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Using Google Auto Fill Menu to Mine Domain Names

Picture 1Before acquiring or hand registering a domain name, I usually do some research on the term in Google. I want to see how many results there are, how many advertisers there are, and whether companies use the term in domain names associated with the product.

When doing my search, I have the Google auto-fill menu enabled, and Google provides a useful list of related searches as I am typing. I sometimes use the results that show up in order to get domain registration ideas. For example, when typing in USB, I get the following options: USB Hub, USB Flash Drive, USB Cable, USB Wireless Adaptor…etc.

Oftentimes, the results are peripheral products that I didn’t knew existed, and sometimes the .com domain of the phrase/term is available to register. When Google first started using the auto fill feature, I had it turned off. However, I’ve since turned it back on and used it to mine domain names.

Stop Looking for End Users & Sell to Other Domain Investors

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Stop!Brian from TeenDomainer.com has a post today that brought up some good points about selling domain names to end users rather than to other domain investors. He is right in some respects, but that isn’t the full picture. My primary clients are and always have been other domain investors, and it makes sense for my business.

If I buy a domain name for $10,000, my goal is obviously to sell it for more than $10,000. I can either try to hit a home run and sell it to an end user for much more, or I can settle for a single and sell it much more quickly but at a lower profit margin. While many people like to hit home runs and make huge sales, it can be more lucrative over the long run to make more domain investor to domain investor sales.

If I sell the domain name to an end user for $20,000, that’s a great 100% profit, but it could take months to move it. However, if I sell it to another domain investor for $12,500 within a week, I now have a profit in my pocket and the ability to buy an even better domain name with that base amount.

Yes – selling to end users can be much more profitable. However, you need to consider your time finding the end user and closing the sale into that equation. I generally find it less appealing to sell to end users as a result. My question for Brian is, how many end user sales have you made, and has it been worth your time? This isn’t a knock, but I have been down that road and generally find that end user sales take up much more time and have a far greater rejection rate.

You Can Start Today and Still Be a Successful Domain Investor

FlipI strongly believe that a person could learn about the domain industry right now, do some research, make a small investment, and make a profit. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that only people who started 10+ years ago can have success in this business. I also don’t think you necessarily need hundreds or thousands of dollars to start.

If I had to start all over again today, and I was only willing to spend $50, I think I could still make a profit. It would certainly take time to make an impactful amount of money, but that is the same as just about everything else.

So how would I start today with $50? I would focus on two things.

1) I would look around to find companies that own a whole lot of domain names in their vertical(s),   and I would see what types of names they own using a Reverse IP tool or by looking at the names that reside on their nameservers. There are quite a number of companies that own hundreds or thousands of long tail domain names, and I would try to find unregistered names that are similar to what they already own. One company that immediately comes to mind is Vacations To Go, although I haven’t sold them any names.

Before registering the names I found, I would do some research to find out who at the company would buy the names. If the company is small, I would contact the CEO. If it was large, I would probably not waste my time. I use the company’s website management page, tools like LinkedIn and Facebook, information on press releases, Whois information, and other sleuthing tools to find the CEO or owner. Once in touch, I would ask if the company is currently buying good domain names. Nothing more, nothing less.

If the person on the management team says the company is buying, I would then register 3 of the best domain names I could find from my previous research. I wouldn’t try to hit a home run and name a ridiculous price on these names. If I paid $10, I would probably offer them for $150/each. It’s a huge profit margin, but not too expensive for the company. It’s also not an amount that would require a lengthy contract or ownership confirmation, which would reveal the recent registration date. He or she will just buy if they like the names. If the company isn’t interested, I would list them on a place like DNForum for $40 just to recoup the investment and move on.

The key is to make sure the domain names make sense and are actually good names that a company would want to buy.

2) I would do geo-keyword research to find unregistered geo profession .com domain names and email people in those professions. I would offer to sell the names for $150/each, again because the price isn’t too high that it would cause someone to take a lot of time to think about. There are a ton of solid names that have been dropping, and I think a person with some time could do well by registering a few and contacting people who are in the field. Many of these types of names were coveted by the professionals in the field, but they were previously owned by large domain companies. You can now buy these names at registration fee, and try to re-sell them at a profit.

