Interviews

Finished with dot Club

David Leshaw is the CEO of Finishers Club, a startup for runners. He hails originally from New York, and currently lives with his wife and their toddler in Jerusalem, Israel. He is passionate about trail running, good coffee, and tech startups. He one time got a double-bingo in Scrabble.

Mike: David, what exactly is finishers.club and how does it work?

David: Finishers Club is a free online platform for runners to log their race finish times and track their gear — think of it as a mix between a virtual marathon trophy case and locker for your running gear. It’s a fantastic way for runners of all distances to show off their running achievements with a dedicated running profile page, and to also let other runners know what kind of gear they use, and how they like it. We also have a weekly newsletter, as well as an iMessage sticker pack.

Mike: You chose dot club for your domain. Tell me what went into your domain choice.

David: Dot-club was a natural choice for us. We had originally chosen the name “Finishers Club” as a way to convey the exclusivity and sense of community engendered by crossing a finish line — no matter the distance. Whether you’ve hustled across a 5K finish line or dragged yourself through the last minutes of an ultra-marathon, you’ve become a member of a club — people who set a goal, who trained, and who followed through. We wanted to capture that spirit of achievement and camaraderie through our name, and “Club” seemed the natural way to do that. At the time, FinishersClub.com was taken, but .club fit better with our mission, regardless.

Mike: What benefits have you seen from going with dot club as your tld?

David: The medium is the message here, and our choice of .club as our TLD makes it clear that we are committed to conveying that sense of exclusivity and achievement produced by crossing a finish line. I also believe that, in general, shorter names are better, and since it takes fewer breaths to say – or keyboard strokes to type – “finishers.club,” the name’s relative brevity works to our advantage. Say it out loud: “finishers-dot-club.” It’s simple, almost impossible to misspell, and the “clubbiness” of the TLD provokes curiosity in people who haven’t yet signed up.

Mike: How long have you been in business and how many users do you currently have?

David: We’ve been in business just about one year, and have several thousand users across the globe. Our member base ranges from busy parents and college students who run 5Ks on the weekends through sponsored ultra-marathon runners who tackle 100-mile races in a stretch, and everyone in between.

Mike: How does a site like finishers.club generate revenue?

David: We’ve just launched our tee shirt store, where race finishers can customize a performance race tee that features a bib imprinted with their name, their favorite race, and their finish time at that race. We also sell various other fun tee shirts and trail running caps. We currently use affiliate links on our site and in some of our content, and are exploring sponsored content, as well as events and premium features that would provide additional revenue down the line.

Mike: I see FinishersClub.com is available for sale. Is that something you would consider to supplement your domain. Why or why not?

David: At this juncture, our focus is on using our resources to make something insanely great for our users. We rank reasonably well when it comes to SEO, and so, at this point, we are just focused on asking ourselves “How can we make finishers.club even better for runners around the globe?”

Mike: Tell me about running an online business. Is it a lot of work? What have been the biggest challenges?

David: The biggest challenge in running an online business is finding a way to keep delighting users in new and surprising ways — based both on the things that users actually request, and the features we sense they would want based on how they use our site. I mean that seriously.

For instance, we noticed that users were inputting in a lot of detail about the kind of gear they were running in. Runners were spending time keying in, for example, “New Balance Vazee Pace v2.” We wanted to find a way to make that and easier to do and more visual. So we crafted an auto-complete function that necessitated re-writing our database and re-doing certain visual elements on the site. But it will now auto-complete the name of your gear as you type, and also produce the relevant image, as well as the ability to rate that given gear item. We think – and users tell us – that it’s a fantastic addition to their running lives.

But ultimately, our whole team – from our CFO to our developers to our marketing team – is comprised of runners, and so delighting athletes is part of our organizational DNA. We are lucky to be able to build the best running platform of its kind for an incredibly passionate group of people.

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The “Legal” side of TLDs

Brian Pendergraft is a Real Estate Attorney and Planlord® Attorney at tpf.legal that uses his most valuable resource, his time, on studying and practicing law to provide landlords and investors with a wide-range of services. Most real estate attorneys “specialize” in one particular area such as only being a title producer, but Brian is 6 or 7 real estate lawyers in one. He does contract drafting and review, evictions, litigation, document drafting, closings, and more. His life’s mission is to turn landlord into Planlords.

Mike: Brian, the domain you chose is a dot legal name. Why did you decide to go with that over a dot com such as tpflegal.com?
Brian: With .legal and other non-dot com domain extensions it is easier to get shorter domain names. I value having a shorter domain. I also own the more conventional pendergraft.net and pendergraftfirm.com, but people tend to hear and spell “Pendergrass” (like the singer Teddy Pendergrass) instead of Pendergraft.

Also, .legal is something most of my potential clients have never heard of and it stands out. It has a certain “coolness” factor to it that distinguishes my modern law firm from older. more traditional ones.

Mike: There is also the dot law TLD. Have you considered also securing your name TPF.law? Why did you choose dot legal over this?

Brian: I did consider .law but last time I checked it cost about $400.00 a year whereas .legal is about $40 a year. So it was based on cost.

Mike: Do you see other attorneys leaning towards these new TLDs as well? What are your thoughts about the future of dot legal?

Brian: The adoption of .legal will be very slow. Attorneys, like the law itself, are very slow to change. In addition, many attorneys invest their knowledge and training into reading and writing and not into learning domain name registration and building websites. So many attorneys won’t know that these options exist unless whoever they pay to build there website brings it up. Also, changing domain names after you have been using one for a while has its own unique set of challenges, so attorneys that do learn about .legal will tend to stick to whatever they were using first.

Mike: What strategies do you currently use to promote your site and your law business? SEO, advertising, social media?

Brian: SEO, content marketing, and e-mail marketing. I do blog post and video where I share free legal information that is very relevant to my target audience of landlords and real estate investors. I share the content on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. I am currently not paying for any advertising. I want to see how far I can go by just giving away free content. It’s working well so far! To see an example of what I mean you can check out my latest piece of content on how to file for wrongful detainer in Maryland at https://tpf.legal/wrongful-detainer. I tell my audience exactly how I do it so they could actually just prepare their case themselves and not hire me. However, I’m betting that many people will watch the video or read the post and just want an attorney to handle it for them and hire me, the helpful attorney.

Mike: Did you hear the one about the two lawyers on a row boat in the middle of the ocean? Just kidding. Why is it that lawyers, in general, get a bad rap?

Brian: I think it’s a combination of classism (or should I say access to justice), high fees, rotten apples, television, and a lack of transparency and understanding.

We have all read a few stories where rich kids were able to avoid prison for committing grievous offenses because their families had connections and were able to afford high-powered lawyers with lots of connections.

Lawyer hourly billing rates are very high when put into perspective. At $300 an hour that’s one brand new Nintendo Switch an hour!

Corrupt lawyers make the rest of us look bad. Kind of like how bad police officers make good police officers look bad.

The general publics understanding of what we actually do, in part because of television, but admittedly it maybe moreso because of us lawyers ourselves. Being a real lawyer and running a law firm is nothing like TV. One time I had a case where the Judge decided to postpone the case to give the other side time to get an attorney. He asked me why didn’t I object. The Judge already made his decision there was nothing I could do. But on the TV shows the great lawyers can say magic super convincing words and get their clients whatever they want. In the real world in many cases we settle and compromise a lot and no one actually gets what they want.

I think this lack of understanding may be more so the fault of lawyers because law firms and lawyers are very protective of their processes and what they actually do. I remember when I first tried reaching out to other attorneys as a brand new attorney and they refused to help me in the name of protecting their business when I was just trying to figure out how to lawyer at the time. So if the lawyers aren’t telling people what they do then television will.

Mike: Do you think you’ll consider getting additional names to support and promote your business?

Brian: Yes. I recently registered the trademark for “Planlord” a term I made up registered on the same day as my birthday, April 11th. It’s a pun on the words plan and landlord. I self-published a book on book Amazon for landlords on how to avoid the legal pitfalls that cost landlords thousands of dollars called Planlord – The Landlord Primer. Planlord.com was available so I bought it and plan on using it one day for a Planlord line of legal products.

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“…you shouldn’t be afraid of picking a really great name and paying for that domain.”

Leadfeeder is a startup developing software for generating B2B leads from Web Analytics. Pekka Koskinen founded the company with two co-founders, Herkko Kiljunen and Vicent Llongo.  Building software companies is what he does. Since 2002 he’s founded four companies and made one exit. He founded Snoobi, a finnish web analytics company, in 2004 and sold it to Fonecta in 2012. He’s also the founder of Solinor and co-founder of Fraktio.   His other investments include Cuutio, EzyInsights, Nosto, SmarpShare, Planago, Laskuyritykselle.fi, SportConnect, IroFit and BrandCruises.

Mike: What is it exactly that Leadfeeder.com does?

Pekka: Leadfeeder is a tool that shows you which companies have been visiting your website and not leaving their contact details. To start seeing which companies are on your site and what they’re doing you just sign up at Leadfeeder.com and connect your Google Analytics.

Our tool (app.leadfeeder.com) doesn’t require any extra code on your site because it’s powered by Google Analytics. The signup process is really simple and you don’t have to be technical to start using Leadfeeder. When you connect Leadfeeder to your Google Analytics we automatically show you who’s been visiting your website in the last 30 days and then we give you 30 days of trial time on top of that.

Leadfeeder is aimed at B2B companies and the reason we built it is because we wanted to feed marketing people more leads (their single biggest headache is generating leads) and make sales more intelligent and effective by harnessing web analytics. Every day people ask Google “who is visiting my website” because the typical B2B website has a conversion rate of around 2%. This means lots and lots of missed opportunities from a marketing and sales perspective.

Leadfeeder connects to MailChimp and big CRMs like Pipedrive, Salesforce and Zoho which are used in enterprise sales. The end result is automated lead generation because Leadfeeder pushes new web leads and website activity by prospects to your CRM which means your salespeople can get on with more selling and closing of more deals.

Mike: Tell me how you went about acquiring LeadFeeder.com. What was the process?

Pekka: I wanted to have an easy-to-write name with the word “lead” in it. Since all 2-word domains are already registered, I went to godaddy actions site and searched for dotcom domains starting or ending with the word “lead”. I found the Leadfeeder.com domain from there and ended up paying 4000 euros for it. The process was very straightforward and quick.

Mike: What did you pay for the name?

Pekka: 4000e
Mike: What type of traffic numbers do you see on the site?

Pekka:

25,000 active users per month
10% monthly MRR growth
Subscriptions per month: 110
80,000 sessions per month (organic 20%, direct 30%, referral 5%)
Conversion to trial 1.5%

Mike: Great stats!  How do companies leverage the information you gather? Can you provide some examples?

