Once part of the 1980´s Los Angeles Music Scene and closely aligned with the band Guns & Roses (he is holding a wine glass in this picture), Stephen is now a Domain Consultant living in Portland, Oregon.
1) Please give us your background and tell us how you became a Domainer?
I have to admit that after an associate of mine, Darryl Brooks, the husband of the author of “The Domain Tax Guide“ Sandy Brooks ( http://www.domaintaxguide.com - she´ll be speaking at Domainfest in 2008 - she´s brilliant), sold a domain for $150,000, I freaked and said “here´s where the money really is.” At the time, I was a live event producer in the fashion industry. However, I left that behind and started buying domains for a college web portal company I started with a few other investors in 1999. The bubble was about to burst in the internet, but not for domains (if you were smart.). We had an email service that utilized catchy domains, more slang style that “defined” the user, and the user could “rent” an email address for a year using a domain that defined them. An example would be “motocrossers.com ” or “snurf.com”. I ended up buying about 1500 domains, all descriptive of people´s interest, hobbies and attitudes, and most were used as email addresses for our customers. So, I immediately saw the value of domain names in 1999. That value was in their “use” as opposed to “resale” or “aftermarket” value. Then in early 2005, Bulkregister.com hired me to redesign their domain management system and to monetize their domain “access” and “control”. My team evaluated over 2 million domains, purchased 15,000 domains and appraised over 30,000. We knew we had done a pretty good job when Enom bought Bulkregister in June 2006, including all the domains we had purchased and appraised. I then was hired by Snapnames to set up their appraisal system and at the same time was hired by Name Intelligence, Inc ( DomainTools.com) to be the Executive Producer of theDomain Roundtable Conference 2007.
2) What traits make a particular domain name valuable?
I always go with the generic descriptive quality of a domain first. Does it describe a niche product/service in under 15 characters? Great! Grab it! Someday soon, all companies will be scrambling to match their catalog products with domain names in the .com variety. If they can´t get them, they´ll go down the TLD´s in this manner if they´re smart: .com, .org, .info, .net (careful there), .mobi, .us. I´m leaving out the ccTLD´s because I´m not an expert in that area, other than saying, get a one word, less-than-7-character domain name that appears more than 2million times on google, could be good buy in any TLD.
The next thing I look for is short, goofy domains that you can pronounce but don´t really mean anything. I have a few, such as “klood.com”and “trickies.com”. Who knows what new toy or game will arrive wanting that name? Think ahead if you are a “gambler” (the real word for “investor”) and try to anticipate trends, moods, needs, and ideas for products and services and match the domains to those areas.
3) How can SEO make a domain portfolio more valuable?
My experience with SEO is that it´s very hard, and most people involved in learning it well or consulting for others are damn patient and more damned smart than I am. The difference in a domain that is parked for traffic revenue and one that is minimally built out for stickiness is the SEO strategy. I EXPECT anyone who is going to build their website and strengthen the power of their domain value to invest in SEO prep and maintenance (P&M) of their website. The difference between the value of a domain that has average recognition qualities with no SEO and the same domain WITH SEO could be in the thousands of dollars, and in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars.
4) SEO & Domaining seem to be converging. Why is that?
More domainers are frustrated at the lack of knowledge business has in owning keyword generic domains. The most likely solution to a domainer with a domain that they know a brick and mortar company should be paying them $10,000 for but isn´t, is -- spend $3,000 on the domain to build a small website and kick in some SEO expertise to push up it´s numbers. If you have a smart domain and a neat idea, you´d be surprised how many returning customers you will get, and how many NEW customers will arrive by just a little jump in your PR.
SEO and domainers, to me, are like butter and eggs. Each has their own qualities, but mixed together, you can make all sorts of great desserts. In fact, most great desserts start with butter and eggs!
5) Domain names can be parked or developed. Can you explain the advantages & drawbacks of each strategy?
Whoa big boy. That´s my money maker you´re trying to tap. Get your own keg! In a nutshell, if you park your domain with some of the great parking services, you´re dividing your income with two other entities (the ad aggregator and the parking service) and you´re fairly limited in the monetization avenues. However, if you decide to take a domain that gets at least 1000 typeins a month and develop it, using SEO as part of your budget, you´re going to have products to sell, ad links, banners, information to provide, bookmarking enhancement, viral power, and a myriad of ways to squeeze dollars out of that website, all under your control. Sounds like fun, huh! Think of writing an ebook on a particular subject you´re experienced in, and selling it on your relevant website for $9.99. The ebook costs nothing to sell. You sell 30 a month. That´s $300 a month, which is $3,600 a year. Now, if you had 10 websites doing this, you´re looking at $36,000 a year, and it´s not that hard to do. Why not get 20 domains doing this for $72,000 a year? Hire a two person team to maintain the websites, and sit back on the beach in your condo doing nothing but sipping margaritas and mojitas while you bank $50,000 a year.
