Tag - domain names

Domain Name Investors

101 Tips / Truths for New Domainers

The post you are about to read is one that I wrote over 8 years ago.  I made some minor updates and added about 10 additional tips to the list, bringing it to 111 tips / truths for new domainers.  While you and I have surely changed, not much has changed in 8 years as far as the fundamentals go.  

I was having lunch with an old friend a couple weeks back.  The type of friend you see just a few times a year.  We were catching up on things and he asked me “If I wanted to start domaining, what tips or advice would you give me.”  I explained that my definition of domaining includes flipping, longer term investing, and developing.  That said, my reply was “I could easily come up with 100 tips for you.”  So, he held me to it.  In the spirit of sharing, here are 101 tips and truths for new domainers.  This list could easily be doubled, but it’s a good start.  There are probably a few reminders in there for experienced domainers as well.

1. Read domain blogs
2. Subscribe to Domaining.com
3. Heed the advice of the experts
4. Draw your own conclusions
5. Research before you buy a domain
6. Research before you sell a domain
7. Network with other domainers
8. Find a niche
9. Read forums with caution
10. Make mistakes
11. Learn to negotiate
12. Learn about sales
13. Don’t burn bridges
14. Don’t buy more domains than you can afford
15. Keep renewal fees in mind
16. Don’t rely on automated estimation tools
17. Stay away from trademarked names
18. Familiarize yourself with domain laws
19. Diversify, invest and develop
20. Have a contract when selling a domain
21. Have a contract when buying a domain
22. Stay ahead of trends
23. Review past sales data
24. Understand that a domain is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay
25. Buy domains that interest you
26. Find email examples of effective sales letters
27. Experiment with email sales letters to find what works best
28. Pick up the phone
29. Utilize a broker when appropriate
30. You  WILL get discouraged.  Keep going
31. Set Goals and a clear vision
32. Don’t register a name just because it’s available
33. Get creative with ways to reach end users
34. Buyers don’t have to be one time customers
35. Learn a little html
36. Learn a little graphic editing
37. Find a reliable hosting service
38. Learn about WordPress
39. Hire a developer if you build a full site
40. Don’t let other domainers discourage you
41. You won’t get rich from parking
42. Realize most of your domains suck
43. Understand SEO
44. Avoid duplicate content
45. Familiarize yourself with Google Trends
46. Social Networking is important
47. Experiment with affiliate programs
48. If you feel strongly about a name, don’t accept a low ball offer
49. Before buying a domain, think about how else the money could be used
50. Try selling on Craigslist, eBay, forums, domain actions and other means
51. Use Twitter to network, not to make a tweet a sales pitch
52. Even sucky names can have high global monthly searches
53. List your names at Sedo
54. Understand brandable vs generic
55. Model what works well for others
56. Don’t quit your day job… yet
57. Never go back on your word
58. If you’re serious, then form a legal business
59. Attend meetups when possible
60. Take lessons from other industries
61. Keep meticulous records
62. Stay connected with new TLDs, even if you don’t invest in them
63. Don’t use Hotmail or spamming looking ail when soliciting buyers.
64. Back up your sites
65. Be prepared to develop or drop any domain you purchase
66. Learn how the drop process works
67. Understand domain taxes
68. Know what your minimum acceptable price is for each domain you own
69. Find partners for development
70. Be willing to work HARD
71. Search feverishly for opportunity
72. Great domains with poor content = crap
73. Look to domain suggestion tools for inspiration only
74. Read, listen, process
75. Know when to give up on a project
76. Know when not to give up
77. Help and teach others, it’s the best way to learn
78. Focus – work on one idea at a time
79. Don’t expect to get rich quick
80. You don’t have to have a huge portfolio to be successful
81. Find free, inexpensive resources.  They’re out there
82. Even though some things are free, sometimes it’s worth paying for better quality
83. Know that most end users wont understand the value of a good domain
84. Domainers won’t pay end user prices, neither should you
85. You can’t do it all alone
86. Find an attorney in the industry before you need one
87. If you ask for advice, you’ll probably get it
88. Not all advice is good advice
89. Your friends/family don’t understand what you’re doing.  That’s fine
90. Don’t waste time wishing you bought names in the 90’s
91. Buy what you can afford and add value
92. If you can’t write content, hire someone who can
93. Most of your ideas won’t get off the ground
94. Make the few that do get off the ground count
95. You’ll get better with practice
96. There are no shortcuts, only faster runners
97. The best domains maybe taken, the best ideas are not
98. Don’t get emotionally attached to a domain
99. Don’t believe everything you read
100. Keep a separate bank account for domaining
101. Don’t look up domains you let drop, it will only piss you off
102. Don’t think you have to register every TLD for a name, that’s just madness
103. There are ways to accelerate your learning… find them
104. A great domain still requires lots of work to be successful
105. Make sure the TLD is appropriate for the name
106. Keep up on technology
107. Never sell based on panic
108. Never rush into a purchase
109. Your reputation is everything
110. If you don’t make money but you enjoy it, keep doing it
111. If you don’t enjoy it, then stop doing it


Have any favorites from the list?  Any additional items you would add?  Post them in the comments.


Strategy of a domain sale

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an interesting conversation with Spencer Yao of smallbusiness-domain.com, a provider of domain name, web hosting, and e-commerce reviews, rankings, comparisons, & coupons.  Spencer was telling me about a recent domain sale his company was involved in.  He walked me through the life cycle from the initial purchase to the sale.  Spencer’s scenario provides some good food for thought when buying domain names with the intent to sell and I asked him to summarize his experience to share with you.

Back in mid 2009, we were approached by a seller looking to quickly dispose of some premium domain names in the beauty and apparel vertical. The acquisition was opportunistic and serendipitous and we did not have much time to decide because the seller wanted to move fast.  Although we had no direct experience in this beauty/apparel category (our group had substantial technical and monetization experience), we purchased one of the better domains because we thought it was truly “premium”, had decent type-in traffic, mapped to a common search term with clear commercial intent, and at an adequate discount to mitigate the risk.  Unfortunately, we cannot disclose the name, but that does not change the content of this article.

Below is a summary of our strategies to maximize value and eventual exit for the domain.

  Description Upside Risks Results
Strategy 1 Build an ecommerce site similar to Diapers.com or Hammocks.com Highest potential reward and risk. Requires most technical & financial resources. We had no direct industry experience in this vertical. Industry was too low margin and fragmented to support such a business.
Strategy 2 Turnkey site based on shopping engine listings. Hope premium domain name helps in SEO results. Much less work and maintenance than Scenario 1. Use API to auto generate sub categories and pages. Development costs to properly access & publish API. Little to no original content. Hard to monetize. Parked domain generated more revenue even though site had hundreds of pages.
Strategy 3 Park, hold, and sell the domain. Little to no work involved Not adding any value to the domain. Hope we paid a low enough price to hold and wait for a buyer Last resort. Chose this scenario after exploring #1 and building #2.

We determined Strategy 1 was not feasible after 4-6 weeks of post purchase research – this sub-category within Beauty/Apparel was too low margin to support an ecommerce business like Diapers.com or Hammocks.com   It took us 4-6 months to build out and vet Strategy 2 – we determined that parking the domain generated more revenue with lower costs than the turnkey site.

Unfortunately, we were left with Strategy 3, which meant parking the domain and hoping for a buyer.  To try and garner as many buyers as possible we looked at the following services:

  • Domain Listing Services like Sedo and BuyDomains. We found these services provided little to no value even though they charged a substantial commission for listing a domain in their database.
  • Domain Brokers.  We retained several brokers who actively marketed the domain and emailed buyers on our behalf.  Through several cycles, we received a handful of offers for about 50% to 80% of our target price which did not include the 10%-15% commission the broker earned if the sale was completed.  The offers were from domain speculators who wanted to sit on the domain and flip it.  This meant it would be hard for us to achieve “full value” through a broker.
  • “For Sale” sign on the parked page.  This is how we eventually sold the domain at our target price to a buyer who wanted to develop it into a website.  The upside was that we received full price without having to pay a commission, but the downside was we held the domain for over 3 years before selling it.

In summary, we purchased the domain (for mid to low 5 figures) and sold it for 30%-35% more than we paid, not including the work we put into Strategies 1 & 2.  Comparing this to an investment benchmark such as the S&P 500 (which gained 39% over the same 3 year period), meant we were better off taking those funds and investing them in the market.  However, since we were forced into Strategy 3, we were happy to make a slight “profit”. We could have waited for a buyer willing to pay more, but that could have taken years to achieve.

Lessons Learned

If you are going to invest substantial dollars into a domain name, we learned the following valuable lessons: 1) Have a concrete development plan to turn the domain into a viable website. Direct industry experience is essential. 2) For maximum price, be prepared to sell the domain yourself and wait years for the right buyer. If you need liquidity in less than 6 months, use a domain broker and be willing to take 35 cents to 70 cents on the dollar.3) The market for premium domains seems to have peaked around 2007-2008 and has yet to recover to those levels. You have to consider this when looking at pre 2008 domain sales for comparison.


What’s in a dot Name?

