January 2009 - Issue #42 

Google Changes the Parking Landscape  

Google announced in December that it was entering the domain parking business, in direct competition with its partners - parking companies that use Google to monetize their pages.  As I announced in a mid-December special issue, Google opened their "Adsense for Domains" ad feed to all domainers.  Details can be found in this post at Google.  The landing pages that result are pretty bland, as has been true in the past. As I noted at the time, I do expect that many of the existing parking services to flourish because they add additional value for domain owners.  The landing pages created by these companies may encourage people to click through in greater numbers than the generic Google pages.

I expect Sedo, NameDrive and other Google services to improve their payouts and to compete based on factors other than price.  I originally planned to start testing these new Google pages, but I've had second thoughts.    

Second Thoughts   

The move makes sense for Google and not a whole lot of sense for me - as an owner of domains that don't get a ton of direct type-in traffic.  If you read the material that they have written in plain English, they are clearly looking only for natural traffic - either type-in traffic, generic typos, or traffic from expired domains.  

Once Google gets your domain they get all of the information about it.  They immediately know that it is a parked domain, and it will immediately lose any pagerank and any possibility of being listed in Google (and probably in any search engine).  If you have domains that get a lot of natural traffic, then this is not a problem.  If you are hoping to generate traffic legally through SEO (or otherwise) you should stay as far away from AdSense for Domains as possible. 

Most of the domains that I use to test parking companies for ParkQuick.com are 2-word generic domains that individually don't get an overwhelming amount of type-in traffic.  In groups they do get enough traffic to compare services, and I follow some portfolios owned by others.  (I also have other higher-traffic domains that I use for comparisons, but these are not listed for sale.)   If I were to move groups of these domains to Google's program I would have an uphill battle trying to develop any of them in the future and get the sites listed on Google.

After much thought I have decided to pass on AdSense for Domains for now.  I would welcome others' experiences, either as comments here or in an email to me.

  No IPO for NameMedia
NameMedia, the parent company of GoldKeyActiveAudience, and SmartName, announced on Christmas Eve that it has given-up on its plans to go public. The timing of the announcement pretty much guaranteed that many people would miss it.  The company filed for the anticipated $172.5 million initial public offering in November 2007. A little over a year later they admitted that current market conditions are too poor to go forward. 

NameMedia is based in Waltham, Massachusetts and also owns BuyDomains and Afternic.  The company was rumored to have some layoffs a while back as well, but their core businesses seem to be performing reasonably well given the current market.  Pulling back the IPO seems like the only real choice that they had, though.  They might have been able to make a go of it a year ago, but if they had gone public their stock price would have tumbled with the recent financial crisis.     

Upcoming Domain Conferences

A few years ago Rick Schwartz had a corner on the market for domain conferences.  The self-proclaimed "domain king" was so upset when the people at Domain Roundtable organized a conference that he quickly organized a competing conference on the same dates.  Domain Roundtable was a success anyway, and attracted a more diverse audience than Schwartz's T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference.  Schwartz is cutting back to two conferences for 2009, and there are three competing conferences that may be even more interesting to attend.  (They are also more affordable.)

  • DomainFEST Global is in late January in Hollywood, California.  DomainSponsorhosts this event but invites other domain monetization companies to attend.  Steve Wozniak is the keynote speaker and there is a one day domainer bootcamp for people new to domain ownership.  The event wraps up with a charity benefit at the Playboy Mansion.  Past reviews have been very positive, and this will be my first time attending.
  • Domainer Mardi Gras is held in late February in New Orleans, Louisiana.  This is the first time for this conference, which is sponsored by Modern Domainer magazine and Parked.com.  This is a first-time conference, so the jury is still out.  The sponsors are some of the strongest and most ethical players in the domain space, however, and they are likely to host a great event.
  • Domain Rountable moves to Washington DC in June.  This was the original competitor to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and it continues to be a very strong conference.  If there is ever a conflict between T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and Domain Roundtable again, I would recommend choosing Domain Roundtable.  There have been some personnel issues after past conferences, but the Thought Convergence takeover of Domain Tools should strengthen this conference.
  • T.R.A.F.F.I.C continues in 2009, with the first conference scheduled in April.  They list a Netherlands conference in addition to the two U.S dates, but this one, like the recent TRAFFIC Down Under, is jointly produced with another group - this time it'sRick Latona.

Rick has certainly done a lot for domainers; but his personality can be hard to take, and the T.R.A.F.F.I.C.  conferences have often been long on B.S. and short on content.  They are a great way to network and rub shoulders with leaders in the domain industry, but consider the three alternatives if you also want to learn something.  

Last Call for Arbitrage Again

The people behind the Arbitrage-Conspiracy and ArbitrageAgain are starting the course on January 6th and closing the doors to registration at that time.   The introductory videos have been released to everyone, and you can see these here. This has not been a problem-free product launch, and Some, such as Jerry West have been critical.   The course was supposed to start in December.       

The Year Ahead  

I'm resisting the urge to predict the future, since so much in the recent past would have been hard to predict.  Obviously the ongoing financial crisis will continue to impact the domain industry. There will be domain bargains to be had, and don't expect any IPOs in 2009.  I do expect domain parking to continue as one viable monetization option, but pseudo-development platforms continue to emerge, and some of these may even make money in 2009.  For now, do what you can to cut costs and hold on through these leaner times.    

 

Recommended Domain Parking Services
Service
Auto 
Optimize?
Minimum Payout
Payment Method
Minimum Portfolio size
Comments
Active Audience Yes $50 for checks, $10 for PayPal $100 for wire Check, PayPal, Wire transfer Large or high traffic portfolios. (See GoldKey for small portfolios) Nice Landing Pages, but few 1-click landers. Image editing available. Yahoo-based
DomainSponsor Yes $25 Check, PayPal   Taguchi testing to optimize your landing pages Google-based, with additional ads
GoldKey Yes $50 for checks, $10 for PayPal $100 for wire Check, PayPal, Wire transfer Small Portfolios accepted Nice Landing Pages, but few 1-click landers. Image editing available. Yahoo-based. 
NameDrive Yes varies Paypal, Wire, Webmoney 1 Multiple optimization options, 1-click pages. Google-based.
Parked Yes $20 Paypal, Wire, Direct Deposit, Check 10 Get paid twice a month, strong anti-click fraud. Yahoo and Ask.com feeds. 
Sedo Yes $20 Paypal, ACH, Check (US and Canada), Wire (over $20K) 1 Easily optimize to keywords, 1-click pages. Google-based.
SedoPro Yes $20 (see Sedo - above)
1000 or $300/month income
Like Sedo, with somewhat higher payouts
Send emailfor an invitation
SmartName Yes $50 for checks, $10 for PayPal $100 for wire Check, PayPal, Wire transfer Large or high traffic portfolios. E-commerce domains Quickly build full e-commerce sites. Nice Landing Pages, but few 1-click landers. Image editing available. Yahoo-based