Pekka: Many other unique examples of how companies are leveraging the data here:

1) Better ROI on AdWords campaigns. In Leadfeeder you can see all the companies that click through your paid marketing campaigns to your website and what exactly they do on your website even when they don’t convert. Our users add these companies to their marketing/sales funnel depending on what they looked at and for how long they stayed there. Normally all these leads are lost because if they don’t fill in a lead capture form marketers don’t know who they are.

2) More web leads in Pipedrive, Salesforce, Zoho CRM. Leadfeeder sends website visit details to your CRM so sales people know when an open deal is showing activity on your website. Salespeople (including us at Leadfeeder) are monitoring open deals by latest website visit and then reaching out and closing the deal at the key moment. Marketers also qualify leads they find in Leadfeeder and once qualified they connect the new leads to their CRM. This means more sales opportunities.

3) Targeting people by job title on LinkedIn and using Leadfeeder to tailor a perfect follow-up email. You can target your adverts on LinkedIn by job title when you know who the target buyer is for your service. Because of this when you see visits in Leadfeeder from these particular campaigns you are actually seeing (and what LinkedIn doesn’t show) is “visit from CMO at Marketing Lion.” When you know what a particular person has been looking at you can send a perfect follow-up email.

Mike: Clearly you are an internet tech company. That said, talk about why you chose this name and how that has been an import part of your strategy.

Pekka, CEO: Having a good name is really important and you shouldn’t be afraid of picking a really great name and paying for that domain. In the end, the 4000 euros we paid for leadfeeder was a really small investment. The name should describe what you do and it should be easy to say and write. In our case our domain name describes exactly what we do.

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What is your website worth?

Aykut Pehlivanoglu is an internet entrepreneur and consultant  with quite a few irons in the fire.  He’s best known as Operations Director at Acquisition Station as well as Founder of Worth Of Web Academy, where I came across his site.  Aykut spen

Mike: I first came across worthofweb.com when your website value calculator came up in a search result on Google. How accurate is the tool?

Aykut:  First of all, thanks Mike for having me here and for your interest in my project.

When I first created the concept of Worth Of Web Calculator, I knew that it is almost impossible to create a website value calculator which is 100% accurate for all its estimates. That’s why I tried to create a tool where you can compare your website with your competitors and also track your progress in time.

My algorithm uses public rankings of websites, for example, recently it is getting Alexa Rank of a given website and starts the calculations based on it. This affects the outcome of the algorithm of course. As your traffic increases and your public ranking increases accordingly, you will have a higher valuation on worthofweb.com.

Mike: The tool also estimates how much revenue the site can make per month. How accurate have you found this to be and what goes into that valuation?

Aykut:  I need to make it clear, every website is unique. Some are serving richer countries, some poorer ones. Some are content websites which have revenue from advertising and affiliate offers. Some sell stuff online. Some are just for brand awareness. Some are for nonprofit organizations. Some are for institutions of the states. The list goes on but as your readers can understand, there is no standard calculation here and there can’t be. So, I made a decision here to assume that your website is making revenue a little bit from advertising, a little from affiliate offers and a little from direct sales. So my algorithm makes an educated guess considering this mixture.

Mike: worthofweb.com is more than just a website valuation tool. What else does it offer its visitors?

Aykut:  Well, it started as a fun project and a simple website valuation tool 6 years ago. In time, users started to ask me questions about how to develop their website or web-based business, how to increase their traffic, how to make more money online and if I can give tips about SEO and social media. I was answering these questions individually, then I decided to add sections like blog, forum and expand the area we cover. At that point, I renamed it to Worth Of Web Academy. Now with the addition of sister websites and social media channels, our users can find all the necessary information, interact with other users, track their progress and even buy/sell domains and websites via our network.

Mike: I’m guessing you had a need for a valuation tool at one point and there was nothing available that fit the need. Was that the inspiration behind the site?

Aykut:  I have a software company in Turkey called PB Bilisim which develops websites, games and mobile applications. Although it is not so active recently, 6-7 years ago we were developing websites and games heavily. We had projects mostly for our clients but for ourselves also. We wanted to compare different websites in terms of traffic, revenue and overall value. There were couple tools but I was not satisfied with them. So, I decided to code something, both for fun and for ourselves. At that weekend when I started to code this, I didn’t imagine honestly I will be doing interviews for this project many years later. But here we are.

Mike: Speaking of revenue, how does the site generate revenue for you?

Aykut:  I have revenue from advertising and affiliate offers.

Mike: worthofweb.com is a pretty good description of what the site does. Do you own any other domain names?

Aykut:  I have various domain names, some have active projects connected to them, some waiting for next project. Some examples suggestmemovie.com, mcitb.com, mycountryisthebest.com, buysellwebsites101.com, ohgag.com, entrepreneurs.cz

Mike: What tips do you have for someone to increase the value of there website? Are there small changes that can make a big difference?

Aykut:  I always advise to focus on user experience. As I said earlier, every website or web-based business is unique. What they have in common are their users. Focus on the people instead of money. Because focusing on making more money is the wrong approach. Money will be the result, not the reason. If you do everything right regarding the needs of your audience in the first place, you will eventually increase the value of your website. For example, it may not be the smallest change for many but making your website responsive can make it more user-friendly which in the long run affects indirectly the overall value in a positive direction.

Mike: What other projects are you working on at the moment?

Aykut:
I help run a website brokerage called Acquisition Station, I am the Operations Director there. I have a new project called My Country Is The Best where I help users compare countries. I have Suggest Me Movie, it is a movie recommendation engine. I have other projects as well, the best way to check them will be via my personal site aykutpehlivanoglu.com.

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Failure.com is anything but a Failure

Dr. Angela Meyer is Vice President of Client Services at Exponent. She assists clients by understanding, and troubleshooting, their technical challenges and connecting them with appropriate Exponent consultants in a cost-effective and timely manner. Dr. Meyer is committed to client service and overall client satisfaction utilizing her engineering background and consulting experience. She leads the business development, marketing and communications functions for Exponent, working with senior management, practice groups and individual consultants to increase the effectiveness of Exponent’s service and business development efforts as well as raise the profiles of the firm and its consulting staff

Mike: Exponent.com is an excellent keyword domain. Can you tell us more about what you do?

Angela:  Exponent is a leading engineering and scientific consulting firm with offices in the US, EU and Asia. The firm has been best known for analyzing accidents and failures to determine their causes, but in recent years it has become more active in assisting clients with human health, environmental, engineering and regulatory issues associated with new products or processes to help prevent problems in the future. The name Exponent fits our firm well – not only does it relate to science (i.e. mathematics) but another definition is “to expound or interpret” – and that is what we do – provide objective, independent science and engineering to complex issues that our clients face.

Mike: I notice the domain name Failure.com also points to Exponent.com. What is the story behind that?

Angela:  The company was founded 50 years ago as Failure Analysis Associates – we are the pre-eminent accident and failure analysis consulting firm in the US (if not the world!) – We broadened our capabilities in the late 1990’s which precipitated a rebrand and new name. We also are a public company on NASDAQ so the market preferred a stock symbol EXPO to FAIL! However, we were really fortunate when the internet became available to choose failure.com and fail.com – we get calls all the time to buy our URL!

Mike: I’m curious, did you name the company and then acquire the domain name, or did you first secure the domain name before finalizing the company name?

Angela:  We rebranded the company in 1998 and changed the name from The Failure Group to Exponent. I guess it was really a two-pronged approach – we loved the name but we had to make sure the URL was available as well – and it was!

Mike: How important is a good domain name to your business? In what ways does it have an impact?

Angela:  It is important to have a domain that represents who you are and what you do – we were fortunate to be able to obtain the URL that is exactly the name of our company – so easy for people to find us – however, sometimes this can be a challenge – there is also an Exponent trade show booth company and also a healthcare company and we get calls all the time from people that type in our URL and don’t bother to look to see if they have the right company. When our company was smaller and we were known as The Failure Group – having a URL that had failure in the name was a huge benefit – everyone knew how to find us –

Mike: Does having a premium name reduce the need to spend on marketing or does it shift the way you promote the business in any way?

Angela:   We have shifted marketing dollars away from collateral to our website and social media – given our environmental consciousness, we prefer to do things electronically – clients like that – especially for marketing – we can tailor materials to the client’s needs – not just to what we want to tell them about ourselves. Having a premium name makes it so much easier for people to find you.

Mike: Do you own any additional domain names and if so, how are you using them?

Failure.com and Fail.com both point to Exponent. We do also have exponentengineering.com and exponentchina.com and exponent.de for work that we do that requires a specific engineering license as well as our work in Asia and Germany.

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A little Gin can be good for business

GIN is an appcare tool that lets you communicate with your customers via modern messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and WeChat, through a centralised multi-user dashboard. Daan Gönning is Product Coordinator for GIN and answered my questions on the domain and the business behind it.

Mike:  Tell me about Gin, the product.  What does it do and who is it for?

Daan: With GIN you can integrate all your 1:1 communication channels into one dashboard. Customer service agents use GIN to be available on every possible channel (i.e WhatsApp, Facebook M, Instagram DM, Wechat, Line) with only one interface. This makes it very efficient and less time consuming. Also, with the CRM integration, switching between tools isn’t necessary anymore.

Mike:  Where did the idea to consolidate these different channels originate?

Daan: The idea mostly comes from a problem. In this case, the end-user of a company is changing. They want a quick answer on their question and they would like to communicate through a channel they trust. For some users this is phone, for other email, but for a growing group of (young) people it is WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and so on.

For a customer service desk, to be available on all those channels could be difficult. Sometimes, agents have 5-7 tools open at the same time and the agents keeps switching between them. That’s why we build GIN. To make it more efficient for the agent, but also to make it possible to be on multiple channels with still a quick response time.

Mike:  Tell me about the domain name Gin.com.  How did you acquire it and can you share what you paid for it?

Daan: gin.com was part of a company take-over a couple of years ago. Our mother company, CM, acquired GSM Information Network with both the domain names gin.com and gin.nl.

Mike:  How many monthly visitors do you typically receive to the name?

Daan: When referring to the name of the domain gin.com I can’t really give detailed information about exact visitor numbers (the competition is always reading too), but I can say it’s quite a bit. The domain gin.com is fairly new with its renewed Appcare / Webcare via Messaging Apps / Customer Care via Chatbots content so the search engine still hasn’t wrapped it’s head around the fact that the current gin.com is not a drink, but Customer Care via Messaging Apps. Every day we are working hard on GIN with great results, but it will take some time to reposition the website as Customer Care via Messaging Apps for both the visitors and search engine.

chat-scherm-gin-dashboard

Mike: I imagine a portion of your visitors are typing in Gin.com expecting to find a site promoting some brand of alcohol.  Do you find that to be the case?

Daan: Yes I also find that to be the case.

Mike:  What has owning a short, memorable name like Gin.com done for your business?  How helpful has it been in taking your product to market?

Daan: It does a lot, people find us on the name, but also for our marketing it has advantages. For example, During an event, we can give away some Gin Tonics, or in online ad’s we use the slogan: ‘The other GIN’.

