vary, so does traffic.  We’ve done really well overall and get about 50,000 unique visitors a month.  We don’t do a lot of pay per click marketing as we’ve found a lot of it simply doesn’t pay off.  We do have some we run on different comparison shopping engines and we closely monitor what items and terms convert.  We also make sure to list ourselves on the free comparison shopping engines as well.

Mike:  I’ve said in the past that Google doesn’t seem to discriminate against hyphenated names.  Have you found this to be true with shower-curtains.com?  You come up in the third position for the keyword search.  Is this due to the name or did you put a lot of effort behind it?

Don:  I’ve found that Google definitely doesn’t discriminate against hyphenated names.  We’ve actually ranked better for “Shower Curtains” in the past as ranking 3rd is actually lower than we’ve normally been in the past.  I believe this is due to a number of factors including the domain, links to our site, and some internal seo work.  Our site is LONG due for an overhaul and so should be getting one in this next year and we hope between that and some more marketing efforts we can get some of the rankings back up.

Mike:  You mentioned the site began on buybathware.com, what made you decide to change the domain?  Has it paid off?

Don:  BuyBathware.com originally started due to an industry connection with a vendor and we carried full lines of everything we carried (shower curtain, towels, accessories, etc.).  Due to a few changes and issues we decided to start up shower-curtains.com to try out just carrying the shower curtains and limited accessories.  It was originally going to be just a niche site connected to the main, but then it was doing so well and we ran into issues with inventory on the accessories that we decided to simply run with the niche site entirely.  It’s definitely worked out as the niche site has grown to doing more business than the larger site and with a lot less headache. We’re not huge, but continue to expand and grow as we find our way into some really niche markets.

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?

Don:  Actually the domain was available for registering when we started.  We had bounced around a number of domain ideas but decided to go with the generic since it was exactly what we were focusing on.

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

Don:  I think for domains there are certainly a number of factors that come into play.  Since I’ve had shower-curtains.com it’s really pointed out to me how a keyword rich domain can help with rankings and clarity on what you do, but I wouldn’t make that the only factor when choosing a domain.  I’ve seen domain names that were keyword rich but about 80 characters or more long and people will never be able to type that in correctly.  You want to make sure it’s both memorable, particularly if you’re using a non generic name, and short enough for people to type or remember.

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Domain Sales Letter Revealed

It’s been said that when you write an email, you should be prepared for the whole world to read it.  Probably a good philosophy since I’m sharing one I receive just the other day. This unsolicited email came from another domainer looking to sell me a name.  I was targeted as a result of my domain appearing as a result in a Google search for the keyword terms.  If I had to guess, this is a modified version torn right out of the book of Elliot’s suggested email templates for domain sales.  I’ve sent out many similar emails myself, so I know the format well.

It’s interesting being on the receiving end of such an email.  I don’t have much in the way of critiquing this one, other than the Google search volume that is stated below is the “broad” selection, not the “exact.”  Other than that, it’s not bad.  Maybe a little too long for some, but not for my tastes.  One other suggestion I might make is to try to establish the value you are bring in the opening paragraph.  That might be as far as many recipients will read, so best to capture them right away with what you can do for them.  I also like to include the price.

Hello,

I am contacting you because coolbars.com appears for the search term
“club suppliers”. I thought that you might be interested in knowing that
I am selling my domain name ClubSuppliers.com, since I do not currently
have the time to develop it myself.

ClubSuppliers.com is very well suited for your industry and owning such a
name will attract relevant customers and could give you an advantage
over competitors in the field.

Currently, Google shows a monthly search volume of 1000 for
club suppliers. Furthermore, if you add content to the website, Google
will boost your ranking for this search.

However, you can also choose not to develop the website and just have
this domain take visitors directly to your existing website. Not only
can owning this domain benefit you through additional online marketing
and search engine pick up like Google, Yahoo, etc., but it will also
grow in value as these types of .coms are becoming much harder to come
by and expensive to purchase.

I am offering “ClubSuppliers.com” at a very good price. Please let me know
if you’d like more info or to buy it. I thank you for your
consideration and look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Warm regards,

Elizabeth

By the way, my domain, CoolBars.com, has been sitting idle for a few years.  I recently had a new logo created and I’m looking to relaunch the site soon in a new format.  I’ll post more information on that when I get closer.  I’ll post any other emails I come across that might be valuable.  If you have any good ones you’ve had success with and would like to share, let me know and maybe I’ll post it.

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A TLD for Long Island?

Patrick Rodgers received a BA in Political Science from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 1984 and a JD from New York Law School in 1989.  Patrick was a practicing attorney for 15 years and had a General Practice law office. He practiced in the areas of Will, Estates, and Trusts, Elder Law, Real Estate, Personal Injury, Contracts,
Corporate Law and Zoning.

