July 2008 Newsletter

Name Monetizer – July 2008 – Issue #36

Domain monetization

continues to move in different directions as traditional parking
companies look for new models to help domain owners make money
from their domains.   One trend involves instant development of
full-blown sites.  See the next article for information on SmartName
Shops – a nice new instant development platform.  ICANN
got a lot of attention in June for opening up the domain name system to
an infinite number of top level domains (TLDs).  Don’t look for
these new TLDs until 2009 at the earliest, and it will cost 6 figures
to claim such a TLD.  Large trademark owners are probably the first
customers.  Look for .apple or .microsoft on the horizon.  Domain
experts are split in their views of how this will affect existing
TLDs.  Most see dotcom as holding it’s value for years to come.
We have initiated coverage of SmartName this month, largely due to their new ‘SmartName Shops’ program. 
SmartName is the premium service from Name Media – the parent company of Active Audience and GoldKey.
They purchased the SmartName service that was originally developed by
Ari Goldberger and Larry Fischer in March of 2007. NameMedia quickly
moved the parked domains to their new system that offers over 500
themes (including all of the themes available at Active Audience and GoldKey and
more). Some long-time customers balked at the changes, so NameMedia
brought back the older platform as “SmartName Classic” for those
original domain owners (many of whom had created custom templates for
their domains). New applicants
are added to the new platform.  Many of the services at SmartName are
similar to those at ActiveAudience and GoldKey, but SmartName also
offers some unique services, such as the new “SmartName Shops.”   You
can request a SmartName account here, but be aware that this is a fairly selective program. 
SmartName Shops are full-fledged ecommerce sites that you create almost instantly.  TechnologyLiquidators.com
is the most basic site that can be created.  This one took about 2
minutes to build.  Spending more time will get you an even more
customized shop, such as BabyBag.net
It’s worth your time and effort to do this, as the custom text you add
can help search engine rankings.  You can also buy AdWords or other ads
to send people to your SmartName Shops.  Is this the return of arbitrage?  I guess it depends on how well Shopping.com monetizes your stores. 
Developing your domains this way is a long-term
proposition.  Don’t expect immediate pay-per-click results that rival
Google or Yahoo-bases services.  If you do it right, traffic to your
stores will build over time, resulting in much greater income 6 months
from now.
I recently interviewed Brian Carr, whose title is
Senior Vice President and General Manager of Direct Search Network at
NameMedia.  He shared the following information on SmartName Shops.
What is SmartName Shops?
Since its inception, SmartName.com
has always been the place where domain developers can control their
sites, such as by uploading custom photos and hand-selecting keywords
at a time when other platforms didn’t allow it.
The SmartName Shops addition is the culmination of
more than nine months spent at NameMedia researching more than 20
ecommerce providers, from CPA to CPC and product provisioning. We
continue to rate them rate them on more than a dozen metrics, such as
their partnership teams and policies, click-through rates, size of
product catalogs, and flexibility in implementation. We saw successes
with the current implementation, and that’s why we’ve made it available
to our partners.
What’s exciting is that now on SmartName
domain owners can develop a network of fully customized e-commerce
sites, complete with their own header images, self-made network brand,
hand-picked keywords, images and customized content. It’s all done on
the same SmartName.com interface, so their regular parked pages are
easily managed alongside fully developed ecommerce sites.
What makes it different from other programs?
This is not domain parking. It’s site development.
With SmartName Shops, your domain portfolio can easily have
SEO-friendly ecommerce sites with multiple pages indexed on search
engines. For example, our BabyBag.net
domain went from being a single parked page to a fully developed site
with 12,963 products, including customer reviews, comparison prices,
several brands, and multiple stores. It is now indexed on major search
engines – it’s on the first page of search engine results for the
searches for “Baby Bag”.
Now think of having a your own network dozens or
hundreds of ecommerce stores in your portfolio, all under a brand name
you decide, all judiciously linked – not link farms — with your own
content and flair. And we know transparency is key as well. Since this
is site development and not domain parking, you can even add your own
Google Webmaster tool links, and Google Analytics code, so you can
track the traffic and SEO progress on your own if you’d like.
What was the largest challenge that SmartName Shops solves?
Scale. Many of the sites we tested were limited in
the number of products beyond certain categories. But SmartName Shops
have millions of products available for domain owners to build shops in
the long tail. For example, at Domain Roundtable we had one domain
developer challenge us on whether his domains for “balaclavas” would
have any products available on SmartName Shops. And indeed there are
333 different balaclavas available for sale, and the SmartName.com
platform immediately breaks them down in the left navigation by brand,
price, material and store name.
Is the option available now for all SmartName users?
Yes. All they have to do is contact us and we’ll turn
it on in their account. The primary reason for that is it’s still
relatively new and we want to make sure folks understand this is domain
development and to walk them through the interfaces and answer any
questions. For example, they’ll want to add their own custom content,
and describe their sites for the “About Us” text, which are some of the
pivotal things necessary to gain SEO benefits. And their mindset is
pivotal. Domain developers know it can take anywhere from three to six
months to gain SEO traction on domains, so we wouldn’t recommend
turning an entire portfolio into ecommerce overnight, but certainly a
portion of a portfolio should be set aside and continually optimized
for SEO.
We realize some domain developers don’t necessarily
have the time to add their own content or design their own logos. We
have solutions for that as well. And we’ve found that for some domain
developers, it’s a great way to get their computer-savvy son, daughter
or niece or nephew involved in domain development by adding the content
and analytics codes to the sites and doing some tracking.
How is CPA revenue calculated vs. CPC Revenue?
It’s all CPC revenue, and there’s a good reason. We
tested many CPA programs and although they work on an individual domain
level, the challenge is scaling to hundreds or thousands of domains and
the daily revenue reporting. For example, a credit card CPA program may
have a 45-day window for payment, because the company will do
background credit checks, etc, and it takes a while to get paid after
you’ve sent the lead. Or if a lamp is purchased on a shopping site,
there is often at least a 30-day wait period in case the lamp gets
returned before payment.  So to launch a scaled platform, we actively
pursued a CPC model for ease of daily reporting and product selection
right now.
Can domain owners promote these domains the way that they would promote a website?
Yes. Again, this is not domain parking. These are fully developed websites with custom content and attributes.
Will this product evolve beyond these fairly simple 5 page shopping sites?
Absolutely, in fact they already have. Keep in mind
sites like BabyBag.net have almost 13,000 product pages available when
they launch. The five major pages you reference are the tabs on the
sites. This allows domain developers to select up to five keywords,
which will become the tabs to further showcase the major products or
stores. On those tabs they can add custom header and footer content all
they’d like.
We are testing a myriad of new templates and ad
placements constantly. Whenever we find winning formulas that are
sustained, we get it in the hands of our SmartName customers as well.

