Domain Industry Professionals: “One Thing I Learned in 2011”

In my opinion, the best way to improve your business is to learn how others are achieving success and to learn from mistakes. I’ve learned quite a bit this past year, and I reached out to a number of domain industry colleagues to ask if they’d share one thing that they learned.

Several people responded with in-depth answers, and I hope their knowledge will help you with your business. Please post something you learned in 2011 that might be beneficial to others who read this article.

Charlotte Gilbert, Dobhran Development  –  I work 60 + hours a week on several domain development projects, and I’m sure most developers work that hard or even harder. Some developers may put in more hours, some may put in a few less.  But I don’t really think of it as work because I enjoy what I do. I really have a passion for it. If you’re not passionate about what you do, stop right now and think about what you really want to do.

After going out on my own as an independent web site developer,  I learned it is harder to gain customers than initially thought.  One of the most important things to remember when I was trying to establish my development business is I must always be looking for clients and ways to get them to work with me.  I have also learned not to sell myself or what I do, short. I worked very hard to become educated in this field  and I have over 12 years of experience.

One of the largest mistakes I made was keeping  my fees low so I would  attract a wider audience. I ended up with clients who complained all the time. The end result was working myself to the bone trying to please them (and using up all my profits in the process).  By charging a premium price it establishes the seriousness of my stance as a web site developer, It cut the mediocrity of the client base and I continued to provide excellent customer service without sacrificing my standards.

Warren Royal, – The most important thing I have learned is that development should not be the objective of the domain investment life-cycle; rather, it is just an early step in the process. Many of us have purchased a great ecommerce name, and developed a great site, and then waited confidently for the world to beat a path to our door. And then we have been surprised and disappointed when that didn’t happen. I have done this many times myself.

I didn’t understand that the huge majority of the work which is required to build a successful business (especially an ecommerce one) comes AFTER development. In fact, I’ve learned this: You may spend 5% of your time researching and purchasing a domain, 10% developing the site, and 85% building the business.

There are hundreds of things which you must do to source and/or develop products, identify prospects, develop infrastructure and operations capabilities, hire and train staff, develop distribution channels, warehouse your products, develop vendor relationships, market your business, finance your inventory, sell your products, and deliver them to customers. I think it is important to understand this and to plan and allocate time and resources for these critical tasks.

In my experience, these are the things that determine success or failure in an ecommerce business. Of course, having a great name and building a great site are important – but development should not be the end-game. If success is to be achieved, domain development is an important, but early, step in  the process.

Toby Clements,  –  The one thing I will remember about 2011 is the feeling that everything leveled back out again. Since 2009 things have been a little sluggish, but  this year has been very consistant. There are normally peaks and valleys with sales, but I found myself closing deals on such a regular basis that  it’s just an expected part of my day.

Paul Goldstone,  iGoldrush –  After 15 years in the business I learned the same in 2011 as I learned in every year prior – expect change!  The most  significant change in the domain industry over the past year was of course the dramatic loss of parking revenue and the switching of gears to  web site development.  Change is progress, change is opportunity, and change is inevitable, so my advice is to expect it, accept it, and roll with  it.  In some cases change can be devastating to a company which is why I have always considered diversification an important factor in a well  balanced business plan.  There’s a lot to be said about being focused but it’s important to have multiple fires burning because you never know  when someone might walk up and pee on one of your fires.

Bill Sweetman,  YummyNames – I learned that “development” — even so-called mass development solutions —  can be a huge distraction from (and impediment to) domain sales efforts as  well as a massive time suck. If you have a large portfolio you may be better  off just parking everything.

Brian Gilbert,  Innovation HQ  –  One thing we’ve learned in 2011 is that development definitely works if  you’ve got the right plan, resources, and PATIENCE.  Our developed domains  have increased by huge percentage points across the board.  This not only  increases their value, it keeps us at lower risk since we don’t have all of  our eggs in one basket (parking).  A major part of our 2012 plan is to  continue development.

The Honorable Neil Brown QC,  UDRP Arbitrator and Mediator –  I have learned, although I knew it  before, that in the arbitration of    domain    name disputes, cases are won on the  evidence. Assertions of what  happened are not enough; what is needed is evidence of what happened and its  significance. The UDRP makes it clear that the issues that the Complainant has  to prove are factual, that they must be  proved if the Complainant is to be  successful and that they can only be proved by evidence.

