When I first joined the domain blogging scene, Tia Wood was already a seasoned domain name blogger, domainer, and web developer. Tia designed several of the blogger’s site that were in use at the time and contributed heavily in the domain forums. It’s been some time since we have crossed paths, so I decided to reach out to Tia to see what she’s up to.
Mike: It’s been awhile since we last seen you active within the industry. What have you been up to these last few years?
Tia: I left freelancing about 4 years ago to join commercial WordPress plugin companies and went back to school focusing on business management and digital marketing. I had been in the development space for a long time and needed a new set of challenges and skills.
I also picked up a new hobby: photography! I love traveling around the country and exploring airports and sights. And the airports love it, too. A couple of airports have taken notice and started reposting my photography. It’s nothing serious but I do it for fun. You can follow me @karunasati on instagram if this is up your alley. (I love exploring. Feel free to leave a comment below on scenic places you recommend.)
The biggest change has been moving from Florida to Indiana in 2018. I needed a new environment. The move was definitely out of my comfort zone but I wanted the new environment even more. So my daughter and I plus three cats made the long drive from Florida to Indiana in two days.
I love exploring Indiana, the surrounding states and the community here is just amazing. I am definitely happy that I made the trip.
Mike: TiaWood.com is dedicated to your web development efforts. Is that a passion you still dedicate much of your time to?
Tia: TiaWood.com has a lot of my old stuff and will be updated this year to reflect my current personal projects and photography. I used it a lot during freelancing but I no longer work under my name. It’s just been sitting there collecting dust lol.
Mike: Are you still involved in domaining?
Tia: Not anymore. I still visit the forums from time to time because a lot of knowledge crosses over into domaining but it’s not something I focus on anymore. Domaining is basically a full time job and although it can be lucrative for some, it’s just not something I am passionate about anymore.
Mike: Why did you choose to step out of the blogging space?
Tia: I was at the point in my life where I needed a change (as described above). I wasn’t sure what that change was but I needed new challenges, new direction, new environment, new adventure. I took a long break from blogging to pursue new goals.
Mike: You have been in the domaining industry for quite some time. What were some of the early lessons learned and how have you applied them going forward?
Tia: I wasted so much time, money and effort chasing too much after my own intuition. Domaining is largely based on data and numbers. Just because a domain sounds “catchy” doesn’t mean that it will sell. Do the research, run the numbers, triple check everything, always. THEN you can go with your intuition. This has also helped me with other areas in life. Being inspired and having ideas is just fine. Creativity is a beautiful process. But always give yourself a reality check via due diligence before you dive into anything.
Mike: You’ve worked the 9 to 5 and been your own boss. Which do you prefer? Which is more rewarding? Why?
Tia: This is a hard one. They both have their benefits and their downsides. I really enjoy working within companies because you have more available brainpower and community plus a dependable paycheck.
Entrepreneurship is great because you steer your own ship but that can also be a bad thing because you are solely responsible for failure.
I am currently back in entrepreneurship. My goal is to marry the two. I’m alone but I don’t want to feel alone. If I can find a way to duplicate the community feel with entrepreneurship then I would definitely choose entrepreneurship.
Mike: What advice do you have for someone entering the domain investing industry today? Is there still opportunity for success?
Tia:My #1 advice: don’t quit your day job.
I am going to make a controversial statement and say that domaining is a failing industry. Here is why:
Over the past five years:
most products/services once offered by big companies are no longer domainer targeted
domaining.com has lost significant amounts of traffic representing the overall interest in domaining
most blogs that post on domaining.com have lost significant amounts of traffic
the domain industry never properly organized therefore anyone is buying/selling in the forums anymore. of course, you can’t expect much quality in forums in the first place but it used to be much more active
the market is way too saturated with mediocre domains collecting dust on parking pages
revenue from passive domaining (such as parking) has plummeted
the domain industry as a whole failed at teaching the public and businesses the importance of good domain names. I’m not talking about the obvious ones such as computers.com but the decent ones the average person and businesses can afford; revenue that would have provided a major, long term backbone for the industry. Instead, major companies such as GoDaddy have filled that gap and has taken that opportunity away
no one is protecting domaining’s long term interest. There is no one directing market growth, combating bad press or acting as a leadership body for growth of the industry as a whole
most people who are in domaining need or keep a main source of income other than domaining
While I believe it’s highly unlikely the average person can enter into the domain industry and expect to earn a full time living today, there are still opportunities. It takes some creativity and entrepreneurship. What worked for Rick Schwartz or Frank Schilling 20 years ago is not going to work for you today.
Don’t get me wrong: the wisdom and knowledge that highly successful domainers have handed down are valuable and insightful. But you have to keep in mind they entered into domaining over 20 years ago during a completely different era.
Today, there is a lot more competition with much deeper pockets and they have significantly squeezed most opportunities from the bottom. You either need a lot more money to play or you need a strategy parallel with domaining.
Bottom line is; you have to work way smarter and harder now. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you go out and buy a few domains and that’s it.
Develop a good business plan and make sure you have a secondary source of income because full time or even part time domaining could take a while.
Mike: Any projects you want to share?
Tia: Yes! We are about to launch UserCreative.com which is management, marketing and consulting for businesses on the WordPress platform. We figured out how to take the needs of online businesses and roll them into monthly plans. We also have options for one-time projects such as development and website reviews. This will be officially launching very soon. You can sign up at UserCreative.com for launch notification and more information.
Gumroad is a pretty cool e-commerce platform that also helps build an audience. As the website itself states, “Gumroad is for independent writers, designers, software developers, musicians, artists, teachers, filmmakers, and anyone in-between. Whether you sell digital goods or physical goods, you can use Gumroad. Simply put, if you make stuff for people to buy — Gumroad is for you.”
Gumroad founder, Sahil Lavingia, took time out of his schedule to answer my questions.
Mike: Where did the idea for Gumroad come from?
Sahil: Quite simply: I wanted to sell an icon I had designed in PhotoShop. For just a buck, to just my audience. I looked around and couldn’t find an easy way to do that. There were huge marketplaces and things, but I just wanted a link. So I built Gumroad.
Mike: Prior to launching Gumroad, you worked at Pintrest. What was it like to be an early employee there and did you learn lessons that you could apply at Gumroad?
Sahil: It was great! I learned a lot, shipped a lot of product, and got a ton of feedback. I also learned about being an early employee–what I wanted from the company I worked for–so that when I started growing Gumroad, I had that perspective.
Mike: Your Linkedin Profile states that Gumroad has “…put more than $77,000,000 in the pockets of musicians, artists, writers, and more.” Amazing! How does that feel to be responsible for this?
Sahil: We should update that! It’s over $175,000,000 now! It feels great. But there’s a lot of work to do! I’m hopeful we can get to that first B in the next 3-4 years.
Mike: I’m a domainer at heart. I was pleased to see you own your own name as a domain at sahillavingia.com. What is your philosophy on owning your own name? Should everyone attempt to do that? What can we expect from your musings when subscribing?
Sahil: Yes! It was a little easier with my relatively unique name. It just keeps things simple. Instead of having to invent a brand, it’s just my name. Easy! With my newsletter, I want to share thoughts about the creative process. As I write, paint, and of course ship software–the differences and similarities and how they all interconnect for me.
Mike: At the time, when you launched Gumroad, how did you promote it and enable the business to gain some traction? That seems like a difficult task.
Sahi: Honestly, a lot of cold emails. Just finding people already selling stuff in a janky way, or people with audiences that weren’t selling stuff yet–and letting them know Gumroad existed now. That is really it. A lot of that.
Over time, people started to know what Gumroad was and it became easier. But I still do that today!
Mike: I imagine the are some top sellers using Gumroad. People that really rake in the sales. I won’t ask you to reveal numbers, but can you tell us about any of these top sellers?
