Blogs and articles that relate directly to domain 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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finddomains
Hi Michael, You may not remember, but I have met you several times in Vegas and I would like to do business with you regarding my... Read More
29 June 2016
mgilmour
Hi Richard, I sent you an email.
30 June 2016
mgilmour
Hi Jeff, The .com domain is more natural for people to type-in BUT it is not the REASON why people will return to a website. It ju... Read More
30 June 2016
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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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london555
Hi Michael-great post so thank you. We own the name eEconomist.com and have thought it would be a great name for a worldclass econ... Read More
27 June 2016
mgilmour
John, I'm glad I could be of assistance. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to chat about your domain.
28 June 2016
mgilmour
It's easy to say yes to money and then realise that you've made a BIG mistake.
28 June 2016
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Back on the Tools

For the past week I’ve dusted off my programming skills and conducted a dive into esoteric world of javascript, php, style sheets, html and Googlecharts. It’s been a while since I’ve really done some hard core development and I must admit that it’s been a bit of fun!

A number of times this past week I’ve entered what programmers call “the zone”….it’s a state of bliss where all of the functions, classes and methods seem to behave themselves. I used the same concept in my science fiction book for a character that is a sniper recon.

Escrow.com

You can always tell when a programmer is “in the zone” as nothing seems to phase them as they tap away at their keyboard. I’ve experienced this state of euphoria, where times seems to stand still until I notice that I’ve been pulling another all-nighter. Typically, it’s the birds tweeting their morning calls that pull me back to reality and out of a complex embedded if statement burrowed somewhere in the code.

I must admit that there were a number of times where my PC bore the brunt of my anguish as I yelled at yet another error. These tend to be tumultuous times of absolute frustration that end in an “ahhaaa” moment when I realise my own stupidity.

So what have I been coding you may ask? It just so happens that the ParkLogic development team needed a helping hand on the downhill stretch for our new platform. Being a bit of a multi-tasker, I put up my hand to see what I could do to help out the team. I don’t think that it’s very often that one of the founders of a company jumps back into the code but what the heck.

This brings up an important point that I really value and that’s multi-tasking. Almost all of our team can perform operational, developmental or sales related tasks. It allows us to be extremely flexible in sorting out problems for clients as well a much deeper understanding of what it means to route millions of pieces of traffic each day around the world.

For example, there’s been many times where a client required a unique solution that relied upon my colleague in business development having a clear understanding of the technical challenges involved. Without an understanding of the DNS the client would still have been languishing in their problems.

So what am I actually building? It’s a completely revolutionary client interface that will provide unprecedented access to data for our client’s domain portfolios. It’s one to have the information and it’s an entirely different matter to mobilise it in such a way that decisions can be made.

As everyone knows, I love my data. I’ve always wanted to have every bit of it at my fingertips….and the first stage will be ready for “The Domain Conference” at Fort Lauderdale. We’ve literally rebuilt every part of the ParkLogic platform with the knowledge and understanding that comes from eight years of insight into the domain industry.

All I have to do is get back in the zone and hammer out another bug. Cheers!

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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 8

The other day I received my first royalty check from Amazon! I’m not about to retire but I must admit that it felt incredible to be receiving money for selling copies of my scifi book Battleframe. I normally get packing slips from Amazon so to receive a cheque was a new experience.

Escrow.com

So what’s happening with my marketing efforts? One of the difficulties that I’ve been trying to wrestle with is the fragmentation of the science fiction and fantasy community. To personally participate in all of the different forums and subtly let people know about Battleframe is next to impossible. I would say that my hourly rate would be somewhere in the vicinity of about two cents.

To make matters “worse” my own business, ParkLogic, is going through a boom time. The result has been that I’ve backed off the majority of my marketing efforts….there’s only just so much time in the day.

So what are my plans moving forward? I’ve decided to really focus on finishing book two of “The Mindwars” and growing my readership with Battleframe (ie. Book one). My marketing goal is to build a readership base with book one and ultimately earn revenue from book two, three etc. This is great for readers because it allows them to get a taste my writing without having to outlay any cash.

My primary focus is now on completing book two. Mild spoiler alert!!! For those of you that have read Battleframe I would like say that Selfia and Acheron finally get their honeymoon. Out of all of the questions that I get asked, this is the one that I get asked the most. I read the chapter to my wife and daughter and they love it as the honeymoon is in a very unusual location. LOL! I must admit that it never occurred to me that readers would get disappointed that the two characters hadn’t had their honeymoon as yet.

It may seem a little silly but this is a really important lesson. Always listen to the feedback from your customers for whatever product you are selling. They will freely share with you some incredible ways that you can improve what you are doing and then willingly pay for it!

I put a lot of time into writing across this last weekend and I’m about halfway through the biggest space battle scene that I think I’ve ever read….let alone write. There are thousands of ships, bases, satellites and a desperate struggle…..and this will be in the first few chapters of book two! As a hint….the battle ties in to the prelude of book one…..

As you may have guessed, I’m finding that book two is really coming together. I’m planning on releasing it prior to Christmas and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of an editor. The book really expands the scope of the galactic conflict and opens up so many new possibilities in the unfolding story.

If you would like your own ecopy of Battleframe then register at SFFAuthors.com and enter the promotional code of “Whizzbang” (expires at the end of Aug 2015). BTW, if you have read Battleframe then it would be awesome if you could write a brief review on Amazon - click here.