Moreover, as these  proceedings are civil proceedings they must be won on the balance of  probabilities. That in itself means there must be  evidence of factual matters  that tilts the scales one way or the other so that tribunal can conclude that  one version of the  facts is probably what happened. So practitioners should  always remember , whether they are acting for a complainant  or a respondent  that their case will be won- or lost- depending on the evidence, the quality of  the evidence and how it  can help the tribunal to come to one conclusion or  another.

Eric Borgos,  Impulse Communications, Inc.  –  I learned that it takes a lot of work nowadays to buy a big domain name and develop it into a site that gets ranked well in Google. Instead, I can  make the same amount of money buying a domain and flipping it, and that involves very little work. So, I plan to decrease my domain  development and increase my domain speculation.

Josh Metnick, –  Domains that people identify with–,, etc.– are going to become worth orders of magnitude compared to the way we used  to look at domain development.

Larry Erlich – Inc. – All those spam emails that we all get from China and elsewhere? Well this year was the year that I took them seriously and actually made money by not leaving any stone unturned. In addition to selling them domains which they inquired about I have sold other domains by responding with a short email with some other names that I have available. I never did this in the past feeling that I could always identify the “real” buyers.

By the way by spam emails I don’t mean ones that are inquiring about a single domain and hiding an identity. I mean ones that are mailing out to every owner of a 3 letter or 4 letter domain. (So I get multiple ones frequently.) They are buyers. Ok so not end user pricing but still pricing I would accept. Like Glenn Gary, always be “selling”. Every inquiry is an opportunity to sell something. The premium domain they inquire about that they will never buy because of the price? Find a domain that they will buy instead.

The other thing I realized in 2011 was the following: We all get annoyed with people who “waste our time” with inquiries and don’t turn out to be the buyers that will pay the big dollars. We’ve all had these. Someone from a medium or big company that makes an inquiry that we feel could result in big dollars. They then write back and say the amount is way to high and have a nice day (or don’t write back at all). So we get pissed off.

I finally realized that in this case that we are not mad at them we are just disappointed that we got our hopes up that we could be making big dollars and that didn’t happen. Because every email we get could be the big one. And when it’s not the big one we tend to react negatively to the person sending the email as if it’s their fault that they aren’t clued into our way of thinking. We take our anger out on them when we are really made at ourselves for getting our hopes up.

Braden Pollock,  Legal Brand Marketing  –  We’re far too dependent on Google, in a variety of ways.

Mike Mann,  /  /  /  –  Still lots of money to be made with adequate work and research and helpers.

Elliot Noss, CEO  Tucows  –  2011 reinforced for me the importance of pricing. So many people overprice, but just as many underprice. There is no price elasticity in domain  names. It is all about finding the right buyer at the right time which means the focus need be on distribution and pricing “properly” which is art not  science. Maximize total revenue, not average revenue!

Karen J. Bernstein,  Law Offices of Karen J. Bernstein, LLC  –  I’ve learned in 2011 that the Anticybersquatting Protection Act and the federal trademark laws need to be changed  to make it harder for unscrupulous companies to sue unwitting domainers.  The standard needs to be raised for  granting injunctions in ACPA and trademark infringement cases when domain names are involved.  Indeed, if  domainers don’t have the money to defend themselves they may face a default judgment attaching their homes and  other large investments or just be financially run into the ground and bankrupt because the plaintiff companies will  litigate them to death.

Large portfolio domainers can be sued by any company that has the money to bring them  to court no matter how frivolous the lawsuit can be.  In 2011, my firm successfully defended a large portfolio  domainer that was the subject of a restraining order by a company for being an apparel counterfeiter when indeed  the domainer had never been in the apparel business.  All the company wanted was the domain name and they  counted on the domainer defaulting on the judgment.  It didn’t happen.  The case has since been dismissed and a  motion for sanctions has been filed on behalf of the domainer asking for the company to pay $96,000 in attorneys’  fees.  That motion is still pending.

Juan Diego Calle, Founder  .CO Registry  /  Straat Investments    –  A community of evangelists is 100x more powerful than your total marketing budget.

