Posts tagged ‘domain names’

Brand Loyalty and Domain Names

I just finished reading an interesting post about “building an army of brand loyalists” on the CityMax Blog, posted by  Grasshopper’s Ambassador of Buzz, Jonathan Kay. The post got me to thinking about the power of a domain name in building that buzz that Jonathan (and Grasshopper) is famous for (click here to read their coming out party and one if my favourite examples of buzz building).

For those that don’t know Grasshopper, they are the group that sent 5,000 chocolate-covered grasshoppers to key influencers across North America. They are also the ones who still make my hair stand up every time I watch their video about Entrepreneurs Changing the World.

A large part of the value of a generic domain name comes from the emotion or understanding that it conveys to your audience. Over at, people instantly get that which we do: we do golf tee times. But what about Grasshopper? They don’t sell grasshoppers. Yet still, as a generic domain name, it is a very powerful.

I wonder, would Grasshopper have the brand loyalists they do were they still called GotVMail? I mean, they still could listen to their customers, add value, and the rest of the points made by Jonathan, but would they still have as many loyal followers? Personally, I don’t think they would have.

Unfortunately, branding of this sort is one of those things that can’t happen in a vacuum and use normal scientific methodology (two identical companies, each executing the same strategies with the same product lines, and the same principles driving the company). I guess this is one of those philosophical chicken-and-egg type questions. What came first: brand loyalty or the domain recognition?

I think one of the points that Jonathan made is very important and it relates back to what we are doing at Jonathan wrote:

“…The more you know about your customers, the more likely you will be able to set them up with other customers who might be able to help each other out. That is a memorable connection. Here at Grasshopper we have gone as far as to set up a formal program: Tell Us Your Story. This gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell us what makes them unique, and how they are changing the world. Not only do we promote them to the media, but now we also have real stories and examples of entrepreneurs living their passion. Actively trying to help your customers businesses grow is a definite way to create a brand loyalist.”

At, we have been promoting many of our small businesses to media and to other customers (and we will be doing even more so in the coming months). We believe that “every website tells a story” and what makes the story interesting is not the website itself or the website builder technology driving the website, but what the individual entrepreneur was able to accomplish with the tools. One such good example of this was the “Homepreneur of the Year” award that handed out last year to Marco Barberini. Marco’s story is inspiring to other entrepreneurs.

So what do you think? Would Grasshopper have achieved brand loyalty under the name GotVMail?

March 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm 1 comment

What to look for when buying a domain name

I often get questions from people about my opinion on domain values, domain valuation, and what to look for when buying a domain… especially from people who want to get into the domain speculation and aftermarket business. I just wrote the following response to a colleague that I thought I would share:


{Billy Bob},

In my opinion, there are very few names that are available in the primary market that are considered ‘investment domains’. There are discounts in the secondary market, however, as many people who purchased domain names as speculators over the past couple of years with the assumption that they would be able to monetize a domain via parked revenue. This revenue has decreased by 50% in the past year, so many of these holders are over-leveraged and liquidating some assets.

The names that are good, in my opinion, are ones that reside where there exists a clear consumer intent of what the domain offers. Something like “” does not communicate this. does communicate that value. In the former, a person does not know what resides at the destination, in the latter, one would expect to see a California Juice Company.

There are also three measures of value in my opinion:

  1. Value to you – If you build out the domain with a business that is enhanced by the domain itself. Can you use the domain to build it out with SEO and turn it into a real company (using the domain to drive relevancy, organic traffic, and better quality score results for your PPC campaigns), giving you a competitive advantage in an even playing field.
  2. Value to others: a domain that is worthless to me might be However, to a plumber on Mayne Island, this domain could be worth a fair bit. Domains that sell to the end user always generate considerable more revenue than names that are resold to other speculators. So make sure if you are buying a domain for resale rather than development, think about how many potential buyers you might have. With the above example, there may be only 1-2 plumbers on the island described above. If the don’t buy it, the domain is relatively worthless.
  3. Value to the collective: Some domains, namely those with direct navigation, linked, or organic traffic have value based entirely on its ability to be monetized at a set rate through various parking services. Your chances of finding a domain like this are slim as software automated this many years ago and unless you can find a just born concept (new words, new trends, etc). And if you would get a domain that monetizes at a certain rate, many of the large domain owners could out monetize you anyway (their advertising revenue share will always be greater than the small player), so they are capable of paying rates that you would not.

