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March 25, 2014

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Braden Pollock: Could the Lead Gen Whiz Be the Domain Monetization Messiah People Have Been Looking For?

By Ron Jackson 

Ever since domain parking revenue went into a tailspin a few years ago, people have been looking for an alternate means of monetization that would restore the returns their domains used to produce. It's a lucrative nut that a lot of people have been trying to crack and a variety of new systems have already been brought to market. We've seen everything from mass produced mini-sites to instant e-commerce platforms, but in most cases, after getting off to a promising start, the new initiatives have wilted. 

The problem has been that too many new solutions have been dependent on the benevolence of Google, the 800-pound gorilla at the top of the food chain who decides how much money gets doled out to those below and where those serfs land in search results. Serving the same master that most of the parking services depended on is turning out to be equally frustrating the second time around.

Some discouraged souls have even retreated back to conventional parking, a reverse flow that has been boosted by new services like InternetTraffic.com and Voodoo.com that, from early reports we've heard, have improved payouts by taking much less on their end, leaving clients with the lion's share of whatever largesse Google is in the mood to bestow.

Still, having been burned once, domain owners want another option in a monopolized market that has left one entity in control of the revenue their assets produce. That is why a steady buzz has grown up around a personable 40-year-old Los Angeles based serial entrepreneur named Braden Pollock, who believes lead gen has the potential to lead domain owners to the monetization promised land they have been looking for.

Braden Pollock
Founder, Legal Brand Marketing, LLC


Pollock is the founder of Legal Brand Marketing, LLC, a successful lead generation service for attorneys that has built a domain-fueled platform that Pollock plans to use to power a new monetization solution for other verticals as well. He has become a fixture as both a speaker and high profile attendee at domain conferences around the globe and the more people hear from Pollock the more intrigued they become. 

Talk, of course, is cheap and to know how much weight you can give anyone's message, you need to first know who that person is. So, let's start with a look at Pollock's background and if the path he has followed has left him in a position to bring the kind of revolutionary change to domain monetization that domain owners have been dreaming of.














Braden Pollock 4th birthday

Pollock was born in the L.A. suburb of Northridge to parents Rich (a systems analyst) and Judy (a secretary). "My dad was responsible for the computers (those giant mainframes that filled entire rooms) at whatever company he was working for at the time," Pollock said. "I don’t think that because my father was involved with computers that it influenced me though. There was never a PC at home when I was a kid and I didn’t get my first computer until I was in my mid-twenties. Unfortunately, I was not an early adopter. However, I would come across an occasional business book that belonged to my father and read it. I ended up reading every business related book in the house. Funny thing – My dad admitted years later that I was the only one that read those books!," Pollock laughed. 

"Both my parents had jobs and I think what influenced me the most was how much I didn’t want to have a job and rely on someone else to give me a paycheck. I could get fired or hate my boss and quit and have to start all over again. The whole thing just sounded like a bad idea," Pollock said. "From as long as I can remember I knew that I’d own my own business. When an adult would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d tell them I wanted to own my own company. They’d inevitably ask “what kind of company”. My reply was always the same: “A successful one.”

"I was THAT kid selling stuff. Anything. I had lemonade stands. I knocked on doors asking for odd jobs like washing cars and mowing lawns. I was always the #1 seller of candy bars or magazines during the school fundraising drives. I’d even bring my own candy to school to sell (until the school principal put the kibosh on that)!," Pollock smiled.

After high school, Pollock stayed close to home and enrolled at Cal State Northridge to study Speech Communications. "I went not because I wanted to get a degree, but because I felt that going to college was what I was supposed to do," Pollock said. "The entire time I was in college I just wanted to be finished with it and move on with my life – as if my life was on hold until I was done with school. I wanted to get on with it and get out into the world."

Braden Pollock during 
his department store 
management days

Though he wasn't yet free to devote all of his time to business, Pollock did the next best thing and combined his studies with work - a lot of work. "I took a full load Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:45 AM (the earliest class offered) until about noon. I then worked 40 hours (at least) per week between two jobs," Pollock recalled. 

"One of my jobs was managing a men’s clothing store which I continued to do for a couple years after college. I wound up staying in retail management - department stores - on and off until my mid-twenties," Pollock said. At that time he was running his own vending machine business on the side. He eventually grew that business into an enterprise that allowed him to run his own shop full time for the first time. 

"While working at the various department stores, I got permission to place vending machines in the lunch rooms," Pollock said. "I serviced them from the trunk of my car before work until I had enough accounts that I was able to spring for a van and hire my best friend as an employee. By the way, 15 years later, my best friend still works for me, running my interlock company."

After several years in the vending machine business, Pollock sold it to his dad who continues to run it to this day. Braden had decided to focus on two new companies he had started with a partner: AAA Credit Bureau (a credit reporting service) and US Immigration Affiliates, Inc. (an immigration document service). After a couple of years he and his partner split with the partner keeping the credit agency and Pollock getting the immigration business.