The other day, I received an email asking me to confirm some of my contact information. The email stated “Some of your contacts use WriteThat.Name, a new service that updates address books based on the linguistic analysis of email signatures.”  What first caught my eye was the dot NAME tld.  But really, what a unique concept.  I reached out to the creator to learn more.

Philippe Laval founded Kwaga two years ago with a simple idea in mind: help email users truly benefit from business data that is nested in the messages they receive. To do so, he leverage the experience he had in semantic technologies and actually strengthen it with a team of NLP (natural language processing) experts who have been enthusiastic about the idea. They are now 10 people strong, fully dedicated to making email the productivity tool it once used to be!

Mike:  Tell me about your service, WriteThat.Name.  What is it and how can it help people?

Philippe: Well, WriteThat.Name is a perfect illustration of my goal: it keeps your address book up-to-date automagically! Basically we recognize the signatures in the email you receive, and either we create the contact when it isn’t in your address book or we update the existing one – with a new mobile number, for instance.

We launched WriteThat.Name mid-May and have already created/updated over 100K contacts for our users! Talk about saving time…

Mike: What is your experience with the .Name tld?  Why did you choose this over a .com?

Philippe: There was a great debate over what we should name this service, but finally landed upon WriteThat.Name because it instantly describes what it does – writes the name and contact information to your address book. Nevertheless, we do have WriteThatName.com registered as well.

Mike: Have you or your company owned any other domain names?  How important do you feel the domain name WriteThat.Name is to your service?

Philippe: As a web-based company, our domain is as essential as the window display is to a shop along the street. This is the first thing that our customers experience, so we took great care in deciding on the perfect one.

Being a French-based company, we have registered WriteThatName.fr as well as the .com and .name domains. We also have both Kwaga.com and Kwaga.fr.

Mike:  WriteThat.Name takes a good feature of Gmail, adding contacts automatically, and makes it even better.  Where did the idea for this come from?

Philippe: I got tired of searching in my mail account for the number to call from the car every time I was late. I thought there must be a way to automate this, and, voila, WriteThat.Name was born…

Mike:  Tell me about your revenue model.  It looks like this is a pay service.  Did you consider selling some form of advertising as opposed to charging users?

Philippe: WriteThatName costs only $3/month or $20/year for each subscribed email address. The first month’s subscription is free. And $20 seems really low compared to the time spent searching for the right contact info! Compare this to the price of a virtual assistant: for $20 you can have a virtual assistant for one hour OR WriteThat.Name for a full year.

We opted to forgo the route of selling advertisement as our detection system looks through your messages to find contact details and link them to a signature. We want you to be confident in our respect for your privacy. However, if you still think it’s too expensive, we also have a referal program where we’ll give you another full month free for every referral that signs-up to WriteThat.Name.

Mike:  Kwaga is the parent of WriteThat.Name.  What is Kwaga and what’s the company’s goal?

Philippe: Kwaga was founded in 2008 by me (founder and former CEO of Sinequa, an enterprise semantic search engine vendor) along with a team of seasoned software entrepreneurs, backed up by top computational linguistics and development talent. Kwaga has created KwagaContext for Google Apps Email that enriches the Email experience by providing more context about senders: social profiles, previous conversations and smart action-reminders. Kwaga is a privately held company. SeedCamp and Kima Ventures are both shareholders and have provided seed-funding.

Mike:  Are there any other problems you’re focusing on that we may see a new service for in the future?

Philippe: At Kwaga, we are looking for new ways to enable people to continue working inside their preferred e-mail application and benefit from SmarterEmails™ without altering their habits. We are currently working on some extensions of WriteThat.name and will soon get back to you on that! In the meantime, please take a moment to check out our videos and screenshots to learn more about what we can do for you!


Take the risk out of domaining and boost your sales!

I have to admit, when I started domaining, I disregarded the advice of the pros and the veterans.  They all suggested saving my money and instead of buying a pile of worthless hand regs and low dollar domains, to instead save an buy a good  premium domain.  In hindsight, that would have been the way to go.  I wasted a great deal of time and money.  Initially, I thought it was too risky to put that much money into a domain.  However, it wasn’t a total loss.  While using the low end domains, I learned about contacting end users, what other domainers were interested in, and how to gauge the value of a domain name.

Another thing I learned was that people were hesitant to pay a premium for domains.  Not just me.  Sure, we all want to get a great deal and, at a minimum, not to get screwed in the process.

Think about how much more willing you would be to buy if you knew there was no risk.  Think about how much easier it would be to sell if you could assure your buyer that there was zero risk in the transaction for them.  How do you achieve that?   Well, you as the seller take on the risk.

Here’s what I mean.  I recently found myself in a situation where I was contacting end users on a particular domain.  There was a single company that responded and was interested.  With all the effort I put in and only had a single bite, I wanted to maximize the opportunity and make the sale.  After several conversations it became clear that the main contact was afraid to pull the trigger.  I got the sense that he was feeling he was taking a risk with the name… that it might not do for his business what he hoped it would and the investment would be lost.

Once I realized that, I decided to take a bold step.  I decided to offer him a risk free transaction.  I put in writing that if he was not satisfied with the name 90 days from the date of the transaction, I would purchase the name back at the same price.  BAM!  Risk removed.

Yes, there are some drawbacks to this approach.  Primarily, you might end up with the domain again and be starting from scratch.  But here’s my logic:

  • First, I don’t generally buy domains (anymore) that I don’t personally have an interest in myself.  So if it ends up back in my portfolio, I am comfortable with that.
  • Second, when I contact end users, I am setting the value on the domain that I am willing to sell at.  That said, this process helps ensure a fair prices, since I may end up re-purchasing the name.
  • Third, and most importantly, I am confident that they will find value in the name.

I’m not planning on using this approach in all situations.  For example:

  • I would not do this with a domain I did not find value in… which I shouldn’t be selling in the first place.
  • I would not knowingly offer this to a fellow domain investor who would likely look to resell at a profit and return to me if he was unsuccessful.

This approach has worked for me and I will continue to implement it where it makes sense.  There’s no reason it can’t work for you as well.


Gary Vaynerchuk on Domains, plus – get a free copy of his new book

Gary Vaynerchuk is well known as a social media early adopter, successful author of Crush It!, and of course, wine guy at DailyGrape.com but did you realize he knows domains too?  I had the opportunity to talk to Gary about his new book, The Thank You Economy and we touched on domaining as well.  If you haven’t heard him speak in the past, you’re in for a treat.  In addition, I have 5 copies of Gary’s book to give away.  Watch the video and leave a comment below to be entered to win one of them.



You can still find generic domains

Maria Falconer picked up the domain name Rambles.com to base her business on.  I love single word generic domains so I asked her a few questions about he choice and her business.

Mike:  Tell me how you came across the domain name Rambles.com.  Was it available to register or did you purchase it from someone else that owned it?

Maria: The url was being held by a ‘squatter’, someone who really had no intention of ever using it, but wanted to drive up the price on the domain and resell it (editor’s note: that is not a squatter).  I tried to reach an agreement with the current owner one-on-one, but the numbers they were asking for were just outrageous. Just when I began to fear that I would have to choose a new domain name, I got word that rambles.com was being auctioned. I was extremely lucky in that the current owner chose a really fair brokerage/auction site to sell the domain. I managed to acquire the domain for a fraction of what the owner was asking. When the owner tried to back out of the deal, the auction firm made them stick to the agreement. I love Sedo!

Mike:  Tell me why you chose that name and what it means to you.

Maria:My shop is really the ‘Seinfeld’ of online stores. There is really no ‘plot’.We have everything, but nothing specific. So, I wanted to choose a domain name with a little ambiguity. I do believe that life, like art, is journey (or ramble). I also wanted to convey that the story takes a myriad of really different, unrelated ideas and expresses them in jumble (like rambling). So, rambles.com just seemed perfect.

Mike:  Can you tell me how many monthly visitors the site receives?

Maria: Just under 5000 and growing fast.

Mike:  The site is an ecommerce site and contains a wide variety of products.  Why did you choose not to focus on a specific niche?  Has that worked to your advantage?

Maria: I wanted to cast a wider net. I know that my interests change from year to year and I bore very easily. So, I wanted to make certain that the site was constantly fresh and new. I want to continuously reinvent the site. I want our audience and customers to come to expect the unexpected. I want them to visit the website and say ‘Wow! That’s new! I’ve never seen anything like that before!’

Mike:  What are some of the challenges you have faced as an online business owner?

Maria: Gosh, so many.  I think the greatest challenge is building buzz.  The internet is like one giant high school hallway.  It’s a popularity contest. So, you really have to work at it.  I really had to learn that the hard way. I had to learn that most people today spend very little time, relatively, ‘surfing’ the world wide web. Most people get on the internet with the intention of visiting a specific site. So, you need to catch them before they log on.
What people will never tell you is that creating buzz offline is absolutely vital to your survival online. So, you really have to build a great relationship with your local publications and reporters. Print advertising is just critical, but you have to careful. You can spend $2000 on print ad and not attract a single visitor.

Online advertising is hugely expensive. Building relevant traffic is even more expensive.

Building an air of accessibility for your company is key. Yet, finding the time to blog, tweet and update your Facebook status, all while trying to build your business, can be such a struggle.

