2020 domain buying strategy

Okay, so as you all know, I’m a .COM guy. Don’t let the title of this post fool you, I’m still going to be. That being said, I’ve typically balanced my portfolio with ~90% .COM, and ~10% everything else. In 2020, I’m changing that and at the core of that change is .IO and .CO.

Now I’m not planning on making a dramatic change, still the vast majority of domains I’m going to invest in are going to be .COM, but I am going to rebalance in a somewhat meaningful way with ~25% of my investments next year going into .IO and .CO.

I have been buying and selling domains for twelve years now and every year I examine my business and decide if I should keep doing things the exact same way or if data is telling me it’s time to make some adjustments.

The strongest trend I’ve seen period is the power of two-word .COMs. This will continue to be the core focus of my acquisitions. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the activity in the .CO and .IO space and I think now is the time to start balancing my portfolio a bit differently to now make a bigger move into these two extensions.

Now that being said, when it comes to .CO or .IO my focus is one-word domains that I could see selling for $50,000 or more in .COM. I will not be investing in many two-word .CO or .IO names like I do with .COM, instead I want big juicy names that either have sold, or anyone could see selling for a reasonable amount of money in their .COM form.

Of course I could course-correct mid-year if I feel like I’ve made a huge mistake but from where I’m sitting, it looks like there are some good opportunities in the .IO and .CO space and I’m done being a .COM-only guy, it’s time to broaden my horizon. Could it be a huge mistake? Sure, but at the same time I also think it could be an even bigger mistake to just stick with .COM when there are some real opportunities in other extensions.

Like I said above, .COM will be my focus and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, but for the first time in my twelve years buying domains, two other TLDs are going to start to become a more meaningful part of my portfolio.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Think I’m an idiot? Will that 25% that I put into .IO and .CO be completely wasted? You know how it goes, I don’t censor my comments so let it rip – I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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There has been a lot of talk over the years about buying a domain name specifically for its backlink profile. At the end of the day it is true that you can benefit from backlinks on a domain name that changes hands, but as John Mueller from Google points out, the experience can be a bit like buying a used car.

Someone recently took to Twitter to ask John, a Webmaster Trends analyst at Google if there’s any way to make sure you don’t end up buying a domain that is penalized by Google, here’s the thread:

Buying domains with backlinks

In short – when you buy a domain because you want the SEO juice from its backlinks, you could also end up dealing with the fallout from what turns out to be an ugly mess of backlinks, some good, some bad…and this could mean a lot of time (or money if you’re not an SEO guru yourself) to get it fixed.

SearchTides.com has a list of some common reasons why a domain you bought could end up with some serious clean up work before you’ll truly be able to benefit from its backlink profile:

Some domains have a poor history. Google de-indexes or blacklists websites associated with activities in the past such as the following:

Publishing duplicate content

– Keyword stuffing

– The overuse of anchor text

– Manipulating rankings using deceptive SEO methods

– Your site used to be a porn site

– Your site has been hacked

– Your site received a flood of malicious backlinks

(Source – SearchTides.com)

Now all that being said, I think there are still a ton of advantages to buying a domain with backlinks vs. starting with a brand new domain. If you can find a domain that someone else spent years building backlinks on you can instantly benefit from years of work and rank way better, way faster.

Just try to do your homework and make sure you aren’t buying a lemon first, but know, like John says, it really is impossible to know ahead of time how much work/time it will take to get things cleaned up.

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Reply All

I get emails all the time from people saying, “I have <something>.com for sale, would you like to buy it?” Most of the time the domain is complete junk, often something that was registered a week or two ago that most people wouldn’t even pay reg fee for…but sometimes a good name come up so I try to keep an open mind.

At the end of the day, I do like to respond to these emails because I only get one or two a week, and it only takes 5-10 seconds to respond and say, “no thanks.”

When I landed in San Francisco after flying back from Tokyo I was going through my email, and in a bit of a daze after the flight, saw an email with a domain for sale, told the seller I wasn’t interested…and then the emails started coming in. One after another, here’s what my inbox quickly filled up with:

That’s when I realized that the seller had emailed me and about 150 other people…and put us all as the recipient, no cc or BCC, we were all on the same email. When I hit what I thought was reply, in my daze after flying across the Pacific I hit reply all and well, my inbox quickly filled up with auto-responders and delivery failure messages like the one above 🤦‍♂️

The moral of the story – well I think there’s two:

  1. Don’t start doing emails the second you land after flying halfway across the world.
  2. Make sure you don’t hit reply all when responding to an email because you might accidentally email 150 people

All that being said, I still like responding to emails from people trying to sell me domain names. While I might not like the domain they’re emailing about now, or a month from now, you never know when someone’s going to stumble across a domain that might be a perfect fit for your portfolio.

