3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Domaining

I started this blog at the beginning of my domaining journey as a way to help me learn and, equally as important, to share what I learned.  I haven’t given this blog the attention it deserves over the past couple of years as I stepped away to focus on some development.  Sometimes it’s hard to look back and remember the lessons of being a noob in the domain industry, especially after a long break.  But here are the 3 lessons that are etched into my mind and I think would be of value to anyone jumping in the domain world with high expectations.

1.  Don’t quit your day job

Thankfully, I didn’t quit my job when I started domaining.  I will admit that I had high expectations and hoped to be domaining full time in a matter of months.  While I didn’t have an official date set, I thought a year would be reasonable.  In hindsight, it sounds crazy and actually makes me laugh a little to think that I was coming into an industry I knew nothing about and thought I would master it in no time flat.  Lesson learned – If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and would be immediately successful.

2.  Save your money on the hand regs

Alright, somebody did tell me this.  In fact, most of the bloggers that I follow probably mentioned this early on… several times.  But what did those experienced bloggers know?  “Are you kidding me?  Nobody has registered waterproofguitarcases.com, I’m all over it!”  At one point, I had almost 500 hand registered names.  I think about 498 of them sucked.  I didn’t actually register that name, but I promise that some I did register were just as bad… or worse.

Funny thing is, I did manage to sell a dozen or so to end users and probably broke even in overall dollars.  But if you include the time I invested, it was a definite loss.  However, it was cheap price to pay for a valuable lesson.

There is an exception to this rule, which I will write about in a couple of days.

3.  Know the industry of the names you are investing in

Having learned the hand reg lesson just mentioned, I soon found myself searching for a “premium” keyword domain.  One day, while pursuing an interview with an end user, a fantastic electronics industry related name fell in my lap.  They guy really needed to sell, and I was able to talk him all the way down to $5,000.  “What a skilled domainer I have become!”   Never mind that I had zero experience in electronics and no knowledge of the changing technology.  The fact that the guy really needed to sell the name and was shutting down his business… that’s just a minor detail I overlooked.  Some may call if a red flag, but to me… minor detail.

I’m not going to mention the name because I ultimately sold it.

While there are many other lessons to be shared, these are the top in my book.  If you’re new, maybe you’ll take my advice and maybe you wont.  You’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn on your own.  If you’re an experienced domainer, what were you top mistakes?


What do you know about co.com?

co.com LLC is a global domain name registry that offers businesses, organizations and individuals, short, memorable and recognizable .co.com domain names through a worldwide distribution network of domain name registrars and resellers. co.com LLC is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA and was founded in 2013 by three entrepreneurs with more than 40 years combined experience in the domain name industry.

Mike: Can you explain CO.COM. This is truly a domain name that is being repurposed, is that correct?

Ken:  .co.com is an SLD (Second Level Domain) in which registrations are at the third level. The .co.com Registry will be accepting and supporting registrations just like any other extension (.com, .net, .biz, etc.). We will accept registration through our accredited registrars, maintain a centralized database, and maintain the zone file so names can resolve on the global DNS. .co.com will be available to any business, organization or individual.

Mike: Why CO.COM as opposed to some thing else? Does the “CO” hold some significance?

Ken: “CO” means “company”, so it is very broad and generic. In countries where there is an existing .co.countrycode extension, it has taken on even broader meaning of “commercial” entity. Most smaller businesses were not even online when the very best .com domain names were registered. Demand for domain names ending in .com continues to be very strong with 30 million + new domains begging registered every year. Most of those names are long, hyphenated or not very memorable.

The introduction of .co.com is a second chance for businesses to get a short memorable domain name ending .com (e.g. plumbing.co.com, realestate.co.com, gold.co.com, solar.co.com, tour.co.com, companyname.co.com, anything.co.com). Many businesses with an existing .co.countrycode name which is targeted at a specific country, also have international customers. They will use a .co.com domain to market to those customers.

Mike: Do you have any insight on how search engines… Google, for example, will treat CO.COM names?