I tend to like the domains of the first point above, identifying domains that could be built out that communicate a clear value proposition and give you brand presence allowing you to compete with the big boys right off the bat. My model lately has been to identify under-performing business assets (e.g. poor parking revenue producing names] that have these traits:  sufficient search volume, high transactional value, and others who have blazed the trail for you and proved that there is economic activity online for your domain.

If you are considering buyin a domain, there are a few good acid tests right off the bat to see if a domain has value:

  • Search for the exact match domain on Google (i.e., search “keyword keyword” with the quotes. If there is advertiser depth, as in more than one advertiser, at least someone thinks that this search phrase has relevance and has value (they are paying for it afterall), and probably could be monetized.
  • Use the Google keyword tool [or similar tools] to see if people are searching on the concept that the domain represents, using both exact and broad match search values. Obviously, the more people searching for the term, the better
  • Ask a friend that if they went to “”, what would they expect to find. A good landing page should meet consumer expectations and match relevance. The domain name is a good start for this. When I ask a golfer what they expect to find at my golf reservations website… the answer is simply, “I don’t know… tee times?”
  • And the final one, that could be done quickly, is ask yourself, “How big is the market, is it growing, and do people turn to the Internet for information on the core economic aspect represented by the domain?” For my SMS marketing and text messaging venture,, the market is expected to be a $150 billion market by next year and 20 billion texts were sent in Canada last year alone (growing at 100% per year

I hope this helps.



Anyhow, I am not sure if this helps anyone else or not, but my few minute reply to my colleague turned into a pretty long, rambling email. I thought it would be good to share this knowledge with others. What do you think… agree or disagree with any of the points?

March 21, 2009 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

The Golden Ears Gateway, Maple Ridge BC

I attended the Ridge Meadows Chamber of Commerce’s mini-tradeshow and networking event tonight. It was mostly a chance to get ou of the house after being headsdown busy for the past couple of days, but I have been trying to make a point on keeping connected within the business community (though normally I attend events that are in downtown… not out here in Maple Ridge).

Anyhow, one of the things that attracted me to the event tonight was to hear a speech by the President, Dean Barbour, on the Chamber’s current direction and mandate. While I won’t regurgitate, I did like what I heard. One of the key things that resonated with me was Dean’s vision and discussion of “The Golden Ears Gateway”. Basically, anything that is within site of the Golden Ears Mountains, should be within the marketing catchment of the Chamber and local businesses. And a big part of the growth will be in using the new website to promote the region and its businesses.

And then Dean announced, “The Chamber website will be re-branded under

I don’t know if Dean or anyone else in the room saw me convulsively twitch when this was announced. Pardon? That was “Open For Business Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows .com” in case you missed it the first time. Part of me almost feels bad for going home and registering I guess this now complements the other local domain I registered the other day:

Me thinks I am going to get involved with the Chamber and help them with their marketing.

October 24, 2008 at 1:59 am 1 comment

TRAFFIC New York 2008 – Domain Auction Results

This past week the TRAFFIC Domain Conference in New York held several auctions. And while I wasn’t in attendance, I do think that some of those who were, grabbed themselves some good domains at very reasonable prices. A few that jumped out to me were: ($11.5k) – Big business and big sales here with a clear consumer intent in an activity that is happening more and more online ($13k) – It is not as good a deal as, but it is a very big industry with a lot of search traffic. Good opportunity for consumer site, product referrals, community building, simple service brokering the import/export B2B of products. Focus on recommendation engine for wine matching, etc. ($15k) – Niche category-owning domain. Clear intent of what the browser is looking for. Can be an ecommerce play using outsourced fulfillment. Whoops… this one didn’t sell. The reserve was north of $75k ($2.25k) – Yellow Pages category name. Large local play component ($6k) — A different extension, but could be a very brandable classifieds-type site facilitating apartment, equipment, etc rentals. It wouldn’t take many Hawaiian condo rentals to pay for this investment. ($12.5k) – Yes it is a .org, but this should still be able to develop a loyal audience with content, heath issues. It kind of defines the audience. I can see a marketing campaign in Cosmo targeted at women who don’t understand Men. A steal at that price. ($200) – I’m including this one as this already exists as a category for cable TV, and I know that you could put a pre-existing social media YouTube type package up on it quickly… and I have a client who is considering building out a TV program focused on this niche. ($3.5k) – One should be able to make your money back on this focused on local search and OpenTable affiliate programs. ($2.75k) – wow… A low price on this one. Beef import/export is big, big business.

