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Here Come the Domainers

The next wave of the competitive internet has arrrived, and it’s driven by the Domainers. No, not parked pages, and no, not typo squatters. Domainers as publishers.

If you’re in SEO and you haven’t met a domainer yet, you need to get out more. If you’re a web designer without a job, there’s likely a domainer-placed ad waiting for you. Infrastructure guys (PHP developers, server admins…) they want you, too. While domainers used to be bad for the web (all those ugly parked pages, all those probably-illegal typo domains, domain tasting and back-office pre-buying of expiring domains) now domainers are poised to drive the web publishing industry. Domainers are expected to be good for economic circulation too… they know what they want, and have the money to buy it. While some have criticized them for driving up the prices of aftermarket domains, they have the cash to go after web-based publishing in a serious way. Buy a domain, and publish on it to build a network of visitors. Yes, for the ads, but more importantly, for the media empire it builds.

Domainers are quick and decisive. Yes means now, and no means forget it. Literally. None of this web 2.0 get-the-transparent-logo-perfect stuff. They may be paying huge prices for domains, but oddly, pennies matter to these guys. I thinkit’s kinda like a franshisee who pays way to much to a franchise to “get in” but then has to scrape nickels to become profitable. I guess it’s a reflection of that decisiveness. It seems to work, no?
The best thing, which I admire the most about domainers, is the way this business model insulates against search engine efforts and market swings. Too dependent on type-in traffic? Worried about legal challenges to typo domains? Too much reliance on search rankings for traffic? Build a content network of mammoth proportions, and become a media player. Arbitrage while it works, community building when it matters, list building, lead generation, or heck even banner ads might make a come back. Wherever the money goes, you can go. It’s the same thing we’ve said for years, except when done over thousands of domains overnight, the word “mashup” starts to glow like it never did before.

Those who can read my mind might remember a post I half-wrote long ago… “where the real money is in SEO“. The real money is in the empire you build along the way as you SEO. Real SEO is execution on opportunity, which may exploit assets held (domains) but may also address traffic flow (redirection) or strategic market knowledge. Monetization. Working within the system, but along the edges. Competing.

Publishing is not for everyone. Conventional publishing is tough… it takes time, staffing.. but when you view it as a massive media building effort across thousands of domains, it scales a bit differently. Where the domainers are going, is where the good SEOs are now. Tools tools tools. Hack like it’s 1997, monetize robustly and watch the metrics. Don’t worry too much about the look… you can clean it up later.

A Request to my Readership: I don’t have a big ego about this blog, but I do see that many of my posts spark some ideas out there in your own minds. I see some of the ideas re-purposed into some excellent articles and posts on other, much better read web sites. It makes me feel good, because that’s why I write. BUT, I don’t get any feedback, and I tend to feel a little left out. And that makes me less inclined to write more. So I am asking directly for a favor that sends me a message that my writing matters. Please link to my site and my posts. Put me in your blog roll, or drop a mention into your content, or maybe just shout-out once in a while. Trust me – it makes a HUGE difference. Thanks in advance.


  1. Income Blog wrote:

    That’s a great post! The funny thing is that I’ve started doing exactly that about 2 weeks ago, what a coincidence! :)

    I bought a few domains (starting small/from scratch) and I intend to develop them to thriving sites.

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 1:42 am | Permalink
  2. Gemme wrote:

    You’re already on my blog roll and I have already linked. What more can I do to make sure you feel left in?

    Back to the topic. I have been getting into domaining a lot more lately although no media empire yet.

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 7:16 am | Permalink
  3. Jurgen wrote:

    Excellent post. Also picked up by Frank Schilling @

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 9:38 am | Permalink
  4. Dan wrote:



    SEO experts have to learn how to SEO one keyword domain,for that keyword only and use multi keyword domain websites to drive all the traffic to one main product and /or service website. Just like a funnel.

    The days of trying to SEO one 1000 page website for all your keywords…is over.


    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 10:05 am | Permalink
  5. Billy wrote:

    Could not have said it any other way. The next wave is definitely domainers creating a strong network of sites to take advantage of advertising revenue. The move is a natural process because when you have domains sitting in the portfolio unused, you need to just hire someone to put up content.

    The internet will only get bigger and bigger. To increase internet real estate claims, domainers have to produce content.

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  6. Bill wrote:

    Just read the article on DNForum (courtesy of Dan Post 4 above).

    A great article that is very timely and definately for domainers to take note of. I have just started developing my sites, using PPC Templates to start and then building out. This is definately the ‘new’ way to go.

    Again ‘Great Article’.

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  7. Rob Grant wrote:

    Hi John,
    Good to see this kind of article.
    For historical purposes, the real begining for this domain space goes back to 1995/96 when a very small group of individuals pioneered this concept building deep vertical networks of generic domain names that would take on significance much later as the internet developed – more than a decade later.
    ‘Here Come the Domainers’ began 12 years ago – it’s just that nobody knew what a domain was…
    Thanks for your great post.
    Rob Grant

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  8. Susan wrote:

    I don’t know any domainers but then again I am just barely scratching the surface of learning SEO so I suppose it stands to reason. Thank you for such an informative look. Grabbed your feed and can’t wait to read more of your posts.

    I would like to thank you for making my stumbling that much more enjoyable. Your bloge made the Life Is Risky Blog Stumbling for today! (Note: The post is updated as I am stumbling. If you don’t see your site listed check back!)

