Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bruce the Domainer

I'm a domain name investor with around 700 registered domains.

I have fairly strong opinions on domain investing, so I thought that before I start giving my opinions on I should introduce that part of myself so readers know who I am & why I have these opinions.

When I came to writing a brief domaining bio for myself I started to feel it was a bit like AA sessions, as they are portrayed on TV anyway, my apologies if I've got it totally wrong.

I'm Bruce & I'm a domain addict.

"Hi Bruce" etc.

Well, now I've got that out of the way, on with the story.

My first domain registration was about 1996 or 1997 and was a personal domain name I just used for email. I let that lapse in 1999.

In 2000 I registered my current personal .com email address, some business domain names for my former partner & my business interests and some speculative domain names that I intended developing into sites or mini-sites. Some development happened & the business sites were a mixed bag. The speculative sites proved interesting & although I never managed to make the registration fee back I did develop a couple of small sites, and more importantly I was approached about selling a couple of these names. Looking back I can see that's where I got the bug.

Next was in early 2005 when I stumbled across 1stdomains' expired domains site & I saw a business opportunity. The plan was to pick up generic domain names from the drop auction, build a small site on the name, and then sell the site and domain name as a package. I quickly won two auctions. One of these domains,, is still with me & is making around a dollar a day from paid parking. The other was a mistake, and I can't even remember its name.

Things went a bit crazy around then. In those days expired domains auctions used to end at midnight & there was no auto-extend. I would decide which domains I was wanting to acquire, wait until 11:55 and place my bids. Most of my competitors were asleep, so I often knocked them out of the auction. Buying domains became an all consuming passion. I even lost interest in the idea of developing them as small sites.

I'd also try to think of good generic names & see if they were registered. If not I'd register them.

Soon I had well over 100 domains. Things changed. Expired domains changed their auction end time to 8PM & introduced auto-extend. This removed some of the fun element & I dropped out for a bit, but the pull was strong and I came back in. A little later I was looking at a bunch of domains with no revenue stream & renewals coming up. I tried moving domains on Trademe, but it wasn't working for me. I stopped buying for a little while, but I missed the auctions.

Then I started going to the NamePros forum discovered and paid parking. I listed my domains with Trafficz & suddenly I had a revenue stream. My criteria for buying domains changed. No longer was it generic or nice names, now I was looking for PR & backlinks. Traffic became my mantra. I bought some truely horrible names. I also discovered that there were alternative parking sites that for many domains would do better than Trafficz.

For me, NameDrive has proved to be the most successful parking site. They get first crack at my new registrations & if they can generate revenue the domains stay right there. I heartily recommend them on a regular basis on forums.

Again my life changed. Now I was buying domains at night, parking them in the morning, examining uniques, RPM & CPC twice a day, tweaking keywords, moving sites between parking services. Money was flowing. By now I saw myself as a domain investor & not a site developer. My habit was getting bad.

Tessa, my girlfriend, often asks me "Did you buy any [domains] tonight?" I'd reply "Yes" and she'd ask me which ones. Around then I started not remembering which domains I'd registered, they'd become such a commodity to me. A couple of times I thought of good names & when I discovered they were registered did a whois to see who had them only to discover my own name.

This wasn't fun any more.

Over Christmas 06-07 I went to India for a month's holiday & didn't do any domaining. When I came back I didn't do any domaining for a few weeks. I knew that to continue I needed to get the joy back into it. It's not that I stopped doing what I'd been doing, it's that I realised I needed to centre myself.

First things first. I knew from my parking revenue that if I simply abandoned the worst performing half of my portfolio I'd do better than break-even on registration renewal. I also knew that this was because of a very small number of "gems" and if they stopped producing at their current revenue levels the house of cards I'd built would not survive without abandoning a lot more.

I'm also selling domains. Nothing new, I've been doing this throughout my time as an investor. Every time I sell a domain it helps maintain the portfolio. I don't actively market the domains, but the parking services have enquiry forms and I have a portfolio site "Rare domains" where I list them.

I believe that in the near future the NZ internet market will mature and good generic domain names in the .nz space will become a valuable commodity. I intend being there with my collection. I also believe that by carefully choosing the names I take forward I can keep my portfolio running at a slight loss. Because I see it as a medium to long term investment, a slight loss is exactly where I want to be with it.

I'm ditching (not renewing) a number of badly chosen domain names. Ones that are neither generic enough for my tastes nor producing the revenue needed to take other domains into the future with them.

At the Royal Easter Show this year I went to the art competition area and bought two paintings. The sales guy was blathering on about one of the artists being an established name and becoming recognised. He went on that I would be able to resell them at a profit. I politely explained that the resale wasn't important to me, I simply wanted the paintings because I liked them, they "spoke to me". There were other painting there that didn't speak to me and I didn't buy them.

I'm still buying new domain names, but they have to "speak to me" (or sometimes speak to Tessa, she has a knack sometimes). I don't care how many backlinks has, if it doesn't do it for me I'm not buying. On the other hand, resale's always an option unless I find a domain name that looks as good above my mantelpiece as that painting does.

Once I have the domain, it's parked. I'll write more on this another time, but I have a mantra on this "If it's not deployed, it's parked." To me the benefits of parking every domain in my portfolio for a few months to see if it generates a revenue stream are so great that I wouldn't be without it. It's a simple combination of economics & history.

Obviously things have changed for me before & will again. But for now, that's me.

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