Ken: Google, of course, does not share details of its search algorithm. The primary factor in page-ranking .co.com websites will likely be no different than those for other extensions, with fresh, relevant and engaging content being primary factor influencing ranking. Having said that, exact match domain names do have some influence. Short memorable domain names, including those with generic words that are long gone in .com, are available in .co.com. The combination of great content and an exact match .co.com domain name is ideal. It is also very rare for a co.countrycode domain to be ranked highly when searches originate outside of the country. A co.com address will likely be viewed by the search engine as a global domain name, which should help with global ranking.

Mike: The timing is interesting, along with the beginning of the new gTLDs being released. How will CO.COM fit in with the competition?

Ken: We believe that launching along with the other new extensions, at a time where consumer awareness of new naming alternatives will be very high, could provide a major uplift for .co.com registration volume. Most of the new gTLDs launching now are focused on specific niches or verticals. The more broadly applicable new gTLDs will not launch for quite some time. We are suggesting to registrars that when a user searches for a domain, and the .com is not available, and there is no strong signal for one of the new extensions, that they suggest a .co.com. With 30 million + .com domain names registered every year, and hundred of millions of searches taking place, .co.com is very well positioned..

Mike: Are there any sites operating on CO.COM at the moment? If so, what are some examples. If not, what are some that are in the pipeline that you are aware of?

Ken: Of course, our registry website is live at http://registry.co.com. A number of major global brands have registered their .co.com domain name. There are others in the pipeline, but it can take many months and even years before their is a significant online presence in any extension. We will certainly be highlighting the many excellent websites we expect to appear in .co.com, especially those that represent examples of the various use-cases for a .co.com domain name (Use of short memorable generic words, International marketing for companies with a co.countrycode domain name, etc.). Use of .co.com domain names if the most effective way to raise awareness and is the key to a sustainable business model in any new extension, so expect programs that incentivize and reward use.

Mike: You have a sunrise period from February 24 to March 23. Followed by the landrush and general availability. What will the pricing look like in these periods?

Ken: Registrars will determine the retail price, and each of them has a different business models and offerings. As with most extensions, we expect retail pricing to vary quite a bit between registrars and to change as we enter the various launch phases Sunrise (Now), Landrush (begins April 8), and General Availability (begins July 8). Having said that, we do not expect the kind of complicated pricing schemes and high pricing levels seen in some of the new gTLDs. Registrants should shop around and select their registrar based on a number of factors, including price and what other services and support are offered.

Mike: What is your 5 year vision of CO.COM. Where do you see the company in the not too distant future?

Ken: Five years is an eternity on the Internet and technology world, but we will work to help small and medium size businesses compete effectively. Many small businesses will take the opportunity to register a short memorable .co.com domain name ending in .com. Businesses with .co.country code domain name spaces will be utilizing .co.com for their international marketing in a significant numbers. We are working on what we believe will be some very compelling value-added services that will help businesses manage their online presence, get found, find customers, and convert site visits to revenue.


Bruce Marler Goes Mobile with Missouri.ME

If you have been in the domain industry for any length of time, chances are you’ve come across Bruce Marler.  Over the years, he’s been interviewed by several of the major domain blogs.  Bruce is the founder of LocalTek, LLC which provides web development, WordPress development, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, web hosting, cloud based services consulting, and Mobile App Development for small businesses.

Bruce and I are connected on Facebook.   Bruce’s apps for Missouri.me were recently approved by Apple.  In fact, when I saw the following status on Facebook, I had to follow up to learn more.

Success!!! Apple just approved both Missouri.ME apps!!! The “register side” app will be showing up tonight, the “consumer” side app is already in the store. The fun begins!!!

Mike:  Bruce, what exactly is Missouri.me?

Bruce:  Missouri.me is an app that allows businesses to offer loyalty programs to their customers but get rid of the pesky paper punchcards, instead the punchcard is right in their app (iPhone for now, Android coming very soon). But when we decided to create Missouri.me we wanted to do more than just offer a punchcard, we wanted to create something that allowed discovery of new businesses that someone may want to start doing business with. Version 1.0 has launched and the features coming out very soon expand the platform ever further to make it more social and proactive in encouraging usage of the programs. We are more than a little excited.

