Trip report: Domain Roundtable Conference

This weekend I did a Q&A session at the Domain Roundtable Conference. It was an hour and a half of answering various questions. Rand Fishkin and John Andrews both did write-ups of the session. Rand and John were both on an SEO panel after me, which I enjoyed.

This was my first domain-related conference, and the vibe was interesting. It was smaller than a typical search conference, but many people seemed to know each other. I enjoyed seeing a few people in the audience that I’ve read about. People weren’t incredibly eager to volunteer specific sites to discuss, but I can understand that. Overall I definitely enjoyed the conference and talking to a different type of audience.

I kept a mental list of the places that I mentioned, and I remember talking about these Google resources:

  • Google’s webmaster blog. Someone asked about moving a site to a different domain and we had just done a post about how to move your domain.
  • Google Ad Manager lets you sell and manage ads on your site. You can also choose to use AdSense for the ads that you haven’t sold.
  • Google’s webmaster portal. Someone bought a domain that they thought might have been bad in a former life. I told them that they should file a reconsideration request using the form in the webmaster console.
  • Google’s DMCA Policies. In case you want to report copyright infringement to Google. The person already knew how to do a DMCA complaint to the webhost that was serving up infringing content.
  • Google’s quality guidelines. Someone said that they had 800 links on a web page. I recommended that they keep it to under 100 or so, as we mention in the technical part of our guidelines.

One point that I wanted to make is that lots of people seem to buy domains for the joy of finding a “diamond in the rough” — a nice domain name at a good price. And plenty of people are into domaining as a way to make money. But only one person in the audience raised their hand when I asked how many folks really got into the domain business to build out and develop the content on domains. To me, that means there’s some opportunity there. For example, suppose you bought dullest.com for $1000 (full disclosure: I own dullest.com, but I paid about ten bucks for it.) If you’re not doing anything with it, you could make a deal with a blogger or web designer. The blogger could create content for the site, and if/when dullest.com was sold, the blogger would get a fraction of the profit from selling the domain. You probably wouldn’t do that with every domain in your portfolio of course, but if you had some good domains and they were just sitting around empty, it might not be a bad way to demonstrate the value of a domain. It’s Earth Day today, and both earthday.com and earthday.org are parked. If someone could develop one of those sites, that might be worth a cut of the sale. Who knows, maybe this is a stupid idea — or maybe someone is already doing it — but I liked the idea of giving an aspiring writer/designer/programmer/blogger some equity if they could improve the selling price of a domain.

Next up, I’m speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo this week. Tomorrow (Wednesday) I’ll be participating in a Speed Q&A: 5 tables, 5 experts, and the experts rotate to a new table every 10 minutes. The Web 2.0 Expo costs money, but I think you can get into the Speed Q&A part of the conference for free. If you decide to stop by, please bring questions that everyone would be interested in, not just “Can you critique my site for me?” :)

I’m also doing a short keynote (ten minutes) on Friday speaking about “What Google Knows About Spam.” I’m struggling with what exactly to say. On one hand, Google knows a lot about spam, as illustrated by this graph:

Google knows a lot about spam.

On the other hand, I don’t want to disclose things that would benefit people that try to spam. I’m sure I’ll come up with something by Friday. By the way, that danger dial-ish diagram above is a Google-o-meter graph. :)

36 Responses to Trip report: Domain Roundtable Conference (Leave a comment)

  1. Dave (original)

    People weren’t incredibly eager to volunteer specific sites to discuss, but I can understand that.

    Yet these SAME people want top spot in Google SERPs. Blackhats always have something to hide from Google themselves, but not their users.

  2. Dave (original), these were domainers, not SEOs. They might not have wanted to reveal the sites that they own to other people in the room, for example.

  3. Dave (original)

    “domainers” can be SE Spammers while “SEOs” should NEVER be SE Spammers.

    They might not have wanted to reveal the sites that they own to other people in the room, for example.

    Sorry, been in the game too long to believe that for a second.

    Matt, I believe you KNOW the real reasons as to why these “domainers” didn’t show their sites to YOU or anyone at Google. Your just playing naive :)

    Every public craw-able site on the Web site wants as MUCH good exposure as they can get, IF they have nothing to hide. Those with nothing to hide, hide nothing.

  4. Harith

    Matt

    “What Google Knows About Spam.”

    That wouldn’t be interesting for White Hats. In day-to-day work of SEO and web developers, its more important and critical to know more details about “What Google Considers Spam”. May be more in depth discussion of Google’s Quality Guidelines ;-)

  5. Dave (original)

    Harith, IMO, many sites violate at least 1 SE’s guidelines. Think of each spammy element as a drop of water, with blatant non-ambiguous SE spam being at least 100 drops. As soon as the spam bucket is full of spam water, you are ‘looked at’ with trained HUMAN eyes and action is taken accordingly.

