I'll preface my initial blog post by sharing some sense of where this odyssey started and where hopefully it may lead.
In nearly 20 years in the domain business, I've made more than my fair share of mistakes (.ws, .tel, .us and others) and I've also had my share of successes, most notably brokering the sale of Power.com for nearly $1.3 mil. a few years back.
Like many Domainers, when ICANN announced the introduction of thousands of new domain extensions, I maintained a wait and see attitude. As the new wild west unfolded, many people got caught up in tiered pricing, exorbitant renewal fees and falling prey to many domain registries schemes that offered domains for a penny, and some even for free. Unsurprising, many of the top selling new domain extensions were sucker-punched by the phishers, scammers and spammers as they plied their nefarious trade and simply ditched their penny domain booty when the local online and cyber-constabulary came knocking. They simply moved onto the next domain in line and picked up where they left off.
In that racket, a dollar goes a long way.
In the 5 years since the introduction of the new gTLDs there seems to be some semblance of things now settling down to a dull roar. Many of the weak extensions have been absorbed by other registries, consolidated or otherwise dealt with by ICANN. Its also interesting to note that many of the brand domain extensions have also thrown in the towel.
Registrants (the people, companies and organizations that own domains) that faced expensive renewal fees have largely jumped ship while the penny domain registries lost millions of registrations as quickly as they signed them on.
It seems that a sense of calm is upon us in the domain space.
I've kept my ear to the ground as the new extensions continue to launch. One in particular caught my eye for a number of reasons. I started investing in .Homes as soon as they relaunched in January 2019.
As a long-time member of the DomainPros community (2003), I shared some very early observations on the potential for .Homes domains to become a successful.
Since that post, an incredible amount of activity has taken place. I'll share those events in future posts. The original post is here and the full original version is below.
I hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful excursion with you and my .Homes adventures.
Hat tip to Joe Alagna, a veteran domainer who recently posted a link to a DomainPulse article on LinkedIn describing how there has been a six-fold increase in the number of .Homes domain registration in the 3 weeks since the ridiculous nexus requirements were lifted and reasonable pricing was introduced. (at some registrars for $10 bucks - you go Dynadot and 101Domain) .
Full disclosure: I own the website Homes Domains referenced below.
The key part of the Domain Pulse announcement is "being used out in the wild", simply meaning that the .Homes names actually become real live websites.
If the majority of .Homes domains are simply parked for investment purposes, it's going to be a long, tough (and expensive) row to hoe. We'll know exactly the state of the success, or failure of .Homes shortly after January 15, 2020 - the first day for renewals at prices of ~US $30, depending on the registrar.
If .Homes domains are being traded AND being used by end users, then there is a chance for long-term success. For that to happen the key stakeholders - the registry, (Dominion Registries), the registrars, resellers and the domainers/investors must make it attractive enough for generally stodgy, cautious, technically challenged real estate agents and brokers to step outside their comfort zone and try a new approach to building strong personal brands in a very crowded real estate market.
I posit this - unless you are sitting on previously unannounced major campaigns to promote the .Homes extension, perhaps we're already in trouble.
Savvy new gTLDs registries understand that the only way to success is through the sales and renewals of domains. If you are not planning to invest significantly more money and resources into international marketing, well beyond the thin blog posts currently displayed at dominionregistries.domains and get.homes, or unless you're sitting on hoards of cash to see you through the lean times, this extension is a non-starter.
I contend that the ~ 5,000+ current .Homes registrations are primarily speculators and not end users looking to try something new. If those registrations can be converted into end user websites, the extension could flourish.
Domain Registries: My suggestions
* Follow .CLUB's marketing plan. I'm sure Colin would be happy to share it with you. Also recall .CO's rebranding debut (Pigs CAN Fly!). It became a very profitable (ccTLD) extension. One key reason for each of their success, respectively, is that they invested in marketing for the long-term. They made an initial splash and people remembered hopped on board. They were incented enough to register a domain and perhaps more importantly, they understood the value of making that critical first annual renewal.
* Start a .Homes club that provides benefits to all stakeholders, especially end users. Help registrars and resellers to build a community of loyal followers by incenting them to promote .Homes domains.
* Start a video series showcasing real estate agents and brokers that are using .Homes domains out in the wild to build their respective personal brands. This can't and won't be done on the backs of the Remax', Century 21's, Sotheby's of the world. A new leader, or group of leaders needs to step up.
* Commit to no less than consistent, regular weekly blog posts, press releases and social media contributions. We should be bombarded with .Homes all over the internet. Maybe not quite circa AOL, but close.