Take a look at your local phone book and see what types of urls lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, and other professionals are using, and see if you can find similar names for other cities. I know a large law firm in my hometown that uses NashuaLaw.com as their domain name. I also know there are a bunch of CityLaw.com names unregistered.

There is still a lot of money to be made in this business, whether you started 10 years ago or 10 minutes ago.

Using WhyPark to Create Mini Portals to Sell or Generate Revenue

For SaleI have about 30 CityRealEstateAgent.com and CityRealEstateAgents.com domain names in my portfolio for cities from throughout the United States (such as JacksonRealEstateAgent.com). I listed them for sale in a couple of places, but they didn’t sell to domain investors. They also don’t get a lot of type-in traffic, so the revenue is light. Because they’re very targeted for long tail terms that get searches, the only way I will get traffic is via search, which won’t happen with parked domain names.

This week, I will be working with Craig Rowe of WhyPark to rapidly build sites on these domain names. I plan to use several widgets on the sites, including some provided by Zillow. In addition, I will use the automated content provided by WhyPark, and supplement this with some unique content about each city (I will be working with a copywriter for this). The goal is to get listed in search engines for each search term, which will drive some traffic to the site.

While I don’t anticipate these domain names will make a lot of PPC revenue, I do have an ulterior motive for this project. I plan to email 10-15 real estate agents from each city, offering their related domain name for sale. I will use a version of my end user sales email.

In addition, I will have a link on each page for agents to learn about advertising information. I will offer banners and/or text links, which will be fairly inexpensive for advertisers, but it will be a revenue stream from where there once was none. The only downside is that if I get an advertiser, I can’t sell the name without a problem, so it will have to be enough of a revenue stream to make it worth while.

Assuming the domain names rank well in the search engines because of the unique content, they will have more value to real estate agents. Instead of discussing the theoretical ranking increase for a keyword domain name, I will be able to prove it by saying, “JacksonRealEstateAgent.com ranks higher for the search, ‘Jackson real estate agent’ than your website, despite the fact that you’re a real estate agent from Jackson.

As with everything I do, I will let you know how the sites perform. I will be looking for the following things:

  • Search engine ranking in Google and Bing
  • Advertising inquiries/advertising revenue
  • Domain Sales
  • PPC revenue

WhyPark makes it pretty easy to add widgets and content, but I am going to ask Craig to provide a tutorial later on in the week for dummies like myself who probably wouldn’t be able to figure it out on the first effort.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/penguincakes/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

End of the Year Domain & Business Tips

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checklistThere are three weeks remaining in 2009, and before you know it we will be ringing in the new year. As the year draws to a close, now is a good time to take care of some housekeeping type of things before the final day of the year. I always uses the last few weeks to do a number of things to close out my books and to prepare for the new year, as many people focus less on work and more on celebrating the holiday season.

Here are a few recommendations that you might find beneficial as you prepare to begin the new year.

Make sure your record books are in order.

Set aside at least a couple of days to go through your records, making sure all of your sales, acquisition, revenues, expenses, donations, and other financial records are in order and recorded. Instead of waiting nearly four months for tax time, if you do it now, you will be thankful. You can also set up your record books for next year, so you can be as organized or better organized in the coming year.

Spend money on things you need.

If you’ve had a good year financially, now might be a good time to buy a computer, desk, or other business-related supplies that you can expense in the current year. Pay for airline tickets in advance and/or conference passes in 2009 so you can take the tax write-off now. The best recommendation I can make is to speak with an accountant who is familiar with business taxes and get your records in order soon.

Calculate and pay estimated taxes.

Although I track my estimated taxes throughout the year, I know some people who don’t and they wait until the last possible minute. Again, this is something you need to speak with an accountant about.

Check your landing pages.

