Thursday, December 09, 2010
Youve read about veteran domain innovator Rob Grant on DNJournal
and also heard his story told on DomainSuccess.
What you havent heard
is that he has inked a white-label partnership with Epik to breathe
new life into his prized portfolio of category defining cheap.com
domains - Names that have been lying in wait for over 10 years until
the right combination of time and technology offered an opportunity
to exploit their potential. The time is now, in our currently troubled
and deal driven economy, and the technology is Epiks portal and
eCommerce platforms that are perfectly suited to it.
cheap domains, I mean CheapCurtains.com, CheapPillows.com, CheapFlooring.com,
CheapBlankets.com and 100s more. Cheap is a word frequently
clicked on by savvy comparison shoppers who are actively looking for
bargains. These visitors convert well to clicks and sales...And when
they find something they like, they spread the word fast creating a
multiplier effect. (Photo: Rob Grant and Epik's Rob Monster by Barbara
Starting two months ago with
an initial launch of 50 portal names and a signature Epik solution that
can be leveraged to other owners of cheap ecommerce domains,
Rob has already seen significant 300% improvements (week over week)
for domains operating on the new Epik platform. If this pilot program
performs well, Rob has plans to launch over 100 Cheap portals over the
next 12 months rolling out an ambitious Cheap Shopping Network in hundreds
of product categories.
An Evolution With Epik
Rob Grant is one of the earliest domain pioneers, having acquired about
8,000 domains since starting in 1996. From BeverelyHillsRealEstate.com
to upscale-upstate New Yorks AdirondackRealEstate.com, hes
helped define successful real estate domaining, most recently signing
partnerships with offline real estate leaders such as Sothebys,
who understand that Robs online brands are as powerful and valuable
as their carefully crafted corporate brands.
Rob realized it was time
to tap into another segment of his diversified portfolio. But how?
There is never any
clear choice or simple road map to follow when you are starting down
a new path Rob says. But it feels good to move forward
and to be on the offensive, especially in such a difficult economy when
so many businesses are failing.
So Rob chose Epik, and although
its still quite early in the game, he's glad he did.
Epik has devoted a
team of very bright people to help us, he says. We are learning
on the fly and making adjustments to stay on course. Our goal is to
grow in stages. Our first stage is the current product portals that
have just been launched. Second stage will be drop shipping with select
vendors and manufacturers. The third and final stage will be full blown
e-commerce for those sites that qualify. Obviously, this third stage
is extremely complicated and involves buying and warehousing product
from overseas for each of the niches defined by our domains. At this
point, were a long way off from tackling any of these issues.
Our goal right now is to get the first 50 sites launched successfully
and then see which domains turn into real winners.
It All Starts With A Great Domain
If you take a good domain, build it out with the right product, with
good service, and of course the best possible pricing that delivers
on your cheap promise, then people will bookmark it and
come back again and again and over several years youll establish
a real brand that serves peoples recurring needs. With the "Cheap"
domains especially, we have this opportunity to create a real franchise
where people can go to find their favorite products...for cheap
None of Grants sites
have been sidelined by Google. Rather, they have been aided by Google
to achieve rapid growth in search result rankings and high volumes of
search traffic far beyond what they produced in ten years of parking.
On one domain, Rob has seen over 300% increase in traffic and revenue.
Established in September, it started to get ranked in October, then
hit page one-third position in November. It has grown from a dozen to
712 clicks and increased in weekly revenue from pennies on parking to
$17 initially on Epik and now $46 a week on just one domain.
Margins Are Insanely High,
For Those Importing Goods
Rob doesnt expect that he can sit back and have these results
continue on autopilot.
You have to become
involved in this process on a day to day basis, he says. PPC
told me these domains had a heartbeat. I saw 10 clicks, consistently,
now I see 100. The net is about disintermediation. For manufacturers
with products to ship overseas and there are plenty of them
a web address can become a global outlet. I am researching product manufacturers
via Alibaba.com and other sources and working hand in hand with Epik
to take the next steps.
Its a huge leap from being a passive parked domainer who
simply checks stats every night ... to the not so distant future where
you may be dealing with things like product fulfillment and making deliveries
on time from China and whether a customers curtains will arrive
But if you want to stay on
the forward edge of this industry and achieve the highest possible value
for your assets, then you need to take the lead, do the research, commission
the content, and stay constantly informed about the business category.
What Rob means is no longer
reading just domaining industry media, which got you to this step, but
reading Internet Retailer and home design magazines to learn how people
shop for curtains and pillows, because thats the business youre
in not buying domains.