Mike:  If I came to you asking for advice on launching an online business, what would you tell me?

Daan: Good question. My first tip would be: Build a scalable solution. I know a lot of startups that build their tool pretty quick and when they have got some traction, their tool fails because it isn’t scalable enough. They didn’t expect such growth in a short time. Be prepared and build a solid, scalable tool.

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Websites and Domains go Hand in Hand

What is a domain without a website?  Sure, it can still be a valuable asset, but until developed and live, it’s like an unhatched egg.   It’s got endless potential but that potential is not yet realized.  That said, I’ve see some great domain name that have terrible websites on them.  That’s not full potential by any means.

Web design, like domaining, is an industry in and of itself and has many facets.  It’s a close cousin to domaining in that they are each important to one another.  You may recall a review back in August regarding a book, Domain 360, by Peter Prestipino.   Peter is also Editor-in-Chief of Website Magazine.  Peter and I recently discussed Website Magazine, his book, and the domain industry.

Mike:  Who is Website Magazine designed for?  Who is your target audience?

Peter: Website Magazine is published for those with an interest in using the Internet as an opportunity to accelerate the success of their enterprise – that includes e-commerce merchants, information publishers and service providers. The target reader is one who typically has several years of experience in digital design, Internet marketing or some other related digital  field including user experience optimization or analytics, and is looking to learn more about a similar or complementary area of interest. An example of that might be a Web designer who is exploring extending their services to include search engine optimization, or an affiliate marketer looking to improve engagement rates (and ultimately monetization) through user experience or loyalty initiatives.

Mike:  Have you been around since the birth of the business?  Tell us about the early challenges of launching and sustaining a publication like this.

Peter: I am indeed the founding editor-in-chief so I was actually there before the birth of the magazine – when it was only a twinkle in our publisher’s eye. The early challenges were not unlike growing any business – pressure to keep cost low, increasing demand for revenue, customer awareness hurdles and, of course, fundamental objections to the business model itself. It was not uncommon during the initial startup years, for example, to hear questions about why there should be a print magazine about Web business – it was perceived as moving away from the paperless ideal of the Web. The thing is, people really enjoyed (and still do) taking the time to step away from their screens and get more involved with content and a print magazine most certainly filled the void.

Mike:   How have the website and Internet marketing industries evolved over the years since you started your career?

Peter: In a word, dramatically. There are as many differences as there are similarities, of course, but there is no question that the Internet marketing industry of today would be nearly unrecognizable to those that began the practice so many years ago. It’s certainly more crowded (competition) and every layer in the technology stack is more robust and powerful, but I am still a big believer that brands which focus on providing genuine value, support and solutions to their users/customers will be those that stand the test of time and achieve the most success.

Mike:  You’ve written a book on domain names.  What is your take on the newer TLDs that are offered today?  What does it mean for businesses and search engine results?

Peter: I believe there are advantages and disadvantages to using the new TLDs but on the whole I think they’re a positive addition to the namespace; we’re really only on the cusp of a savvier and more sophisticated use of these more compelling options. For businesses, the nTLDs provide some creative options for branding and awareness – and is a great way to differentiate offerings. I’ve not seen any formal evidence that correlates exact match domains to higher rankings, but again, there are other benefits of their use and I think it certainly is worth it in general to invest in their acquisition.

Mike:  What inspired you to write the book?

Peter: I’ve long been passionate about domain names, as I’ve both bought and sold these virtual assets and websites on many of the marketplaces recommended in the book for some time – over 15 years actually. There’s long been an air of mystery around the practice of domaining and use of domain names in general and I wanted to help clear up some of that confusion and demystify the process – both for myself and for our readers.

Mike:  How do you see the domain industry shifting or developing in the future?

Peter: I, and others at Website Magazine, expect some significant and dramatic developments in the next few years. I believe, for example, that the industry will see more partnerships formed to add greater value to the namespace for brands and individual users alike–  top-level domains, for example, might begin offering solutions directly to consumers for establishing and optimizing a digital presence. Geographic-themed top-level domains for example, might begin promoting solutions to their local area while topic-themed nTLDs arrange a stack of software designed specifically for those in that market.

Mike:  This isn’t your first book, can we expect additional books from you in the future?

Peter: That’s right, “Domains 360: Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names” is my third book. My first was Web 360 (which covered essential topics for operating a Web business) and my second was Affiliate 360, as I’ve long been involved in the performance marketing space as well. I am working on another in our 360 series and while I can’t provide too much in the way of details, I can say that it is focused on helping enterprises, large and small, drive more website traffic and how that change has evolved in the 20 years I’ve been in the digital space.

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December.com

If I could own a dot com of a month of the year, It would certainly be December.com.  Yeah, October is a cool month and all but nothing screams “sales” like December. Plus, it’s a great holiday month, if you want to get all nostalgic about it. I can imagine what my e-commerce site would look like.   All Christmas-like with tons of over priced products.  Valuate puts the domain at $123,000.   My dreams aside, I caught up with John December, owner of December Communications, Inc. and owner of December.com.

Mike: What a fabulous keyword domain name. Were you the first to register December.com or did you acquire it from someone? In either case, can you describe your experience of getting the name?

John: I was the first one to register december.com. In May 1995, I was writing some books about the World-Wide Web and the Internet and providing online support for my readers. I was a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, and I was using my student account as my Web support site. I had been providing information about the Internet and Computer-Mediated Communication since 1992. Web traffic to my personal account on the RPI servers grew so high that it got noticed, and I knew that I needed my own domain name for my online efforts. I was inspired by an early Internet researcher, Carl Malmud, who created his domain name using his own name as carl@malmud.com. I decided to register december.com. Remember, this was a very early time for the domain name business and even Web hosting for individuals. MTV VJ Adam Curry registered MTV.com before it was apparent that Web sites would be part of media strategies. My goal for december.com at that time, as it is today, is to be a platform for my various projects and online content.

Mike: Obviously, December is your last name and used for business. I’m sure you get traffic from all over for things related to holidays and other topics. Do you still gain value from this traffic?

John: Yes. One of the content niches on my site is my coupon codes section. I work with a company to provide coupon codes for online sales, and I have no doubt that people searching for coupons during the busy shopping season of December find my site for that reason.

Mike: What is it exactly that December Communications, Inc. does?

John: The site hosts a mix of legacy reference content from the early days of the World Wide Web and the study of Computer-Mediated Communication (including the archives of Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine). Also, it contains my personal interests now, continuing in online reference. I have an online book about voluntary simplicity. A recent example is that I prepared a page that brings together some interesting sites about robotics.
Plus, I use the site to present my photography and an evolving album of sites in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I live related to my interest in organizing city information. Just as in 1995, the site serves as a platform for my current interests and a repository of content accumulated over more than 2 decades–some of it of interest for only historical reasons. I do earn money through affiliate programs and individual advertisers in the Market and Directory sections of the site. These earnings provide me a way to enjoy an independent life.

Mike: How much traffic does the site receive monthly? How much of that is from type-in traffic?

John: 181,306 unique visitors for January 2017.

Mike: Have you received any offers from people looking to buy the domain name? Do you find that to be offensive or flattering?

John: Yes, I have. The offers are difficult to evaluate. Simply put, spam email, scams, or non-serious queries are so simple to send that I have chosen to ignore them. If the person seems somewhat sincere and business-like, I will respond “no” so that they can go in a different direction for their project.

Mike: Do you own any other premium domain names?

John: No. I have johndecember.com which is parked on top of december.com.

Mike: How much has your business benefited from the name. For example, if you had DecemberCommunications.com do you think you’d do as well?

John: I think the shorter name has helped and as been instrumental throughout the early years of the Internet–easier to say, promote, and type in. Since my company is primarily the legal framework for my business and not a well-known name or brand, my effort is not to promote the company name itself, but the accumulated online content that I have curated for over 20 years.

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Choosing a domain, building subscribers, and SEO

I like to read.  I read blogs and news feeds, but I really enjoy reading books.  I like to learn new things and get new perspectives or new ways of looking at the same old situation.   I also like to throw in the occasional fiction novel as well.  Think about how much you could learn.  I’ve tried other substitutes for reading, such as podcasts…. and they fill a need.   But, I always wished I could read more books and read them faster.

I’m not pitching some speed reading program to you that will allow you to breeze through a phonebook and memorize the entire contents.  I’m letting you know about a cool site linked to a domain name I recently came across.  FourMinuteBooks.com.  Nik Goeke is the man behind it and he has some great tips.

Mike:  Tell me about fourminutebooks.com.  What gave you the idea to provide book summaries and how did you know people would find value in it?

Nik:  First, I’d been reading book summaries myself via a service called Blinkist for about a year and really enjoyed it, but didn’t retain as much information as I would have liked to. I knew it wasn’t the first paid service in this area and saw it growing in popularity.

Second, I validated the idea by offering a few free summaries via blog posts and downloads on my blog, where I also put up a sidebar banner ad for Blinkist after joining their affiliate program. This resulted in $300 in commissions over 3 months, without me doing any additional work, which lent credibility to my thesis even more.

Mike:  Did you hand register this domain name?  How did you come to choose it?

Nik: Since I set this website up with affiliate income in mind from the beginning, there were some factors I debated for a while – branding or streamlining? Logo, name, color scheme, I knew making these closer to the Blinkist brand would help with selling, but in turn keep me from making this a proper brand and turning it into something more.

Nevertheless, I initially settled for another, unbranded, affiliate-optimized domain: blinkistreview.com. Very quickly though, I realized two things:

1. The name is uninspiring, boring and non-descriptive for someone who’s never heard of the app.

2. Blinkist’s name is registered, which likely prevents others from using it in domain names.

Clearly, another name was in order. I’d been writing content for two weeks at this point and the average length of posts was 4 minutes. Since one of the key benefits of book summaries is saving time, I thought the 4 minute duration would be a good hook.

After experimenting with a few other numbers and units (like seconds, etc.), I quickly settled on Four Minute Books after seeing it spelled out in various fonts and dabbling in logo design a bit.

By the way: any resemblance to The 4-Hour Workweek is arbitrary, I love that book and Tim’s blog, but it didn’t even cross my mind at the time.

Mike:  Funny, I was actually going to ask if there was any insiration there from Tim Ferriss.  I see you also offer coaching.  In what areas do you coach?  What do your customers gain from the experience?

Nik:   Coaching was one of the first activities I explored in my online career. I was using coach.me to track my own habits and had built up a couple of streaks, and to this day I’m grateful for Tony Stubblebine, the CEO, to reach out when they started their coaching program.

I’ve coached a variety of very specific habits ranging from No Alcohol to Building Mental Toughness to Setting Goals, but have now settled into productivity and project management.

My clients and I have a monthly, 60-minute Skype call in which we move through four questions and tie together loose ends. That results in a very specific action plan for the next month, with three target outcomes and an action plan for each one. I follow up weekly via email to hold them accountable and help them overcome any obstacles until we meet again the next month.