has completed some changes to their 5.0 backend that makes it easier to
read.  The default is not dark letters on a white screen.  Some had
complained that their orange and brown design was hard to view on some
monitors.  TrafficZ has also recently added automatic testing of up to four landing pages at a time when you park a domain with them. 

What’s up with Sedo and Sedo Pro
I’ve been seeing some apparent stats issues with Sedo this month.  I’ve
reported it through their new support system and it seems to be fixed. 
Some things about Sedo still bother me.  Sedo tries to be all things to
all people.  They represent BOTH buyers and sellers in domain
transactions, and they don’t always fully disclose this fact.  In
real-world real estate transactions in the U.S. this would be an
unethical conflict-of-interest.  

Sedo announced in June that it is implementing changes to their parked domains network. According to Sedo:
‘One of these industry-wide changes is the
implementation of organic search results on parked domains. Organic
searches will appear at the end of a search results page that is
generated when visitors click on a related link or enter a search term.
These unpaid links should improve the user experience and the relevancy
of the content. Another change required of our advertising partner, is
that visitor clicks on your parked domains will now open the target
page in the same window.  Both of these changes will be rolled out
globally and users may see variations in CTR. However, with the new
Auto Layout Rotation tool improving CTR at 11% on average, this should
counteract any negative effects. We are also working on several new
parking features which will be rolled out in the coming months to
improve your parking experience with Sedo.’
Some astute domainers have commented online that
all Google based parking companies now have natural listings on parked
pages. Sedo was actually the last one to actually implement it. DomainSponsor has had similar listings for over a year.
Yahoo’s announcement that they will include Google-based ads apparently does not extent to parked domains.  Julia Mackenzie
reported in June that “Word out today is that Google are happy to
monetize all of the Yahoo network except parked domain names. Im not
sure what this is implying or what effect this will have, but to me it
all reeks of yet more evidence of  Google distancing itself from domain
parking.”  Check out her blog for a fresh point-of-view on the domain industry.
Donny Simonton of Parked apparently
does expect to see some Google ads on Yahoo-based domains, but only for
U.S. and Canadian traffic.  According to Donny (as quoted on NamePros)
‘What is the biggest problems Yahoo has from a
parking perspective? They have a limited number of countries they
support. I’ve talked to them about this many times and Yahoo has this
idea of what they should and shouldn’t support. But at the end of the
day Google supports basically every country in the world, Yahoo
supports about 50. To me a perfect solution would have been for Yahoo
to basically backfill all countries so if Yahoo didn’t have support in
China they would query Google and show those results. Google would get
a lot more traffic, Yahoo would know what countries they need to focus
on, we would only have to deal with one company, and our partners would
have the best of both worlds a Yahoo and Google feed. If Yahoo did
something like this their stock would be over $40 today, not at $23. 
Instead we get a Google backfill only on US and CA traffic. The stock
goes down and will probably continue to go down.’  (Donny Simonton on NamePros.com)
Parked is highly recommended for their Yahoo (and now Google?) monetization, and they pay twice a month.
Andrew Allemann of DomainNameWire reported in June that Domain Embarking‘s
Google AdSense account was cancelled.  DomainEmbarking was designed to
quickly create “made for AdSense” sites for domain name owners.  They
reportedly shared 50% of their AdSense income from ads on the domains –
but now they report that they will pay no money until at least
September.   If you had domains at Domain Embarking you should move
them elsewhere. 
Recommended Services – There were no changes in our recommendations this month.

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