His new venture wound up blossoming with several ancillary enterprises sprouting from the same root. "While running the immigration business, I started publishing Immigration Times magazine which lasted five and half years," Pollock said. "Due to that experience, we now publish a successful series of print magazines, including The DUI Report, that’s mailed daily to DUI arrestees in many states. I also started a book catalog targeting prospective immigrants. Once in the book business, I developed a domestic book distribution company selling books to school districts, prisons, libraries and major institutions," Pollock said.

"With all that going on my primary source of revenue was from - wait for it - selling data! These were the days when we still mailed paper to people. Crazy, right? Part of our marketing strategy in the immigration business was sending mailings that went to every address in entire countries. This generated massive amounts of data for us," Pollock said

As an example, Pollock noted that his company had 10 million mailers distributed in Poland. He did not have the specific addresses but cut a deal with the local post office to deliver a piece to every address. The responses he got contained the actual addresses that let him build a massive database of valid addresses - the largest Polish database outside of Poland in the world. "I had over a million names from all over the world," Pollock noted. "For any country I mailed to, I usually ended up with the largest database for that country."

Pollock rented data all over the globe and it was a lucrative business until a single event upset the apple cart - 9/11. "After 9/11, everything changed," Pollock said. "Since all of 

In his late 20s, Braden Pollock at work at his 
publishing and book distribution business.

these businesses dove-tailed with the immigration business, once it started to decline due to 9/11, so did the others." Necessity is the mother of invention and now it was necessary for Pollock to find something new. That something would involve domain names.

"I spent a lot of time researching new business ideas," Pollock said. "One day I had lunch with a lawyer friend who was doing DUI work and he told me about what a great area of law it was. The Average Joe was getting arrested for a criminal offense, yet they weren't criminals in the traditional sense of the word. These were people that could afford to fight the charge and the industry was only growing."

"After lunch I went back to my office to research DUI advertising online. I found a few poorly built websites and no national brand. I figured that I could create a brand name for the industry and buy national advertising (banners on YellowPages.com, etc.) Once I did that I could charge lawyers to be a part of this co-op ad model. So I set out to build the first paid DUI lawyer directory," Pollock said.

In the mid 90s he started registering domain names and building websites to serve as the foundation for his new business. "Eventually, we had a full time, in-house webmaster maintaining all of our sites," Pollock said. "I explained to my webmaster what I wanted and he would work on that while I wrote content and attended lawyer’s conferences to sign up clients. The primary site, 1800DUILaws.com, started generating leads almost immediately as there was almost no competition back then. As we signed up clients, we began offering other marketing services, such as web design. This is what led to domaining," Pollock noted.

In the mid 90s Braden Pollock began registering domains. Now he frequently speaks 
about them at conferences. Above Pollock takes part in a panel discussion 
during the September 2011 DNCruise 2 conference in the Caribbean.

"When I would get an order for a website I’d register a domain for the client. Basically, I gave them the best domain I could find. Sometimes I’d register extra DUI related domains in hopes of convincing a client to build more sites. Then I started finding domains owned by others that were for sale. This led to portfolio purchases. When I realized I had a couple hundred domains that were sitting idle, I decided to look for a way to monetize them," Pollock said.

Braden had a good friend, David Rosenbaum, who worked with domains, so he asked David for some advice. Rosenbaum told him about domain parking prompting Pollock to open an account with DomainSponsor.com. That led to a revelation that Pollock recounted. "A few dollars started trickling in, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was sending my domain traffic to my direct competitors – traffic that I wanted - and in return I was earning just pennies. So, I set redirects on all of my domains to point to my developed sites. Traffic increased along with lead volume. I felt as if I discovered a secret!" Pollock exclaimed.

He immediately began buying up keyword rich domains specific to the traffic he wanted. "While my first choice was .com, I bought .net and .org as well since my primary strategy is to build websites for traffic as opposed to flipping domains," Pollock said. "A .net can be purchased for about 10% of the cost of the same keyword in .com. Google doesn’t rank .com over .net when you build your site, so this means you can have ten times the domains and traffic for roughly the same cost as the .com. My strategy is to monetize traffic, not to flip a domain for the most money. High value traffic continues to pay residual income unlike a domain sale."

"At this point, I have about 13,000 domains and I’m constantly buying

Braden Pollock (right) with Morgan Linton at the 
Domain Roundtable 2011 auction in the Bahamas 
where Pollock was looking to add to his portfolio. 

At last count, about 10,000 have been developed into websites. Along the way I also bought up competing directories to consolidate the market like DrunkDrivingDefense.com, DUI-DWI.com, DUIattorneys.com, DWILawyers.com, NotDrunk.com."

Along the way Pollock also learned what about the downside of relying on Google. "We built hundreds of sites in narrow verticals and dominated the search engine results pages - that is, until they were all banned!," Pollock smiled ruefully. "Of course, back then, we just built five-page sites with spun content, no links and never touched them again. So much for that idea! Thankfully, we’re a bit more sophisticated now with our platform development."          

