The biggest WordPress SEO mistake you can make

It has been incredible to watch WordPress grow since I started my blog ten years ago. When I first started I was actually on Typepad and then made the move over to WordPress when I realized that all the cool kids were doing it.

I also started out hosting my own WordPress sites then companies like WPEngine came along and made the whole process completely seamless. Still, there’s one little feature in WordPress that I still see plaguing new bloggers, and it’s just as hidden as it was ten years ago.

What I’m talking about is this little checkbox hidden away under Settings –> Reading:

wordpress-search-engine-visibility

Yes, that one little checkbox can decide whether your site is visible to the world or hidden from search engines. As you can imagine, telling WordPress that you want to “discourage search engines from indexing” your site means, take SEO and throw it out the window.

If you install a plugin like All In One SEO Pack (my personal favorite) it will give you a warning at the top of your dashboard in case you accidentally have this box checked. Either way, it’s a sneaky little option but it can mean a world of different if you have it checked, or not.

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I wrote about a new WhatsApp Group about Chinese Domaining earlier this week and since then I’ve had a chance to learned a few things that I didn’t know before. Just to be clear, I didn’t know that much before since this is an area that is as new to me as it likely is to you. That being said, if you know a lot about Chinese Domaining you’ll probably want to skip this post since by the end you’ll be like, “Really? Morgan didn’t even know those simply things, what a newbie!”

Okay, and with that, here’s three things I didn’t know last week that I now know this week about Chinese Domaining.

chaomi

  1. Chinese Domainers treat domains like stocks and use a site called Chaomi.cc to check the daily prices and changes in domain values. While I knew Chinese Domainers treated domain names like stocks, I actually didn’t know that there was a standard site everyone used to essentially agree upon a price to buy and sell at. At the top you’ll see “Four Consonants” or a 4L domain name without vowels holding the highest value by a pretty wide margin.
  2. In the US we use the term “CHIPS” to mean Chinese Premium domains, or domains without vowels, this is not a term that is actually used in China or by Chinese domain investors.
  3. The Chinese Domain investment trend or focus on trading domains like stocks really isn’t just in China, there are plenty of Domainers in India that invest in the same way and some of the people who run the Chinese Domaining WhatsApp group are based in India.
  4. Paying for domains can be a huge barrier to buying and selling with Chinese Domainers, bitcoin has made this a lot easier and seems to be the growing currency of choice.
  5. Chaomi means “friend rice” in Chinese

Okay, that’s a handful of things that I learned, feel free to drop any additional knowledge you have about Chinese Domaining, nothing is better than learning together IMO.

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I’ll be honest in saying that while I’m all over Snapchat…I’m way behind on WhatsApp. This probably makes me par for the course in the US since WhatsApp hasn’t quite taken off here, but in India if you don’t use WhatsApp you’re probably carrying around a flip phone. If you haven’t heard of WhatsApp let’s just say over a billion people use it (yes that’s one in every seven people on the planet) and it’s owned by Facebook (they bought it for $19B two years ago).

It turns out there is a fairly active group on WhatsApp dedicated to talking about the Chinese domain market. Like I said above, WhatsApp is new to me so I had no idea this group existed until I read this post on DN.Domains last night. This mentioned the WhatsApp group which I joined last night…of course I first had to download the WhatsApp app.

chinese-domains-whatsapp

One lesson that I learned the hard way last night is that when you join a WhatsApp group and people write a message in the group it makes the text message sound on your phone. This morning I thought someone was sending me text messages in rapid fire form, good to know.

As many of you know I’m not someone that has a ton of experience with Chinese domains, this hasn’t been a focus of mine so I still have a lot to learn. While I started out in this industry learning from blogs and in-person at conferences, I’m interested to see this change and looking forward to learning from people with a lot more experience in the Chinese domain space than myself.

Hope to see you on there, you can simply click here to join, just use your mobile phone though not your desktop browser to you can directly access the group.

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tld-registry

Today is a big day for TLD Registry as they became one of less than 4% of TLDs on the planet to be accredited by the Chinese government. While you might not be familiar with this accreditation if you live in the US, in China it’s a big deal since it means your website can be hosted inside of China.

If you live in China and register a domain name in a TLD that is not accredited by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology there is a chance your site could be blocked or shutdown, which means non-accredited TLDs can be risky for Chinese businesses.

Also to make things even a little more exciting for TLD Registry they had two extensions get accredited, .在线 (Dot Chinese Online) and .中文网 (Dot Chinese Website) extension. It’s easy for forget that billions of people live in China and their keyboards don’t have the fun little English characters we have on ours, they have Chinese characters which is one of the reasons why IDNs like these are seeing such a warm welcome in China.