What my clients love the most is the accountability, paired with the outside perspective of someone playing devil’s advocate to their plans and getting them to take the most efficient path, not the one they might be romantic about taking. I only take on a handful of clients at any given time.

Mike:  You write a blog, read tons of books, write book summaries, you’re a student, you coach people, answer at least one question per day on Quora… Where do you find all the time to do these things?

Nik:  I’m very deliberate with how I spend my time. I’m aware we only get one shot at this thing called life, so I’ve decided to NOT invest any time into a few things which quickly become huge time-wasters, such as:

– Staying on top of the news in any form whatsoever.

– Watching TV. I don’t own one. I occasionally watch movies on my laptop.

– Using social media only to produce, never to consume (except for Youtube, my guilty pleasure and TV show replacement).

– Consumption in general. I buy very few things for non-practical reasons and in fact, buy few things at all. Two big chunks of my money go to rent and food and that’s pretty much it. I never go shopping or browse electronics – unless I need a new pair of pants or my phone is broken.

– Cooking. This one I’m not proud of, but I’m not perfect. I spend a bit more on food in order to not have to prepare it myself. One of the trade-offs I’m making that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, at least not if you enjoy the act of cooking itself.

If you cut out the things 80% of people lose 80% of their time on, you suddenly have a lot of time left to do the things you really find meaning in 🙂

Mike:  You also registered your name, niklasgoeke.com, and have content there.  Tell me why that’s a good idea?

Nik:   Unless you’re very clear about a certain company, topic, niche or brand you want to build, I highly recommend when first starting to blog, do so in your name. And if you make it a brand domain, buy your name too and throw a one-page resumé on there.

I didn’t have THE thing I wanted to write about when I started blogging in September 2014. I just knew I had to start talking. My thinking was: ideas, niches, topics, these come and go, but I will always be me.

I’m glad I made that decision. It’s allowed me to stay open in terms of topics (with phases, for example in 2015 I talked a lot about productivity) and has turned the people who now follow the blog into loyal fans of myself, not just a certain topic or idea I shared.

I’ve pivoted multiple times and start new projects all the time. With a personal blog, I can take the audience with me, wherever I go.

It’s just not the same if you have a brand name and alienate it over time.

Mike:  How many monthly visitors do you get to your fourminutebooks.com domain per month?

Nik:  Right now, it’s just over 20,000 unique monthly visitors. The site exists since January 11th, 2016 (with 3 weeks prior preparation, initial content writing, etc.) and has attracted 100,000 visitors in its first year.

Mike:  Can you tell me how many subscribers you have and what are some good methods of attracting subscribers to a website?

Nik:   After combining my email lists from Four Minute Books and my personal blog in March 2017, I’m at about 11,000. Don’t let that confuse you. I’ve been building my email list for 2.5 years and have tried every tactic in the book.

The first 6 months? 100 subscribers.

After taking a course just about list building in 2015? 1,000 subscribers in 6 months.

With Four Minute Books? 1,000 subscribers in 3 months, cut the time in half.

When I started giving daily answers on Quora in 2017, it jumped after a while and now I’m at 1,000+ new subscribers per month.

What worked? Doing all of it. And not quitting. And figuring out which ones worked best for me. The only practical advice I can give is to go through all tactics, find the ones that are the most fun and feel right for you and keep doing those for however long it takes to see the results you want.

It compounds too, as it gets faster over time, because old efforts still expose new people to your work.

Mike:  What do you recommend for other online businesses to help get traffic to their sites?  Are there any secrets?

Nik:  The best secret I can reveal is, I think, that people are best off stopping to look for secrets and invest that time into creating the best content they can come up with and then release that into the right context, where it’ll hit its mark. Work is the differentiating factor here.

That said: if you can make SEO work for you, that’s a wonderfully sustainable source of traffic. With my blog it’s been hit and miss, but with Four Minute Books, it worked like a charm. That is, after publishing daily for 6 months without seeing results, it worked like a charm.

Two possible options to look at SEO:

1. Can you create a consistent keyword structure by following the same formula for every post?

For example, Four Minute Books is all about book summaries, so I stuck with [book title] + [summary] as the structure for all keyword optimization.

I realize that’s not possible for every blog or topic, so…

2. Can you create massive, one-stop-shop resources that solve problems for under-supplied keywords?

For example, if “how to make fudge” had a lot of searches, but almost no good tutorials in the top 10, that provides a great opportunity for you to try and create the best content out there by giving people one resource that covers it all.

Recipes, pictures, instructions, where to buy the ingredients, what it should look like, videos, fun variants, and on and on.

If you can make the best guide on how to make fudge, your reward will be all that traffic from people who search for a solution to this problem, but have so far been disappointed by what’s out there.

Don’t worry about link-building and optimization so much – it’s about creating great content that serves the people that are searching, not the engines.

Nik’s hub is his blog, where you can find links to all of his other work, content and current projects. This is what he’s up to right now.

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The first rule of Sock Club…

It’s overused, but I couldn’t resist the title.  Sock Club founders, Noah and Dane, began Sock Club because they wanted to share their love of socks with the world. They started small, curating awesome socks from other labels, and soon decided that they wanted to focus on American manufacturing. Now all of Sock Club’s socks are designed in Austin, and proudly made with cotton grown and knit in the Southeastern United States.

Mike:  I love the idea behind sockclub.com.  It looks like you can buy socks on demand or have them delivered on a subscription basis.  Do I have that correct?

Dane:  That’s correct.  We started as a gift service that signed up loved ones to receive socks once a month.  We’ve become so good at making socks that we’re building a brand.

Mike:  To be honest, I can’t think of a better name for your business.  I mean, sockclub.com defines it.  Can you tell me how you acquired the name and was it a difficult process?  Can you share the price you paid?

Dane:  Thanks.  We started with the domain sotmclub.com which I bought for the base rate of available domains about $10/month.  Once the business started to get traction my brother convinced me over Christmas that I needed to buy the domain sockclub.com.  I bought the domain for $500.

Mike:  How do you think sockclub.com compares to a name like NoahAndDanesSocks.com?  In other words, how important is the domain name to your business success?

Dane:  Our domain name is not only important in the minds of our customers to establish trust it’s also important for search engine results.  We come up first if you search “Sock of the Month Club” largely because of our domain name.

Mike:  These socks are American made.  Aside from that awesome fact, what makes these the greatest socks ever?

Dane:  Socks like creating anything great is more of an art than science.  We work closely with a super old american industry that has been doing this for generations.  They really do know everything about making socks and have a real mastery of it.  We control every aspect of our production.  We source cotton from southeastern United States with a high thread count.  A high thread count means that strands of cotton in the yarn are longer which makes the cotton stronger but also softer to the touch.  We dye our cotton to get the 40 colors we chose to keep in inventory.

But most importantly we have an incredible design team that makes beautiful socks.  I would say we work through at least hundred designs which are all amazing to decide on one design to make the sock of the month.

sockclubsocks

Mike:  It says on your website that you and your cofounder started the company because you “wanted to share their love of socks with the world.”  Love?  Is that a strong word?

Dane:  Nope.

Mike:  It’s not easy staring a company and selling a product online.  What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs out there looking to launch a similar business?

Dane:  I think if you’re going to compete with Amazon and the other big guys you have to offer something they can’t or at least is so niche they don’t want to.  For us that’s a very unique gift experience and a great product that you can’t get anywhere else.

Mike:  With the newer TLDs available, did you consider a name like sock.club for the business?  Why or why not?

Dane:  I didn’t.  I think once there are more successful companies who use those unique domains it will be a more viable option.  Right now when I think about buying domains I focus on .com.

Mike:  What have you found to be one of the best ways to spread the word about your business?  Is social media a big factor?  Pay per click?  Organic search?

Dane:  For us organic search and paid search are the most successful.  We are working on doing more business through social.

Sock Club is based in Austin, TX and sells Sock Subscriptions and Custom Socks.

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Marc Ostrofsky – Lessons from a Pro Domainer

Back in 2011, when I was writing for MO.com, now BusinessInterviews.com, I did an interview with Marc Ostrofsky just prior to his release of his book Get Rich Click.  I’ve followed Marc on social media since that time.  A quick Google search of “Marc Ostrofsky” will tip you off as to what an interesting guy he really is.

Mike:  I first heard of you back in the late 90’s when you made history selling Business.com.  The story injected me with excitement about the internet and technology.  When did you first realize that domain names were going to be such an important part of business?

Marc:  Without a doubt, the media and PR around the sale of Business.com absolutely CREATED or had a very strong impact on the domain name resale market.   I managed to get National and International publicity for that deal….and things took off from there.

But, even I had no idea how big that oil well was going to be…and even sold off a few very big domains for a very small amount relative to what they would have gone for.

Win some, lose some.

Mike:  You’ve written two books: “Get Rich Click” and “Word of Mouse.”  What was your inspiration for writing theses books and sharing your knowledge?

Marc:  Get Rich Click is about the many creative ways entrepreneurs have found to make money online….affiliate marketing, SEO, eBay selling…100’s of ways, certainly not just domains.

Word of Mouse is about all of the trends changing the way we buy thing, sell things, work and do our jobs, play, communicate and other trends that affect us in our daily lives.

They are very different books.

getrichclick

Mike:  I once read an article where you talked about running a business on one of your domains with no inventory.  A pure drop ship model.  Is that a repeatable platform and what’s the best way for someone to learn to replicate that type of model?

Marc:  Yes, it’s a VERY cool way to make money.  I call it “making money with no money” and it’s totally possible to do it these days.

Say you have a friend selling a car.  He tells you it’s listed for $7500 but he’d take $6500.

You ask him if you find a buyer, can u keep everything over $6500?

Ways to do this?

1. Better listing on eBay

2. better listing on Craig’s List

3. You know buyers in the market he doesn’t know..maybe car wholesalers

4. There are 100 different ways to do this.

OR…I love this one.

You find a supplier that is SO INEXPENSIVE, you believe you can sell their products for more profit than they are asking.

1. Use their online photo

2. Run the Adv.

3. Sell the item

4. Collect the money

5. Send the money to them OR ask them to dropship it for you

Either way, the item was sold AFTER you collected your money!

Look at READING GLASSES on eBay.   I own 250 pairs….located in every nook and cranny of my home, car, bathroom, gym bag, (and twice that as my wife uses them and loses them too)

I recently bought 2 pairs of reading glasses on eBay….delivered from China to my front door, for a grand total of $1.98.  DELIVEREY INCLUDED!

OK folks, anyone could walk into any sit down restaurant and sell the owner on buying 20 pairs of readers Dror $40…so their clients can read the menu.   That’s a $20 profit on a $20 purchase.   You get the idea…

Whether it’s buying an item VERY cheaply…or selling it from a photo and then fulfilling it AFTER you get the money….a profit is a profit.

