Creative Domain Monetization: NamesCon 2017

Domain monetization can be confusing, but lots of solutions exist to help you turn domains into actual investments besides just selling them outright. At NamesCon 2017, a panel of experts moderated by Christa Taylor (CEO of doTBA Inc.) shared tips on how to monetize your domain portfolio and score that higher ROI. The panel included: 

  • Michael Gilmour (Founder of ParkLogic) 
  • Marlon Phillips (VP of Sales at Protected Parking) 
  • David Warmuz (Co-founder and President of Above.com)
  • Yancy Naughton (Founder of HasTraffic) 

There’s (Still) Gold in Them There Hills

The panel agreed right off the bat that monetization is not dead. “Quality traffic will always be wanted by advertisers,” said Gilmour, who’s also a blogger and sci-fi writer when he’s not monetizing domains with ParkLogic. “Advertisers are dying for your traffic!”  The early days of domaining were like the Gold Rush, he said: “There was just so much money!” Technology improved to make domaining even more valuable. 

The veins of gold gets thinner as time passes, though, until someone invents better gold-digging technology, said Gilmour: “It’s a natural progression,” he said. Still, he said, no company wins more than 35% of the traffic, and the winner changes daily, but every company wins a portion of overall traffic all the time. 

Warmuz, whose Above.com auto-optimizes domain monetization strategy among other things, showed that every parking company has a decent chunk of the overall space. He also noted that the new ccTLDs are not real money-earners, “not today.”  Overall, though, we can see that RPM trends are back up where they were “in the Gold Rush days”. 

Naughton, whose HasTraffic is a zero-click domaining platform, said, “We’re talking about Google.  […] It’s the greatest advertising network in the history of the world.” He added that Google is also the greatest data-collection company. “They’re essentially a monopoly, and they don’t care about you or your domains or what happens [to them].” He described it as a black-box auction. You don’t know to whom you’re buying or selling. That’s where direct advertising and auctioning come in, he said: you’d sell a Picasso at Christie’s, not on Google.

It Pays to Diversify

Warmuz told the audience not to put their eggs in one basket: don’t just stick with a single parking company. Gilmour agreed, adding that distributing your domain portfolio shields you from instability: “There’s a lot of risk-management in this, which is not often understood.” (Phillips’ company specializes in redirecting traffic from typo URLs to the brands that customers are actually looking for.) 

There is no average value for a domain name, said Warmuz: “You have names that will make you thousands, and names that will make you nothing.” Markets vary in value as well, said Naughton, adding that manually-typed URLs are more valuable than an ocean of display traffic. He described overall web traffic as “sewage with a little bit of gold dust in it.”

It’s all about scale, said Gilmour: a trafficked domain is one that gets one unique visitor per day. It’s not much, but if you have a thousand of them… 

Some prefer to treat domains just as saleable items in and of themselves, while others—like the members of this particular NamesCon panel—seek revenue in other creative ways.