“Receiving MIIT’s accreditation is one of the greatest milestones we’ve achieved as a China market focused business. SMB’s, corporations, startups, brand protection agencies, investors, and anyone else in China who wishes to use one of our domain extensions for their website can now do so with ease and official approval.” (Arto Isokoski, CEO of TLD Registry Source – DNJournal)

With over 1,000 TLDs on the market being two of 32 is pretty darn special. Huge congrats to the whole team over at TLD Registry, something tells me even though it’s a Monday it probably feels a lot like a Saturday with all the celebrating that is likely going on over there!

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marketplace

I recently sent an email around asking startup founders to name the domain name marketplaces they know. The top response was “What’s a domain marketplace?”

Some people confused registrars with marketplaces and gave answers like Go Daddy and 1&1. When I threw out names like Sedo, Afternic, and Uniregistry the vast majority of founders said they had no idea these existed.

If you’re in the domain industry you can probably name ten different places to buy domains, but for most people out there, buying a domain name means going to a registrar and registering a name. When a name is taken, there are usually two paths people take:

  1. Assume the domain is taken and search for another unregistered domain
  2. Look at the WHOIS and email the owner

Like I wrote about yesterday, if the WHOIS is private, most people assume the domain name is not for sale. The vast majority of people have no idea that those private WHOIS email addresses actually pass the email onto the owner.

Once I tell founders about domain marketplaces their eyes light up and they usually start browsing like crazy. When I talk about expired domain names I think I can sometimes hear heads exploding. I’ve heard a number of founders say, “isn’t buying an expired domain like stealing?”

Let’s be honest, if you’ve been buying and selling domain names you know a lot more than the average person. If you haven’t then you might not realize everything that’s going on around you. I recently got into an interesting discussion with a founder who told me they would only ever register a domain, their logic was, “if I can buy a domain for $10 why would I spend more to buy one from a squatter that paid $10 and now wants to sell it for more…”

My response was…”how do you know they paid $10?” to which they said, “because that’s what domain names cost!”

This was an incredibly educated entrepreneur who has raised millions of dollars, they haven’t been living under a rock, but they do represent a real disconnect that people in the domain name industry have with the founders of multi-million dollar startups around the world.

I can’t tell you how many startup founders I’ve exposed to places like the Uniregistry Market, Buy Domains, Flippa, BrandBucket, and the list goes on. It may sound ridiculous but it’s true…and the door swings both ways. I also know a ton of people in the domain world who have never heard of Mattermark, Crunchbase, and AngelList, sites that most startup founder knows like the back of their hand.

Conferences like NamesCon have done an excellent job bringing these world closer together but it’s important to remember that just because you’ve known about something for years, doesn’t mean everyone else has. I think there’s a lot we could do as a community to connect these worlds, it’s one of the reasons why I write this blog and why I’ve always enjoyed helping other founders understand the basics of the domain world.

Over the next few years, I think our two worlds will converge even more, new gTLDs, popular ccTLDs like .AI and .IO, and the growth of cloud-based companies has created the momentum we’re really starting to feel today. It’s just important to remember, if you’re a founder, don’t expect the domain people to know about sites like Crunchbase, and if you’re a domain person don’t expect startup founders to know about places like Sedo.

Just remember, we all have a lot more in common than you’d think, but it’s up to us to connect the two worlds faster because there is a LOT we can do with our powers combined!

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A number of startup founders I know own domain names, some are for their business, others they bought years ago for ideas they had that never left the ground. I was recently talking with a founder in SF who said she wished someone would buy some of her domains since many of them aren’t being used and have no relevance to her brand.

The first question I asked was, “Is your WHOIS info public or private?” It turned-out that the WHOIS was private and the domains she wanted to sell weren’t listed on any marketplaces.

It’s a common mistake I see amongst people that don’t spend much time in the domain world and bought names years ago and have kept the WHOIS information private. While it might make sense to keep your WHOIS information private if you’re planning on using the domain for a business idea that you might not want people to know about.

The problem is, if you move on and years later want to sell the domain, you need to remember to turn off WHOIS privacy. When a potential buyer sees private WHOIS the assumption usually is – this domain is not for sale. Couple this with the domain not being listed on any of the popular marketplaces and you shouldn’t be surprised that potential buyers don’t come knocking.

So if you bought a bunch of domains years ago and you want to have the best chance of selling some that are just sitting around there’s an easy way to accelerate the process.