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  9. steven emery wrote:

    Who has the most unique collection of strategic vertical location based properties. May be the greatest question ever asked on earth. Who has the greatest domain name portfolio on the planet. Toplevel, keyphrase, locaton, based, strategic, uniform, built in branding, generic, common sense.
    I know the answer. Do you? Am may be the only one on the planet that knows this? Probably. Why? Since 99.999 percent of domain portfolio owners are closet cases. Why? most are cpc domain garbatrage. Mumbojumbo names that share no relation to each other. Time we all got together, crunched up the mulch and declare a winner. Who really owns the Internet? Who is the “King of Location”? claims to be the leader of the pack with there family of 1200 vertical locator domain properties. All Keyphrase, All Top Level, All Vertical, All location based, All Strategic, All Uniform, All Resource. A Family of vertical locator destinations never to be duplicated top level.

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 7:29 pm | Permalink
  10. t wrote: could not hold Frank Schillings mouse

    Monday, July 9, 2007 at 12:32 am | Permalink
  11. Todd Mintz wrote:

    Lots of us SEO folks have recently came to the same conclusion…welcome aboard:.)

    Are you going to the Seattle Domainer conference next month? I’ll be there. Missed you at SMX.

    I gave you a tasty SEL link once upon a time (…remember?

    Monday, July 9, 2007 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  12. Dan wrote:

    Hey John,

    I think you’re writing is great. Although I don’t have a blog (yet) mainly because I’m lazy, I do appreciate your writing. Keep up the good work. I appreciate that you don’t take the vanilla approach to your blog, and aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers. Keep up the good work.

    Monday, July 9, 2007 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  13. Ben Wilks wrote:

    John, I think your writing is great and your insight valued. Humble and to the point. I must say it was a great pleasure checking out Franks blog and following a link over here. I have always enjoyed your blog.

    Back to the post, the difference between domaining and seo is where the money is at, it will be the driving force in making the Net an even better place.

    Most seo’s should make great domainers. All seo’s should really start investing before it’s too late. I know I will not sell most of my better domains for the media they will eventually become. It excites me a lot and is a great pleasure to maintain and develop.

    The best part is the interesting leads, door openings, stable traffic, and the fact you really do not need to do anything special until you develop. In todays climate you would be silly not to keep chasing valuable domains while you can and develop them out later. Develop good ones as you can use the cashflow for more.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 12:54 am | Permalink
  14. Alex wrote:

    Forget about 90% of the domainers publishing any real content that will make people say ‘hey, this site is good let me bookmark/rss it).

    Sure, they’ll put up a load of content but it will be basically cheap and nasty articles along the lines of (if they have a mortgage site) – How Refinancing Can Save You Money.

    Basically the same article that has already appeared 10,001 times on the web and also one no doubt one that looks like it’s going to tell you a lot but in the end pretty much nothing.

    To make a content site good you’ve pretty much got to work on it all day everyday. Possible with a few sites but 10,000 !

    Now lets look at a real media empire like News Corp. So how many proper sites do they own, maybe under 50 most probably nearer 20 (I’m guessing here so don’t hold me to it). Whatever the number those sites are REAL, stocked full of content, news, happenings and everything up to date AND being updated.

    So to build a media empire you don’t need a load of sites, in fact some would say you only need one………………..

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 5:34 am | Permalink
  15. ALvin wrote:

    “Real SEO is execution on opportunity” Great insight. Keep writing, ive recently bookmarked your blog ;)

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  16. owen frager wrote:

    Great post and your writing DOES matter. I will definately link to this.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  17. IncrediBILL wrote:

    I didn’t think too much about your post about the domainers until yesterday. That’s when I caught one of the domainers using their domain park to generate over 4K backlinks in Google and Yahoo for sites of their own.

    What a perfect way to rank a published site without even trying…

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  18. Sutocu wrote:

    Stumbled here from IncrediBILL’s blog. Great insight into SEO. Will bookmark.

    Sunday, July 15, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  19. I really enjoyed your post. Especially poignant for the purposes of my article was Frank Schilling’s comment on what you had to say – creating conversations is a very cool thing. And thanks for the thoughtful analysis. Also – the link to my post has changed (shuffling things around with the new blog – the correct URL is

    Friday, September 21, 2007 at 10:54 am | Permalink
  20. Susan wrote:

    Almost a year now since this post and picking up domains and building strength to them has become more and more popular. Please keep up your writing, I do enjoy reading these posts although not an accomplished SEO, I am learning. Thanks.

    Monday, June 30, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
  21. The real geniuses of SEO do not consult because they are heavily into domaining and are making a killing at it.

    Plus, with the new ICANN ruling to open up gTLDs I can only forcast continued growth in domaining with incredible niche opportunities around every corner.

    Great post.

    @TLD I am always willing to argue that “real SEOs don’t work for clients” bit, because I enjoy working for select clients/projects and I suspect I always will. So I know better than to make sweeping statements like that. I understand the concept, but it’s simply not the case for several brilliant SEO people I know. We’re at a change point anyway… consulting models are shifting, and the issue will go away soon anyway. As for the domaining comment, absofreakinlootely. The future looks bright!

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  22. SEO Keyword Domaineering wrote:

    D*** is the business of acquiring and monetizing Internet domain names for their use primarily….only own one or a few domain names.

    Editor’s Note: Wow… nice drop of spammy content defining that odd misuse of Engineering. Reminds me of a poorly-written but authoritarian-sounding wikipedia entry. Please take the crappy user-generated content to the crappy UGC sites, not my blog…mmmkaythx.

    Sunday, January 4, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

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