Gary Taylor has been buying and selling domain names since 2002. He is a regularly contributor to the UK domain name and SEO industry, operates a domain name and web hosting review site and has been a guest speaker at online marketing conferences such as SMX, Think Visibility and SAScon. With over 10 years of experience in online marketing, he is currently Digital Director at TMW Ltd. Gary’s responsibilities include client strategy and new business across SEO, PPC, display advertising and conversion optimisation.
Easyspace recently caught up with Gary for an interview:
Q1. Gary, tell us a little bit about your background and how you became involved with domain names and online marketing?
I’ve always been interested in the internet ever since 1997 when my family first got dial-up whilst living in Saudi Arabia. I began researching websites and how you could register your own web addresses, mainly because I hated all the free website platforms at the time where you had to settle with a sub-domain for your site. After leaving school in 2002 I began buying domain names to “flip” them for a quick profit. It was simple. Buy low, sell high…Following that I decided not to go to university and over the years set up a number of lead generation and affiliate websites off the back of keyword rich .co.uk domains. Things grew from there and in 2008 I won the Midlands Young Entrepreneur of the Year award; I brokered over £60m in secured lending between 2007-2010 through my financial services websites.
Q2. In the past you have bought, sold and developed domain names. Do you still buy domain names? Is it as an investment or to develop a website on, or on behalf of a client?
I still buy the odd one or two for development. But mainly I buy domain names on behalf of clients. I’ve built up a relatively good reputation in the domain name industry and although I’m not what you may call a domain broker, I do help brands/companies to acquire the domain name(s) they are after for brand protection.
Q3. Regarding brand protection, what type of domain names would you be buying? What advice would you give to businesses who are concerned about their brand protection, when it comes to domain names?
In the last year I have helped a global bank acquire the acronym of their full name as a 3-letter.com and a number of 3-letter ccTLDs, a major Charity acquire a .org.uk domain they wanted and several other businesses protect there brand by acquiring the .com, .net or .co.uk versions of their brand names.
Domain names are the doorway to your business, ideally you should try to own the .com, .net and the relevant ccTLD versions of your brand name. You can then also extend this onto generic, keyword domains for your industry or products where possible/budget permitting. I tell clients that if you don’t own it, someone else will… and that puts you at risk from someone stealing a share of your market. I recently helped an SME acquire the exact match .co.uk for their industry. They aren’t going to develop it; just keep it so that no one else can take advantage.
Q4. What advice would you give to somebody wanting to become a successful domain name investor?
Only invest in quality. Look for generic one or two word domains that have high search volume and competition within their industry. A good indicator is looking at the CPC value if you were to try and bid for those terms/words in Google Adwords. Dictionary words are also valuable, especially if they can be used as a relevant brand term.
Domain names are like car registration plates, for example 3 letter domains are much more valuable than 3-character domains because there are simple fewer combinations of them. That makes them rare. Rare equals valuable.
The hardest part is buying at a good price so that at some future point you can sell it for a profit. Don’t rush into buying a domain because “you just have to have it” this is how many people have lost a lot of money…by paying over the odds. There are millions of domains out there. So choose your next purchase wisely.
Q5. Of all the domain names you’ve owned, which is your favourite – and why?
A fun one here, I have two favourites which funnily enough are both .mobi domains…The first is HotGirls.mobi which was a venture into the adult mobile video market a few years back. We developed video downloads for WAP enabled phones and used Bango.com to provide the cross-network payment facility. It was short lived, but I didn’t have the heart to let the domain drop!
My second favourite was Vouchers.mobi. The .mobi extension took a massive fall from grace after its peak in 2007 and I snapped up quite a few at rock bottom prices before selling them on. I got Vouchers.mobi for a snip at £350 in 2010 and sold it 6 months later for £3500 when the vouchers/discount code market was really heating up.
Q6. If somebody believes they own a valuable domain name and they want to sell it – what would your advice to them be?
My advice would be to test the market. Get advice/opinions from other domainers. Post the domain name on some forums like Web Wise Forum and Acorn Domains to get feedback. Possibly pay for a “valuation” through Sedo and get sales comparisons of similar domain names, although there is no science behind it like the property market, do your home work to ensure you are getting the best price. Never accept the first offer that comes along unless it is a truly exceptional offer. Having a number of offers gives you a benchmark for market value and what people are prepared to pay for it.
Q7. What type of domain extensions do you recommend & why? E.g. .co.uk, .eu, .mobi, .me, .com, .net, .org.uk, etc…..
My preference is .com and .net as I believe these are more globally appealing and can command significantly higher prices on the aftermarket. I also believe that by having the .com of your brand/company name conveys more “authority” to the outside world. I would recommend that any new start up tried to get the .com and .net of their names very early on for this reason.
Q8. In the past you have owned keyword domain names and developed mini-sites for them. Is this something you still think is worth doing? (maybe give an example of mini-sites/domains you previous had, etc. Or advice on setting up mini-sites if you think they’re worth having, etc)
I’ve got out of mini-sites as although the model works for turnover and cost covering, it’s not a real money earner and the adsense model is hit and miss, with Google taking a large share before you get anything back. We can all see that the quick hit of getting an exact match domain to rank relatively easily is now more difficult with Google’s algorithm updates, however I am currently developing a seven letter exact match .net domain into a full website, this is the only project I have on at the moment.
