Video - Thoughts on Development

Video - Thoughts on Development

As a part of the 10 year anniversary celebrations I discuss my thoughts on development. I hope you enjoy this second video in the series.

Escrow.com

I have developed a lot of different websites over the years using a large variety of software platforms. From this experience the current suite of content management systems (eg. wordpress, Joomla etc.) lack a number of key components that domain investors require if they are to scale their development effectively.

In the video I discuss a number of the projects that I'm working on that endeavour to solve many of these problems.

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Part 2 – Why Domain Portfolio Optimisation Works – Development

Part 2 – Why Domain Portfolio Optimisation Works – Development

In this article I will be further expanding on how to develop a domain into a business. This is the first business model that can be applied to domains, the other three are monetising traffic, treating domains as stock-items and the last selling domains at high values.

The first issue for me with any developmental project is working out how the domain is going to make money. This seems like an obvious question but many people approach developing a domain from an aesthetic perspective (ie. pretty website) rather than being focused on the business outcomes.

Escrow.com

Generally speaking, all business models hinge on getting not just new traffic to your website but repeat visitors. A repeat visitor is gold as they perceived a value in your site enough that they returned for a second look. It shows that there is something about your business offering that they want.

So here are some reasons why people will return to your website.

Information
Users want to get access to information that you provide. This could be anything from technical documentation right through to an online training course or even an online newspaper.

Opinion
You and your business has developed a significant enough reputation that people are interested in what you have to say on issues, products and services. Before I buy anything I like to do my research by reading reviews on the product I’m interested in.

For example, when I write an article on the domain industry I try and not just report the news but understand what is happening and provide an opinion.

Useful
Google is the ultimate useful tool that allows us to effectively find things on the Internet but there are many, many other tools. How about domain tools, whatsmyipaddress.com or geoipview.com. These are all tools that I personally regularly use.

With the introduction of cloud computing there has been a blurring of the line between a site being useful and one that provides a service….which is our next item.

Services
Users will return to a website because that website provides a great service that they are willing to pay for. A website that is useful is one that often gives their service away for free because they earn money in other ways (eg. Advertising). Salesforce.com is an example of a massive company that provides CRM solutions to businesses all around the world. Businesses can subscribe to their base offering and pay more for additional features. Will your new venture offer a billable service?

Products
Put simply, I’m Amazon and I want to ship you as many physical or digital products as I possibly can. Gaming platform Steam saw the transition to pure downloads and built a whole ecosystem around selling software to gamers. If you have an exclusive product that people want, then they will return to your website to get it.

Funny
In many respects a website that is funny is a subset of the information category but it’s so big a segment then it’s worthwhile commenting on it. Websites that are genuinely funny provide content that you find irresistible to pass onto your friends. The good ones often have massive traffic and drive large amounts of cash from being paid pennies per visitor by advertisers. The challenge here is to ensure your website remains funny and not just become old-hat.

Social
A social website is centred on a community where the individual members can share their knowledge and expertise with the wider group. The first social communities were built using forums and Internet Relay Chat. This has quickly expanded to fully functional Facebook like applications that you can instantly install on any Joomla/Wordpress website. Beware, since Facebook is the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in this space, this segment is often a difficult one to crack but if you can then there can be some really big dividends.

 

There are a lot of other different methods to encourage users to return to your new venture but the above list should kickstart your thinking prior to you spending a whole lot of money. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a SEO cynic and believe that if you give people what they want then Google will love you for it as well. So really think about why a person should return to your new venture.

I should mention that when I build an online business, I’ll often do combinations of the above. For example, I may have a social website backed up with regular blogging on topics that people find informative….so don’t think that each of the above items are completely separate from one another.

Whatever you do, pay attention to your statistics and interpret what they are telling you. It’s rare that growth is the answer you want. What most new businesses need is the right type of growth. If at all possible, do whatever you can to engage with real readers/customers as soon as you can as they will tell you so much about your business that you never even thought of.

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Part 1 – Why Domain Portfolio Optimisation Works

Part 1 – Why Domain Portfolio Optimisation Works

I recently had the privilege of conducting a session at Domaining Europe on the topic of monetisation. Many domain investors have fallen into the trap that monetisation is dead and let me share with you that nothing is further from the truth. Domain monetisation is alive, well and thriving.

