domain-investing-news

I’m always amazed at how much goes on in the domain investing world in a single week, and this week was no exception. There was a lot to cover this week and while I’m trying to keep this short and sweet, I’d say pull up a chair, crack open a beer, and get comfy because there’s a lot to catch-up on.

Here are the stories that caught my eye in the domain investing world this week.

  • George Kirikos launched his new blog on FreeSpeech.com, pretty hard to beat that domain name. There is no doubt in my mind this is going to be a very interesting blog to read, George has been in the industry for a long time and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. I will definitely be reading every one of George’s posts!
  • VPN.com hired Darryl Lopes as a Senior Domain Broker. Lopes spent the last four years as a broker at Uniregistry so comes to VPN.com with a solid background and it seems he has definitely hit the ground running.
  • The hotly contested .MUSIC domain extension is likely going to see the light of day according to a post from Domain Incite
  • A company in Portland paid $600,000 for the domain name Carrot.com, there’s no doubt this is a great domain and the pricing seems pretty darn reasonable to me, there’s only one Carrot.com and now it’s off the market
  • DNJournal released their latest weekly sales charts and a 4N .COM took the top spot with 1992.com selling for $110,000
  • Rick Schwartz and Daniel Negari from .XYZ got into a pretty heated debate on Twitter, if you want to read it, start here and read keep on scrolling down
  • Efty released three kick-ass new landing page templates

If there are any other exciting stories that you think deserve to be highlighted, go for it – the comment section below is all yours. Happy Friday and thanks for reading!

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Well it feels like we’re hitting a point where Efty is announcing new things almost every week. As an Efty customer, this is pretty awesome since all these new features and options come at no additional cost. Today the company announced three new landing pages and IMHO these are the best-looking pages they’ve made to-date.

The reality is, design impacts conversions. Let me say that another way, the better your landing pages look, the more likely people are to interact with them. I’ve learned this lesson over time working with brands at retailers around the world. I’ve seen huge brands (i.e iconic companies we all know and love) make small UX changes to their site and see conversion rates skyrocket.

Efty realizes this too and highlighted this on their blog today:

“At Efty, we’ve learned over the years that first impressions matter. Design matters. And having hosted millions of For-Sale landing pages over the past 4+ years we found that mobile-first, stunning graphics, crisp typography, bold call-to-action buttons and a customizable message focused on benefits makes potential buyers not only consider the opportunities but pay a premium for it.

We are committed to our position as an industry innovator and being the catalyst behind an insane amount of offers, inquiries, and most important: commission-free domain name sales.

For this reason, I am super excited to share that we just pushed the launch button on what we think are the industries best-looking For-Sale landing pages and introduce you to the first three templates in this new series.” (Source – Efty Blog)

Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll stop talking about these new landing pages and show them to you.

NOBO

Nobo For Sale Lander Efty

(live example – VRHero.com)

FRESKU

fresku-gif-3

(live example – BandManager.com)

NUBIA

Nubia-Efty-Lander

(live example – FinanceMedia.com)

Personally my favorite out of these three is NOBO and I’ll likely be updating some of my own landing pages today to take advantage of these new additions. As usual – thanks Efty, more features and functionality and all for free, you’re going to have a lot of happy customers on your hands!

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sony-crackle

Well here’s a weird one. Popular streaming video service, Crackle, which is owned by Sony, is launched a new service called Crackle Plus. There’s no doubt that they plan on making millions with the new service, yet beat on the street is that they don’t want to spend $10,000 to secure the domain name.

“For Sony-owned Crackle, however, it appears getting ownership of the domain name behind its upcoming Crackle Plus premium offering is proving a bit difficult, if only because the gigantic mega-corporation doesn’t feel like paying $10,000 to secure it from the person who already owns it, according to a report from Variety.” (Source – TheVerge)

But wait, there’s more.

