Old Habits Die Hard

Like many if not all domain investors, I buy a fair share of my domain names through expired domain marketplaces. My go-to for a long time has been Go Daddy auctions, but over the last five years places like Park.io are starting to become a bigger part of my expired domain buying pie 🥧

What I’ve tried to do over the last couple of years is remind myself not to fixate on one specific marketplace and instead look across a wide range of options. ExpiredDomains.net is a great resource for investors that are trying to break the habit of focusing on just one marketplace. They also have some pretty nifty ways to slice and dice expired domain data to hone in on what’s interesting to you specifically.

Today I made my first bid on a domain at Dynadot and I was really impressed with how streamlined the experience was. That’s what really inspired this post was me realizing, how is this the first time I’ve ever bid on an expired domain at Dynadot? 🤷‍♂️

The reality is, as humans, we are creatures of habit. Once we find something that works for us, we tend to double-down on it and do it over and over again. And yes, the old adage, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” might apply, but I’d also say that you might not know what you’re missing until you branch out.

So if you find yourself buying expired domains from the same place, take a few minutes to explore around either through an aggregator like ExpiredDomains.net or directly from the source. The beginning of a new year is a great time to start breaking old habits and start making new ones!

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Lately I’ve been really enjoying what I think we can call “Domaining Twitter” – with people spending more time inside it feels like we’re really hitting a good stride. I’ve never seen so many people sharing what they’re doing to forge their path in the domain name world.

One person who has caught my eye and continues to is Alex Verdea who focuses on flipping hand registered domain names. This morning Alex announced a pretty awesome sale:

Hand registered domain sale

Yes, that’s a two-word .COM that Alex hand registered less than three months ago that he sold for five figures, and it was an inbound sale.

Of course, stories like this should come with a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer to start. If you review Alex’s tweets over the last year you’ll see he’s put a lot of thought into learning which keywords perform the best and from what I can tell he seems to stick with my favorite kind of domain, two-word .COMs.

This is yet another example of why people who say that it’s too late to get into domain investing really are leaving money on the table. As I’ve said many times, I think these are still the early days and ten years from now people will be kicking themselves for not getting into domain investing sooner.

One of the best things about domain investing is the chance to constantly learn and improve your own strategy and in the end. Thanks to Alex for continuing to share his journey with all of us and congrats on the sale, safe to say it’s 🔥

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brandable domains

As I’ve said many times before, my core focus when it comes to domain name investing is two-word .COMs. While I’m a big fan of ccTLDs like .io and .co, .COM is still my jam.

One of the things that makes the two-word .COM market so interesting is the dynamic range of names that can sell, from exact-match domains to brandables, and the trends keep on changing.

Today, Yogi Solanki (who does a ton of outbound sales) shared what keywords have been performing the best for him when it comes to sales:

I was the most surprised to see “limo” with so many sales but it makes sense, if you’re a limo company chances are your company name is <keyword> Limo.

Half of the keywords on this list were news to me which is one of the things I really love about domain investing, you’re always learning, and hopefully in the process, adapting and growing. Thanks to Yogi for sharing, it’s amazing how much you can learn but just looking at Twitter and hearing what other investors share, there are a lot of nuggets dropped every day, you just need to find them.

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Selling domains on Twitter

Okay, I know the title of this post might not make any sense, but stick with me and it will once I’m done here. First things first, as we all know, people who actively try to sell their domains outbound usually see more sales. It makes sense right? Like anything in life, the more you put into it, the more likely you are to see results.

At the same time, when it comes to domain names, there’s a lot of things you can do to make you think you’re getting your domains out there that actually aren’t going to move the needle. One example is something I see all the time on Twitter because I get included in the Tweet. Here’s an example:

Before I go any further, and I think you’ll see as you read on, I’m not trying to say anything negative about Pradeep here. It doesn’t bother me when I see myself amongst a sea of other names on Tweets like this. I appreciate everyone for trying their hard to sell domains, period, so I respect Pradeep for his hustle, even if I know it’s not the right way to do it. Better to try and learn than not try at all right?

Of course, there is a better way to sell this domain than to spam a bunch of domain investors on Twitter and Yogi Solanki, outbound domain salesman extraordinaire did something really nice for Pradeep.

What Yogi shares here is what is likely the best way for Pradeep to really optimize his time – reach out to end-users that might have a real interest in the domain name. I also have to say I think Yogi rocks for doing this, he’s a good example of someone who coaches up and makes the people around him better.

Now there’s a way that Twitter could still play a role in the sales process here and I’ll throw this nugget out at the end. Pradeep could follow a handful of people who have businesses with “panda” in their name and try reaching out directly via a DM. I’m hearing more and more stories of domain investors going beyond email to reach out to people, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. and seeing good results.

The point is, it’s not as much about using Twitter or not using Twitter to sell a domain name, it’s more about who you are trying to sell the domain to. Thanks to Yogi for being the good guy that he is and Pradeep, if you’re reading this and you end up selling to one of the people Yogi recommended, let me know!