Escrow.com

What has happened, is like any industry there has been an evolution in technology. Those that have kept up with the technological curve remain successful while those that don’t struggle to remain in business.

This is not dissimilar to the days of the buggy whip manufacturer. During the days of horse drawn carts they made an absolute killing. Then a strange contraption initially known as a mechanical horse came onto the market. This technological innovation was really expensive so the buggy whip makers all laughed at the early version of the motor car and continued to make their whips. The rest is history and other than the handful of craftsman buggy whip makers are no more.

It’s the same thing in the domain industry. On one of my recent trips around the world I was talking to a domain owner that had been in the industry for years and he was decrying that monetisation was dead. I asked him one question, “What are you doing now that you weren’t doing five years ago?”

He replied, “I’m doing the same thing.”

I then said, “So you are expecting a different result by doing the same thing? You do know that’s the definition of insanity, don’t you?”

Of course, he wasn’t insane but how many domain investors behave in exactly the same manner? Five years ago they placed all of their domains with a single company, watch their revenue line fall and then claim that it has nothing to do with their own behaviour but the industry. The problem with these domainers is that they are still trying to make buggy whips rather than innovate.

So in this series of articles I’m going to share with you what I do with my own domain portfolio and more importantly why I do it. Since I’m a numbers guy, as much as possible I’m going to track everything back to facts rather than fiction and gut reaction.

When I think about optimising my domain portfolio I place each asset into one of four main buckets.

1.      Development
2.      Traffic
3.      Stock-items
4.      High value

In terms of development, I have whizzbangsblog.com and after a hiatus of about five years I’m in the process of rebuilding my aviation website downwind.com. Why these two domains? I’m passionate about both sites and I really enjoy engaging with readers. For example, those of you that have left comments here at whizzbangsblog quickly discover that I really enjoy replying to questions and helping other domain investors out in any way I can.

Developing a website that you’re passionate about is really important as it will spur you on to write or work on the site into the years ahead. I was speaking to a domain investor about developing a website into a business and I shared that it was actually really easy to do. In my case, all I had to do was write an average of three articles a week for nine years. Voila! Success :-)

I’m actually really proud of the articles here on whizzbangsblog and I often find myself trawling back through the archives to review how my thinking on a topic has developed over the years. I also find that I do much of my thinking about the domain industry and all of the opportunities within it while writing articles. It may sound strange but it’s my way of relaxing.

Every domain investor should have a couple of projects that they are developing into real businesses. In the case of whizzbangsblog I have the privilege of Escrow.com and Epik sponsoring my blog and this helps fund my time for writing.

I'm really careful about the number of sponsors and who sponsors my blog as I'm tying my own reputation to the services being offered by the sponsors. If their services aren't any good then it reflects badly on me.

With the relaunch of downwind I will be seeking aviation industry advertising as the traffic grows.

What’s really important is that when you develop a domain, develop it into a business. Don’t try and make something pretty because you like pretty websites. Focus on the end goal of how you will make money from the site so that what you develop is sustainable over time.

For the record, it doesn’t take much to get a good website up and running. There’s many different platforms available for managing the content. I personally use Joomla but wordpress is just as good.

If you spend over $1,000 getting an initial launch of a website put together then you’re probably spending too much. Make sure you get your first dollar of revenue in as fast as possible and whatever happens, learn from customer feedback!

In the next articles I’m going to dive really deep into my thinking around the four business models and how they help me optimise my domain portfolio for greater profitability. In the process I also plan on revisiting the series on pricing domains.

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Developing a Domain Into a Business - Part 1

Developing a Domain Into a Business - Part 1

So you’re all excited about developing that really special domain name and you’re wondering what the first steps are. Most people immediately jump into getting a website up….whatever you do this is the completely wrong approach!

In this article I want to touch on a number of things that I look for in start-up businesses and then as the series progresses discuss how to actually build a successful business. I've founded many successful startups and there is nothing quite as satisfying as creating something from nothing.

Escrow.com

I've found that successful businesses typically start with a well thought out business plan. The technical implementation of a website is only one small but important aspect of the plan. The first thing that you need to work out is how you’re going to make some money. You may only have a vague concept about how you are going to do this but nevertheless, get it down on paper!