Sahil: Yes, we have creators that are multi-millionaires off their Gumroad sales. Just last month someone made almost $900,000–in a single month!
It’s all about building an audience that trusts you. It has to have a significant size, sure, but it’s more important to prime them for your upcoming launch.
There are no hacks or secrets. It’s a lot of time, hard work, and giving away your learnings as you grow–so that you have a dedicated audience when you’re ready to sell your product.
Mike: It’s one thing to start a company as a founder, but quite another to run a successful company as CEO. Was it a natural transition for you? What challenges or lessons can you share?
Sahil: It’s not too different. The focus is still the same: ship a great product. Build a great team.
It’s easier if anything, because now we have thousands of creators telling us what we need to build, and a lot of data to learn from.
Mike: Are there any changes or evolutions in the internet or technology that you are anticipating and will need to adapt to for long term success?
Sahil: Honestly, no. I am just constantly iterating on Gumroad. Not trying to scope out some grand future, but betting on the obvious stuff: more mobile usage, for example. But really we’re a nimble startup, so we can react to change pretty quick.
Mike: Where did the name “Gumroad” come from and does it have any meaning?
Sahil: My mom 🙂 – I like names that take two words and combine them. It makes it easier to remember and spell, in my opinion. So…yeah. Nothing too deep!
Mike: What is one book that you have read that has impacted you and you would recommend to others? Why?
Sahil: The Golden Compass is my favorite book of all time. That whole series made a pretty profound impact on me, I think.
I won’t recommend non-fiction, because everyone already does that 🙂 – read more fiction!
Dana Khomyak is living in Sweden and creating the biggest event streams aggregator in the world. She is co-founder of Events Terminal and is passionate about making information and education accessible globally.
Mike: What is the goal of EventsTerminal.com and how are you toward achieving that goal?
Dana: Before developing Events Terminal, we (Co-Founders of ET) organized business events. Indeed, thanks to this experience we’ve seen what problems events organizers and events visitors have. One of the most boiling was that it’s hard to visit an event that is in another city or even country. Therefore, we created a marketplace for knowledge-sharing events streams and records, so people wherever they are based will be able to watch and learn. A couple of months ago we successfully launched our website eventsterminal.com and within a few days had 250+ users from 40+ countries.
Mike: How did you come up with the name for the company?
Dana: Honestly, it wasn’t that quick and easy to find a good company name. We spent a few weeks discussing different options before choosing Events Terminal. Thinking about a name, I knew that it should be somehow connected with events. Later I saw in the internet word “Terminal” and thought it should be a good match for us as terminal is a machine where you can buy a ticket. You also can buy tickets to events on Events Terminal. After discussing this option with another co-founder, we agreed on Events Terminal, that’s it.
Mike: The company has been up and running for about a year, what challenges and success have you faced?
Dana: When you’re a startup, challenges are with you all the time. And if you can’t make challenges your friend, you will lose. Since we founded the startup, we have faced challenges literally everyday: finding a team, working remotely, building a prototype, building a website, finding your first customers and hundreds more. We like challenges (we don’t call it problems) because overcoming it we become wiser, smarter and stronger. If you don’t like it, I suppose building a company will be a really tough thing for you.
Mike: You were a project manager intern at a startup accelerator. What lessons did you learn there?
Dana: Startup Depot is rather a business incubator and I had an opportunity to have an internship there. It was one of my first working experiences and I learnt a lot of good staff there – starting from work with the MS Excel ending learning how to be a team member, now I see it was a really good push for my further career.
Mike: Events Terminal appears to be backed by Think Accelerate. Explain what it means to work with an accelerator and your experience thus far.
Dana: Last autumn (’18) we’ve got an opportunity that I won’t lie if say we’ll be grateful for the rest of our lives. We were accepted into one of the best Swedish Accelerators – Think Accelerate. Think team provided our team with an office, great mentors, advice and an environment where we could develop our startup quickly. During this program we’ve finally launched our website, established cooperation with Swedish organizations and gained traction. Such an amazing time, people and priceless experience.
Mike: Are there any books that have inspired you or shaped your style that you would recommend to us?
Dana: I like how books can make us think from a different perspective, change our mind, feelings or even actions. I’d recommend you to read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, it will make you appreciate and love yourself the way you are more. Also, all we know that a lot of women nowadays have different working conditions, salaries for the same job and attitude comparing to men, read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” to know why it’s not just a stereotype, how to overcome it and become a real professional having a work-life balance.
Cybele Negris is CEO & Co-Founder of Webnames.ca, Canada’s original .CA Registrar and accredited registrar for hundreds of domain extensions as well as provider of webhosting, email and web development and many other services. The multi-million-dollar company has an impressive client list including many Fortune 500 companies. Webnames.ca’s Corporate Services division specializes in premium concierge service for medium to large businesses and organizations with large domain portfolios requiring specialized tools and security.
Cybele is a hall of fame inductee and four-time winner of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful women in Canada amongst many other awards. She is a serial entrepreneur having successfully started and exited multiple companies. She’s a seasoned board member serving on the board of the Royal Canadian Mint and numerous other boards. She’s a mentor, columnist and speaker at over two dozen events each year including TEDx.
Mike: Tell me a little more about Webnames.ca. What makes it special?
Cybele: Webnames is Canada’s original domain registrar. We started as a spin-off of the .CA Registry founded in 1987 by my business partner John Demco. He ran the .CA Registry as a public service for thirteen years, free of charge, and has been recognized as one of the pioneers of the Canadian Internet. Webnames.ca was incorporated in 2000 and the .CA registry was sold and transitioned to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). What continues to distinguish us today is our deep expertise in corporate domain management, which comprises a large part of our business, and our exceptional customer support. Now, I realize that a lot of registrars have good support and can quantify it as we do with great response times and customer satisfaction ratings, but it runs deeper than that. Our approach has always been to do more – we support customers above and beyond the use of our products. This might be a website update for a retail customer who is struggling with their CMS, a late-night DNS change for a Corporate client, or the development of a new domain management feature for a reseller. In turn, we’re fortunate to have loyal customers, many who have been with us for ten, fifteen, or more years. We also have an incredible team that our customers know and trust. A majority of our staff have been with us for more than five years, and a third of our staff for more than ten. We have no weak links, everyone is truly an expert at what they do, and there is an incredible amount of knowledge transfer that goes on.
Mike: How and when did you become interested in domain names?
Cybele: I met John Demco the founder of .CA in 1999 as I was doing some consulting work at the University of British Columbia after I exited another company. He had been running the .CA Registry with about 100,000 domains under management. It was time to move from a volunteer effort. I was fascinated by what I had heard from John. I visited his office and saw the piles of documentation used to verify an individual or corporate entity’s entitlement to a .CA domain. Back then an individual would register yourname.vancouver.bc.ca or yourname.toronto.on.ca. A provincially incorporated entity in Alberta for example would register companyname.ab.ca. To register companyname.ca a corporate entity had to be federally incorporated or provincially incorporate in more than one province. We worked with the technology transfer manager at UBC, brought on developers to build the first generation website to take orders, hired a small team of students to help with support and subsequently sold and transitioned the Registry operations to CIRA. As we transitioned the Registry, we were having so much fun working together that we decided to become one of the accredited registrars under CIRA. We grew from 4 to 30 people in 4 months and by capturing pent up demand under CIRA’s newly liberalized rules to allow anyone to register yourname.ca, we were able to generate multiple millions in revenue in year one to fund future operations and growth. The domain industry has continued to explode over the last 19 years I’ve been involved. Today, Webnames offers over 600 different domain extensions and I still love what I do!
Mike: Do you personally own any domain names?
Cybele: I don’t have a massive portfolio but I do have some. Most are .CA or .COM but also some .TEL and new gTLDs.