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Bitcoin

It has been hard to not pay attention to Bitcoin lately, its made some major price moves and looked poised to move into the $40k+ range not too long ago. Then, for a moment, it seemed like the bottom fell out as BTC dropped to $30k just four days ago. Today, Bitcoin is back above $38k and I’m hearing more and more people buzzing about the fact that it’s going to the moon 🌝

At the same time, I’m also reading more and more articles about how the Bitcoin Dream is dead and it’s never going to be a real currency. The general thought here is:

The more people hoard Bitcoin, treating it as a speculative asset, the less appealing it seems as a currency.

(Source – Medium)

At the same time you have people that think this is only the beginning of a major run…

Bitcoin going up

Additionally, it’s safe to say teenagers and people in their 20’s are a lot more likely to invest in Bitcoin as an asset than gold which should mean the pool of buyers for Bitcoin is only going to continue to grow.

Bitcoin replacing Gold

When it comes to investing I’ve been focused on domain names but I do have some crypto, including BTC, so it has been fun to be along for the ride. At the same time, I’ve always seen my crypto investments as lottery tickets, not investments, but gambling. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little differently.

What do you think?

📢 Open comments: this post has comment moderation turned off so your comments will post live immediately 🔥

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about domain investing over the last thirteen years it’s that you can easily spend 95% of your time buying domains and forget to put time into selling domains. I’ll be the first to say I’m incredible guilty of not maintaining a healthy balance here. Part of the reason might be that I don’t have a lot of time, another reason might be that I don’t like doing outbound, and I guess, add those two together and it makes sense that I put more time into buying.

At the same time, I know that I always get the highest ROI via inbound so I have to remind myself that testing different landing pages, updating prices, and all that other boring stuff counts as sales activity since the goal is to close more deals.

And that’s where I think there’s often a disconnect. I hear people say too often that they want to put more time and energy into selling domains and immediately thing – I need to do more outbound. Yes, doing more outbound will likely mean you will sell more domains, there’s no arguing with that, but don’t forget that there are a lot of things you can do to improve your chances of selling via inbound.

Years ago I went heavy on outbound and learned, at least for me, that I didn’t like doing outbound that much. Some people love it, and if you do, rock on, but for me I just never really enjoyed it. For me I like data, and that means tweaking landing pages and testing different things is what I get a kick out of, you know that boring stuff I mentioned above, is actually fun for me, and maybe for you too, who knows 🤷‍♂️

So this year there are a few things I’m trying when it comes to experimenting with to see the impact it has on my inbound offers, and as usual, when I have ideas, I like sharing them with all of you. Here they are:

  1. Landing pages with BIN and payment plans – I’ve mostly stuck to make offer or get in touch style landing pages, this year I’m going to experiment more with adding BIN prices to my landing pages and offering payment plan options. I keep hearing more and more chatter on Twitter about people seeing good results and building up steady monthly payments by offering payment plans so I think it’s time I experiment with this a bit.
  2. LinkedIn landing pages – this was inspired by Francois from Domaining.com who started using landing pages that send buyers to LinkedIn. I first learned about this technique in this post on DomainNameWire and I really want to test this out more on a handful of names.
  3. Mini-sites with For Sale banners – a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away I used to design little five page mini-sites. That was back when dinosaur roamed the earth and you could actually get those little guys to rank relatively easily. Today the idea of whipping up a little five page site and generating meaningful ad revenue is gone, but I’ve always thought there might be the chance to put a simple site together and add a For Sale banner to see if that might bring in more serious buyers. Obviously this takes some time to put together so I don’t think I’ll be making many of these but it’s something I want to experiment with.

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Slim.ai raises $6.6M Seed Round, pre-revenue

Slim.ai

Over the last few years we’ve seen more and more startups raising Seed rounds in the $5M+ range pre-revenue. Gone are the days of investors needing to see a certain amount of MRR to invest at Seed. Today, at least the Bay Area, we are seeing investors bet on founders more than ever before and for good reason.

The latest example of a company with exceptional founders that investors have been more than ready to back is Slim.ai which just announced a $6.6M Seed round and no they aren’t generating revenue, and no the product isn’t finished yet. So what makes the founders of this company so interesting to investors? Here’s a little background:

Company co-founder and CEO John Amaral says he and fellow co-founder and CTO Kyle Quest have worked together for years, but it was Quest who started and nurtured DockerSlim. “We started coming together around a project that Kyle built called DockerSlim. He’s the primary author, inventor and up until we started doing this company, the sole proprietor of that of that community,” Amaral explained.

(Source – Techcrunch)

One of the main reasons why startups fail is because of co-founder issues so having founders like John and Kyle that have worked together for years de-risks things significantly. Couple this with the fact that they are both experts in the market they are building and have a ton of experience in this area and it’s not hard to imagine that they can build a great business here.

That being said, not every business is a venture-scale business. This morning on Twitter, serial entrepreneur turned VC Jason Lemkin shared expectations VCs have at Seed.

