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The Royal Treatment: How Acquiring and Developing High Quality Domain Names Gave Warren Royal Control Over His Own Destiny

By Ron Jackson 

The precipitous plunge in parking revenue over the past year has left many domain owners looking for lifejackets. They find themselves fighting a powerful undertow generated by Google and Yahoo's desire to fatten their own margins by cutting payouts to their partners. Finding themselves in this subservient situation has made freedom from the kings of PPC the #1 item on the domain commoner's Christmas wish list this year.

When people ponder how to break the chains that are financially binding them, development is invariably the knight in shining armor they look to for liberation. The PPC meltdown has made development the buzzword for 2008 and with no rebound in parking revenue in site, the cacophony will only get louder in 2009. In 

Development: the new battle cry
from domain owners?

fact organizers of the new year's first domain conference, DOMAINfest Global (January 27-30 in Hollywood, California) have decided to make development the theme of their show.

With all of that in mind, we decided our final Cover Story for this year should focus on a domain owner who has already successfully navigated the path to freedom that so many others now want to follow. We went looking for someone who, by their own example, could tell us what it takes to reach the next level by unlocking the vast potential inherent in every good domain name. 

















                     Warren Royal &

We know many people who fit the bill but one in particular has a particularly compelling story because of how quickly he turned a generic domain name into a booming business this year. Warren Royal just acquired last spring yet, starting from scratch, he was already slammed trying to keep up with Christmas orders when we contacted him about doing this story in early December. Over that eight month span he had already sold 2,500 bobblehead dolls to customers from around the world! That would be enough to keep anyone busy but Royal has also simultaneously built a nice geo domain,, into a growing media force in that Louisiana city of 200,000 people.

Like many other successful people in this business, Royal (a guy who registered his first domain name way back in 1993) found that domains were the perfect platform for staging a comeback after disaster struck in another field. In fact he had to rise from the ashes left by the biggest economic disaster of the past half century - the subprime mortgage meltdown that decimated countless financial institutions including the ones he worked for.

To understand the attributes that enable entrepreneurs who have been knocked down to get back up, dust themselves off and create a successful new venture, it helps to know what forces shaped them, their values and their outlook on life. Royal's story starts in Camilla, Georgia, a small town of 5,000 people in the southern part of the Peach State. He was the oldest of five children who all arrived within a ten year span, forcing him to learn how to compete almost before learning how to walk!

His parents were both small business owners, so his entrepreneurial instincts were instilled at an early age. Likewise for the social skills everyone who has met him is impressed by today. His entire family; siblings, parents and grandparents were active in their community, taking leadership roles in everything from Boy Scouts to school to church life. His dad, 

Warren's dad - Richard Royal

Richard Royal, went on to run for public office and wound up as a State Representative in the Georgia Legislature, serving 25 years in the General Assembly before deciding to retire this year. 

"Growing up in Camilla had a tremendous influence on my life," Royal said. "Camilla provided me the best things that life in a small town can offer a boy – exploring train trestles, fishing, swimming in a lake, drive-in movies, building forts, Sunday School, Boy Scouts, model rockets, BB Guns, and Sunday dinner with all my grandparents."  













Cover of Camilla, a pictorial history 
written by Warren Royal and Diane Dixon

"I had absolutely no appreciation for the special gift I was given until many years later, when I had moved away to the big city of Atlanta. One day in adulthood I began to look back and realize how special that place had been.  I began to really appreciate Camilla - the family and friends, and the small-town community atmosphere that I had experienced growing up."

"So I decided last year, for Camilla's sesquicentennial (150-year anniversary),  to join my mother (Diane Dixon) in writing a book about the town. Earlier this year we were proud to publish a comprehensive pictorial history of the town, to “give back” to the community. The book, Camilla, is now available on Amazon and in local bookstores in south Georgia."

"The book also will give me another vehicle to support a cause that is close to my heart – all of my royalties are being donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). My 15-year-old son Jacob was diagnosed at the age of 7 with Juvenile Diabetes, and since that time we have been ardent supporters of this great charity," Royal said.

The photo above shows Jacob Royal's walk team for the 2006 
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Walk for a Cure"

After graduating from a small private high school in Camilla (just 35 students in his senior class) Royal was off to Valdosta State University where he earned a degree in finance with a minor in economics. After getting married and starting his business career, Royal added an MBA in finance and economics by taking night classes at he University of North Florida.

"I started my professional career in banking and in the mortgage industry in the 1980s," Royal said. "After graduating from college, and working for C&S Bank for a couple of years, I went to BancBoston Mortgage in Jacksonville, Florida, which was a large mortgage-banking subsidiary of the Bank of Boston.  I managed a department that handled the mortgage loans of large commercial properties, hotels, shopping centers and such. The loans ranged up to about $100 million. We were responsible for the collection of payments, escrows, bankruptcies, inspections, foreclosures, and other administrative processes when necessary."

