Critical Insights Into the Domain Industry - Part 3

Critical Insights Into the Domain Industry - Part 3

I remember speaking at TRAFFIC Vegas 2008 and I put up the below graph on the projector. I indicated that the industry was in a mini-bubble with domains at hugely inflated prices. I had a large number of people come to me after my session and tell me that I was nuts. Was I wrong?

I believed that we were at point A in the chart and the mini-bubble was in full swing. So why did I stand up and pour call water over the partying atmosphere? To understand what I was seeing we need to understand the industry at that time. This is the state of the industry back in 2008:

  1. Market valuation were being underpinned by a few select domainers – no market depth.
  2. Domain investors were massively reinvesting their parking revenues
  3. Debt has entered the market.
  4. Flurry of new small investors hoping they weren’t too late.
  5. Lack of domain liquidity

Escrow.com

Anyone of these factors alone would inflate prices but combined, they created a massive bubble. Domains with little to no value went for crazy prices and traffic domains sold for insane multiples. The euphoria was like a contagion that was eating away at the heart of the industry as it danced to some strange beat. More and more people wanted to join the celebration as if there would be no end.

I’ll never forget seeing a domain magazine enter the market (remember we are niche) and then a second magazine appeared! This is when I personally sold the vast majority of my own domain portfolio….the writing was on the wall. I was out! I took the money, spent 6 months traveling, got my pilot’s license and paid for the kid’s school fees. Life was very good.

Since that time there’s been a lot of blood in the water as domain investors that had raised debt/equity capital discovered they were in a new world - point B. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was the icing on the cake and Google, correctly put the squeeze on payouts….don’t forget they have shareholders in a turbulent financial market.

When seeing the GFC storm first hit I read a domain blog suggesting that it was great to be in the domain industry and not be subject to the financial winds. I immediately wrote an article saying that if you believed the writer then you were living in a fool’s paradise.

Let’s think about the GFC and the factors above. Market makers left as they battened down the hatches of their own financial situations, parking revenues declined courtesy of Google, debt financing dried up and new investors vanished. I’ll deal with the final factor in my next article…so let’s hang onto that one.

During this time I know of quite a number of companies that have either had to tell investors that their ROI will now be over a much longer time frame and some even had to liquidate assets to crystalise losses. Many of those individuals that raised debt have found themselves selling their house or have gone into bankruptcy. This is a sorry tale but one that has been a nightmare reality for some.

It has been really difficult for these individuals as they were like shooting stars that shot across the sky in a blaze of glory just to burn up. Most are no longer in the industry, some stole from other domainers, others suffered massive personal problems as the financial pressures came to bear and quite a number ended up with serious health problems due to stress.

I remember calling up one such person to see what I could do to help them out. They sounded like a shadow of their former self. My advice to anyone that has gone through financial hardship is to get help sooner rather than later. For the rest of us that have survived those years….we need to thank God that we’re still here!

I say to my kids that the cheapest way to education is to learn from other people's mistakes. Our industry needs to learn from those turbulent times and learn both the good and the bad from those people that blazed across the sky. We also need to learn from those people that are still around and remember those times....there are still quite a number around.

One of the things I love doing at conferences is getting together with this group of domainers and discussing what kept their heads in the game during those years and what they're doing now. They typically don't make a big show about what they are doing but nevertheless they are inspirational individuals and are ALL in my "Hall of Fame".

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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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whizzbang
I agree, Thank God we made it this far. Quite a journey full of experiences and hardship. Maybe the ones no longer here weren't me... Read More
05 June 2015
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Saturday Musings - Relationships Not Things

Saturday Musings - Relationships Not Things

I’ve had a lot of people asking me why I’m not at TRAFFIC in Miami. I’ve been to every TRAFFIC conference for the past 10 years (other than the very first) and I’ve found them exceptional events for developing business. So why aren’t I attending this time?

It just so happens that my daughter Elise is turning 16 and despite my love for TRAFFIC she trumps it. I wouldn’t miss her birthday for anything. So I am really sorry to all of my great friends at TRAFFIC but you got beat out this time……but I will be there in 2015!

When I think of my decision it’s all about what I regard as important in my life. Do we work to live or live to work? I love my work but the reason why I work is so that I can live a more fulfilled life. It's focusing on people and relationships not things and money that provide a richer better life. In this case it was my relationships with my daughter that won the day.

The order of importance for me is my relationships with God, Roselyn (wife), my kids, work colleagues, friends etc.  I find that if I have these priorities in the right alignment then life is good. Sure, I can break the rules for a time but there’s always a cost.

