SEO Turns to Domaining: An Interview with Todd Mintz

Interview with SEO turned domainer, Todd Mintz The NowSourcing blog had a chance to interview SEO turned domainer, Todd Mintz.

1 – How do you see entering the realm of domaining for SEO’s? I’ve read some good background information on how you got started, but do you have recommendations for people getting into this industry?

The first step would be to immerse yourself in the topic. Read, read, read, read, read.

Start with the following blogs (and many of the posts are timeless, so make sure you dig in the archives):

Seven Mile: Frank Schilling’s blog. More than anything else, Frank’s blog inspired me to get into domaining.

Aaron Wall’s interview of Frank is a must read.

Rick’s Blog: Rick Schwartz doesn’t mince words when he offers his opinions. The power of generic names has never been better expressed than by Rick in this post.

The Conceptualist

Domain Tools Blog. All domainers-in-training need to checkout the tools offered at this website.

Also, play at the $8 “new registration” level for a while until you feel comfortable and experienced to step up to the aftermarket.

As a beginner, follow these purchase rules until you gain experience:

1)Stick to .com’s.

2)No hyphens.

3)Use only generic terms in domains…and the more generic, the better.

4)No more than three words in a “domain name phrase”.

5)Do a lot of querying before making your selections. You need to develop a good “feel” for what makes a good domain name and if the name feels slightly wrong, pass.

6)You might have heard of “Predictive SEO”? You can make a lot of money if you can predict future accurately and map your prediction to a .com domain name. Try looking to the future when choosing names for purchase.

Experienced SEO’s do have an advantage at picking good domains since they know how people search and know what makes a good, targetable keyword query. Don’t buy a domain name that doesn’t map to a phrase not normally searchable by a user.

2 – What services do you recommend for domain parking?

I’ve only used two services: Namedrive and Sedo. I do prefer the Namedrive interface and selection of templates. Domain parking involves lots of trial and error…both in trying different parking services, different templates & different keyword choices.

Newbies aren’t going to be making much parking revenue anyway…the key is to get comfortable with the tools because as you scale your portfolio higher, the choices made have more impact.

3 – Some people think that domaining is akin to cybersquatting and domain tasting? If anything, these folks give domaining a bad name. Care to set the record straight?

To most domainers, domains are “online real estate” and domaining is the practice of investing in “online real estate” with the expectation of earning a nice ROI. Now, there are rules that honest domainers must follow and one such rule is not to violate somebody’s trademark in any domain that is registered.

Deliberate cybersquatting is clearly wrong…however, the great majority of domain purchasers don’t know much about trademark rules nor do they know the penalties for violating them. Instances like the one involving The Simpsons Movie occur most lyout of ignorance and such people, even if their intent was to profit from their actions, must be separated from the “professional rogues” in the industry.

Domain Tasting also perpetuates cybersquatting because domains are picked up in bulk by registrars without being professionally evaluated for whether they might be violating trademarks. Domain Tasting gives purchasers 5 days to evaluate the marketability of a domain without having to pay for it…it can be tossed back without cost to the taster. Many are proposing an end to the practice.

4 – What do you think about the whole process of picking up dropped domains. I’ve been fascinated with the subject after reading about Mike Davidson‘s adventure on successfully securing what is now Newsvine.com.

The domain name aftermarket is huge and is only going to get bigger. I’m only starting to play in it myself (and have yet to actually pick up anything).

There are different strategies for playing the aftermarket. An SEO would generally be looking at domains that have strong search engine factors with the end game of building upon somebody else’s previous work to get a strong website without starting from scratch. On the other hand, many domainers won’t even consider SEO factors when evaluating an aftermarket domain…they will focus on brandability, perceived future sales value, and popularity of the keyword / keyword phrase contained in the domain.

5 – Was curious to hear your viewpoint on domain disputes. I recall hearing an interesting decision on handing dustindiamond.com over to Max Goldberg, owner of the now famous Ytmnd.com, rather than to the celebrity Dustin Diamond. Seems like something similar is going on now with Keith Urban (the country signer) vs. a New Jersey artist by the same name. Who do you think should ultimately win these cases?

These are two different types of cases:

In the Dustin Diamond case (and I’ve never heard of Dustin Diamond before you asked this question), Dustin lost because the arbitration panel viewed the site as a parody and pure parody sites will not violate trademark law so long as the parody isn’t made in “bad faith”. The panel also found that a few spammy comments in the website guestbook linking to porn sites didn’t constitute bad faith. Also, what helped the site owner is that he didn’t attempt to monetize the site in anyway. Had he plastered Adsense all over the website, Dustin would have likely prevailed.

In the other case, Keithurban.com is owned by a painter named Keith Urban who is being sued for cybersquatting by Keith Urban the country music star. “Country Keith” should lose because “Painter Keith” has every bit as much right to the domain as “Country Keith” and “Painter Keith” should have the right to monetize his own website in any way possible…and if AdSense ads relating to “Country Keith” are showing up and are earning money for “Painter Keith”, that relates to AdSense targeting and isn’t a violation of law.

BTW, if your name is still available as a .com domain, make sure to buy it ASAP…it’s your online identity and if someone else gets it, it’s likely gone for good.

Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon’s Search Engine Marketing Association.