6) One basic domain purchasing rule of thumb is not to buy domain names with hyphens. Can you give us some others?
I get paid a lot to provide this info to my clients. Open your wallets and I´ll start squawking. I´ll give you one other no-no, and also tell you why the "no hyphen" rule has exceptions.
First, don´t buy domains that have more than one numeral in them, such as “zero zero one three beebop.com”Exceptions to this are “360”, “123”, “247”, “4” or “2”. The hyphen rule applies in most cases except for EXTREME POPULAR PRODUCTS. So if you had “Car-rental.com”that would be a valuable domain. Or “Music-store.com”. This only applies to TWO WORD PHRASE DOMAINS OF EXTREME POPULARITY. So “free-poker.com” is good, and “Buskerville-Hills-Biscuits.com” is bad.
7) Can you give us practical definitions of cybersquatting / typosquatting? How can a good faith domain purchaser best protect themself against incidental infringement?
If you´re thinking of buying a domain that has a clear Trademark word in it, such as “porsche” or “dodge”, forget it. Especially anything with the word “windows” in it. I´ve heard of cases where window washers were questioned about using the term “windows”. Anything that has a TM behind it, leave it out of your portfolio. You don´t need it anyways, there are plenty of dumb companies out there that still haven´t grabbed their own catalog definitions of their products/services in a generic sense. (Tip: read a company product catalog, and steal the ad agency´s description of the product that applies itself as “generic”, such as “saltwaterpump.com”. I swear I built 15% of my portfolio on just visiting online catalogs of companies. They´re going to want those domains someday. And YOU will have the power to say “Ummm... who thinks owning this category killer domain is worth $10,000?”. A nice profit from a $8 investment. As far as typos, good grief. I´ve tried to play that game but too many people have beat me to it. I truly think the guys who are making a killing on these typos are obsessed and compulsive to think of every dagnabbed possibility of a word or phrase that people will MIS-TYPE that domain. More power to them. I don´t waste time trying to hunt them down anymore. That game is closed. On the same subject, I also think efforts by large companies to “protect their trademarks” by going after typos is a weak argument. You can´t protect a TM because someone mistyped your company domain. How is “fird.com”like “ford.com”? Or why would Neiman & Marcus think they can prevent someone from owning “Niemenmatkus.com”??? Some of the complaints I´ve seen filed for TM protection of typos is ridiculous. That´s why I steer clear of anything that gets close to infringing on TMs. (if possible)
8) What is a UDRP and what should you do if somebody files one against you?
A UDRP is a filing with ICANN to challenge the validity of ownership of a domain by a person who another person (or company) thinks they shouldn´t own. It costs around $1500 to file a complaint. The acronym UDRP stands for “Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy”. If one is filed against you, seek an attorney. John Berryhill would be my first choice.
9) Can you briefly describe the Cowboys.com controversy & explain why this was a watershed event for the Domaining industry?
LOL - Todd, you would hit me with that one. A close associate of mine was involved in “resolving” the “Cowboys.com” domain issue - he and his pals bought the domains after the Dallas Cowboys... hahahaha... bid on the domain... *snicker*... for about $275,000... muuuhahahaha...*wipes tear from eye*... in a live domain auction held by Moniker at a TRAFFIC conference early this year. Looked like a done deal. But then the Dallas Cowboys representative... *giggle*... actually... oh dear god... thought that... and this is straight from the word of the Domainer Coffee Break Gossip Crew, the domain he bid on, Cowboys.com, was for sale for ... wait, I have to hold my breath to get rid of the hiccups. Okay.. .whew... this guy from the Dallas Cowboys thought the bid was “275.00” as in “two hundred and seventy five dollars”. Rumor allegedly has it that when the organization found out that the amount was really in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for ONE DOMAIN THAT DESCRIBED THEIR TEAM PERFECTLY, they begged to bow out of the DEAL!!! This is rumor only, don't know if it's true .
What I do know is true is that Eric Rice formed a “posse” and saved the domain by combining cash forces to buy it after the “truly cowheaded” thinking of the Dallas Cowboys backed out of a great deal on an excellent domain.
10) What will the domain marketplace be like in 5 years?
Todd, you don´t want to know. Imagine your greatest sensation right now. Lean back in your easy chair, sip your favorite beer, dream your sweetest dream, and then multiply that by 100 times. We´re in the infancy of a great land grab in the virtual world that EVERYONE is now living in.
“LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION”…Rick Schwartz
If anyone needs any detailed consulting or advice about how to enter into the exploding domain industry and get a piece of the pie, they can reach me or read my posts at http://www.successclick.com. Make a comment there - "please"- the blog is about a month old. I need meat in there!!! You can reach me at successclick @ gmail.com
Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.
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