Mike: What is it like running a registrar? What are some things the average domainer may not know about the position you hold?
Cybele: It is way more complicated than one would imagine. We spend a lot of resources and effort on security, systems improvements and new product innovation. We are constantly trying to excel at what we do rather than become complacent. We have to deal with issues around compliance with ICANN, individual registries and their rules, privacy rules across various countries, compliance around data storage, taxation of individual provinces and different countries, anti-spam legislation across various countries and much more. We often get dragged into disputes where a complainant wants us to take down a website due to its content, sometimes where it is objectionable but not against the law or fraudulent in nature. We also have to deal with fraud, DDoS attacks, and other nefarious activity. We must navigate the complexities of systems that serve customers with one domain name or hosting account as well as domainers, resellers or Fortune 500 companies with thousands to tens of thousands of domains.
As a woman leading a technology company, I have many opportunities to speak to media and to entrepreneurial groups. Having a phenomenal team internally allows me to spend a significant amount of time giving back to the community serving on government boards, in economic development activities or non-for-profit initiatives such as raising money for early cancer detection. I have also been involved in numerous mentorship activities such as advising on the creation of MentorshipBC or acting as a mentor through the Women’s Executive Network for 7 years.
Mike: What is your prediction of the future of domain names… let’s say, 10 years from now.
Cybele: I think domains will continue to be relevant for some time to come, despite the growth of apps and self-contained online ecosystems. With the growing distrust of walled gardens like Facebook and Instagram, the need for independent websites, and therefore domains, is not going to go anywhere. Over the next few years, the remaining gTLDs from round one will launch some with more fanfare than others as has been the case over the last few years. Adoption of these less recognizable extensions will continue to grow, albeit slowly. Some will fail to survive, and we will see further consolidation in the industry with successful registries buying up the less successful ones. I do think there will be a round two launch of gTLDs but that will be a few years out given the policy work that needs to be done by ICANN working groups/subcommittees, approvals by the board, publication of a new applicant guidebook, public comment periods, and revisions.
I also think domain aftermarket will only become more important every year. We’re seeing that now. Business people have learned the value of a great domain and its importance to branding and digital marketing. More people are recognizing that it makes sense to purchase the best domain you can get for your business, if you’re in a position to do so. The trend in aftermarket will continue to value short or one-word .COMs highly but premiums in other extensions will continue to gain popularity. The continued growth of IoT and smart cities may drive the further domain name growth as all things in a home become connected to the internet.
Mike: When is a .ca name better than a dot com or any other TLD?
Cybele: If you’re a Canadian that’s targeting Canadians or doing business primarily with Canadians, .CA may be a better bet for you than .COM for a few reasons. A .CA domain offers some geo-targeting benefits on search engines when searches originate in Canada – it signals that your site is Canadian and probably more relevant to Canadian users. Studies have also repeatedly shown that Canadians, when given a choice, prefer making online purchases from Canadian businesses and retailers. It’s also going to be easier to rank locally in Canada with a .CA. As an added bonus, there is much better domain availability in .CA than .COM.
All that said, if you can get your .COM – do it. If you can get both your .COM and .CA, all the better. As the most recognized domain extension globally, .COM transcends borders and audiences. The bottom line however is to make sure that the domain you choose – be it .CA or .COM – is both clear and memorable for your users. All domains have equal opportunity to rank, so focus on branding.
Many of our clients register multiple domains under multiple extensions and forward them to specific landing pages on their main website or to a blog. With the low cost of domain names many businesses have come to recognize the value of protecting their brand and generating traffic through a strong domain strategy.
Mike: As a leader, what book would you recommend to entrepreneurs trying to get off the ground?
I do quite a few interviews with premium, keyword domain owners. It’s sort of my thing. I love keyword domains especially when they are put to good use. I’ve ranted in the past about the rush of disgust that fills my stomach when I find a great name and its parked. Well, you’ll recall that back in April of last year, Erik Bergman was making the rounds in the Domain-o-sphere after dropping a few coins on the purchase of Great.com. I caught up with Erik to see how things were coming along and, of course, I’m happy to share that conversation with you.
Mike: It’s been a while since we last chatted. How is the charity behind Great.com shaping up?
Erik: It has been a long time, and while the website has stayed relatively the same and it might not look like much is happening from the outside, a lot is going on behind the scenes. Our team has weekly video chats, we’re developing our organizational structure and communication process, and we’re putting the foundation in place to help us scale efficiently when the time comes.
The absolute latest thing that has happened is that we started posting our video calls online for anyone to see. The first episode is here, you can also see lots of content coming up on our Youtube channel.
Mike: Sounds exciting. There is still next to no information out there about what Great is actually going to be. Can you give us some more information?
Erik: Of course, Mike! We are finally in a place where we are comfortable sharing more information about our project. Great’s overall mission is to “Do as much good as possible,” which to us means “Doing Great.”
While this mission sounds great, the most important step is that we define what it means and how it works within the context of a self-sufficient organization – and more importantly, a charity. Great is a living organism, and we are constantly adapting, but as of today, we see a few specific areas of focus within which we can collaborate and have the most positive impact.
Great.com – Positing ourselves as an educational thought-leader
The first area of focus for Great is to position ourselves as an educational resource for personal and professional development. This will be one of the main functions of Great.com. We intend to publish high-quality content on various topics that can motivate people to make positive changes in their lives and aspire to greatness.
Whether we’re publishing a guide on how to prioritize better sleep habits for improved health or sharing an article on how to communicate more effectively with your partner, we truly believe that we can use our platform to spark genuine changes in people’s lives.
Great.com has the potential to be a catalyst for positive change for millions of online visitors. This opportunity aligns directly with our mission to efficiently use our resources to “Do as much good as possible.”
We do not intend to publish sponsored content, and there will be no advertising on this area of Great.com – it will simply be designed to share as much valuable content to the world as possible.
Additionally, by positioning Great.com as a thought-leader in personal and professional development, we believe that we can generate a lot of engagement with our audience and attract organic attention and backlinks – which will help our other areas.
The next section of Great.com will focus on charities and donating. Charitable giving can be a complex and convoluted topic – there are hundreds of charities around the world supporting similar causes.
If you are someone looking to donate to a cause you care about, how do you know which charity will do the most good with your donation? Simply put, there is not an efficient way to know – yet!
One of the first goals of our charity section will be to educate people on the concept of charity. We’ll provide resources explaining the organizational and legal components of a charity, looking at the concept of charity, assessing different models, and we’ll do our best to break down the complex topics and opinions associated with donating to charities — with the overarching goal to help people understand what charity means.
The second goal will be to simplify the donation process. We will develop tools and resources to help you quickly find the best organization based on your interests, beliefs, and the causes you support. There is a wealth of data surrounding charities and the extent of their impact for various causes – we want to collect that data and make it easy for people to digest.
If you want to find charities saving endangered animals, we want to show various organizations supporting that cause and give you data to determine which one you think is best. If you’re curious about which charity will feed the most people with your donation amount, we want to help you answer that question.
We don’t want to tell people where to donate or influence them to support a specific cause; we want to give them the information to make an educated decision based on what they value the most.
Additionally, we’ve seen that many charities struggle to leverage their website effectively. They have low conversions, complex donation forms, and a generally poor online user experience. Our background in affiliate marketing gives us a unique perspective on these areas, and we strongly believe that we can improve the donation process and help charities receive more money.
Like the section above, the charity section of Great.com will be designed to provide as much value as possible. It will help people donate more efficiently and research causes or charities that they find most interesting. It will also provide a platform for charities to spread their message and receive more donations. We believe that this approach will also help Great.com acquire authoritative citations and recognition that can further support our mission and other sections.
Great.com/company/ — Developing a great company culture
Another pillar of our organization will be our actual organization. We want to create an organizational culture that inspires and changes the way businesses and other organizations approach hiring, leadership, project management, communication, and other operational areas.
