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My Best Domain Purchases in 2010

Last year I did a post that got some good feedback - particularly through Twitter - regarding my best domain purchases for 2009. It's interesting to me to look back at my acquisitions, my plans, my execution and compare that with what I've acquired this year, so I'm going to continue the annual tradition by listing my best acquisitions of 2010. This list is even more scary to publish then last year as I've not been as active domaining or developing but I think I've been "active enough" to merit a list.

Here we go:

  1. VideoGames.info - low 4 figure

    This is a name I've had my eye on for over a year and finally bought it as a sort of birthday present to myself. For those that were paying attention to my post about .INFO, this here is the name that is getting a lot of my development attention

  2. MarriageHelp.com - mid 4 figure

    This is a name I was helping my father develop for his Christian Marriage Counseling information and services. We went ahead and purchased it outright this year and I'm excited about really digging in to monetization this year

  3. OurAdventure.com - ???

    I grabbed this at a GoDaddy drop auction. I think this has some great end user sale potential, and if nothing else I'll use it as a travelogue when I retire!

  4. .US backorders and aftermarket acquisitions - 4 figures total

    • Mugs

    • Fur

    • Jog

    • Yosemite

    • Blocks

    • LaminateFlooring

    • GolfShop

    • HelpDeskSoftware

    • FishingGear

    • Dozens more...

    These are names I largely picked up through the course of just a month or so of heavy drop auction action. I've added significantly to my .US portfolio this year as I'm now up to over 200 names.

  5. .TV hand reg's

    • DesktopComputers

    • DesktopWallpaper

    • CyberWeek

    • StateParks

    I'll be the first to admit I missed out on the great deals available when the .TV registry changed their premium pricing. I was *this* close to picking up some killer names but for one reason or another it didn't work out. I've got my eye on the .TV space though, so expect to see some nice .TV names in the list next year!

So here's your chance to vote!

And be sure to add your favorite purchases in the comments or just tweet me!

2011 will be the year of .INFO

It's been awhile since I've posted a full blog entry, but 2011 has me really giddy for a lot of reasons and so I've decided to start posting again. The thing that has gotten me the most excited though has got to be the strong sales of .INFO in the last 6 months. The current trend is very strong. So much so I think we'll see our first (of many) 6 figure .INFO sales made public in 2011.

If you didn't check out the Afilias 2010 .INFO report that came out earlier this month, be sure to read the whole thing here, but the most important thing to gather from the report is that .INFO grew by nearly 30% and now makes up 44% of the entire "new TLD" market. For the same reason .COM is propelled higher as new extensions are released, I believe the .INFO extension will continue to grow into it's role as the "gold standard" among new TLDs. That doesn't mean I think .INFO will overtake .COM. I do expect that .INFO will start to compete more evenly with .NET over the next couple of years and that's a trend you can already see happening today. The great news though is that there are still lots of opportunities to be had in the .INFO space.

If you look through the reported sales history of .INFO over just the last 6 months, you see over a dozen 5 figure sales with the highest reported sale being Geld.info ("money" in german) going for right around $30,000. That's a long way from 6 figures but I think the solid base of 5 figure sales means that it's not unreasonable to have certain prime keywords start to push the 6 figure mark.

While I don't have any official info on the subject, there is also the issue of the .INFO Sunrise Reallocation which went through it's RFP process in early 2010 and may mean some very interesting auctions for names that were not picked over in that phase. There is also the outstanding 1 and 2 character .INFO release which, as far as I can tell, is making good progress as well. If we can get mid 5 figure .BIZ auctions for 1 character names, I could certainly see the possibility of one or more 6 figure .INFO's.

So here's the strategy: start picking up the highest quality .INFO's you can find, but keep the sales prices on the down-low so as not to suppress the trend in market prices. There is a huge disparity between end-user and reseller pricing with .INFO right now so there are tons of deals to be had. You look at a name like Shoes.info that sold just recently for low 4 figures and know that is a mid 5 figure name to the right buyer today. Imagine what that price could look like in 3 or 4 years.

And one more note: Don't think that because I am excited about .INFO that it's the only extension in my portfolio. I always promote diversification. There are domain investors who are 99% invested in .COM, and I'm not going to knock that strategy. It's just more exposure to a single extension than I care to take. Alternative extensions and ccTLDs may be speculative, but I see more upside to a prime keyword in a relevant TLD than I do equivalently priced low to mid tier .COM names. For example our FunnyVideos.TV site is now on page 2 of Yahoo and Bing for it's keywords with very little content and practically no marketing or link building. While that may not sound all that great, we are just below Cracked.com and competing against established players that have been around for years. Price paid for FunnyVideos.TV? Low 3 figures.