I certainly haven’t conquered all of these obstacles yet. I’m learning as I ago.

Mike:  Your page has quite a few Facebook likes.  What other strategies do you use to promote the site and the business?

Maria: I tweet like mad. Unlike Facebook, I really haven’t found that Twitter has directly led to sales. However, its a good ‘awareness’ tool. I also blog. I advertise with Google. I also advertise on design and craft blogs. Currently, I’m trying align myself more closely with some of the local craft festivals. Making a name in the ‘real world’ will hopefully translate to sales online.

Mike:  What advice would you have for someone looking to start an ecommerce site?  What is required to do so?

Maria: I don’t think there will ever be another Amazon. We (people in general) just aren’t as enamored or in awe of the internet as we used to be. So, don’t have those types of expectations.
Unless you have a great deal of money to invest, plan on it taking about five years before you can say with any certainty whether or not you’re venture is a success.

Find out who your competition will be, realistically, and spend some time interviewing at least observing them. This can really help you adjust your goals and avoid pitfalls.

Get a mentor to guide you through the landmines of paperwork.

Overall, make sure that you  love what you do. It’s been said many times before, but it’s true. If your hearts not in it, you won’t persevere through the tough times…and all businesses have tough times.


Lead Generation Solution for Domainers

Jason Brian is the founder and CEO of AutoCricket.com and LeadBeaver.com, two top insurance lead sites that have seen incredible success since their launch just two years ago.  Jason sat down and answered some questions for me about the domains and the businesses.

Mike:  When did you start your businesses?

Jason:  In 2008, I launched my first company AutoCricket.com. It searches hundreds of databases to give consumers the best possible rate on their auto insurance.  Call it, a one-stop shop for bargain hunters.  They simply head to AutoCricket.com and enter their basic information.  Within minutes, knowledgeable insurance agents contact consumers with their FREE quote.

With the success of AutoCricket.com, I decided to launch Leadbeaver.com in February 2010 — angled more towards agents, rather than consumers.  In October, independent insurance agency CB Insurance was launched, along with 877-FOR-INSURANCE.  Basically, I want to have all angles of the industry covered.  Consumers and agents won’t need to go anywhere else to find what they need.

We’ve steadily built our business over the past two years to become a leader in the industry, and a trusted name in the community – employing 12 full-time and 35 part-time associates.

domain names

Mike:  You have two very brandable names for your businesses; AutoCricket.com and LeadBeaver.com.  Describe what you were looking for in choosing the right names?

Jason:  I think understanding the purpose of both of the sites is the first step in choosing the right names.  AutoCricket.com was designed for consumers, so I wanted something memorable.  The concept of a cricket is unique.  There’s no other company out there using a cricket and crickets are usually synonymous with luck.  The cricket also has a unique audible sound.  The original concept for our marketing efforts was to include a sound – with a concept – that people could easily identify.

LeadBeaver.com actually started as an office joke, if you can believe that.  The concept began with what is now the site’s tagline — “Dam Good Leads.”  In this case, we designed LeadBeaver.com to be edgy in what is traditionally a stuffy, corporate environment.  The whole lead industry is typically very nerdy and corporate.  This was kind of like a “Go Daddy” mentality in that we would use catchy slogans, logos, etc. to create a buzz.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that your sites receive?

Jason:  Probably close to 50,000 visits between the two sites per month.

Mike:  What type of marketing do you use to promote the sites?

Jason:  We’ve done almost every type of traditional advertising, aside from television.  We’ve run radio spots, put up billboards, even sponsored a series of country concerts at a national venue.  That’s a great way to create a brand, but we haven’t necessarily seen a direct result in leads generated.

We find, however, that search engine optimization, google adwords and other types of online advertising really create more of an opportunity for us and generate a higher volume of viable leads.

Mike:  Many domainers today are looking to lead generation as a means for generating income.  Is this something that LeadBeaver.com can help with?  Can people sell you the leads they generate on their sites?  How does this work?

Jason:  Yes, as long as the lead quality is there, they can sell the leads they generate on our site.  Or, they can host our forms on their site.  Whatever leads they generate, we do a revenue share because they drove the traffic to the site.

Mike:  Did you purchase these names from someone else or were you able to register them?  If purchased from a third party, what was the process you went through?  Will you share what you paid for the name?

Jason:  We registered them through GoDaddy.com.

Mike:  Any advice for start-ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

Jason:  It really depends on the industry. Short and sweet is always good.  Dot-coms are usually associated with something that’s more professional vs. a dot-net or dot-us. I would also avoid using hyphens.

Mike:  Any other information you’d like to share?

Jason:  Always surround yourself with people who you consider to be smarter than you.


Update: Sully’s Blog Goes Video (Video now viewable)

I’ve been working on quite a few video interviews over at MO.com and I love the direction that is taking. There’s nothing like hearing and seeing people talk about their experiences. There is so much more to be gained by seeing as opposed to the written interview. Written interviews are great, and they have their own list of positives. But you don’t always feel the emotion or passion behind the interviewees.

My first video interview is with Antonio Centeno of aTailoredSuit.com. A special thanks goes out to Antonio for volunteering to be the first video interview and helping me work through some of the kinks.  Let me know what you think.


Meet a Domain Investor

If you’re a domainer and feel you have an interesting story or strategy to share, contact me.  I’ll be happy to feature you if your story will contribute to the domain community or provides helpful information to others.

Andy LaPointe is a domainer with over 200 domains in his portfolio, including a good number of generic names. He owns bartendertraining.com, tartcherryrecipes.com, startafoodbusiness.com, and others. He uses his domains in several different ways. He has followed this strategy over the past 12 years. Andy started purchasing generic domains in 1998 and has sold some generic names over the years, too.

Mike:  Tell me a little bit about what you do as a domainer?

Andy:  I look at myself as a marketer and I just happen to market my products both online and offline. I started my internet business in 1998 while I was working in the corporate world as a mutual fund wholesaler and in 2005 I officially resigned from the corporate world to work full time on my internet business.  I am basically in three main niches with sub-niches within the main niches. Because of my background and training I am in the following niches: finance, technology and health and wellness. I am a firm believer in joint ventures and partnering with others when building businesses.

In addition to developing domains, over the years I also have sold a number of domains from my portfolio including debtfreemillionaire.com, shopinyourpajamas.com, exerciseforlife.com and others. The lowest price I sold a domain from my portfolio was $27 and the highest was several thousand dollars.

I currently have three employees on my payroll, I also work with several freelancers on a per project basis ranging from website design, graphics, etc.  My sites have been online since 1998 and depending on the niche I want to enter I purchase an additional 2 – 15 domains per year.

Mike:  You own several names such as own bartendertraining.com, tartcherryrecipes.com, startafoodbusiness.com and others.  It looks like you’re monetizing each of them and it different ways.  For example, bartendertraining.com looks to be using a combination of Google Adsense and an e-book that is for sale,  startafoodbusiness.com looks to use a different technique.  Tell me about some of the strategies you are using on these sites.

Andy: You’re exactly right, depending on the niche I am in, I use a combination of several different techniques and strategies. I believe in having diversified streams of income from my business. These income streams include affiliate income, Adsense, sale of a digital products, selling banner ads on my sites, sale of physical products, etc.  Following this strategy keeps my income well diversified.

For example, the strategy behind www.bartendertraining.com is a direct navigation, so I use Google Adsense and the sale of an e-book as monetization strategies for this site.

The domain www.tartcherryrecipes.com is a site with the sole purpose of capturing emails and building a list for my food related domains. I have several domains in the food niche all collecting emails and building a list for my most recent venture www.startafoodbusiness.com.

As the name implies, www.startafoodbusiness.com teaches people how to start a food business. This is a membership sites that provides step-by-step strategies on taking a food recipe from idea to market. At first glance this may seem like just another niche I entered, but the reason I entered this niche is in addition to my online ventures I also have several offline ventures including a food business. Since 2001, my partners and I have created several food brands, so we have a lot of experience and credibility in the food niche.

In fact, one of my food brands, www.traversebayfarms.com  has won 14 national food awards, so not only do we know about great recipes but also how to start and run a food business. We also have a number of testimonials from Hollywood celebrities and a number of celebrities using our food products. I make sure to use domains as a way to communicate these awards and testimonials to enhance my offline business.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that your sites receive?

Andy: Like many internet marketers and domain investors, the traffic volume of my domains vary widely. I have some that are rank over 1,000,000 on Alexa and many that rank under 100,000. For example, I own an article directory site.  This was a site my partners and I purchased a few years ago when it had an Alexa of approximately 250,000 and since then we increased the ranking to approximately 14,000. This site falls under the niche of technology in the three niches we are in.

Mike:  How are you marketing the sites?

Andy: We use a combination of both online and offline strategies. Due to the rising cost of Adwords, we are focusing on organic ranking for many of our sites by using linking building and organic SEO strategies. I am also a firm believer in cross promotion and cross marketing.

Mike:  What are some other domains you own?

Andy: We have over 200 domains in our portfolio spread across the three niches I mentioned before. In fact, just recently we just picked up three domains that we think are really good and are in the process of developing them. These domains are: www.socialblending.com, www.socialmediablending.com and www.yourinternetconsultant.com  These domains are a play on the increasing interest of offline businesses beginning to market online and the blending of social media into internet marketing.

