Is a TLD Important if You Rely on Links?

Brian Blum, Founder & President of Maverick Solutions IT, Inc, providing all types of technology consulting & support, including computer networks, surveillance systems, telephone/voicemail systems, intercom/access systems, burglar & fire alarm systems, and online services. They are a Microsoft Registered Partner and Small Business Specialist and are considered the economic alternative to keeping an in-house IT staff. They work primarily with schools, NFPs, and SO/HOs in the New York metro area, helping them get more value from their technology budgets. Brian runs his business on a dot Biz domain at MaverickSolutions.biz.

Mike: Tell me what elements led to you decision to register the .biz name for your business?

Brian: That’s easy – the .com version was already reserved, and as a small startup, we weren’t in a position to shell out thousands of dollars to acquire it. We considered various other combinations of hyphens, dots, and TLDs (.us, .ms, .info, etc), but thought this would be the easiest for our clients and prospects to remember.

Mike: Do you own any other domains or have you in the past?

Brian: Having nothing to do with Maverick Solutions, I personally have registered MaverickStructures.com for my real estate investing, rental, and management business. We’re also domain name registration resellers and DDNS hosts, so we’re registered over two dozen domains for clients of ours, mostly .orgs.

Mike: Have you experienced any challenges going with a .biz over .com or .net? Do customers ever mistype “.com” by default?

Brian: Not really. I’m sure clients and prospects have accidentally used .com in trying to reach us, but for our business model, it’s not a big deal. Most of our business is long-term client relationships, rather than one-time customers, so our clients constantly receive mail and email with links to our correct URL, and many have set up favorites, shortcuts, and email address book entries for us so they don’t have to actively remember our address. When prospects find us, it’s usually by a link rather than by a name search.

Mike: Do you have any marketing strategies for your site? SEO, PPC, offline marketing, etc?

Brian: Certainly! (As every business should!) We use Website grading tools to track our SEO rankings and frequently make changes and upgrades to improve that score. We blog (although probably not as frequently as we should), we publish articles to help establish ourselves as experts in our field (as well as for the inbound links), and we change up the Website content from time to time to keep it “current” as far as the last-update dates go.

We’ve tried PPC marketing on Yahoo, Google, and Facebook, but felt that burning our money would get us more attention, so we stopped. We may reevaluate that decision in the future, but for now, we’re making the investment of time and effort in improving our SEO rather than our SEM. We also offer SEO consulting as part of our services offerings, so we’ve taken the time and trouble to become pretty good at it.

We also still do offline marketing, too – we send out quarterly snail-mail campaigns to prospects and clients to try to highlight services we can provide. We made an investment in a good printer, folding machine, semi-automatic postage meter with sealer attachment, and bulk-rate mail permit early on in our game plan, so it’s relatively inexpensive for us to continue our postal mailing campaigns. Even so, we’re giving more serious thought to adding (or eventually transitioning to) email marketing in the near future … but we hate spam, and are reluctant to become offenders ourselves.

Mike: Are you aware of any Search Engine result ranking for key words for your site?

Brian: We have looked at these numbers from time to time, and are aware of (and pleased with) the direction in which we’re heading, but I couldn’t quote the exact index or ranking numbers to you.

Mike: Can you share the visitation statistics?

Brian: We check on these from time to time, too, and are pleased with the direction we’re headed there, as well, but again, I couldn’t quote exact numbers for you. Our ISP provides these stats, and we also use free Google analytics tools to track our visitors.

Mike: What advice would you give a fellow business owner when it comes to domain selection for business?

Brian: I can’t speak for all businesses, however, if you’ve got the sort of business where one-time customers are going to find your links via a search engine or where you’ve got recurring clients rather than one-time customers, don’t get too hung up on the domain name, because it’s not going to be a big factor in them finding you. Take an address that reads nicely (without dashes or dots), and then spend your efforts on SEO to put your links in front of your prospects.

Mike: Anything else you would like to share?

Brian: If you’re a well-established business with excellent national or regional brand name recognition, it’s probably worth ponying up the cash to get YourName.com, but for the rest of us small- to medium-sized companies, if your preferred name is already taken, don’t lose sleep over it – just move on with plan B.

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BargainDomains.com Gave me a 600% Return

Every so often I drop a couple names into BargainDomains.com to see if they’ll sell quickly at a discounted price.  Francois made it easy to do by placing a “Sell It” button right next to the data results of a domain entered into the valuation tool, Valuate.com.  Up until now, I haven’t had much luck.  I recently logged into Bargain Domains to see which names I still had listed there.  To my delight, one of the domains was listed as “in auction.”  That means that my minimum reserve price was met or exceeded.