We want to emphasize freedom, transparency, and flexibility in all areas of our organization. This section of Great.com will be designed to be radically transparent and honest about how we are operating at the micro and macro level.
For example, we will post our weekly video meetings on the website for people to follow our journey. We’ll share videos, podcasts, and blog posts outlining our organization goals, individual OKRs, and strategic objectives.
We want to share information about our employees, make our salaries public, and give an honest view of life at a completely remote organization. We plan to publish a lot of Great-centric content this year, and anyone who is interested will be able to see our successes – but more importantly, our failures.
This section of Great.com will feature a lot of content designed to help inspire and change the way other organizations are built. We believe there is a better way to approach work and a more productive way to succeed, and we want to use Great as a case study for how other organizations can make positive changes.
Great.com/product/ — Creating a commercial product
As mentioned, our mission is to “Do as much good as possible.” We believe one way to do that is to donate money ourselves to important causes. The more money we donate, the more good we can do – therefore, the more money we earn, the more money we can donate. As a result, we will have a commercial component on Great.com.
With my background in affiliate marketing, the commercial side will be an affiliate section that compares products across several different industries. From tires and automobiles to traveling and video streaming services, we want to create an amazing resource for people to compare their options.
We picked the name Great because of its brand power. You could see a future iteration of Great.com that features Great Tires, Great Insurances, etc.
We believe that the commercial section will benefit from our other initiatives. The other sections will help us gain authority as a brand which will lead to more trust and engagement from clients and users. The high-quality content and unique resources will generate citations and links which can improve the SEO of our entire site. We also believe that all of these sections, including the commercial side, support our mission and help us bring about the most positive change in the world.
As far as what commercial product will come first, we’ve spent a lot of time looking into the various industries to see which one gives us the quickest path to profitability. By looking at our current knowledge and experience, personal network, and market viability, we believe the answer is the casino and finance vertical.
We have yet to break ground on the development of the commercial product, but we do feel strongly that this market makes the most sense right now. We do understand that these markets may be controversial when combined with the idea of charity, but we feel confident that it’s a market we can succeed within and one that will allow us to do the most good.
Mike: Wow, it a very big project you have taken on. How far along have you gotten?
Erik: It certainly is, and we do not want to rush into things without setting a strong foundation. We have made a lot of headway with certain sections, such as our organizational culture and how we want to approach radical transparency. However, other sections like the commercial product will see much more attention when the time is right.
Mike: In 10 years, what will I be writing about Great.com? What will people be saying?
Erik: By that time, I hope that Great is a positive example for other companies and initiatives. I want to have built a self-sufficient organization that inspires others and supports hundreds of important causes. I hope that our choice to donate all our profits, practice radical transparency, and freely share our ideas has caused a ripple effect across the world. In 10 years, I hope I can look back and see the positive impact that we’ve made in people’s lives, in our nature and wildlife, and within companies and other organizations.
Mike: It never gets old, but Great.com is a great name! Also, an expensive name. Ever have any regrets about the purchase? Why or why not?
Erik: I don’t have any regrets at all. I fall more in love with the name every time I hear it. Just the other day, Angelica published a post about our team titled “Great to meet you!” with our photos – it just fit perfectly! The word is so natural within our language that I’ll sometimes say it or type it in a sentence without even noticing, and then when I think back on it, it puts a smile on my face. It’s a great name for a great project!
Mike: How does building an online charity business differ from an online affiliate business. What are some challenges and/or similarities?
Erik: I actually see a lot of similarities between the two. As I mentioned a little above, improving conversions, creating a great user experience, and focusing on high-quality content are all element of affiliate marketing that can benefit the charity space. We will also operate much like a regular business, so I believe that we’ll receive a lot value from the charitable component. It’s much easier to inspire others when they are working for a good cause, and I feel strongly that operating as a charity can help us gain more publicity and establish better partnerships than we could operating as an affiliate business.
Mike: While I’m sure you have your hands full with this great project (see what I did there?), is there anything else you are working on? How do you spend your free time?
Erik: First and foremost, I want to live great (see what I did there 😉?). I mean this both literally and within the context of Great.com. I want to embody the values of Great and make my life an extension of our organization. I want to be open and transparent in my personal and professional relationships. I want to provide value to those interested in learning more about Great and our goals. I want to create a healthy and positive environment for myself, family, friends, and others.
I want to continue to make myself and Great better, and I’m constantly looking for new tools and techniques to do this. To be honest, I don’t really see a clear distinction between the work I do for great and the work I do improving myself – they kind of just blend together. This is part of the fun of the project. As long as I’m taking steps every day to be better, it benefits Great and myself.
Mike: Choose a single book that you have read that has helped you in business and life, what book and why?
Erik: I’m going to give you two, and I recommend these two books every chance I get! I think they are both incredibly important and actually add value to each other.
The first one is How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I think this book should be mandatory in every school. It teaches you how to prioritize those around you. You’ll learn how to make others happy, how to inspire them, and how to interact with them in positive ways. If you can apply the steps in this book, you’ll become a better leader and a happier person.
The second book is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. It takes the concepts from Carnegie’s book and delves much deeper. While it’s a slightly tougher read than the first book, you will benefit greatly from its advice. I honestly think this is the most important book I’ve ever read, and it has had a direct impact on the quality of my life.
It teaches you how to connect with others and truly understand them while also showing you how to empathize and connect. You will improve your emotional intelligence greatly by reading this book.
Carnegie’s book will help you establish several quality relationships, and Rosenberg’s book will teach you how to make those relationships last for life.
At the end of the day, both of these books focus on relationships, communication, and empathy – which are incredible skills to help you succeed in business. Everything is about people!
A few years after I bought my first home, the spring on my garage door snapped. I called up a local garage door guy and he came over to fix it for me. He was a one man show, a small business owner. I was working on some other things in the garage while he was taking care of business. We got to talking and he mentioned something to me that I never forgot because, well, it was genius.
Take advantage of opportunities
He started on a story about a local competitor of his that was going out of business for one reason or another. The reason isn’t really important. I don’t know if the owner was retiring or if there was some issue, but the fact is, the business was no longer going to exist. He explained the business was actually bigger than his because it had been around for a decade or two longer than his own business. So, he made the guy an offer. Not for his business…. but for his phone number.
See What Others Don’t See
I asked him why he would buy the guys phone number? I mean the guy is going out of business. Sure, maybe you’ll get a couple of calls, but not worth buying the number. Then he tapped his finger on the wall of my garage. As I looked over at the source of his tapping, there was a sticker on my was which is what he was intending me to see. Right next tot he garage door button was a sticker from the last company that serviced the door in this house. It wasn’t the name of the company on the sticker that mattered, it was the phone number.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Every time a service person visits your house to fix your garage door, clean your furnace, service your water heater, they slap a sticker nearby so you’ll call them the next time you need work done. If there was a competitor there before them, they’ll slap the sticker right over that other sticker. It’s almost a guaranteed repeat customer for them.
My garage door guy explained that since this company was in business for decades before him, they had thousands of these stickers plastered in homes in a 50 mile radius, at least. His business tripled over night! He told me there are days that he could turn down jobs because they were too far, too complicated, or he just didn’t want to take it on. He still had plenty of work.
How Does this Relate to Domaining?
Here is a simple example that I am going to use as a case study. If it’s successful, I will bump up the intensity of this plan and report progress. I acquired a name used by a local martial arts school that has recently gone out of business. My plan is to offer this name to the other local schools that would like to pick up the business this school has left behind. Why would they want it?
