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How to Run Your Domains as a Business

How to Run Your Domains as a Business

I recently had a great time speaking at DomainFest in Fort Lauderdale. It was more of a chat than a formal session and it allowed for me to share some of my experiences in the business of domain names. I thought that I’d share some of what was covered in this article as it could benefit many readers.

The first lesson in business is really simple, revenue less expenses equals profit. In my experience, in their love for their domains an incredible number of domain investors forget this simple equation. They have a little story about how they acquired or registered each of their domains and like Gollum from “The Lord of The Rings” they constantly say, “my precious”.

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Yes, your domains are precious but if you forget the fundamental business equation then you’re not running a business, you’re enjoying a hobby. That’s fine to do but don’t expect to get business outcomes if you aren’t running your portfolio as a business. If you are running a business then you may have to drop a few domains into “Mount Doom”.

As much as I love my domains I’ve discovered that my wife loves my bank account far more. As she so lovingly puts it, “It’s very hard to cook a domain and serve it to the kids for dinner”.

The second mistake that many domainers make is to focus on the revenue side of the business to the exclusion of all else. These domainers are always holding out for the ultimate sale which is going to pay off the mortgage and allow them to sip margaritas on a far off beach. Seriously, for many of your domains you have more chance of winning the lottery than getting your asking price. My advice, get realistic with your pricing.

I was speaking to a domainer this past week and they were at their wits end because they had only sold a couple of domains in the past few years. They absolutely believed that their domains were worth millions. Here’s the problem, when the market tells you that your prices are too high then you can either listen or continuously fund the renewals out of your own pocket. It's your choice.

The biggest problem with the market is that it’s what we all live and die by. Promises and wishes are great but unless you actually convert a deal then they are pointless. I’ll quote my wife as she reminds me time and time again, “The deals not done until the cash is in the bank!” I couldn’t agree with her more.

If you aren’t selling your domains then either examine the price or your business model. For example, most domain sales are aimed at the small to medium sized business….I don’t know any businesses of that size with a spare $20K to spend on a domain. I know plenty that have $2K or $500 per month though!

Let’s get back to our equation and the other little factor that we have to consider, that is, expenses. Expenses go much, much further than renewal fees. Please, oh please, don’t forget to count the cost of your time. If you value your time at zero dollars then don’t be surprised when other people do so as well and waste a whole lot of it.

The time spent renewing your domains, keeping track of any PPC revenue and ensuring nameservers are set correctly is a direct cost to your investment. By the way, around 10-15% of your domains have incorrect DNS settings – if you don’t believe me then go and check. While you’re at it, don’t forget the costs of your accountant, any legals, bookkeeping etc. You may soon discover that your profit takes a significant hit.

Speaking of profit…..never get confused of the difference between cash in your bank account and profit. Just have a chat with the tax man and I’m sure that they’ll educate you on the difference. I’ve seen many domainers spend their cash only to forget about the fact that they need to pay their taxes.

Some of the hidden value in a portfolio can also be access via how you treat your domains for taxation purposes. My recommendation is to get some really good advice on this for your jurisdiction. I hate to say it but your little local accountant is unlikely going to cut it….there are just so many variables when it comes to domains.

For example, are they assets, expenses, contract rights or and expiring contract like an insurance agreement? If they are an asset then how is it that they can potentially be taken away from you? All good questions for an accountant in your own country.

Now that you have the most basic business equation under control let’s take a look at the next step….more on this later.

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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Recent Comments
whizzbang
this is great advice for crap domains like Whizzbangsblog.com
10 November 2015
mgilmour
Many years ago I founded whizzbangsblog off the back of my reputation in the forums under the pseudonym of whizzbang. it was a gre... Read More
11 November 2015
mgilmour
Couldn't agree with you more....but the market is what the market is. The challenge is to educate the market and create a competit... Read More
11 November 2015
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Practicing What I Preach!

Practicing What I Preach!

Why is it that the lights at an electrician’s house don’t work, taps malfunction at a plumber’s and domainers seem to forget why they bought their domains? At the recent domain conference in Florida I found myself sharing about domains and I thought to myself, “It’s about time that I reviewed my own portfolio!”

Escrow.com

Too many of us are so busily acquiring domains, working on projects or just having a good time that we risk forgetting that we’re actually running a business. Unlike a hobby, a business needs to have an outcome that involves some sort of profit….and in many cases it’s really simple to generate but we just don’t seem to bother.

Take me for example. A few days after they poured me off the plane (it’s a 30 hour journey from Fort Lauderdale) I began working through my personal domain portfolio and noted beside each of them what business model I was applying to them. This isn’t really that hard as there are 4 primary business models to think about.

