A Lesson Learned About Domain Name Selection

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I suspected pretty early on that the domain name I chose for this website could be problematic which I documented in an earlier post shortly after launching the site. In the three or so years OpenSourceHack has been around, I hadn’t seen any negative effects that I could directly relate to my domain name decision. Sure, I’ve experienced a number of rejections along the way, but nobody had ever come right out and said it was because of my domain name.

As this websites traffic has grown, I’ve been constantly on the look out for various ways to monetize it, so at times I’ll selectively sign up with a new affiliate marketing program. In the past few months I’ve had two affiliate companies deny my access to their programs based on the assumption that my site is about hacking.

The first incident happened a couple months back and this second denial occurred just this past week. Both issues were resolved with a simple email explanation on my part, but it’s unfortunate (and a bit of a bummer) that I’m being judged by my domain name alone. I’ve even gone so far as to scrap a post I was writing about Windows password reset tools which I use on occasion in my system admin role. And before anyone says it, I do understand I’m probably not helping myself by writing a post containing a bunch of keywords that are not typically related to the content of this site. I’m sure the surrounding contextual ads will aid in the misrepresentation as well.

I don’t expect my troubles to stop here, but I will be keeping my canned defense response handy for future situations. If I can leave you with one simple piece of advice, it’s to make absolutely certain that your domain name does not contain any word or phrase that can be misconstrued. OpenSourceHack is a prime example of what can happen when you select a word in your domain with more than one meaning, and one of them is not looked upon positively.

Don’t make it difficult for yourself. Think ahead. Can you foresee needing the help of others (ad networks, affiliate programs, inclusion in site/blog directories, etc.) If your family surname is Warez, just accept that you’ll only be ostracized by selecting a domain name with that in it and pick something a little less controversial.

More Celebrities Using WordPress

I was recently going through some of my draft posts that never made it to the coveted published status and found this one (unfinished) from back in early 2010. It was apparently a follow up to my post about Celebrities using WordPress.

WordPress is just so flexible and easy to learn that it’s no wonder so many celebrity and business sites are powered by this platform. When I initially created that list, I used the WordPress Showcase to find most of them, but a quick glance at the same page now makes me realize how many more entertainers and large corporations have launched WordPress sites.

So without further ado, I give to you a list of even more actors, athletes, musicians, colleges, radio and TV personalities, and well known businesses that use WordPress on their websites. Enjoy!

Actors, Musicians, Athletes, etc.

Businesses and Organizations

Alexa Rank and Blog Money

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Your Alexa rank isn’t really an ideal traffic metric to use if you’re looking for pinpoint accuracy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a useful motivator. I log into most of my sites daily so I’m always checking my browsers Alexa ranking plugin for each of my websites. Sure, my recorded visits probably skew the results slightly, but not too much. I have sites with Alexa rankings in the millions that I visit daily and others with much better/lower numbers too, so it’s all relative if you ask me.

I use it as an incentive to keep myself posting regularly. Something about watching that number creep down over and over makes me want to keep at it. While it might not be the best ranking method, I believe it does have some worth. Have you ever noticed the popular make money bloggers claiming to be making a living usually rank somewhere between (roughly) 5,000 and 20,000 in Alexa? I’m sure that range doesn’t guarantee you a dime, especially if you’re banking on the randomness of ad clicks or affiliate sales, but there must be a very broad correlation between attaining a certain Alexa score and earning some decent revenue.

I started searching for blog sites (regardless of site topic) that share income data or publish monthly revenue reports to see if there was any link to an Alexa range and making decent revenue. I realize there are so many different variables that could warp such a fun study, but I wanted to find that coveted Alexa range linked to ample income. Is there an Alexa number that more often than not equals a decent chunk of change each month? Sure, this is all contemplative speculation based on rather flimsy traffic data to begin with, but I’m still interested to see the results.

