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Protect Your Brand!

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Greetings from my father’s store in New Hampshire. I am in the region doing some research for my Lowell.com website which should launch in a couple of months, and I am spending the day with my parents (Happy Birthday, Mom!!) Of course, my mind is always thinking about domain names, and that was clear when I walked into the book shop next door to buy a birthday gift.

At the register, I noticed that they were directing people to their website, which wasn’t close to the exact name of their shop. Knowing the manager, I asked if they had tried to acquire the generic .com for the store (a generic word + Bookshop). He said they had, but it was too expensive. Ironically, after coming back and researching, I saw the generic name is owned by a friend of mine, and I know my friend develops all his names (hence the reason for the high cost he quoted).

I also asked if he bought the actual name of the book shop, as that would also have been an even better choice. He said he hadn’t, but when I searched, I saw it was registered back in August and is now a PPC landing page. Unfortunately, the owner has privacy protection on his Whois so it won’t even be possible to ask if he would sell it, leaving them with the choice of either maintaining the status quo or filing a UDRP. The name of the store is fairly unique and the only Google references for the term together are for this little shop.

The shop has been in business for over 15 years, so there were plenty of opportunities for them to buy the name, but they didn’t have the foresight to do so. They are lucky the current owner has a book related PPC landing page rather than adult-related material. The moral of the story is to spend $8 to register the name of a potential new business or idea. The cost of acquiring it after someone else buys it can be financially restrictive and time consuming.

Domain Investment Business Lesson #1

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The domain investment business is very small, and because of that, most people within the industry know each other well or at least know of each other. Although most people work independently, there are times when working together can benefit all parties.

If I know someone is looking to acquire a particular type of name, I may personally reach out to that person if another acquaintance is selling a similar name. I don’t do it for a commission, rather, it’s out of courtesy to help two acquaintances make a mutually beneficial deal. Likewise, if I see something shady that may impact an acquaintance, I am quick to point it out, also as a courtesy, because I would hope for the same.

In an industry where thousands of dollars can be transfered for a domain name based on a few emails, honesty and trust is the most important thing. This is the most important lesson to heed in the domain business.

I haven’t been in this business for a long time, but I have seen my fair share of things that leave me shaking my head. Some people will do whatever it takes to advance, risking their own financial status and their reputation. Perhaps making an error in judgment once will be forgiven, but if it’s done more than once, others tend to believe it was more than just a simple error.

The domain investment industry can be fun and lucrative. If you are just starting out, remember that there are no shortcuts, and honesty and integrity are two of the most respected (and expected) qualities.

Opportunity Cost of Lost Opportunities

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While some people may complain that its almost impossible to find a true premium generic domain name at a “good” price these days, I believe there are still great deals to be had.

Like the saying goes, sometimes it’s necessary to overpay today to find a good deal tomorrow. I believe there are three reasons to overpay:

  1. Create goodwill with a domain owner/seller to buy the next name (the really desirable name) from him for a fair price. Most sellers prefer to deal with trustworthy, quick paying clients that they know rather than trying to establish a new relationship with someone else.
  2. Acquire a group of domain names in the same vertical or a set of similar names that add value to each other. If a person owns the singular and plural of a name (Deal.com & Deals.com), the value of both can be enhanced as a set. Likewise, owning several extension (.com/.net/.org/.info) of the same domain name can increase the value, too.
  3. Ensure that the offer meets the seller’s needs in order to secure the name. If the seller isn’t inclined to sell for market value, it may take a considerably larger sum to convince the owner to sell.

Frequently, a person only has one chance to buy a domain name before someone else acquires it for a development project. Once a domain name is developed into a website, the name may be impossible to acquire. To avoid this, sometimes a buyer has to jump on an opportunity as soon as it presents itself, or the name may not be on the market again.

If the ideal domain name is available to acquire, now might be the time to do what it takes to secure it. Otherwise, it may be a source of regret down the road.

Generic Domains: Informational vs. Transactional Websites

In many instances, having a generic domain name as a standalone brand, or forwarding a generic domain name to an existing brand’s website can play a large role in the growth of that online business. This is especially true for informational websites, and may be less important for transactional websites.

When the sole purpose of a website is to give information, and there are a number of sites that provide the same information, the consumer may be more likely to simply navigate to the generic domain name. Why bother to remember a complicated domain name when you can find the exact same information on the generic domain name?

However, when a website is transactional, whereby a visitor makes (or considers) a purchase, a generic domain name is important, but less so than for an informational website. With a transactional site, there is much more to the customer experience than simply finding information. The visitor pays close attention to brands, pricing, fulfillment and customer service. Because of this, consumers are more likely to remember the site that gives the best all around service.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that if you are developing a business around the domain name and plan to generate revenue by selling products or services, the domain name may be less important than the other attributes in building a positive customer experience. If your website is informational in nature, and you plant to generate revenue  from advertising/ppc links, having the generic domain name may be critical.

Please Be The Judge

The winner has been selected! The Top Notch Domains, LLC website will be undergoing some redevelopment, and it should be relaunched soon. Thank you very much for all your feedback!!

Life Lesson

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Domain investing may be a way of life, but life isn’t isn’t about domain investing.

A former marketing partner of mine when I worked at AIG passed away this morning after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. She was a wonderful woman, full of energy, and she left behind young children. This is a tragic part of life.

I spend a lot of time on the computer, doing research and trying to make deals. This is a way for me to make a living for me, but this isn’t life.Life is about spending time with the people you care about. Enjoy every minute you can. Unfortunately, life can be short. Life can be unpredictable, too. Take some extra time to enjoy the little thigs in your life.

I am writing from my Blackberry in the middle of Herald Square in New York City. I lived near here and hated this time of year. Too many tourists, too much commotion, and too many street vendors and cab horns. Right now I am just staring at all of this in awe. People are happily living their lives and enjoying the season. This is the first time I am enjoying Herald Square during the holiday season.

Take a break from doing business. Get away from the computer for a little while. Watch a movie with your loved ones. Live your life to the fullest and enjoy the meaningful things. Life can be short and unpredictable, so make the most of it while you can.

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