Internet Companies

Great Domain Name Strategy: Vacations To Go

Travel planning company Vacations To Go employs one of the finest domain strategies I have seen. The company owns some fantastic niche travel domain names, allowing them to avoid paying high pay per click costs. While they seem to avoid the very expensive one word generic domain names (like Cruises.com), they do own a ton of great second tier travel domain names that probably receive some traffic. Just a few of the highly targeted domain names owned by Vacations To Go include:
AcapulcoCruises.com
AthensTours.com
LowCostCruise.com
LowPriceCruises.com
MexicanCruises.com
ItalyCruise.com
Showing their vast domain knowledge, Vacations To Go even owns some fantastic typo domain names, including:
BahamasCrusie.com
CheapCruies.com
Norweigan.com
The smartest thing about this strategy is that instead of paying $.50 – $10.00+ per visitor’s click on Yahoo or Google, they own all visitors to their domain names, and only pay around $7/year for each domain name. All of their names are forwarded to their main site, with a subfolder tracking how the visitor reached the main page. If a customer books just one cruise or vacation after landing on a domain name, they’ve almost certainly paid off the domain name for life (and then some).
One major issue I see is that many of the domain names owned by Vacations To Go don’t seem to be listed in Google. As you can see in the screenshot below, MexicanCruises.com isn’t listed in Google when the exact domain name is entered into the search bar. This isn’t good, as it means if a customer tries to directly navigate to the site using Google instead of the internet browser bar, they won’t even see the domain name. On some of the names where this is an issue, Vacations To Go attempts to alleviate this by buying the keyword of the domain name, but that is costing them money.
MexicanCruises.com
There are many reasons why Google could have removed the names, but it may have had nothing to do with anything Vacations To Go did. To rectify this, I would suggest that someone from Vacations To Go enters all of their domain names into Google, and take note of the names that do not show up in the results. They should then request reconsideration from Google. By doing this, Vacations To Go will have their domain names put back into Google, saving them from having to pay per click every time a consumer types the domain name as a search.
On other domain names, such as MexicoCruises.com, the domain name is listed in Google at the top. If a visitor accidentally types this domain name into Google instead of their navigation bar, they will see it as the top natural result, and they may click on this listing rather than on the paid search listing. Vacations To Go has protected itself by paying for Adwords keywords, which is another smart move.
MexicoCruises.com
Vacations To Go certainly has one of the best domain strategies I’ve seen. Not only are they building value for their brand, they are also building value for each of the domain names they own. If they were to ever sell the company, they could provide a traffic, click through and ROI for each domain asset they own, adding tremendous value to their portfolio. I give high praise to Alan Fox and his team at Vacations To Go.

Domain Branding Mistake by TicketReserve.com

TicketReserve.com offers a unique service, allowing fans to purchase ticket options for future sporting events. For example, a fan could have purchased an option to buy a New England Patriots Super Bowl ticket at face value for around $300 at the beginning of the season, which is less than 10% of the current market price on StubHub. If the Patriots didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, the option would be worthless, and the person would have lost the cost of the option. TicketReserve.com counts CBS as an investor, and they have relationships with many professional sports teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL as well as college sports teams.
Recently, TicketReserve.com announced that they will be rebranding, and the company will be known as FirstDibz.com as of February 1st, 2008. From the January 7th press release,

We needed a new identity, a fresh approach,” said Daniel Lotzof, TicketReserve.com president. “This ideally will allow fans to understand better what we’re offering. I think there was some confusion in the market, some areas where we weren’t received with a fully open mind. This also allows us to expand our focus a bit and also get into things like hotel accommodations for these events.

I believe TicketReserve.com is making a critical domain branding mistake. While the spelling of “First Dibz” may seem unique, it is probable that customers and potential customers will think of “First Dibs,” and may consequently type-in FirstDibs.com, a domain name owned by another company since at least 2001 (according to the Whois history). I believe this will cause much more confusion to customers than the market confusion the company believes currently exists.
If the company is content with FirstDibz.com as a new brand, it is essential that they do what they can to purchase FirstDibs.com as well. Unfortunately, FirstDibs.com currently has privacy guard in place preventing easy access to contact the owner, however, with a few minutes of detective work, they should be able to get in touch with the owner relatively easily. Making an offer worthy of accepting, after they already began promoting their brand, will presumably be much more difficult than had they attempted to purchase the name prior to rebranding.