We’ve all heard that parking is down, but have you checked to make sure your biggest producing landing pages are correctly targeted and the theme is related to the domain name? I don’t spend a lot of time checking during the year, but I will spend some time seeing if I have names that aren’t getting the desired click through rates.

Renew your domain names.

Make sure your domain names are set to auto-renew and the names you want to keep all have enough time remaining on their registration. The end of the year is a hectic time, and things can slip through the cracks. Make sure you don’t lose any domain names unintentionally as a result.

Keep your credit cards up to date.

The end of the year is also a good time to update your credit card records on file with your registrar. Since many people have the auto-renew function activated, it’s important that the credit card on file is still valid. Now’s a great time to check to make sure you’re still good to go.

Checklist image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adesigna/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Things I Would Have Done Differently on My GeoDomain Names

Its been over a year since I developed my geodomain names, including Burbank.com, Lowell.com, and Newburyport.com, and although I’ve shared quite a bit about my development efforts, I’d like to share things I wish I had done that I will try to do on future projects. As the song goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now…”

1.) Used a content management system like WordPress or Joomla. This would have made updates much quicker and easier. I could publish articles immediately or have them post some time in the future. I could easily add new features and functionality using plugins. There are just too many advantages to a CMS to name.

2.) Determined each site’s identity before launch. Newburyport is a small town, but they have 3 newspapers. I should have focused entirely on tourism and skipped the news content. On the other hand, there aren’t enough local news sources in Lowell or Burbank. Based on what you determine your site’s focus will be, that should dictate the layout and design.

3.) Chose who will be writing content and how often. I either write my own news articles (mostly about special events) and publish press releases from local organizations. This takes a lot of my time, although it drives a considerable amount of traffic. Before you start, determine if you will be the writer or if you will hire journalists or copywriters. Even posting press releases is time consuming – especially without a CMS. Weigh the traffic reward vs. the effort and figure out how much its worth to your site to have regular, fresh content. Keep in mind that people want to read interesting things related to the community, so it’s probably not wise to hire a copywriter who doesn’t know the area. Additionally, there are probably legal issues with re-writing a news article from the local paper – especially if it’s a smaller city with one newspaper.

4.) Met with local newspapers in person.   It may have been mutually beneficial to meet with the local newspapers in the cities where my sites are located to see if we could work together to promote each other’s site. With my non-tourism names where I don’t write news articles (or don’t plan to write them) I would want to offer their RSS feed links on my home page (opening in a new window), in exchange for links back to my sites. I don’t know if this effort would work, but meeting in person is usually more beneficial than an email exchange.

5.) Used a calendar system that publishes events on its own pages. I started with a calendar that lists all events on one page and has popups when you hover over a date. This didn’t allow indexing in Google. I should have worked with calendar software that did what I needed out of the box. I am still having some issues, although they are being addressed.

6) Allowed businesses to create listings in Yellow Pages or manage their listings. I opted to hand code the Yellow Pages content (see this example for Lowell Yellow Pages) instead of using a database. I didn’t allow businesses to sign up or edit listings automatically because I didn’t have any experience in this area and didn’t want spam or to have to worry about processing payments. Now that I am more comfortable with this, I am regretting the decision to do it the way I did it.

7.) Been more aggressive about hiring a sales person. I was very passive about hiring a local sales person and didn’t make a great effort to hire someone. I had someone in Lowell, but a few days after he agreed to work on the site, he had a family emergency so things didn’t work out. Needless to say, I am not nearly making as much money as I should be making, although it’s in the 4 figures a year for each site (except Newburyport.com) right now. I have been far too passive about hiring a local advertising representative and/or seeking out advertisers on my own.

8.) Bought domain names in cities in which I am more familiar. Lowell.com and Newburyport.com were good strategic buys. I will probably be moving to the Boston area in a year or two. Burbank.com was a good domain acquisition, but it’s not as easy for me to get out there as often as I should. Lowell and Newburyport are a few hours away from me by car, and about 45 minutes apart from each other.

These are the most important things I can think of when considering what I would do differently. Hope this helps you as you begin or continue to develop – or as you are looking to buy a geodomain name.

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