Q9. How would you recommend monetising a keyword domain? What options are available?
It really depends which market the domain represents. The most basic form of monetisation would be to build a website of perhaps 20-30 pages of content targeting various long tail versions of the keyword and either set up adsense or a lead generation form so that you can earn revenue from a CPC basis or sell leads onto a company in the sector.
If you want to get clever then you can develop the site into a full information portal based around the market the keyword domain represents and then try to sell advertising space on the site to businesses. The more traffic you gain the more you can segment your visitors. Once you can segment visitors into specific demographics, locations and target groups you can then charge more to businesses to get in front of these visitors through CPM-based display advertising.
Of course you could always go for the flip. Buy a nice domain at a low price, develop it someway and get initial rankings for a few relevant terms then sell it on as a project for more than you paid for it.
Q10. You currently operate the domain name and web hosting review site 3ac.co.uk, which uses WordPress. Why did you choose WordPress to build the website?
WordPress for me has always been the easiest and most user friendly CMS to develop on. It is super quick to set up, open source, and completely extendable. The last thing you should do its develop a site on a custom CMS which will be more expensive initially and not ideal to sell on to end users. It does everything I need it to do and why restrict yourself when your goal is to keep costs down and options open?
Q11. What tips would you give to somebody looking to register a domain name for their business?
Get the .com, .net and the ccTLD of your target country. Nowadays, so many names are taken you are better off choosing a name for your business around the availability of the .com rather than choosing the name of your business first and then not being able to register the .com.
I advised an early stage company in 2011 to change the name of their business to fit a cheaper 3 letter .com which saved them $150k on the asking price of 3 letter .com of the original name.
Q12. When it comes to choosing Web Hosting, what advice do you have?
Go for reliability and support with good customer service and don’t be fooled by low cost solutions promising the world for a few dollars a month. Hosting is hosting until something goes wrong and you actually need to speak to someone. Usually cheap hosting is cheap because they have cut every last bit of value out of their after sales service proposition…that’s not a selling point.
If they have overseas call centres and no direct channels of communication in your country of business (certainly if you are a UK based business) then you may encounter massive difficultly when you most need it.
Q13. Your involved in helping businesses with their SEO, to help them generate more traffic to their websites. What basic SEO plans should a business have in place to benefit their website?
Clean site architecture and solid, search engine friendly foundations. Make all of the information as accessible to the search engines as possible. I am pedantic when it comes to ticking all the boxes. Ensure that all of your meta data (page titles, meta descriptions, header and image tags are all unique and well constructed) The most important things off all is to not cut any corners. Don’t overdo the keywords, focus on fresh content and building natural authority to your site. Build it and they will come…the first thing I do with client’s sites is examine everything under the hood, such as site crawl issues, duplicate content, page speed. Every little tweak can help.
Q14. What advice can you offer when it comes to improving a websites conversion rate?
Test, test and test again. Websites should evolve over time and there is no right or wrong with what you should test. I am a big fan of split testing pages to find the best converting version and sometimes you will be surprised with what works.
Thomas Edison once said, “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
To find what is or isn’t working look at CrazyEgg.com for heat maps and click studies and also UserTesting.com for low cost video feedback. Set up content experiments in Google Analytics and get creative with what you should test.
One of the most valuable sources of information for improving conversion rates is asking your own website visitors. Use a feedback/survey widget like Qualaroo.com for an inexpensive way to start gaining insights.
Q15. In order to promote their websites, would you advise small & medium sized businesses to use PPC (Pay Per Click) as part of their marketing strategy?
Absolutely, yes. If companies do not have an integrated marketing plan, they are missing out on valuable uplifts in web visitors, conversions and sales. You should protect your brand name and products whilst targeting generic terms inline with the purchase funnel of your industry. PPC, SEO and any form of digital advertising work together and should not be looked at in silos. The same goes for Above The Line (ATL) marketing; how TV, radio, press and outdoor interacts with digital to drive web visitors, footfall and ultimately sales. If you are not addressing this at whatever stage of your marketing and whatever size budget then you will not be getting the best ROI for your advertising spend. I discussed this during a presentation I did at SAScon in Manchester a couple of years ago and was surprised by how few SEO/PPC agencies address this with their clients… it is more important than ever now. At TMW we preach integration and our clients benefit greatly from the efficiencies we create in their marketing plans.
PPC is a great way to test keywords/terms and build insight into what does or doesn’t work for your business without breaking the bank. The results are instant and you have complete control of your budget. I would advise anyone starting from scratch to run some test PPC campaigns first before investing heavily into SEO or any other form of digital marketing. You will get a good idea of how people interact with your website very early on and be able to make more informed choices about where you spend your money long term.
Thanks Gary, from everyone at Easyspace. Good luck with your future projects..