Apparently the media giant has retreated from their original plans and now isn’t going to call the service Crackle Plus, in fact, they’re claiming it was never going to be a consumer-facing brand so they didn’t care. This just seems a bit fishy to me since they did try to buy it from him so clearly Sony wanted the domain.

At the same time, it’s pretty clear the owner of the domain knew Sony would want it and bought it for that reason…so if I was a betting man, I’d say Sony might be trying to investigate going the UDRP route.

“Crackleplus.com was registered by one Muhammad Abdullah in October 2017. Reached via email, Abdullah said he bought the name “to start my own entertainment website.” The site currently consists of a landing page offering to sell the domain name for “10,000 USD” and includes the Sony Crackle logo — indicating that Abdullah is fully aware that Sony has an interest in the name. Abdullah correctly noted that Sony owns a registered trademark on “Crackle” but not “Crackle Plus.” He’s also registered Twitter and Instagram accounts with the “crackleplus” name.” (Source – Variety)

In short. I think Sony probably does still want the domain, but it’s clear that they don’t want to pay $10k for it. This is just crazy since they’re likely planning on making tens of millions of dollars with their new streaming service and two-word .COMs sell for a lot more than $10k all the time. Heck, MyWebsite.com sold for $70,000 just about two weeks ago.

I think the crux of the issue is that Sony’s lawyers are annoyed with the guy who bought the domain and don’t want to buy out of principle more than anything since they see him squatting on their brand. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I personally don’t think I’d buy that domain because I’d be too nervous about getting hit with a UDRP but the current owner might be more of a risk-taker than me.

What do you think? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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branding

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of BrandBucket and I recommend them to other startup founders just about every week since they really are one of the best places to buy a brandable domain name. As both a startup founder and a domain investor I also really like that BrandBucket shares sales data and trend information with their users.

They don’t have to do this, but they do, and that’s awesome.

I find that I always learn something from BrandBucket’s sales reports and so I wanted to share some things I learned from their February data.

  1. Removing sales under $10k the average sale price is right around $2.5k – this makes a lot of sense to me. IMO, a startup of any size can pay $2,500 for a domain, and given that .COMs regularly sell for six-figures, getting the .COM of your brand name for $2,500 is a slam dunk. As a domain investor this also tells me that at $2,500 I can pretty much stick to my price and feel comfortable about it, above that, safe to say I might lose some people.
  2. 66% of the sales were two-word .COMs – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, two-word .COMs are the bomb. Seriously, I love two-word .COMs and it’s clear I’m not alone since this is the top performing category on BrandBucket. My startup brands on a two-word .COM and the main category of domain names I invest in are two-word .COMs. This data goes to show that demand continues to be very strong for this category of name.
  3. Buyers prefer keywords vs. invented names – there was a 60/40 split here with buyers generally preferring keywords, i.e. actual words rather than made-up words. This was pretty close so it’s clear that plenty of people are a-okay with invented names but good old normal English words still take the cake.

So putting all this data together and tailoring it to you, my reader, here’s what I’d say.

To startup founders – you can get a solid two-word .COM for $2,500, so if you don’t have a brand name in mind, BrandBucket could be a great place to come up with and secure a name without spending a fortune.

To domain investors – if you want more liquidity, focusing on two-word .COMs with keywords and selling in the $2,500 range should hit a sweet spot.

Have some thoughts of your own? I’d love to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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afternic-logo

Afternic was one of the very first platforms I used to list domain names for sale, which was over ten years ago…queue jokes about me being old! Over the years they have done a great job of improving the UX, expanding the distribution network, and many more awesome things that help investors sell more domains. There are many different avenues to sell domains and listing your names in a marketplace like Afternic is free, and gets you more exposure, so there’s really no reason not to do it.

In the past I’ve heard people complain about having to pay commission when a domain name they own sells at a marketplace. There’s a very quick simple fix for this, just price your name higher to compensate. That was easy, wasn’t it?