Hitting an 100x ROI might sound crazy but that’s what VCs are hoping for when they invest at Seed and why Seed rounds are getting as big as they are. The market for what Slim.ai is building is huge and VCs know that, but to really execute on the idea takes great founders that know how to work together and know the space, Slim.ai checks all the boxes.

Congrats to John and Kyle, looking forward to following the journey! 🚀

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Thras.io

It’s safe to say Thras.io has carved out one heck of a niche for themselves, and after generating more than $500M in sales (with $100M in profit) in 2020, the company is getting ready to even more growth in 2021.

Thras.io has a very interesting business model – they buy existing Amazon businesses and then grow them. Essentially what Thras.io has been able to do is systematize the process of scaling Amazon businesses through best practices that they’d learned and developed, and they’re not joking around:

After acquiring your business, we put it through a 503-point migration process—ushering it through diligence, creative, brand management and marketing. Through its lifecycle, more than 50 Thrashers live and breathe your brand as it becomes a profit-doubling machine.

(Source – Thras.io)

The new funding over the last six-months totaling over $750M brings Thras.io’s total funding amount up to $896.5M and for those wondering, no, they don’t own the .COM (correction, someone on Twitter mentioned that they do own the .COM but it forwards to the .IO), they’ve built a multi-billion dollar business on a .IO. As for what the company is going to do with all the additional capital, co-CEO Joshua Silberstein shared this with Crunchbase:

Thrasio is also focusing on international expansion, having recently launched a team in Germany, where it has already completed two deals in the last quarter, as well as spun up a team in Japan in the past week. Beyond that, Silberstein is looking at India and China as other potential markets.

“We’ve never bought a company with $180 million revenue, not because they don’t exist, but up until now we have shied away from that space,” Silberstein said. “Now we are in position to do multiple deals with companies in the $50 million to $200 million revenue range.”

(Source – Crunchbase)

Congrats to Joshua and the whole Thras.io team, it sounds like 2021 is going to be one heck of a year! 🎉

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Ghost blogging platform

Last year I wrote about a cool new blogging platform called Ghost that I am thinking of moving this blog to. The more I learned about Ghost, the more serious I got about making the move.

So now, here we are, a new year and I’m still on WordPress. I’ll be honest, I have stage fright, and while I still really want to make the move because Ghost just looks so freaking amazing, there are a few things still holding me back.

Here’s what’s stopping me from moving from WordPress to Ghost:

  1. Potential losing 13+ years of SEO – I have been writing this blog for 13 years and while I know the move to Ghost is supposed to be pretty seamless. We all know things can and do go wrong in the SEO world all the time. I’m still consulting SEO experts but not many have experience moving from WordPress to Ghost given how new Ghost is and given how much traffic I get through search, losing that and having to rebuild 13 years of work would be, uh, really bad.
  2. Lack of phone support – right now Ghost only offers email support and while their support has been awesome at answering questions so far, it can take an hour or more to hear back from support. If something goes wrong and my blog is down this will be the longest hour of my life. What I really like about WPEngine, my current managing hosting provider is that I can call them and get someone on the phone almost immediately. Honestly I’d pay an extra $50/month for phone support at Ghost but it’s just not an option right now unfortunately.
  3. Limited 3rd party plugins – it’s no secret that WordPress has a massive ecosystem surrounding it. This makes sense because WordPress has been around while dinosaurs were still roaming the earth. Okay, not that long but it has been around for a while. Ghost is still relatively new so there just aren’t as many cool add-ons, at the same time, do I really need them, so much is built in? This one might not be as much of a deal-breaker for now.

So that’s where I’m at, still on the fence but continuing to do research. I feel incredibly lucky to have a blog that is continuing to go strong after so many years. I love my readers and am still in awe of how many amazing sponsors I have. The old saying, “if it’s not broken don’t fix it,” sticks in my mind, but this new cool shiny thing called Ghost is still top-of-mind.

What do you think I should do?

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Another day, another BrandBucket success story

BrandBucket Success Story

As many of you know I’ve been a fan of BrandBucket for years. It’s run by an amazing founder, Margot Bushnaq who is a real pioneer in the brandable domain name space. Over the years I hear more and more success stories from both domain owners and startup founders and today it happened again so I thought I’d share it.

This time it comes from domain industry veteran Shane who announced on Twitter that he’s done over $90,000 in deals through BrandBucket in the last twelve months, here’s the tweet:

Shane Brandbucket

Shane has a great eye for domains and also knows how to price them which is why he’s seeing such good results. One mistake I’ve seen investors make is to put great domains on marketplaces like BrandBucket but then list at the absolutely maximum price they can.

The reality is, it’s all about doing the research and knowing the market and pricing accordingly. With three domain sales totaling over $90k you can do the math and know that Shane is pricing these in the $30k range. While I don’t know the price he paid for Jukio(.)com my guess is it was less than $3k and he probably locked in a 15x or better ROI.

Congrats to Shane and BrandBucket, here’s to the next sale! 🎉

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