Delivering on a Brands
For Rob, its worth the time and money to test Epik's innovative
White Label program and to explore every possible avenue for his portfolio.
At the moment, our
industry is in real turmoil with collapsing PPC revenues and a general
lack of direction" confided Rob, I am responding as quickly
as I can to this new and very dangerous environment. Starting several
months ago, we began a massive editing process that has purged the portfolio
of hundreds of marginal and 2nd tier domains. For me personally, this
means making some tough but necessary decisions about eleminating domains
that other people no doubt find valuable (and that auto-appraisers like
Estibot assign pretty high values to). But these are extraordinary times,
and for me, the measurement of value today is whether I see a name that
defines a category and whether I can own that category as a business.
To that end, Rob is now testing
high value domains on the Epik platform like TropicalFish.com, ShipModels.com
and ChristmasWreaths.com Names that were all wasting away on
PPC with 10 type-ins a day, but that are now proving worthy for full
development with 10-times better search performance and pages that can
deliver what customers are looking for with the potential to generate
significant sales as mature ecommerce portals.
Do you know how many
Christmas wreaths are sold between mid-September and Christmas?
Asks Rob. Savy retailers like LL Bean know and that's why its
serious business for them and others. With ChristmasWreaths.com and
its sister site, ChristmasWreath.com, we can dominate this unique market
and become the leading brand that people return to year after year.
Thats a very promising opportunity that Epik's platform can play
a strategic role in.
We know the next several
years wont be easy, he adds. Our game plan is going
to keep changing as this economy and market continue to change. We need
to adapt to stay ahead of the pack. Our focus right now is on development.
It really does surprise me that there has been so little innovation
from PPC companies as the roof caved in on top of them. So Epik is the
best alternative right now. Its a brand new company with exciting promise...And
its led by smart people who care about their clients and partners. It
also doesn't hurt that Rob Monsters got skin in the game, staking
his name and reputation, as well as his portfolio on the Epik gamble.
Grant's Advice For You: Build
A Brand In A Unique Niche With Broad Appeal
Rob has seen what he calls pivotal points in the domain
industry since he became a domainer in 1996.
I started buying domains
back in 96. Back then nobody really knew what a domain was. The internet
was emerging as a new platform. So it was based more on a hunch. There
were no search engines in the early days so the only way to navigate
the internet was intuitively - My instincts told me that a domain name
had all the right qualities and attributes of a powerful and very intuitive
Well, it turned out to be
a good bet - But I certainly had no idea it would take almost 15 years
to get to where we are today.
And throughout these long
15 years, I've seen good times and bad. And the last bad episode was
really ugly - triggered by the tech bubble collapse in 2000 - 2002.
A lot of portfolios got blown out of the water and a lot of folks gave
up on domains all together.
It was a game changer and
it brought a new breed of investor in and saw a lot of the old school
For people who hung in there,
the gamble payed off handsomely. We eventually got through it and saw
a new period of prosperity. But right now, it feels like DejauVu all
over again...And its real bad"
As Rob sees it, weve
reached another pivotal point in domaining: a paradigm shift in which
the PPC model collapses and new business models like Epik emerge.
It means that you need
to adapt or gone down with the PPC ship, he says. Investment
quality domains need be developed to realize their highest and best
value. This is just another necessary chapter in the evolution of the
Internet as a marketplace. Today you can quickly build companies out
of what would otherwise be passive domains; and for me its the next
With change comes uncertainty.
A lot of guys will be scared as their revenues drop and their
registration costs eat them alive. Its easy to become paralyzed with
fear, Rob says. And I think a lot of us are still in denial
because things have been so comfortable for so long...And we somehow
hope that things will get back to 'normal'. But the truth is, they won't
-We're seeing catastrophic declines of 50% or more in ppc revenue...and
that's the new paradigm. Its a lot like the newspaper industry hanging
on to the very end as their ship sinks around them".
When things get this
bad, honestly, its not even a risk any more to leave the ppc model
behind, he concludes. "I'm sure the ppc companies will continue
to throw their lavish parties at the domain conferences and assure you
that everything is fine, but the music you hear is coming from the deck
of the Titanic. Don't be fooled, we're sinking fast."
For domainers who want to
generate real return and value on their properties, it all boils down
to a simple question: What is your long term vision and what are you
going to do with your portfolio?
With Epik powering the technical
side, and with partners available worldwide to provide products that
match your premium domains, the answer should be obvious. You can do
nothing and die - or you can do what Rob and other savvy investors are
doing and adapt to these changing times... and ultimately emerge even
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