How much should startups spend on SEO?

It’s a question that I’ve asked myself at different points in our startup journey, how much should we spend on SEO? The answer to this question in the early days of a startup are different years later. Also B2B and B2C companies will also have different answers since they might not get their leads the same way in all cases.

First things first – I don’t think there is one right answer to this question. That being said, I do think there is a wrong answer…cheap SEO can end up really working against you, Search Engine Journal did a solid job of breaking it down last week:

“I belong to a number of internet marketing groups on Facebook. It’s truly frightening, the number of noobs posing as SEO professionals and taking on clients.

It’s not uncommon to see a question like: “I just landed a client that wants to rank for “keyword x” – how do I do it?”

A close second is the use of link schemes, specifically private blog networks (PBNs), without ever explaining the risk to clients.

If business owners were just throwing money away, by hiring an incompetent SEO, that would be bad enough.

Unfortunately, the collateral damage from “cheap SEO” can go much deeper. It can draw a Google penalty and virtually wipe out a website’s visibility on the web.

Business owners need to keep in mind they’re ultimately responsible for any SEO work performed on their site. They should discuss the specific tactics to be used, before entering into an agreement.

I would encourage any business owner that’s in it for the long term, to insist on using tactics that comply with Google Webmaster Guidelines.”

(Source – Search Engine Land)

The article goes on to discuss strategies for coming up with a budget for SEO that’s rooted in your own metrics, which really is the only way to go. In the early days of a startup you might not know the answers so you’ll need to set a firm budget. As your startup grows and unit economics become more well known, then your budget can be a simple calculation.

At the end of the day though, there’s really no reason to panic if you don’t have a big SEO budget to start. Gone are the days of SEO being a dark art that only a few people knew about. Today, content is everything, so from running your own company blog, to writing guest posts in industry publications, to using PR to generate buzz and valuable backlinks, there’s no secret sauce any more – it’s all about content.

Still stumped on what your SEO budget should be? Conquered your SEO demons and want to share your story? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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confused

The summer of 2018 might be remembered as a magical time, where five-figure domains were expiring and the top ten sales had an even distribution of .COM and non .COMs. It’s a strange time, but an exciting time since there are some pretty fun domain auctions and sales to watch. The latest auction that caught my eye is a bit of a head scratcher – the domain is Hetian.com and it’s currently north of $46,000 on Go Daddy with more than eight days to go.

First things first, this is another case where Go Daddy’s “Estimated Value” seems to be way off. The frustrating thing about this is that whoever buys this will have to deal with the fact that a prospective buyer later down the road might think the domain is only worth ~$7,000. That being said, at first glance I couldn’t understand why this domain would even be worth that much…what was I missing.

So I put on my trusty old detective hat and started to dig deeper, what the heck was on Hetian.com in the past? Using my good friend, The Wayback Machine aka Archive.org here’s what I found:

hetian-com-archive-org

What did I find? A whole lotta nothing. Seriously, I’m perplexed here. It doesn’t look like there has been much development activity on this domain since 2003. I’m officially confused, why is this domain getting bidding activity close to the $50k range? What am I missing…because I’m certainly missing something.

This is where you, my reader can probably chime in and set me straight. Why is Hetian.com so valuable, or I guess, why do a handful of people seem to think it’s so valuable? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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morgan-linton-tweet

On Wednesday, as I was walking to our office I was thinking about an offer I got on one of my domains recently. The buyer was insistent on buying the domain for the price that I paid, despite the fact that I bought the name five years ago and definitely bought at wholesale. I was trying to explain to him that in life, there are people who buy things at wholesale and sell them at retail. For example – any store you buy anything from.

That didn’t seem to resonate with him so then I thought I’d ask – do you own a home? “Yes,” he said.

Then I asked him when he bought his some. “20 years ago,” he said.

Great, then I said – why don’t we make it a fair deal then, you sell me your house for the price you paid, and I’ll sell you my domain for the price I paid. If you truly believe that when you buy something, the value stays the same forever and should be available to anyone in the future for that price, put your money where your mouth is…

That hit home. It’s weird but every once and a while you can break through, and this time it did. That being said, in the end I still didn’t end up selling the domain since his budget was way too low, but it got me thinking, and inspired this tweet, which it seems like a lot of people can relate to.

So next time someone is trying to buy that one-word .COM you bought back in 1996 for $100, just tell them, sure – if I can buy your house from you for the price you paid. Win-win, right?

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Fast.ly could become the top .LY sale of 2018

First Place

I’m not used to seeing .ly domains top a domain auction list, but this is one of those weeks. Fast.ly is currently sitting at $2,050 at Park.io with a week to go, which means the price is likely to go quite a bit higher. Of course, four and five figure offers for .LY names isn’t unheard of, and the highest reported .LY sale, Local.ly (in 2011) hit $125,000 – and happens to have been sold by none other than Braden Pollock.

