Domainer.com: Domaining Evolving?

28 May
2007

This post is about making money from domain names. The reality is that domain parking is not only here, it is going to grow (and evolve). With companies that have some serious money behind them [100 million+] (eg GeoSign, DemandMedia, iReit, etc), domaining isn’t going to go away.

I’ve never been impressed by parked pages. Completely boilerplate, they look awful. I’ve never doubted that domains get a lot of traffic – I just don’t understand who actually clicks on those links. All my tech-clueless friends have said they come across these pages regularly, hate them, and never click on ads.

Regardless – innovation is afoot. The reality is domains get a lot of targeted traffic, and PPC is not the best way to extract maximum value. The standard PPC site can only go so far – you can spruce it up, add pretty colors, etc – but the underlying system is the same. The long term value is very low, and the growth of type-in traffic is pretty much flat lined.

We’ve dabbled in this lightly via iBegin – for example, Minnesota.com. The site has grown roughly 300% in traffic since we put up the new system – not too bad. And this is just the start – we intend on growing this out – reviews, photos, and better monetization (eg hotel affiliates, real-estate, florists, etc). But that is for another day.

So I was intrigued when a friend of mine told him about his upcoming system – Domainer.com. His first live example: Bags.com.

The idea is simple – take a domain, add in content via bloggers (who have agreed to have their content distributed), add some extra relevance via tags, and then sell the product directly (via Shopping.com) instead of using a PPC aggregator like Google or Yahoo.

What was interesting was that he was able to negotiate the ability to replicate blog posts completely on their site (eg Dior Flight Hobo). The idea is to be a win-win for both parties – the domain (getting intrinsic traffic) sends traffic to the blogger (who is properly cited), and the blogger acts as a content creator for the domain.

Domainer.com has taken steps that the original URL (for each blog post) be given its due – linking back and using the ‘cite’ attribute (created by W3):

The value of this attribute is a URI that designates a source document or message. This attribute is intended to give information about the source from which the quotation was borrowed.

Does Google care for it? Doesn’t seem like it.

I’m not a fan of SEO for parked domains – a site that *only* has a bunch of ad links should not be getting any search engine traffic. But I think bags.com may be the exception. Or it is close – just not there yet. While I like the content (you can think of it as the ugly cousin of an aggregator like popurls ), the presentation leaves me unhappy. The content is there, but it seems like it was jammed on the side so one can claim that they do have content. I’m not sure what the purpose was with the 468×60 banner on top – it links to a page just like the links on the left menu do. Why add such clutter?

I wish the site involved a bit more user-generated content. Does it cause moderation headaches? Yes. But in the grand scheme of search-engines, it also creates unique content. Let me get involved somehow.

Right now I would give the site a C+. It definitely extends the idea of Bags.com. It definitely makes it more compelling than a bunch of ad-links. But it falls short of being truly useful. I have no way of participating (not even an ‘email a friend’ link). The store is the complete focus, with the content on the side.

I think in the case of Bags.com a dual-pane approach for the index page may work better. Left side can say ‘Interested in buying bags?’ and the right side can say ‘Want to read about bags?’. At least give the content-side its fair shake.

Regardless – good first version, but it needs some updates before it truly becomes useful. Right now it feels like an SEOed storefront with some content on the side.

4 Responses to Domainer.com: Domaining Evolving?

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Adam Sadowski

May 28th, 2007 at 3:17 pm

Hi Ahmed,

I’ll take the positive out of the review, in that you’ve called it a good first version :-)… We think we’ve got a distance to go, and we’ve got great things planned, including user participation. All I can say is keep an eye on us!

Firstly, the fact that Google doesn’t recognize or utilize the “cite” attribute doesn’t invalidate its use. We are looking for simple ways to give attribution. We feel the syndication model is both valid and empowering to individual bloggers. There’s no reason that “cite” couldn’t be a simple way of republishing author content that recognizes the authoritative source, like rel=”nofollow”. We get bloggers to agree to our terms before we even touch their feed, but we felt that attribution should be in the source code as well. “Cite” should be used anytime you cite an article. Search engines should recognize that. And we should encourage them to do it.

Second, content on the site is not a second thought, but our research has showed us that users are more interested in products than content at the moment, and the home page layout reflects that. And I’ll take issue with you saying that the site isn’t truly useful. Users can do comparative searches across dozens of retailers for any kind of bag! Isn’t that useful?

Different sites will get different implementations. As well, we cannot, and will not forget the domain owner in this equation. Many of your readers may like to forget them, but they are our customers and our partners. They need to make money, and most sites will need to have a commercial option to ensure they continue to get a revenue stream as well as the brand and site equity we will build for them.

Thirdly, we have not done that much SEO (especially in the store), because we don’t think that we should. Most of the store URLs are dynamic and we feel that we should reflect that.

But like I said, keep an eye on us, because these implementations are really just the beginning.

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Ahmed

May 28th, 2007 at 3:25 pm

About Google – I agree. You are doing your end. And in my comparing you guys to popurls – it is the exact same idea. Does popurls even have permission to use those feeds? I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer was no. Plus they have ads – so really, the meat is the same.

Anyway yes – I am keeping my eye on this. Six months of learning and tweaking can make a huge difference :)

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Ted

May 29th, 2007 at 10:09 pm

Domaining is definitely still alive at Geosign. They canned over 60 people today(roughly 1/5th of their employees), mainly from their Publishing division and focused on strengthening their domaining/search marketing business. Their whole arbitrage business has been killed by Google, so they switched gears to make their core focus bottom feeding search engine fodder.

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Ahmed

May 29th, 2007 at 11:20 pm

That is quite the statement Ted – any proof of them firing 60 people?

I thought their TrueLocal division was doing purty well – no?

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