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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
There is a whole lot of sense in building a readership base and then marketing to them. It will no doubt save a lot of unproductiv... Read More
13 July 2015
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The Development Scam

I’ve seen so many online scams in the world and none bigger then convincing domain investors that they should build out a website for each of their assets. I put the “build-out” strategy out there as a scam because so many investors have fallen for the trap.

What normally happens is that an investor looks at their portfolio and says, “WOW! Look at all these awesome domain! If I could build out 1,000 websites then I will make a killing!”

What’s actually happened is that the investor has drunk the kool-aid that all you need is a good domain and you’ll have a great business. Heck, that’s why all the domains in their portfolio are worth at least $200K each. If you build a business with a great domain then it’s an unstoppable combination and people will flock to the website.

Escrow.com

I hate to rain on many investors parade but that’s just not going to happen. For a start, you can’t build 1,000 domains out and expect to seriously run them as businesses. From a management time perspective there are 40 hours in the week divided by 1,000 domains mean that you can only spend just over 2 mins per week on each domain. In other words, you can probably look at the website, think about making a change and not have the time to do it.

Just because you have a great domain doesn’t mean the target market will jump onboard. People tend to be pretty sceptical and giving out their email address in a sign-up process is a major event for them. Unless you are actually running a real business then trying to get them to actually part with some cash then the odds of doing so are next to zero.

This means that you need to develop a brand. Why do you need a brand? People trust brands that consistently provide them with value. Branding is not just about a logo. It’s the whole essence and ethos of the company that is behind the brand. Coke isn’t just about a beverage, it’s about fun and a lifestyle. Apple is about technology that is artistic, sophisticated and easy to use.

The challenge with developing a new brand is that it takes effort, time and money. No matter what you do on the advertising front developing a quality brand demands that you produce a consistent message on a regular basis. Sure, there are some exceptions but let’s leave them as outliers.

If you only have just over 2 minutes for each domain how the heck are you going to develop a brand? You just can’t do it.

Right now I’m developing my own brand as a science fiction author and to be quite honest with you it’s REALLY hard work. It takes so much time and the rewards are next to nothing but what I do know is that if I’m consistent then over time I’ll get there.

Last year I spoke with a guy who had developed over 5,000 travel websites. He’d literally spent millions of dollars building systems and putting it all together. He didn’t make a cracker, let alone get a sensible ROI and has now dropped just about every domain. This should be a big warning to everyone that has similar thoughts.

The problem is that it’s all about the traffic. The purpose of a brand is to attract the right traffic to your website and encourage them to spend/transact/read or whatever. The goal of developing a brand is to lower your acquisition cost and get the revenue up as people are confident in what you are offering is what they want.

When I say it’s all about the traffic I really mean it. You can build the most awesome series of websites for your domains that mankind has ever seen and if you don’t have the traffic then it won’t be long until they are mothballed. Coining Rick Schwartz, traffic is business!

It’s the rare domain that has enough traffic that allows it to naturally grow over time into a sustainable business. By sustainable I mean a business that will allow a person to work in it at least part-time.

The solution to this problem is to build-out a single market vertical (eg. Travel) and direct all of your travel domains to this website. The problem here is that the majority of domainers would still not have enough traffic for the market vertical website to flourish.

So what should a domain investor do? For a start, build ONE and ONLY ONE domain out that you’re passionate about into a real business. I love what Morgan Linton and his wife are doing with fashionmetric.com. He’s focused and busily working his butt of to make it a success.

BTW – I should mention that even if you focus on a single website it’s unlikely to succeed. Around 80% of businesses fail in the first year of operation so don’t expect a roaring success out of your very first domain build-out. Think of it as the most incredible training course that you’ve ever been on and that your second attempt has a much greater chance of success.

This means that you should be prepared to kill a project that just isn’t working. Too many people get so heavily invested that like a poker player that ends up going all in with a garbage hand. I’m all for going “all in” but I feel a lot more comfortable when I’m holding 2 aces.

Let me say that web developers love it when someone comes to them with all these domains to build out. This will keep them busy for ages so there’s a big win for them. The hosting companies love the fees as well. At some stage the accountants and lawyers normally get involved, so they just love all this activity as well.

Be really careful when you find that you are about to put your hand in your pocket to fork out a heap of cash. Each of the above groups of people provide incredibly valuable services if they are accessed appropriately but don't let the build out europhoria go to your head. Remember that it's not their fault that they are doing what you asked them to do!

I've seen a number of investors that don't have the cash to build-out all of their domains try and do fancy equity/loan deals to access the skills they require. It's the rare equity deal that actually ends up working. The biggest problem is the decision making becomes a lot more difficult and exits typically become impossible as each party has a different objective. Even though there are great intentions going into the deal their are typically tears going out. Inevitably, both parties feel ripped off and no longer have a friendship. Please, please be very careful about this sort of thing.or better yet, just don't do it!

There’s an old saying…..How do you make a small fortune in the aviation industry? Easy, start with a big one. It’s the very same with many domain investors. They’re losing their shirts because the underlying metrics and sustainability of their developments are really suspect. Before you do any development make sure that you have the end in sight and know how you will get your ROI.

I’m sure that there are some exceptions to my observations but after so many years in the domain industry I’ve seen this "scam" played out again and again…..so whatever you do, please be careful.

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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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