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August 17, 2016

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The State of the Industry January 2013: 15 Industry Experts Analyze 2012's Most Significant Events and Predict What's Ahead in 2013
Page 3

By Ron Jackson

Morgan Linton, Linton Investments

Morgan Linton is a man of many talents who is known as a domain investor, developer, blogger and serial entrepreneur. He is especially active in the start up space, an area that gives him a different perspective than many of our other commentators have. Linton told us, "One of the biggest trends in the domain monetization space last year was the increased focus on building brands rather than thin content sites. While this transformation started long before 2012, Google made their biggest moves last year. Content that was written just for search engines used to work wonders, but in 2012 it saw its demise along with backlinks from link directories and forum profiles that had long provided strong link juice to SEOs around the world. Targeting exact-match domains Google was able to much more easily filter out domains that had been developed purely for monetization."

"To some this was devastating, wiping out entire link networks and mini sites that had dominated the first page of Google for years," Linton noted. "For others this was a major win as it cleared many of the made-for-search sites out of their way and created new ranking opportunities. For domain investors I think 

Morgan Linton

this change was incredibly positive since exact-match domains with high quality content and backlinks retained their rankings and in many cases increased in ranking due to some of their competitors being taken out."

"On the domain sales side I think this also had an impact as many investors that had been laser-focused on exact-match domains started to look at diversifying their portfolios. End-users heard the news of Google's increased scrutiny of exact-match domains and started to consider other options as well. I think this made one-words and brandables stronger investments than ever due to the change in perception by both investors and end-users when it comes to exact-match domains," Linton said.

Confused image from Bigstock

"As Google was making news about exact-match domains, new gTLDs were also making headlines and putting even more focus on the domain space. In 2012 I think new gTLDs created more confusion than anything. Domain Investors started to question non .COM domains and end-users started to question what role TLD played in their domain buying decisions. The end result of this confusion was a decrease in pricing and liquidity in domains sold from one domain investor to another. For those investors who focused on end-users I think (at least from my own experience) that 2012 was the best year yet. In the end short, brandable .COM domains won in 2012 and investors who put their focus on end-users, rather than selling to other investors reaped the rewards," Linton said.

Looking ahead to 2013, Linton told us, "In 2013 new gTLDs will take center-stage calling the value of TLD into question even more with investors and end-users. I think this will have a positive impact on .COM as well as a few other gTLDs like .ME, .CO, and .TV that have seen increased interest from end-user buyers over the last few years. I think this will have a negative impact on .NET, .ORG and many other gTLDs that are seen as less valuable to end-users."

"I don't think this means that .NET, .ORG and other TLDs will lose all of their value, but I do think that names in these TLDs will have to be truly premium to sell," Linton said. "I believe 2013 will see TLDs like .ME, .IO, and .CO favored more and more by startups over .NET and .ORG due to how popular these have become for branding within the space."


"In 2013 I think there are great opportunities in short, brandable domains. I also think that more and more Domainers will focus on selling to end-users rather than other Domainers as many investors are hesitant to buy until the impact of the new gTLDs is known. If 2013 is anything like 2012 there will be more opportunity than ever for Domainers that focus on the buying the right names to see some of their biggest sales yet," Linton predicted.


"For Domain Monetization I think 2013 will see an even stronger shift away from MiniSites and towards real online businesses. This will mean that many investors will move from running many small sites to running fewer larger sites."

Domain money image from Bigstock

"As with 2012, there are opportunities just about everywhere you look in the Domaining world, the challenge is focusing on the right opportunities at the right time," Linton concluded. 


Andrew Miller, Digital Entrepreneur


Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller is another believer is building great domains into real businesses - something he has had a successful hand in doing with some of the best generic domains on the web as detailed in a 2005 DN Journal Cover Story. Miller told us, "The most significant event in 2012, for domainers, domain developers, digital entrepreneurs  and operators of online businesses, was Google's Penguin update. More than Panda or any previous algorithmic change by Google, Penguin affected so many businesses and web properties," Miller said.

"Penguin's goal is to delineate and remove websites that Google deems in violation of its Webmaster Guidelines and general best practices. This is a practice, also called black hat search engine optimization, that is used by many people and has historically been more prevalent in the domain name development space. However, Penguin also impacted sites that are doing everything properly. One of the sites I assist in overseeing is Chocolate.com. Chocolate.com is a credible site, with over 5,000 chocolate products for 

sale directly from Chocolate.com. Chocolate.com is one of the largest online chocolate gift marketplaces.  Penguin both negatively and positively affected Chocolate.com."

Miller explained, "For years, we were ranked top 3 for the key word "chocolate".  Post Penguin, we are no longer on page 1 of Google. However, we jumped to the top rankings for many long tail terms, such as "send chocolate Boston". Having been through search algorithm changes for years, I expect that once the new changes brought forth by Penguin get sorted out, Chocolate.com will benefit from Penguin overall and rise back up the rankings for key word search terms where it was adversely impacted by Penguin. 

