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Affiliate Summit ended tuesday in Vegas and we were obviously there with Elephant Traffic. Since a lot of our advertisers our affiliate marketers that arbitrage domain traffic to CPA, AS is a really good avenue for us to acquire new advertisers. Our cost to take part with 5 people including booth, flight, accomodation, parties with clients was about $40k. However we usually make this money back in 3 months time from new advertisers, so it’s definitely worth it. We also take part in the Ad:Tech and LeadsCon conferences, which bring us a similar return.
Our booth was sort of stylized to Prague since we were offering a draw for a vacation worth $5k there. This is how it looked (Jeremy Lopez, GM of ET in the photo):
Otherwise Vegas was pretty fun as usual, although didn’t do as much partying as when I was there last year. Surprisingly even managed to win some money and finally learned the basics of craps, courtesy of our head salesman Yancy. Looking forward to DomainFest in LA now…
I harvest domains predominantly for their PPC revenue. Recently I’ve noticed an interesting thing with the CCTLD portfolios I create by new registrations – suddenly sales are bringing in a “noticeable” part of the portfolio’s revenue. When it comes to the cctld portfolios, this sales element is about 15% of the revenue (the remaining 85% coming from PPC). With my .com portfolios this is probably only about 3%. Interesting, can’t really find a reason to why.
Otherwise when it comes to ccltds I’ve been much more active with them recently. Since I’ve sort of overharvested the .com universe and ROI has been worsening there, I’ve been looking for other TLDs where ROI is better. So last year I did a lot in .nl, .se., .de, .co.uk, .it, .be, .com.mx, .ca, .com.br, .pl etc. Recently I’ve gone so exotic as to play around with .jp or .co.nz. Now I have around 50k CCTLDs but I think I’ve depleted them quite a bit as well
Happy New Year’s everyone! Hope 2011 will be a great year for you!
Anyway, just wanted to share an idea I have had for some time now. Never really got a chance to do it myself initially, then I decided that the business opportunity isn’t that huge and I have to focus on bigger niches. It’s basically an aftermarket play exploiting the drop game, a domain flea market if you will.
The idea is simple – all of us domainers drop domains sometimes, we choose to let them expire. The idea is that somebody would build a service where you could push these domains, say 2 weeks before they expire, and offer them for $10 a piece + renewal fee. If two or more people would be interested in the same domain, a standard namejet style auction would follow. The service operator and the domainer would then split the proceeds 50/50.
The service would just need to create accounts at all the main registrars where domainers would push the domains and do some simple programming of the marketplace, not much work imho.
This idea is based on a simple premise: some people can find gems (in their perception) in your garbage.
I personally drop a couple hundred thousand domains a year. The thing is that my only criteria for renewal is if the domains make reg fee. If they don’t, I simply let the domain drop and there are definitely gems in these drops that other people can discover but I don’t have time for.
I hope I created a new buzzword “drop monetization”:). Hope somebody picks this idea up. Good luck with it!
I happen to live and run my businesses from a country that most Americans can’t point out on a map or still call Czechoslovakia (which is totally understandable, I couldn’t name the 50 US States either). Although I am obviously a big Czech patriot, I would still like to ventilate my frustrations of operating a business from a country that has a population of 10 million. It makes competing on a global scale much more difficult and me and my team have to go the extra yard to be better.
The most frustrating thing is the size of the market – 10 million people with a GDP per capita of $24k at PPP. Compare that to the U.S. with 300 million people / $46k and you find out that the US is roughly a 60x bigger market than the Czech Rep when it comes to buying power. Because of all the language barriers and unique aspects of every European country, it is very difficult to scale a project/service once you reach a certain level. Being part of the EU has certainly helped, but the EU is certainly not a federation of states like the US. Just to illustrate this frustration with an example – take our lead generation department within Elephant Orchestra. Lead Generation is in many ways a local service – you have to be close to your customers (lead buyers) and you have to understand the local market for acquiring traffic. What is currently frustrating us here is that we are hitting a major constraint in the amount of traffic we can profitably buy and convert. If we want to grow, we have to expand into other lead gen niches (like health, education) or expand abroad. But expanding abroad is very difficult since you have to build up your knowledge and a team from zero and that costs money. Whereas if we would have a US presence, it would be much more easy to scale our model and maintain margins.