Mike:  Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

Andy: In addition to purchasing your company name, one of the best strategies to follow is to use descriptive, generic domains. This will not only prevent you from getting involved in a trademark lawsuit but if you pick the right generic domain it can explode your business.

Before we enter a niche we conduct detailed searches online and offline about up-and-coming phrases for the niche we are in or want to enter and we try to grab these up-and-coming phrases. For example, several years ago when affiliate marketing started to get popular the generic phrases were “affiliate marketing”, “associate marketing”, “affiliate advertising”, ”associate advertising”, etc.. If you could, you would have wanted to grab those type of domains and build a business around them. That is why we grabbed the social domains I mentioned before, because social marketing is only going to grow in the future.

Mike: What is your overall goal for your domains?

Andy: The main goal of our portfolio is to provide cash flow for my business, while the secondary goal is to sell them for the right price.  The majority of the domains in our portfolio are currently developed or are in the process of being developed.  We follow the strategy of collecting ongoing cash flow from our domain properties. When we purchase a domain, we have a plan on developing that specific domain to produce a cash flow for our business.
People can contact me at www.andylapointe.com


Getting the most out of premium domains

Left of the Dot has developed a platform to enable premium domain name holders to lease sub-domain inventory to small businesses, creating significant new, recurring, revenue streams for the domain holder. The monetization service leases these “Marketing Names” along with a fully-equipped, ecommerce-ready website to small businesses giving them a highly-brandable web presence.  Co-founder, Chris Jensen gave me the first opportunity to ask some questions.

Mike:  LeftofTheDot.com is pretty descriptive of what your company represents.  I think we’ve all seen sub-domains in use, but can you tell me where the idea to base a business on this concept came from?

Chris: John Lyotier, our Co-Founder, and I have been talking about this business model for at least 10 years; our contention has always been that great domain names should bring together subject matter experts and their customers. In practice most of these experts are individuals or small businesses – they want to be online, they want to be found and they want to control their own message. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of them building a web site is a daunting prospect, all the great domain names are gone, SEO is a foreign language and they don’t want to pay a strange geek every time they need to change their site. Left of the Dot solves all those issues; we build them a good starter site, they get access to a great domain name (that they could never afford to buy), the SEO takes care of itself and they have a simple toolkit to make their own changes. When you combine that with a low monthly fee and no long term contract it is an easy sell, people instinctively understand and like the model.
It has become increasingly clear that great domain names need to be turned into profitable business units if they are to realize their true potential and value, you can’t rely on parking any more. Experience shows that Domainers are hardly ever the best people to build out these sites because they are not subject matter experts and they do not live and breathe that business vertical. What Domainers really want is a low resource, low risk, high return business that has multiple sources of reliable revenue and which increases the value of their domain name. In a nutshell that is Left of the Dot.

Mike:  I first saw your work in action with Beef.com, as I blogged about last year.  What other names are you leveraging this concept on?

Chris:  Yes, you were really quick on that, we only reached out to a few ranchers and you were straight on to us! Beef.com was our proof of concept site and the domain owner has been a great partner for us, very supportive. We have a new look Beef.com in the works that will be out soon and which implements many of the lessons we have learned over the past several months. Our second site launched was www.Villa.com which we are very pleased with, because it is performing exceptionally well. We have 2 more sites in production with a February target launch date and another dozen or so names lined up in our delivery funnel.  I can’t give you specific names until they are ready to go but they are all single word, premium generics.

Mike:  How do owners of the core domain, like Beef.com, make money?

Chris: From multiple sources; the domain owner gets an agreed amount from each sub-domain, we manage advertising on the main site with a revenue share and each site has a specific business model that we share with the owner. Our target is that the ad revenue alone should exceed parking revenue because our sites attract search engine traffic and link traffic as well as direct navigation traffic. This means that the site specific revenue and the sub-domain fees are additional sources of revenue to the owner.  For many of the domains we work with, we are building real, functioning businesses supported by sales and marketing which increases the overall asset value of the name.

Left of the Dot

Mike:  While I know the concept has been in beta, can you share some statistics on your success to date?

Chris: It is still early because www.villa.com was the first site on our new platform, however I can say that we are already exceeding the previous revenue by a considerable factor, traffic is growing, the number of sub-domains is ahead of target and the site specific business is generating income. So all in all we are very pleased at this stage.

Mike:  How are sub-domains treated by search engines such as Google?

Chris: Provided the sub-domains are tightly relevant, contain valuable content and provide a positive visitor experience they do very well. For example we have one name in development that has 300 pre-existing sub-domains and over 150 of them rank 1 – 3 for their term in the Google SERP’s. We know that Google is, quite correctly, constantly on the lookout for people that are gaming the system and one of the strengths of our model is that real experts have a vested, financial interest in making their sub-domains as valuable to visitors as possible. We believe in the old adage that if you are fair with Google, Google is fair with you. And since every domain name represents a silo of knowledge around a specific vertical or topic, and every sub-domain – though treated as its own site in the eyes of the engines — supports this silo of knowledge, but with a more-specific concept match, then this becomes valuable, relevant information for the search engines themselves. In short, we are being nice to Google.

Mike: Do you think some end users will see this as a better alternative to some of the newer TLDs, such as .CO?

Chris: Definitely, with any non .com tld you are always faced with the battle of inspiring potential visitor confidence and creating SEO from a standing start. Would you rather buy mexicanvilla.co, build a site, create content, try to get it to rank as a new site on a new domain name and manage your own hosting or would you rather pay a monthly fee to have www.Mexican.Villa.com that comes with a starter site where you simply add your content, that gets legitimate support from a large, authority site and where the hosting and technical support are taken care of for you. Domainers may like option 1, but the vast majority of individuals or small businesses favour the second option, it is simply easier, more accessible and lower risk.

Mike:  Are you currently accepting domain submissions for the LOTD service?  If so, what criteria are required to qualify?

Chris:  Our plan is to launch no more than a few sites per month initially and we have enough premium domain names available to us for a while. The response from Domainers has been excellent. With that said we are always looking for great names that we can work with and our individual site launch schedule is flexible as we are offered new names.
Our current primary categories are Business Categories, Geo Domains and Professions. We are also interested in rolling out to Product Categories and potentially Social Groups. At this stage all of our names must be premium, category defining and .com.

Mike:  What means are you using to get the word out about LOTD?

Chris: Well, so far we have had great support from our existing contacts within the Domaining industry. Many people have contacted us to ask about Left of the Dot, offer help or suggestions and suggest names that may be suitable. We have presented a couple of times at TRAFFIC and we will be at DOMAINFest. We realize that there are a limited number of people that own suitable names and we will approach these people on an individual basis.
We have a detailed marketing and publicity plan for each of the sites that we launch and these target the individual markets specifically. You are probably more likely to hear about Left of the Dot via one of our sites than you are about us as a company – exactly in the way that you heard about us!


Checking in on Auctionpus

Auctionpus hit the scene last year and I talked to founder Andrei Polgar back in May.  I thought it would be interesting to check back with Andrei and see what’s new, what’s changed, and what he has learned in the short time he’s spent in the auction space so far.

Mike:  It’s been a few month since our last discussion.  What have you learned about domain auctions in that time that has passed?

Andrei: I’ve learned the most important lesson after adding the marketplace and noticing that we’ve been moving a lot of inventory as of that point. Most people would rather simply drop by every once in a while and analyze a large-ish list like the one we have at our marketplace than visit the site each day. All of our domains are priced to sell and I’m glad to see that I’ve managed to generate quite a few win-win situations through Auctionpus, especially after adding the marketplace.

Mike:  Who do you feel is your competition in the auction arena today?

Andrei:  The thing is, each auction site pretty much has its own niche and Auctionpus makes no exception. In my opinion, the existing platforms complement each other and that’s great for the industry IMO.

Mike:  Are you seeing any consistencies in the types of domains that are being submitted?  How about the types of domains being sold?

Andrei:  To be perfectly honest, most of the domains that are being submitted wouldn’t sell and since I don’t want people to lose money by listing domains which probably won’t receive bids, I prefer to simply not list them and focus on my own portfolio instead.  My company owns a lot of great domains, mostly two and three-word exact match dot coms and I price them to sell, so focusing on my own portfolio makes sense at this point. Relying on third party submissions is tricky because most people either submit domains with no inherent value or decent domains priced unrealistically.

Mike:  Has there been any change in the average sale price you are seeing?I noticed that today’s bidding reserves were all set at $45.  Have you found that to be the most effective reserve or are you still experimenting?

Andrei: the average price of the domains we auction daily is $45 and as far as the marketplace is concerned, you can either buy domains directly at $65 or send them to auction at $55. Most of the domains are bought directly through our marketplace and as a result, $65 can be considered our average sales price. Back when starting out, I was aiming for an average sales price that was about 8 times higher than the current one but you know what, if “investment grade domains at wholesale prices” ended up being our niche, so be it. Investors get to buy great domains which they can easily flip and we move inventory, so as long as win-win situations are being generated, it’s all good.

Mike:  What has been your best sale to date?