While some people get frustrated with people who mass email, and while I don’t think it’s a great idea myself, I give everyone the benefit of the doubt – they’re trying. Yes, I think it’s not great form to email 150 people at once but at the same time, if you’re a new domain investor and you’re just trying to figure things out, I get it, and hey – I appreciate the hustle.

Of course that’s just my take. I’m interested to hear if any of you respond to domain sales emails like this, and if so, have you ever been foolish enough to accidentally hit “reply all” – I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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Domain Investing News

Hello, happy Saturday and welcome to my weekly Domain Investing news roundup. As usual, another busy week in the domain industry with a pretty intense debate on Twitter popping up around a startup that moved from GetSupply.com to Supply.co – I shared the original tweet that kicked everything off below.

Enough from me, here are stories that caught my eye this week from around the domain name world – enjoy!

  • A look at the top 10 .co sales and where they are today (read more on TheDomains.com)
  • Lotto.com and Naturals.com hit with cybersquatting complaints (read more on Domain Name Wire)
  • Doron from Efty sells Bold.co for $15,000 (read more on Twitter)
  • Media Options Launches “SEO Authority Domain Deals” Newsletter (read more on DomainInvesting.com)
  • One domain investor hit the Jackpot twice in the same day (read more on TLDInvestors.com)
  • GetSupply.com changes their name to Supply.co (read more on Twitter)
  • ICA Names 9 Lonnie Borck Memorial Award Nominees (read more on DNJournal)

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I’ll keep this short and sweet. There’s been a big debate happening on Twitter about a company that moved from GetSupply.com to Supply.co and whether people think that was a good idea or not.

I think the founder of the company said it best in his tweet announcing the change:

GetSupply.com changes to Supply.co

What Patrick says is spot on IMHO, if your domain name is Get<something>.com people often think your company is called Get<something>, they have no idea that you’re actually adding the “Get” at the front just to secure the .COM.

I’ve seen this cause so much confusion over the years for so many companies. At the end of the day, if you want to call your company <something> it’s better to own <something>.co/.io/.net, etc if you can’t get the exact-match .COM and still really want to call your company <something>.

When people hear about a company on the domain name Supply.co, they’ll assume the company is called Supply. When people hear about a company on the domain name GetSupply.com, they’ll assume the company is called GetSupply.

Patrick’s company is Supply, so moving to Supply.co makes a ton of sense to me. Just last week Doron, the founder of Efty announced that he sold Bold.co, the company already put up their site and guess what, it’s a company called Bold. I can tell you they’re probably happier with Bold.co than if they got GetBold.com or BoldOnline.com because their company is called Bold.

There are multiple paths you can take when it comes to naming a company and at the end of the day the reality is you don’t need to have the .COM to build a successful company, Zoom built a billion dollar business on a .US and only bought the .COM after they were swimming in cash and there are many more similar examples of companies that have done the same.

Does Supply want to get Supply.com someday, I’m sure they do, but did they make the right move for their business and their brand today, yes they did. Or at least that’s my two cents!

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I was having a conversation with a friend who is interested in getting started in the world of Domain Investing. She brought up an interesting point as I was sharing some of the fundamentals – when you take the amount of time spent looking at and acquiring names, negotiating deals, and finalizing transactions, what do you end up making hourly?

My initial answer was – well that really depends on a lot of factors. That being said I do think people who buy and hold, don’t do outbound, and only negotiate when they know they have a big buyer likely come out with the highest conversion of time to money.

For people who flip names and focus on outbound they likely end up with a lower “hourly wage” so to speak. Flipping names regularly not only means spending more time researching and buying names, it often means spending a lot more time emailing with prospective buyers and trying to close a deal.

About five years ago I stopped doing outbound myself, since I run a software company I just don’t have the time to do it. While I could make time, after working a ten hour day I’d rather spend time with friends or family vs. doing more work, and yes – outbound is work no matter how you slice it in my book.

My friend continued to push on figuring out this calculation for herself, the reason being that she’s a pretty talented software developer so can make around $200/hour consulting. If she makes less than $200/hour Domaining over the course of a year, she feels like she won’t be doing as good of a job as she could at converting her time to money.

At the end of our discussion I was able to convince her to give it a shot but to start small with two-word .COMs in the sub-$500 range and a target sale price in the $1,500 – $3,500 range. She’s going to start with a $10,000 investment and see if she can turn that into $20,000 valuing her time at more than $200/hour – we’ll see how it goes!

I do think plenty of Domainers would make north of $500/hour if you calculated it. At the same time, I think other Domainers that may “profit” $10,000 – $20,000/year could end up in the $20-$30/hour range which is on par with what an Uber driver makes.