For example, I love writing my blog on the domain industry, business and even my weekly personal musings. From my very first article I had a clear direction that it would be an advertising based business....it may seem obvious but there are many other things that I could have done. Speaking of which....reach out to me if you are interested in advertising!

I was recently approached to invest in an online business and the first question I always ask is, “How are you going to make money?” This seems an obvious question but believe it or not it’s often forgotten in the excitement of getting a pretty website up and running. If you can’t answer the question then stop whatever you are doing and work on that problem because it impacts everything else that you do.

The second question I end up asking is, “How fast can you earn your first dollar?” Like the first question this one is vital as it helps scale how big an investment you require to really understanding if you will actually have any customers.

Once again, I see many budding entrepreneurs believe that they need everything nailed down, automated and working at peak performance. I personally don’t really care about many of those things. I’m more interested in them actually earning the first dollar.

Jeff Bezos started processing his first online payments by literally taking a disk out of one computer and walking it across to another computer. He nick-named this sneaker-net. He didn’t have all of the automation in place but he knew how to collect the money…..the automation came later.

So I come back to the question, “How fast can you earn your first dollar?” Forget all the bells and whistles. I want to know how long it will take you to get a client to buy your product or service. From an investment perspective this proves so many things about your business:

1.    That there is a market.
2.    The really basic technology works.
3.    Your product/service works.

Once you have this in place then it’s just a question of scaling.

It’s like me with the science fiction book that I’ve written called “Battleframe”. I’ve never written a book before and it’s been quite a journey but now that I have my product I need to think of innovative ways of getting it into the hands of customers. I need that first customer that I’ve never met before (ie. not a friend) to buy the book and say that they enjoyed it. Once everything’s in place I then need to scale…..and write book two!

A number of years ago I met a domainer that had built a website into a business. They’d spent $6m on it before they had earned a penny. I must admit it that I just don’t get this mentality. What happens if the market rejects your product? You’ve just spent $6m on something that is pretty worthless.Once you’ve answered my two above questions then you need to answer the third one, “Do I really need any investment.” I’ll cover this in the next part in the series.

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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. Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face.
Click here to arrange time with Michael
Click here to advertising on whizzbangsblog.com

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Being An Entrepreneur

Being An Entrepreneur

For the past 30 years I’ve been building businesses and the majority of them have been in the Internet industry. As fate would have it I was talking to a friend of mine last night on skype and he was lamenting the pain of his new startup. Investors didn’t invest what he really needed and technology wasn’t coming together fast enough. All the typical birthing pains associated with a new venture.

If you’re looking at your domains and thinking to yourself, “I really need to start developing some of these” then be ready to go through some tough times. It’s never easy doing something new and what you think is a great idea, other people will trash.

Which brings me to another point. Over the years I've found that the worst sort of people in the world are those that cheer you on no matter what. For example, my wife and I had to give our daughter a bit of tough love near the end of her final year in high school. Essentially it boiled down to, “Don’t be an idiot!”

She came back and told us we weren’t very supportive and that we needed to be more encouraging. I thought about it for a few milliseconds and replied, “People will cheer you on as you leap over the edge of a cliff, we’re not those sort of people honey.”

Now that she’s passed her exams and been accepted into university she’s told us that our advice (which was really tough) was the best advice she’s ever received.

The real secret with being an entrepreneur is knowing whom to listen to and then taking all of that good advice so that you can make a better decision yourself. Once you’ve made that decision, be bloody minded about it and as tenacious as a bull terrier. Never, I say never let that bone go and push through every obstacle!

So what did I say to my friend going through the tough times in his business? I consoled him a little and then said, “Suck it up princess.” What did you expect? If it was easy don’t you think that other people would have run with your idea already? It’s tough love but sometimes people just need to hear it…..I’m absolutely confident that he’ll make it a success…..and that it will take him about twice as long as he initially thought to do it.

So back to your domains. My advice is get good advice, make your own decisions and then be ready for the obstacles. One last point…..the opposite of those that cheer are those that jeer. It’s always easy to tell a person why it won’t work. I use these people to inspire me forward with a, “I’ll show them mentality!” So go to it and get off your backside and change your world. :-)

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