Andrei: We’re not even listing high priced domains anymore and while we might experiment with some 4 or 5 figure domains in the future, I’ve decided to brand Auctionpus as the place where you can buy investment grade domains on the cheap even though that wasn’t my initial plan. At the end of the day, we’re here to keep buyers happy and if it’s wholesale they want, so be it 🙂

Mike:  What are your plans for running and promoting AuctionPus.com for the rest in 2011?

Andrei: Branding Auctionpus.com as the #1 place where you can buy domains at wholesale prices is the name of the game. Some platforms focus on keeping both buyers and sellers happy, we focus exclusively on keeping buyers happy by pricing our domains to sell. As long as we’re moving inventory and generating win-win situations while we’re at it, the business model will definitely not change.


How Important Is a Head Shot?

If you visit Domaining.com on a regular basis, like I do, you can’t help but notice that many of the bloggers featured have a picture of themselves next to their headline.  Back when I started, I submitted my site’s logo to go along with headlines, as many other bloggers have done as well.  I was recently wondering which is better?  While I think a logo is a good direction to go if you are looking to brand a business, a head shot makes more sense for personal branding.  I have a legal entity in place to backup any of  my business deals, but I blog as an individual and write about my experiences.  So then, does it make sense to feature a head shot as opposed to my logo?  What do you think?

Domain Bloggers


Lori Anne Wardi – Director at .CO Internet S.A.S.

Lori Anne Wardi is a Director at .CO Internet S.A.S.  Working closely with both agency partners and all the members of .CO team, Lori Anne is primarily responsible for overseeing the registry’s marketing strategy, business development, and global PR and communications efforts.

According to Lori Anne,  every achievement that .CO has enjoyed to date, without exception, has been the result of the combined efforts of an incredibly smart, creative and cohesive team.  While marketing may not be in everyone’s job title, Lori Anne believes it is a role that the entire .CO  team fully embraces — from the CEO onward — and recognizes to be an integral part of everyone’s job.

Mike: What is the goal and purpose of cointernet.co?

Lori: .COinternet.CO is the corporate website for .CO Internet, S.A.S., the registry responsible for managing, promoting and administering the .CO domain. From COinternet.CO, we have a platform to speak to the wide range of individuals, organizations and businesses who are interested in learning about .CO domain names — from domain registrars and resellers; to brand owners, domain investors, registrants and end-users; to members of the press and industry analysts.

The site is our corporate “home base” and where we keep the world updated about our plans, policies, auctions, events and upcoming opportunities. Our blog is, in particular, becoming an increasingly important element of COinternet.CO/blog – as it let’s us quickly and easily stay in touch with the .CO community.

The other website I want to point out is www.Opportunity.CO – this is where we showcase all the great things people are creating on .CO domain names.  I encourage anyone who has developed a site they are proud of on a .CO domain to submit it to our directory on Opportunity.CO for all to see!

Mike: Tell us about the goal and purpose of the .CO domain itself?

Lori:  These days no matter who you are, what you do or where you live, branding your online presence has never been more important.  At the most basic level, our aim is to offer people around the world the opportunity to brand their online presence with a truly global, recognizable, and credible domain name — the perfect web address they may have always wanted, but until now, thought they could never have.

Beyond branding, our goal is to build the premier global platform for opportunity online.  We want to inspire millions of people to stop wishing, hoping and thinking about those big dreams, innovative ideas, noble aspirations and lifelong goals they’ve been carrying around in their hearts forever — and to start turning them into realities.  With a .CO domain as a platform – the opportunities people can create for their lives and their livelihoods are truly endless.  Helping to bring these opportunities to life is what we are all about.

dot co

Mike: Tell me how .CO gained so much support?

Lori: Since our launch, we have experienced an extraordinary amount of support. So far, over 600,000 domain names have been registered and that number continues to grow — as does the number of fantastic developed web sites that are popping up every day.

I think there are a lot of reasons for the support, the most basic of which are hard work, good planning and careful industry engagement.

Before we tried to sell our first domain name, we did our best to ensure that our product would be world class – including a very strong policy framework.  From partnering with Neustar as our registry back end technology provider; to partnering with Deloitte to ensure that the rights of brand owners were protected throughout the process; to partnering with the world’s leading domain registrars and resellers to distribute .CO domains around the globe — we knew early on that we would need premium partners to create and maintain a premium product.

We also took a lot of care to understand our target market – and the broader competitive landscape. Domain names are not a commodity product – and in all of our marketing efforts we did our best to speak directly to the hearts and minds of the people who buy domain names – not to the industry itself.  I think this has definitely helped us to garner support.

We’re pretty inspired by what we are doing – and, hopefully, some of that comes through – and that gets translated in a way that makes marketers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, small business owners and others who buy domain names excited about doing the things that inspire them – on a .CO domain name!

Mike: What was Colombia’s motivation behind opening the TLD up globally, while other countries like to restrict registration to their own countries?

Lori:  While some countries do seek to restrict the registration of country code top-level domains, more and more countries are beginning to liberalize their domains.  Not only are more countries allowing foreign registration of domain names – but more are also actively promoting their domains internationally.

The decision of the Colombian government to liberalize its country code came as a result of nearly 10 years of debate and consideration.  Colombia had been approached countless times through the years by folks who recognized that .CO was a unique digital asset with broad global appeal – and requested that the domain be “opened up” globally.

The letters “CO” are meaningful, memorable and recognizable across countries, continents and languages.  Not only does “CO” literally mean “company” in many places, it is also the pre-fix that means “that which you do with another” (e.g., “COmmunicate,” “COllaborate,” “COnnect,” for example) – which helps to easily expand the viability of the .CO platform to a wide variety of purposes that go far beyond just business or commercial use.

After an intense public consultative process with the local Internet community, Colombia put in place the necessary legal and policy framework to ensure that .CO could be rolled out globally in a safe, secure and stable manner. Ultimately, this led to an intense government procurement process, where .CO Internet SAS was awarded the contract to manage, operate and promote the .CO domain.

Mike: It’s been said that .CO is treated similar to .COM, .NET and .ORG as far as search engines are concerned.  Is that true?  Could a good .CO out rank a .COM?

Google has said, specifically, that “we will rank .CO domains appropriately if the content  is globally targeted.”  Webmasters now have the functionality to be able to specify global use by using the geo-targeting options in the Webmaster Tools that Google provides.  The answer is that Google does treat .CO domains in the same way as it treats as other generic top level domain names – like .com, .net and .org.  There are many cases of .CO domains ranking well in the search engines – and they simply require that people build quality sites, focus on adding unique, relevant content, and gaining back links, etc.  All the same things that help any website rank will ensure that websites build on .CO domain names will rank as well.

Mike: What are some premium .CO names that have been developed?

There are tons of them and more coming every day.  You can see a variety on www.Opportunity.CO .  Some of my personal favorites are www.Angel.co , www.BZA.co, www.TMG.CO and www.Challenge.CO .  Also, in one of the most exciting developments for us, Overstock.com has rebranded all of its international sites to www.O.CO   — and have been using the domain in all of their national television advertisements.  I think that was our first “TV” debut!

Mike: How is .CO doing in the aftermarket?  Are the names reselling well?

Lori: The reports we are getting from the pros like Kathy Nielsen, VP of Sales at SEDO, is that .CO is doing very well on the secondary market, especially considering how soon after launch it is.  You can get a sense of just how well by visiting a site like www.NameBio.com and doing a targeted search for .CO domain sales.  There are a good deal of them – and the numbers are very strong.  This said, our focus right now is on the primary market and helping to inspire people to build their names.  As the market for developed sites becomes more active, the secondary market will only get stronger.

Mike: What statistics do you have on .CO in general?

Lori: To date, individuals, organizations and businesses in approximately 200 countries worldwide have registered over 600,000 .CO domains.  While these numbers shift from month to month to some degree, the following numbers are true as of today:

  • 90% of all .CO registrants have purchased only 1 or 2 .CO domain names each.
  • 99% of all .CO registrants have purchased 10 or less .CO domains each.
  • And only 1% of all registrants have purchased 11 or more .CO domain names.

These numbers are interesting and encouraging as they suggest that we were successful in our initial goal of attracting real end-users – and limiting those interested only in massive speculation.

Mike: What is the future of .CO for businesses?

Lori: We live by the statement that “Anything is possible in the .CO era.”
We see the .CO domain as a platform for opportunity online – and the possibilities for what you can create with a .CO domain name are endless.

In the next few years we hope and expect to see .CO grow to comprise a significant portion of the fabric of the Internet – loaded with small and growing businesses, thriving communities, aspiring entrepreneurs and people from around the world fulfilling their dreams and making their homes online on .CO domains.

Mike: Anything else you would like to add?

Lori:  Mike, thanks so much for the opportunity to speak to you and your readers.  Two last things: first) stay tuned for this year’s Super Bowl, when the hot new Go Daddy .CO Girl will be unveiled!  And second) i.CO will be up for auction in the coming  weeks. Talk about Hot!  Visit www.i.CO for all the details — and please, spread the word!


Need New Socks?

