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.

5 Ways to Sabotage Your Domain Sales

I’m always looking for good ways to increase opportunities for domain sales.  We all know, it’s not as easy as it sometimes looks.  While pursuing positive means for improving sales, I always find more experience in “what not to do.”  Sometimes I find these things in my own experiences and other times I pick them up from what I see others doing.  If any one of these items can save you some time, then it’s equally as helpful as “what to do.”  These 5 Ways to Sabotage Your Domain Sales come in no particular order.

1. Panic

Don’t freak out when an unsolicited offer or inquiry comes in.  Just because someone is asking about your domain does not mean they are willing to pay top dollar for it.  Often times, they are just curious and not even serious players.  If you take the price too high just because you think someone is interested, they’ll quickly back away.  It’s important to have a predetermined price you are looking for.  That way, you know what you will be satisfied with and not have any regrets over a lost sale or a completed deal.

2. Do Nothing

Unless you have category killer names you should be taking some type of proactive action to sell or develop your names.  It’s not likely that buyers will be knocking on your door to make you an offer on ReusableExamGloves.com.  However, if that happened to be a real niche, a little research and a couple of dozen emails might land you a few bucks.  Alternatively, investing a little time into developing a site about the benefits (or dangers) of this product with a few affiliate links could also produce a small revenue.   That name might then pay for itself, at a minimum, while increasing some traffic numbers for a future sale.

3.  Over Promote

I often get Twitter followers who only tweet the domains they have for sale.  I rarely follow these people back.  I don’t recommend using Twitter or other social media outlets as a feed for strictly advertising the sale of your domains.  No one wants to see that.  Mix it up with some valuable information sharing or even some personal comments.  Another aspect of this is pimping your domain name to every domain forum, auction site, spam blitz and any other means you can find.  If the name is seen frequently and doesn’t generate interest, it might just die on the vine from over exposure.

4. Misrepresent

This goes without saying.  Well, no it doesn’t so I’ll say it.  Never, never, never misrepresent your domain’s search, visitation, or monetization statistics.  There is no better way to quickly develop a bad reputation.  That said, every buyer needs to do their due diligence and shouldn’t blindly trust the stats provided.

5.  Price Shift

It hasn’t happened to me, but I have heard and read many stories where a domain had a set asking price and when an offer arrived, the seller upped the price.   A more common example is when a seller accepts an offer and then reneges to accept a second, higher offer.  This will not only lead to legal issues, but word travels.

Owning a Top 3 Position for Almost Every Important Industry Related Keyword

Generic Domain Names

Alex Schmelkin is the co-founder and president Alexander Interactive.  His firm has been involved in the relaunch of Action Envelope’s website, using a fantastic keyword domain,  Envelopes.com.  Alex shares his thoughts about his team’s involvement and his perspective on domain names in general.

Mike:  How did you come to be involved in the strategic relaunch of Envelopes.com?

Alex:  Ai has been the ecommerce agency of record for Envelopes.com (formerly Action Envelope) since 2004. In this time we completed two major redesign and ecommerce platform implementation projects and the Action Envelope to Envelopes.com rebranding in 2010.

Mike:  It’s interesting seeing a product designed for traditional mail to be leveraging the Internet, the primary source of decreasing paper mail usage.  Tell me how this fits into the overall strategy?

Alex:  Envelopes.com is the world’s largest envelope store.  There are products, colors, sizes, and printing options unavailable in many other traditional and online outlets.  We’re experiencing much of the same shift the overall retail industry is in transitioning traditional, store-based customers to ecommerce.

It’s certainly not lost on us that the product that Envelopes.com sells is considered one for which there is declining demand.  However, even in a market with an overall decline in sales, Envelopes.com is positioned as the dominant leader and is currently experiencing dramatic growth.  There will always be a demand for traditional paper products, particularly for correspondence around special occasions and life events.  As the frequency of paper mailings decreases, each one we do receive becomes all the more special.

Mike:  As consultants to the company, did you help the firm see the benefits of the Envelopes.com domain name and what it could do for their search results? Was the company using a different name prior to this?

Alex:  The company was operating as ActionEnvelopes.com for its entire existence, prior to the recent launch at Envelopes.com.  We did consult on the benefits of using the Envelopes.com brand name as opposed to their existing name, particularly for the acquisition of new customers.

Mike:  Clearly a competitive search term, “envelopes” 22,000 global exact match monthly searches in Google.  I’m not sure how long ago the site launched but I don’t see Envelopes.com on the first page of Google yet.  Is that something you are working on?

Alex:  ActionEnvelope.com currently dominates natural search, owning a #1, #2, or #3 position for almost every important business and social envelope keyword.  It was therefore with great planning that we embarked on transitioning the current rankings to the new domain.  We are now just part of the way through a multi-month campaign to redirect incoming Google search traffic to the new site.