22 Comments

  1. am

    nice blog… nice posting… thankyou…

  2. brian

    @am: thank you, thank you, you’re welcome! 🙂

  3. Glen Allsopp

    Nice interview, I’ve always been interested in the domain industry, just never ‘really’ gotten into it.

  4. brian

    @glen: thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Thought it would be a treat for SEO readers. It’s that sort of peripheral business outside SEO that really looks interesting.

  5. TheMadHat

    Good tips. I’ve recently entered the domaining market and am still dabbling in the $8 new registration field. I’m not comfortable yet jumping fully into the aftermarket but find it a great augmentation to other SEO efforts.

    Another thing to look for starting out while in the $8 land; look for deals. There are always specials going on and discount codes laying around to snag a little better deal.

  6. brian

    @themadhat: thanks for commenting. Glad to hear that you have been dabbling. You bring up a good point about looking for deals – I’ll add to that by saying that companies often give better deals if you are buying several domains at a time.

    Also, I strongly recommend to the audience to only buy domains from well known registrars (i.e. godaddy, register.com, network solutions). Nobody wants another Registerfly meltdown. 🙁

  7. Domainer's Gazette

    *cough* domainersgazette.com *cough*..

    for all the SEOmainer’s out there : )

  8. brian

    @domainer’s gazette: yes, you are important too 🙂 Really should do something about those allergies 🙂

  9. john andrews

    Nice article, and it really demonstrates how, as an SEO, Todd is well positioned to move into domaining.

    I don’t think you can ignore the legal hassles associated with domaining. If you have a big portfolio, you will find yourself managing disputes and that requires legal assistance. I suppose it becomes part of your overhead, but those lawyers aren’t cheap. I’d like to hear more about how big domainers work with lawyers (do they pay them with domain names, for example??)

  10. brian

    @seoaware: thanks for the link!

    @john: thanks. Agreed that sooner or later, you either need to be a lawyer or have a good one nearby to rely on for domain portfolios. I’m pleased with the level of interest that our readership has expressed in this article, so count on more domaining information here in the future.

  11. Al Vin

    I think SEO has the best advantage to start as a domainer. SEO has keen eyes on keywords and if you use that eye to spot keywords you will be locking-in valuable future generics.

    Just think..whenever you think of a keyword to put for meta-keywords in SEO, use the exact keyword and try to register the .com of it. REmember, never put a hyphen or number in the domain and there you have it…a good, valuable generic .com!

    Al.

  12. brian

    @al: yes, it is hard to beat generic keyword domains. Well put.

  13. John Cronin

    Good article – thanks!

    Bit of newbie myself and yet to enter the fray for a dropped domain though I’ve been lurking in snapnames recently.

    I’ve read elsewhere that there are some opportunities in 3 word generics – realwoodwidgets and the like!

    I do find it surprising that what seem to me to be totally crap names sell for $1000-$2000

    Regards

    John

  14. brian

    @john: thank you. Yes, up to 3 word generics seem to be the way to go. As far as what you are saying about the total crap names…I think we see a lot of them for sale at the $1000-$2000 price point, but not all of them selling out there. But for the people that are buying seemingly bad names at this price – they must know something that they aren’t letting on.

  15. Scary Website

    Very interesting post. Especially about the Dustin Diamond parody. I didn’t realise you could retain rights to a domain if it was a parody. Lots of good info here about domaining. Thanks.

  16. brian

    @scary: Glad you liked the story. Yes, you can win in the case of a parody, but I’m sure that you wouldn’t be able to use that type of defense as a blanket statement. I think that Max Goldberg was fortunate to win that decision, and it had been the first case to do so.

  17. DomainerPro

    Your comment about building on someone else’s work by looking at domains that have strong search engine factors really caught my eye. These types of domains are actually problemetic for domainers and are difficult to monetize if you’re just parking them. Visitors follow a link and come looking for something very specific, and when they find a parked page they just navigate away. CTR is typically very low, and back links decrease over time since the site is no longer relevant.

    If you get the domain very cheap then sure, it’s fine, you’re probably going to make a good profit. But as a domainer I would be wary of buying one of these at auction. The other option, of course, is to build a new website, perhaps a blog, to give those visitors something similar to what they’re looking for. But many domainers own hundreds or thousands of domains and don’t have time for this.

    Knowing what I know now, I prefer to buy domains that receive direct navigation (type-in) traffic, rather than domains of defunct websites with back links.

  18. brian

    @domainerpro: well written insight on strong search engine “old” domains vs. type-in traffic on new domains. Your other option of building a new website is an interesting concept to explore. What if you set up some sort of content syndication engine? This could challenge the parking industry and be a little more customized to the point that it would gain the interest of the site visitors, perhaps resulting in a higher CTR.

  19. Jab

    Finally SEOs understand. 🙂 It took me quit some time to understand the importance of domaining. But two years ago I made the move. Never regret it.

  20. brian

    @jab: agreed that domaining can be very useful – do you mean that you are a domainer, SEO, or both?

  21. Goran Web

    Great article. Now I don’t feel that bad about the few hundred single keyword domains I own.

  22. Jacques Snyman for SEO Results

    Very good article….the bottom line is, if you’ve got your primary keyword and domain name the same, you’re way ahead of the competition…..so this will qualify as primary SEO in my book.

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