Guest Post

Guest Post: The Domain Market Is Booming, And It’s No Wonder Why

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This is a guest post from Jason Miner, who oversees  Afternic’s  Sales, Business Development & Customer Service departments while also guiding the Product and Development teams. With over 6 years at Afternic and more than 15 years of senior management experience, Jason brings adept leadership skills to the helm of Afternic.

The domain market for primary registrations and premium domains shows no sign of slowing down. From the latest Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief :   “Registrations have grown by more than 20.4 million, or 10 percent, since the fourth quarter of 2010” and “the .com and .net TLDs experienced aggregate growth, reaching a combined total of 13.8 million domain names in the fourth quarter of 2011.”

It’s also been almost two decades since the first e-commerce purchase, yet recent studies estimate that around 40% of small to mid-sized businesses still don’t have a website! From McKinsey’s Internet Matters report:   “All business leaders, not just e-CEOs, should put the Internet at the top of their strategic agenda.” These indicators show that there is a great deal of unmet need for premium domain names for ecommerce sites that are yet to be built.

Since a solid domain is the foundation of any business’s website, the domain industry – and especially the aftermarket – is poised for a huge amount of growth. Improvements in the premium domain transaction process and increased trust in the aftermarket have made it easier for customers to find and purchase premium domains.

Improved Processes Leads to Improved Liquidity

Afternic has made a substantial commitment to and investment in technology to improve the premium domain sales process. Whereas premium domains were previously subjected to a lengthy escrow process, those for sale through Afternic Premium Promotion are now available to the buyer almost immediately. This fluid transaction process is critically important to the growth of the domain aftermarket; customers expect that what they are buying online will be available right away.

Improved Trust by Partnering with Industry Heavyweights

This improved infrastructure has brought many of the world’s leading registrars on board with listing premium domains for sale alongside primary registrations. This both expands the audience for premium domains and lends added legitimacy to the domain aftermarket – which is newer and less known than older registrars.

New Domain Extensions Increase Awareness

Domains have been in the news a lot lately, especially with ICANN’s announcement of new TLDs and the varied responses to this announcement. Any news that keeps domains and their value “top of mind,” is good for the industry.

We expect that consumers will value past performance (.com domain extensions being the most trusted historically, for example) as a predictor of future success, ensuring that .com will still remain the gold standard.

Learn more about selling your domains on Afternic today.

Guest Post: How Domain Investors Can Benefit From Free Screen Sharing

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I want to share a guest post with you, written by Lawrence Gentilello, an Internet entrepreneur who founded the startup, Screenleap. I believe Screenleap may be beneficial to domain investors, and I asked Lawrence to write a guest post to share how it can be helpful. You can read more about ScreenLeap  in an article posted on TechCrunch last month.

Since registering my first domain name in 1999, I’ve had an appreciation for creating value through the use of premium domain names. I’ve enjoyed watching the industry evolve, and have bought and sold several domain names. So when I co-founded a new screen sharing service called Screenleap, one of the first things I started using it for was to help me manage what I was doing with my names more efficiently. I’ve found Screenleap to be very useful in this regard, so I wanted to share with Elliot’s readers how it can make them more effective domainers as well.

Screenleap is free screen sharing product that simplifies the process of sharing what’s happening on your computer screen with others. Our product allows you to view someone’s screen from any device with a browser, including smartphones and tablets, without having to install anything. The person sharing the screen does need to have Java though, which is already the case on most computers. Most of our users are able to share their screen in less than 20 seconds.

Below are the top four ways I’ve found it helpful in the context of domain investing:

Guest Post with Ned O’Meara: Aussie Domain Market News

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Firstly, thank you to Elliot for inviting me to do a guest article. I was delighted to be asked.

I’m pleased to say that little by little the Aussie market is opening up at last. For those of you that thought there were just too many rules and regulations, it may well be time to have another look. Perhaps even consider putting a few eggs in other baskets?

The biggest and best change has just been officially announced in the last 24 hours by our regulator auDA. The 6 month prohibition on selling new domain names (or domains bought on the drop auctions) is being abolished come the 10th November. All I and other domainers can say is “hallelujah”! Official announcement here: http://www.auda.org.au/news-archive/auda-06102011/

Yes, we do have a few other rules and a bit of red tape, but compared to a few years back it is paradise. For those that make the effort now to become registered to buy Aussie domains, then I believe this will pay off big time in the future. Imho!

Our ccTLD is .com.au / .net.au etc. Currently there are just over 2,230,000 domains registered. So we’re still a baby compared to other markets. And therein lies the opportunity imo.

