Web Development

Calling All Designers…

Top Notch Domains, LLC LogoAfter a couple of years with the same look, I’ve decided to move forward and have my logo and business card redesigned.  I  set up a contest at Sitepoint  to open this to as many designers as possible.  I admit that I got the idea of holding a contest from  Sahar  – Thanks!  

Although I like the current style/concept of my logo, I am looking for something more fresh that uses less black for better space.  I like the skyline, but don’t need the actual buildings (an outline of a skyline would probably suffice).  I would also like a more modern looking font for the name of the company.  I’ve given comments to the designers who have submitted their work so far, so you can get an idea of what I am asking.    

Down the road in the next few weeks, I can also see myself redesigning my entire  Top Notch Domains website,  and perhaps this logo and business card design contest will help me find someone for that project.

So check out my contest and show me your skills!

Search Bar – “What Can I Serve You?”

There have been plenty of times where I walked into a bar and asked for a beer that the bar doesn’t stock.    Of course, I ordered a different beer, but for the sake of this post, let’s say that I really wanted a particular kind of beer, and when the bartender informed me that he doesn’t have it, I walked out and went to the bar down the street.

If this scenario happens just once or twice, the lost business probably won’t cost the bar much money.    However, if this is a recurring situation, it would be in the bar’s best interest to begin carrying the requested beers to satisfy the needs of its customers and not miss out on a revenue generating idea.

Likewise on a website, the owner should do his best to provide content that is of interest to his visitors.    Oftentimes if a visitor doesn’t find what he needs, he will use the search bar to locate it.    A savvy website/domain owner will use the search log information to see what his visitors are looking for but can’t seem to find.    He will then make adjustments to his product/content selection to ensure the needs of his visitors are met.    

The lost revenue from one or two visitors may be small, but if you can learn about what your customers want and offer it to them, you are sure to satiate your visitors’ thirst for information.

(Special thanks to Jonathan for reminding me about how important the search bar can be to a domain owner!)

StatCounter.com – Good Stat Tracking Resource


On a few of my domain names, I use StatCounter.com to track information about my visitors.   If I know how visitors find my domain name, what links they click on while there, and how long they view a particular topic, I can optimize my websites to fulfill their needs.   I would recommend this website for stat tracking.   According to the site, StatCounter.com is:

A free yet reliable invisible web tracker<, highly configurable hit counter and real-time detailed web stats.”

With StatCounter.com, I have access to the following  information about visitors to my websites:

– Popular Pages
– Entry Pages
– Exit Pages
– Came From
– Keyword Analysis
– Recent Keyword Activity
– Recent Came From
– Visitor Paths
– Visit Length
– Returning Visits
– Recent Visitor Activity
– Country/State/City/ISP

I would recommend this site to people who don’t have access to this information from their own servers.   There is no cost for smaller accounts (up to 500 log quota), and there are upgrade opportunities depending on the size of the file you want.   Oh… I am not a paid endorser either – I just like the information they provide.

Direct Marketing via Parked Domain Name


At NYU, I was taught that Direct Marketing is a one on one communication with a consumer where the reaction (or lack of) can be tracked, and a return on investment can be calculated. Direct marketers use specific calls to action to encourage consumers to respond, providing a trackable and measurable result.

Generic domain names that are parked at companies like Fabulous or SmartName provide the perfect direct marketing test bed. You have a trackable medium (using web analytics), with a call to action in the form of related links of enticing offers. If a visitor clicks through, that’s the response, and the revenue generated from the click is part of the return on the investment. If there isn’t a click-through, the domain owner knows the content wasn’t of interest to the visitor.

Using web analytics, the domain owner can determine whether the advertising links are relevant to what consumers want when they navigate to his site. He has the ability to test many different variables (keywords, images, colors, layout…etc), which is also a hallmark of direct marketing. I seem to remember a mantra of “test everything.” Using some parking programs (like Trafficz), the owner can even write content to offer information that may also invite the consumer to click through and/or return.

Parked domain names can be a great precursor to development. Before investing thousands of dollars into a domain name, the owner can see what visitors want and what isn’t of interest. Using my Customs.com as an example, based on the CTR and clicks, I can determine whether people are looking for customs clearance information, customs lawyers, custom cars, or possibly even Halloween costumes due to a typo.   Based on the analysis I’ve done, it’s pretty clear that they are looking to find passport, travel, and other information associated with customs clearance and requirements.

“Gonna Party Like its 1999”

Pardon me for stealing a line from Prince’s “1999,” but I think it is relevant for the topic of whether Internet companies are currently suffering from Irrational Exuberance, creating an Internet bubble similar to the one in 1999 and bursting the following year.

Dot-com fever stirs sense of déjà vu,” an written by Brad Stone and Matt Richtel featured today in the International Herald Tribune, discusses the idea that a great deal of Internet companies are overvalued, similar to the conditions that existed just before the .com bubble burst in 2000.    

Up until the bubble’s sudden burst, investors valued fledgling Internet companies at much higher revenue multiples than they could possible ever realize, effectively creating unsustainable valuations.    Investors were buying into unproven concepts, and unproven company founders were spending their newfound wealth unwisely. The article points out many similarities between pre-bubble 1999 to the conditions seen in today’s markets. The naysayers believe that today is different because many of the successful Internet companies are generating positive cashflow now, however, it seems like they are spending it recklessly on new startups without regard to potential revenue.

Like the original Kings of the Internet who wasted billions of dollars on unnecessary luxury items, the new Internet Titans should remember the failures of the past. A business is only as strong as its revenue and growth, and based on the experience of people in the online adult entertainment business, viewers don’t necessarily bring revenues. As Aaron Kessler of Piper Jaffray said in the article, Internet companies “are buying users instead of revenue and profitability.”

Missed Opportunity: Subdirectory Direct Navigation

Owners of generic domain names know the value of direct navigation traffic, but a quick review of some popular websites leads me to believe they aren’t considering subdirectory direct navigation on their websites. Briefly, a subdirectory is the word or phrase that follows a backslash after the extension on a domain name. In the following example, Boston.com/RedSox, “RedSox” would be the subdirectory.

I frequently navigate to a subdirectory hoping to avoid the front page. In my Red Sox example, I often directly navigate to the Boston Globe’s Red Sox page to save time. If I do this on the Globe’s website, I am sure there are other people who do the same thing on other websites. Oftentimes, a 404 Error page is displayed when directly navigating to subdirectories, proving that many website owners aren’t considering this type-in traffic. Below are a few examples of websites that take subdirectory traffic into consideration:

CNN.com/Sports (forwards to Sports Illustrated)
ESPN.com/Soccer (forwards to ESPNsoccernet.com)
Google.com/Mail (forwards to Gmail)
Yahoo.com/Finance (forwards to Yahoo Finance)

However, there are plenty of ecommerce websites that don’t take this into consideration, possibly to their detriment.
BestBuy.com/Speakers (404 Error)
CircuitCity.com/Speakers (The page requested was not found)
Ebay.com/Speakers (Page Not Found)

Just as some people directly navigate to specific domain names, I believe there are some people who directly navigate to the subdirectories. Although these browsers may not leave the website if they encounter a 404 error page, I think it would be an easy fix to give browsers what they are looking for if they do directly navigate to a subdirectory. It seems that many news websites anticipate this direct navigation, so I think ecommerce websites should consider this traffic as well.

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