"The problem was that the mainframe-based mortgage loan system that we utilized only handled 7 digits, as it had been designed for residential loans. I didn’t have the budget or ability to have customizations made to the servicing system – so I taught myself dBase and set up a supplemental system to track all the information that the primary system couldn’t.  That was my first foray into technology," Royal recalled.  





















Warren Royal & his mother Diane Dixon

"After a few years, a large consulting firm came to BancBoston and wanted to increase the company’s competitive edge by dramatically decreasing the average time required to approve a loan.  Other large lenders like CitiBank had introduced 24-hour mortgage approvals while it was taking BancBoston 60 days to do it. We determined that we needed to develop new dialup technologies, which would allow loan officers to transmit loan file data from the field into the home office." 

"So the company was looking for department “power users” who really understood the business, but who also had a knack for technology. Because of the work that I had done with my custom systems I was selected to head up this project. Within 60 days, we had successfully implemented a PC/LAN-based system which utilized BBS technologies to receive loan data from remote laptops and route it through various departments until it was eventually pushed into the mainframe. This project allowed us to successfully roll out a 24-hour loan approval program and from that point forward, I worked in technology," Royal said.  

"Around 1990 I created and managed a large Bulletin Board System (BBS) as a hobby. I ran it from my basement and 

based it on the technologies that I had learned in the mortgage project.  The system (the Atlanta Windows BBS) grew to be quite large and popular.  It eventually had 13 phone lines, thousands of paid members, and served callers from all over the world. In 1993, it was voted the #33 most popular BBS in the U.S."

"At about that same time, my callers became aware of the internet and wanted to utilize my BBS's mail system to communicate with Internet users around the world. I implemented a mail gateway to offer this functionality and that required that I register a domain name. So in 1993, I registered my first domain. I wanted but was told that it was already taken so I had to choose another.  Naively, I thought that the domain name was limited to only 8 characters, since that was the DOS standard at the time – so I chose, a domain I still have today," Royal said.

"Over the years, as the Internet increased in popularity, BBSs declined and I converted my online system to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and switched nearly all of my members over. I taught myself all about modems, mail servers, and terminal servers, and built this system from scratch with my own hands. The ISP grew and I operated it until I sold the dialup aspect of the business in the late 1990s to a large national provider. I retained the web development portion of the business and have done that off-and-on since that time," Royal added.   

"I’ve gone back and forth between the internet industry and corporate America. I managed the Internet practice for a top consulting firm, and worked on and managed large IT projects for a number of top Fortune 500 companies. In 2002, I decided to get back into the mortgage industry and was the Chief Technology Officer for a leading subprime mortgage lender in Atlanta. In that role I was responsible for a staff of 35 employees, including developers, project managers, business analysts, help desk and network operations," Royal recalled.  "But In 2007, as everyone now knows, the subprime industry imploded and almost all of the companies operating in that segment disappeared overnight – including the ones I had been working for."

When disaster struck, Royal's thoughts soon returned to domains. "I began registering domains seriously back when I started the ISP, for web development projects," Royal said. "In 1995, I hand-registered and the ISP used it to provide email and web services. At that time, I remember looking through many 2-letter domains and found that about half of the ones I looked up were still available! Unfortunately, though I was engaged very early, I didn’t understand the value of generics in their own right, but rather I acquired names which could be good for development or branding.  I didn’t understand the value of targeted traffic at that time the way that others did and really missed out on some great opportunities there."

"Instead I specifically acquired names for development projects or ideas. Many of them were obtained so that I could utilize them in a webmail and web redirection system that I built which allowed users to inexpensively utilize vanity subdomains of great generic domains.  I developed and ran that business until the dotcom bubble burst in 2000 and advertiser revenues plummeted.  At that time, I discontinued the service, but retained most of the names," Royal said.

    Warren Royal & Steven Kennedy
at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York - Sept. 2008

"A couple of years before that, in 1998, I had become very active and successful in acquiring a large number of quality generic names through domain drops. I developed some proprietary automated technology that allowed me to monitor and “catch” dropping domains. During this period, I obtained dropped names like,,, and others.  But I did not do so because of parking potential or resale opportunity – I obtained them because I had at least an inkling of an idea as to how they could be developed to serve a specific purpose," Royal noted. "Most of my success in this space has been derived from website development, not from parking or buying and selling. Over the years I have developed many websites and communities in several different vertical markets."  

"Between 2002 and 2007, I was heavily focused on managing corporate IT initiatives and had pretty much “checked out” with regard to my domain portfolio. However I sustained my portfolio, sold a few names, parked many of them, and still managed some community sites which I 

had great personal interest in, as a hobby, but I did very little in new system development. All of my energy was in my “day job” as a technology manager, and in managing some very large strategic technology projects for those companies," Royal said.