Mike:  Tell me a bit more about your history and Smith Kearns Mediation.

Patrick:  During my law career  I became I volunteer Mediator for a Community Based Mediation program in 1998. I volunteered for that organization for a number of years after receiving 40 hours of Mediation training. Subsequently, in 2003 I received an additional 36 hours of Intensive Mediation Training from the Center in Understanding in Conflict.  It was at this training that I realized that Mediation was the career I wanted to pursue.

I began my recent Mediation business, Smith Kearns Mediation in 2009 in the hope of bringing Mediation into the mainstream to educate people about the benefits of Mediation. This past year Smith Kearns Mediation has been featured in a Magazine and three online newsletters and brochures. Presently, I have a fan page on Facebook, interested parties can follow me on Twitter at Med8it and Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/med8tor.

Finally, Smith Kearns Mediation tag line is “Conflict is Inevitable , Combat is Optional”.

Mike:  You own several domains, but let’s start talk about LImediation.li.  Although .li is the country code for Liechtenstein, many Long Island businesses have adopted its use.  Tell me where you first learned of it and why you chose to use it as well.

Patrick:  I first learned about .li from David Gussin of 516ads.com who introduced me to the concept of utilizing the extension to help people identify with my brand. I had already developed my www.smith-kearns.com and David opined that people show know what I do by my domain name. David also has a program that helps business get a higher listing.

Mike:  Because it’s a country code, have you had any issues with getting your site indexed in search engines such as Google?  I see you rank in the number 1 spot for “LI Mediation” (without quotes).  Are you aware of other keyword terms that you rank well for?

Patrick:  I have not done the necessary research to see if I rank well with other keywords. Since this website is ancillary to my main website my focus has not been on seeing the ranking of this webpage. However, I am satisfied to date with the ranking with the Keyword LI Mediation.

Mike:  Do you receive a lot of questions from clients or business acquaintances as to the .li on your domain name?  If so, what is your typical reply?  Would you consider it a help or hindrance when it comes to clients remembering your website?

Patrick:  Quite surprisingly, I have not had many questions about the .li because of the fact that I reside on Long Island and work closely with many other businesses that are clients of 516ads.com. However, I do promote the website and like to tell the story about the origin of .li.

Since I am a new business I am being aggressive in branding my business and felt LIMediation.li would help capture some of the market share on Long Island. As such, I am of the opinion that over time people will come to recognize my website name and accordingly remember what I do.

Mike:  You also own smith-kearns.com which seems to be your primary and distinct website.  Along with NoBullShitNegotiations.com and NoBSNegotiations.com which I believe forward to smith-kearns.com.  Has owning multiple domains and maintaining distinct websites benefited the business in any way?

Patrick:  I have only recently purchased the additional above websites and have also purchased www.mediatingconflicts.com. I have done searches for the additional websites and already rank high on the list for those search words. Although that maybe a function of the fact those keywords are not often used in a search, I am of the opinion that all in time this will benefit my business. I am presently marketing a  Bargaining System that was patented by Fair Proposals, Inc. that allows parties to negotiate over the internet in a confidential manner. The NoBullShitNegotiations.com and NoBsNegotiations.com are taken directly from attorneys who saw the value of this system.

Mike:  Would you consider purchasing addition domains in the future, outside the .com, .net, and .org universe?  Why or why not?

Patrick:  I would always consider purchasing additional domains in the future as long as I can see an added value to building my brand.

Mike:  Being in the mediation industry, is there any advice you’d give to small business owners?

Patrick:  Absolutely. First I would like to thank you Mike for this opportunity to discuss my web strategies to help heighten the awareness of my brand Smith Kearns Mediation where we believe, “Conflict is Inevitable, but Combat is Optional”.

All business owners should be aware of the power of Mediation and its benefits. It is also important to know the best time to look to Mediation as an alternative is when the dispute begins. Too often, parties wait until there is a point of no return in a dispute and it escalates into a lawsuit.

If there are 5 points I would like any business owner to remember about Mediation, it would be that Mediation is Confidential(no public record),Voluntary(the Court system is not forcing you to negotiate),Inexpensive(Mediator’s  fees are less), Timely(Mediations resolve disputes quicker than the Courts) and Effective(80% of settlements reached in Mediation are adhere to).

Mike:  Any additional information you would like to share?

Patrick:  Yes. I have also purchase a domain name to help start a Networking Group. The VAN Group stands for valueaddednetworking.com. I purchased the domain long before I started the networking group.

So I would remind people that if you come up with an idea the first task you should tackle is to see if the idea is available as a domain name. Once you reserve the name or idea as a domain, then they should build and develop the idea from there.