Mike:  You’re a successful business owner, board member, author, speaker.  Looking back at a 2011 article on dnjournal.com, I see photos of you with everyone who’s anyone and you’ve had some high profile business partners.  What is one lesson that you have learned or one piece of advice that you can pass on to the rest of us looking to succeed in domaining or entrepreneurship?

Marc:  My “business life lessons”……

1.  Very Successful people have one MAJOR different model…..

Know what you DON’T know.

Taxes – hire a CPA

Legal – hire a lawyer

Design – hire an interior designer (most think they can do this…but they can’t)

2. HIre your weaknesses.   We can’t be the best at everything…do what you love and hire better people to do what you don’t want to do.

3. Hiring one $120,000 person is smarter than hiring two $60k people….and it’s less costly due to all of the overhead and headaches in people management.

4.  Most of the  Money is made on the “buy” side.   Buying VERY low is a real key to many millionaires becoming that way.

5. Good ideas sell.  It’s not hard to raise money if you have a great idea that can be domonstrated.

6. Don’t be the guy that says “I need your money…but I’m going to keep my day job just in case it doesn’t work”.  WHY would any smart investor invest his money…when you want to “hedge your bet”?   You get 100% of my money…you need to put in NO LESS than 100% of your heart, soul and future bet on your income.  It’s amazing how many people want to build their business with OPM – other peoples money – yet they don’t even want to put in 100% of their time.   Smart money says “no sale”.

Mike:   What is your perspective on the newer TLDs that are available.  Do you invest in them?  Do you suggest them to others?  Do you have a favorite?

Marc:  I don’t like the new TLD’s.  By far, the biggest winners are those that are selling this to the public.   99% of the people typing in say “eTickets.ticket” will type in eTickets.ticket.com.

It’s a f-ing mess and won’t be solved for years to come.

Mike:  What are you working on these days?

Marc:  Always looking for ONE thing…a company or individual that can take a wonderful domain name…and turn it into an income producing business.

I own CuffLinks.com – a wonderful small business that own’s its niche.

Play a lot of golf…and hoping to find someone that can get me onto Augusta National for 1 round of golf 🙂

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Jamie Zoch – The mind behind DotWeekly.com

Jamie Zoch runs the domain blog at DotWeekly.com.  I’ve followed Jamie’s posts for years and his blog is a core standards in my news feed.  Jamie is a family man and all around cool guy. I had a chance to connect with Jamie over the past week and get his perspective and learn a bit more about him.

Mike:  When did you first become interested in the domain world?

Jamie: I owned a sign business and sold a lot of stuff on eBay. Since I was always researching what was selling, I happened to run into a lot of listings for domain names that were selling for a fair amount and a lot of them, so I started researching domain names and haven’t stopped since!

Mike:  You were among the first bloggers I read when I started learning about domaining. What led you to launching DotWeekly.com and when did you launch?

Jamie: I launched DotWeekly around February 2008. During my 2 years of digging around on domains, I was noticing that many people would share information but they often were not sharing all the details. I didn’t see any reason to hide the fine details, so I started sharing detailed step by step processes of nearly everything I was doing. I just felt it was the right thing to do, to help others looking to learn.

Mike:  If I recall, a few years back you lost your blog and all it’s contents with no available backup.  What hard lessons were learned from that experience and how has it made you stronger?

Jamie: Man that sucked! A friend of mine was actually hosting my website and he changed servers one weekend and deleted my files, thinking I wasn’t using the website any longer. WordPress is great and there are so many plugins but sadly a backup plugin wasn’t something I was using. Technically speaking, the website was backed up on the server, but that was deleted along with my website when my friend switched servers.

What did I learn? Don’t let your friend host your website, so I have switched to GoDaddy’s managed WordPress hosting AND I use a backup plugin called UpdraftPlus.

Losing all that content felt like I wasted years worth of work. There was a lot of great stories, how to articles and more that vanished. Archive.org still holds many of them, but it’s not easy bringing all that data back in. The biggest kicker, I think at that time, DotWeekly was pulling in around $1,500 a month in affiliate ad revenue. Poof, that was gone with the data!

Mike:  Domain bloggers seem to have their own niche.  Yours seems to be your unmatched ability to research and track premium domain movement.  How have you been able to stay on top of this and report on transactions no other blogs are covering?

Jamie: Hard work really. I put in a lot of time researching movements. I get up everyday at 4 am and spend around 3-4 hours every day checking movements in several different variations. Sadly, there are a couple ways that need to be looked at and my process involves “double looking at data” but both need to be done to capture as many movements as I can.

The data that I dig up is very important for the domain name industry as a whole, because it really puts a pulse on the market. Yes, DnJournal.com reports a lot of domain name sales but the fact is, the majority of the bigger ones are not included in the weekly reports. Most are not included due to private transactions or between parties that are simply not involved in the domain industry, so its not news for them to report.

Just like Domaining itself is addictive, so is knowing what is selling. Since most of my findings are not reported outside DotWeekly, it really has become an addictive form of knowing what is selling and who is buying. Then digging into the why, trying to find a price and any info to help domainers.

Mike:  According to your blog, you offer brokerage services as well.  Tell me about your service and what differentiates you from other brokers.

Jamie: I do offer brokerage services but my main focus is Buyer Brokerage. If I had to pick one thing that I like doing the most, it’s helping somebody acquire a domain name. The fact is, a lot of companies and individuals do not know how to buy a domain name that is owned by somebody else. Can they go hunting for themselves? Yes, but it takes time and they are likely not educated on value, whois privacy and so much more. Going in blind and even contacted the domain owner via email can be a bad idea, as it often tips off the domain owner. There are better approaches and using somebody like myself for a small fee is well worth the time and very often will save you a lot of money! I deeply understand the domain name industry, understand the market and have a lot of connections which is often key in buying a domain name from its current owner.

Mike:  Tell me about MailboxPark and your involvement there?

Jamie: Ah, you have done your research Mike! I haven’t been very public about this new project but I’m very excited about it. I have long thought that incoming email was a vital under-looked asset of domain names. Consider the fact that some 200+ billion emails are sent daily, email is important and they are all tied to a domain name.

From a domain owners standpoint, it’s a pain in the butt to set up a “catch all” email on every single domain name they own to view email. If one were to actually do that, then they get hit with a bunch of email and the volume is often overwhelming to deal with. Then what? It gets ignored due to volume overload and what to do with it.

250ok.com, the parent company of MailboxPark is an email deliverablity service that helps brands with better practices of emailing, fighting phishing attacks and more. They were looking to diversify data sources and offer a product that I found very interesting if I could get involved and tune it towards the domainer! I took on a director role with the company and have been working with them since December 2016 to come up with MailboxPark.com.

So what is MailboxPark? In a nutshell, it’s an easy solution for domain name owners to view all incoming email to your domain names, discover and earn some revenue with it. With building tools to view all the email, our technology categorizes all incoming email so its easier to manage and view what’s important. Personal, Social, Commercial and Other.

From the Commercial side, this data helps 250ok better serve its customers in practices of building better practices of emailing its customers. Because of this, MailboxPark is able to pay domain owners for Commercial email traffic. Is it as much as domain parking? Sometimes, because some domain names get a lot of email! In general, since most domain owners were making $0 and not even considered email to the domains they own, it’s a big plus!

Discovery is one vastly important part of MailboxPark. Since our technology categorizes the incoming email, it greatly reduces the effort to view the mail and find the things that are beneficial to you. Does one business assume another business owns a domain and are trying to communicate on this assumption, yet you own the domain? That happens A LOT and you being able to see this is really a great lead that truly makes a wise investment for the company missing these emails. Maybe you as the domain owner didn’t know of this company and the fact that they use a domain name close to yours. You now have data to alert you to this and you can discreetly use this information for a sales pitch for them to purchase the domain that they may not have know is important to them.

MailboxPark is just getting started and is very exciting! It’s similar in a way to domain parking but also vastly different. By simply setting MX records on your domain name, you can use MailboxPark. Did I mention it’s free! Very similar to setting Name Servers to use a parking service. By only needing to set MX records, this allows MailboxPark to be “non-disruptive” and you can continue to resolve the domain name as you choose, like using a parking service. MailboxPark does not reply to any incoming emails, nor serve any ads what so ever, so the service really runs in the background and you know 100% what is going on.

It is my job to make the service very helpful to domain owners and worth while. Based on a lot of feedback, the discovery aspect is highly enjoyed and the revenue is an added bonus. We understand that revenue is important and are working on a few things that can help continue improve the revenue aspect of MailboxPark. I have a creative mind, so this helps when looking at data. Domainers should be really excited about the service and the future it holds. Curiosity alone should entice domain owners to give MailboxPark a try, but it’s a very valuable service. 250ok is a really great company that is open and honest and truly open to building a great service for domainers and the reason I’m so excited about it and glad to be a part of.

Mike:  One of my goals is to educate domainers.  What advice do you have for domainers?  What are some of the common mistakes you have seen?

Jamie: Domainers are forwarding thinking individuals and some really smart people. Domain names are a very important and businesses are pretty slow to realize how important the internet is. Thankfully, many companies are finally understanding how important it is to be online, the communication aspects of email, apps, advertising and branding. These movements will reward many domain name investors handsomely that own premium generic one and two word domain names. .com is and will always be king, something that will very likely never be any other way. The ball started rolling a long time ago (1985) and it’s really the trendy, most common nature extension to use!

So from an investment side, .com domain names and in one and two word nature are the best investments. Look at what many of the largest companies in the world use, what some of the hottest new startups are using. It’s often 8 characters or less and matching .com domain to the branded term of the company.

From a business aspect, if you are not using a .com, you should! If your domain name is hard to spell, type, added words, hyphen etc., you need to deeply consider an upgrade! There is so much that relates to your domain name, from the power play of: “Hey, we mean business, look at our domain name” (aka, owning Money.com compared to, MoneyServicesOnTheWeb.com) to word of mouth advertising and easily being able to say and spell your domain, to email communication and the common/natural fit to your branding. All of this relates to your domain and much more (SEO, trust etc).

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11 million users and growing

Karen Bantuveris is CEO of SignUp.com.   As a working-mom, Girl Scout leader, and active PTA member, Karen enjoyed contributing where she could, but the ‘little things’ that made volunteering a hassle and distracted her from the rest of life—clipboards, multiple websites, reply-all emails, late night reminder messages—seemed endless.

Karen recognized that for her efforts to make a meaningful difference, she needed to simplify how community activities were organized. In 2009, she founded VolunteerSpot, a solution for anyone and everyone who wanted to quickly mobilize and coordinate volunteers. VolunteerSpot’s simple, intuitive signup software made it easy for people to join together and say YES to volunteering. No waiting for approvals and passwords, no software to install—just free, easy scheduling and signup tools for everyday heroes.

Mike: Although SignUp.com seems pretty straight forward based on the name, can you explain the service and what it does?
Karen At SignUp.com, we believe that when people come together, great things happen. Parents and teachers, business and community leaders, and friends and coworkers trust our coordination resources and applications to save time and achieve remarkable outcomes. We’re the easiest way to coordinate people and things for events, activities and gatherings of all kinds.