As one of the largest global domain marketplaces, and owned by Go Daddy, Afternic has an incredible distribution network which means that people searching for your domain can find it on a wide range of other places. Since it’s been a while since I’ve done a walkthrough of getting started with Afternic I thought it was time for a refresher since it’s one of my personal favorites.

There’s some terminology to know when listing domains on Afternic and if that’s scared you away in the past get ready for it to all be demystified. Ready? Let’s rock!

Step 1: Enter your domains

afternic-step1-enter-domains

Unless you only have a handful of domain names I would highly recommend that you upload a spreadsheet with your domains in it. This makes life a lot easier because you’re able to fill out all the details about each domain name directly in Excel. While you can always do this directly through the Afternic platform, I’ve found it’s quicker and easier to do it in a spreadsheet on the front-end.

So let’s walk through what the spreadsheet will look like.

Step 2: Download the spreadsheet template

Afternic-domain-listing-spreadsheet

Okay, I know there’s a lot here, but don’t get intimidated, once you know what everything means it’s easy to get in a groove. Let’s go through each of these columns one-by-one:

Domain Name – you guessed it, that was an easy one!

Minimum offer – this is the lowest offer amount a buyer can submit, don’t confuse this with the lowest amount of money you’d accept for a domain name. You might want to get $5,000 for a domain but realistically a buyer with a $5,000 budget could start with an $1,000 offer…I’d recommend setting your minimum offer in the $250 – $750 range. Note that $250 is the minimum offer price that you can set.

Reserve price – this is an optional field. If a buyer meets this price it will automatically be accepted after 7 days if someone else doesn’t make a higher offer. I often leave this blank myself.

Floor price – also optional but I do recommend filling this one in. The floor price is the lowest price you’d sell a domain for and can be useful if someone from Afternic is helping to negotiate a deal on your behalf. Once again, like I said above, set this to a number that takes into account the commission you’ll be paying.

Buy Now Price – while this is also technically optional I strongly recommend filling it in. It also happens to be required if you’d like your domains to be part of the premium promotion level, which you want. More on that later. Simply put, the Buy Now Price, often called a BIN, is the price you’d accept for an immediate sale.

First and second level categories – if you fill this in then people browsing for names in specific categories will have an easier time finding your name. You can have Afternic do this for you but the reality is you’ll probably do a better job yourself than letting a bot do it.

Description – you’re welcome to go nuts here and write a fun description of your domain or list reasons why someone should buy it. I haven’t used this field myself since it would take a long time to fill it out for all my names.

Listing status – I see people get confused with this one and I know why…it’s a bit confusing. Essentially this is asking if you want your domain to be available through the domain reseller network or not. I’d say in 99.9% of cases you would want this since it means more people will see your domain. Simply put the number “3” in this field to select that option, a “4” means you do not want to have your domain included in the reseller network.

Step 3: List your domain for fast transfer

This is another great reason why you want to set a BIN price with names you list on Afternic. If your domains have a BIN and they qualify for fast transfer (based on price and TLD) then you’ll get automatically upgraded to the Premium Network at the same time. So what is fast transfer? It means that the buyer will get the name right after they purchase it without having to go through the hassle of auth codes and associated waiting game.

The way I look at it is – people like to take the path of least resistance. If someone is considering buying your name and another name, and your name they’ll get right away, the other they’ll have to go through auth codes, etc. then which name do you think they’re going to pick?

That’s it. Your names will now be listed for sale on Afternic. At this point you might be wondering a bit more about the difference between the Standard and Premium Network so let me break it down for you.

  • Standard promotes your domain on 32 sites, Premium promotes your domain on 100 sites
  • Standard gets you in front of a potential 25M buyers, Premium gets you in front of a potential 75M buyers
  • Standard won’t allow fast transfers, Premium will

Phew – okay well that about covers it. Hopefully this post will give you the kick in the pants you needed to get your names up on Afternic. Like any domain marketplace don’t set an expectation that suddenly all your domains will sell overnight but there’s no doubt you have a great chance of selling your domains if they’re listed in marketplaces than if they aren’t…and there’s no cost to list them, so it’s always seemed like a no brainer to me.