The Weather Channel May Be For Sale

According to Red Herring, Landmark Communications, the owner of The Weather Channel and all of its associated properties, is putting its Weather Channel assets on the auction block. The article referenced a $5 billion price tag that was suggested to Landmark Vice Chairman, Richard Barry.
I believe one of the best assets of The Weather Channel is their domain name, Weather.com. People don’t necessarily navigate to Weather.com to specifically visit The Weather Channel. They navigate to that domain name to get a weather forecast, and as long as its accurate, the provider of the forecast isn’t important. This is a category killer domain name, and it draws tremendous traffic.
According to Nielson/NetRatings reported in Financial Post, Weather.com received almost 33 million unique page views last November, which is more traffic than Facebook or CNN received that month. Additionally, millions of people look at Weather Channel widgets found on independent websites every month.
This is all positive for Landmark, and I would think several global companies would be interested in acquiring The Weather Channel portfolio.

Learn About Google at the Apple Store

I just returned from a trip to the Apple Store on Fifth Ave in NYC where I had an appointment with an “Apple Genius” to learn more about my MacBook. The store was completely packed, and it seemed like there were a ton of people speaking different languages. While the weak dollar may spell trouble for Americans, our Euro-toting counterparts are certainly taking advantage.

The main purpose of my visit was to learn a bit more about my new laptop and the Leopard operating system. The Genius showed me some cool features that I didn’t know about, which was very helpful. I also asked him to show me some important websites where I could find useful downloads to fully take advantage of my new computer. He bookmarked MacUpdate.com and a few other interesting sites.

Because I am a big Google user, I asked him some Google/Apple/Blackberry connectivity questions, and while he gave a me a little bit of help, it would have been even better if he could have shown me more.

That got me thinking.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Google opened a kiosk in the Apple stores to teach people how to use Google products in harmony with Apple products? I think this would be mutually beneficially for both companies, as Google would benefit from the exposure, and people would find more satisfaction with their Apple computers if they learned how to use various Google products on their Macs or phones. Both companies are cutting edge, and they probably hire the same type of driven people as employees.

I would love to learn more about Adsense, Google Storage, Gmail…etc, and as a person that likes to learn by reading and listening, it would be great to have a “Google tutorial.” While Google could set up kiosks in other places, I think it could be in the best interest of both companies if Google’s presence was seen in Apple stores.

(*Just as a bit of disclosure, I own a small amount of shares of Apple stock)

Hecta Media Goes Public on AIM

Hecta Media LogoI received an email from Clark Landry, a person who I had a nice conversation with at Ad:Tech. Clark is the CEO of Hecta Media, which just went public on the London AIM exchange. Hecta Media is a company whose purpose is to acquire and make investments in profitable niche content websites and domain portfolios.

According to Landry, the founders, (Clark Landry and Fred Krueger), are serial entrepreneurs who have founded or provided seed investment for a variety of internet content companies and advertising networks including TagWorld, Adconion, Traffic Marketplace, and iwin.com, among others. Said Landry, “Hecta Media is interested in acquiring premium domain portfolios and niche developed content websites.”

From the press release following their first day of trading provided via email:

“The directors of Hecta Media Inc (AIM: HCTA), a web consolidator, are pleased to announce that all of the Company’s 162,266,456 Ordinary Shares have today been admitted for trading on AIM valuing the Company at £6.5 million.

Hecta Media is a British Virgin Islands (”BVI”) registered company whose purpose is to make broadly distributed investments in niche content web sites and vertically targeted, branded domains. Using a combination of Ordinary Shares and cash to make targeted acquisitions, the Company intends to build a portfolio of high-traffic websites monetized through search and display advertising. Hecta Media will focus its efforts on active investment in websites and domains established in the UK, continental Europe, and the United States. The websites in which Hecta Media intends to invest will typically be simple, profitable businesses with few employees and positive cash flow. Hecta Media aims to consolidate a number of such websites across a few specific verticals, with the purpose of creating advantages of scale in each vertical market. The Directors intend that Hecta Media will acquire sites by offering a combination of cash and Ordinary Shares to the owners of the sites, providing fungible assets to owners looking for a suitable exit strategy by which to realize the value of the businesses they have created. The Directors consider that current market conditions provide good opportunities for investment in a wide variety of suitable websites which can meet Hecta Media’s strategic objectives – the Company having recently raised GBP4.67 mill ion.”

Congratulations to Clark and the rest of his management team. The domain industry is full of opportunity!

More information about Hecta Media can be found in an article in The Independent.

Motley Fool on Internet Stocks

The Motley Fool takes a look at 4 Internet Stocks Under the Radar, including Marchex, Autobytel, Copernic and Jupitermedia.

Although I would debate that Marchex is really under the radar, its good to see them receiving some coverage by the mainstream investment media. Marchex owns a huge domain portfolio with some fantastic domain names.

*As a disclaimer, I don’t own stock in Marchex (or any of the other companies) because I think its wise to have a diverse investment portfolio.

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