* Rethink ultra premium registration costs and potential partnerships.
~US $600,000 for ab.homes (and many other 2-character domains)?
~US$600,000 for smart.homes?
Sure, you could get lucky and get someone to pony up, but I wouldn't back the truck up just yet.
With an ultra-premium domain like smart.homes, jewel that it truly is, why not PARTNER with an OEM like Samsung that makes tons of smart homes devices and appliances, or a major retailer like Best Buy that attracts millions of consumers into their stores and online, to help them to promote their smart homes products and services?
You hitch along for the ride - and reap the spoils of all of the marketing spend and publicity they generate. Think of how many real estate agents are spotlighting homes with smart technology and how it can make life less complicated for the international home buying and renting public.
Sounds simple enough.
Think about it.
Domain Registries "cost" for the smart.homes domain name: virtually zero.
Domain Registries potential payback in awareness, new domain registrations and renewals (at higher prices) and publicity generated from a strategic partnership attracting millions of eyeballs: Priceless!
Registrars have a gazillion options when it comes to promoting legacy and new TLDs, so the registry needs to sweeten the pot to make it worth a registrars effort to spend money on selling .Homes domains.
The overreaching nexus restrictions have been lifted and pricing for .Homes domains has been adjusted so that registrars can now sell .Homes domains at a level that makes sense for their business. Pricing stability at the registry level, predictability and transparency should enable registrars to sell .Homes domains profitably.
If registrars reinvest some of those profits into marketing .Homes domains and adding other perks and incentives, that could add to the positive growth of the .Homes ecosystem.
However, its still buyer beware. You can register your .Homes domains for 1 year at introductory pricing of ~$US 10.00 at Dynadot and 101Domain and others. Or you could opt to buy the same .home domain for $US 199.99 for your first year registration at NotWork Solutions. The choice is yours.
We should also give credit where credit is due.
Kudos to Dynadot, GoDaddy, NameCorp and Network Solutions for paying for Google ads for the keyword .homes domain.
Domain Resellers and Auction platforms:
Organizations such as Sedo, Afternic, GoDaddy, Uniregistry Market and others can also do their part by making it easy for domainers and investors to seamlessly list their .Homes domains for sale, lease or auction.
Domainers/investors have the opportunity and responsibility to get creative on how we create awareness of, and demonstrate the benefits of .Homes domains.
If done right, we can make it easy, and ultimately profitable for end users (real estate agents, brokers) to incorporate .Homes domains into their marketing mix to:
* build their respective personal brands
* challenge and dominate local markets such as DelMar.homes or SunsetBeach.homes
* create memorable email addresses such as Angie@ajax.homes vs. Tommy@torontohomessales.com.
* Offer alternative financing such as subscriptions or domain leasing to encourage end users to try .Homes domains.
.Homes Domains - Salvation or Sucker Punch?
The business of buying and selling homes is global in nature and extremely competitive.
Unfortunately, in order to get a foothold in the business, millions of agents are forced to serve much larger masters. The opportunity for individuals agents to build their own personal brands is eradicated and discouraged from the start.
Over time, individual agents can build substantial books of business under the umbrella of the master. When those individuals choose to strike out on their own, they are left with the scraps of online marketing tools.
Search engines charge massive sums to companies and individuals for the privilege of being listed under the most popular keywords. Unsurprisingly, its those masters, who have gotten filthy stinking rich off the backs of millions of dedicated agents, that have the deep pockets to pay for ads and preferred placement. (I'm not saying agents did not enjoy benefits and support along the way. I am saying that when it comes time to pony up for expensive ads in popular search engines, individual agents can't compete with big boys at the top of the food chain).
.Homes domains could represent a new shining light that affords any agent the opportunity to build their personal brand and to directly compete with anyone in the market, large or small.
Can sanantionio.homes compete with these 4 companies that are paying for Google ads placement at the top of the page for the keyword San Antonio homes?
* sanantoniotxhomesource.com (what was your email address again?)
Over time, I think SanAntonio.homes can do extremely well in ranking for some of the most popular keywords in that city.
Nobody can accurately predict whether .Homes domain names will be wildly successful, or be scattered amongst the carcasses of hundreds of other new domain extensions.
Although, having been in the domain business for ~20 years, I'm placing a small bet at Homes Domains that Domain Registries, the participating registrars and the resellers and investors will recognize the importance and the opportunity offered by .Homes domains to help make it a winner.
OK, time to rock n' roll. My name is Scott, the benevolent dictator of this little slice of the web.