But wait, wasn't this post about .INFO? Why am I talking about .TV? Well, we are currently busy behind the scenes working on our largest development project yet and it's a category killer .INFO. Stay tuned in 2011!

DevHub Reviewed ... Again

It was a year ago that I did my first review of DevHub - and came away impressed. I continued using the platform to develop a geo domain and some other product names. The more I used it, the more limitations and frustrations I found. The glitz and glamor of drag and drop site design very quickly fades and the underlying functionality of the tools you are provided starts to show some serious holes.

That's not to say I haven't had any success. In fact, I've gotten ranked for various keywords and in total my half dozen sites that weren't getting any significant traffic parked are now receiving an average of around 700 visitors a month or so the last few months. Most of that is to one site in particular - an adult toy, exact match .US domain (and largely due to Yahoo ranking it #2). And at various times, my other sites would pop up on the first page of a search engine and I'd get some nice traffic spikes. So there's traffic and it's gotten to be fairly consistent. So let's talk about the next step: revenue.

The revenue is horrible

My RPM (revenue per 1k page views) is just as bad as my worst performing parked domains. Someone else may have a different experience, but in my book, generating < $2 in revenue in a month where I had over 2k page views is just pathetic. Is it because the sites aren't optimized? Entirely possible, but honestly I don't know *how* to improve the performance because DevHub provides absolutely no metrics about where that revenue is coming from save their breakdown by CPA, CPM, CPC, etc. What I need to know is *which* products are working, which affiliate offers are producing and which ones aren't (one could argue none of them are working but I'll get to that in a second).

And then when they do break down on a daily basis where the revenue is coming from, a disturbing picture appears: the CPA is horrible! On many, many occasions, the CPA is a single penny. CPA! That means someone bought something, took an action... and my share is a whole freakin' penny. Even at a 50/50 split of Amazon CPA revenue, assuming Amazon is paying it's a mere 3-4% commission, it means that the product that was purchased had to have been worth less than a dollar! And that's assuming a very demanding 50/50 split. Honestly the split has to be a lot worse than that for those numbers to work out, but as they don't tell you the split, they don't tell you the products that were purchased, they don't tell you the ad unit that was clicked... You have no idea!

Now onto the review!

But this is a review of the newly redesigned DevHub, not a condemnation of their revenue sharing (okay, it's both!). The new look of DevHub is really fun, with lots of game design elements and "social networking" features. That is, if you define social networking features as tons of popup spam telling to you "share this on face book and twitter". The game design features are an interesting twist as you get points and coins as rewards for adding more content to your site and customizing it's layout using the same rather limited theming tools that were available before. There are least a half dozen things in the "marketplace" for you to purchase with your coins or you cold hard cash - things that were essentially available to you without having to spend your coins or cold hard cash before. This is a new feature and the marketplace just launched, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that the marketplace will eventually be flushed out. But if the marketplace is as ignored as the widgets were in the previous release, then I don't think the game concept is going to be anything but a nuisance. The good news is that you can apparently turn the game elements off, but the only setting I found to do this is in my account settings and when I tried to turn it off it said that data was required. I'm guessing in order to change the game elements, I have to also reset my password. Who knows.

In my original reviews, I identified a number of issues that bothered me regarding things like duplicate products being displayed (at varying prices), widgets not working at all, missing features (like creating my own directory site), etc. Surely, a year later and a whole new version being launched will mean that these basic problems will be addressed, right? Nope. Oh, the broken widgets aren't broken any more.. they are just gone. There are a few new features that have snuck in like the ability to include your twitter feed, but the "product selection" process is still just as broken as before. They now offer you the choice of which product feed you want to use - Amazon, Shopping.com or Pop Shops, but even inside those feeds you get duplicates. You still can't hide a product you don't want displayed either, so it becomes a frustrating game of "if I create 3 product feeds of 1 product each with just the right search keywords I'll be able to display the list of products I really want". And without dipping into your own google adsense or other ad provider accounts, you won't have any choice over the type, layout, etc of the ad unit you want to display.

To sum up

You might think I hate DevHub, but really, I don't. I do hate the closed nature of it - especially in regards to reporting, the poor revenue share, the risk of being delisted at any moment when Google finally gets sick of them, the lack of focus on making the product better and more useful (instead of the current focus on making it more "fun") and limited design options... but other than that, it's a fine platform! Really! If you want to just throw a site up and put a few monetization features on it, then it certainly works for that... I've spent less than an hour per site and those 6 hours or so of time have yielded a whopping $20 in revenue from various sources - mostly in the last 6 months. That's a yearly rate of maybe $50 - enough to cover the registration fees for those 6 domains.

Until DevHub gets serious about helping developers optimize and profit from their site, there's really no reason to invest heavily in the platform. Instead, invest in building your own solutions, buying off the shelf products and keeping 100% of the revenue for the extra effort. If nothing else, you'll sleep a lot better knowing you aren't at the whim of DevHub.