That being said, the highest reported .LY sale so far this year is Efficient.ly at $5,000 so Fast.ly could very easily move into the number one spot a week from now. There is a company called Fastly which owns Fastly.com, which means there is a chance the price is being driven higher by one specific buyer.

It just so happens that Fastly has raised close to $220M according to Crunchbase which means if they really want to buy this name, they can very likely get it at a price that’s pretty darn affordable for them. That being said, if it’s not Fastly, then whoever ends up with this domain could be sitting on a UDRP timebomb waiting to go off. A $219M company can also afford to throw the book at you if they think you’re squatting on their real estate.

What do you think? Will Fast.ly become the #1 .LY sale of 2018? Is the .COM owner in the auction?

I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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Monster Energy nabs MonsterEnergy.app in UDRP

domain-name-udrp

A common mistake that people make when they’re just getting started in the domain name world is to buy domains that exactly match a company’s name in some new extension. The thought is, well Company X owns their exact-match .COM, they would definitely want it in .YEAH.

While this could be true…Company X wants it, they are going to take it, not buy it, and that’s what happened in the case of MonsterEnergy.app:

“Sole panellist Kaya Köklü ruled that the domain is both confusingly similar and that Stickler had mentioned in his email that he would be compensated, which shows bad faith as he attempted to gain financially.” (Source – IPProTheInternet)

In this case, the domain owner claims that they registered the domain for something called the “Monster – Energy Run” an event that has nothing to do with the drink. If this is indeed the name of the run, it sure sounds like a run that is related to Monster Energy drink, doesn’t it, or is that just me?

I always recommend that people take a quick look at the USPTO site to make sure the name they’re registering doesn’t have a Trademark in it. I also think that it’s not too hard to use common sense, I know for a fact that if I register a domain with the word “Facebook” in it – it infringes on a Trademark, doesn’t matter what other words are in the name or what extension the domain ends with.

IMO, Monster Energy is a pretty well known global brand, it seems hard to miss the Trademark here, but not everyone knows that you can’t go out and register names that violate Trademarks. In this case, it is really hard to know whether the original registrant actually knew they were breaking any rules when they registered the name.

What do you think? Is this is clear case or should did the registrant get screwed here?

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Back in July I created a Discord channel for my blog as a way to communicate with my blog readers in realtime. It was pretty neat, within an hour I was already having a conversation with one of my readers and soon more people joined. Then I got busy, traveled a bunch, and started getting emails that people couldn’t join the Discord server because the link had expired.

Ooops.

So that’s one way to learn how to not setup a Discord server properly. Which leads to this post and my second attempt at getting things rocking. First things first, if you want to join, please use the link below – it never expires 🙂

https://discord.gg/QsESmub

Second, I realized that if I’m going to have a Discord server, I probably need to set aside some time each week to actually be on there to chat with. Logging on randomly doesn’t make much sense since we’d all have to somehow have some kind of sixth sense when other people would be there.

I’ll be putting together a schedule shortly and posting it on the blog. If you were waiting to get onto the server and couldn’t because the link expired, just click on the link above and you should be ready to rock. Looking forward to talking with more of you soon, stay-tuned for the schedule!

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Yesterday I got an email from Uniregistry sharing some of the new updates for August and honestly I was pretty impressed. While most people are on vacation, Uniregistry seems to be moving forward at full speed. I felt like there was enough going on this month that it’s worth highlighting, so here’s what’s new this month.

New mobile app features

I’m a big fan of Uniregistry’s mobile app, it’s really well-designed and they’re constantly adding new features and functionality. Here’s what’s new this month:

  • Now available on iPad I’ve been waiting for this for a while!
  • Domain Tracker added to the app this is a great way to keep track of your portfolio and it tracks across registrars so you don’t need to have all your domains at Uniregistry to use it
  • Additional currency support – this one doesn’t really impact me but I’ll bet it will be helpful for some of my readers. The app now supports nine different currencies.

Reduced pricing on a number of extensions

There are some really good deals on a number of extensions that Uniregistry sells, here’s a look at some of the best deals:

uniregistry-august-domain-deals

Increased support hours

While I haven’t really used Uniregistry’s technical support much in the past, I’ve been told it’s pretty darn good, and they’ve extended their operating hours by two hours to go until 8:00PM (UTC-5).

.ASIA now available

The .ASIA TLD is now available at Uniregistry and is discounted down from $15.88 to $5.88. When I was in Hong Kong last year I saw .ASIA a number of times. That being said, I don’t own any .ASIA domains and I’m not sure I’m going to start buying now since I just don’t know enough about the market. If you do invest in .ASIA, or run a business in Asia, this could be a good time to snag a name or two though!

Congrats to the whole team at Uniregistry, I’ve been a fan since the beginning and it’s the constant push for innovation and new features that has kept me a loyal customer for all these years!

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domaining-roi

Lately I have been thinking about decreasing the ROI that I look for when I sell a domain to align closer to what I would be more than happy with in any other investment vehicle. What got me thinking about ROI is a conversation I had with two different friends, one is a real estate investor, the other invests in stocks.