The school did a lot of local advertising using it’s domain
There are several links back to the site
It still shows in search results
Families have posted years of Youtube videos mentioning their kids in this school
There are dozens of directories still referencing the school and it’s domain name
There are archived competitions online that still link to the site
The reasons go on and on. The concept is essentially the same as the phone number story my garage door man told me. This will be a cheap sale since I am dealing with small businesses / sole proprietors but it the proof of concept I am looking for here.
Buying domains with traffic is nothing new. I am not inventing this concept. It’s more of a moment of enlightenment for me that I thought I would share. If all goes well, you’ll hear more about it. If not…. you still may hear more about it.
If you have any experience in this area, let me know what you have tried and how well it has worked for you.
Drawing from her experience working in design and lighting, Lights.com co-founder, Sheva Knopfler had a thought: buying well-designed, well-crafted lighting should not be nearly as complicated or expensive as it is. In the age of the internet, why are we buying four-figure chandeliers from pushy salespeople in a showroom? Instead, why not provide outstanding value by offering thoughtfully-designed goods directly to our customers?
Sheva’s husband, David, joined her in this vision, bringing to the table his expertise in marketing and business development. They cultivated a team of people, not only knowledgeable about lighting, but also well-versed in art, fashion, technology, and interior design, lending outside perspectives on what a lighting company can and should be. Together, they are striving to surpass industry norms and to discover new ways to offer their customers exceptional product and exceptional service.
Mike: Tell me a little bit about how David and Sheva decided to launch Lights.com?
Josh: Sheva, one of our co-founders, had been working in the lighting industry for several years and realized there was a huge gap in the market for well-designed, responsibly sourced and fairly priced lighting. The only options at that time were either mass-produced, poor quality or ridiculously expensive. She realized this better option could be accomplished by avoiding the traditional showroom model and selling directly to the customer online, and so Lights.com was born.
Mike: What has the growth been like over the past five years since they began?
Growth has been continuous. We certainly share challenging moments that come with the kind of expansion one sees in a small business, especially in a dynamic consumer goods industry. The challenge is staying ahead of consumer demands and updating product lines, while maintaining a tight supply chain that is uncompromising in both quality and design. At the same time, we ensure that our customers have access to our full line of lighting products at fair prices. We invest in quality and are proud of the outcome.
Mike: How did they acquire the name? Can you tell us the cost?
Josh: When we were a pretty small company, we received an email late one night from a domain broker who offered to sell us the name, Lights.com. It was a chance for Ambient Lighting to have the kind of reach and growth that would let us expand in a way that competes in a global sense.
David’s real estate background taught him to always say yes to a good deal and figure out finances later. This is what he did. Although it proved much harder to finance a domain name than real estate. The deal included an NDA so we’re unable disclose the price but we paid a good sum. It turned out to be a great investment.
Mike: You play an important role in the company as Marketing Director. Can you tell us more about your role?
Josh: I oversee the team here that manages all of the marketing for Lights.com. We currently focus heavily on digital channels, primarily social media advertising, SEM, SEO and email. As an online-only business, the performance of our website is deeply intertwined with our marketing results, so I lead all update and optimization projects, working with our designers and developers to make sure our site experience is the best it can be.
Mike: What challenges or benefits have you found in running an online business? Is it harder than most people think?
Josh: The most challenging aspect is that the challenges are constantly evolving. You will see another retailer (or ten) pop up that uses your exact value prop, with similar products, for the same price or less. Amazon continues to dominate e-commerce more and more and pull customers away from independent retailers. The barriers to entry to start an online business continue to get lower and, while a positive in many ways, this has cluttered the marketplace and driven up costs across advertising channels. It requires being more creative to get in front of the correct audience than it did even 2 years ago.
Mike: How many employees does it take to keep the “lights” on in a business like lights.com?
Josh: We have 17 people in our NYC office and 8 in our Los Angeles warehouse.
Mike: What role has the key word domain name played in the companies success?
Josh: Aside from receiving some traffic from people optimistically navigating directly to our website, I believe having a domain like Lights.com offers an air of legitimacy to the brand that would be harder to develop otherwise. The only downside is that because of how broad the name is, it takes extra effort to identify and communicate a strong brand personality.
Mike: What type of traffic do you see from people strictly typing in the domain name?
Josh: Metrics for this are tough to measure but anecdotally I’ve heard from customers who have found us this way. They’re typically a little less tech-savvy and may not be aware of the other methods for surfacing the products they’re interested in finding. They may also just be curious, and then we enjoy pleasantly surprising them!
Scrolling through Amazon the other day and one of the suggestions for me was the “I Heart Rick Schwartz” t-shirt. Since everyone in my family already has one, I went on to the next item which was The Domain Sellers Handbook by Renata Barnes. This item is available for free as a kindle unlimited subscriber. If you like to read, $10 a month for a crap-ton of free reads is a pretty good deal, check it out if reading is your thing.
I’m always looking for something new when reading books on domaining. While The Domain Game remains my favorite on the topic, most books are geared at the absolute noob. The Domain Sellers Handbook is some how geared even a notch below a noob.
I never touted myself as a perfect speller, but nothing puts a dent in an authors credibility like finding a misspelling in very first page of the book. This is in the Front Matter right after the cover of the book. “Buy buying and exact match searchable keyword…” Alright, it’s an honest mistake. But it’s not the only one. A book author needs an editor and the editor need to do his or her job. I’m likely to make a spelling error in this article, but then again, I’m not trying to sell it to you.
Chapter one was “about the author” and I wasn’t overly impressed. By the end of chapter two, “Introduction,” I wanted to stop reading. Passages like “What gets me is there is nothing solid online to say what you should or should not do in regards to buying and selling domain names” is a load of shit. If you’re reading this right now chances are great that you have been to domaining.com and have seen all the resources available to you. The bloggers and message forums in this industry have a wealth of information. The veterans of this industry like the previously mentioned Domain King and The Costellos of the world have always been willing to give advice to the newer folks. We have those like Shane, Elliot, and Michael Cyger who have come in at a later level in the game and still proved successful.
While I could go on about chapter two, chapter three, “Registrars” is more about trademarks than anything. Chapter four hits on TLDs but offers little value. The chapters go on and on and the information in minimal and in some cases, arguably inaccurate. There are 31 chapters in this book and only 219 pages. Most chapters wouldn’t quality as a decent blog post.
I won’t waste your time discussing how disappointed I am in the remaining chapters, but I hope I’ve actually saved you some time by guiding you away from this book. In retrospect, this looks like a poorly crafted ebook the author wrote to give away to sign up for a newsletter and then she decided to sell it on amazon. If you are interested in any books I actually endorse, have a look a the book store page and read the reviews that go along with them.
I’m hoping my next review is a book of value to a segment of the audience. This one certainly is not.
NamesCon, NamesCon, NamesCon. That’s all we have been hearing. NamesCon is an awesome event where some of the biggest names in the industry gather. There are plenty of connections to be made and things to learn that can propel you forward in your domaining journey. But the reality is, not everyone is at NamesCon, even though it feels like they are.
So what’s a domainer to do. I’ll tell you what.
1. Follow the domain blogs
Well, hey, that’s what you are doing right now. Mrs of the blog posts this week are about NamesCon. You can stay pretty up to date on what’s going on. While nothing replaces being there in person, here are a few highlights from fellow bloggers.
…and there are plenty more!! Check out what’s being written, what folks are saying. Maybe it’s some inspiration for you to make the trip next year, or some evidence that you’re glad you didn’t. To each their own.
2. Get your hustle on
All your domain name industry pals are at NamesCon and then partying it up all night. Throwing money down at the casino and living the good life. All the more reason for to use this time to focus, turn up the heat, get your game on!! Use this quiet time to finish planning out that next domain development project you have been dreaming about for years. Research some creative financing options to finally land that domain name that was made for you (but registered by some other jackass before you even thought of it). Hit the phone, email, the streets, whatever you need to in order to get in front of the right end users to buy your domain names and make a profit.