Thanks for reading and as always feel free to share your thoughts and experience in the comment section below!

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domain-investing-forecast

For as long as I can remember I’ve been probably a little bit OCD when it comes to budgeting and planning. As a kid I used to save my allowance and budget for cool things that I wanted, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve continued to put together plans and forecasts wherever possible.

Domain sales always seemed like a pretty challenging thing to forecast since there really is a fair amount of randomness to when a particular domain name will sell. Additionally, domain investors typically need a relatively long time horizon similar to real estate investors.

When I buy a domain name, I know very well it could take five years to sell. Sure, maybe you can get lucky and buy a name and flip it next month, but the reality is, for most of us, domains are an asset class we invest in, not a business that we run.

Like any investment, there is no crystal ball that will tell you how well (or poorly) your investments will perform, or if there is, please tell me about it! Luckily, there are some pretty basic assumptions you can use to do some back-of-the-napkin math on what kind of investment income you should be seeing from your domain portfolio.

Here are the assumptions I’ve made when it comes to domain investments:

  • The average .COM investor sells 1% (or less) of their portfolio a year
  • Most of the domains you own will sell for less than $5,000
  • You might have some domains that can sell for five figures
  • You probably don’t have any domains that will sell for six-figures (or if you do then you know you do)
  • If you invest in non .COMs assume you will sell 0% of those domains each year (i.e. if you make a sale, it’s a bonus not an expectation)

Only you know the split between sub-$5k domains and higher-valued names in your portfolio, but let’s assume an 80-20 split. For the five-figure names in your portfolio let’s also assume you’re getting $15k on average for a name. With these assumptions you can put together a forecast for your domain investments.

Here’s a simple sample calculation:

Suppose you have 300 .COM domain names. On average you should expect to sell three domains a year. If we’re assuming that 80% of the domains in your portfolio will sell for under $5,000, let’s say they sell for $2,500 then most years you can expect to make $7,500. Of course, some years you’ll sell one of your five figure names, and in those years you could then make say $20,000.

Of course most domain investors end up having a really nice sale every once and a while, a sales that surprises them and really makes their year. Maybe you quote $35k for a domain you’d sell for $15k and the buyer takes it, boom – you’re having a much better year. While it’s great when this happens, it’s not realistic to forecast this since it really is more of a random event.

By putting together a simple forecast you can be realistic with yourself. Own 100 hand-registered .COM domains? Well you can expect to sell one a year and make $2,500/year. If you’ve convinced yourself that you should be making $50k/year, that’s probably not realistic.

Also, like I said above, non .COM sales are hard to predict and I leave them out of any forecast I do. When you sell a non .COM, great, celebrate all the way to the bank, but I wouldn’t depend on non .COM sales as a regular way to produce ROI from your portfolio.

Being realistic about your investments is important, no matter what you invest in. There isn’t one right way to put together a forecast but I do think putting together your assumptions and running some calculations will help you get a better sense of what to expect from your portfolio.

Now I want to hear from you. Do you agree with the assumptions I put together? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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seized

Microsoft just won a battle it has been fighting behind-the-scenes for some time now, and winning the battle means getting pretty much immediate access to 99 domains. Okay, a little background would probably help, here’s the scoop:

The OS maker sued and won a restraining order that allowed it to take control of 99 web domains that had been previously owned and operated by a group of Iranian hackers known in cyber-security circles as APT35, Phosphorus, Charming Kitten, and the Ajax Security Team.

The domains had been used as part of spear-phishing campaigns aimed at users in the US and across the world.

