Geographic Domain Names

Associated Cities Membership & GeoDomain Expo Growth

What a great day today! Not only did I book my flight to Chicago for next month’s GeoDomain Expo, I also just heard from Patrick Carlton (Executive Director of Associated Cities), and Lowell.com was approved to become a member of Associated Cities. This is exciting news, and I look forward to contributing to that organization and learning from the members who have experience in developing and making money from their geodomain names.
I also had a conversation with David Castello who informed me that ticket sales for the 2008 GeoDomain Expo are 200% higher than last year. This is also great news because it means I can learn from and share with more likeminded people. I don’t know the exact number of people who are attending, but I hope they don’t run out of space! Knowing the Castello Brothers, Dan Pulcrano, Jess Bookstaff and many others in the geo space, I don’t think I am going to get much sleep during the conference.
If you haven’t had a chance to register for the GeoDomain Expo, I recommend that you do it ASAP. The cost of flying to Chicago is rising, so it’s in your best interest to book soon.   The cost of attending the show is $695, which is less than most domain conferences, and the convention hotel is less than $250.

Responding to Geodomain Discussion

I was going to write this response to Sahar on his blog, but I decided to just post it here since it encompasses more than one post. I have a great deal of respect for Sahar and some of the things he has done in the domain industry. Seeing Sahar build some of his domain names into business has helped spark my interest in development, and I believe he has been instrumental in getting domain investors to begin to develop their valuable domain names. However, I disagree and am a bit confused by some of the things he has recently said.
Before I begin, I want to define what I am referencing when I speak of geodomains that are worth a considerable amount of money, and what I blog about (unless previously specified).

1) .com only
2) City with 100,000 population, a large tourism industry, a center of business activity, or a US state
3) Domain name must be the exact spelling of the city

There are plenty of other geodomains, but these are generally what I consider geodomains when I talk about the industry in general.A few weeks ago, Sahar provocatively wrote a blog post entitled “Are Geo Domains Overrated?” He evaluated his thoughts on what to do with geodomains other than PPC, and the answer is either development or resale. The gist of the discussion on development is that it is very difficult (and I agree), and regarding resale, Sahar said, “To me looking for end users is an extremely tough proposition. I would not consider that a viable option.” Ultimately, Sahar’s concludes, “It is my personal opinion that while today Geo domains aren’t an attractive proposition (and we do own a few), in the near future, possibly 2-5 years, they may be.
To address this topic, I agree that geodomains should be developed to yield their full value. They are expensive to acquire, and if the owner wants to generate revenue, development is the way to go. I do disagree that looking to sell the domain name is difficult, as I have received significant offers on Burbank.com – which I have rejected in favor of development. I know it wouldn’t be difficult to sell this name or Lowell.com, based on the response I’ve received in the Lowell area when speaking about the domain name and website.
A few days ago, Sahar wrote another post about geodomains titled, “The Other Side of Geo.” Sahar cites my blog and Rick Latona’s newsletter as sources of geodomain discussion, in addition to Associated Cities and Castello Cities press. Sahar believes, “majority of the people who promote Geo domains are doing so not because Geo is doing great but because they are invested in Geo.
I am a bit insulted by this in respect to the reference to my blog. I talk about geodomains because I happen to be developing two of them, not because I need to increase their value or increase recognition. If anything, I would like the value to decrease so I can buy more of them – as I have tried with my $100k offer for a large east coast city .com domain name. I paid what I was comfortable with paying, and I would pay the same price in a heartbeat without so much as a second to contemplate it – as I am sure many others would agree. Also, geodomains are hot and in demand because supply is very limited for decent ones – because most good geo domain owners won’t sell it.
Additionally, Sahar wrote what most people would agree, “In terms of cashflow performance, in comparison to other domain categories, Geo domains are extremely over rated.” Yes, I agree that Lowell.com would only make $2-3/day in Adsense revenue, but I am making more in hotel/job revenue, and the traffic and revenues continues to grow. When I finish with Burbank.com, that will make even more money in hotel revenue, as that is more of a business/tourist center than Lowell, Massachusetts.
Today, Sahar followed all of this up by concluding, “Truth is, after thinking more about it, Geo domains, in term of Domaining, are extremely overrated.” Although I don’t own any parked geodomains to offer a factual assessment, I do agree that geodomains aren’t a great investment vehicle if you plan to only use a PPC model on them. However, saying   that they are overrated in terms of domaining is like saying that undeveloped oceanfront property on A1A in Palm Beach, Florida is overrated.
For those who know the area, this is some of the most exclusive property in the country, and there is barely any undeveloped property on A1A in Palm Beach. The property that is undeveloped is generally not for sale or may be for sale at astronomical prices.   This property is also some of the most resilient property in all of Palm Beach county, and it hasn’t taken much of a hit when other areas of Palm Beach County has.
So in terms of domaining and simply buying a geodomain name for PPC, yes, they may be overrated, but I think most domain sales would be considered overrated if you just looked at them based on the PPC value (numerics, LLL.com, .mobi….etc). However, I would certainly be willing to pay overrated prices for geodomains.   Hopefully when Bido launches, they will be able to offer some great geodomains for sale 🙂

