A Domain Worth Investing InMike Sullivan
Paul Rubillo, CEO/Founder of Dividend.com talks about this fantastic generic name and gives some advice to Internet entrepreneurs.
Mike: Can you give a little background on your business?
Paul: We started building our DARS (Dividend Advantage Ratings System) along with the site back in January of 2008. It took six months to launch as I rated each of the nearly 1600 dividend-paying stocks one at a time, but also had to have all the ratings up-to-date as we prepared to go live. Dividend.com is a hybrid site with free and paid content. We actually kept the site free till the end of 2008 and had built a big audience. We decided to put up our paywall giving everyone a month’s notice to sign up for the service in which we added some new features as well. The site is run by myself and Tom Reese who was the architect behind the site’s functionality and design. We have many bells and whistles in place to help us track the nearly 1600 stocks we cover.
Mike: Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives?
Paul: The site gets over 150,000 visits a month and does over 600,000 page views. We also have a daily newsletter that now goes out to nearly 10,500 members.
Mike: Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow?
Paul: We spend no money on marketing. We get most of our traffic from search engines and direct visits. Our SEO is strong and I credit Tom’s expertise along with our numerous posts we put up everyday. Search engines love to see fresh content everyday.
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?
Mike: Has the domain been worth the cost for you?
Paul: Without question, the domain name opened many doors and opportunities for our company. Within one month of launching we had a venture signed with TheStreet.com. One month after that it was Forbes and by November of that year, we signed a deal to provide Nasdaq with all our dividend news exclusively. It was great to get the credibility of those partners, especially with knowing that our model was going to be subscription-based.
Mike: Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
Paul: Well there is a lot to consider. If you can help up, I would stick to a .com handle. I see there are .nets and other extensions getting some strong bids of late, but sometimes you need to step up and spend the dollars to save you some marketing costs down the line and also the worries of someone developing the .com version of the non dot-com you may have built your site on.
Mike: What do you think your competitors think of your domain? What do your customers think?
Paul: I believe they probably thought I had owned it since the mid-90s and were lucky to register, not realizing I made a huge financial commitment to building the site I was envisioning. That said, there is likely enough respect in the effort they see us put forth every single day.
Mike: Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point? Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?
Paul: I had recently had some conversations with parties that had inquired about our company, but mostly it has been lots of lip service and information-digging. The process actually got us more enthused about the space and we are working on a couple of more sites that will round out our offerings, all in an effort to help millions of people learning where to find money (personal finance and money-saving tips) to invest, then companies they should be investing in (Dividend.com), followed by a site to teach them how to hold on to their wealth (Retiremtment-focused). We are currently looking in the retirement and personal finance space for possible names as we start breaking ground on the sites.
Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?
Paul: I’d like to close out with some reality check items that I have learned and want potential entrepreneurs out there to consider when deciding if they are ready to take the next step and pursue their dream. Realize that you will have to work harder than you have ever imagined in your life. The web is not a Mon-Fri. 9-5 gig. If you are not understanding this fact first, you will lose money and time. There are plenty of books and seminars out there preaching for people to chase their dream and use the opportunity of the web to get started. While I love the motivational aspect of the message we often hear from social media gurus, the fact is that many people will walk away from the experience questioning themselves. I had many roller-coaster moments in building out Dividend.com and despite the site’s success still do today. The roadblocks you will encounter will test your will like you have never imagined. The many ignored e-mails, the tons of no thanks – but stay in touch responses, the useless biz-dev characters with little vision or any desire to build a strong relationship with, etc. You have to fight through all that and continue to press harder. You have to be willing to take the rejection and make it want it more. Realize that you will be fighting human nature’s wanting to give up at that point. But, if you have done your homework and know that the business you are looking to build is truly a real business that can make money, you must then fight ahead.
If you are building a site just for a hobby and you have a steady job that you will not jeopardize, then go for it. But if you have a family and need the income, I would think long and hard about what it is you are looking to do. Besides the many no’s you will receive, you will also run into the many “pay to play” parts of building out your brand. If you are able to land venture capital money (which we did not pursue), you will have an advantage in one area which is getting some social media coverage. The closer you get into social media the more you realize the politics of what really happens and why certain companies get more coverage than others. VCs know the right people that will pen articles about certain companies and try to build the hype machine on a particular company out. I shake my head when I see how the valuations of different financing levels are determined and how the social media space trots them out without hesitation. You will realize this when someone takes a look at your company that could be making real revenue and they throw out a ludicrous offer to want to buy your company. There is so much B.S. in the social media space, but I just put my head down and focus on building out a real business and most people should do the same.
To summarize what I would really want your readers to think about, is that they should chase their dreams with calculated risk. Don’t put the family at risk ever. The job environment is real tough out there. Build your dreams while you maintain your regular job. Step into things slowly before putting it all on the line. Most importantly, make a difference with what you are trying to do. If you can make a product or write about things that will make life better for people, you are on the right track. Don’t build the 6th best Facebook or 5th best site about your favorite team. Be the best at one thing and work your butt off to get there.