The beauty of our fledgling market (compared to .com) is that there are some absolute bargains to be picked up on both the drops and the secondary market. But the other exciting factor – particularly for domainers – are that there are some excellent “enduser” sales starting to happen as well.

The most recent blockbuster sale was investmentproperty.com.au. It cracked $125,001 on the drop auctions at Netfleet.com.au (plus had a similar bid at Drop.com.au)! This was way above what even seasoned domainers thought it would be worth! Have a read about it here in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Two other worthy sales this year were Poker.com.au and Deals.com.au – both went for $100,000. Top Aussie sales this year are listed here on DN Trade. I’m a partner in this forum, and would invite anyone keen on learning a bit more about Aussie domains to please join up. Adam Dicker of DNForum.com was very kind to give us an introduction on DNF as well.

If I can help anyone with information on how to easily set up an Aussie account, or if you have any further questions on the Aussie market, please email me.

Best wishes, Ned

Ned O’Meara is a full-time domainer who lives in Queensland, Australia. Aussie domains are his passion – and he also is the administrator at DN Trade – a domain forum for Aussie domain owners. He was also a panel member on the recent auDA Secondary Market Working Group (that recommended the abolishment of the 6 month rule). He can be contacted at ned at dntrade dot com.au (don’t forget the.au!)

Guest Post: The role of ‘Trust’ in the Re-launching of the Importers.com B2B Marketplace

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This is a guest post from John Lyotier, Co-Founder of Left of the Dot.

First off, thank you Elliot for giving Left of the Dot the opportunity to tell you a bit more about our re-branding and our re-launching of Importers.com.

Whenever we take on a brand, we look at several factors before we begin development: what is the natural business model implied by the name, what is happening within the name’s specific vertical, and who are the big players within the domain’s market category.

With Importers.com, we discovered a market that was filled with fraud and uncertainty. Trading partners did not trust trading partners. Scandals were plaguing the incumbent market leaders (See: The EconomistAlibaba and the 2,236 Thieves“). And the brand perception among potential consumers was that they “all look the same and seem sketchy”.

For us, this spelled opportunity, and it was clear that if we were going to differentiate Importers.com in this market (and resurrect what should have been a dominant global brand before being abandoned by its previous owners), we needed to emphasize the concept of ‘Trust’ first and foremost.

Many Domainers already know that a good generic carries with it a certain amount of implied trust. If you have a category-owning concept – be it Importers.com, DogWalker.com, or Villa.com – your name provides you with multiple benefits, each of which stems from this implied trust:

  1. You get better click thru rates on your paid search advertising. This increases your quality score and lowers your cost of new customer acquisition. And if it costs me less to get a customer on Importers.com than it does for an upstart brand that nobody has ever heard of… I win.
  2. You get ranked higher in search engines. Initially, this was entirely dependent on keyword match, but with the Panda release, how customers or peers perceive your site has become much more of a factor (think of the +1 as a trust endorsement).
  3. Customers (and strategic partners) are more willing to listen to you and give you the benefit of the doubt.

With this knowledge in our back pocket, we decided to play to our strength. The name “Importers.com” conveys a trusted brand in a market that is screaming for somebody to trust.

As we started to peel back the layers of Importers.com, more opportunities opened up. We were able to call on partners that may not have taken our call had we been a “just-born” brand. One of these partners is a group that allows us to do fraud and identity verification as part of a new Importers.com “Trust Certification” program, which now implemented, fosters even more trust between our members.

We are also able to convey this intrinsic trust down through the participating members of the Importers.com B2B community through our unique Marketing Name service.

For those who don’t know, key to Left of the Dot’s site development strategy (which we feel is a good alternative to domain parking for the very best domain names on the planet) is to allow small businesses to lease sub-domains to the “left of the dot”. For example, a hardwood importer may choose to lease from us Hardwood.Importers.com. When deployed on Importers.com, businesses and trade associations can lease names ranging from $25 to $200 per month. With this model, a business can either have the sub-domain pointed at their existing directory listing [referred to as a Trade Page on Importers.com], redirected to an external website, or with some properties … to a fully-hosted website hosted by Left of the Dot.

For the member who has leased Hardwood.Importers.com, he has a brand that he can use in his own marketing campaigns, and in so doing… he leverages the intrinsic trust of the Importers.com domain name.

However, deploying our sub-domain platform is but one part of taking on the resurrection of a brand like this. As you know, building a website is hard… but we found that re-building a website is even harder. We had to ensure that we had a website that stood out from the incumbents (visually anyhow), and when a first-time visitor arrives at the site, their experience is aligned with our brand promise of Trust.