GeoDomain Expo Announced

The date and location of the 2008 GeoDomain Expo has been finalized and announced. For those of you who are in the GeoDomain space (or are looking to get into it), this is a fantastic opportunity to network with, and learn from the best of the best. The event is co-sponsored by The Kelsey Group and Associated Cities.
The event details are as follows:
When: July 10th – 12th, 2008
Where: W Chicago – City Center
Sponsors: The Kelsey Group & Associated Cities
Tickets: Purchase at AssociatedCities.com (Early Bird Special is only $595 until May 31st)
A sponsorship by the Kelsey Group shows just how important GeoDomains are to so many different companies. From what I’ve been told, the conference will be geared towards GeoDomains of all TLDs.
I am going to be there, and I look forward to meeting other people in the Geodomain space. Let me know if you can make it as well.
***This is an unconfirmed rumor, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that there might be a comeback performance from the 1980’s hit rock band, Michael Seven during the GeoDomain Expo. Stay tuned for more details…

Why I Like GeoDomains

Based on my recent acquisition of Burbank.com, mini-development of Salinas.com, and recent launch of Lowell.com, you can probably guess that I like geographic domain names. I do have several other non-geographic domain names, so I am not just a geodomain buyer/developer, but I happen to really like these names. There are a number of reasons for this, and if I haven’t stated my reasoning before, I am happy to do so here:
1) People are always looking for information about large cities or tourist hotspots. Judging by the type-in traffic my geographic domain names receive, I can say for certain that people look for city information simply by typing the city .com domain name into their url browsers. Whether they are looking to move to the city, looking to visit the city or looking for information, the goal of my development projects is to offer all of this and make it easy for them to make travel plans for find a place to move. I am sure good PPC could be made, but that limits the growth of the domain name. While developed geodomains may take some time to develop and generate revenue, the upside is much greater than with PPC.
2) There are no products that I need to sell with a geographic domain name. Geodomains are almost always informational, so there is no inventory, fulfillment, or customer service to worry about. Sure there is client management, but I will get to that in a minute. Geodomains can be a great source of information, and if it is presented in an easy to read format, visitors should return.
3) To generate the maximum amount of revenue, relationships need to be established with local businesses. Unlike other types of product/service related websites where potential clients are located around the country (or world), all of the businesses I will be reaching out to are located in the same general vicinity. I can and will meet with local business owners and managers, explain why they need to advertise in the local directory, show them that their neighbors are advertising and try to convince them to advertise as well. Maybe it sounds easier said than done, but if the pricing is competitive and the businesses receive a return on their advertising dollar, the advertising will sell.
4.) Once a geodomain business model is successful, the model can be replicated in other city .com domain names fairly easily.
5.) Travel, Job, Ticket and other similar affiliate sites were practically made for geodomains. Most will actually help you create a white label solution so the affiliate site is fully integrated into your geodomain. While jobs.lowell.com might not look exactly like Lowell.com, it is pretty close.
6.) There are always people who are fully committed to their city. If the domain name is beneficial to the city, others will be very willing to help. With Lowell.com, I worked with a top photographer who not only provided images, he also gave me some great advice about things that should be included in the website. He is also going to introduce me to some of the city decision makers so I can introduce myself and let them know I want to help the city.
I don’t think geodomains are any easier to develop than any other type of domain name. I do recommend that the owner have a tie to the city he wants to develop and that the city is large enough that it can be fully developed. With smaller, non-tourist towns, it can be more difficult to get enough advertisers to generate revenue. One of the most important things to remember is that the website should not only reflect the personal tastes of the owner, but it should also be reflective of the city.
For now, I have enough geodomain names in my portfolio to keep me very busy with development.

Top Notch Domains, LLC Acquires Burbank.com

Top Notch Domains, LLC, a New Hampshire based domain investment and development company has acquired Burbank.com for an undisclosed sum. Burbank is one of the fastest growing cities in the state of California, with a population of over 100,000 residents. Previously, Burbank.com was used as a private Burbank news website.
The city of Burbank is known as “the media capital of the world,” as many of the largest media companies have headquarters or significant production facilities in the city, including Disney, Warner Brothers, and NBC. Burbank is located approximately ten miles from from Los Angeles, and it is home to one of the fastest growing airports in the US. It has beautiful homes, is a center for business and has a strong economy.
“We just launched our first geodomain website, Lowell.com, and I am looking forward to the development of Burbank.com,” said Elliot Silver, President of Top Notch Domains, LLC. “I am excited to fly out to Burbank on Jet Blue – non-stop from JFK, to begin researching this great city.” The company anticipates that a mini-site will be developed in the coming month, and Burbank.com will be fully developed by the end of Q3 2008.
Top Notch Domains, LLC also owns Salinas.com, which is currently being built into a guide of Salinas, California, a city of around 150,000 residents in California’s wine country. The company recently put the name for sale, but is reevaluating their position.

Jessica Bookstaff Elected Chairman of Associated Cities

Congratulations to my friend Jessica Bookstaff, who was recently elected Chairman of Associated Cities, the premier organization that represents over 100 city .com domain names. Jess spent time on the Associated Cities Board of Directors, and she follows in the footsteps of former chairman Dan Pulcrano, founder of Boulevards, whose company owns one of the finest geographic domain portfolios assembled.
Jess has a history of leading successful geographic domain businesses. Two of her main websites, PigeonForge.com and Durango.com, have tremendous records of growth. In fact, since acquiring PigeonForge.com in 2000, the site has grown an astounding 1,400%. Jess has always graciously given advice to fellow geo domain owners, and she is one of the brightest individuals in the industry.
I wish Jess luck as she takes on this well-deserved position.

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