Monetizing Domain Names

Being a typical member of the web development community I have a few domain names lying around. In my case, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 or so at any given time. A good chunk of those are actually owned by clients, but reside in my registrar accounts for management reasons, so my actual domain inventory is around 90-100.

Every single time I process a renewal fee, I can’t help but ask myself why I registered the name in the first place, how I can make some money off the name, or if I could live without the ownership of the name. In all but a rare case, I blindly pay the renewal, promising myself I’ll get something done with the name, and invariably another year passes before the cycle repeats itself.

There is of course the occasional sale of name to a third party, and 2004 has been a banner year in that regard. But the easiest option is using traffic monetizing sites to point your domains to such as Sedo and Google’s little known program for high traffic domains, DomainPark. For the most part, unless you’ve developed traffic to the URL(s) before parking them, you lack anyway to generate additional traffic and the pay-outs aren’t anything to write home about. I parked around 40 names with Sedo for 3 months or so and never topped the minimum payment threshold of $20.

Up until the last couple of weeks, I had struck upon a pretty decent homegrown system that was generating a couple dollars a day. Then the traffic took a slight hit, but the revenue nosedived, projecting to about $2 for all of September at this point.

The easy answer to the problem is Content. Developed domains inherently have the ability to generate traffic and from the traffic, revenue. I leased a dedicated server for a few months earlier this year with the plans of enough server power to host the majority of the sites while reducing my monthly hosting bills. Between my full-time development and marketing job, a little bit of freelance, and the normal demands of an active lifestyle I quickly fell behind with my content development plans.

This past week, I canceled my leased server, and have started shuttering all my unused names. While the thoughts of a publishing network, ala Nick Denton’s Gawker Media are intriguing, I’m not sure  I want to head in that direction.

I’m going to evaluate the names I currently own, and have severely restricted my acquisitions of new names. The goal is to slim down my domain inventory to a manageable level which will make the responsibility of generating content a bit easier to bite off.

Meanwhile, Network Solution’s Certified Offer Service appraises my domain inventory, in total, at over $200,000; which combined with a crisp $1 bill will get you a cup of coffee.

The adventure continues. However, if anyone wants to write me a check for $200,000, I’ll gladly transfer ownership for all of my domains. Contact me to make arrangements.

Clients are calling. I’ll be back soon!

Work has consumed me these past weeks and as such, I’m taking a temporary break from adding new content. My last post, way back on December 3rd, is partly to blame. Despite my promise of Part II of my search engine marketing report, I have since added 3 new clients to my search engine marketing services and a web development project or two. One may inquire of my services via the Contact Form, if interested – potential search engine marketing clients will receive a complimentary site analysis (for structure and keywords), link popularity report and estimated site traffic ranking.

In the meantime, my best wishes to you in this Holiday Season.

Search Engine Optimization

It is the holiday season once again, and with it comes the usual inquiries from clients and colleagues about increasing traffic to their web sites. While plenty of advertising, pay-per-click, and link exchange programs are out there, these inquiries are invariably wanting to improve search engine listings and increase the traffic that search engines provide. This is the game of search engine optimization or SEO for short.

As I sit here in Omaha, I’ve read no less than 4 news articles in local and regional newspapers and have been interviewed twice on the subject in the last month. I also heard two radio spots just this morning on my way in to the office.

Search engine optimization is simply the process of improving where a particular site ranks within a search engine for specific key words. For example, an e-commerce site built around selling tires would certainly want to be listed in the first few result if someone were to type in “buying tires online.” SEO is a cottage industry within web marketing and promotion, and is often used in conjunction with search engine marketing (SEM). Optimization specifically is referring to the techniques and processes of improving both the content and structure of a site with the end goal of improving search engine rankings. It is not submitting a site to 5,000 search engines for the low price of $79.95.

Are the efforts and costs associated with search engine optimization worth it? The answer is always yes and no. SEO is an ongoing process that often times doesn’t see immediate results. That, of course, changes from time to time with improvements to the technology that drives search engines but is the exception rather then the rule. Proper optimization techniques will often see a two or three month lag period before noticeable results appear…which means the process should have started at least two months ago to see a results in December.

Often times, if you have the ability to manage the content on your site, you have the ability to start optimizing right away. The reason is that search engines (Google, MSN, AltaVista et. al.) love content, and content that specifically stays on topic. If you site doesn’t contain much text, or doesn’t describe what you do, you know where to start. Make a list of 10 or so words or phrases that describe your business or web site. Rewrite your copy from there.

There are plenty of resources on the web dedicated to providing information on optimization; if you have the time to do so. But the value of a professional search engine optimizer comes not from having them defining your business, but from expanding and integrating your keywords and phrases. Being able to jump right into the process without investing time in a learning curve, then explaining or developing a solution to improve how those keywords are used in the site.

In the next installment, Pay-Per-Click, Directory Inclusion and Algorithms.

11/19/2002 – Expiring Domains.

I have some dormant domain names expiring in the next couple of months. I’m debating whether or not to let them expire and let the domain thieves have their way with them or to renew them again and sit on them or try to sell them. If anyone is interested, here is a partial list:

Drop me a line if you are interested.

10/14/2002 – Mistakes & Innovation

I was reminded this morning about how important it is to push towards the edge. If you are comfortable, the tendency is to leave things at the status quo. If you thrive on chaos and exploring the edge, comfort isn’t for you. Comfort is nice, stable and predictable. But for me, that is tedium ad nauseum.

“Fail Forward, Fast.” – Tom Peters

“Make more mistakes faster.” – anonymous (from a Fast Company message board post)

“Time passes unhindered. When we make mistakes, we cannot turn the clock back and try again. All we can do is use the present well.” – The Dalai Lama

The point is not to make mistakes for the sake of making mistakes, but for push the boundary between what you know or don’t know. The by-product is innovation.