There is no cost to list domains for sale on marketplaces like these and you don’t even have to come up with a price, they’ll just send inbound offers to you. If you want to go the distance you can even update the DNS settings to forward to a “For Sale” page that companies like Uniregistry will generate for free.

Sounds too easy? Well taking these steps are easy. The challenge and reality is, there’s a good chance your domains are junk. Sorry, I’m not trying to be mean but I am trying to be honest. Most people who randomly buy domains don’t end up buying domains with a ton of re-sale value.

That being said, there’s no way to know until you actually make it easy for a buyer to know the domain is for sale. If a year goes by and you don’t get a single bite, the domain might not have a ton of resale value.

So dust off those domains sitting in your registrar account and let the world know you actually are open to selling them, and you might just find yourself selling one or two of them.

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chorus-ai

This morning Redpoint, a $3.96B VC firm based in Menlo Park announced their investment in Chrous.ai, a startup innovating in the speech recognition space. As the AI space has been heating up, AI startups have been turning to the .AI domain extension and Chorus is another great example of a startup that has raised over $22M to-date and done it without the .COM.

Chorus’ innovation suddenly unlocks all the insight stored in human conversation, an enormous data set that’s almost entirely unleveraged today. The insights from speech analysis will fundamentally shift in the way we will sell, and companies like Marketo and Qualtrics are already benefitting from it. (Source – http://tomtunguz.com/)

It’s exciting to be in San Francisco for SaaStr Annual along with the Chorus team and Redpoint, let’s just say the energy level is about as high as it could be today. Congrats to Ray and Micha (the Chorus founders) I know it’s been an incredible road to get here and something tells me this is still just the beginning!

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saastr-annual

As the co-founder of a SaaS startup, Jason Lemkin has become somewhat of a hero of mine. Yes I know, most people look up to actors or singers, maybe a football player or something else a lot cooler than an entrepreneur and VC…but in my book that’s about as cool as it gets.

jason-lemkin

Along with being a very successful founder (Jason sold his SaaS company Echosign to Adobe back in 2011) he’s now a well known investor at the $70M SaaStr fund and runs one of the most-read SaaS blogs out there.

Last year we attended SaaStr Annual for our first time and it blew our minds. So not surprisingly we’re coming back this year and I thought I’d share a few reasons why I’m so excited and why if you’re a SaaS founder, you need to be here…

  1. Learning from people that have been where you are – anyone will give you advice. In fact, there are plenty of investors out there who have never run a SaaS business but will give you SaaS advice like they’ve lived it. Nothing beats advice from people who have been where you’re sitting, period. There are incredible talks ranging from building your sales team to raising your next round to optimizing your SDRs and just about anything else you could imagine. On top of that, you’re surrounded by other SaaS founders so you never know who you might grab a coffee or a beer with. Last year I had a beer with another SaaS founder who was about a year ahead of where we were, in about 30 minutes I learned more from her experiences than I could have reading a zillion blog posts. Experience matters and spending time with experienced SaaS founders is the #1 reason why I’m so excited about going back to SaaStr.
  2. Understanding what ahead for SaaS startups in 2017 – I can still remember the talk that Tomasz Tunguz from Redpoint gave last year at SaaStr. He outlined the trends he was seeing in the SaaS space and what was ahead for 2016. Suffice it to say that he has a pretty good crystal call (a lot better than most IMO) and hearing this first-hand really got he gears turning and made us think about the moves we were making in the coming year. I’m glad Jason decided to put the conference at the beginning of the year because it really does give founders a great chance to learn and apply what they learn during the year.
  3. Networking, networking, networking – like I said in my first point above, one of the most valuable experiences I had last year at the conference was talking with another SaaS founder who had been where we were at the time. This year I already have a handful of meetings setup with SaaS founders that I wanted to connect with because I’m inspired by what they are doing and would love to learn more about how they think. There’s really no other place on the planet where you’ll get more SaaS founders together at one time than this week in San Francisco.

So there it is, and I know it might sound promotional but I can promise you that I’m not being paid to write this. I’ve actually never met Jason before but I’m really hoping I’ll get a chance to this year. It’s no secret that running a startup isn’t for the faint of heart and SaaS startups have their own set of challenges.

It’s blogs like SaaStr and events like this that have helped me realize that we’re not going through this in a vacuum, and the challenges we face, we’re all facing. The best part is, we get to go through it all together…at least, if you choose to.

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dot-ai

Artificial Intelligence has been in the news a lot lately and it’s no secret that investors from Silicon Valley to Silicon Beach are pouring money into AI startups. With the AI gold rush comes another gold rush in the domain world with .AI domain names.