Mike:  This is a fairly new direction for Missouri.me.  What triggered the change in business model?

Bruce:  We had quite a bit of success selling ads on Missouri.me but as time progressed it was obvious that customers are more averse to advertising buys than we had ever witnessed before, we starting working towards a new plan that focused on “mobile first”, we had actually started development of a rather extensive mobile app that would of allowed for some pretty amazing advertising methods in a mobile app, about that same time we had started to offer custom app development to our small business customers. My lovely wife, Tiffany (who handles operations and sales on a day to day basis and really is out there talking to customers everyday) and I would talk frequently about what are we missing, what opportunities are our customers giving us that we are not currently helping them with. After having several customers tell her that they wanted a punchcard app that was easy to use and cost effective we decided a major pivot was in order. Thats a tough decision to make, but one thing that someone should always do it listen to their customers. We were in the process of building something pretty expansive, but if your customer base is telling you what they want, listen. So, after some research I literally scratched what I was doing and started writing the code to build what is now the Missouri.me app.

Mike:  You’ve developed several domains over the years, can you tell me the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the experiences?

Bruce:  Pretty simple, and this will be a bit of a repeat from the above, do not be inward focused, no matter how great the technology is, no matter how “pretty” you make the site at the end of the day its about how people use it and what customers want. Simplicity is key.

If I were to add one more thing it is remember you will never be done. Pick the things that you have to have, build those. There is a roadmap I have created for Missouri.me, version 1.0 of any site or app should never be the final version. If you think it is you will never get it launched. We launched the first version to several friendly customers and were able to find a few tweaks we had to make before we went to full promotion mode which is really starting now. By understanding that product development is a process you can learn and grow and plan for long term success rather than just being able to say you have an app.

Mike:  Digging back a bit, you once posted the following comment on your blog:  “I truly feel the decision I made a few weeks back and executed this morning may be the most important decision I have made outside of children and marriage.  Today I walked away from a six figure income at a leading technology company to focus on starting my own business.”  

How tough was that decision and, looking back, how has your life changed?

Bruce:   This is more of a loaded question than you realize, lets just say its not been all roses. People like to give a nice, perfect answer all the time, although I really only like to put a positive vibe out there, lets me honest, at times its been challenging. Luckily life has a way of working itself out and I have been blessed in my life and would like to think the positive focus helps lead to a positive outcome. I really have two favorite quotes that relate to this, “Opportunity looks a lot like hard work” by Ashton Kutcher and “Live in the future and build whats missing” from Paul Grahams MUST READ blog post about startup ideas.

Since that post I have started a business (LocalTek/Missouri.me) which actually has established itself as a leader in our region for web development and online marketing, we have a radio show that runs every month, we have hundreds of customers, and we just launched a new app (Missouri.me) that required a real time pivot to make sure we got ahead of a market that we could of stayed stagnant with. All that while I managed to get divorced, and then married, and be recruited back to the start up world to help launch some amazing new enterprise software around WebRTC, selling to Fortune 50 companies.

Has it been easy, no, as mentioned in the post that you referenced, walking away from a solid six figure income was not easy, and obviously I went back to work on some amazing new technology that I had to be a part of and now I can say I have successfully launched a company and been at the forefront of a technology that in two years has been established in 1.2 billion devices.

Without a doubt though, I learned more from launching a business, taking it from its infancy, raising capital, dealing with partners and investors, and working with small businesses everyday than anyone could ever learn just working in a cube everyday. I would not trade it for anything and am happy to say I made it to the other side just fine.

I have made a lot of great friends in the domain industry during this phase that helped me make it to the other side and I would like to thank a few of them here, namely Jason Thompson, Morgan Linton, David and Michael Castello, and Theo from DomainGang, and I have to give a major shout out to Natasa Djukanovic from dotME.

Mike:  What is your strategy to make Missouri.me successful?  What plans do you have and what plans are you executing?

Bruce:  First and foremost make sure customers are delighted with the experience, both on the consumer side and on the business side. We start with that, if customers have a great experience they will use your product. That was our first step, we are so critical of ourselves its crazy. We picked a handful of customers that were must have, my advice to anyone is figure out what customers you need to evangelize for you and that will do a great job being your marketing by providing great service to them, do whatever it takes to win those customers. But not free, free is bad, it takes away and value. But make it happen. That was our first step.