1.      Traffic domains – revenue comes from domain traffic

2.      Stock turn domains – selling the domains for around $X,XXX

3.      High value domains – selling domains for $XX,XXX+

4.      Development

The next thing I did was contact Chris Leggatt at domain holdings and said, “Hey Chris, how’d you guys like to broker gx.com.au?” It’s a two letter com.au that would be great for a forex website as it could stand for “global exchange”. I’ve had the domain for years I thought that it was about time I did something with it or sell it off to someone that will.

I then looked at another portfolio that had about 30 three and four letter .com/net domains in it that once again I’d been happily renewing year after year. I called up Tessa Holcomb at Igloo (like Chris, she’s an awesome broker) and passed these across to her. If you’re interested in these domains then reach out to her at “sales at igloo.com”.

Making sure that my traffic domains were looked after was a breeze….after a review, I handed them all over to ParkLogic. Even though I’m one of the founders of ParkLogic, let me say that I eat my own dog food….!

The developmental domains are already secure in various businesses that are progressing forward quite nicely (whizzbangsblog.com is one of them).

So once the brokers have completed (or not) a series of transactions I will just move through my list. Anything that doesn’t have a business model gets rejected and dropped.

What am I actually doing here? I’ve essentially outsourced all of my domain management to experts in their fields. I’ve been in the industry for way too many years and there’s one thing that I’ve learned….don’t try and do everything yourself! Speak to experts in their fields and get them onboard working for you.

I will unabashedly say that I’m an expert in traffic monetisation….there’s very little I don’t know about how to squeeze every last penny out of domain traffic. Although I also know quite a lot about selling domains I pass the challenge onto experts who do this day-in and day-out. This will maximise my sales and also frees up my time to focus on other opportunities.

I said it at the Florida conference that one of the problems that domainers often have is that they value their time at $0. Don’t fall into this trap…..outsource your different tasks to experts and move on. Whatever you do….don’t be like the electrician and plumber!

Have a great weekend!

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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Marketing With No Money - Part 7

Marketing With No Money - Part 7

So it’s been a few weeks since my last post about how I’m marketing my science fiction book, Battleframe. I’m using this experience as a case study for marketing without spending any money. Many of the lessons learned are directly applicable to any online business. So what’s been happening?

I had a bit of a road bump with Amazon where they had a bug in their system that effectively delisted my book and this resulted in zero sales for about five days. This wasn’t too good but after a brief email exchange they returned Battleframe back to the shelves for sale….thank goodness!

Escrow.com

I’m now linked into a number of author communities and taking part in the various discussions. This is time consuming but quite a lot of fun. Whatever industry you are in I would highly recommend getting involved with people who are already working in it….you never know what could result.

So in the process of getting to know other authors I discovered that although they were great at writing many of them lacked marketing skills. Each of them was trying to sell their books in isolation and develop their own readership….this is REALLY hard work! So while I had some time off with the flu I put my brain into gear around how to solve this problem for my fellow authors.

The result is that I have now built SFFAuthors.com (science fiction and fantasy authors). The website allows authors to have their own social profile share what they are up to either via the built in blogging platform or pull in their own RSS feed. The activity stream then displays the latest articles from SFF authors. I’ve now integrated Twitter so that authors and readers can pull in their twitter feeds and post directly to Twitter from the website. There’s heaps in site and I plan on expanding it further.

So what’s my business goal? I’m a firm believer in, “What goes around comes around” and so the platform has been designed so that authors can effectively share with each other’s readers. This means that readers of Battleframe may buy another author’s book because that author posted some really interesting blogs/comments. The goal is that readers can really get to know authors and authors that don’t have very much technical expertise can now interact with their readers…all good. I’ve let a few people know about the website and the response has been really positive. I’m now encouraging science fiction and fantasy authors and readers to join the community.

So what lesson have I learned? Sometimes when you enter an industry for the first time you can end up viewing it in a very different manner from the incumbents. By applying your own perspective you may suddenly find yourself providing a service that you could never have imagined when you first embarked on your journey. For example, I had no idea that I would be setting up SFFAuthors.com when I started writing my book…..but here I am.

So what’s happened to my sales? It’s a rare day that I don’t sell a number of books….so something must be going right. The biggest issue that I had to overcome was getting reviews on Amazon (real ones, not fake bought ones) as reviews have a huge influence on whether a person will by a book or not. As of writing this blog I now have five reviews (4 five star and 1 three star) and some pretty respectable feedback.

To take my book to the next level I plan on giving away some ebooks and inviting some other authors to do likewise. I will very likely make it part of a campaign where only members of SFFAuthors.com can win a free book…..so hint, hint…..sign-up and win :-)

Battleframe

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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DNFactory
We have SCIFINOVEL dot com going cheap if that helps. It would instantly make you stand out from the crowd and give you an outstan... Read More
14 May 2015
mgilmour
I've been engaging sciencefiction.com so it will be interesting how it works out. :-) Thanks for the update on scifinovel.....I do... Read More
15 May 2015
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Marketing With No Money - Part 6

Marketing With No Money - Part 6

If you have ever developed a website then one of the things that you’ll be looking for is traffic. I’m a numbers guy and I need information to determine how successful my marketing efforts are for each channel. This article will provide insight into what I’ve built to do all this….