3. Learn something
If you haven’t noticed, I’m a life long learner. I love to learn new things (that interest me) and I like a lot of diversity in my mental library. Domaining is great and I try to find ways to relate and apply things I learn even if they have nothing to do with domaining. Regardless, if you’re not already incorporating learning into your regular routine, take this opportunity to do it. Read a book, take an online class at Udemy or Coursera.com. Hell, if you really want to learn something, check out Michael Cyger’s DNacademy. Michael gave me an opportunity to review the whole program (look for an upcoming review). Whatever you do, just do something to learn more than you knew yesterday.
While we all can’t be at NamesCon this year, don’t let that time go to waste. There are still things you can do to learn about the industry and grow your venture while you’re at it. Hey, there’s always next year.
I stubbed across a simple Google search tool that came in hany for a series of domain names I had, all ending with the term. It’s easy to use and produces great results. It’s the Google “unurl:” operator.
Suppose, for example, you have the name “nanocpaps.com” and you are looking for a buyer. You could search google for “cpap” for all the cpap sites and try to narrow down the selection of those that might be interested. This search will pull up sites that have the acronym “cpap” in the title, url or body of the site. This is a wide net pulling in tons of results.
Another option is to tighten your focus and look for just those using “cpap” in their URL. This gives you the opportunity to target only those sites that find cpaps important enough to include in their url. As you can see from the search results, this is a targeted list and all the results have the keyword in the URL.
You can take this further and search for “inurl:cpap.com” to find only those URLs that contain anything followed by “cpap.com.” In my search it also turned up urls using “/cpap-com.” Another option is “inurl:cpap*.com” which should find you results with “*” as the wildcard. This would return cpapsforsale.com for example.
This is just one operator and there are plenty of others that can be useful. Have a look here for other examples. The story here isn’t “are these the best buyers for your domain name” or to make you a Google search operator master, it’s simply to expand your tools for finding buyers. It may work well for some words and not for others. I’d love to hear about your experience, so let me know how well it works for you.
Back in January, 2011 I wrote an article about Mashable’s 10 Sites to Watch. The list included Kickstarter, Quora and FourSquare, to name a few. Obviously we recognize those names, but I thought it would be interesting to review the full list of 10 and see where they are today. Here we go…
1. Kickstarter.com – At the moment I am writing this, Kickstarter has an Alexa global rank of 632. Damn, that’s awesome!
2. OpenLeaks.org – All the site has to offer is this. quote: “Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”
― George Orwell, 1984
3. Klout.com – If you had any Klout, you don’t any more. As of May 25, 2018, Klout is kaput.
4. Hipmonk.com – I’m actually amazed to see this travel site still exists. Go you brandable badass!!
5. GiltGroupe.com – Resolves to Gilt.com. Still running a designer site and Guilt is a great name.
6. JoinDiaspora.com – Not sure on this one. There is a site but the most prominent portion of the page reads “This is not the diaspora* project website.”
7. Quora.com – I love this site. Alexa global rank 92, bitch!
The post you are about to read is one that I wrote over 8 years ago. I made some minor updates and added about 10 additional tips to the list, bringing it to 111 tips / truths for new domainers. While you and I have surely changed, not much has changed in 8 years as far as the fundamentals go.
I was having lunch with an old friend a couple weeks back. The type of friend you see just a few times a year. We were catching up on things and he asked me “If I wanted to start domaining, what tips or advice would you give me.” I explained that my definition of domaining includes flipping, longer term investing, and developing. That said, my reply was “I could easily come up with 100 tips for you.” So, he held me to it. In the spirit of sharing, here are 101 tips and truths for new domainers. This list could easily be doubled, but it’s a good start. There are probably a few reminders in there for experienced domainers as well.
1. Read domain blogs
2. Subscribe to Domaining.com
3. Heed the advice of the experts
4. Draw your own conclusions
5. Research before you buy a domain
6. Research before you sell a domain
7. Network with other domainers
8. Find a niche
9. Read forums with caution
10. Make mistakes
11. Learn to negotiate
12. Learn about sales
13. Don’t burn bridges
14. Don’t buy more domains than you can afford
15. Keep renewal fees in mind
16. Don’t rely on automated estimation tools
17. Stay away from trademarked names
18. Familiarize yourself with domain laws
19. Diversify, invest and develop
20. Have a contract when selling a domain
21. Have a contract when buying a domain
22. Stay ahead of trends
23. Review past sales data
24. Understand that a domain is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay
25. Buy domains that interest you
26. Find email examples of effective sales letters
27. Experiment with email sales letters to find what works best
28. Pick up the phone
29. Utilize a broker when appropriate
30. You WILL get discouraged. Keep going
31. Set Goals and a clear vision
32. Don’t register a name just because it’s available
33. Get creative with ways to reach end users
34. Buyers don’t have to be one time customers
35. Learn a little html
36. Learn a little graphic editing
37. Find a reliable hosting service
38. Learn about WordPress
39. Hire a developer if you build a full site
40. Don’t let other domainers discourage you
41. You won’t get rich from parking
42. Realize most of your domains suck
43. Understand SEO
44. Avoid duplicate content
45. Familiarize yourself with Google Trends
46. Social Networking is important
47. Experiment with affiliate programs
48. If you feel strongly about a name, don’t accept a low ball offer
49. Before buying a domain, think about how else the money could be used
50. Try selling on Craigslist, eBay, forums, domain actions and other means
51. Use Twitter to network, not to make a tweet a sales pitch
52. Even sucky names can have high global monthly searches
53. List your names at Sedo
54. Understand brandable vs generic
55. Model what works well for others
56. Don’t quit your day job… yet
57. Never go back on your word
58. If you’re serious, then form a legal business
59. Attend meetups when possible
60. Take lessons from other industries
61. Keep meticulous records
62. Stay connected with new TLDs, even if you don’t invest in them
63. Don’t use Hotmail or spamming looking ail when soliciting buyers.
64. Back up your sites
65. Be prepared to develop or drop any domain you purchase
66. Learn how the drop process works
67. Understand domain taxes
68. Know what your minimum acceptable price is for each domain you own
69. Find partners for development
70. Be willing to work HARD
71. Search feverishly for opportunity
72. Great domains with poor content = crap
73. Look to domain suggestion tools for inspiration only
74. Read, listen, process
75. Know when to give up on a project
76. Know when not to give up
77. Help and teach others, it’s the best way to learn
78. Focus – work on one idea at a time
79. Don’t expect to get rich quick
80. You don’t have to have a huge portfolio to be successful
81. Find free, inexpensive resources. They’re out there
82. Even though some things are free, sometimes it’s worth paying for better quality
83. Know that most end users wont understand the value of a good domain
84. Domainers won’t pay end user prices, neither should you
85. You can’t do it all alone
86. Find an attorney in the industry before you need one
87. If you ask for advice, you’ll probably get it
88. Not all advice is good advice
89. Your friends/family don’t understand what you’re doing. That’s fine
90. Don’t waste time wishing you bought names in the 90’s
91. Buy what you can afford and add value
92. If you can’t write content, hire someone who can
93. Most of your ideas won’t get off the ground
94. Make the few that do get off the ground count
95. You’ll get better with practice
96. There are no shortcuts, only faster runners
97. The best domains maybe taken, the best ideas are not
98. Don’t get emotionally attached to a domain
99. Don’t believe everything you read
100. Keep a separate bank account for domaining
101. Don’t look up domains you let drop, it will only piss you off
102. Don’t think you have to register every TLD for a name, that’s just madness
103. There are ways to accelerate your learning… find them
104. A great domain still requires lots of work to be successful
105. Make sure the TLD is appropriate for the name
106. Keep up on technology
107. Never sell based on panic
108. Never rush into a purchase
109. Your reputation is everything
110. If you don’t make money but you enjoy it, keep doing it
111. If you don’t enjoy it, then stop doing it
Have any favorites from the list? Any additional items you would add? Post them in the comments.