APT35 hackers had registered these domains to incorporate the names of well-known brands, such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and others. The domains were then used to collect login credentials for users the group had tricked into accessing their sites. The tactic is decades old but is still extremely successful at tricking users into unwittingly disclosing usernames and passwords, even today. (Source – ZDNet)

This is a particularly interesting case and one that I think definitely will make hackers and scammers think twice about registering Trademark-infringing domains. There has often been the thought that registering a domain outside of the US means you’ll be safe from US companies, but this proves (as have other cases in the past) that’s not going to fly.

Domain names carry a lot of weight and trust, and it’s easy for a consumer to get confused if they see a huge company that they know and work with in a domain name, they, not surprisingly, think it’s the company contacting them. I’ve also seen new domain investors make this mistake, they’re up late searching for available domains and find that some amazing domain they never thought would be available, is right there, open to register. While this usually can be resolved by force dropping a domain, I’ve heard some pretty scary stories.

The reality is, companies are getting more and more aware of their rights when it comes to domain names, and as Microsoft just showed, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, if you’re using a company’s name to run a scam, your days are probably numbered.

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One of my favorite things to get as a user of a product is an email saying, “hey you can now do cool new things with a product you already know and love.” Of course, there’s usually a catch, i.e. pay us more money and you’ll get the features.

I got an email from this morning announcing two new features, and no catch – they just added new functionality and it doesn’t cost a penny more. Be careful, I could get used to this!

Both of the new features from Efty are for their marketplace solution which allows you to easily create a website highlighting all of the domains you have for sale. The first addition is live chat, here’s a bit more about it from the Efty blog:

We’ve teamed up with Tawk.to to bring forever-free live chat to your Efty marketplace site, allowing you to communicate with buyers in real-time, either from the advanced Tawk.to dashboard or directly from your mobile device while you are on the go.

Here’s a preview of what the new feature looks like on a marketplace site:

efty-live-chat

Chat functionality like this is a great way to engage with a potential buyer instantly, and as you probably now by now, with sales – timing is everything. I see a feature like this being a really interesting one because if someone is considering a handful of domains, the ability to instantly connect with them and start negotiating on your domain definitely gives you an edge IMO.

mailchimp-efty

The next feature is a phenomenal one and while I haven’t setup my domain marketplace site yet, this feature is the one that is going to push me over the edge to get my act together to do it. I’m talking about Mailchimp integration.

I’ve been using Mailchimp for years, it’s one of the best solutions on the market, and to create a mailing list of people who are interested in buying domains is a dream come true for any Domainer.

In a world where social media plays an important role in marketing, domain name investors often forget to build an email list. We can not recommend building an email list of prospective buyers enough because email simply is the easiest way to market your domains.

At Efty we’re BIG fans of Mailchimp. They are the always-on email marketing platform that has been providing underdogs like ourselves the tools we need to succeed since the early days of the internet. If you are planning to capture leads and build an email list of potential buyers (and you should) today’s your day.

This is another great update from Efty and one that I’d actually probably pay for (just don’t tell them I said that) but I’ll take it for free. Now if only the wonderful people at Efty could convince other software companies to give me more features for free 🙂

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domain

I found a really interesting report recently on NamePros written by James Iles about the domain extensions used by startups in Y Combinator. Just in case you don’t know what Y Combinator is, it’s an accelerator based in Silicon Valley that has some pretty well-known alums like AirBnB and accepts batches of startups that get funding and mentorship all leading up to a demo day at the end.

James did a really solid job of analyzing the domain extensions used by Y Combinator startups in the past and how it’s shifted over the years. From 2005 – 2016 over 86% of startups in Y Combinator branded on a .COM domain, last year that dropped to 66% as startups started to explore other domain extensions with .CO and .IO being the top two alternatives.