This time of year, parents and teachers are coordinating helpers and refreshments for holiday parties and performances, faith groups are organizing community meals and Giving Tree wish lists to bring holiday cheer to families in need, professors are coordinating office hours and exam proctor schedules, sports parents are collecting money for coaches gifts, small businesses from photographers to doggie day care are hosting SignUps so their customers can schedule their services, and nonprofits are planning races, galas and other fundraisers. As you can see, people use us for everything under the sun!

Mike: You recently changed your name from VolunteerSpot to SignUp.com. What prompted the change?

Karen: Our customers were using us in a myriad of scenarios beyond volunteering and we wanted current and potential users to know that we can help them plan and coordinate just about anything seamlessly — from events, to parent teacher conferences, meetings, and parties. We still have a focus on volunteer scheduling, but when the response from users who used VolunteerSpot to coordinate other activities became undeniable, we decided to make the change.

Mike: How important has a great domain name proved to be for your business?

Karen: We’re just getting started with our new domain and the feedback from our customers has been amazing – it was a strong and successful move. We’re also excited to see people use SignUp.com in ways we didn’t fully anticipate such as event ticket sales, race registration and class registration. It seems the possibilities are endless.

Mike: What types of businesses or organizations do you find using your service? What sort of unique ways are they leveraging the service? What can people use it for to accomplish? 

Karen: Our core audience has traditionally been parents (mostly moms) and teachers who use SignUp.com to organize class/school activities and parties, but we’re quickly branching into districts, universities, faith groups and small businesses as their go-to coordination and planning resource. We’re starting to see people create all kinds of SignUps beyond volunteer rostering such as interview schedules for hiring events, city-wide prayer circles, workplace picnics and potlucks, class registration– the list goes on! They love to useSignUp.com because of the ease-of-use of the platform, the automatic reminders sent out to participants and because overall – it makes their lives easier so they can focus on the more important aspects of their lives.

Mike: Can you share the traffic numbers the site receives?

Karen: With an ever-growing user base, we are seeing site traffic increase month-to-month. This past October we hit 11 million users! We’re excited to see that number continue to grow as the year progresses.

Mike: In searching for a premium domain name for a business, what advice do you have to others considering the same?
Karen: We had been looking for a new domain to better meet the needs of our expanding VolunteerSpot audience for a long time. We purchased and launched several other domains prior to committing to SignUp.com. Many of them had the same drawback as VolunteerSpot of having to explain our services, or having a narrow use case. SignUp.com is as generic and broadly applicable as it comes. Personally, I was resistant at first, preferring a more exciting brand – but I’ve come to love the brand because the domain is so powerful in it’s simplicity – our platform makes sense to our customers, instantly and immediately. The generic nature of the name also lets us custom brand subdomains for our clients and partners. It was an overall win!

Mike: I noticed your free tier is supported by advertisers. How well does that model work?

Karen: Since our core user base has traditionally been influential, active moms with school-aged kids, we offer unique sponsorship opportunities for brands that want to market to moms in a contextually relevant way in an uncluttered environment. Brand’s like Land’s End, Uncle Ben’s, Penguin Random House and AXA Financial Services look to us for unparalleled engagement to hyper-target this difficult-to-reach audience. Because of our credibility and reach within involved parent communities, we’ve recently been invited by The White House to join President Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative (#CSforAll). We’re encouraging elementary schools and youth groups across the country to host a FUN and FREE Family Code Night event that introduces families to Computer Science. The majority of our advertisers share our mission of doing ‘GOOD” – maybe it’s to keep kids reading, to save for college, or encouraging the family the cook together – it all aligns.

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Just a damn cool domain portfolio management system

Doron Vermaat is an entrepreneur and domainer.  He’s a co-founder and Head of Product at Efty, an online domain portfolio management system and the publisher of DNgeek.com, a blog about brandable domain names, startup naming, and branding. Efty helps you manage your domain portfolio, giving you clear insight into your performance while helping to boost leads, sales, and revenue. Efty helps you manage your entire domain name investment portfolio in one place – with a secure and confidential platform.

Mike:  Doron, I’ve done a couple of recent interviews on domain management systems.  What differentiates Efty from other platforms?

Doron: Efty separates itself from the pack by offering a complete solution that not only includes domain name management, tracking, and financial insights but also the right tools to help you sell more domains. Efty’s theme gallery hosts a selection of 40+ top-notch, customizable For-Sale landing pages that have been designed for optimal visitor-to-lead conversion as well as 4 templates to help you quickly launch your own, customizable domain name marketplace (Such as the ones you can see at NameRockstar.com or DNBX.com). Efty users don’t need to download, install, update or host anything and do not pay any commission on sales made trough the platform. Instead, our users pay a very affordable monthly or annual fee starting at just $4/month. We also take pride in offering top-notch customer support, constantly shipping new features and improvements to the platform and having a very clear governance on privacy and not having access to user data.

Mike:  In what ways have you found that Efty helps contribute to domain sales?

Doron: The best platform to sell a domain name is the domain name itself. With Efty’s For-Sale landing pages you can make it crystal clear that the domain name is for sale when a potential buyer types in your domain name which significantly increases the number of offers and inquiries compared to a parked page that is optimized to generate pay-per-click revenue from ads. Inquiries and offers via Efty also provide you with much more intel on your buyers such as the Name, Email, Phone number and the IP address. This makes it easier to conduct research on your leads before making a counter offer and helps you to maximize the deal size.

Mike:  All great ideas come from somewhere, what spawned the idea behind Efty?

Doron: The idea for Efty came to me after I was investing personally in domain names for about a year and I noticed that it was getting more and more difficult to stay organized, track renewals, expenses and calculate my P&L. At the same time, I also started looking for a solution to help me better showcase and sell my names by use of good looking For-Sale landing pages rather them populating them with pay-per-click ads that hardly made me any money.

I also thought it was crazy to pay commissions on sales when they happened through direct navigation (when a buyer types in your domain name directly in their browser). When I realized there was no solution on the market to help you manage, track AND sell your domains without paying commissions I knew there was an opportunity and the idea for Efty was born.

I reached out to long-time friend and software entrepreneur Lionel Petitiaux and we started working on Efty in November 2013. Six months later we rolled out our beta.

Mike:  You have chosen a brandable domain name for this business.   What can you tell me about the name “Efty” and the benefits to selecting a brandable name?

Doron: We went with Efty because we want to build a brand. People want to deal with real brands now and by using a generic domain you risk coming across as just another solution in the market.

Mike:  You’re based out of Hong Kong.  Does that affect your ability to do business as a domainer in anyway?  Has that location provided opportunities you might not have had if you were living in the states?

Doron: The main challenge is the time difference with the US which is forcing me to work with proxy bids instead of competing live towards the end of domain name auctions on NameJet, GoDaddy auctions etc.

Mike:  What’s your background and how did you get involved in domaining and internet businesses?

Doron: I’ve co-founded and worked for internet startups most of my professional career, many of them related to the recruitment and staffing industry. In 2016 I co-founded an employment website for the Greater China region. That company didn’t make it and was shut down four years later. The domain, which was administered by a web development company, was neglected and ultimately expired from Network Solutions a few years ago. I had plans to relaunch the site so I did some research to find out how to gain ownership of the domain again once it would drop.

This led me to NameJet where all the expired inventory from NetSol is being auctioned. At NameJet I learned about the domain name aftermarket, drops and auctions. That month I won the auction for the NewChinaCareer.com domain name but also started bidding on several others that caught my eye. I was hooked right away.

Mike:  Do you have any other projects you’re working on at the moment?

Doron: I just kicked off a consulting project with Hong Kong-based online fashion retailer Grana. They recently secured a large Series A round in funding from Alibaba ventures and have ambitious plans to make their clothing available to the entire world. I will be working with them on building their technology team so if you’re a talented coder and are interested in working in vibrant Hong Kong please do get in touch : )

Mike:  What advice do you have for others that are about to embark in an online business?  Anything to watch out for or any surprises you have found?

Doron: Most important is that you find a need and fill it.  Try to do so in an industry or sector you’re passionate about and establish an expert reputation for yourself. Constantly follow up with your customers and improve your offering based on popular request.

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Tough Domains

Tim Koutroubas is the founder of ToughDomains.com.  Tim and I have been exchanging emails for a couple of months as we’ve discussed the ToughDomains platform.  ToughDomains.com offers Domain Parking, Sales Pages, Portfolio Management and more.  Tim and I talked a little bit about the site and what it offers.

Mike:  What inspired you to launch ToughDomains.com?

ToughDomains:  We saw a need in the industry to consolidate the “Domain Cycle”.

The “Domain Cycle” is Discovering / Buying, Managing the Portfolio, Earning Revenue, and eventually Selling the domain.

Domain Cycle

There are many services that address each part of the domain cycle individually.  Some services are easy to use while others require a high level of technical expertise and /or  cost.  We wanted to create an affordable Free to Premium based platform that addresses each portion of the domain cycle with an easy to use hosted execution.

Mike:  How many domains would you say are currently supported by the platform?   Roughly how many members?

ToughDomains:  The platform currently supports thousands of domains and hundreds of users in an open beta.  Currently, we are releasing major updates that are addressing our users wishes and requests.

Mike:  You have a tiered pricing plan, but your first tier is free up to 20 domains.  This is great for people who want to test it out before committing to a monthly payment.  What benefit does your platform have over parking services or other competitors in this space?

ToughDomains:  Feature flexibility is a key differentiator for us.  We allow you to use our software by itself or in conjunction with your current solutions.  Some of our differentiators include:

• Instant Domain Development- Allows you to connect premium multipage content to hundreds of domains in minutes.

• Ad Network Integration- We currently integrate with two ad networks (with more to come) including AdSense.  Simply inter your publisher ID and start earning revenue.

• Domain Analytics- We provide domain level traffic data that includes hits, referring URLs, and country of origin.  Must have information before selling the domain.

• Multiple Public Portfolios-  Create a portfolio of all your domains or a custom curated list of only the domains requested by a buyer.

• Domain Insights and Portfolio Management- Free Registrar, Expiration Date & Admin Email are currently available. Later this month, full portfolio management such as entering buy and sell info, net profit, domain valuation & various ranking metrics will be available in dashboard.

• Free Bulk Name Server Redirect- Redirect hundreds of names to a single domain or your own offer form.

• Commission Free Sales Pages- Unlike many other services we offer a Zero commission sales page.

Mike:  The live demos on your site showed me three options.  A sales page that was clean and simple.  A news page that looked like it might have some configurable content.  Finally a portfolio page which was a simple list of names for sale.  Are any of these more successful than the others?  Do you find the news pages get indexed by Google?

ToughDomains:  Our Instant Domain Development, Sales Pages, and name server Redirects are by far our most popular domain tools.  Our founding members have existing SEO expertise and we are leveraging this knowledge to increase traffic to the domains.  We are indeed seeing SEO benefits to domains using our instant domain development tool.