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mgilmour
You both are way to kind with your comments. Thank you for your thoughts and I will pass on the "happy birthday's" to Elise!... Read More
02 November 2014
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Buying and Selling Traffic Portfolios - Part 3

Buying and Selling Traffic Portfolios - Part 3

In the previous two articles we looked at managing legal risk and also the different types of traffic that often flow through to domains. In this article I will be examining the other influencers on the returns from a traffic portfolio.

The first thing to look at is where the traffic is coming from. For example, is it mainly USA or is it from China? Chinese traffic tends to be paid much less than traffic from the USA.

A number of years ago I did an analysis on the penetration of credit cards in a specific geographic region and how this influenced earnings per click (EPC). Cash based economies like China tended to have a much lower EPC. The reason being that marketers have a much more difficult time tracking spending money online to ultimate sale of the goods if the transaction is constantly being pulled off-line.

I personally believe that over the years ahead many of these burgeoning economies will adopt credit cards and the online cycle will be complete for marketers. So watch this space!

When you buy a traffic portfolio you are always looking for any “free” upside. An example of this would be if you were getting paid 90% from a monetisation provider but the person selling the portfolio is only getting paid 80%.

We’ve had ParkLogic clients purchase portfolios that have been held at a single parking company and then placed on our system. From experience, typically no parking providers wins more than 20% of the traffic on our platform which means that the acquisition would receive more revenue 80% of the time if move to other platforms. This typically provides a 30% uplift in revenue via our algorithms and processes and this dramatically reduces the payback period for the investment.

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Buying and Selling Traffic Portfolios – Part 2

Buying and Selling Traffic Portfolios – Part 2

This is the second part in a series on buying traffic domain names.

Once you’re comfortable that the legal side of the portfolio has been addressed then you really need to dive into the traffic numbers and do some research into where the traffic comes from.

So let’s get back to basics. You’re about to purchase a traffic portfolio. The first question that you should ask is, “Where does traffic come from?”

Traffic typically comes from the following sources:

1.    Direct type-in

Generic or short domain (eg. Beds.com, gx.com.au)

2.    Typos

Typo of a generic domain (eg. Fruit spelt fruit)

Typo of a weak trademark domain (eg. Joespizashop.com instead of Joespizzashop.com)

Typo of a brand (eg. Verison instead of Verizon)

3.    Link based traffic

4.    Purchased

5.    Hijacked traffic such as tool-bars and NXD traffic.

In the above list of places where traffic comes from I’m making no attempt to try and pontificate on whether they are appropriate traffic sources. I’m only indicating that they are sources of traffic. So please do not get upset at the mention of typo, trademark, purchased traffic etc.

Many years ago I purchased my second domain name and it failed miserably to provide any sort of return. Each and every year I faithfully registered the domain to remind myself to ALWAYS ask the question, “Where does the traffic come from?” In my case, the domain had a lot of Russian bot traffic that didn’t monetise at all. There’s nothing like a $10 annual learning course to remind you of an important lesson.

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What's RPM?

What's RPM?

Many people have said to me that the only thing that matters is revenue.....sure, revenue may be important but it's definitely not a measure of success. So the question has to be asked....what is a good measure of success?

Let's imagine that you have a domain that is doing 100 uniques per day and $100. You move the domain to another parking provider and find that the revenue drops to $75. What is the normal reaction? Move it back! Quick! I'm losing $25 per day! That actually may be the wrong answer.

Let's imagine that on the day the domain received $75 it only received 50 unique visitors. That would mean that the new parking provider is performing brilliantly compared to the first one. The way most people compare the results is via the "tried and tested" formula of:   revenue  /   views   *   1000   or in other words RPM.

This sounds wonderful until you realise that the definition of views is different at every parking provider. There are no standards at all. So it we go back to our example, the second parking company may have actually received the same amount of traffic as the first but just reported less because they have more aggressive filtering on the traffic. This would then mean that parking company one would once again potentially be the winner.

Confused? It gets worse. There are over seven different revenue numbers that can be used each month for every domain name for your RPM equation. A couple of them are, "The estimated revenue number" or "The number confirmed two days later". To get an accurate picture of what is really happening you need to get both the revenue and the traffic numbers right or you get the wrong answer and sub-optimally optimse the domain traffic.....which is a fancy way of you saying you will be losing money.

I'll do another short blog on the solution to all of this shortly.

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