I realize that some of these folks have their hands in a bit of everything including membership only sections, training programs, their own products (such as books, e-books, and phone apps, etc.), affiliate sales, ppc and cpm ads, direct ad sales, multiple sites, ebay or domain sales, paid reviews, and more. These income results will include everything, even if in some cases the revenue totals are for multiple sites. It’s also worth noting that on some sites I could only find older monthly revenue details, but the Alexa rank I recorded was for the date of this post.

So there you have it. Twenty random blogs with a recent monthly income report. I didn’t realize how vast the Alexa range would be in this list, but it really shows that it’s less about attaining a certain amount of traffic (or Alexa traffic if you will) and more about what you do with it. As I write this, I’m realizing I’ve been obsessing over the wrong number. Sure, an Alexa rank is fun to watch, but it means next to nothing. I should be watching my income by experimenting with new revenue streams while continually testing what I use currently.

Most of these sites break down their revenue so you can see where it’s coming from and what is strongest for each individual niche. It’s also important to realize you have to take a pro-active approach to attaining higher revenue instead of just waiting for it. If all you use is Adsense, you’ll likely never experience the kind of income a lot of these sites earn, but a more balanced attack with a combination of streams appears to work wonders for these people.

For example, take a look at Pat Flynn’s last income report over at his Smart Passive Income site. He has over two dozen affiliate products he earns from alone. Now go check out that list and search his site for where and how he uses/mentions these products. I just did the same thing and left his site realizing I haven’t been working nearly as smart as I could have been. Did you catch that each one is linked in his monthly revenue reports too?

Ok, so there’s no real magic Alexa number, but I will say once you get your score down into these familiar ranges (similar to these sites), then it’s up to you what you do with that traffic. Study the people on this list closest to your number or niche and figure out what they’re doing right (or what you’re doing wrong). There’s really no reason you can’t be achieving similar results if you’re in the same traffic ballpark as these other sites.

I know I have my work cut out for me. Seriously. It’s a good thing I enjoy writing because I am an extremely underachieving blogger if we’re talking dollars and cents. From just a quick comparison, other sites in the general neighborhood of my Alexa rank are making hundreds of dollars each month, so I am clearly doing just about everything wrong thus far. And then there’s the couple running the website which isn’t far off from my Alexa rank, yet they earn so much that they have to carry their monthly gains to the bank in a wheelbarrow. Good for them, although I’m not sure if the amount they’re earning is motivating or discouraging at this point. 😉

Oh, and I almost forgot one last website to include.

No More Downloads from CNET

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I miss the old website. Remember when you didn’t have to worry about accidentally installing unwanted software in addition to your intended download? Those days are over. I’ve fallen prey to this deceptiveness twice now and I think I’ve had enough. I’ve unintentionally installed software when I was downloading CCleaner as well as when I tried to obtain the Unlocker utility.

I could have sworn the first time I deselected all the options for additional software installation, and if you do a Google search for malware downloads on cnet, you’ll find a whole bunch of folks who believe this too. With my latest download (the second time it happened) I went back and did the whole process again to see if it was my mistake, and indeed there was an option to not install this spyware.

Is it fair to call this software (in my case, something called Coupon Companion) spyware? I think so, and here’s why. Spyware is (generically speaking) software that is installed on a persons computer without their knowledge and collects information about the user. Whether or not people are unknowingly agreeing to install it is irrelevant if the process is deceptive. It can be in a CNET download or an email that appears legit, it’s still tricking you into installing software you didn’t request. I don’t understand why respectable companies are interested in this sort of bastardly procreation for their products. It’s certainly not creating fans out of the afflicted.

We’ve all become conditioned to having to uncheck only one screen of optional software, but CNET cleverly inserts a second one. We’ve also come to know the “Recommended” label in software installations to mean what is the best setting for most people. CNET capitalizes on this complacency as well by giving us a “Recommended” for installing optional software. That’s all it takes to trick countless people into installing some third party software.

As you can see in the first image below, it’s pretty clear you need to select the Custom Installation to deselect the extra junk, but it’s not so obvious in the second screen. A quick glance looks like so many other standard installations that it’s easy to miss, and it’s my opinion that this is by design.

