“The Revolution will not be televised…you will not be able to stay home …you will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out…the revolution will be no re-run brothers…the revolution will be live.” … Gil Scott-Heron
I (along with fellow SEO´s John Andrews, Dustin Woodard, Aaron Wall, Chuck Price & Dave Bascom) attended the 2007 Domain Roundtable in Seattle . There has been a lot written about domaining recently by SEO´s…some of it complimentary, and some of it misinformed. I find domaining to be fascinating because I view it as an online extension of old-school business that just so also happens to reasonably immune from the shifting search engine algorithms. Even more compelling, the amount of money that successful domainers earn from their investments is downright scary.
Domain Names Are Assets
The parallels between Domain Names and Conventional Real Estate run deep. A domain name can be compared to “raw developable land” (which can either lay fallow or be developed). The domain name can be either “parked” for revenue or “developed” into a business.
To park a domain, a domain owner forwards the Domain DNS to a parking company. He/she than tells the parking company what type of ads to show on the page (by category, by keyword or both). The domain owner can then “optimize” the parked page by choosing a user-friendly page design and advertising content for the page for ads that both map best to the topic of the website URL and also offers the domain owner the best EPC.
Typically, parked domains get visitors and earn revenue from “type-in traffic”, where a web-surfer types the search terms into the browser without spaces (followed by a .com or other extension). However, if the parked website has previous link popularity, it might also get traffic from people following those links.
A domain owner might also do a cost-benefit analysis and decide to “develop” the domain name through site creation. Most domainers lack some if not all the skills for site development, so a true domainer will only do development with the strongest generic brands due to the cost involved.
The level of site development might somewhat depend on the intent of the domainer. Is he/she planning to hold the domain for the long-term or planning to sell? Either way, a developed site is all about “profit and loss”…that´s how a domainer evaluates the performance of his/her investment.
Some take site development one step further. For example, Mike “Zappy” Zapolin will, for some of his super-premium domains, form a corporation, hire a CEO, and build out a major business presence revolving around his generic name purchase.
Have you noticed on business shows recently that many of the interviewees are from “generickeyword.com”? Behind that business is likely a domainer trying to get maximum ROI from his/her premium domain investment.
Hopefully, most SEO´s now know that the intrinsic value of a domain name can far exceed the slight search engine benefit accrued from having the targeted keyword present in it. Each generic keyword dot com domain is unique and can have only one owner. Each will also control a consistent level of type-in traffic. Formerly, many domain owners believed domain value to be 5 to 10 times its yearly PPC revenue…however, this rule of thumb has been mostly discredited. A domain is worth what a willing buyer will pay for it and domain appraisal seems to be an inexact science.
The desire of many businesses to brand themselves with a generic dot com domain combined with the incredible scarcity of quality premium names is driving the value of them sky high…
What´s A Domainer Conference Like?
Low-key. Mellow. Relaxed. Welcoming. The business and social acumen of everyone I met was extremely high. There aren´t any Jason Calcanises in the domaining world…everybody I spoke to was very interested in SEO and how it could help domainers earn more from their investments. Also, I could not possibly imagine a group of people who were friendlier to newbies and would answer the type of questions that would have gotten me the brush-off at an SEO conference. Even when I obviously approached booths just to pick up the goodies (thanks for the t-shirt Michelle), people would still offer themselves as resources to help a domain newbie learn the industry.
Also, having been to SEO conferences, it was hard to fathom that the stars of the industry seemed so “normal”. Just from observing Frank Schilling at the conference (his keynote was extraordinary…please watch or listen to it), I would never be able to guess how incredibly successful and influential he is. Even more surprising is the level of respect and deference that attendees gave the top domainers. Sure, people chatted with them but they didn´t attract mad throngs of people looking to network or for tidbits of advice. They were allowed to orchestrate their own maneuverings during the conference and conduct their business. Could Danny or Rand walk the conference floor without gathering a crowd? I don´t think so.
Domainers know that SEO´s can add value to their investment and our overall reputation in the domaining community seems to be quite good. Even Frank Schilling mentioned in his keynote that his “Fall Traffic Initiative” would likely include an SEO component. However, we need to learn their needs and talk their language. They want to hear about ROI and Profit/Loss…they don´t care about “SEO-Speak”. An SEO also needs to know that a premium domain name isn´t just the online presence of a business…it is the business. The first premium domain screwed up by an SEO firm will kill our reputation in the domaining community…let not have this happen.
The domaining industry now is like SEO back in 2000 when I started learning search. There is still plenty of opportunity to jump in, learn the ropes, and make spectacular profits. Domain name articles are hitting local newspapers, publicizing the industry and bringing conference attendees like Trader Wayne who perceive domaining as a natural extension of web entrepreneurship. Domain conferences will soon become as crowded as search conferences if not more so. SEO´s do have a built in advantage over other industry entrants if they are willing to adapt to the rules of a new game…the high levels of intuition and perception common to top search marketers will translate well to domaining.
SEO is an excellent vehicle to get to a destination, but is rarely a destination unto itself… don´t be afraid to leverage SEO knowledge for something bigger and better.
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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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