My friend in the real estate business was bragging about how well he had done over the last four years – his ROI, 3x. My other friend who invests in stocks was teasing him and bragging about her ROI, she had seen a 4x ROI over the last four years.

When I sell a domain name, my target is 10x or higher, has been for over a decade…but this conversation got me thinking, I wonder what would happen if I lowered my ROI expectations? The strange thing about being a domain investor is that you start to become comfortable with insanely high ROI numbers. Sure, some people got lucky with crypto, but your average investor looks for a much smaller ROI and 3x – 5x is an absolute home run.

So I was thinking, what if I lowered my ROI expectations to 5x rather than 10x? Would my liquidity increase, if so, maybe that’s worth it since it’s still an incredible return. What do you think? What ROI do you set for your domain names?

I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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domainer-shirt

Last year I told myself I was going to make t-shirts to celebrate the ten year anniversary of my blog. Then, the year got so busy that my 10-year blogging anniversary came and went in a flash. Yes, I know, 11 years isn’t normally a time to celebrate something, but I also don’t want to wait until 15 or 20 years so I figured now is probably the best time to do it.

Oh and the shirts aren’t for me, they are for you, my readers all over the world who have been reading my blog for all of these years. I want to make a shirt, as a gift to you, so not surprisingly I want your input in the design process.

First things first, it should not have my name or logo emblazoned on the front. Instead I want to have something on the front that celebrate you as a domain investor that might get a conversation or two started if someone sees it. I was thinking of something clever like, “I domain therefore I am” (too cheesy?) across the front. It should be something that you feel like you would wear and would represent your own pride behind being a Domainer.

Stock market investors are proud, real estate investors are proud, and I think we should all be proud of the time and energy we put into investing in domain names. Yes, we’re often confused with cyber-squatters, but I’ve always felt that it is part of our mission to set people straight and let them know that what we do is just another form of investing. Like real estate and the stock market, it takes time to do the research, pick the right names, and sell for a profit. Whether you make $10,000, $100,000, or millions of dollars a year – you should be proud to be a Domainer.

I came up with three ideas for what could go on the front of the shirt to kick things off, and I’d love to hear what my readers think and generate additional ideas if you don’t like any of these three. The shirts will be available for free to anyone who reads my blog. This is my way of saying thanks for reading what I’ve had to say for all of these years and keeping MorganLinton.com going strong for over a decade.

With that said, here are the three ideas I had for the front of the shirt:

  1. I domain therefore I am
  2. Domainer
  3. Wait until you see my domain portfolio

Now I can’t tell whether all three of these suck or if one of them calls out to you and you’re thinking, “I’d love to have a shirt with that on it!” So this is where you come in. What would you like to see on the front of a t-shirt?

I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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keyword-domains-seo

John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst over at Google recently held a webinar that covered the topic of keyword domain names. In the webinar he clearly stated, “keyword domains don’t rank better” and shared a list of four insights into keyword domains and ranking. Here’s the official list from Google:

  1. Keywords domains don’t have a time advantage
  2. Keyword domains don’t rank better
  3. Keywords lost ranking influence years ago
  4. Keyword domains ranked the same as branded domains

(Source – Search Engine Journal)

This has been a very controversial subject in the domain community where many people have had a hard time letting go of the idea that keyword domains give some ranking advantage. Now that Google is officially on record stating that keyword domains don’t rank better…it’s pretty hard to argue it any other way. Of course the domain community is not alone, the search community has also had a hard time with this as well…

“The search community has had an equally hard time giving up on the idea of keyword domains ranking better and Search Engine Journal did not that while there could be a minimal signal, there’s nothing out there to prove that there is and like I said above, Google has said that there isn’t.

Nevertheless, the idea that keyword domains were better than brand domains continued in the search industry, even though Google was no longer giving a boost to parked keyword domains.

An argument can be made that there is a minimal signal. But there is nothing to lend support to that theory. It’s been a long time since any search engine has published research that included keywords in domains as any kind of signal.”

(Source – Search Engine Journal)

Where I think most people get confused is that none of this means that keyword domains don’t carry an advantage when it comes to branding, and this advantage can carry over into SEO, it’s just not a direct correlation. Here’s what happens.

If you do have a keyword domain, it could be said that people are more likely to click on your site since the domain name itself will make you look like more of an authority. Google’s ranking algorithm does take things like this into account so your site could rank better over time if more people click on it when they see it in their Google results.

So while it’s not the domain name itself that is getting an algorithmic advantage in Google’s search algorithms, people’s perception of you as an authority could certainly increase their chances of clicking on your site in search results, which could lead to a higher ranking.

Still, all that being said, I think it’s time we put the idea of keyword domains giving you a ranking advantage to bed.

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords. And that’s something that’s been the case for a really, really long time.” (John Mueller – Google)

What do you think, is Google lying to us here or should we trust them this time?

Photo Credit: BigOakFlickr Flickr via Compfight cc

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