"When all of that changed in 2007, I decided it was time to move back into internet development again and to again focus on developing some high-profile projects. I had been commuting 2-3 hours a day for several years and had invested 10-12 hours a day working on projects for companies, only to have the industry (and all of my efforts) disappear in a moment.  After all of that work, there was nothing left after these companies went out of business overnight.  I decided at that time to put my future energies into projects which would benefit myself and my family.  And the prospect of working from home and not having to commute was the icing on the cake!"

"For my first major projects, I decided to focus on names which had a very straightforward, easily understood business model.  I have a lot of domains which could be used for complex business ideas (like, but for my first large projects I wanted to start out with sites which were much more easily understandable and obvious – like domain names representing popular common products (for a web store)  and geo domains."  

"I began to attend some of the top domain shows, met many of the industry leaders, and attended some auctions and soon began to see opportunities for great domains which would fit perfectly into my plans. I purchased (and its twin brother at auction and bought from Rick Latona. Since then, I’ve bought many more smaller ones which have these same qualities and potential, and have sold other names to finance these purchases," Royal explained.

"Over the years, I have been fortunate to have developed some experience and skills that have been invaluable to me in this industry. My business and finance  













Rick Schwartz with a Domain King 
bobblehead doll that Royal produced  
and handed out at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 
New York
conference in September

background have helped a great deal in planning all of the many details that it takes to create and operate a business, my writing has allowed me to author original content and my deep technology experience allows me to do much of my own development.  I configure and operate my own servers, write my own code, and even keep my own books and inventory.  That has been a great help to me as I have tried to keep my costs down, and myself engaged as much as possible in these projects."

" is fully developed and launched, but our marketing is still getting off the ground. I have a great local guy, Tom Pace, who has been a leader in the media there for about 30 years, and he is helping me with marketing and content.  We are very pleased with the site, and with the response that we are starting to receive," Royal said.  

"We really hit the ground running with Since I am using a great CMS (content management system) for the core of the site, and I found some great shopping cart software, I was able to get the site up very quickly, while doing nearly all of the work myself."

"I began making sales immediately, and sales have absolutely exploded since the election and Christmas seasons began. I have tried to keep things as simple and cost-effective as possible, but, as of this week it has outgrown my ability to run it 

alone, and I had to hire a contractor to help with the packing and shipping. Traffic has grown very rapidly; in the beginning we were getting some traffic, but not a huge amount – but we’re getting nearly 1,000 unique visitors a day now and we’re selling a heck of a lot of bobbleheads!  I really think that two years down the road we will be the #1 source of bobbleheads on the Internet," Royal predicted.

Royal's biggest problem is one almost all domainer/developers share - they have a lot more domains and ideas for developing them than time available to get the job done. "I do have a lot of domains, but unfortunately not a lot of time," Royal agreed, "So I have to be very picky about the ones that I’m going to tackle and I have to make sure that they are the highest and best use of my time and resources. Right now, I’m putting plans together for a dynamite new geo project (which unfortunately I can’t discuss yet), and a couple of other product sites. All in all, there are about 100 top domains that I’ll be focusing on building out over the next several years. I’m parking the rest of them, for now, and will probably sell off some that are outside of my long-term development plans," he added.

With the wealth of knowledge he has accumulated over the years I asked Royal to close by giving some personal advice to those wondering what approach he would recommend to succeed in today's domain industry environment. "I would recommend several things," Royal said, offering this checklist:
  • Get the best domain name that you can afford. Your domain should communicate your product or service very clearly and easily, and should be readily identifiable as being associated with your exact product or service.  And having a great, memorable name will give you instant credibility. For example, when I am in Shreveport, I have an immediate credibility advantage over competitors with the domain 

  • Keep it simple. Complicated, convoluted business models might work, but are much more difficult to set up and sell to customers, vendors, and business partners. When I mention, people know exactly what to expect to see there. And it’s easy to understand – everyone “gets it”.

  • Stick with .COM – if you go with anything else, much of your work may be for naught, as your efforts will drive traffic to the .COM version of your name, because that’s the extension that your customers will remember – or think they remember.

  • If you can’t afford a category-killer domain for a large geo or product category (they are expensive!), look for a name which could be a good niche directory. For example, I bought last year very inexpensively (4 figures), and I love this name. There is a tremendous opportunity for a paid membership directory site for owners of job shops. This could be a substantial business which generates significant listing and advertising revenue.  And there is some great directory software available to make these easy to set up and manage.  If that’s not your thing, you can also buy good geo names for smaller communities, and these can be very successful with great content and direct business marketing.

With that Royal was back off to deal with the final days of the Christmas rush at In the outside world PPC revenue may keep right on sinking, but it won't make a hill of beans difference in the Royal household. He has put in a lot of work to get where he is today - but now he is the one in control. It is a wonderful place to be - a place you can get to as well if you are ready put on your gloves and hard hat and start developing

The Royal Family
(Top row left to right): Warren Royal, wife Terri and son Jason

(Bottom row left to right): son Brandon, grandmother Nell Royal (age 94) and son Jacob


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