Is Google Getting Aggressive?

While reading up on my tech news tonight, I ran across a story at the Financial Times about the iPhone 4's reception problems and how they might lead to a class action lawsuit. Another day, another class action lawsuit. No big deal. As I scrolled down through the story I caught sight of a rather large ad for Storage Containers:

I wasn't sure why the Financial Times was advertising Storage Containers, but nothing seemed particularly out of the ordinary.

And then it hit me. About two weeks ago I had been doing some research via Google for a domain name that was dropping: ShippingContainers.us

I had done a few searches for products and such in that space to see if it was worth a backorder (I ended up just hand registering it) and as any good researcher does, I looked at related keywords and one of those was... you guessed it - Storage Containers.

So apparently, Google, in its infinite wisdom decided to start using it's cookies to pull out my search history and to start showing me ads based on my previous searches rather than content on the page. No problem, right? Except it took a good two weeks before it pulled that particular trick out of the bag from when I had searched on that term and while I have the typical banner blindness that most internet users have developed, I can't recall ever having such blatant use of cookies to feed ads regardless of the page's content.

In yet another coincidence, the Federal Government released new guidance that essentially removes the Federal Ban on Persistent Cookies as well as providing additional guidance for use of sites like Facebook and Twitter. You can see the full details at Federal Computer Weekly. Why are the two related? Because just as the federal government was getting comfortable with putting their foot back in the water of using helpful technologies like persistent cookies, Google may very well be screwing it up in order to make a few more pennies per page (times billions of pages!)

So has anyone else noticed an increase in Google's use of search history/cookie data lately or was this just a fluke? Until tonight, I had always just considered this as technology that was an internet marketer's wet dream, but it seems that it may turn into reality sooner than I thought.

What's my problem?

This month, Utter Domain officially turns one year old. Hundreds of hours spent writing posts, creating back links, promoting my site via Twitter and in general building the Utter Domain brand, but over the past year, with over 70 posts at fairly regular intervals, this site really has gained no traction.

Except for the traffic spikes associated with my feed readers (I love you guys!) and Domaining.com whenever I post a new entry, this site gets practically 0 traffic (not exactly 0, but close enough to 0 to not be significant). While this site has been quite interesting to work on, in terms of readership, it's not succeeded to my expectations. So, I need your help to figure out what I'm doing wrong!

Let's look at some of the issues:

1. Blogger. Okay, I get it. Blogger sucks. I've had numerous people comment that commenting is frustrating, the fact it's hosted by blogger isn't good for SEO, the template is horrible. It's essentially a done deal that this site is moving off blogger, so let's just not even bother with that.

2. Page Rank 1. WTF!? I'm sure this is partially related to blogger, templates and traffic patterns (all you domaining.com readers bounce like nobody's business), but I've got a nice post history, plenty of back links (over 120 according to Yahoo's site explorer). I really fail to see how this site is only Page Rank 1.

3. Lack of recognition. I have no problem accepting that I'm nobody (one of my favorite poems!). But brand recognition is important. Maybe my domain name is too generic. Maybe my content sucks. Maybe what I have to say doesn't match with the accepted standards (I invest in other extensions besides .com - gasp!). Maybe I don't do enough shameless self promotion about my successes. Whatever the reason, Utter Domain is not a recognized brand. Don't believe me? Check to see how many times you see my name or my blog appear on a Blog Roll.

4. Search engine rankings are pathetic. Sure, Blogger's SEO is pretty awful, page rank is a huge factor, too, but I've worked on creating relevant page titles, keyword intensive posts, deep linking, internal link building. I've used a lot of tricks, and the site only seems to get search traffic from the longest of long tail terms.

5. Lack of growth. It didn't bother me when I was posting 3 times a week and still struggling to reach a thousand visitors a month, but the fact that the situation hasn't changed in a year... well, that tells me something is fundamentally busted... I just don't know what it is.

6. Post frequency. While the frequency has tapered off some from it's high, I've chosen to post unique content at a regular, but not an extremely frequent, interval. I've averaged at least post a week, but in many cases that post count seems to be antithetical to traffic volume (ie. the more I post, the less traffic I get).

So tell me. Brutal honesty. What I have I screwed up? Is the brand salvageable? Is the content useless? Maybe it would be easier to just list the things I've done right!? :) Let me have it!

Upselling with Domain Names

One thing I really want to do this year is bundle my domain names with additional products, services, hosting and more so that someone with no skills at webdesign or marketing can get up to speed really quickly on their new domain name. This adds value to the domain but it also means that I'm building a deeper connection to my customers. I've been looking around at products and services that I could bundle and figured I'd share some of my ideas.

