There’s a category of domain names that I’ve never delved into and I honestly don’t know much about. I’m talking about “Trend” domain names, which might be a term I’m literally just making up right now so forgive me if there’s a more official term for what I’m talking about here.

By “Trend” domain names I mean domains that are registered because they align with a current trend or saying that is trending at the time. Google makes it easy to keep track of trends in both search and news through Google.com/trends and then of course there’s the “Trending Now” section on Twitter which I’ll admit I look at at least five times a day.

twitter-trends

So here’s an example, the hashtag “FirstWordsToAliens” is trending right now with close to 5,000 tweets. The .COM is available as of this writing, so should you rush out to buy it? I personally think that even though a particular phrase or hashtag might be trending on Twitter, Google, or in the news, that doesn’t mean the corresponding domain name has any value.

I think the challenge for most “trend” domains is that it’s hard to think of who the potential buyer would be? Do you really think someone wants to buy FirstWordsToAliens.com to build a site listing the first words we would say to aliens? Probably not.

Now I’m not a fan of making blanket statements so I will say that of course there are a handful of “trend” domains that probably would have some meaningful value. That being said I think 95% or more of the trends out there wouldn’t make great domain investments. Like I said in the beginning of this post though, I don’t have any experience with “trend” domains so maybe I’m missing the boat here.

What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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emailing-domain-owners

Without a doubt the number one question I get from other startup founders about domain names is, “I’m trying to buy a domain, what should I say in my email to the owner?” In the best case you’ll email the owner, the name will be for sale, the price will be reasonable and the deal will go smoothly.

In the worst case you’ll get in a big argument with the owner, the price will go through the roof, and you’ll end up naming your company something else, or adding the word “Get” to the front of your domain or “Online” to the end of it.

So how can you make sure you’re living in the “best case” scenario? Here are three ways to frame your email to give you the best chances:

  1. Reach-out and just be honest with the owner. Let them know who you are, what you do and make a clear offer for what you’d be willing to pay for the domain. From what I’ve seen over the years this approach works the best.
  2. Write a short and sweet email not revealing anything about yourself but just saying that you’re interested in the domain and asking them what price they are looking for. This approach works well sometimes but just know that if you don’t make an offer you might not get a response.

And now, how can you totally screw things up? Just do one of these two things:

  1. Email the owner and tell them that you’re a startup, don’t have a big budget, but could pay a few hundred dollars for the domain. This usually just offends the buyer, it’s like me offering you $500 for that BMW you paid $25,000 for.
  2. Write a strongly worded email to the owner telling them that they clearly aren’t doing anything with the domain name and you want to use it for your business. Like the approach above, starting a business deal by offending the person you want to do business with isn’t a winning approach.

Now is the fun part. I’d love to hear from some of my readers about some of the “best” and “worst” emails they’ve received from prospective buyers. Comment and let your voice be heard!

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I was having a conversation with a friend earlier this week who was talking about .AI, which they mistook for a new domain extension. When I told them it wasn’t and it was actually a ccTLD, this brought up the question, “well then what new domain extensions are out there?” I turned the question back to him and he rattled off some extensions like .CLUB, .XYZ, .ME, .CO, .IO (which is also a ccTLD) and then he started drawing a blank.

While I think it’s easy for those of us who have been in the domain industry for years to know every extension under the sun, it’s important to remember that many consumers don’t. I asked him if he knew about .GURU, .LIVE, .BUZZ, and continued to get a blank stare.

Now I’m not saying that other new extensions aren’t doing a good job marketing, in fact many of them are. The challenge is, with so many new domain extensions out there, how can you really expect consumers who spend less than .1% of their time dealing with domain names to know them?

So now I wanted to turn the question back to you – what domain extension do you think real people (yes like your family, friends, etc.) actually know off the top of their head? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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The Day The Internet Broke…

Well I think it’s safe to say that today a lot of the Internet as we know it, broke. Okay, that’s an exaggeration in many ways since the fact is, most of the Internet worked fine, most of the web was up and running a-okay, and domain names continued to do exactly what they were designed to do. What did happen is that websites powered by AWS, Amazon’s hosting service and major profit center had a pretty serious failure.

This took down sites like Trello, Flippa, WPEngine and many, many, many more. I’ve been getting a stream of apology emails from services that were down as a result. One of the most ironic parts of the whole day is that Amazon’s Cloud VP was actually on stage, talking about how awesome AWS is, as it went down.

And unfortunately that was the case on Tuesday when at the very moment Cockcroft was on stage making the case for AWS, a good chunk of the internet had been taken down (including Business Insider’s site) because AWS’ computer storage service, S3, was suffering major technical problems. (Source – Business Insider)

What the outage revealed is that many of the sites we know and love depend on the same hosting service, and when that service goes down, everyone goes down. It’s easy to think we’re now well into the history of the Internet but that’s far from the truth. Imagine using a television in the early 70’s, 20 years after the TV came out…would you really consider that mature perfected technology?

Remember, 20 years ago, back in 1997 you bought nothing online. Yes – absolutely nothing. In fact 20 years ago Google wasn’t a thing, it didn’t exist. While we now depend on the Internet for so many aspects of our everyday life it’s important to remember that these are still the early days and when a service like AWS falls down, there is no backup, no failsafe, and nothing that really keeps some of your favorite sites running.

The world has returned to normal now, and not surprisingly, we all managed to get through the day. Twenty years from now we’ll look back on today and say, “remember the early days of the Internet?” because what happened today shows that these still are the good old days of the Internet.