Either way, I think my friend has an interesting perspective and makes a point that every Domainer should be thinking about – how do you end up converting your time to money, and more importantly, how much do you think your time is worth?

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When it comes to WordPress themes there are a lot to choose from, okay more than a lot, I think it’s fair to use the word “zillions” right? In a sea of themes a few theme designers have stood out to me over the years and one of them is Rich Tabor and his company ThemeBeans which was acquired by Go Daddy back in April of this year.

I’ve been a big fan of Rich’s, I think he makes some of the most pixel-perfect themes out there, and I’m also a big fan of Go Daddy’s – so when I heard about the acquisition, it did really feel like a great match.

Since it’s not every day your company gets acquired by a big public company like Go Daddy I thought it would be interesting to talk with Rich about his journey from inception to acquisition. With that, let’s get to the interview!

[ Morgan ]
When did you start ThemeBeans? What inspired you to start the company?

[Rich]
I started ThemeBeans back in 2011. I’ve kind of always been a “maker”, and WordPress provided a field to grow in my creativity while also making a bit a living doing so. 

My inspiration was honestly to learn more about WordPress, as I was designing for a local marketing agency who used WordPress exclusively. Selling themes was a forcing function to hold myself to a higher standard  – as people were actually paying me for a beautiful and performant theme.

[ Morgan ]
What was the biggest challenge you faced in the early days of ThemeBeans?

[ Rich ]
Differentiation. Being able to make beautiful themes doesn’t make you different. But being able to craft effectively delightful experiences, wrapped by clever design, and supported like we were good friends – that’s what set ThemeBeans apart.

[ Morgan ]
What was your biggest triumph while running ThemeBeans (outside of the acquisition of course!)?

[ Rich ]
I’d say 100%, it’s how I leveraged the future of ThemeBeans (and my career) on the promise of Gutenberg. Focusing on Gutenberg propelled ThemeBeans into a leading WordPress theme shop, laying the foundation for Gutenberg-optimized themes. That focus then inspired me to pursue Gutenberg block development, which led to the acquisition of both CoBlocks and ThemeBeans.

[ Morgan ]
Given your expertise with WordPress, is there anything you know about WordPress that most people don’t know but would be interested to learn?

[ Rich ]
Most notably, I think we’re going to start seeing folks focusing on user experience. UX isn’t new at all, but the art most certainly hasn’t been a priority for the majority of WordPress developers. With the addition of Gutenberg, we absolutely have to lean more on UX than we ever have before. It’s honestly a great thing for WordPress. Who doesn’t like leveling-up and building better experiences?

[ Morgan ]
Did you ever think you’d sell ThemeBeans to another company?

[ Rich ]
I was hoping to do so one day. As much as I liked the business, I knew it was unlikely I’d continue to make and sell WordPress themes throughout my entire career. 

I always thought of ThemeBeans as my first big push to learn on the job. I mean, running the shop taught me everything I know about about WordPress, helped me refine my design aesthetic, gave me a runway into development, taught me to focus on user experience, and how to tackle all things business related. 

Selling ThemeBeans is just another tick on that list; learning how to navigate the ins and outs of an acquisition. 

This kind of personal development is hard to come by without experience – and this is one I’m particularly proud one. 

[ Morgan ]
How did the GoDaddy acquisition come about?

[ Rich ]
It started on a whim at WordCamp US 2018, by meeting a few folks from GoDaddy’s MWPCX (Managed WordPress Customer Experience) team. Little did I know, those conversations would quickly escalate into full on discussions on what life could look like as a part of GoDaddy.

About a month later, I visited the team and soaked up everything I could about the direction GoDaddy wanted to go, the team’s passion, the company culture, and the very people I’d work with day in and day out. I left that trip feeling confident that GoDaddy would be a great place for me personally. The challenge of taking on a leading role with a bigger team than I’ve ever worked with before, at a scale much larger than I ever imagined,  was quite enticing. I knew this future role would lay the foundation for massive personal growth and development. 

And honestly, it couldn’t have worked out better. 

[ Morgan ]
What has it been like working at GoDaddy so far?

[ Rich ]
It’s fantastic, really. I can’t say enough about how empowering the company culture is, how incredible the Managed WordPress team is, or how talented the folks I work with are. 

Working at GoDaddy is kind of like being at a delightfully awkward family reunion where you feel 100% supported for who you are and everyone’s proud of the cool stuff everyone’s been up to. I’m proud to be a part of GoDaddy and to have an opportunity to make such a massive impact on the future of WordPress at GoDaddy.

[ Morgan ]
Last but not least, tell us something fun about you, Rich, that most people don’t know?

[ Rich ]
I saw Twenty One Pilots in concert twice this year. Totally one of my favorite bands of all time. 

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Funding spent on domain name

Here’s a burning question that startups around the world have – how much of their funding should be spent on a domain name?