A note to any of the successful bidders… if you want assistance in building out any of these projects, let me know.

Edit: DomainNameNews has a good run-down of the complete list that sold here

September 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm 1 comment

Choosing a domain name for a startup

While working at Reinvent and for the domain genius that is Kevin Ham, I gained a lot of appreciation for the concept of a domain name. Prior to Reinvent, I viewed a domain name as a necessary, albeit very important branding tool. I wasn’t aware of the concept of direct navigation, whereby a significant percentage of the population believes that if they type in a generic concept and put a .com at the end, chances are whatever is at the other end is related to the concept. This, and the fact that a surprising percentage of the population thinks that the search box and the browser URL is one and the same…and the fact that the keywords within the domain name are thought to influence search engines

As I delved deeper into the world of domain names, the importance of securing a domain name for any startup became much clearer. Much like when a person looks in the yellow pages for a specific term, chances are they have that expressed consumer intent for that particular product or service (i.e., if a person is looking for a plumber in the phone book, they probably need one and it is not just a weird fascination with words that start with the letter “P”… It is also unlikely that as they approach the listing and pass by the section on “Pizza” that they may decide “while I am waiting for my plumber, how about I order some pizza”. It is possible, but you shouldn’t blow your marketing dollars and count on it).

A domain name is the same thing. should help a person find a plumber in Vancouver. And the person who types this domain in has a pretty clear need for what is on the other end. The same holds true for advertising on Google or Yahoo! as a person who searches for “Vancouver Plumber” and then sees paid search advertising in the top and side panels has expressed a defined need for the service. You might even say that the first level of lead qualification was already done… though getting the person to act once they get to your site is another story (and another opportunity for those of us who provide consulting services).

If you are considering a startup, or are in the early stages of a business, really think about what your product or service offering is going to be and then try and secure the domain that best matches it. Yes, you may have to buy the domain at a premium via an aftermarket or via a broker, but in the long run, it will help your branding and search ranking (as detailed here by Aaron Wall).

Owen Frager, over at The Frager Factor has a good post today called “Life After Domains… continued“. In the post he provides “a litmus test to evaluate names BEFORE purchase to ensure that you are making more informed and prudent decisions.” In this post, he also quotes Frank Schilling’s comment that, “A good domain name reduces your lifetime marketing costs and increases marketing opportunities. Mark Twain said: “History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes” .. The past may not be a true indication of the future, but domain names ‘are the Internet’. You need a domain for email, in fact the only constant since the dawn of the commercial internet in 1993 (Netscape 1) has been the domain name. If you feel comfortable investing in anything related to the Internet it should be a generic domain name.”

Here are half of Owen’s14 questions he wants you to ask when considering a domain purchase:

==> Is your name is dictionary word that is easy to spell, pronounce and describes what it is and what it does.

==>Can you take this domain and put it on eBay and close a $50-100 sale within a day?

==> Is it a dotCOM extension. If you are in the US and unless you are a gizillionaire in dotCOM name already, or are buying another extension to protect your brand or surname, if you don’t own a dotCOm please look in the mirror and repeat “I am a fool and I’ve erred. Repeat again, “I am a fool and I’ve erred.”

==> Does this name in its exact wording describe matching words that can be found in your local paper’s classified ads for something being offered or desired (jobs, autos, 1967 corvette parts)?

==> Are their advertisers on Google paying money for this word or word combination on the results pages (and do you know whom they are and how much they are paying)? Can a parking page monetize this domain with those SAME advertisers?

==> Have you done a business plan? Do you understand the size of the industry this word represents, its role in it? Who its biggest players (prospects) are? What is the total value of advertising for the industry? The average cost to acquire a new customers? The vale of an average order? Referral? Lifetime customer value? Annual 800# costs?

==> What call to action media exists now using a derivative of these words (bus, billboards, direct response, radio, TV, packaging, infomercial)? What is the cost of a a motivated prospect lost due to inability to recall their call to action?