After that we have major plans to work with community focused organizations, you can expect to see some announcements around that in the near future. We have built our platform in away that allows us to easily work with other organizations to offer services to businesses. Partnerships are key.

In parallel we are planning another launch that uses the platform that we created that will be specifically for partnerships outside Missouri.me, we wanted to not grow it to fast though so we waited. But we have people wanting to run, we will get there, but there is plenty of opportunity.

One other way to make a launch successful, talk to people, Tiffany and I both spend a lot of time speaking to chambers of commerce and small business leaders to really understand the needs of businesses. People forget sometimes, the technology is not something the business cares about, they care about tools they can use that create revenue or save money period. They could care less what code you write, what protocols you use, its all about the use case and the value that comes from it.

Mike:  You’re leveraging a dot ME domain for this business.  Tell me how and why you decided on the ME TLD and how if fits into your strategy.

Bruce:  First off I just want to say, I told you so (well not you but others), dotMe has proven to be a favorite of startups (just watch TechCrunch for a week), its easily brandable and memorable. There were a lot of doubters up front, but when it comes to actual adoption and usage by real companies it has continue to show acceptance. Its impossible to argue at this time. We as a company own almost half the US state.me domains so it made sense to launch on one, we really focus on community and local focused projects and this allows that feeling of community ownership to come through for those in Missouri.
Mike:  Do you have other domains in your portfolio or other development projects in motion?

Bruce:  I will simply say yes, and they directly relate to Missouri.me, we are excited, we are making sure we do not get ahead of ourselves. But there are great things to come.

One other thing that Tiffany and I have been working on development wise is our Parkland.me series of community organizations, we live in a rural community in Missouri but I have always managed to live and stay local while traveling and working on bleeding edge technology. We have been working hard at developing both business side technology startup and business incubation programs with our ParklandMeetup.com series and also had MAJOR success with our ParklandProgrammers.com program that is teaching kids from 8 to 18 how to program and driving that knowledge worker growth from an early age in our community. This is something that people in our region did not usually have access too. We are very fortunate to of been taken in as a program under the Farmington Regional Community Foundation which is a 501c3 organization that allows us to drive our reach further in partnerships with local businesses and drive tech growth in the region.


Keyword domain – up in smoke

Matt Hampton is originally from California but has lived on the east coast for a little over 20 years. He found a good opportunity to go to art school out in Connecticut where he met his wife and original business partners, and  acquired two fine art degrees during his stay. Although he doesn’t often get the å to be all that artistic these days, he is an artist through and through.

Matt moved to New York City in the late 90’s for the Internet boom and subsequent bust. “It was a good learning experience and a lot of fun but ultimately not very productive.”   It did, however, launch his web design company which he has been doing that ever since.   Matt has a great deal of history in the digital production space. This definitely helps when working to develop a new website property. Pairing that with his fine art backdrop has made for a great combination.

Mike:  You’ve got a great domain name with Headshop.com.  Can you tell me how you acquired it?  The process you went through?

Matt:  Sure. My college roommate’s older brother was a domainer early on. I believe when NetSol went public he bought a ton of domains and Headshop was amongst them. I had an interest in the domain for years and one day we just struck a deal. I originally bought the domain with an old business partner who ended up not working out. Shortly afterwards, we parted ways and I got Headshop fully on my own.

Mike:   You’ve got a nice, clean site.  Products, news, blog posts.  Can you share the volume of traffic you see on a monthly basis?

Matt:  This version of the site is actually our second life. The original version was a very different business model and at a different time in history. This version only relaunched over the summer so we are rebuilding traffic patterns now. On general though we tend to do pretty well on traffic even with zero advertising.

Mike:  What’s been your biggest challenge with owning a domain name like headshop.com?  Do people pass judgement on you?  

