John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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February 9th, 2008 by john andrews

Affiliate Summit Moniker Domain Auction: Opportunity?

Since I registered to attend AffiliateSummit in Vegas and commented about the alignment of Affiliate Summit and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. in the same city at almost the same time, I have heard feedback from domainers, affiliates, and SEOs about both events and domain auctions in general. I wonder now, is the domain auction at Affiliate Summit a sleeper opportunity for domain acquisition? … or not?

In July of last year, Moniker held the first domain auction at Affiliate Summit. There were many domain auctions last summer, so the general crowd of domainers+entrepreneurs+search marketers enjoyed frequent access to domain buying via auction. The Affiliate Summit crowd was probably mostly affiliate system employees and affiliate marketers plus some search marketers, crossing over to the community of domainers. DomainNameNews covered the auction, and the auction was apparently a dud, and apparently for the expected reasons:

  • affiliates develop traffic and revenue first, and sites second if they bother at all
  • affiliates and search marketers desire domains which match their marketing strategy which is typically also their business strategy, as opposed to domains which match a category. Sure those overlap, but not as much as may be initially thought
  • affiliate marketers are used to bootstrapping online businesses, ramping them up as they show signs of promise. They don’t typically start with an up front investment, such as an investment in a domain name as an asset
  • a substantial portion of affiliate marketing is opportunity-driven. High-prices for domains (when compared to reg fee) do not automatically appear to represent opportunity to affiliate marketers

Moniker published the results of that Affiliate Summit Domain Auction here. I don’t know which domains listed were sold live at the Affiliate meeting vs. over the phone to domain investors or companies desiring specific domains listed for sale, but I can see the character of affiliate marketing reflected in the SOLD list.:

  • Funeralparlor.com ($3,000)
  • prescriptionmedication.com($40,000)
  • DiscountCollegeBooks.com($2,500)
  • AffiliateDirectory.com($30,000)
  • DiscountFlowerShop.com($2,000)
  • CruiseInformation.com($5,500)
  • GolfInformation.com($4,500)
  • LAWYERBLOG.COM($1,500)
  • PaycheckServices.com($1,500)
  • guaranteedcollegeloan.com($1,000)
  • lowinterestgovernmentloan.com($750)
  • achievementtests.com($3,250)
  • homeequitydebtconsolidation.com($700)
  • badcreditsecondmortgages.com($200)

These are typical affiliate and search marketing domains. Except for a few, they sold at reasonable prices (sub $4k).

As unregistered domains get harder to find, entrepreneurs are increasingly willing to value a domain at $1500 these days. Another $1,000 can be rationalized for a quick buy, as the costs of finding a suitable domain can easily exceed that when time and effort are considered. But, as noted, most affiliate marketers bootstrap their businesses and do not count time and effort at a straight cost rate. In fact, because a good deal of the affiliate business is opportunity driven as opposed to strategically driven, projects are commonly “back burnered” until the time is right (which may include “finding the perfect domain name” for the project). I am not surprised the auction didn’t produce more sales greater than $5k. But now, in February of 2008, I wonder if things will be different?

  • It is even harder now to “find” a suitable domain for a project at reg fee.
  • The affiliate marketplace seems more sophisticated today, since some of the uncertainties of the affiliate networks have been settled (good or bad).
  • More of the active affiliates have advanced their operations beyond the “place some links and wait for checks” mentality of the past.
  • More marketers realize the value of more borad involvement in a market niche, which may mean more contro lof the category which might be achieved with more category-influencing domains

In my own experience, a reasonable price for the right project domain is more now than it was last summer, perhaps twice as high, touching on the $3k mark. The effort costs are also higher now, so $5k is not as high a price as it probably seemed last summer. Again, the domains offered will have to match the profile of domains desired by affiliate marketers if they expect to sell, but then Moniker has Affiliate Summit experience now, so might that be a reasonable expectation?

I’m curious how this one will go. Given the last experience, will even more domains be no reserve this time? That would be an opportunity. Given the experience, will more suitable domains be presented this time? Given that affiliate marketers got to see domains sold for thousands at auction, will they be more likely to participate as sellers this time (which might mean more suitable domains on auction)?

I still have trouble with the whole domain auction thing, though. For example, to submit names for sale at the affiliate auction, you would have had to send them in as candidates for consideration back in December. For an opportunity driven industry like Affiliate Marketing, that doesn’t work so well. I know it takes time to manage the FOR SALE AT AUCTION list, but it would probably be cool (and productive) to have a way to insert domains up until the last minute as holders of domains attractive to the AffiliateSummit community decide “yeah, this is looking promising… I’m in“. With a long lead time to domain insertion, you’re basically only listing properties held by domainers, or properties no one has wanted despite several months of availability. It might also be great to market the domain insertion process to the affiliate marketing community much more and in advance, to get a better match of domains offered to domains wanted. Just an idea.