Lori Rosen is the managing partner of Blacksocks US, overseeing all of North American operations for the Swiss-based company.  She found the site when she was searching for a site that sold women’s stockings since she despised that repetitive task.  Instead she fell upon Blacksocks while on a business meeting in Europe and immediately pursued taking over the business here.

Mike:  Where did Blacksocks originate?

Lori:  Blacksocks was founded by a Swiss entrepreneur, Samy Liechti, in 1999, when he found himself with two different color socks on at a Japanese tea ceremony with business executives.  There are 4 full time employees  in Switzerland.  The socks are manufactured at a second generation factory in Milan, Italy and shipped from a warehouse in Switzerland.  In the US, there are three part-time employees.

Mike:  How has the name Blacksocks.com impacted your business?  What is it you were looking for in a domain name?

Lori:  Blacksocks is a perfect domain for the site. It’s intuitive, says exactly what it is and in 1999 it was available.  It’s had a very positive impact on our business.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives?

Lori:  Blacksocks receives 500,000 visits a year worldwide and 3X the amount of page views.  Right now about 10% of the traffic is from the US and Canada.

Mike:  How do you market your site?

Lori: We run a number of marketing programs, starting with a robust Google and Bing/Yahoo ad words campaign; an active public relations program reaching lifestyle, business, fashion, and general interest outlets, including print, digital and broadcast interviews; banner ads in select media outlets; and voucher giveaways at charity events. In Switzerland we just did our first Groupon program and we expect to do something similar in 2011 for Blacksocks US.

Mike:  Did you have another domain for your site before this one?  Do you own other domains?

Lori:  We own Blacksocksclub, but right now it’s not active.  Blacksocks is the only domain name we use.

Domain Names

Mike:  What has been your biggest challenge as far as running an ecommerce business?

Lori:  The biggest challenge is the obvious one: getting customers. When consumers read about Blacksocks, their response is favorable, but it’s rare to have an immediate need to buy socks.  It is also not an impulse item. So we have to continue to get the name out over and over and hope that when consumers are ready to replenish their supply they think of us.

Mike:  Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point?  Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?

Lori:  No and no!  This business is way too much fun to sell. In the US and Canada the market is in its infancy stage.  Blacksocks is a great concept; it fulfills a very basic need; mostly everyone wears socks (black or otherwise) and it’s both fun and challenging to grow the business. Earlier this year we added grey and navy to our line, just in the calf style.  We also carry a very limited, high end line of men’s undershirts and underwear.  Customers are already asking for colors in the over the calf size-we have a long way to go and the market is wide open. We will definitely get to the other side soon.

Mike:  Any other information you’d like to share?

Lori:  When Blacksocks first started there was only 6% of consumer online and a fraction of those actually purchased products.  Today the numbers are reversed, but that also means much more competition.  One of the hallmarks of the business is personal service and right now I answer every email personally sent.  I hope to continue to that for the near and not so near future.   Finally, I’d like to offer a voucher to your readers.  The first 20 people to email me will receive a voucher code to test the service.  They can email me at lori@blacksock.com.


The Girlfriend My Wife Doesn’t Know About

Shelley Hunter is the founder of GiftCardGirlfriend.com. She’s also a stay-at-home mom to three young kids. “When I had my first baby, I invented a baby carrier cover and naively thought I’d start a family business selling the product. When a forklift dropped a pallet of inventory on my driveway, however, I realized I was totally unprepared to be both a mom and an entrepreneur.”  Her family needed the income, but Shelly had quit a full-time job to be with her children. It didn’t make sense to then work full-time to run a business instead. Eventually, she licensed the invention to another company and decided to work freelance for others until the kids got older. Now, with the youngest is in first grade, she’s started a new business—but one that is a culmination of the experiences she’s had in the ten years she’s been working for others. In fact, Shelly confesses “though my initial venture felt like a failure for a long time, I now see that it helped me gain insight needed to be where I am today.”

Mike:  Tell me how you came to the point of launching your business.

Shelley: A couple of years ago, I helped write a book by Mike Collins called, “The Million-Dollar Idea in Everyone: Easy New Ways to Make Money from Your Interests, Insights, and Inventions” (aff). The premise of the book is that the internet has created opportunities for everyday people to profit from their passions and interests. Traditional career paths have been circumvented by people who write a blog, create a website, start a YouTube channel, and so forth. I interviewed several people making money doing just that. And the entire time I was writing the book, I knew that I’d quite possibly be the person who learned the most. In December 2009, I launched GiftCardGirlfriend.com – a site I created to start building my personal brand. Gift cards is a multi-billion dollar industry. People love to receive gift cards, but have anxiety giving them. I developed my own style for turning any gift card into a thoughtful gift. I launched the site to share my presentation ideas, but discovered that consumers want more help than that. They want to know how much money to put on a gift card, best places to buy a gift card, ways to avoid fraud, etc. I have opinions on all of that and have added that content to my site as well.

I do not have any employees. My sister is a talented graphic and web designer. She is also a stay-at-home mom. I am the presence for the site, but she does the graphics. We are partners on the project.

Mike:  Tell me how you selected giftcardgirlfriend.com as your domain.  What were you looking to accomplish?  Do you feel you achieved that?

Shelley: A little bit of background first. My husband’s last name is Kukuk. When I invented that baby product several years ago, the “marketing” team who helped me launch the product, convinced me to name the company Kukuku—a derivative of our last name but with a “coo coo coo” baby sound to it. Worst mistake ever. The name didn’t make sense to anybody who didn’t know his last name, I had to spell it continually, and nobody could remember it. Terrible. In selecting a domain name for this project, I wanted something easy to remember, easy to spell, and self-explanatory. I chose “girlfriend” because I wanted consumers to see me as a friend. Somebody who would talk about gift cards in practical terms. I wanted to talk about how I buy and give gift cards as a mom and as a consumer. I wanted the reader to feel like they were getting advice from a girlfriend. I feel I have achieved that with the domain name selected and with my writing style.

Mike:  Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives?

Shelley: We’ve been live for one year but our traffic is increasing at a steady rate. In the beginning, just friends and family went to the site. Now we have a few hundred subscribers and traffic just under a thousand per month. I could do better in terms of getting the word out, but I am still very committed to being a stay-at-home mom and have done everything to date with very little investment. I’m content with the slow and steady growth for the time being because I have every confidence that I’m doing what I need to do, in both areas of my life.

Mike:  The purpose of your site is to encourage gift card giving, but you don’t sell them (or any product) on your site.  Can I ask how you generate revenue?

Shelley: My goal is to generate revenue through advertising, sponsorship, and as a product spokesperson. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing because in order to do that, I have to establish myself as an expert. In order to establish myself as an expert, I have to build content on the site, increase traffic on the site, and develop my personal brand. The first year was devoted to building the site. In the year ahead, I’ll be working harder to increase traffic through social networking, the blogosphere, and traditional media opportunities.

Mike:  Do you have any marketing strategies that you follow?

Shelley: I haven’t paid for any advertising yet.  This month alone, GiftCardGirlfriend.com was featured in several print and online publications. I’ve made contact with magazine writers as well, though so far none has landed. We’ll get there.

Mike:  Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

Shelley: It’s so important to have a domain name that is easy to remember. A few years back, I wrote some press releases for a small start-up company. Every time I referenced the company, I had to go back and look at my notes to remember the domain name. I’d heard the name several times and still couldn’t remember it. I also used to think domain names had to be short. Now I think a multi-word domain name is fine, as long as it’s easy to spell and you can remember it.

Mike:  Have you received any feedback about your domain name from your visitors?  What do they have to say?

Shelley: I’ve been called, “The Martha Stewart of Gift Cards,” though I think I’m a little more “Rachael Ray.” What’s interesting to me is that we’re gaining traction in the gift card industry. Several key players are “following” us on Facebook and Twitter. I believe they are watching to see how popular the site becomes and I’m hopeful we will develop some partnerships as a result. The domain name plays a critical role in our success because it is, essentially, describing my personal brand.

Mike:  Any other information you’d like to share?

Shelley: I’d like to share another thing I learned while writing the book with Mike Collins—and that is to keep costs low so you can remain flexible when starting a new business. When I started Kukuku.com, I was so deeply invested in inventory, patents, brochures, packaging, and a professional website, that I couldn’t change directions when it was clear we’d picked a poor name for the business. The name wasn’t the only problem, but it was significant. In starting GiftCardGirlfriend.com, I’ve stayed very lean so that we can respond to the needs of the consumers. I have realized as well that I’m establishing a personal brand as much as anything. The site may never be more than informational, but I’ve gotten the attention of some of the biggest players in the gift card industry and intend to continue the courtship. And because our costs have been kept to a minimum, we can be adaptive as we need to be in order to be successful.


“Big” player states “Get MORE out of Domain Parking.”

Andrew Allemann is Senior Vice President of Business Development for BigJumbo.  He’s been writing Domain Name Wire since 2005 and joined Directi’s media businesses, including BigJumbo, Skenzo and Media.net, last year.  BigJumbo is backed by both Directi and The Ashmore Group, a $35B+ private equity group based in the UK.  BigJumbo has been around for several years, but was basically an invite-only parking company that didn’t promote itself much.  They relaunched the service last Fall to everyone.