I have a strange hobby. I like to track keyword domains that point to other sites. I’ve explained in the past how I’m always disappointed when I come across a parked keyword domain name. Its just a let down. “What a great name,” I think to myself, and no one is enjoying it. It’s like a picture frame missing it’s award winning photograph. It’s just not a feel good. So when I come across a keyword name that doesn’t have a site, but is instead directing viewers to another site that has value, I burst with joy. Burst is a little sting, but I’m happy to see the name put to good use.
Here’s a quick hitter of 8 domains pointing to other sites.
Marine.com, LLC began in 1997 as Cyber-Marine, Inc. www.cyber-marine.com. In 2000, subsequent to an investment by MindDrivers, LLC, a venture development firm, the company became marine.com and with additional resources, funding and support, rolled out a vastly expanded product offering as well as expanded features and customer support. In late 2014, Marine.com was sold to the current owners well versed in all aspects of e-commerce and the boating industry. Marine.com is owned and operated by a growing team of experienced sail and motor boating professionals with expertise in retail e-commerce. Jim Houston took the bait and joined me for an interview.
Mike: How did you acquire Marine.com? Were you the first to register it or did you buy it on the aftermarket? If the latter, can you share what you paid?
Jim Houston: I belong to a domain group in Linkedin, an individual on there was acting as a broker for the owners. He tossed out a post about a keyword domain in the marine industry going up for sale and was looking for interested parties. Limited details were given, he was vetting us as much as we were vetting him. Once he felt comfortable with us, he revealed the actual domain and the price range that the owners were looking for.
Mike: I imagine a name like this really reduces your need for advertising costs. Is that correct?
Jim Houston: Yes and no. One of the first things we noticed once we got access to Google Analytics (GA) (pre-purchase) was the high bounce rate on the GA. The owners were not much help on the reason, as they were busy with their other businesses and really didn’t have time to go back and forth on all the questions. So we did a deeper dive in GA and came up with some interesting data points, it seemed that a large percentage of the traffic for marine.com was actually coming in for Marine Corp and not for boat supplies. But the traffic that was coming in for the boat supplies converted very well. So, to answer your question is Yes and No. The marine industry traffic (organic) converts great!
Mike: What is the volume of traffic the site sees? Do you know how many people find the site just by typing in Marine.com?
Jim Houston: The site operates only on organic/referral/direct traffic, we do not advertise it at all. So, traffic is low, about 15k per month and 25% of that is type-in. The site was purchased as a pet project outside of our current domains that we own and operate. We spent about 6 months building out a backend to manage all the different vendors for drop shipping. Current, we have 5 vendors with roughly 48,000 products online. The site pays for itself and only takes about 15 minutes per day to update. Everything is automated on the site, we even have ranking system in place to give the vendor with a lower price and more margin for us first position to sell.
We have a new concept for marine.com to take it over the top, but haven’t had the resources to assign to the project. The boating industry lacks this portal and we know it will be a homerun, we hope by mid-2019 we can apply some resources to build this out or at least get an investor or two to help get additional resources in here to build it.
Mike: Have you had offers from people and businesses that want to buy the name? If so, what dollar amount have the offers been? What would it take for you to part with the name?
Jim Houston: Yes, we get weekly inquires to sell the domain/business. As normal, 99% of them are tire kickers, but once and awhile we will get someone with more interest then normal. We have been offered in range of 100k, 200k, 250k. It’s hard to say what we would sell it for, being a pet product that pays for itself with limited resources applied to it.. But, we will always entertain serious offers.
Mike: Do you have a brick and mortar business to go along with the website?
Jim Houston: No, marine.com is a virtual drop ship business.
Mike: Despite having a great domain name, what challenges have you found in running an online business?
Jim Houston: Google, Amazon, Google, Amazon, Google.. Need I say more? Google has too much power over small business with no oversight, with one algorithm change. Google can wipe the small business of search results. Killing all hopes of the business surviving. Working the SEO myself, I’ve seen how our position changes daily, weekly, monthly.. One day the phones will ring off the hook with business and the next day, a few phone calls. We know immediately Google has ranked us differently. How can a small business compete with larger businesses that have fully staffed department of marketing/SEO gurus. We are lucky that we do not need this business to survive.
Same goes for Amazon, I love Amazon, I order from it damn near daily. But, being a small business, they are killing the small businesses. And if you are a small business and you start FBA with Amazon, they monitor everything. So, if you have a hot item, expect Amazon to find a quick knockoff and start competing against you.
Mike: There is a famous fisherman by the same name as you… Other than me, has anyone else mistaken you for him?
Jim Houston: Yes, I get it a lot on Linkedin and I use to bass fish a lot and compete in local tournament around Lake Okeechobee, Florida. It was fun to see my name on the leader board and people looking all around for Jimmy. Then I walk on stage and silence from the crowd. Tournament directors always got a kick out of it.
I took a spin through SullysBlog.com and all of the interviews, reviews and editorials that I have posted over the years. It’s amazing to see how much has changed and how much as stayed the same. One area that caught my interest was that some of the great names that I had interviewed or mentioned in the past are now parked, for sale, or otherwise not in use. That’s not to say that the business or people behind these domains were failures. In some cases they may have been, in others, domain may have changed hands and the new owners have chosen to park the name until they are ready to use it or resell. We can really only speculate.
I decided to list 97 of such domain names straight from the pages of SullysBlog.com. This is not all inclusive. There are other names that now have different sites or point to different URLs, but I have excluded those. I am not passing judgement, but there are certainly lessons to be learned here. You can poke around and decide for yourself. Below you’ll find the domain name, a link to the post where the name was featured or mentioned on my site, and they result I found when visiting that domain today.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a lot of broken links to cleanup on my blog.
Label.com is home of Bradley Name Plates. Bradley is a job shop which utilizes a wide variety of custom materials and processes it has acquired from over the years. Jim Bradley is the man behind it all and he shares
Mike: I read that the company was founded in 1976. Can you talk about how the business has evolved since that time? How has the market changed and what shifts have you seen, such as online sales, in that evolution?
Jim: In the beginning, a post card mailing yielded long lasting results as did door to door and more elaborate mailings. By the year 2000, near zero results. Presently, nothing we have tried yields results. Most of our new customers are referrals or sub-contractors associated with existing customers. Large firms delegate manufacturing to sub-contractors such as Flextronics, local and China.
Mike: Who are your primary customers?
Jim: Within any given quarter we have about 250 high tech customers. Barracuda, Cisco Systems, Lam Research, Tesla and more.
Mike: Can you share what you paid for the name?
Jim: Initially bradleynp.com Purchased Label.com about the year 2000 for $25,000. It was offered to me by an associate, an online label company going out of business. I could not afford it at the time but bought it anyway, recognizing that it would be an asset.
Mike: Have you received any unsolicited offer for the name?
Jim: A few, most did not understand the value. I did turn down $400,000 for it recently(our company was worth only about two million). I consider the value of Label.com com to be at least 1% of a 10 year marketing budget. It seems to me that clothing and record companies would benefit from Label.com. My license plate is Label.com
Mike: What benefits have you seen from the single, key word domain name?
Jim: Easier to say than bradleynp.com. Simple, easy for our customers. We could track very little traffic or result from the web even though for at least six months we were at the top of search results. It attracted scams and un-professional buyers.
Mike: How do you market your business? Do you do anything outside of Google organic search results and the great domain name?
Jim: I gave up, nothing we tried worked. I expect to put some thought into it soon.
Mike: Can you tell us the volume of traffic you see on a monthly basis?