First of all let me say that there is absolutely no point in spending huge amount of time telling people about your product or service if there isn’t any response. You need to clearly define what your goals are and then measure them to see if you are succeeding. For me with the marketing of my Battleframe I’m ultimately after two things:

1. Sales

2. Sign-ups to my website

Escrow.com

Since I’m a new author I’m less concerned about item one and I really want to focus on how to get the sign-ups happening.

So what have I built to track all of this information? If you’re wondering why I decided to build a system then here’s the answer. I’m a firm believer in forcing myself to keep my development skills up to scratch. As one of the founders of ParkLogic it allows me to more fully understand both the challenges of our development team and also what our client’s may be wrestling with. It’s also one of the reasons why I maintain my own personal Unix server.

I personally believe that clients should have the confidence that I not only know ParkLogic’s offering but that I can intelligently discuss solutions that may involve some additional development to meet their needs.

Secondly, when I looked at the different products for tracking advertising I either found them, too complicated, expensive or written by a person that has no idea about the business requirements.

So back to my simple tracking system…. The first thing that I wanted to do was build something that would scale across multiple websites. Each website would then have multiple campaigns and each campaign multiple redirection links where I can track both impressions and clicks.

Although it looks pretty rudimentary the tracking system does all of these things plus a few more. For example at each stage (website, campaign and redirect) I can get a quick report that tells me how they are going.

Tracker 04

The website tab lists the websites and I can either bore down to the campaign level, Archive the website, get a report on overall performance, add a tracking SubID (work in progress) or edit the website details.

Tracker 01

As can be seen from the Campaign’s tab I have a number of different traffic sources that have similar functionality to the websites tab but at the campaign level.

Tracker 02

If I select one of the campaigns it displays a list of all of the redirects that are currently being used to track the traffic. It’s important to realise that each redirect is simply a URL and this means that they can be applied to links, images or anything else.

Tracker 03

At any stage I can Archive a website, campaign or redirect. This means that they will be removed from the reports but it doesn’t mean that they link will break. I will build a series of reports that will show the archived items at a later date.

So as you can see it’s a work in progress but it’s getting there.

The most important next step for me is to start interpreting the data so that I can more fully understand where to focus my efforts. The science fiction book market is incredibly fragmented and it would be really easy to waste a lot of time on marketing channels that really produced no results. So wish me luck as I take these next steps :-)

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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Marketing With No Money - Part 5

Marketing With No Money - Part 5

So how are my marketing efforts progressing so far? In a nutshell, things are looking up. Sales of Battleframe are continuing to increase and traffic has just taken an order of magnitude step up. So what have I done?

In a word, the key would have to be engagement. I’ve started participating in the writing, gaming and science fiction communities. What’s really important is to be genuine about your interest in the communities and to not just spam them with advertising about your own product.

Escrow.com

Think of it as if you are at a party and all you talked about was about your product or service. Pretty soon the people around you would get fed up and you would end up being by yourself....not fun! When you engage a community, be polite, participate in the conversation and do what you can to help the other people out. If you do this then you'll find that that many of the community members will reciprocate and help you.

A number of major forums have very strict rules about the number of posts that you need to make before you are allowed to mention your own product/service. My advice is to obey the rules, play the long-term game and enjoy the journey.

So the result of all of this work is that yesterday Battleframe was presented to nearly 1,000 people directly in my target market and this didn’t cost me a penny. One of the nice things about this approach is that the numbers are continuing to grow each and every day.

Yesterday I made the decision to start publishing pre-release episodes from Book Two of the Mindwars and already I can see that this has helped get the message out there a lot. I think that the reason for this is that people like to know that there will actually be a book two after a book one.

What’s my goal in releasing episodes from book two? I want feedback. There is nothing quite like a reader telling you what they think of something to make the final published manuscript that much better. I did this with Battleframe and the end product looked completely different from the raw episodes that I published every few days. Feedback has been really positive to readers that have now read both the initial episodes and the final novel.

So what are my next steps to growing my audience? One of the biggest challenges has been to entice people to sign-up on my site at michaelgilmour.com. Once they sign-up I can then more meaningfully engage them in a dialogue which ultimately will result in a book sale (hopefully). I have some free stuff that I’m giving away but it’s clear that I need to increase the carrot a lot more.

So I’m now developing an area of my website which will showcase the different book characters, locations, technology etc. I will make this information available to registered users only…..so I’d better make it really good! One thought I have is to engage my cover designing artist to create some additional artwork.

I’m a firm believer that the key to any good marketing is consistency. In other words, consistently update your blog, forum participation, content, writing, promotional material etc. It’s frustrating playing the long-term game and holding off spending money but it’s still really rewarding as I learn about a completely new market.

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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