Then there are several frustrations of running a global business from here, again to illustrate, I will use the example of Elephant Traffic. First of all, if we want to sell in the US, we have to understand the language. The HR pool of native speakers is really tied to the expat community. Or we have to “import” the people. Second is the travel barrier, if we want to meet our clients, we have to be constantly travelling, which increases costs. Then there is the time difference, hence our sales people and account managers have to work the US time zone, which means coming to work at 3 p.m. and finishing at 12 p.m. Again that limits the HR pool, a lot of people don’t want to work those hours. Then there is the issue of knowledge exchange – there are virtually no people that would be in a similar business as us, so you can’t refine your ideas, network etc. Then there is the mindset. Czechs typically have a pretty provincial way of thinking (recommend reading the book Good Soldier Svejk to understand). It is difficult to transplant “global thinking” into them.
Obviously there are certainn advantages of operating from the CZ such as well educated cheaper labour, maybe a more favourable tax climate, it’s easier to become a market leader here etc. But really the dissadvantages are still much bigger. Hence I think it is inevitable for us to open a US presence next year. That will allow us to both exploit some of the favourable aspects of the CZ but also make it easier for us to compete with the global players. Take the best of both.
I see a lot of domainers diversify into real estate when they start making money. They view it as something similar to domains. The truth is that they would have been much better off if they would have kept re-investing in domains or other businesses.
My perception is that real estate investments are a sinful waste of money, money that maybe yields 5% per year. For us domain investors that is a petty return. If I would have a choice, I would prefer to have money in the bank than in real estate. Because it’s liquid and available for opportunistic deal making and this liquidity outweighs the forgone yield for me.
The main arguement made by domainers is that real estate is a very secure investment. Every domainer has paranoias that his domains might be taken away but he knows that nobody is going to take his house away. Hence they sacrifice yield in favour of security.
The big secret is that you do not have to sacrifice yield in exchange for security. The answer is diversification. If you have a diversified portfolio of high yielding investments (like domains) or businesses (obviously running the risk that some of these may default/go bancrupt) you will still be better off in the long run than if you plow money into real estate.
I like to illustrate things with analogies, so here’s one from the bond market. In the long run, a well diversified portfolio of junk bonds will perform better than a portfolio of tripleA rated bonds. Some of the junk bonds will obviously default, but the higher yield of the others will more than compensate for this in comparison to the AAA’s.
I like making suggestions to parking companies how they should improve monetization, so here’s another try…here is how I think keyword optimization can be improved.
Today most parking companies rely on auto-optimization for optimizing their partners’ domains, over the years they have improved their automated systems to do this. To a smaller degree, parking companies do sometimes play around with manual optimization, i.e having their employees manually optimize domains. For example Skenzo does a lot of manual optization, obviously having the advantage that it can bank on a cheap Indian workforce.
In my experience auto optimization is often not the best option. For a lot of domains manual optimization brings a lot of upside.
I think that better keyword optimization could be brought by introducing crowdsourcing and decentralization into the opimization process.
Imagine that parking companies would create a “marketplace” where freelance optimizers could try and optimize their partner’s domains. The new settings would then be A/B tested against auto-optimization or other freelance optimizer’s optimization. If the freelancer’s optimization would be better, he/she would be paid a fee for his work. As part of the “marketplace”, the parking companies could score the various freelancers on their optimization skills and only let the most successful optimize the biggest domains etc. This process would need a lot of tweaking but I think it could work for the benefit of both parking companies and domainers.
Introduce decentralization into the optimization process is the phrase of the day!