Mike:  Is there any PayPal integration or is the sale just through email correspondence and the buyer and seller work out the details.

ToughDomains:  Currently, we offer email correspondence.  However, integration to the most popular escrow services is currently under development and to be released soon.  We believe a non-direct payment option within an escrow environment is the safest solution for both buyers and sellers.  We are not sure the ecosystem is ready for a direct to purchase model.

Mike:  The site states “Keep 100% of the Domain Sell Price -Zero Commission Paid on any of the domains you sell! ”  My question is… how do you make any money to support the site?

ToughDomains:  We are domainers and like many domainers we do not believe in collecting a commission for a non-brokered direct inquiry of your domain.

We have 3 revenue models:

• As needed premium subscription revenue.

• Ad Supported model for content hosted for our free users.

• We are currently developing a third revenue model that we will be releasing in Q1 2017.

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The Right Domain Will Get The Job Done!

If you’ve ever read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, you probably have read the chapter about virtual assistants.  It describes how you can improve your business and personal life at an affordable price.  Just be sure to provide detailed direction and learn from your mistakes.

Belinda Stringer owns the domain name VirtualAssistants.com as well as the business behind it.  She founded the company back in 1999, well before Tim’s book made the job popular with the masses.  Belinda spent some time discussing the domain name and the story behind it with me.

Mike:  VirtualAssistants.com is a job board for virtual assistants.  What exactly can a virtual assistant do for me and can I afford it?

Belinda:  A Virtual Assistant is someone who can help you with various business tasks that you would like to take off your plate. This can be administrative tasks such as letters, calendar management, travel arrangements, email management, spreadsheets,  or other tasks such as research, writing, transcription, or customer service. Anything you can think of that someone could do online for you and not have to be physically present, a Virtual Assistant can do for you.

Virtual Assistants can work for an hourly rate or a per project rate, and since you are not paying taxes, medical benefits, paid vacations and such, it is more economical for a business owner to hire a Virtual Assistant.

Mike:  I have read that you started the business in response to the high number of virtual job scams that exist.  Tell me more about your experience.

Belinda:  Well, back in 1998, working virtually was just getting started. I worked as an Operations Manager of an employment agency and started to look into working from home.  Since I was new to this, I applied for what I thought was a good job but it turned out to be a total scam.  This was an eye opening experience for me and I learned there are many crooks who try to take advantage of innocent people looking for work from home employment. So at the beginning of 1999, I decided to create a private virtual job board where we prescreened the jobs to verify that they were legitimate so people could feel safe applying to the jobs that are listed on our job board.

Mike:  The domain name you have could not be better for your niche.  Tell me how you acquired the name?  Are you willing to share what you paid for the name?

Belinda: I was on a forum and it mentioned Virtual Assistants – which I had not heard that term before. So I thought I would go to a domain name provider and see if the name was available. It was, and so I purchased the name from Network Solutions for I think it was 39.99 in February of 1999.

Mike:  How much do you reply on other forms of traffic such as paid advertising as opposed to simple type-in traffic?  Do you know what percentage of your visitors come from just typing in the domain name?

Belinda:  It is about 25% advertising and the rest is type in traffic and social media posts. We do advertise with Google and Bing adwords but it is a small amount. We also do a lot of social media through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The majority of people visiting the site come from just searching via Google or Bing and social media posts.

Mike:  As an online business owner, what is your opinion of all the new TLDs available today (ie .club, .xyz, .store)?

Belinda:  For the right company it might work, but otherwise I just don’t see those working as well as a .com domain name. People are just really used to typing in .com at the end of a domain name.

Mike:  Even with a great name, running an online business can be difficult.  What have you found to be the largest challenge you have had to overcome and how did you do it?

Belinda:  Gaining people’s trust.  With all the scams out there, it is a challenge for most people who are new to this to tell who is really honest and not a scam.  I think this is always a challenge, but we make every effort to always do the best for the people who register on our site.  We kind of take this personally and we really do go the extra mile in making sure the jobs are legitimate, updated daily and we respond to our customers or any inquiries immediately.

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Instant Credibility with a Domain Name

After several years working as a building envelope consultant and structural analysis engineer, Liz Lohman co-founded Cubicle.com, the first online store for office cubicles.  Cubicle.com offers free shipping nationwide in 10 business days from the date of your order. It’s is a new and rapidly growing ecommerce business.  Liz took time out of her busy schedule as Partner of Cubicle.com and mother of a new born to answer questions on the power of this domain name.

Mike: Liz, how does Cubicle.com differ from how businesses normally furnish their offices with cubicles?

Liz: When Cubicle.com was founded, the typical cubicle purchasing process could take weeks or months because there was no easy way for a customer to find and specify the products that they wanted for their space. It often involved the customer contacting an office furniture dealership, having them come to the customer’s facility to measure, and then designing the space…all before getting to a quote. Cubicle.com makes the cubicle purchasing process SIMPLE! We provide the customer with a quick and easy way to find the cubicles that best fit their needs, and they are able to purchase directly via our website!

Mike: How did you come to own the domain name? Can you walk us through how you searched out and acquired the name? Can you share what you paid for the name?

Liz:  We really wanted a name that established instant credibility with customers….which is how we got to Cubicle.com. In terms of acquiring the domain, we contacted the owner (based on the domain’s WHOIS information) and negotiated a lease (with an option to buy). We wanted to start out with a lease so that we could test our business model before incurring the sizable expense associated with the domain name purchase. Once we saw that the business model was a success, we decided to purchase the domain outright. In terms of cost, the lease rate was under $1000/month, but the option price was over six figures.

Mike: How has owning the keyword name “Cubicle.com” impacted the business? Could any other name have delivered the same results from type in traffic and Google searches?

Liz:  Owning the keyword name Cubicle.com has definitely positively impacted the business! The largest benefit has been that it provides the business with instant credibility. Customers are often weary of making large-ticket purchases online, so having the Cubicle.com domain name provides them with a higher level of comfort and trust, which leads to a higher rate of conversion.

Of course, the Cubicle.com domain name has also helped with type-in traffic and Google searches. We think that it is the best domain to have if you are in the office cubicle business!

Mike: How much of your traffic do you attribute to type in traffic?

Liz:  A fair amount of our website traffic comes from type-in-traffic. But, we are finding that the vast majority of this traffic is from our past customers, who are remembering our brand and want to order more cubicles!

Mike: What have you found to be the biggest surprise when it comes to running an online business? What is one thing you encountered that you hadn’t anticipated?

Liz:  The biggest surprise to me has been the large percentage of our revenue that comes from past customers who return again and again to purchase more workstations. It’s a good surprise for sure…it means we are doing our jobs and the Cubicle.com customers are happy!

Mike: Aside from having a great domain name, what are some other important factors in running a successful site?

Liz:  One very important part of running a successful e-commerce site is responsiveness. I know that our customers appreciate the fact that we respond quickly to any questions that they may have and are able to provide cubicle quotes in a very short period of time. It gives them more confidence in the online buying process.

The other factor I think is very important is the ability to set expectations regarding your services…being very clear with your customer about what you provide and how you provide it. For instance, when a customer places a Cubicle.com order, we send an order confirmation that states exactly what they ordered, an estimated ship date, and how it will be delivered…that way we are all on the same page regarding the details pertaining to each order.

Mike: There is a competitor with the plural of your domain name and another with the dot net version of your name. How are you able to differentiate and stay ahead of your competition?

Liz:  We attribute a large portion of our success to the fact that we have simplified our business model and focus on doing one thing very well…offering a very high quality, low cost cubicle solution with unmatched customer service!

We are one of the few cubicle sites out where you can actually purchase cubicles online without having to wait for a quote. This allows our customers that know exactly what they want to go ahead and purchase…no delays waiting for someone to get back to you!

For our customers who do want a quote, we are able to get quotes put together for customers in a matter of hours (often within the same hour) from when our potential customer contacts us.

We are always striving to meet the expectations set with our tagline: Quick & Easy Cubicles for Less!

Mike: What methods do you use to promote the website?

Liz:  We are constantly working to maximize the quality and quantity of our site traffic. This work is a combination of organic optimization, PPC, and always being on the lookout for new digital marketing technologies that will provide a benefit to our customers and lead to more sales for Cubicle.com.

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Domains, Celebrity Skulls, and Dead Ringers

With over 2 decades of experience and thousands of hours helicopter time plus 14 books and 5 videos to his credit, Russ Heinl is recognized as one of Canada’s foremost aerial photographers.  His love of aviation, photography and adventure has taken him over virtually every corner of Canada and Alaska as well as over America and Europe.  However this is not what grabbed my attention.  I stumbled across Russ’ site at DeadRingers.com and I had to learn more about it.

Mike: Russ, you mentioned to me that the site, DeadRingers.com, is fairly new. How long has it been up and where did the idea come from?

Russ: Yes the Dead Ringers site is fairly new and the line has not officially launched yet although we are about to do that. The last few years has been spent developing the digital skulls, the 3-D CAD design work and precision molds that were done in Germany as we needed the highest quality possible and the Europeans are known for this.

So you asked where did the idea come from. As you know Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top owns two of our Dead Ringers “Jimi” (Jimi Hendrix) skull rings and Billy asked me the same question. As I explained to him I blame the whole thing on Keith Richards as I was looking at a portrait photo of Keith and he had his hands on this face and his infamous skull ring was in full view. I call this the light switch moment; when looking at the ring I thought to myself “that is a cool ring but wouldn’t it be really cool if it was HIS skull?” Then I thought what a twisted thought but I couldn’t put it down and a few days later I started exploring forensic sculpting ( facial reconstruction ) to see if it was possible to create a digital model of Keith’s skull, we used about 50 photographs and police mug shots for this. Once Keith was done then I moved on to “Jimi” and then the rest of the line took shape. These skull rings are exact recreations of these artist’s skulls with a degree of artistic license taken to make them wearable.

Mike: The rings are pretty bad ass. You actually make them?

Russ: Thanks, glad we got your attention. As I like to say in a previous life I was in the rock & roll industry and am now a photographer doing aerial work and car racing photography however I am not a jeweler, that is why I hired the best in the industry to help me develop the line from it’s initial concept. The silver rings are cast and finished in Canada and the gold and diamond versions are done in Germany.

Mike: DeadRingers.com is a premium domain name. Tell me about how you acquired it and can you share the purchase price?

Russ: Dead Ringers started as DeadRingers.ca as the .com was of course taken. A bit of history for you here: The name of the company is perfect for a few reasons. First we are dealing with “Dead” and human skulls with the exception of Keith and that is whole other story. Then we have “Ringers” and we make rings. The real hook here is that the origins of the phrase “Dead Ringers” means “an exact duplicate or replica” which is what we’ve done by recreating these famous rock star skulls. The phrase “Dead Ringers” was originally used as a “ringer” was a stand-in for a horse race when owners would secretly replace a slower horse with a faster horse of vice versa for later betting purposes. So of course the horses had to look very similar in order to pull off this con. The use of the word “dead” here is like “dead on” or “dead right”.