Both .CO and .IO remain popular with startups, with a combined 17% of this year’s YCombinator startups using them. Some of these names are one-word domains that would cost at least five- or six-figures to acquire as a .COM, but as .CO or .IO, they were likely relatively cheap to acquire. Some examples include Torch.io, Atrium.co, and Ben.co. (Source – NamePros)

Here’s a pretty nifty chart that shows the domain extensions used by startups that went through Y Combinator in 2018 picked.

ycombinator-domain-extensions

Both .CO and .IO have seen a lot of growth coming from startups and it looks like this is only accelerating. The reality is, many startups find themselves in a similar position, they want to call themselves something, something.com is taken, so they have to decide between three options:

  1. Stick with .COM but go with a domain like GetSomething.com or SomethingOnline.com
  2. Get the exact-match name but in another extension (i.e. something.co)
  3. Pick a different name

In the past companies would choose between .COM, .NET, and .ORG. There was an easy formula, .COM’s taken – get the .NET, unless you were a non-profit, then go for the .ORG. Then, with the launch of .CO we saw a shift as this was the first extension to really brand itself as a domain extension for startups.

Now some of the biggest brands in the startup world, like Launch.co run by Jason Calacanis, brand on a .CO domain. While .IO has gained a lot of attention over the years as well, it has been more focused on dev-related products and services vs .CO which has really become the broad go-to for startup in the non .COM space.

While a zillion new gTLDs have come out of the last few years, it’s pretty interesting to see that .IO and .CO seem to be holding their own very well as clear market leaders. The question here is – how will this continue to shift over time? Going from 86% to 66% is a big change and something tells me it’s only going to lean more in this direction as time goes on.

What do you think? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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As many of you know, I love games. I grew up playing both board games and video games, still love them both, and over the last few years have really gotten into both indie games and VR games. Since the Moscone Center is just a few blocks from my place, I usually pick up an EXPO pass for GDC so I can get a chance to walk around a bit, play some games, and chat with companies like Unity, Google, etc.

This year at GDC there’s a lot of buzz about all kinds of different things, Oculus released the Oculus Rift S, Unity announced a zillion things including some incredibly slick real time ray tracing, and Google is getting more buzz than they ever had at a gaming conference as they dive into the gaming world with Stadia.

morganlinton-google-stadia-gdc2019

Okay so before I dive into the name, I know most people have no idea what the heck Stadia is, so let me explain. Right now, if you want to play an awesome new game like Fortnite or APEX Legends you’ll need a kick-ass gaming PC to really get the best experience. For those who are in this wacky gaming world, you know that a kick-ass gaming PC costs $2,000+ and for those wondering, yes I built my own gaming PC and no, I’m never happy with it and always want to upgrade.

Google is taking an entirely new approach with Stadia by creating a gaming platform where the games are actually running on super fast computers at Google and streamed to gamers. This means that the speed of your computer really doesn’t matter, you just need a fast Internet connection. To demonstrate this, Google actually tried to find the slowest PC possible during their demo to highlight how powerful Stadia is…and it was damn impressive.

Seriously, a $500 PC can now play a networked game with the same settings that only a $4,000 gaming PC could normally support. While you can use your own controller with Stadia, Google is also releasing their own controller later this year, here’s what it’s going to look like:

stadia-controllerOkay, so now you have a rough idea of what Stadia is…now for the elephant in the room. What about the name? It didn’t take long for people to hop on Twitter to share their thoughts on the name and overall with many people commenting that it sounded like some new medication.

I have to agree, this was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. The domain name Stadia.com was originally bought for $3,601 back in 2010 but I haven’t done the research to see if it was Google that picked it up then or a private buyer who might have resold to Google more recently. Either way, IMHO it’s a pretty mediocre product name and it really doesn’t feel like a name for a gaming-related product or service.

When I think of popular gaming platforms, they all have pretty strong names – Steam, Discord, Twitch. Stadia just feels like it doesn’t fit in with the rest. Of course maybe I’m just being too critical, and let’s be honest, with the marketing machine that is Google behind it, they’ll be okay. I’m really excited about what they’re doing and will definitely be a Stadia customer myself so in this case product > name at least for me.

What do you think? Did Google pick a good name for their new gaming service? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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