==> Have you secured rights to this name by filing for a business license, having it appear in the phone book, making a corporate website explaining your intentions with an about us page that clearly identifies yourself, claims and credentials for being in this business with full and open access for contact? For example, if it’s a medical domain “” are you either an addict or doctor? What is your claim to this domain?

Something that I have been doing since I left Reinvent is to acquire domain names every time I come up with a business concept that I am interested in pursuing. A few of these are listed below. While I am open to pursuing names within the secondary markets, all of the names below were registered anew in the past month:

  • [I want to turn this into an outsourced livechat management service]
  • [Realtors are willing to pay for lead generation services. Kitsilano is one of the most expensive and high turnover regions of Vancouver]
  • [This will be a portal to connect early-stage startup consultants & experts engaged in launching small businesses with the businesses that they wish to help. This site will also provide services to the consultants themselves to help launch, market, and systemetize their business processes]
  •,,, [OK… These are speculative. Naramata is a region in BC’s Okanagan Valley. Consider it our “Sonoma” to Napa Valley. A large number of developments seem to be planned for the region, and I envision working with a developer or realtor to develop and promote these properties through an integrated web strategy]

So I guess my short post should have been, make sure you get a good domain for your business. And while entire businesses can be built around nonsense phrases or trendy concepts [or should I say Konceptz!], you might as well start with a leg up on your competition and make your marketing easier.

April 24, 2008 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

Massive Technology Show, Networking, Domain Names, etc.

Yesterday, I attended the Massive Technology Conference and Tradeshow at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. Kudos go to Lindsay Smith and her team for putting on another good event.

My experience this time around was quite different. At last year’s event, I attended the show as an exhibitor as the Director of Marketing for Marqui (and yes we did get good leads from the event), while this time around I was getting back into the networking groove, schmoozing with former contacts from years gone by. It felt really good to be back in a rhythm again.

In fact, it took me about one hour to get through the very first aisle at the show. Immediately upon entering, there was Marqui. Bam! An in your face location with arguably the second best spot on their entire floor plan (behind Yahoo! which I am sure paid big bucks for their spot). I can boast that this space was secured while I was still there. How did Marqui do with this spot? Well… without trying to shovel dirt on former colleagues, talk about an underwhelming experience: two small pull-ups, a small flat panel display, and a desktop robot were all that adorned this double-wide booth location. Not a good showing for a company with a good product that is selling themselves to marketers on the power of marketing software. While I will cut them a little bit of slack as they just rolled out some new positioning, it had some of their competitors at the show laughing and wondering “what’s up with Marqui?”

Among the many other familiar faces, I ran into Guy Steeves (a former colleague at Maximizer and a client at ThoughtShare), who is now at a company just launched as “PerfectMind” (created by the folks over at ChampionsWay). It is a Platform as a Service company (sounds like AppExchange, JotSpot, etc.). I’ve been invited to an executive briefing, in a couple of week’s time, so it would be interesting to see how it evolves.

One of the things that Guy mentioned was the fact that he was thinking of me recently when they went to purchase the domain. While I won’t disclose the fee they paid, it sounded excessive to me, even for someone who spent the past year working in the domain monetization industry and frequently seeing six and seven figures changing hands for a domain. A quick check of a Afternic, Sedo, and some domain spinning technologies found ($195), ($497), ($200) may have been better options. Or perhaps something like or (both unregistered at the time of writing). I would not expect would generate that much direct navigation traffic, and even if it does, it can’t be targeted to their offering (not as much as say a “” would have).

I was also introduced to 1st on the List Promotion Inc. by a former coworker at Reinvent who, in his own right, is one of the top SEO guys I know. He used to work for this group. Simply put, their domain name is not good:  A numeric intermixed with text (I think a competitor has and a country code when the .com is king. Yuck! To make it worse, their logo makes it look like the company is “1onthelist” without the ‘st’… Interestingly, both and are available. I know… I made this typo.

Which calls up the importance of securing domain names for your business. Since  I’ve left Reinvent, I have registered approximately 20 domain names. You see, every time I have a business idea, I register a domain. I’ll share some of these in future posts. 

BTW… I think I am going to add domain brokerage into the services I provide. As soon as I finish my business plan come up with a concept for a business that is approved by the Canadian government.

April 2, 2008 at 10:01 am 1 comment