I picked up the domain WoodenSledge.com as a hand registered name a few months back after seeing it on Arbel Arif’s PickUpNames.  The name appraises at $1,200 on Valuate.com and I set my minimum at $60.  I paid less than $10 for the name when I registered it, so a return of 600% is acceptable, wouldn’t you agree?  There was one bid placed for $60, so all is well.  Sure the domain could have sold for more, but I am pleased with the result.

I like BargainDomains.com, especially for hand regs.  It offers a fair and reasonable price to buyers.  In fact, I have now been paying closer attention to the names listed there and I see some I like.  I just might place some bids because I think there are some deals to be had.

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Selling at Flippa, What’s the Deal?

With all the news about recent sales at Flippa.com, have you thought about trying it out for some of you revenue generating names? While I have known of the site for some time, I have not yet listed any domains there. I spoke with Dave Slutzkin, General Manager at Flippa, to get a better feel for the service and to find out some interesting facts.

Mike: Where did Flippa originate and who are the people behind the site?

Dave: Flippa was born out of SitePoint in mid-2009, the second SitePoint child following the creation of 99designs in early 2008. The creators and owners are the same as for the other two sites in the group – Mark Harbottle and Matt Mickiewicz are the founders, and Leni Mayo and Andrew Walsh are internet veterans who serve on the board.

Mike: Flippa has made headlines recently, with record breaking weekly sales. What do you attribute the recent increase to? Is it higher sale prices or greater volume of sales overall?

Dave: It’s a bit of both. Certainly that week saw some very impressive sales close, but we’ve also seen big numbers of sales in the last few weeks, since the northern summer ended and our users started to return their focus to indoor pursuits.

Mike: How does a website owner go about selling their site through your service? Are there specific requirements that need to be met around revenue and traffic volume or other criteria?

Dave: Selling is easy on Flippa. There are no specific requirements for the site except that the seller actually owns it and can make some very basic technical changes so that we’re satisfied of that. Apart from that, you can sell a site which you started yesterday, or you can sell youtube.com – well, if you happened to own youtube.com. Mike, you could have SullysBlog.com listed in half an hour, and most of the time would be taken by writing some listing text to let potential buyers know why they should purchase your site.

Mike: What advantages does a site owner gain by listing with Flippa as opposed to posting on some of the domain forums or hiring a broker?

Dave: A single listing on Flippa is significantly more affordable than a broker, who will often charge an up-front fee plus a large percentage of the final sale price. Brokers can be useful at the very high end of the market, but below that it’s much more cost-effective to run certain elements of the sale yourself in conjunction with Flippa.

At the other end of the market, domain forums and listing sites are missing something that Flippa has in spades – an audience full of savvy buyers who are looking to purchase great websites.

Mike: What is the highest public sale price a site has gone for on Flippa? What was the domain?

Dave: The highest sale price that I can publicly disclose is for retweet.com: http://flippa.com/auctions/85167/Retweet-com

This sold for $250,000, a price which both the seller and buyer were very happy with – the perfect situation! We’ve had some other bigger sales, but under our private sale model, which keeps the final price undisclosed. A significant fraction of large sellers choose this model as it has some confidentiality benefits.

Mike: What are some of the more interesting sites you have seen listed and sold through Flippa?

Dave: The most recent one which comes to mind is a site called ReadPrint.com: http://flippa.com/auctions/101723/ReadPrint-com-As-seen-on-BBC-World-News-117K-profit-last-12months-was-PR7

This is a high-profile site with decent traffic – 450k unique visitors per month – driven by an enormous library of quality content which they’ve built up over almost seven years. It was pulling in decent revenue – $5k a month – but they’d by no means fully exploited the potential of the content.

This sort of sale fascinates me because there’s a great business waiting to emerge from this established but still fledgling site – the sort of challenge which I love myself! (I often have to restrain myself from picking up a bargain that catches my eye on Flippa – not enough hours in the day…)

Mike: Do you find certain types of sites sell better than others? For example, do sites with generic domains sell better than those with brandable domains? Other than dot com, what is the next best selling TLD?

Dave: Most of the sites which sell best have provable revenue – this is something buyers find extremely attractive. On top of that, buyers love unexploited potential. For instance, an ugly, unwieldy site with good search engine rankings and lots of traffic will attract those who have skills in design and conversion optimisation, to make it all it can be. Generally we feel that’s something Flippa does well – put sites together with those who can move them to the next stage of their evolution.

On your questions, we don’t see a lot of difference between generic and brandable domains, as it’s often about the business the seller has put behind it. As to TLDs, .net is listed more than .org, though .org actually has a better sell-through rate – make of that what you will!

Mike: Do you feel that developed domains are the best way to sell? That is, is it better to start with a domain and then add value before reselling it?

Dave: Yes, of course, because the less developed a domain is, the more potential is sitting there on the table, and it’s hard to get buyers to pay as much for potential as you want.

But it’s all about time, isn’t it? Most of us have more domains than we could ever fully develop in a lifetime!