I will be speaking at SearchFest in Portland on March 10th, and decided to present “Search Marketing and YOUR Business Strategy” specifically because I think Internet entrepreneurs would benefit from increased emphasis on this aspect of online marketing: like SEO, the domain needs to support the business strategy first, not the market strategy, because the marketing strategy increasingly is the business strategy (and is evolving that way).

Note to Google: Hi Matt (third person plural intended). Just in case you were wondering, or even if you have already made up your mind about imparting intent to my outbound links here, they are not “paid links”. Even the ones where I created an href with my domain in it (e.g. affiliatesummit.com/johnon.com) are not “affiliate links” or “sponsored links”. There is no such linking structure for AffiliateSummit that I know of, and I haven’t signed on to get any commission anyway. I did that so they would see me in their logs (and yes, I tested first to see how they handled 404’s). Oh, and that SMX link? The one that looks like searchmarketingexpo.com/west/?yourwelcome=johnon.com ? Same thing… they don’t manage their 404s over there, so I had to put my secret message to Danny into a query string to get it to work properly. See? You’re not always right :-) I know, I know… you don’t really care. But I do, so I’m just sayin, thazzall.

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February 8th, 2008 by john andrews

Selling Domains : Auctions Aren’t TheAnswer

In the domain industry, the auction is the place to get the best price for your domain. You read that just about everywhere. Auction, auction, auction. But the auction is not always the best answer. We need some more options.

Every week it seems I hear someone say they submitted X domains to “the auction” and none were accepted. So what then? The domain marketplaces are saturated with domains available for purchase. Frankly speaking, the user interfaces of the aftermarket marketplaces leave a lot to be desired. Even those marketplaces like to push the domains into an auction as soon as anyone expresses interest, making domain acquisition seem ever more elusive for the non-professional domainer (“this domain is available for a starting price of $1000“, but it has a secret reserve of $4500. Been there, done that).

I have learned that a “buy this domain” or “this domain may be available for purchase” link on the home page does work, for the same reasons direct traffic converts well: the clicker of that link has a qualified interest in the domain. The challenge is getting the domain home page (or even just the name) in front of the not-yet-qualified potential buyer. Sure some buyer’s want a specific domain that you have parked. But most just need a “good domain” for their web site project.

If domainers really want to see liquidity in the domain aftermarket, they need to lose some of the ego that is currently micro-managing the aftermarket domain sales. Have some guts and put those “not-really-generic” and “not-really-as-brandable-as-you-originally-thought” domains up for sale with no reserve. Set a price and sell, instead of set a price and fish for a higher price, reserving an option to bail at any time with no accountability. You’re not fooling anyone. People are simply not considering your domains to be available. Really. They understand you don’t really want to sell. They aren’t even looking anymore, because of the way you’ve proven the domains aren’t actually for sale.

My neighbor has a black ’66 Chevelle SS 396 4 speed. Is it for sale? Sure… offer him enough money and he’ll sell it. But he doesn’t drive it around with a FOR SALE sign on it, because he’s not willing to part with it for the current market value. Isn’t everyone’s car technically “for sale” at a high enough price? But if we all drove around with FOR SALE signs on our cars, wouldn’t that just about void any real market for car buying?

That’s what the current domain aftermarket looks like. I hate to be the one to break it to you domainers, but the domains aren’t selling because their not worth the asking price. If the aftermarket’s want to function for buyers who want domains (and I know plenty of buyers who want domains), they need to separate the domains available “for sale” from those available “if the price is right”. Someone should do this. We need more options.

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February 4th, 2008 by john andrews

Thunderbird Email Accounts: Reorder email folders

If you use Thunderbird email client and have many email accounts/folders, you will someday wish you could re-arrange them in your accounts view pane. Thunderbird by default displays the accounts in the order in which they were added, and does not provide a control panel option for re-ordering them. But there is a solution and for me, it works perfectly.

Download the FolderPaneTools Firefox extension to your hard drive, and then load it via the Extensions tool in Thunderbird. Once restarted, Thunderbird will offer simple “move higher/move lower” options for all of the email accounts in your view pane. In just minutes I had relocated my most often used accounts to the top of the pain, and then re-arranged those so the shorter ones were higher than the more complex ones, leaving me with my priority accounts visible on-page when Thunderbird loads. Awesome.

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