"It is Google's job to deliver a search result that is the most relevant possible. Assuming this is what is truly driving Google's engineers if you continue to have credible websites facilitating behavior that already exists, you should survive and even flourish from these changes. In another of my businesses, FootballNation.com, there are some search results at play that make me question what is really driving Google. As I am writing this, I searched the term "fantasy football playoffs". The top 10 page one results Google served me were all from one site, Bleacher Report. As a consumer, that is not what I want from Google. We see this over and over, especially in our sports business. Google's You Tube has a partnership with Bleacher Report. Is it possible that there are business aspects to the search results at play? Let's hope not. In no circumstance should one site result in the top 10 searches, for stories that all read relatively the same. Google is the most important driver of online audience which in turn drives revenue. The most important trend in the industry for 2013 is to understand how Google's changes evolve and work, and if those of us who use best practices see some benefit from Google," Miller said.

Looking ahead to the New Year Miller said, "In the domain name industry, the challenge continues to be one I have written about for years, education of the marketing, advertising, and senior management departments of Madison Avenue and Corporate America. Our own industry continues to take steps to set itself back years. TLD's are moneymakers for those who sell them, that is for sure. However, any company that builds its brand and online/mobile destination, or spends dollars to drive audience, on anything other than .COM (or .Org for non profits), is making an irreversible mistake," Miller declared.

"If you watch one full week of prime time television, while reading national 

2013 image from Bigstock

print publications, driving by highway billboards, and listening to radio, you may not see one advertisement for a non .com. It is SuperBowl.com, NFL.com, Walmart.com, Geico.com, PurplePill.com, AmericanIdol.com and so on. Billions of dollars a year are being spent branding the .com. Other TLD's just reduce the value of the .com and it is a conflict to many in the domain industry to say this as selling TLDs is big money," Miller said.

"In my category of sports content, the biggest challenge is to create a reason for an end user to come back to our websites. We drive significant traffic to footballnation.com through search results, links to our content, and social media promotion of our content. These readers come in to a story specific page, not the home page, read the story and go on their merry way. Our challenge is how to we make FootballNation a daily, or even just one time a week, destination for a football fan, a scheduled weekly visit in reader's busy calendars. The answer is not an easy one and is a challenge facing all publishers, big and small. I am excited for our team to tackle this, no pun intended, in 2013," Miller concluded.

Braden Pollock, Founder, Legal Brand Marketing LLC 

As Andrew Miller noted above, domain development is very hard work. That is why parking and other forms of domain monetization will always have their place, especially for those with large domain portfolios. Braden Pollock, who was profiled in our November 2011 Cover Story, is one of the leading proponents of lead generation as the antidote to low PPC revenues. 

Braden Pollock
Founder, Legal Brand Marketing, LLC

"Leadgen has been steadily growing year over year for a long time, but 2012 saw a lot more progress in the space," Pollock told us. "More advertisers are finding the value in buying verified, quality leads instead of (often times fraudulent) clicks. Domainers have gotten squeezed by the Google-monster so they’ve finally started looking for alternative monetization in earnest. Leadgen has always been a great option, despite domainers reluctance to build out their properties. In time, leadgen won’t be considered “alternative”. It’ll become a primary revenue driver in the domain space, particularly as parking revenues continue to decline. And they WILL continue to decline," Pollock predicted. 

Looking ahead to the new year, Pollock said, "Ongoing Google algorithm changes will continue to squeeze domainers, directories, travel sites, review sites, finance sites, etc. (Major investments by GoogleVentures in RocketLawyer, LawPivot and others will affect my business). The pressure is on everyone standing between Google and the advertiser," Pollock said.

"For his entire life, my grandfather enjoyed a nice upper-middle class lifestyle provided by his typewriter repair shop. He hung in there as long as he could until he retired. After forty years  

fixing typewriters, he couldn’t bring himself to learn how to repair printers or PC’s. Passive parking revenue is dying. If you’re relying on Google for your revenue, it will continue to decrease in 2013 and beyond. Google doesn’t need nor want our industry – nor many others. It’s time to re-evaluate your portfolio and look for a new model. If my grandfather was alive today, he’d tell you that you can’t fix typewriters forever!," Pollock said.

Howard Neu, Attorney (NeuLaw.com) & T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder

Attorney Howard Neu is another industry veteran who skills cross so many boundaries (as we detailed in an April 2009 Cover Story profile about him) that he could be considered the domain industry's Renaissance Man. For this article we had him put on his attorney's hat as protecting domain owner's right is a battle that requires constant vigilance. 