And with Importers.com, we believe that we have been able to achieve this. It all started with a domain name in which our client saw un unrealized value and has grown from there.   And the result? It is too early to tell, but we believe the brand visually stands out and is recognized as a market leader. The website has 400,000 members, is growing at a rate of about 1,000 new members per week, and has captured the attention of Alibaba and TradeKey (both of which have multi-billion dollar valuations). We have hired a Brand Manager who now lives and breathes the brand and are ramping up an international sales force to help drive revenue for ourselves and our client.

In the end, while it will be our members and the market as a whole that will judge how well we did in re-launching this specific domain, we would be interested in the thoughts of the readers. So what do you think? Did we do a good job in conveying trust?

To give you a snapshot of the competitors, here is a screenshot of the re-launched Importers.com and the first impression that we give versus a single graphic showing the similarity between the leading companies in the B2B trade marketplace.

Importers

Guest Post: How .com Changed Three Words For The Better

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The following is a guest post written by Bobby Fitzgerald discussing how RestaurantsAgainstCancer.com was developed to raise money for the children of  Camp Sunrise.

Recently at a American Cancer Society meeting I was told about CEO’s Against Cancer, a smoking cessation program the ACS operates. I jotted down restaurants against cancer and bought the domain through Godaddy’s app before the meeting was over. For the next few weeks I worked my contacts in the industry and asked them to pull together to support a summer camp for children fighting cancer. The total cost of food and supplies for the two-week over-night portion of the camp is $15,000.

Out of 8,000 restaurants in Phoenix we need just 30 at $500 each. Everyone said “great idea” and walked away or looked at me with a blank stare. In three weeks I got one restaurant to commit. I went to my WP guy on Elance and had a site built based on a directory model I am tweaking for a budding restaurant network (BethesdaRestaurants.com). A week later RestaurantsAgainstCancer.com was up.

The first day the site was live we raised $2,000. Eight days later we raised over $8,000. I was shocked and thrilled at what had been accomplished for the children of Camp Sunrise. The Arizona Restaurant Association stated this could be a marquee event for the industry and associates in Chicago and Denver inquired about starting the effort there.

I called a national supply company’s HQ in another state and left a VP a voicemail mentioning the site. Five minutes later the local manger called me and said they were in. I know what happened, the VP went to the site and saw his customers listed and his largest competitor. All this because I added dot com to the end of a phrase I had been touting for weeks with no return.

Putting three words on a website made it something REAL. The power of this has blown me away and I cannot stop with the ideas of what else this formula could do for charities. Every restaurant and vendor who has joined the fight is now walking around saying, “We are part of RestaurantsAgainstCancer.com, go see.” Add in a PPC campaign (using $75 promos) during the two weeks of the camp to promote the restaurants involved and we have delivered a ROI for them as well.

Interestingly, a number of people have asked me if it was .org so that extension is forwarded. Everyone knows the internet is limitless and seeing your name or brand online is a huge form of recognition.

Elliot certainly did a great job of this by listing his contributors to the NYC Ronald McDonald House, which may soon be a retirement home if the health-food-activists get their way. (LOL) Nothing has the potential for worldwide exposure or is cheaper than bits, so recognizing on a website works well. It is way more than a plaque on the hallway to the John. It could even be a WordPress or Blogger template with a domain simply forwarded. This is how we our restaurants’ blog works.

I want the SEO value of WordPress so it’s RestaurantName.Wordpress.com and we get top billing on searches plus back link value we control. A site for a worthy cause can be up in minutes with no cost.

So if it is selling Girl Scout Cookies or any worthy cause, many who read this blog have the ability to easily get a site up to help the effort. This little exercise shows first hand the potential impact. Many people want to give back but truly do not know how. Now you do…

Rob Sequin Guest Post: Options for Your Domains

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This is a guest post written by domain broker, Rob Sequin.

As part of my 2011 planning, I have been giving considerable thought about the current and future use of my domain names. This nice thing about owning a number of domains is that domain portfolio owners have numerous options for what they can do with their domains.

Of course everyone’s portfolio is different as are business models and goals but I thought that it may be helpful to offer some guidance about use of domains. Here is a list of what you can do with your domains…

  • Development
  • Forwarding
  • Leasing
  • Minisites
  • Nothing
  • Parking

Development

Summary: Website development requires skills and software. To develop a site you need to have a server, website design software/platform like xsitepro, WordPress, Dreamweaver etc. Development requires lots of time and skill or money if you have to hire a developer.

Pros:

Adds value to the domain so long as your development is appreciated by search engines, visitors, direct advertisers and potential buyers. Gives you the ability to place Adsense, affiliate ads, sell products, get direct advertisers etc. Ability to track everything with Google Analytics code.