Mike:  What first attracted me to BigJumbo was a banner ad I saw on Domaining.com.  The ad stated “Get MORE out of Domain Parking.”  That really stood out to me because, well, domain parking isn’t what it once was.  Tell me how BigJumbo is different than other parking companies?

Andrew:  We built BigJumbo from the ground up to be different.  It’s built with going beyond pay-per-click in mind, including CPM and CPA monetization.

It’s also designed to be very simple for our clients.  The first thing you’ll notice is that sign up is instantaneous.  You don’t have to wait for an account manager to approve your account.  You can start parking your domains and earning money today.  It’s also a “hands off” service, where you can park your domains and let us take care of optimization.  Of course you can help and suggest keywords/templates by contacting your account manager, but it’s not required.

Mike:  What can domainers who park their domains with you expect?  Can you direct me to a sample of one of your parked pages?

Andrew:  Here are a few sample templates:


Mike:  Tell me about the “up to $5,000 sign up bonus” which is a promotion at the time of this writing.

Andrew:  For your first 30 days you’ll get a bonus of $10 for every $100 you earn on BigJumbo, up to $5,000.  You need to sign up by the end of January to take advantage of the bonus.

Mike:  I have seen some of my parked domains dropped from Google’s index due to duplicate content.  Is that an issue with Big Jumbo?  I’ve read a little bit about your optimization algorithms.  Do they help in this area?

Andrew:  Domain parking isn’t meant to be fodder for search engines.  It’s not really a duplicate content issue unless you’re talking about systems that create mini sites with republished articles.

Mike:  In your opinion, what does the future of parking look like?  Can we expect changes in the industry in the short term future?

Andrew:  I think we’re seeing changes on a couple fronts.  First, parking companies are starting to move beyond just pay-per-click, and we’re at the forefront of this.  Second, we’re seeing a huge focus on quality traffic by advertising partners.  Fortunately traffic quality is something BigJumbo has always monitored closely.

Mike:  Without revealing anyone’s identity, can you share what some of your top customers make as far as monthly revenue per domain?

Andrew:  Unlike our Skenzo domain parking product, BigJumbo is open to everyone.  That means it runs the gambit. We have a lot of clients in the four and five figures a month range, but also plenty with smaller portfolios that earn less than $1,000 a month.

Mike:  Anything else you’d like to share?

Andrew:  We’ll have a booth at DOMAINfest and welcome the opportunity to meet with potential clients there.


Insider Tips for Selling on Sedo

Jeremiah Johnston is the Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel, Sedo.com.  Jeremiah Johnston began his career with Sedo in 2004 as General Counsel, helping the company keep a step ahead of the domain industry’s ever-changing legal landscape. Now serving in the joint role of General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Johnston oversees a variety of responsibilities for Sedo and helps lead its push into the North American market. Johnston represents Sedo as a founding member of the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) and sits on the Board of Directors in the role of association President, helping to shape the future of domain names in the political space.

With more than nine years of experience leading Internet-related companies and an academic background that focused on global intellectual property, Johnston has helped Sedo identify opportunities and risks while always keeping an eye on the horizon. Johnston holds a BS in Mass Communication from the University of Utah (USA) and a Juris Doctor degree from the Suffolk University School of Law (USA) where he completed a concentration with distinction in international law and intellectual property while taking time to study in Sweden and serving as the Managing Editor of the Journal of High Technology Law.

Johnston was recognized as a Boston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 honoree in 2009, which pays tribute to the most outstanding and up-and-coming business leaders.

Mike:  Anyone involved in the domain industry is familiar with Sedo.  In fact, the first lesson for beginners is often “Be sure to list your names at Sedo.”  What do you think has contributed to the success of the company?

Jeremiah:  Domains are universal and the Internet is universal, so the fact that Sedo has a multi-lingual platform has really set us apart by enabling more buyers and sellers to interact.  It’s good for both sides.  From the very beginning we recognized that Sedo couldn’t be a one language website and we opened ourselves up to multiple languages so we could support people around the world and put together deals with people around the world.  Right now, we have more than 1 million users from more than 100 countries.  Our site is available in four languages — with plans to expand that – and we offer customer support in 20 languages.

Mike: What have been some of the highest selling domains on Sedo in recent history?

Jeremiah:  Well, the biggest and most memorable one recently is Sex.com.  It’s a category defining name for what’s arguably the biggest industry online, and fetched a record $13 Million.  As you know, keyword names like this are historically the most valuable and we’ve had others like Vodka.com sell for $3M and Pizza.com sell for more than $2M.  Last month we secured the rights to broker the sale of Gambling.com, which could be in the running for a record sales price as well.

Mike:  I’m curious, can you share the volume of traffic that Sedo receives?

Jeremiah:  What I can tell you is that our transaction volume continues to steadily increase.  For example, in the third quarter of 2010, more than 10,000 domains changed hands through our marketplace.  But what’s more significant is the increase in the average sale price which was around $1,600 in Q3 2009 and grew to around $2,000 in Q3 2010—not bad for an economy that’s been in recession.  If you want to find the exact figures, we publish a quarterly market trends report that you can find on our web site.  The Q4 2010 report will be issued shortly.

Domain Sales
Mike:  Are there things that domainers can do to more effectively list their domains on Sedo to increase chances for a sale?

Jeremiah:  The best thing people can do is think like a small business or entrepreneur.  For the most part, these buyers are the target audience, and they don’t want to be involved in long negotiations over a domain name.  When they see a listing that says “make offer,” it could scare them away and prevent them from inquiring more.  At a basic level, setting a minimum sales price is a good practice to get into, but an even better tool is fixed pricing.  We’re really starting to see fixed-price sales take off because they’re so attractive to the buyer.  If you take a look back at the market trends report I mentioned earlier, you’ll see a tremendous year-over-year jump in the number of fixed-price sales.  In Q309, they accounted for 5 percent of total sales, and a year later, they grew to nearly 30 percent of total sales.

The other thing I’d suggest would be including additional information about the domain in the listing.  Our system has a field for sellers to include additional information about a domain, and I’d encourage people to include any information they have.  If a buyer knows things like how much traffic a domain receives, what people look for or what they spend time doing when they visit a site, or details on geographic origins of traffic, it will help make them feel more comfortable about making a purchase and understand the value of the investment for their business. Domains are not so much marketing tools as they are marketing investments, and like any investment decision, buyers are more prepared than ever to do their research.

Mike:  Not everyone buying a domain name is in the domain industry.  How does Sedo market to businesses and individuals outside of the domain industry?

Jeremiah:  We do a variety of things, in addition to the more obvious tools like search marketing. One thing we do is pick a vertical industry to target every quarter.  After we set a focus for the quarter, we’ll buy advertising within the industry press for that vertical, and while we have their attention, we’ll organize industry-themed auctions.  In the past, we’ve target industries like travel and e-commerce, and we’re planning a few new industries to target for 2011.

We also invest heavily in public relations to not only make the business community aware of domain names, but to communicate their value.  Domains can be a complex proposition, so PR gives us an opportunity to explain the market in a way that advertising can’t.  It allows us to dig deeper into the topic and help foster an ongoing conversation.

Another thing we’re doing in 2011 to draw more attention to our premium auctions is to experiment with things like business radio, and in general, try to reach-out more to the small-medium business community.  Whatever we can do to reach that community will help us, and more importantly, the domain owners using our marketplace.

Mike:  Why is it that a domain name must receive an offer before moving to auction?  It seems like there are some great names sitting idle, waiting for an offer to come along.  Would it be more effective to just move those to auction?

Jeremiah:  This is a good question, and one we receive quite a bit.  Although it might not seem intuitive, that rule is in place to protect the seller’s best interest and help them get the best price possible.  Auctions make sense for a domain investor because they’re guaranteed to make a sale, but buyers are looking to make a more careful and calculated purchase.  If you put a domain to auction before it’s received any interest, it might ensure that it changes hands, but it won’t ensure that it changes hands for the right price or goes to the right buyer.  Because of this, we do offer people the opportunity to put their domain into an auction before they receive a bid, we just have our brokerage team moderate it.  If your readers are interested in participating in Sedo’s premium auctions they can submit their domain through the domain management tool where it’s reviewed by our staff for inclusion. If a domain is rejected from the auction, we always take the time to share a reason why and offer alternative ways to sell quickly, if that’s the seller’s goal.

So in general, it’s not that we don’t allow sellers to move to auction before receiving a bid, we just handle things on a case-to-case basis.  We want to make sure that a domain is given the time it needs to get in front of the right audience.

Mike:  What advice do you have for businesses or individuals looking for a domain name on the aftermarket?

Jeremiah:  First and foremost is to think like their customers.  How do their customers refer to them?  How do their customers search for them?  And how do they refer to their products?  They should go out and get names that match those terms.

It’s also fundamental that a business understand that a proper domain strategy is one comprised of several domains that all bring something unique to the table. Most people start and stop with domains that match their company name or trademark. While these domains remain important—its your primary name after all—a proper domain portfolio also consists of domains that match the keywords your customers use to find you, domains that match any acronyms your customers would use to abbreviate your name, domains with alternative extensions for expansion plans, defensive domains that distraught customers could use to post negative commentary, and of course the mistypes of any of these to capture those looking for you but who don’t always spell correctly.