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Building a Business on Dot US

As a former corporate and agency recruiter, Jill Walser brings an insider’s perspective when assisting candidates to find work. Jill has interviewed several thousand candidates and reviewed tens of thousands of resumes over the years. She leveraged her experience as a recruiter to build her own company, I got the job! where she provides resume, interview and job search strategy assistance. She has written more than 4,000 resumes and has developed a reputation for creating achievements-based and aesthetically pleasing documents that help clients land interviews. With an 86% referral rate and dozens of testimonials, it is evident that her clients love her work.

A sought-after guest speaker, Jill has conducted talks and workshops for organizations such as the Washington State CPA Association, Bellevue College and Washington State’s Employment Security. As a guest interviewer for Bellevue College’s Prepare for Work program, Jill has assisted hundreds of ESL students to translate their skills and experience into successful employment in the US. Constantly seeking to perfect her craft and committed to networking, Jill is a member of several professional organizations including the National Resume Writers Association, the Puget Sound Career Developers Association and the Northwest Recruiters Association.

Mike: Tell me how you came to choose the .US TLD over any of the others for your domain igotthejob.us.  I assume you didn’t choose .com or .net because they weren’t available, is that correct?

Jill:  At the time, there weren’t as many domain alternatives to .com as there are now. Even though the .com owner has never developed the site, they want an amount of money for the URL that has never seemed like a good ROI for me. Since my services are largely utilized by those seeking work in the US, .us seemed a logical choice for domain when .com wasn’t available.

Mike: Has owning the .US domain caused any confusion for customers?  Do they sometimes try the .com version and are unable to get to your site?

Jill:  Yes, I’m certain they do, but it’s not something I hear about often. Those that type in the name of my business or my name don’t seem to have trouble finding me. Since the bulk of my business is referral-based, new clients are likely to have my URL or phone number already.

Mike: I notice that you rank in the #1 spot on Google for “I got the job” and the #3 spot for for “got the job” (each without quotes).  Is that due to a lot of back end SEO coding effort or do you attribute it to the domain name?  Do you rank well for any other terms?

Jill:  It’s likely due to a combination of both. Seattle Interview Coach and Seattle Resume Writer both have first page results as well.

Mike: How do most of your clients find you?  Is it through web searches, referrals, some other means?  Is your domain name important to your business?

Jill:  Most of my clients are referrals from other clients. I also give talks on interview coaching, resume writing, and job search strategy, generating a substantial amount of business. Others find my listing on the National Resume Writers Association website, Biznik.com, LinkedIn.com or via blogs or articles where I’m mentioned.  Yes, the domain name is important, but not more important than the name of my company, which is memorable. It’s what I want to be known by, and what I want my clients to think about even before they make contact. That they have to struggle a tiny bit to find me seems OK for me in the big picture. My business is not very hard to find.

Mike:  As a resume writer and job search strategist, I’m curious if you recommend that your clients secure their names as domain names if available (ie. JohnSmith.com) to use for personal profiles?

Jill:  Yes, definitely. One never knows what they might want a URL for. URLs are inexpensive and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Since many recruiters search for talent via web searches, posting a profile is one way to help them find it. I do caution job searchers not to post material they wouldn’t want employers to see on self-named URLs.

Mike:  What advice would you give to others looking for domain names for their business?

Jill:  Pick the business name first, then the URL, if at all possible. My name picked itself. I was providing resume and coaching services on the side while working as a recruiter. It wasn’t until I saw (what became) the name of my business in the subject lines of happy customers that I chose the phrase to name my company. Looking back, at the time I was building my business, it would have been easier to go with a .com URL.
Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yanec/2658752002/in/photostream/

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What Makes A Good Domain Name?

My wife thinks I’m nuts.  Moving down the toll road in Chicago at a good clip, family packed in the car, fumbling for my iPhone.  I struggle to stay on the road while I snap a quick shot of a billboard that I know will only be in view for a few seconds.  Strange enough that I’m taking snapshots while driving, but the advertisement I capture clearly states Fathers’ Rights.  She looks over at me with an eyebrow raised, What are you doing? I fire back with, Did you see that domain name?

The domain name on the billboard is DadsRights.com, and to be honest, it’s a great name.  Not because it has thousands of Google exact match monthly searches (it doesn’t), and not because it came out of Rick Schwartz vault of killer domain names from 1993 (it didn’t).  The main reason this is a great domain is because it is perfect for the business that is using it.

Jeffery Leving is an attorney specializing in fathers’ rights.  If you live in the Chicago area, you have likely seen his television advertisements that appear on the local stations.  DadsRights.com is perfect because it’s:

  • Short
  • Descriptive
  • Highly Meaningful

In this niche of the law, DadsRights.com is far better than anything I can immediately think of.  If you happen to have  a need for this type of service in your life, even flying down the road, you’ll remember this domain when you get to work or home from a rough day at the office.

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