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One of the ways that many people get drawn into the domain industry is by stumbling on a domain sale, or a list of sales and thinking, “hey, I could register names like these.” Fast-forward to 2AM and they are sitting in front of their computer hand-registering names that to them look just like that domain name they saw sell for $10,000.

Then reality hits them hard when a year later renewals are coming up and they realize they haven’t sold a single one of those incredible, magical, amazing domain names that they bought that night. This is the point that most people throw in the towel and say, “domain names suck, everyone that made money bought domains in the 90s”

First off, this story above was almost me, except I’m one of those incredibly persistent people that takes every failure as a lesson, and one of my first lessons in the Domaining world was to be careful not to take individual sales as signs of a trend or to predict future value of another name.

Today is a great example, news broke that famous domain investor Mike Mann sold RiseUp.org for $75,000.

riseup-sold-for-75k

Quick note: Now before I go any further let me just make it clear that I’m not trying to slam Mike Mann or TNTNames. I’ve known Mike for years he’s an awesome guy and I always love reading about sales like this. TNTNames is another awesome blog about domains and if he didn’t get to it first I might have written a similar story…or one somewhat similar to this.

Okay, now back to my post.

A sale like this is exciting, buying anything for $350 and then selling it for $75,000 is, pardon my french, fucking fantastic. That being said, don’t mistake this for a trend and go out and buy 100 two-word .ORG names for $350 a pop thinking you’re on your way to becoming a millionaire.

What’s important to remember is that people like Mike have a lot of domains and a broad range of names. Mike didn’t make his millions on two-word .ORG names and you likely won’t either. So celebrate sales like these but be very careful how much you extrapolate from them.

Being a domain investor is a lot like being a detective, you really have to dig deep, do your research, and make sure that you can tell the different between a one-off sale, and a real trend. Congrats to Mike on the sale, that’s a great one and I think we’d all be very happy to ring the register there!

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Here are the three blogs I read the most now

blogging

As someone that has been blogging for almost ten years (yes, October of this year will be the 10th anniversary of this blog) I tend to be pretty blog-focused when it comes to reading. It’s how I’m programmed and I guess now I’m old so reprogramming me is hard. Okay, not that hard since I now post on Snapchat more than I do Facebook, but it’s fair to say that both reading and writing in blog format has been my method of choice for learning from other people.

Some people learn from You Tube videos, others binge watch the History Channel or try to attend as many talks at conferences as they can, for me blogs have been my go-to and that hasn’t changed in ten years so it’s probably not going to change anytime soon. I think blogs can be particularly valuable when you’re taking a new path in life, your career, etc. and want to learn from someone that has been in your shoes.

One question I get a lot from other founders and blog readers is, “what blogs do you read?” So here’s the answer – right now I’d say my three favorite blogs are (in no particular order):

Tomasz Tunguz – it’s safe to say that Tomasz is one of the most well-known and well-respected VCs out there. I’ve been reading his blog for years now and he always has really insightful posts often backed-up by solid data. Tomasz tends to write about SaaS startups quite a bit so as the co-founder of a SaaS startup just about all his posts are incredibly relevant to me. So why listen to Tomasz? He’s a VC at Redpoint Ventures which is one of the most badass firms in Silicon Valley with close to $4B under management, 468 investments, 17 IPOs and 88 companies that have been acquired. Boom, those stats blow my mind every time.

Both Sides of the Table – written by Mark Suster from Upfront Ventures, this might just be the blog I’ve been reading the longest since I took the plunge almost five years ago, left everything I knew behind and took the startup road. What I really like about Mark’s blog is that he tell it like it is, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind and he has a ton of experience both as a founder and venture capitalist which means that yes, he has sat on both sides of the table. Mark sold his first startup to Salesforce and it’s actually one of the best acquisition stories I’ve heard because everyone in the company made very good money, and some of the team is still at Salesforce not because they have to, but because they love what they’re doing. I have a ton of respect for VCs that have been founders themselves and a founder with a couple solid exits under their belt is even better.

Alex Iskold – Alex is the MD of Techstars NYC and we’ve been lucky enough to know him since the early days of Bold Metrics. Alex’s blog has some of the most solid articles about fundraising out there, period, seriously I send his articles around to founders probably weekly. Alex sees a ton of companies both applying to Techstars, going through Techstars, and that he’s invested in himself as an Angel. What I really like about Alex’s blog is that he isn’t biased by what everyone else says you should do, he uses his own insights and experience to share advice that I find you won’t read anywhere else. One great example is a post he wrote about why it’s a bad idea to send pitch decks to investors before the first meeting, you can read it here.

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dropping domains

This might end up being my shortest blog post of the year, at the same time it emphasizes one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned buying and selling domain names for the last ten years. And yes, the title really does say it all…

“Don’t be afraid to drop some of your domain names”

Now that being said let’s be clear. I’m not saying to drop your best names, what I am saying is to drop the garbage, the domain that you know deep down inside probably has no interested buyers. You know that name, the one you registered at 3AM for an “idea” you had for a new business that someday you might start. Take a loss, kick it to the curb, and say goodbye to some of the domain names you “invested in” that are more than likely going to cost you a renewal fee every year for the next 5-10 years until you finally actually decide to drop it. Here’s

That being said, don’t just drop a name. Think of how much you would spent renewing it for the next few years and take that money and buy a new name, replace it in your portfolio but with a better name. It sounds simple but I’m still amazed by how many Domainers will spend thousands of dollars a year renewing garbage when they could take that money and put it towards better names.

Just think to yourself right now – how many domains in your portfolio have been collecting dust for years? What if you just dropped them, or listed them at No Reserve somewhere and then put the money you saved into better domains. My guess is that for most people out there you would have a better portfolio in the end.

What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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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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