Matt:  During the first iteration it was the obviousness of the domain. It was at a much stricter time in the world and there were far less by way of medical marijuana laws not to mention the recreational laws. During this time there was a lot more sideways looks for sure. Oddly though, even then, you would laugh at how many people truly loved the project but wouldn’t say so too loudly. No one judges me anymore though for sure. Seems everyone loves the subject matter these days.

Now these challenges are far less but finding good quality products from reputable vendors to populate the site is not as easy as it looks. This industry still has a big mix of characters when it comes to who you’re dealing with. I always want Headshop to bring only quality products from good people to the marketplace. This is the focus now.

Mike:  I notice you don’t sell things I would typically think of when I think of a headshop.  No smoking apparatuses.  Why is that?

Matt:  Well I would say that is just a “right now” thing. The long-term aspiration of the site is to absolutely include a broader range of products. At the moment however, and revisiting the last comment, finding quality sources to fill that particular void has been a bit of a challenge. With so many products flooding the market these days, finding a good balance between product selection, quality, and fortitude of character is definitely a constant issue to contend with. We currently have a great number of products in the pipeline to add to the website so in the next few months the product offering is likely to change quite a bit. I think you will see more of the products you are referring to start to surface.

Mike:  Do you own any other domains?

Matt:  Yes, my other company is actually a web design company. I have other domains for sure but none that I currently intend on pursuing as a business. Also, I am definitely not a domainer by any stretch of imagination. The other domains that I have are a mix between spontaneous ideas had for cool business ideas, personal hobby interests, and pet projects sitting on the shelf awaiting their time in the sun. Nothing like Headshop though. Although there are some in there somewhat related that I am very excited about doing sooner rather than later.

Mike:  How active are you on promoting the site via social media?

Matt:  The first time we ran Headshop there was really no such thing as social media; at least not in the way we think about it now. To that end we really didn’t do anything in that realm the first time. Clearly that is not the case these days and the focus is shifted quite a bit in that direction. The long-term success of this project is definitely going to rely on social media. Of particular interest at the moment is Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. As our original content channels open up more, these will take a more prominent position in our approach for sure.

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

Matt:  This project is very near and dear to me. My long term objectives for the project include a heavy philanthropic slant so I hope that once we have more of the product line worked out, we can focus more heavily on the charity component of ordering with us. Currently a portion of every order goes to a charity. The next step is to allow users to suggest charities they think are worthy. The idea is to rotate then monthly or quarterly. Also, a few of those domains you asked about are actually philanthropic endeavors related to Headshop. I really feel that building a culture of giving back will be important in the long run. Past that, I envision Headshop really being helpful to people in the sense of sorting out the good from the bad and bringing that information to one place. This is a space I love and this version of the site is the exact place I want to be right now. The next few years are going to be very interesting for sure. It is an exciting time to be involved in this space.


How To Be a Better Domainer

If you’re somewhat new to the industry, you may find it difficult to be profitable because it’s not necessarily easy to recognize the value of any given domain.  Even if you’re experienced, you may have this concern as well.  Maybe you’re looking to buy a name on the aftermarket and it seems like a good deal, but when you look to flip it, you can’t find anyone interested.  Perhaps you’ve gone after a name on the drop and after a short bidding war, you win the domain.  But again, now there seems to be no interest in the name from anywhere.  One suggestion I have is to focus on a niche.

Focus on a Niche

Domaining is similar to many other professions in that there are many directions you can go.  Doctors can be podiatrists focusing on the feet or cardiologist focusing on the heart.There are any number of directions a doctor can focus his training and career.  So too can a domainer.  Let’s look at just a few of the domain bloggers and their specialties:

Two Benefit

1.   You will learn your domain specialty better than most.
Focusing on a specific area will make you knowledgeable in that area, dare I say, even an expert.  You’ll be more in tune to which names are becoming available and how names in that area have sold in the past.  You might develop other contacts with domainers in that niche as well.  You’ll learn how the search engines treat this type of domain/tld.  Most importantly, you’ll learn from your experience in this niche which will put you at an advantage over domainers who spread themselves thinly across every possible domain category in existence.

2.  You will learn your buyer better than most.
Having your focus in a niche area, chances are you will gain a better understanding of the buyers of this type of domain.  There may be certain characteristics that they look for and other traits they avoid.  There may be a specific pool of buyers and you’ll develop a network with them and be established as a credible domainer.