Cons:

Time consuming and may be developed differently from what your visitors, direct advertisers or potential buyers are looking for thus just a waste of time.

Forwarding

To Developed Website

Summary: Forward related domains to a developed site already in your network that would be an appropriate “lander” for the forwarded domain.

Pros: Visitors land on a developed page therefore you get the best use for this forwarded domain. Developed site gets more traffic from type ins from relevant, forwarded domain. Why park a domain for pennies a day if you can forward to your site and capture a potential direct advertiser or customer. Why not spend those pennies a day and “buy” this traffic?

Cons: You have to have a related developed domain as a “lander”. Cannot offer forwarded domain for sale if it is pointing to a developed site. No stats for forwarded domain unless masked. If masked then visitor cannot see URLs of developed site. No search engine love for forwarded domains.

To Retail Sales Website

Summary: If you have a developed site that is a retail sales site, forwarding your domains to this sales site can increase sales.

Pros: You can have some advertising on the site but if it’s for sales of domains, limit ALL outgoing links. Direct sales to buyer, no third party marketplace with anonymous negotiations or commissions. Potential to upsell buyer more similar domains. Why park a domain for pennies a day if you can forward to your site and capture a potential buyer. Why not spend those pennies a day and “buy” this traffic?

Cons: Same as above to Developed Website.

Leasing

Summary: I know there are leasing sites and opportunities out there but not practical for most domain owners.

Pros: Generates guaranteed income over what Adsense, sales, leads or direct advertisers will pay you.

Cons: VERY difficult to find anyone to lease your domains, you need a STRONG contract and need to make sure leasee is not using your domain in bad ways. You give up all control of the domain.

Minisites

Summary: Epik, Whypark and DevHub are hybrids of parking and development. Not all domains are good candidates for minisite development but a great option for the right domains, usually product domains or long tail domains.

Pros: May generate more revenue parking and may get some search engine placement.   Adds value to domain since content is directly relevant to domain. Minisite platforms are very advanced today and offer many ways to add content and revenue generating features. You can probably have a “This domain for sale” link on the lander.

Cons: From my limited experience, I have not made any money nor created any search engine traffic from minisite development.   No public sales marketplace at minisite companies.

Nothing

Summary: Nothing means nothing. I am amazed how many dead landing pages or registrar landing pages I come across.

Pros: Not using domain could help if you are TM squatting. That’s about all the Pros I can come up with J

Cons: Dumbest use of domain, shows owner does not care at all about domain, adds zero value. In fact tells potential buyer that you are uneducated about domains, not using it and therefore you should expect VERY low offers and of course no revenue or search engine placement, no stats either.

Parking

Summary: Many people say that parking is dead or dying but this is by far the easiest way to make the most revenue with little effort. I have used Sedo (Google feed) and Parked (Yahoo feed). I admit I do not make much money from parking, which is not my primary source of revenue. I will say that I have tried MOST of the parking companies at one time or another and I have found that I like working with Sedo or Parked.

Pros: Change the nameservers, optimize the lander, set it and forget it.

Cons: Probably no search engine ranking but I have seen my domains rank with Sedo and Parked pages.

Sedo Pros: Best parking revenue, domain for sale link, sales marketplace, good stats but confusing

Sedo Cons: Cannot negotiate directly with buyer, buyer is anonymous, sales commission, no custom content. Landers are very generic.

Parked Pros: Custom domain for sale link, great stats, simple user interface, ability to add custom content, plenty of photos directly relevant to keywords.

Parked Cons: Adequate revenue, no sales marketplace. I understand that the transition to Bing has not gone well and Yahoo feed parking companies may need some time for revenue to recover.

Summary

You should have all your domain names in a spreadsheet or in some manner that they can be sorted and categorized. Make a column for near term use and long term use. Ultimately your long term goals might be something like this:

  • Development 5% to 20%
  • Forwarding 10% to 20%
  • Leasing 0% to 5%
  • Minisites 10% to 30%
  • Nothing 0%
  • Parking 40% to 80%

Short term use could be parking while long term use could be development. Parking is a great way to at least see what kind of traffic a domain receives then you can make a better decision about developing it. Be sure to have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish.

If you want a revenue stream then test parking, test minisites and test development. If your goal is sales then be sure to have your domains listed for sale in several locations and/or forward them to your own retail sales site. If you goal is to bring in direct advertisers then you’ll want to develop good websites with unique content that offers value to your visitors.

Good luck. I hope this helps with your domain planning for 2011.

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