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Safe Domain Name Transactions

After reading an excruciatingly long thread on DNForum that deals with allegations of scamming, stolen domain names, missing funds…etc, I wanted to share some general advice when buying and selling domain names. The advice I give is only based on how I personally do business, and I recommend using an attorney if that makes you more comfortable.
Before I purchase a domain name, I always check the Whois history to make sure the name looks like it is free and clear of problems. Frequent changes in ownership, different/inconsistent email addresses or phone numbers, and incorrect-sounding information always ring bells in my head and requires further checking. I also like to search using Google and the domain forums to see if the name has ever been in a dispute or had “issues.” Because I mostly

NY Times: Direct Navigation Traffic is Best

An article in the New York Times confirms what most domain investors have said for years – direct navigation type-in traffic yields the most valuable website visitors. Based on a study performed by Internet marketing company Engine Ready, the article compares direct navigation traffic to search engine traffic, both paid and organic. While comparing the value between organic search versus paid search, the article mentions that neither is has the edge when it comes to valuing traffic:

That honor goes to the people who arrive at a site by typing its Web address directly into their browsers or clicking on a bookmark. Such visitors, who tend to be repeat customers, linger the longest, spend the most money, and are the most likely to “convert” to buyers, doing so on 3.3 percent of their visits.

Read the rest of the article on the New York Times website.

Letter to My Senators

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One of the best things about living in this country is that we have the ability to appeal to our elected officials in the hopes of having a proposed bill revised before it is written into law. The proposed Snowe Bill (S. 2661) has the potential to severely damage web-based small businesses (and any company that owns a website/domain name), and I am not going to stand idly. The Internet Commerce Association has information on contacting your local elected officials to express your concern about the bill, and I strongly recommend you do so if the bill will impact you. In addition to financially supporting the ICA, I have also emailed my senators, and I am going to send a letter via USPS as well.
Below is a copy of the letter I sent to my senator in New Hampshire, US Senator John E. Sununu. I fondly remember being introduced to his father (former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu), who was very concerned about small business growth in the state of New Hampshire.   Like his father, Senator Sununu is also a proponent of small businesses in New Hampshire, and I hope the Senator will read up on my concerns and take action to alleviate them. This bill will impact anyone who owns a domain name or website if a larger company wants to take it from them. We need to make sure the bill does not pass in its current form.
—-
Dear Senator Sununu,
I was born and raised in Nashua, New Hampshire, but currently reside in New York City.   In 2006, I created a small business buying, developing and selling domain names, and my company (Top Notch Domains, LLC) is currently registered and located in New Hampshire. I do all of my banking in New Hampshire, and I hope to move back to the Nashua area once my fiancee finishes her graduate degree in New York.   In November 2007, I was able to leave my job at American International Group (AIG) as a Senior Marketing Manager, to focus completely on my domain development and investment business.   I am really living the American Dream.
Aside from always voting in local and national elections, I am relatively uninvolved in politics.   However, I am writing to you today because a bill was recently proposed that in all likelihood will have dire consequences on the domain investment industry and my business, if it passes with the current language.   Senator Snowe recently introduced a bill called the Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act (S. 2661) .   While the name of the bill certainly sounds consumer friendly, the law itself opens the gateway for large corporations and/or various government agencies to seize control of domain names currently owned by small business owners like myself, which have absolutely nothing to do with phishing or other deceptive or fraudulent practices.
The two major targets of the bill, phishing and cybersquatting, are both already illegal in the US or against ICANN/WIPO policy.   Over 85% of WIPO cases are won by the complainant, and 99% of all Lanham Act cases are won by the plaintiff, evidence that the systems in place are working. Additionally, most people who are committing these fraudulent acts live in Europe, Asia, and Africa, beyond the reach of the US justice system. I am very much in favor of eliminating phishing and cybersquatting, but I don’t think this bill will have any impact on these illegal practices.
The main concern I have is that the proposed S. 2661 bill would also make it unlawful for any person to use a domain name in connection with the display of a webpage or an advertisement on a webpage, if the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the name or brand name of a government office, nonprofit organization, business or other entity.   As the owner of the domain names Lowell.com and Salinas.com (among other generic domain names), I am very concerned that this could present the opportunity for potential litigation against these city domain names, even though owning them now is perfectly legal.
On my websites, I make it very clear that each is completely unconnected to the city government to ensure that consumers are aware that my websites are commercial ventures.   My websites are informational guides to the cities, and I am very concerned that both of these cities could conceivably try to seize them, even though both city governments own their respective .gov extension. The language in this bill could put all my hard work and business plans in jeopardy.   I have spent a considerable amount of time and money purchasing and developing these domain names into sustainable businesses, and I believe the language of the bill will enable others to put me out of business as the risk of owning these domain names would be too great.
Senator Sununu, I am asking you not to cosponsor S. 2661 or to vote in favor of it in its current form.   I am asking that you oppose this legislation until its redundant, unbalanced, and unnecessary trademark-like provisions have been removed.   The Internet Commerce Association, has put out a well-written paper on how this bill will impact my entire industry, and they are willing to work with you and Senator Snowe to revisit the language.   I would sincerely appreciate your review of the ICA website and your efforts to improve the language of the pending Snowe bill.   If the bill passes as is, I am afraid that I will lose my business.   Please help.
ICA Position Paper:   http://www.internetcommerce.org/Snowe_Bill_Threatens_Domain_Name_Registrants
Best Regards,
Elliot J. Silver
Top Notch Domains, LLC

DNJournal: Oversee.net Founder Lawrence Ng

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As usual, Ron Jackson posted a great article about Oversee.net co-founder and CEO Lawrence Ng at DNJournal. Oversee.net has seen tremendous growth with Ng at the helm, and much of the company’s success can be attributed to Ng’s upbringing and friendship/working relationship with Fred Hsu. Oversee.net has become one of the leading domain companies, with a foothold in nearly every aspect of the domain investment industry, including domain monetization, domain auctions, domain conferences and domain development. Not only that, but Oversee.net also owns 600,000 of their own domain names.
While many companies that have large portfolios of domain names attempt to steer clear of the “domainer” or “domain investor” label, Oversee.net seems to embrace it. The company is a co-founder of the Internet Commerce Association, and is actively involved with domain-related advancement. Aside from using Moniker as my registrar and attending DomainFest, I haven’t done business with Oversee.net yet. From what I have been reading about the company, I am inclined to look into opportunities to work with them.
Please see the rest of Ron’s article at DNJournal.com.

Kevin Discusses CTR

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Kevin posted an interesting article about analyzing your own click through rates rather than relying on an outside source to do it for you.

“It’s time for everyone to realize there is no stats uniformity between all the ppc providers, nor the click rev programs at G & Y. Trying to figure out and compare programs is simply a waste of time. You have to create your own analysis methods and bottom line everything.

Kevin is pretty good with numbers, and his post is an interesting read. I’ve noticed differences in how stats are reported between parking companies, stat counters, and server logs. While the bottom line is always the revenue generated, it’s important to know the actual click through rates so you can determine if you are presenting your visitors with relevant information.
Read the rest of Kevin’s article on his blog.

Getting Started With Development

Of course it is probably unrealistic to develop all domain names in your portfolio, assuming you have a decent amount of names like I have. But for those of you who are inclined to dip your foot in the development pool and at least give it a shot with a few of your names, I will be posting advice from a few domain developers throughout the next couple of weeks. Development is difficult, but it is manageable.
I don’t think the domain investment industry is dead or dying at all. I just think it’s time we start thinking about ways to profit from our domain name investments in ways other than parking and selling.

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