Neu said, "There were two significant developments in the Domain Name Litigation field in 2012:

1. The URS (Uniform Rapid Suspension) was not adopted and in fact, found that there was a great deal of opposition to the formula of putting the burden on the Respondent domain Name holder rather than the Complainant Trademark holder.  Though everyone is in favor of speedy "justice", the cost of presumption that every Respondent Domain Name Registrant is guilty until proven innocent does not sit well with most people, with the possible exception of CADNA.

2.  More and more UDRP Panels, especially at WIPO, have been finding Complainants abusing the process and guilty of Reverse domain Name Hijacking (RDNH). Unfortunately, only 2 panels in the past 6 months at NAF have determined that a Complainant was guilty of RDNH, but hopefully, this trend will continue to become more "in vogue" with these panels."

Looking ahead to 2013, Neu said, "I'm a person who generally sees the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.  Though I am certainly nowhere near as good a prognosticator as my 

Howard Neu

partner Rick Schwartz - as my crystal ball is not as shiny as his - I firmly believe that 2013 will be an "up" year for Domainers.  With mainstream end users becoming more and more familiar with domains and the traffic that good ones can generate, I believe that both sales and monetization of domains will be up."

"By the same token, there are always those that want to get something for nothing and will spend a few bucks filing a UDRP rather than making a realistic offer to purchase a good domain for their business.  So I see Ari Goldberger, John Berryhill, Karen Bernstein, Zac Muscovitch and myself staying pretty busy fighting for our domain holders rights at WIPO and NAF," Neu concluded.

Paul Goldstone, Founder of Multiple Domain Based Businesses 

Paul Goldstone

Domain industry veteran Paul Goldstone has founded well-known businesses that operate in all corners of the domain industry. You can learn about the business at www.iGoldrush.com, find at  www.DomainSearch.com, register at www.DomainIt.com and sell at www.SellDomains.com! With his extensive experience in so many areas, We thought Goldstone would be a good man to anchor this year's State of the Industry report. He also brings us full circle. The first commentator talked about the impact of new gTLDs and Goldstone started off his commentary with his take on the same topic.

"As I look back on 2012, two trends that stand out above all others are social media and mobile apps. The domain industry has only just scraped the surface in those areas and I expect to see significantly more movement in that direction throughout 2013. By far though, the biggest development in the domain industry this past year was ICANN moving forward with new gTLDs. While it's encouraging to see the increased exposure in mainstream media outside

of our industry, I still feel that the average consumer is unsure of what to expect from these changes and for those that do, they don't seem overly excited" Goldstone noted.

"Did you know there are already 19 gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains), such as .com, .net, .org, plus those that the average person has not heard of, such as .info, .mobi, .travel, .pro, .museum. There are also around 255 ccTLDs (Country Code Top Level Domains), plus a number of internationalized and other Top Level Domains.  That's 274 domain extensions, with the majority share of registrations held by a small minority. If you ask the average person to name the extensions they are aware of, they will likely say their country extension (unless they're in the USA!) plus .com, and possibly a couple of others," Goldstone said.

"Why have they not heard of the other gTLDs?  How have those extensions failed where the 1000+ new gTLDs will succeed?," Goldstone asked. "Nobody has a crystal ball, but out of the flood of new domain extensions I expect only a handful, maybe only 1 or 2 of the new gTLDs will hit big time, and their success will be from a combination of extension name, luck, timing, marketing and money.  The rest will have varying levels of success and unfortunately, in many cases failure."

"One thing is for sure, that the launch of new gTLDs in 2013 will be powered by new investors and marketing, the likes of which we've not seen before in this industry," Goldstone said. "The single player 'guaranteed' to turn a profit through all this is ICANN.  It'll be exciting to see how this plays out and to see which extensions rise to the top. It's also a given that trademark disputes and UDRP filings will be at an all time high throughout this period and beyond."

"Due to the continuously decreasing parking revenues, potential of new gTLD launches, and individual economic situations we have seen and experienced a significant increase in domain sales and I expect to see that continue throughout 2013. Combined with the trimming of over-inflated domain portfolios we will see continued growth in the development of web sites and social media as domainers

Domains image from Bigstock

focus their efforts and favor targeted profit making projects over the sit and wait approach," Goldstone predicted.  

"Regardless of what the market may bring, my personal approach will be to stay diversified to increase opportunity and to mitigate risk, continue to partner with others because I'm not a Jack of all trades, and bottom line, make sure I enjoy what I'm doing. On the domain front, we plan to further increase the educational outreach from iGoldrush with new how-to guides, and a revival of the popular and highly requested monthly video tutorials with Morgan Linton. DomainIt will continue providing competitively priced domains and a strong hosting platform for the domain industry and we have several other domain related projects in the pipeline."  

"Change is coming, so grab an axe, find your mine, and take this opportunity to be a pioneer in the latest Internet Goldrush!," Goldstone said with a smile in closing.

We will end with our special hanks to all 15 industry leaders who contributed their time and expertise to this year's report. May they, and you, all prosper in the new year head - we sincerely hope it will be your best year ever!



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