DOMAINSPONSOR® EXPANDS DOMAINFEST® TO EUROPE --Early October event in Prague will focus on networking, building European business interest in online real estate-- LOS ANGELES, Calif. and FRANKFURT, Germany. DomainSponsor®, the domain monetization business unit of Oversee.net® and organizer of the DOMAINfest® series of conferences, said today that it will expand the highly regarded franchise into Europe with a conference in Prague, Czech Republic. The two-day event will be held Wednesday and Thursday, October 6 and 7, 2010 at the landmark Hotel Intercontinental located in the heart of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Building on the success of last month’s event in Santa Monica, California, the October meeting will continue DOMAINfest’s focus on increasing the value of Internet real estate and will offer a rich setting for extensive networking involving topics relevant not only to domain investors from Europe, but also from around the world. Subject-matter experts will be invited to facilitate the networking sessions on Wednesday, October 6th. The first day will also include a Moniker® Premium Domain Name Auction powered by SnapNames LiveTM technology. Day 2 will be focused on social activities in and around Prague designed to provide the kind of shared experiences that can contribute to the building of long-term relationships between DOMAINfest Europe attendees. Conference details, including the agenda and speakers, will be released in June, 2010. “DOMAINfest Europe is an excellent opportunity for European publishers, online marketers, and domain-related service providers to meet and discuss ways to increase the value of domain names, which we like to refer to as Internet real estate, “ said Peter Celeste, Senior Vice President of Oversee.net and General Manger, Monetization Services. “The DomainSponsor team looks forward to becoming more engaged with the European domain investor community, and this forum is the perfect venue to exchange ideas and build relationships. As with all DOMAINfest events, we will be offering affordable registration rates to encourage maximum participation from a wide range of talented professionals from both inside and outside our industry.” In January, 2010, DomainSponsor hosted a highly successful DOMAINfest Global® conference in Santa Monica, California that attracted more than 600 professionals from a variety of internet-related industries. The conference included a variety of sessions over a three day period, including a keynote fireside chat with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com. This recent DOMAINfest conference also featured a first-ever PITCHfest contest, structured networking sessions, and moderated general sessions with experts from the world of investment, advertising, and marketing. Videos of each session, including the keynote fireside chat, can be viewed at http://www.domainfest.com. In November 2009, DomainSponsor announced the establishment of its European head office in Frankfurt, Germany with Joerg Schnermann as General Manager. Moniker® Auction Moniker will host a live premium domain name auction on Wednesday, October 6 followed by an extended online-only auction from October 7 to October 14. Specific start and end times for each auction event will be announced June 1, 2010. The live auction offers real-time online viewing and bidding from anywhere in the world via a free software download. Details on how to bid in-person or remotely in any Moniker live auction can be found at http://domainauctions.moniker.com . Registration and Sponsorship Opportunities Registration for DOMAINfest Europe will be open June 1, 2010. The early bird registration rate will be US$395 until July 1st. A discounted rate of US$495 will then be available until September 1st, at which point the price increases to US$595. Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities can contact firstname.lastname@example.org . About DOMAINfest® Founded and hosted by DomainSponsor®, the domain monetization division of Oversee.net, the DOMAINfest® conference brings domain industry and Internet professionals together to learn, network, and do business. Attendees include online advertising experts, domain publishers, domain monetization experts, SEO and SEM specialists, website developers, online marketers, ad or affiliate network suppliers, search advertising providers, venture capitalists, bankers and trademark/legal advisors. Visit http://www.domainfest.com for more information. About Oversee.net Oversee.net® is the leader in Internet real estate, specializing in monetizing, registering, selling and developing domain names. The company provides an array of managed services to domain investors, corporations, and individuals across more than ten million web sites. Oversee owns one of the largest portfolios of domain names in the world. The company’s unique optimized technology connects consumers and advertisers with highly relevant advertisements. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the company’s core brands include DomainSponsor®, SnapNames®, Moniker® and LowFares.comTM. To learn more, please visit www.oversee.net.
A lot of people involved in buying and selling names got burnt by buying domains in 2007-08 peak valuations that still to this day cannot be liquidated for the price they were bought for. The interesting thing to me is that most people have a preference to sit on the paper loss until it eventually turns around (they hope) and they will be able to sell without making a loss. I.e selling for under the buying price is taboo for them. I think this is an error that is actually producing more losses for them.
I’ll support my thinking with an example. Say you bought a domain for $100k in 2008. In today’s market the maximum you can get for it is $80k, so you decide to wait. In 2012 you will get to sell the domain for $120k and make 20% on your investment over a course of 4 years. That is a pretty bad ROI. Instead, if you were willing to take a loss and sell the domain in 2009 for $80k, you would initially incur a 20% loss but you could put that $80k you got to work. Say buying and selling more domains, investing in a portfolio etc. From 2009 to 2012 a skilled domain flipper could probably turn that $80k easily into $300k in three years time. So if you would have taked the liquidity route, you could have got a much better ROI on your $100k investment. Pause for thought.