So one good in-between option, after parking, is to work out a way of throwing together mini-sites which can give you a really good sense of the potential of your domains. At that point, having boot-strapped the process, you’ll get a better idea of what the domain is worth with a site on it. Then you can decide if it’s better to hang onto the partially-developed domain and earn a bit monthly, or to hand it over to someone who can better exploit it – and bank a lump sum up-front.

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Package Domains for Bulk Sale

I’ve had some success packaging domains together in a bundle for sale to end users.  In my experience, this has worked out better as a secondary sale to end users who have previously purchased single domains.  This made contacting them with the offer that much easier.  I typically start out these types of emails with the following.

“As someone who has purchased a domain name for this industry in the past, I’d like to give you the first opportunity to purchase the following names.  The price for the package is $x,xxx and the domains will not be sold individually.”

The immediate reaction will be to take the bulk price and divide by the number of domains to get a unit price.  This has it’s advantages and disadvantages.  The domains in the group will be of varying quality, so it makes the good names look like they are being offered at a great price but can make the buyer question the lesser quality names.  I’m not at all suggesting that you throw in junk names.  If you do, the buyer will probably counter with an offer to buy just the better names and at the unit price they calculated or below (I’ve burned myself doing this).  You’ll end up doing your client and yourself a disservice.

If the lesser quality names are decent, they will hold their own as part of the package and the buyer’s desire to obtain the better quality names will result in a sale (this has also happened to me).  This method makes it easier to sell multiple related domains in one sale as opposed to multiple individual sales.  Efficiency lets you sell at a better price.

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Turning a “No” Into An Opportunity

I’m in the process of marketing one of my domain names to some large corporations.  Because I am still in discussions, I’m not going to mention any names, but it won’t reduce the value of what I am going to share here.

I initially contacted the marketing manager of a particular corporation with an industry relevant domain.  I kept the initial email brief, respecting his time and not wanting to burden him with statistics that he may not have had interest in.  He responded with a quick “xxxxx.com is a better name, do you own that?”  My initial thought was that his response was a “not interested” reply and I should move on because I don’t own the domain he countered with.   But at second glance, I saw this as an opportunity.

I did the standard research on the domain he sent, and it had far less global search volume than the domain I was pitching.  I compared the two on Google Trends and the graphical depiction was clearly in my favor.  I compiled the information and sent it back to the executive, along with my perspective.   It took only a few minutes of my time.  Within 30 minutes, he responded back impressed the information I provided and the insight I gave him into his own industry.  He took the information back to his team for further consideration.

This exchange may not result in a sale and that’s fine.  More important here is the trust and relationship I have developed with this individual and the potential this holds for the future.  We now are a part of each others network and can connect each other to people and opportunities we may not have otherwise been able to reach.

Make every interaction count, remain professional and build for the future.  Domaining is like any other business and relationships make all the difference.

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Where to List Your Geo Names

I’m all about testing ways to make domain sales (and purchases).  A colleague of mine, David Bleaman of eBuv.com, recently announced the launch of Yellow Show, an online marketplace specializing in sale of geo-targeted domain names.  If you have any geo names on the market, it’s not a bad idea to list them there.  The more exposure you get, the better your odds of making a sale.  I just listed the four names on the site today:

  • FortWorthSalon.com
  • HonoluluAutoDealer.com
  • IndianapolisAutoCare.com
  • OmahaCosmeticSurgery.com

There are plenty of names listed and it will be an attractive service for business owners looking to find geo names for their businesses.   Knowing the value of geo names matched with a specific industry, business owners can achieve excellent organic search results and save themselves some advertising costs.  Most importantly, as with most generic keyword domains, it gives credibility to the business, yet another advantage over the competition.

The site has some specific selection criteria to ensure the quality of the names, but it’s a free service so there is no risk to you.  If someone is interested in your domain, they’ll contact you directly.  Give it a shot.

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Recycling Domain Buyers

Buyers are not always easy to come by when dealing with domain sales.  Often times, the perfect buyer for a domain doesn’t realize its value to his or her business and will let it go by.  Opportunity missed.  But other times, a buyer sees the opportunity at a great price and grabs it.  Obviously the latter is what we would like to see more of.  Eduction on the topic is a big thing, but may sellers don’t want to invest the time and find that it is challenging when they do invest the time.

One way to maximize your sales is to recycle your buyers.  Let me give you and example to illustrate.  I mentioned  some days ago that I made a sale through Snapnames.  It was under $500 once the commission was subtracted.  Snapnames does not provide the buyer information once a sale is made, but I was able to see who the new registrant was by doing a simple WhoIs look up.  I then contacted the new owner several days later with some related names that I had and offered a deal if he purchased the package.  This turned my original $500 sale into several times that amount.

Look for opportunities.  They’re out there.  You just need to get a little creative sometimes.

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