Kathy Nielsen,  Sedo  (These are Kathy’s personal views, not necessarily Sedo’s)  –  I learned that buyers by far prefer to buy domains that are priced.  The Buy Now (Fix Priced) domain sales continue to grow at a  very strong pace on Sedo’s network and feedback from buyers supports this buying preference.  They want to buy things now,  not 1 month from now.  They don’t want to haggle in negotiations that make no sense to them or reflect their normal buying  practices.  They are used to registering a domain, and want to buy a premium domain as easily as registering a new domain.  Price  will always be a factor, but the chances of someone buying that domain are  greatly  reduced if the domains don’t have a price.

Fred Mercaldo,  Cities Planet  – Everything takes twice as long as you think it will, and revenue is half as much as you expect!!!

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Good honest posts. Never quite understood why with all the information available to the North American domainers and therefore the hindsight time machine, they did not cover many more the TLD keywords in Europe @ Asian ? You guys had the chance and the models.

  2. Great stuff Elliot. Lol’ed at this one, then printed it out and hung it over my desk:

    “There’s a lot to be said about being focused but it’s important to have multiple fires burning because you never know when someone might walk up and pee on one of your fires.”

    Google’s been drinking a lot of water lately.

  3. @Eric – flipping domains is definitely easier than meaningful development, but the second you stop flipping the money dries up. Don’t you think development, while a lot more effort, it worth it for the recurring revenue?

  4. 1. Create your own monetization solutions.

    2. Learn, learn, learn how to do things yourself.

    3. Make sure your servers and PC’s are ultra secure.

    4. Watch for new trends and get on the waves fast.

    5. Don’t spend time on things that no longer work. Take your loss and move on.

    6. Accept the fact on average only 1 out of 10 deals you do will be winners.

    7. Invest in the highest quality domains you can afford.

    8. Do everything by email to keep time efficiency. Phone calling consumes and wastes time like crazy.

    9. It’s just as easy to pick up a $100 as it is a $1 bill. Focus on big $ sales instead of lots of little ones.

    10. Lots of folks are in dire situations. Give a helping hand as much as you can to others in need in times like these.

    Wishes For Everyone To Have Fantastic Success in 2012!

  5. Its so funny reading Kathy Nielsen from Sedo.
    She just advertse “buy it now”
    Fortunately,I watched domainsherpa`s interviews and top guys e.g. Dicker said something diffrent about buy it now- you simply leave money on the table.

  6. I like Eric Borgos’s idea of flipping strategy ie decrease the domain development and increase the domain speculation.

    It will work well to strike a good balance between these 2 flipping and development strategies in order to maximize profit.

  7. The niche that has had the highest velocity of sales and interest for me are short (8 characters or less preferably), two word .coms with meaningful keywords but not necessarily high exact searches (RunMax, PureStep, RepoZone, PressBot, etc.). I’ve invested more into this niche and it’s continued to get unsolicited end user interest so that’s where I’m focusing for 2012… though I’ll continue to have a diversified portfolio.

  8. Great post….Very useful.

    I reckon its develop a small number of really genuine business opportunity domains – and, get the gears behind them…..and, flip whatever else is profitable etc etc

    There’s no one way to manage domains, imo

  9. Really useful insights. Particularly on the issue of development vs flipping. In my view a slow $3,000 isn’t as attractive as a quick $500 – but a slow $50k is worth the wait!

  10. “…a slow $3,000 isn’t as attractive as a quick $500 – but a slow $50k is worth the wait!…”

    @ Ryan O’Meara….Nicely expressed…Puts it in perspective.

  11. Quote:

    “There’s a lot to be said about being focused but it’s important to have multiple fires burning because you never know when someone might walk up and pee on one of your fires.”

    I agree with that statement for sure ; been working on that for four years now, both Online and off. The Online world is changing so quick these days you have to be more careful to have multiple rev streams. It’s a real strength to be diversified and all domainers should be doing it. It also allows you to not have anyone put a gun to your head in biz negotiations since you can always walk.

    Wonderful post, Elliot!!!! One of the very best for sure!!! 🙂

  12. @ Michael – I have been developing domains for 17 years now, but in the past 5 years hardly any of the sites I have developed have received any traffic. I would much rather develop sites, but it is frustrating to keep coming out with site after site and then have none of them make any significant money. The several domains I flipped in 2011 made a bigger profit for me in one year than all my recently developed sites over the past 5 years.


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