First things first, there is no right answer here, and I think the answer varies quite a bit depending on a few key pieces of information about the startup. Here’s a few questions I think you need to ask yourself:

Is your startup focused on B2B or B2C? While both should have good domain names, B2C startups can live or die by their domain name and often have bigger marketing budgets since they’re trying to reach consumers.

The next question to ask is what market you sell to? If you sell to a customer that is very tech-savvy then putting more money into your domain name makes sense. If you customer is typically someone who uses a flip phone and prefers fax to email, well then you might not need to shell out as much money.

The third question I think you need to ask yourself is – are you planning on advertising in a way that a customer will hear your name in a video or audio ad? If so, you’ll want them to remember your domain and be able to easily get to it, if you use some obscure TLD or pick a brand name that’s hard to spell or remember, you’re in trouble.

With all that said, I’ll throw out some general numbers to get the conversation going. For B2C startups where a domain name is critically important I’d say spending as much as 25% – 30% of a funding round on a domain will pay dividends over time. A B2C startup can probably get away with spending 10% or so.

Given that most Seed rounds now feel like they’re in the $2M range that means that $500k shouldn’t be out of the question for B2C startups that are going to need to pick a domain that will really help establish you brand. If you don’t feel like shelling out the money all at once, you’ll find many domain name owners are happy to over lease-to-own deals which can take out a bit of the sting.

Like I said above, there’s now right or wrong answer here but that’s my two cents. Just last week a good friend raised a Seed round and spent $350,000 on a domain name, they talked with their investors about it quite a bit and all agreed it was a good move.

Of course you can always spend $5,000 or so on a domain that you don’t love but gets the job done…just know you could end up upgrading later down the road and changing your name is an expensive and complex process, always better to get it right the first time if you can.

Okay you’ve heard from me, now I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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The SEO gurus at MOZ, a company famous for making some pretty awesome (but not free) SEO tools, has decided to take the free route for a spin with a new domain name SEO analysis tool. Here’s the skinny from the Moz blog:

One thing Moz does extremely well is SEO data: data that consistently sets industry standards and is respected both for its size (35 trillion links, 500 million keyword corpus) and its accuracy. We’re talking things like Domain AuthoritySpam ScoreKeyword Difficulty, and more, which are used by tens of thousands of SEOs across the globe.

With Domain Analysis, we wanted to combine this data in one place, and quickly show it to people without the need of creating a login or signing up for an account.

(Source – MOZ Blog)

I recently had someone reach out to me who was interested in buying domain names that had a good backlink profile. I told him that I don’t buy domains based on backlinks but I know there are some people who do and with this new (and free) tool from Moz I’m guessing more people will.

There’s been an age-old debate about whether backlinks die after a domain name expires. I’ve changed my views on this over time and recently I’ve been in the “the backlinks still carry some juice” camp. But like I said, I don’t buy domains based on backlink profiles nor do I spend a lot of time researching SEO so what do I know? 🤷‍♂️

Do you research the backlink profiles of the domains you buy or try to buy domains based on how many backlinks they have? If so, how’s it been going?

Thanks to Moz for making a free SEO tool, I’m looking forward to taking it for a spin!

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If you remember back in September I wrote an article about a domain auction being run by the Ethereum Name Service, well – the auction was hacked, and the hacker stole 17 domains including Apple.eth. Here’s the scoop:

As CoinDesk reported at the time, the ENS bidding process managed by digital-collectibles marketplace OpenSea was exploited, allowing a hacker to nab 17 domain names for lower bids than other users placed. ENS and OpenSea asked the hacker to return the domain names, promising compensation for finding the bug.

(Source – CoinDesk)

Well, in an interesting turn of events, the hacker agreed to return the domains in exchange for a reward.

Now it’s not uncommon to hear about companies offering “bug bounties” which are essentially systems for rewarding hackers for finding bugs. This isn’t the way they usually go but in this case it does seem to be a win-win since the Ethereum Name Service gets their domains back and the hacker gets a bug bounty when there wasn’t really an official bug bounty program running.

So what does the hacker get in exchange for stealing these domains and then giving them back? She/he will receive 25% of the final auction price of every domain name sold in the auction.

Timing is critical for this as DevCon5 is taking place this week in Osaka. My flight from LAX to Osaka on Sunday was actually full of DevCon5 attendees and this year the conference is expected to be their biggest show yet.

If you don’t know what DevCon5 is, think of it as the go-to conference for Ethereum developers, hence why the Ethereum Name Service really wants to get the auction back in action and these domains out to the community.

My only question is, if Apple.eth goes back into the auction and sells, will Apple Inc. go after it with a UDRP? It seems odd that they’re auctioning off domains that violate major trademarks like that but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on that one!

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