Domain and Webhosting Reseller Programs

I'm planning to create a storefront that includes allowing my customers to register domains and sign up for hosting. I'm not going to create this from scratch myself, of course. I'll simply purchase a reseller plan like the one from GoDaddy or possibly use Directi's ResellerClub to manage the storefront, hosting and Credit Card processing for me.

Information Products

I'm not sure if you know what "Gravity" is when it refers to ClickBank, but it basically indicates how strong a seller a particular product is. The highest gravity product at ClickBank right now is right up domain alley - Niche Blueprint 2.0. It takes a lot of the guess work and grunt work out of building out an e-commerce site. Something I know from experience can be a time consuming and frustrating process.


While this isn't the kind of service that every customer I sell a domain name to will require, there are many end users that I'll be contacting that already have a domain but they aren't making as much use of it as they should. This is really the core of my background and something I'm very good at. I'll be able to provide consulting services on a wide range of topics including SEO, website design, social networking and marketing (via Adwords, link building, etc.)

So have you upsold your domain customers with additional products and services? What seems to work best for you?

Development Plans for WirelessRouters Site

As the sale of WirelessRouters.us wasn't successful, I've moved on to development. I've had my hands full with several projects, but the ideas and plans I've put together for this new e-commerce site has really gotten my development juices flowing, so I figured I'd share a bit about my development plans here.

Scope of Work

First of all, in order to run an e-commerce site, you've got to have, well, a site... with e-commerce built in. Now, that may sound really obvious, but it it's not a simple problem to solve for minisites. While there are minisite solutions from using SmartNames.com's "e-commerce" templates, to using DevHub to quickly build up affiliate and PPC links to products in your niche, these are not really e-commerce solutions. Building an Amazon A-store is about as close as one can get to a free store front, but even Amazon A-stores have limitations.

But there are tons of e-commerce solutions out there, they just are not practical for minisites. Often they cost $30 or more a month to operate. Yahoo's Store, Shopify, etc. all have monthly costs associated with them, and when you consider running even a handful of stores, this cost structure just doesn't scale.

There are open source alternatives such as the shopping cart built in to Drupal. While I really like Drupal (or WordPress, or other CMS), there is a large overhead associated with running a full CMS site, and when dealing with minisites, there's usually little that is gained from that complexity. Also, in regards to scaling up the solution, there are caveats and issues with operating multiple sites that can cause quite a bit administraton for upgrades, security issues, etc.

In short, I think the only solution I'm going to be happy with is one of my own making. My work load has now significantly increased, but by freeing myself to design the system for exactly my own purposes, I'll have a much more narrowly focused, but easier to maintain system. I've sacrificed startup speed in order to minimize maintenance costs and I'll hopefully realize future productivity gains when I reuse the system for future minisites. In the end I think it's the right choice. I'm calling my handy little content management system MiniSiteMS.

Selling Widgets vs Selling Information

But what about the content of the site? While the MiniSiteMS system will have product pages and affiliate links, my revenue model for most of my sites is not going to rely solely on selling hardware. Part of the reason for that is hardware has such slim margins. For example I found a wholesaler who would Blind Dropship Wireless Routers, but while I could mark up the price as much as needed, I was really only getting about 3-5% off the cost. By the time you take out my expenses of operating the site, handling customer service and not to mention credit card transaction fees, there's no profit motive there. While my sales (and the percentage made for each sale) through a channel like Ebay or Amazon may not be nearly as high, they scale well for minisite development. And while owning an exact match domain helps with SEO work, driving traffic to the site through Adwords or similar marketing efforts would eat up any money I would make through my affiliate sales. So... what to do??

Sell information, that's what. While article marketing and keyword optimized content, link backs and various SEO techniques can drive relatively cheap traffic to the site, it's really a rat's race that you'll never win. What I'm looking for is a product that I can create once and sell a thousand times. While AdSense clicks make a few pennies, I want to have a product that I can promote for a few pennies via AdWords, and when it sells, I walk away with 90+ percent of the sale price in profit. I want to have a product that others can sell via affiliate links. And so if you haven't guessed yet, one of the main products that will be at WirelessRouters.us will be information products. I already have ideas for at least 3 ebooks and the topic is broad enough to scale to even more.

In terms of scaling up information products across dozens or even hundreds of minisites, there are hundreds and thousands of information products already ready already via affiliate offers at places like ClickBank. Alternatively, you can outsource the creation of the ebook by hiring a ghost writer using sources like Elance.

With a goal of $1250 in profit in 3 months (now about 10 weeks for me), and with that schedule compressed even further with the upfront development time of building my own MiniSiteMS, I'll likely have to resort to paid advertising for the site, but that'll be a subject of another post!