Mike:  How do you deal with situations where the buyer doesn’t pay for a domain?  Is there any protection there?

Jeremiah:  While originally a big concern, I’m happy to say that this is a trend that has decreased significantly over the years.  But to help protect people on our marketplace, we invested in creating our security and compliance department in 2007 which uses a variety of measures to prevent fraudulent activity on our site or failure to follow through with a transaction.  One of the core things we do to protect domain sellers is our buyer certification program which requires buyers to take a few steps to validate that they’ll go through with a transaction before they’re allowed to make a bid.  So, not only do we have a certification program, we have a whole team dedicated to preventing any fraud across the Sedo sites, whether aimed at Sedo or our customers.

Mike:  Any other information you’d like to share?

Jeremiah:  There’s one thing that your readers should know that we’re really excited about this year.  With a database of more than 17 million domains, Sedo’s goal is to take its world-class inventory to more and more buyers.  When a user lists their domain at Sedo they already get the additional exposure of their listing being displayed on more than 50 partner sites globally, with our SedoMLS, launch in 2011 that partner network is poised to grow even faster. The inclusion of instant transfer features will make buying a domain listed with Sedo as easy as a first time registration . It goes back to making sure a domain is seen by the right people so it gets the right price – SedoMLS will extend our reach so we can help a seller get their name in front of more eyeballs.  It’s one of the really cool things we’re working on this year.


Scarves.com Launches – and a free Give-A-Way

Back in June, 2010, I spoke with Omar Sayyed the President and COO of Ties.com.  Continuing in the company’s tradition of developing and providing high-value clothing accessories, they have just launched their latest ecommerce site at Scarves.com, a premium, single key word domain.  Omar, once again provides some insight on the new site, domain, and the business.

Sayyed has offered to give-a-way two scarves from Scarves.com to the Sully’s Blog community.  All newsletter subscribers are eligible.  I’ll be randomly selecting two people from the list on Saturday, January 15 as the winners.  If you haven’t yet signed up, there is still a little time.

Mike:  Tell me about the strategic decision to expand Ties.com, WildTies.com and NeckTies.com to Scarves.com?

Omar:  Well, as you mentioned, as an ecommerce company, we pride ourselves on brining high value, niche-focused ecommerce sites to the public and Scarves.com was a natural and organic measure to keep in-line with our mission. Considering that scarves are yet another fun way to accessorize your neck and your outfit, we felt very comfortable making this transition.

Also, we took a look at the market and saw an overwhelming need to provide a website and service where (we feel) others have fallen short. As always, the strategy was to leverage our knowledge of the ecommerce platforms, marketing, acquisitions, and purchasing power to expand into new markets.

Mike:  Did you have a project plan or time line in place to launch this new site?  What challenges did you face along the way?

Omar:  So, this question touches the heart of our launch. We launched Scarves.com in a little over six weeks. That’s right, from inception, to business plan, to asset development, to design, to final launch it took our Business Development, Creative and Development teams six weeks to launch.

Our biggest challenge going into such a tight deadline (aside from the timeline itself) was product acquisition. The purchasing department had to completely refocus all of their resources, energies, and budget to complete this task. No matter how beautiful your site, if there are no products, you can’t be selling anything.

Mike:  Scarves.com is a gem of a domain name.  Can you share the process you went through to acquire the name and what you paid for it?

Omar:  Thank you, we like this domain very much and have big plans for it. We don’t release actual numbers for our domain acquisitions but I can share with you the process. We have been keeping an eye out for this domain for a while. The actual process of purchasing the domain was relatively simple. After we had crunched our final numbers, we knew what we could and could not afford. As an entrepreneur, one of the lessons you have to keep in mind when new business opportunities come around is “is this right for us, right now?” If you can say “yes” to this two part question, then you’d better figure out what you are willing to pay for this “yes”.

Mike:  What lessons did you learn from developing and launching your other sites such as Ties.com that you were able to apply to the new site, Scarves.com?

Omar:  Frankly with the launch of Ties.com we did face a few challenges. Some of these challenges were unique to the industry while others were the cause of naiveté. We obviously did not want to repeat mistakes such as taking too long to launch or spending too much time on “perfecting” the design and layout of the website. These mistakes proved to be costly, so this time around we had a very meticulous timeline.


Mike:  Can you share your early traffic volume numbers?

Omar:  This is the early stages of our launch phase. While I can’t share exact number, I can tell you that our initial traffic and customer response was overwhelmingly positive. It certainly met and surpassed our expectations. Our next challenge from here is to increase this traffic.

Mike:  I’m curious if you would entertain the idea of partnering with a domain owner of a premium, single keyword clothing related domain if the opportunity presented itself?

Omar:  My natural inclination, as a matter of course is to say “yes”. That said, we are bootstrapped company who have realized genuine and sustainable growth through progressive business development and acquisitions through the years without seeking outside funding or bringing on partners. We are very sensitive about the dilution of the company and its respective assets. I completely believe that we have all the product offerings, resources and talent to make it to the next stage without much outside influence or participation. Partnerships bring opportunities and with it unique challenges. If such an occasion presents itself you can bet we would be asking ourselves “Is this right for me, right now?”

Mike:  Do you have plans for further expansion into other ecommerce sites either in the fashion realm or beyond?

Omar:   Hahaha, very good question Mike!! We had a company meeting this morning in which we were discussing future developments. While I can’t discuss specifics, I can promise you that 2011 is going to be an exciting time for us. We do have plans to expand our little empire and continue to push the envelope vis-à-vis end-user experience.

Mike:  Premium domain prices are a typical roadblock for most.  As a man that has had a great deal of success with keyword domain names, do you have any creative advice on how small businesses or individuals can find ways to acquire these premium and expensive domains for use in business?

Omar:  I think this is a two part question. 1) Can someone without a “premium domain” really be a viable force in the ecommerce space and 2) how can one acquire these premium domains? To answer the first part, absolutely, you can enter (virtually) most industries. I say most because let’s be honest you are probably not going to develop your own search engine or put up a fight against Amazon as a startup. Your success is dependent how well you utilize digital marketing, social media and PR tools to get you there. One of the main advantages of an online business is the intrinsic cost benefits. There are little to no barriers of entry, and set up costs are relatively “low-er”.

How, can one acquire a premium domain is a very curious question. There are literally hundreds of thousands of companies that specialize in domain reselling. These are sales companies that specialize in the domain acquisition field – for a nominal fee of course. Contacting them, would be one way of achieving this goal. Or you can use free sites like domaintools.com to find who the owners/ operators are for a respective website. Try reaching out to them via phone or email to see their responses.


I’m giving away ideas, and a domain… like ’em or not

I’ve got so many ideas about business ventures that I’d like to try, there is no way I will get to them all.  It’s challenging enough to manage the few things that I do.  To get some of these things off my mind and help me focus, I’d like to offer them up to anyone who would like to take them… or leave them.  This is the first idea I’ll be sharing this year, but I expect to unload several others.  My goal here is to provide something of value, inspire additional thinking, and potentially to put ideas in the hands of people that will execute on them.

A while back, I registered 69Dollars.com when I had a thought about a development idea.  We’ve all let domains drop in the past and often times these domains are scooped up again.  Companies like Namejet, Pool, and Snapnames typically start the bidding for these names at $69.    Sometimes $69  might be the highest bid while other times it ramps up into the thousands of dollars.  As a result, the prior owner gets zero.

My thought was to offer domainers a place to list their domains that they are not planning to renew.  All domains would be listed at a flat fee of $69.  Maybe a buck or two from each sale would go to the house.  There would be some rules set up such as how close to the expiration date the domains need to be listed as well as other rules.  I just haven’t thought it through that far.  My idea is to keep it simple, fair, and not turn it into anything too complex.

The main idea is to put an opportunity in front of the drop process.  This would save buys some money and the prior domain owner could make a few bucks on the drop as well.  Now there are some registrars such as Fabulous (and Fabulous may be the only one) that will share some of the revenue with the prior owner of the domain, but most do not.

If you’re interested in picking up this idea, I’ll push the domain to you for free at Moniker.  If you like the idea and not the domain, then take the idea.  Don’t like either?  That’s fine too.


Domain Sales Email – From a Domainer to a Domainer

I like to share some of the domain sales emails I receive.  The thought is that there just might be something you can gain from some of these as examples of what to do, or what not to do, in your own emails.  This particular email looks to have been sent knowing that I am a domain owner as well.  I don’t typically try to target domain owners in sales emails.  I think there are better venues for that.  I tend to reserve emails more for end user sales.  Maybe I would if I had a business relationship with another domainer and thought that they may truly have an interest in a domain, but not out of the blue.

The major piece I feel this email lacks is that it doesn’t indicate at all why I might be interested in this domain.  Are there high monthly searches, do I have a similar domain, is this my niche, etc.  The email should not point out the main reason for contact as “I am selling this domain,” but instead, why it will benefit the person you are contacting.

Good afternoon,

I am contacting your company because I am selling the following domain name:


Please let me know if you would be interested in this domain.

Thanks, and best regards,

Sergei Shevchenko

Domain Owner