Specializing in a niche area does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t invest and explore outside that niche.  Having an area of focus will help you learn more, faster and have greater success.  Branching out in the other areas can help broaden your business scope, but better to start with a centered approach and slowly expand and build upon your successes.


Create a Poll for Your Blog or Website in 30 Seconds

It’s well known by now that I’m a Google freak.  I like what they have done with things like Gmail, Voice, and I’m always looking for more.  I just discovered a pretty cool feature within Google Docs as I was updating a shared spreadsheet.  It’s something anyone can use and maybe of interest to blog writers and domain developers.  It allows you to create a poll for your website or blog. It’s simple to use and easily captures results.  You can use a plain version like I have here or you can add one of 95 themes to it.  Here’s what it looks like.

And here’s a sample of how the results look when you view them:

Poll Results

If you’re interested in how to set it up, here are the quick and easy steps.

1.  Select “Form” from the Google Docs “Create New” drop down menu.

Website Poll

2.  Next, fill out the questions and select the type of response you’ll allow.

Google Form

3.  Click “More Actions” and “Embed”.  Just paste the code on your site or blog and it’s that easy.

google poll

I haven’t done any polls on this blog in the past, but I can certainly see how useful this can be.  Not only on a blog, but any developed website could use this code to get a better view of the users.  Let me know how you use it if you choose to.


Want a Seat on the ICANN Board?

ICANN issued a press release seeking someone from the Internet community for the board of directors. A good faith effort, in my opinion, to better serve the needs of the Internet community. Wouldn’t it be nice to have domainers represented?

See below for the detailed release.

Aug 24, 2010

Applicants Sought from Internet User Community
for Seat on Board of Directors

The ICANN group representing individual Internet users is calling for applications from those who may be interested in helping to develop policy while serving on the organization’s Board of Directors.

ICANN’s At-Large community (representing individual Internet users) is undertaking a global search to fill a Board seat reserved an Internet user who does not represent a particular government, corporate or non-profit entity.

“This is all about providing a voice for the average everyday Internet user in the global non-profit organization charged with coordinating the Internet addressing system,” said Cheryl Langdon-Orr, the Chair of the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC). “ICANN wants to hear from all segments of the Internet community, including the individuals who often simply feel they don’t have a voice in policy formation.”

ALAC is looking for someone with a broad international perspective and a background in Internet users’ interests, consumer policy and/or civil society worldwide. The At-Large Board member would have a voice in the numerous ICANN issues which help define the organization, such as:

The expansion of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) – that portion of a web address name at the end of an address name (i.e., .com, .org, .asia, etc.). ICANN is considering how best to expand the current list of 21 to include a vast variety of names and words.

Guidance on the implementation of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which allows for the introduction of Internet address names formed from non-Latin based languages, where scripts such as Chinese, Korean or Arabic will be used in the last portion of an address name.

The transition from IPv4 to IPv6. This change in Internet Protocols will vastly expand the available number of global Internet addresses, since the current IPv4 addresses are quickly diminishing.

“The Internet is defined by its unique ability to give everyone a voice,” said Langdon-Orr. “This is an opportunity to extend that concept of inclusion to ICANN’s top level.”

Interested parties can obtain more information by writing ICANN’s Board Candidate Evaluation Committee at BCEC-Request@icann.org. The deadline to apply for the At-Large Board seat is September 6, 2010.


To read more about the ICANN’s At-Large Community’s search for a Board member and the process for application, go here:

To read more about ICANN’s At-Large Community go here: http://www.atlarge.icann.org/en/whatis.htm

Brad White – Director of Global Media Affairs
Washington, DC USA
Ph: +1 202.570.7118

Michele Jourdan – Media & Marketing Coordinator
Los Angeles, CA USA
Ph. +1 310.301.5831

Heidi Ullrich – Director for At-Large
Los Angeles, CA USA
Ph: +1 310.578.8647

ICANN’s mission is to ensure a stable, secure and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer – a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn’t have one global Internet. ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers. ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet. For more information please visit: www.icann.org.