Luckily I caught it right away when I started seeing links on my website that I knew shouldn’t be there. I was able to link this rogue software to my last install which came from CNET. I found Coupon Companion in my Add/Remove Programs list and immediately uninstalled it, but what about the people who don’t realize right away or at all? Well, those people could have personally identifiable information collected, used, and shared by other third parties.

I know we’ve probably all been hoodwinked before by stuff like this, but the part that stings is when a (once) reputable company/website does it. Some of these free/trial software products have their own optional toolbar or applications included, so now when you click on that big green Download Now button like you’re used to (for CNET Installer enabled apps), you’ve got more third party crap to dodge.

It’s not even the optional stuff that bothers me, just the manner in which it’s presented in this case. If it were clear and obvious, you can put five offers in the process, but I call BS on this one. According to the CNET Installer FAQ, they implemented this because “as many as half of all people who initiate a download fail to complete the download and install their software”. Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. Not for a second.

In response to the additional software offers question, they make it clear to use the word clear in clearing up any confusion about “clearly identified” offers that provide a “clear method for rejecting the additional software”. If it were that clear, you wouldn’t have so many people complaining about it and wondering if they’ve just been infected with malware because they don’t remember agreeing to installed “clearly identified” additional software.

While I can’t speak for the many people that think they were never asked, I suspect they simply missed the options like I did because of the misleading way in which it was presented. Still doesn’t make it right though.

So what options do we have? If you’re not as (unnecessarily) annoyed as I am, you can continue using CNET’s and just select the smaller text link direct download listed under the CNET Installer Enabled big green “Download Now” button. The other option is to download directly from the site offering the software. I know there’s plenty of other sites like too, but I’m not yet familiar with them or their download process.

Might be time to check out some new ones and give them my traffic instead.

Set a Price for Your Premium Domain Name

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I’ve purchased quite a few domain names in the past ten years and I’m always on the lookout for new ones. I come up with ideas all the time, and even if I know I won’t get to the idea for awhile, I’ll still pick up a good domain for it. As soon as they extend the day from twenty four to about sixty hours, I’m going to have a lot more time to catch up on some projects I’ve been neglecting. 🙂

I usually begin my search at a registrar, hoping to find a decent name that hasn’t been uncovered yet, and fits for the niche site I’m interested in developing. That works sometimes but I often end up at sites like Sedo or BuyDomains sifting through results based on keywords and price. The most frustrating part is that the majority of listings seem to be marked “Make Offer” or “Request Price”.

I know the old adage is the person who mentions money first loses, but I don’t agree with this in the domain sales arena. In other areas of negotiation, the value of the product or service is more widely known or accepted, but not with domains. I really believe when you don’t choose a value for your domain yourself, you could be missing the opportunity to sell. With a field so open to interpretations of value, you really need to make your expectations known.

I often wonder why people choose to field offers instead of setting a price on a domain, and there’s only a few possibilities that come to mind. Here is what I came up with…

  1. You don’t know the value. There is no Kelly Blue Book for domain names so it’s very hard to appraise what your domain is worth. It’s easier to see what others value it at and accept or reject their speculative estimate.
  2. You’re a greedy SOB. You’re afraid to set a price because you fear you’ll be losing out on someone willing to offer more. Meanwhile many people shopping for a domain pass it by because they are thinking the same thing.
  3. You don’t really want to sell. Similar to setting an exorbitant price on it that you’re quite certain nobody would pay, you can also not put any price on it and bock at the offers you receive.
  4. You’re delusional on its worth. Comparable to #3 above. The only difference is you’d only sell it for a ridiculous amount of money and you might be a little shy about putting that number out in public.

I’d much prefer to see all domains with set prices even if they’re all on the inflated side. At least with a price, any price, we know where we stand with you. You never know who might want your domain and is willing to pay your asking price. Without a listed price, I can search thousands of other domain opportunities in the time it takes you to get back to me with a price or an answer on a blind offer. I’d rather pass by your “Make Offer” link and just keep looking.

What do you think about “Make Offer” domain listings? Does that sum it up or do you think I have it all wrong?