I’ve talked to a number of founders who are still trying to wrap their heads around this seemingly new domain name extension. I’m usually the first one to tell them that it’s not new, and it actually doesn’t stand for Artificial Intelligence either, but yes – it could be a great extension to brand around, there are just a few things you should know.

  1. .AI is a ccTLD  okay, there’s a good chance you have no idea what a ccTLD is right? You know what a gTLD is, these are things like .COM, .NET, .ORG, etc. the “g” in this case stands for generic. A ccTLD is a Country Code Top Level Domain which means it’s actually associated with a specific country. If you go to Italy you’ll probably see a lot of domains ending in .IT, go to Canada and you’ll see .CA, visit Australia and .COM.AU will be on billboards and store windows. .AI is actually the Country Code Top Level Domain for Anguilla.
  2.  

    Anguilla
    (Anguilla – home of .AI)

  3. .AI is not a new domain extension – the .AI domain extension was originally introduced in 1995 so it’s not new. I’ve heard some people mistakenly say that since AI is becoming so popular .AI was released, this isn’t the case, it has been around for a while just a bit under the radar. That being said, until 2009 you couldn’t actually register a .AI domain without being a business or person in Anguilla so this explains why it hasn’t been as mainstream as the other extensions that you could register since the 90’s.
  4. Registration prices can be different based on where you buy – unlike .COM where you usually see pretty consistent pricing, .AI domains can vary in price quite dramatically. At Europe Registry a .AI will set you back $127.28 and you’ll have to agree to a two-year registration so the actual cost is over $250. At 101 Domain (one of the biggest ccTLD registrars) they are only $79.99/year.
  5. You can buy .AI names from existing owners – if the .AI domain you want is taken don’t count it out completely. Domain name investor have been buying .AI at a rapid clip and with a quick email you can find-out how much you can buy an already registered one for. The price can range from under $1,000 to a few thousand dollars but there are very few .AI names that have sold in the five-figure range.
  6. Yes – email works – I’ve heard some people say that you can’t get email at a .AI domain but that’s just not true. Like most domains .AI supports MX records so you can send and receive email from your .AI domain name.

Photo Credit: SkylineGTR Flickr via Compfight cc

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I have been pretty bullish on .IO domain names for the last couple of years and while they still represent a small minority of my portfolio I’m always surprised at the level of inbound offers they receive. Still, I think it’s safe to say that I’m still learning the waters with .IO and right now and part of learning means making mistakes.

What I’ve always appreciated about blogging, and most of the blogs I like the most, is the chance to learn from each other about what’s working, and what’s not working in your business, life, etc. While there are some bloggers who sensationalize domain investing like it’s a great way to “get rich quick” I’ve tried to stay realistic with the real challenges that exist making money with domain names.

While I’ve seen solid results buying and selling .COM domain names, I like experimenting with other extensions as well and .IO has been one I’ve been more active with lately. That being said if you’re new to domain investing I’m not sure I’d recommend experimenting too much since this usually means losing more money than you make in the beginning.

I’m happy to say that buying and selling .IO names has been a profitable path for me, but I’ve learned a few lessons along the way I thought I’d share with all of you to maybe save you some money if you’re thinking of experimenting as well. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…and like most things in the domain world, it is subject to change so please check the date on this post when you read it, if it’s a year from now things could have changed dramatically.

  1. 3L .IOs have very little liquidity – I bought around 15 three letter .IO names, ones that I knew could sell for five-figures in .COM so I thought they could easily sell for low four-figures in .IO. I was wrong, to-date these have been the worst performing category of .IO names for me both in resale price and number of inbound offers.
  2. Brandable domains get the most inbounds – I get the most inbounds on my brandable .IO names and it’s safe to say that the vast majority of these inbounds are from end-users not other investors.
  3. Nobody knows that .IO is a ccTLD – if you’re a domain investor you might know that .IO is actually a ccTLD but I can tell you that most people out there in the real world think this stands for “Input/Output” and that it’s an extension geared towards developers or dev tools.
  4. My .IO names parked at Park.io get the most offers – I’m always amazed how well the simple make offer landing pages that Park.io puts up on my domains perform. They are super simple, no crazy bells and whistles, and prospective buyers definitely like them.
  5. .IO renewal pricing is all over the board – be careful where you keep your .IO domains, renewal prices really can span a pretty wide range. Make sure you aren’t paying way more than you actually have to to renew. .IO is not like .COM where there’s a reasonable amount of consistency in renewal prices between registrars.

I’m still learning every day and who knows, next year 3L .IOs might be hot, for now this is what I’ve learned. As always I’d love to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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