Mike:  I do see Envelopes.com as a sponsored link on the first page of Google.  Do you know what other marketing strategies the company is exploring?

Alex:  Envelopes.com employs a robust mix of online marketing strategies, including paid search, search engine optimization, email, comparison shopping, a continuity reordering program, and a loyalty program.  One of the best parts of the new Envelopes.com site is that all existing customers of ActionEnvelope.com will find their account information, past orders, and loyalty points transferred to the new site.

Mike:  As a design firm, do you consult you clients on finding the best domain name for there sites?  What advice do you give them?

Alex:  We are frequently asked to consult on domain selections.  We work with both established and emerging businesses.  Established businesses generally understand the value of a good domain name, and consider new domains for major marketing initiatives or branded sub-site projects.  For domains we want that are unavailable for direct registration, we consult with our clients to determine the sales and brand impact of the new domain.  We explain that a domain’s value is all relative.  We recently consulted with a major regional clothing store chain in New York that did not own the primary domain name for its well-known brand.  The domain we wanted was for sale and we worked with our client to establish the appropriate budget and completed the purchase.

For emerging businesses, we’re often the ones that have to break the bad news that almost all combinations of English language words are taken.  We advise our clients to find shorter domain names and names without common misspellings.

For all domain purchasers, it’s all about relative value.  Who else is willing to pay as much as you are for the domain?  Who else can extract the same commercial or brand value?  Domain decisions for businesses just as often have an emotional or personal value as they do a commercial one.  I count myself among the very few Internet citizens who would highly value Schmelkin.com.  It would be hard for me to consider someone else controlling it, and as such I place a great deal of value on its ownership, exhibiting much more of a visceral need.

1.2 Million Visitors Per Month – Sextoy Dave

SexToyDave Levine is the owner of SexToy.com, not to be confused with the plural version which you might recall from a previous interview.  In 1994, Dave took a stab at making money on the Internet.  He quickly realized he needed to pick one product niche and focus.  Shortly after that he was one of the first to offer wholesale and dropship for adult products on the internet.   Although the domain “SEXTOY.com“ gets most of the media attention, Sextoy Dave’s company makes over 90% of its money by managing the back-end distribution for other adult product companies.

Mike:  How long have you owned sextoy.com and how did you acquire it?  Can you share what you paid for it?

Dave:  In 1995 I could have bought almost any domain from Internic for $70 (Internic later became Network Solutions which later became Verisign).
Unfortunately, like most people, I didn’t realize the potential of that opportunity. I remember sitting there thinking . . . “should I buy sextoy.com or sextoys.com?”  I just bought sextoy.com because I didn’t want to risk another $70 on my crazy internet ideas.

Mike:  What type of traffic volume does the name receive?  Do you have an idea how much of that is type-in traffic?

Dave:  We get about 250K visitors a month to that domain.  75% is from search engines.  15% is from type in traffic, and 10% is from links.

Mike:  How do you promote the site?  Do you leverage SEO, PPC, or other online and offline strategies?

Dave:  From our search engine traffic 30% is PPC.  The rest comes from our SEO strategies.  SEO is the most profitable.  PPC is break even at best.

We also have an affiliate program (MyFreeWebsite.com).  The affiliate program is effectively another marketing strategy. And sextoy.com is technically just another affiliate.
SextoyFun.com gets 1.2 Million visitors a month (that includes the 250K from sextoy.com).

Mike:  You have the number one position in Google for “sex toy” (wothout quotes).  Was that difficult to achieve?  Are you aware of other key phrases where you have favorable search results?

Dave:  “sex toys” is the biggest word for my market and being in the top 10 for that word is key.  We are currently bouncing around #3-6.  otherwise, “sextoy”, “sextoys”, and “sex toy” are important and we are usually #1 for those.  Otherwise, we do well with a few categories like “anal toys”, “strap ons”, “sex furniture”, and more, and we have many more we are working on.
We also have some affiliates who do well in google as well.

Mike:  I interviewed the plural owner of the same domain name a while back.  Do you think either of you benefits by catching traffic intended for the other?

Dave:  Now that people are used to domains, its not as bad as it used to be.  But in the past, I used to tell people “go to sextoy.com” and they would say “Oh, ok sextoyS.com”.  Also, sextoys.com used to not do marketing so they benefited from my marketing.  But now they do their own marketing and people seem to listen better to domains so the effect is not as bad. But yes, I wish i had bought it for $70!

Mike:  Would you consider selling the name if an offer came in?  Have any offers been made?

Dave:  Everyone has their price, but since sextoy.com is not just a domain and is associated with my whole business, i probably would have to sell it and the business at the same time to get the most value.  or sell the whole business in parts at once
I haven’t had many serious offers.