Jim: Summary of our sales and performance. We are a job shop, basically printers of industrial labels and panel graphics. 90+% of our sales are repeat orders. Until 2000, our income was in the top 10% of all companies as reported by our industry association. Sales rose to about eight million dollars with 50 employees, most of our sales was with Cisco Systems, we had a desk on site and stocked seven of their production lines daily. We had similar arrangements with other companies. About the year 2000 Cisco and most of our large customers moved production to China, our sales dropped to two million dollars overnight has stayed at that level until recently. We are now near three million dollars. We lost no customers, but the big jobs went to China. We were near bankruptcy three times but recovered and generally have done well.We have significant competition but have an excellent reputation, seldom lose a customer because we spoil them with excessive customer service and quality. About 16% of our jobs are shipped overseas to ten different countries but mostly 30 locations within China. Flextronics and similar companies.
Here’s another one from the archives I dusted off and updated with a few more thoughts. I know I am looking for trouble with this one, but it’s all in good fun. I welcome my female readers to fire back with their own comments.
There’s always someone waiting to grab it when you let ’em drop.
They can be expensive to acquire.
It’s hard to let some go, even though you know you’d be better off.
The wrong one can get you into legal trouble.
They’re always more attractive when someone else has them.
Some of them just don’t make sense.
You’ll never fully understand them, but can’t live without them.
They are everywhere you look.
You google them to find out their history.
You love them, but it seems to be a one way thing.
Here are three, chosen at random, or as random as a Google search will allow, and my interpretation of them.
namestatation is the first tool I tested out and I use “tested” in a loose, less than scientific manner. Defaulting to the Keyword Domains setting, I thought I would start simple and enter “pens” as my keyword with the Extension as .com. The result, a nice mix of good and terrible names were returned. But here is the immediate turn-off for me. You have to click each one individually to see if it is available, or signup to check multiple at one time. If you are going to create a name suggestion tool, the primary criteria should be that the name is available. There are plenty of additional options in the lefthand side menu, but to be honest, I lost interest after having to check to see if a domain is available.
Moving right along, the next option I tried out was DomainIT, touted as “the original domain service.” Ummm… what the hell does that mean? There is a little icon on the site that reads “Reliable Website Service since 1996.” I think that was the year then implemented the interface on this site as well. The result was a list of names, none that were appealing, although usedpenshop.com and PensSupport.com made me laugh. “Yes, I bought this pen on usedpenshop.com and I’m not sure if it is out of ink or if I am just not using in properly. Can you help me debug this issue please?”
Finally, I selected Namemesh to see what it could do. This one let’s you know up front: “TIP – Works best with 2-3 domain keywords separated by space.” That said, I modified my input to “Fountain Pen.” I’m not going to pretend that the results were excellent, but I really seem to like this one. First, the page populates with a ton of results, and then it seems to check for availability and a split second later reduces the list to those available. That’s what I’m talking about. It also divides the names into different categories: Common, Similar, New, Fun, SEO, etc. I like this, it’s checking dozens of TLDs and a small spectrum of other options all on its own and in a clean readable interface. No, I didn’t find a single name I wanted to buy, but it was fun. I spent some time plugging in other words and there were some cool results.
Tune in next time for another exciting episode of “3 Domain Suggestion Tools!”
Backyard produces creative content for some of the best ad agencies and top brands in the world. Headquartered in Culver City, CA, their team of talented directors and seasoned producers deliver a collaborative creative process that builds happy client relationships.
The Backyard brand is nearly 30 years old. Fellow Chicagoan, Founder, and current CMO/Managing Director of Backyard, Roy Skillicorn talks about the company and the domain that represents it.
Mike: I read that you founded Backyard with Chicago photographer Tony D’Orio in 1988 while you were working as a rep for PIXAR. What inspired the idea for Backyard and what was your vision at the time?
Roy: I was a rep for Pixar, Colossal Pictures, and HKM at the time I started Backyard. All were start ups that I helped establish by not only finding them their first projects but also repped them all throughout the eighties. Since I had had such luck finding initial work for companies that soon became powerhouse live action and animation entities, I asked them all if they wouldn’t mind me starting something in Chicago for local work. They all agreed to allow me to rep them while starting Backyard. After the first 6 months I took on a partner who had been a student of mine when I was a young high school art teacher. He helped in numerous ways including back office tasks, bidding and production leaving me to what I enjoyed: sales. My vision for Backyard at the time was to create destination to do smaller, local work while keeping my representation business going for the big national work I was enjoying. When bigger national work started coming in for us at Backyard, I folded Skillicorn & Associates, my representation company, to focus 100% on Backyard. This proved to be the right move and we soon were getting work from the best agencies in NYC and from the west coast. I moved the entire company including the secretaries and assistants to Los Angeles where we eventually became a $50 million company.
Mike: You founded Backyard in 1988 and domain names were hardly even in existence. When did you aquire Backyard.com and did you purchase it on the aftermarket from someone or were you the first to register it?
Roy: We were early and we were the first to register it.
Mike: You’ve recently returned to Backyard after founding it and building it into a successful company, then founding the award winning Seed Media Arts. What brought you back to Backyard?
Roy: Upon selling Backyard in 2011, I started Seed Media Arts and modeled it after the changes I had suggested to my partner and producers at Backyard. I saw the business changing, where the advertising and marketing business was headed from being on the street and by talking to hundreds of clients and agency folk. Those changes were rejected though. I was and I still continue to be on the street and in the trenches. That gives me insight into the future and at that time, I saw what was coming in 2008-2010. I created Seed with very little overhead.
Intermittently I judged the the goings on at Backyard, being the company I started. I continually heard that directors and producers that I had hired over the 22 years, were leaving. Later, I saw that the new management and owners even discarded the iconic logo that my wife had designed, a logo that was so well liked, well known and respected. Then I heard that the company had finally downsized as I had suggested years before. Recently I came to find out that all the directors I had brought to the company and all but one producer had left and that it had been sold to a new owner. As fate would have it, I found the owner lives in Chicago and I clicked “connect” on Linkedin. He contacted me soon after and asked me to rejoin the Backyard team as Managing Director.
Mike: How important has the name Backyard.com been to the company’s success? Do you feel you would have achieved the same results had you registered a name like “BackyardProductions.com?”
Roy: Backyard Productions is the real name of the company BUT everyone calls it Backyard and as the name connotes, it is a friendly and casual place. Backyard.com just made sense. Simple is always the best.
At times, I’ve submerged myself in domaining to the point where I have made irrational decisions. It’s a serious condition that can be avoided if you maintain a moderate level of domain exposure, ample vitamin C, and daily exercise. Excess exposure to domaining, on the other hand, can be dangerous to you and those around you. Fortunately, there are early warning signs developed by the scientific community that you can look out for. I originally posted this one back in 2010 but as I was recently re-reading it, a few more symptoms came to mind. Here are 10, no… 15 reasons why you may need to take a break from domaining.
15. You spend too much time during work reading lists like this one.
14. You’ve tried to coin a new word just so you can register it and sell it for millions.
13. You put a “dot” on your license plate with some black electrical tape.
12. You dressed as Rick Schwartz for Halloween.
11. You screamed with excitement when YourName.Dentist was available for hand reg. You’re a plumber.
10. You hand regged all the ingredients on your cereal box this morning, including hydroxypropylmethylcellulose.org.
9. You give domains out for gifts on holidays.
8. You can’t remember your cell phone number but you can rattle off your top 300 domains from memory.
7. You think it would be cute to name your kids .com, .net, and .org.
6. You’re monthly Godaddy invoice is larger than your mortgage.
5. You scream out “WaffleIron.com” in the heat of passion.
4. You judge your friends by how many global monthly searches they get on Google.
3. Your license plate says DOMNERS
2. You have a tattoo of the “I Heart Domaining” button on your chest.
1. You honestly think hydroxypropylmethylcellulose.org is an awesome domain name.