"Our platform is not yet finished as we keep adding more features, but in all the beta testing we’re doing, we’re seeing great returns. We hope it will be finished within the next couple of months. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to build a new team. Easier said than done! If you know of anyone in the Los Angeles area with lead-gen experience, please ping me," Pollock pleaded. 

If Pollock can line up the supporting cast he needs he thinks he has the formula to revitalize the   monetization business. "Our platform will allow us to deliver lead-gen forms across several hundred verticals (along with survey forms, display ads and affiliate deals) to domains, whether developed or parked. This means that we can help monetize websites as well as parked portfolios. Our system will be utilized by site and portfolio owners, parking companies, registrars, search engines, etc. I won’t go any further into the technology side since we’ve not yet launched," Pollock said.  

However he did add, "Since we’re working with a revenue share model, it’s in our mutual best interest to monetize the traffic as best we can. This means, we’ll multi-sell, cross-sell and up-sell each lead to the best of our ability. Additionally, there will be secondary revenue events by monetizing exit traffic by way of ad feeds, affiliate deals, ebooks, etc. Since we’ll own the contact data, we will follow up with various email offers in the days that follow the initial contact. With all of this happening behind the scenes, a lead could keep generating revenue for days or weeks. This sure beats making a few cents from a click, huh?," Pollock asked rhetorically.

You would think that would be more than enough to keep anyone working around the clock, but Pollock still can't resist getting involved in other attractive opportunities that come his way. "When I see a good opportunity, it’s hard for me to say no," Pollock admits. "I’ve just partnered with Patrick Ruddell (aka Chef Patrick) on several projects. 

Patrick Ruddell (standing left) and Braden Pollock (right) 
are now partners  in several projects. 

"I co-own SignatureFiling.com, which is a service that provides assistance filing for a DBA/LLC/seller’s permit/etc.," Pollock said. "This company has been around since 2005 and doesn’t compete too much in the retail market (and giants like Legalzoom and BizFiling). Instead, SignatureFiling provides backend and “white label” products to major banks, registrars, CPA and law firms, etc."

"I’ve also developed hundreds of auto insurance websites as I’m active in the insurance space. A few years ago, I took the insurance agent exam and got an insurance license, which means I can get paid on signed policies instead of just leads," Pollock added. 

But wait - there's more. "Most DUI offenders are required to install an ignition interlock device (breathalyzer) on their car so they can keep their driver’s license," Pollock said. "Since we control so much DUI traffic, it only made sense to get into the ignition interlock business. That was back in 2005. Now we have a couple hundred brick-and-mortar service locations in several states. To support the business, I’ve built hundreds of interlock websites including a directory site at IgnitionInterlock.com."

"I also invested in Epik.com because I was approached by Rob Monster to join his board and become an advisor. He wanted to steer Epik into lead gen and wanted my help. I knew that Rob has a history of big exits so I figured I wanted to be a part of it. Rob has big plans for Epik. Let’s just say, I’m glad I got in when I did," Pollock said.

"I have a real estate portfolio too. I enjoy remodeling so I starting buying a property every couple years and fixing them up. Now I have a bunch of remodeled yet empty buildings. Anyone need an office building or house? I guess I should stick to virtual real estate," Pollock laughed.

Epik Founder Rob Monster
wanted Braden Pollock on his board.

Braden Pollock and fiancée Lisa Bloom

Despite having so many irons in the fire, Pollock wisely devotes time to his top priority, his lovely fiancée,  attorney, best selling author and TV personality Lisa Bloom. For those who have met Lisa you know she is a ball of fire - a dynamic woman with a radiant personality who is smart, beautiful and busy. Few guys could keep up with Lisa even if they had 24 hours a day to do it - but Braden has managed.

He also reads every day, mostly consuming industry blogs and magazines but he says he tries to read books as often as possible too. "I think it’s important to get that deep understanding and complexity of a topic that only a book a can provide," Pollock said, adding, "How can I not say that? This year, Lisa published her New York Times Best 

Selling book, Think, which talks about the value and importance of reading. Other than that, I exercise daily. I weight train several times per week, take yoga, play tennis and hike."

In closing, we asked Pollock for an opinion on the current market for domains. "Now is great time to buy domains," he declared. "Great domains are dropping like crazy and people are selling off their portfolios at bargain basement prices. Why? Because most domainers value their portfolio at a multiple of revenue. Since their revenue is based off parking and parking revenues are at an all-time low, domains are under-valued. The primary issue here is that the monetization model is wrong. Our industry relies on a model that doesn’t work as well as it used to. This will inevitably change."

"Perhaps parking companies will figure out a better model than simply a dynamic ad feed (for example, lead gen, display ads, affiliate deals.) Perhaps platform development will hit its stride. Maybe there will be something entirely new. I don’t have a crystal ball, but what I do know is that when everyone else is selling, you and I should be buying." Pollock concluded.

Spoken with the confidence of a man who may be on the verge of unveiling the something new that will fulfill his own prophecy.  


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