Mike:  Have you run into any challenges running an adult website?  Are there limitations that you’ve faced?

Dave:  ecommerce on the internet is extremely challenging.  Good profitable ideas are quickly copied.  algorithm changes search engines and competitors popping out of no where have forced us to change direction many times. Often I have foreseen problems before hand and was on to the next best thing before the competitors were able to copy our last best idea.
Over 15 years, many companies have come and gone in our space while we have remained.  Lately for the first time maybe ever, we feel like there is declining competition.  So maybe we have a few years to make some good $$ before the next surprise attack surfaces!

Working in the adult industry can be challenging as well because some companies treat adult companies as if we are criminals.  Whenever i look for a a company to do services for us such as hosting, graphics, or even banking, I have to start the conversation with asking if they have any moral objections to working with an adult company.  And when we hire, that is also always the first question asked.  Sometimes when I ask a company if they mind, when they do mind, they get angry and hang up on me.

Even when working with companies especially banks, it is not uncommon for them to suddenly decide they don’t like adult.   About 5 years ago, Paypal decided they didn’t want adult.  We had never had one problem or charge-back with them, but they suddenly closed our account and told us we could withdraw funds in six months.  After six months, they told me they needed 2 more months to review.  I eventually got my money back.

We had a credit card processor for 8 years with whom we were a great customer with charge-backs always below 1%.  then they had a change in management and one day I was complaining because a close batch error on their end that happened several times had cost me a few thousand dollars.  They said, “actually we are not doing adult anymore.  You have 30 days to find another processor.”  Needless to say, I never got my few thousand dollars in wrongly taken fees.

Living in Hollywood, I am a hero for selling sex toys.  But when I lived in Boston or when I visit many other cities, sometimes, when I tell people what I do, they get angry or turn their back on me.  And sometimes am treated like a carnival act.  “hey, this guy sells sex toys!  OMG,” then then bring friends over and laugh hysterically.  They ask me what the best seller is and I say a “vibrator” and they laugh for like 30 minutes.  I don’t mind it, but prefer Hollywood, where they say “cool” and then move on. 🙂

Mike:  Anything else you’d like to add?

Dave:  Most of what we really do is provide solutions for others to sell adult products on the internet.  wholesale/dropship services from sextoyclub.com and a customizable affiliate program at Myfreewebsite.com is about 75% of our business.  sextoy.com recently has grown significantly to 25% of our business, but most people think 100% of my business is sextoy.com type in traffic which requires no work.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been that easy.

However, life is good.  I set this business up so that I can work from home.  Not only that, but all of our helpers work from their own home or office as well.

Finally we carry over 100K items from almost 100 different warehouses.  No one has a bigger selection and lately we have focused making it easier for people to find those items or to resell them and make money in this industry.

5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Domain Name

Be it a hand reg or an after market purchase, I have established five questions I now ask myself before making any domain purchase.  This comes after many months of buying domains based on knee jerk reactions, gut feel and impulse.  My “shoot first ask questions later” philosophy has resulted in a portfolio of varying quality.  In order to infuse my portfolio with higher quality names, I now be sure to ask these questions before making a final decision.

1.  Have I done the basics?

In August, I posted an article called 3 Reasons Why Your Domains Aren’t Selling. Reason number 1 outlines all the basic steps that I check prior to purchasing.  Had I done this from day one, I would have a far better collection and giving up less drops.

2. Could I develop this name?

This is a big one.  Whether I intend to or not, is this a domain I could see myself developing and building out over time?  The reason I ask this is in the event that I am unable to sell it, I want to be sure it can become an asset and not a liability.  This is especially a factor if it’s a domain I’m buying from another domainer or at auction.  Sure, it’s easy to let an $9 hand reg drop, but they too add up over time.

3.  Do I have an end user in mind?

While I don’t expect to know exactly who might purchase the name from me, if I’m not planning on developing I want to have at least an idea of some businesses the name can support.  I like to be able to come up with two or three companies that I know of off the top of my head that would be a good fit for the name.  If not, I’ll try to quickly search for three to get a good sense of the market saturation.

4.  Do I know enough about the industry to make an intelligent decision?

Here’s one that causes me to put my ego in check.  I don’t want to assume that I know all there is to know about every industry.  If a name sounds good to me, that isn’t enough.  If it’s an industry I’m not close too, a little research goes a long way.

5.  Could the money be better spent?

Could I use the money more effectively in another way?  If it’s an auction, could I use the money to develop an existing domain?  If a hand reg, could the money go toward some PPC advertising?

I have found these questions to be helpful.  The point is not to blind make purchases, but to focus on value.  Maybe you have other questions you consider when buying domains.  If so, let me know by posting a comment.