Now back to your question Mike. We had DeadRingers.ca and I never dreamed of owning DeadRingers.com as it was such a premium domain name then one day out of the blue I had an email from a domain registrar who had sniped DeadRingers.com as it was let go by the former owner. They had a price in mind in the low 4 figures but we ended up buying it for about $500.00 which I believe was money well spent. To protect the brand we’ve also been busy buying all of the other “Dead Ringers” domain names such as DeadRingers.rocks, DeadRingers.online, DeadRingers.jewelry etc etc.

Mike: I realize the site is young, but how much traffic are you receiving at this point? What means are you planning to use to promote the site in the future?

Russ: As mentioned the site is very young and we have no expectations for how much traffic we ought to be getting at this stage although it is encouraging to see it increasing on a daily basis. In the last two weeks we got Dead Ringers onto Etsy and eBay and began an ad campaign with Google AdWords. We were able to acquire an extensive media contact list that covers all the appropriate media outlets in North America and Europe, we will be sending out press releases to all of them in the next few weeks. We are at the moment working with a few other celebrities so we are holding off on the press releases until a few things are finalized.

Last week we became an official sponsor of Rock Legends Cruise VI 2018 which is a hugely successful floating rock and roll cruise going into its 6th year of operation. Each Rock Legends Cruise sailing has about 2,000 die hard rock fans aboard and the entertainment is supplied by about 15 to 20 famous rock bands that play through out the cruise. As a sponsor we will be featured in all their newsletters and member updates, their membership list is very, very large so we know Dead Ringers will enjoy a lot of exposure from our association with them. We are also planning a few other high profile sponsorships.

Mike: There are celebrities wearing your rings, people like Johnny Depp. Have you gotten feedback from these celebs?

Russ: Yes we do have a few celebrities wearing Dead Ringers skull rings. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top is a friend and he has been very supportive of what we do and as you know he owns two of our “Jimi” rings, I recall when I gave them to him he said in his distinctive Texas drawl “Nice….. really nice. And the background story…… priceless”. The “Jimi” rings have special meaning for Billy as his first band the Moving Sidewalks toured with Jimi Hendrix in early ’68, both guitarists became close friends.

Richard Rawlings the star of the reality TV show Fast N Loud, owner of the Gas Monkey Garage and Gas Monkey Bar N Grill owns a “Jimbo” (Jim Morrison) skull ring and he has told me a few times how pleased he is with “Jimbo”.

Johnny Depp I’ve not spoken to directly as I work with his publicist and she has passed on that JD likes his “Keith” (Keith Richards) ring.

Mike: How is it running an online store? What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced?

Russ: The first challenge was getting from the concept of recreating a person’s skull to the making of fine art jewelry and I think we did a good job of that. The next hurtle is getting recognized online in a world awash with so many competing products. I have no idea how many people or companies are making skull rings but safe to say there are hundreds of them. So how do you get noticed with all that competition? We have a few things going in our favor. First, we have a truly unique product in that we are the only ones to ever use forensic sculpting or facial reconstruction to recreate a person’s skull and then take that digital skull and turn it into fine jewelry.

Secondly, we have rock and roll celebrity on our side in that we have recreated the skulls of four of rocks greatest legends. Everyone loves a great story that accompanies a fine product and I think we’ve got that. Now the next challenge is getting the word out there and getting some media buzz happening.

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Domains and SEO – Are you doing these three simple things?

James Richardson started his online career running online Sports Fan sites, with the pinnacle being a write up in the Sunday Herald Sun ‘Wired’ column. His professional career began at ASX listed company Melbourne IT where he held various senior roles across the Sales and Marketing teams, before deciding to venture out on his own. Running several successful online websites and businesses himself, he is well placed at understanding what your business needs.

Mike: James, you founded SEO.com.au. Excellent keyword domain to say the least. How does .com.au compare to .com?

James:  com.au is the primary domain name used by Australian businesses. As we are mainly focused on the AU market – this work great for us and conveys trust to our customers. In the au market, as a general rule you have to be a registered business to be able to register a domain name, and you must also list all your details publicly, so with that comes an element of security.

You get all the benefits of a great .com domain name, but obviously a slightly smaller market!

Obviously when we are talking about value, it doesn’t compare to the .com which sold for $5 Million in 2007, but the domain name still carries some great value in our smaller market from a resale perspective.

Mike: Tell us what you do at SEO.com.au.

James:  SEO.com.au is as the name suggests, an SEO company. Our main brand is Optimising.com.au, and we use SEO.com.au as our higher level brand.
We’re focused on high quality in house SEO, with a big focus on technical audits. At the moment the website acts more as a lead generator than a stand alone website, but we have plans to expend the brand more fully in the future.

Mike: In your experience as an SEO expert, how important is a keyword domain to a businesses success?

James:  Google has rolled out lots of updates to curb the benefits of EMD’s, but we still see a nice bump from having one. In addition EMD’s are usually older domains with some good authority and history behind them which always helps!

I would not say it’s a deal breaker to business success, but its certainly beneficial. The domain creates a great ice breaker in conversations and also gives the impression we have been around for a long time to get such a great domain name.

Mike: Knowing that keyword domains have a high level of importance, explain how businesses based on brandable domains often do well.

James:  I would actually say it can actually be more difficult to build your business around a generic domain name. It can actually make it more difficult to build a ‘brand’ as the domain name is not ‘unique’, the other issue you have is all the other in your industry using the term. If it is a dictionary word, it’s going to be tough to stop them using it and confusing your customers!

When we bought the domain, it had previously had an old website on it that had been up for about 10 years. When we took ownership we redid the branding, and created a website that better aligned with what our company was. The biggest benefit we see overall with using such a great domain name is its memorable. Clients can easily remember it if they meet you at an event, it’s say to remember when someone wants to mention it a a colleague, and it’s really going to stand out in any advertising we do.

Mike: What are the top 3 SEO tips you have for small businesses trying to get their sites ranked in Google?

James:  The biggest thing overall is that SEO can be done by anyone, it just takes time and effort (I am talking about the basics here. There is so much business owners can do themselves so easily, but most do not even bother. People need to start really utilising their website, which is a huge potential asset as a marketing and branding channel.

  1. Build great content: Get great content on your website that visitors to your site would want, and expect to see. When they get to your website you want to ensure they can find everything they could potentially need to make a decision.
  2. Great code: Ensure that your website is built well, loads fast, and works seamlessly on all devices.
  3. Build great links: Links are still a HUGE part of ranking well on Google so ensure that there are other websites out there linking to your pages, and the great content you are writing.

Simple!

Mike: How did you get the name SEO.com.au? Can you talk me through the process you followed to purchase the name?

James:   We actually suited this domain name about 4 years ago when it came on the market. Myself and my business partner Daniel felt that it was an opportunity too good to pass up and one that only comes up once in a lifetime.

We had been talking to the seller for a reasonable amount of time before he sold it, and when he was ready to sell he came straight to us and we were ready to acquire it quickly.

Mike: What type of traffic do you see?

James:  Without putting in any real effort, we see a few thousand uniques a month, which as you can imagine converts to a very tidy lead source for us. This comes through pure organic searches, as well as Google Maps. We have plans to expand the link building efforts and flesh out the website some more which would further increase organic traffic.

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GraduationParty.com could use your SEO tips

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Ginger Venable started her business career in the wild world of Direct Mail in the mid 1980s. Fast forward to the dawn of the internet in the late 90’s where she  quickly jumped into online marketing, corporate communications and specialized in event planning. She loves to host parties. In 1998 she co-wrote a book on graduation party planning with a friend. Her 3 children and many of their friends have enjoyed very well planned and well attended parties. In addition to running the website, she is an event planner. She is usually juggling 3-6 projects at the same time. Ginger live in Minnesota and has attended over 100 graduation parties! When planning a celebration her main goal is to make the guests feel welcome. That is what they try to do with their website as well.

Ginger Venable, co-owns and maintains GraduationParty.com, with Susan Kielly, another mom with graduation party and web design experience.

Mike: Explain what the site, GraduationParty.com is.

Ginger:  GraduationParty.com is the go-to site for people planning a graduation party. We provide advice on everything from start to finish: selecting a date, time, location, what to serve, how to decorate and who to invite are addressed along with helpful tips to make the celebration special and low stress. With over 3.3 million students graduating from high school every year parents are looking for insider advice, creative ideas & fun products. Our website is filled with tons of graduation party needs, from graduation invitations to graduation decorations to catering ideas and so much more! Most of our content comes from moms who share their party details and our party product affiliates.

Mike: GraduationParty.com is a dream name, how did you come across it? Were you the first to register the name or did you buy it from someone? If the latter, can you share the price?

Ginger: I registered the name and developed this site back in 1998. At that time the name was available, so our timing was perfect. I had just co-wrote the book, Graduation Parties: Everything You Need to Know from Start to Finish. Our original intention was to sell the books, but over time we realized that content was king and moved most of the book content onto the website.

Mike: The book is available on the site. What will the book teach us that the site won’t?

Ginger: The benefits of having a web page (full color images, the ability to update as trends change and to generate income) made the book somewhat obsolete. Some people appreciate the structure and checklists that come in the book. There are more details in the book than online as web pages need to be short to keep people’s attention.

Mike: Do you use social media to promote the site? If so, what are some examples.

Ginger: We have a blog gradpartyblog.com and Facebook page . We have also conducted a few contests for graduating seniors and have published the results of surveys we’ve conducted with our customers.

Mike: How much traffic does the site receive month to month?

Ginger: Graduation Party planning is a very seasonal business. Our visits peak in May with over over 87,000 visitors this year. Back in 2010, in our peak year, we had 210,000 visitors in May. Getting higher ranking in search engines is so darn tricky. We were number one or two on all the major search engines for many years, but then the logic changed and we’ve slipped. Maybe you could ask your readers for suggestions!

Mike: It looks like you link to some affiliate sites. What is the main way you generate revenue on the site?

Ginger: We sell advertising on our site and generate revenue through affiliate sales. The internet sales tax issue here in Minnesota has dramatically reduced our income as many of our largest affiliates have stopped offering affiliate programs in our state. We are hoping to sell the business to someone outside of Minnesota so they can partner with these affiliates again.

Mike: What do you find to be the most rewarding part of running an online business?

Ginger: Being at the top of the search engines for many years was very exciting. As search engines changed we’ve slipped a bit recently and are trying to figure out how to get back on top. Working with various advertisers and affiliates on new products every year is also an exciting challenge. Helping other parents plan their celebrations is rewarding as well. Many parents appreciate our prompt responses to their many questions.

If you have any SEO suggestions for Ginger, please post them in the comments.  I’ll be sure to follow up in the future and see how your tips have impacted rankings.

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