    Having said that, IMO, the SE guidelines are NOT “ambiguous” in any wayif common sense is applied.

  6. Thanks Matt. I enjoyed your talk and having you there, obviously. I heard from MANY people how much they valued your talk, and how appropriate it was to have you and SEO together. 1.5 hours actually didn’t seem so long, did it?

    As for domainers mentioning sites and the spam comments above, after 2 years building relationships in the domain world I can ASSURE you many of the top domainers have EXTREMELY high integrity and are very far from spamming SE’s. They are business people working on the Internet frontier, and they have traditionally focused on efficiencies and not search engines.

    Core issues like wildcard DNS and feed publishing and redirects are real, genuine matters of platform efficiency, not attempts to spam search engines. It is sad that the SEO community is quick to label things with intent, and many business people are afraid of getting so labeled by others and by Google. That comment about “nothing to hide” is offensive, at best.

  7. “The blogger could create content for the site, and if/when dullest.com was sold, the blogger would get a fraction of the profit”

    Doesn’t sound like a deal that I’d be falling over myself to take. Why would anybody want to put in ALL the work adding value to a domain for “a fraction” of the profits?

    Is it all that great an opportunity to get to write on some catchy domain, rather than registering a second-best alternative? A snappy domain’s a nice thing to have, but surely it’s the quality of the content that matters?Loads of my favourite sites have really obscure domain names, I bet yours do too.

    The great thing about the web is that there’s no need for the “aspiring writer/designer/programmer/blogger” to sit around hoping that some domain baron might toss them the chance to get started. Just pick a domain – any domain – and get typing!

  8. Dave (original)

    That comment about “nothing to hide” is offensive, at best.

    Only to those with something to hide.

  9. Here is a topic that might be appropriate for a web2.0 conference.

    Delve into indexed tagging

    1. On your own domain
    2. As part of a blog network
    3. As a blog host
    4. As a pseudo search engine / tag index

    Tags can start off as duplicate content on a single blog – they could be improved by pulling in related content, but isn’t that just pulling in search results?
    I have tags that eventually have grown to 40 or 50 articles – they are valuable.
    If a tag has been flagged in some way as poor quality, how often does it get re-evaluated for inclusion?

  10. I think many domainers (most?) are happy to make money via domain parking, rather than actually build a site. Can’t blame them, really. Zero work but steady revenue. Was there some angst regarding the new AdWords opt out mechanism for AdSense for Domains?

    Here’s the Google AdWords help page about that new feature:
    http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=86695

    BTW, any idea why this important new feature hasn’t been announced on any official Google blogs?

  11. Google know so much about spam that I think nobody does on the internet. Because they are the biggest search engine on the internet they have to keep their spam filters ahead of the industry or their Google Search can become less popular.

  12. john andrews, with 1.5 hours for Q&A, there was a little voice in the back of my mind saying “If we run out of questions, I can always ask them domaining questions and learn a few new things.” :)

    “Doesn’t sound like a deal that I’d be falling over myself to take. Why would anybody want to put in ALL the work adding value to a domain for “a fraction” of the profits?”

    Chris Hunt, dullest.com is a bad example, but pizza.com just sold for 2.6M. 5-10% of that would be much better. You’re right that the blogger/designer/programmer folks don’t have to have a great domain name to get started. “Ajaxian.com” doesn’t roll of the tongue naturally, but it’s been built up so well that it’s a brand name with some folks now (the ones who are programming with AJAX).

    Andy Beard, thanks for the suggestion. With some CIOs and bizdev folks in the audience and only 10 minutes to talk, I don’t think we can get into that level of detail though.

    Richard Ball, we did recently discuss the content exclusion tool at http://adwords.blogspot.com/2008/03/helpful-tips-on-our-new-content-network.html and I also liked the screenshots you gave over at http://www.searchenginejournal.com/adwords-new-feature-adsense-for-domains-opt-out/6614/

  13. Tsu Dho Nimh

    “But only one person in the audience raised their hand when I asked how many folks really got into the domain business to build out and develop the content on domains.”

    Because that’s too much like work. They buy the domain and use Super-Duper ContentBlaster Deluxe 2008 edition to fill it with content they hope will attract the AdSense megabux, or they park it and hope that someone makes them an offer.

    In real-estate terminology, they are “listers”, not developers or sellers.

  14. Fran

    Well, who really cares for domains in the long term. In my case, people never type myname dot com in the address bar, they open Google and search it. I could drop it for a static IP or a 255 bytes quote from El Quixote if it wasn’t either a too much retro or too much avant-garde attitude.

  15. Shawn Shepherd

    Matt, your graph is awesome! I’m still laughing!!

  16. Gordon

    Dave – A lot of domainers don’t want people to know their niche.

    They have found one specific area of domains that they make a lot of money in, either through type in traffic or through buying and selling. It would be very detrimental for them to let the cat out of the bag so that their very wise competitors can go after the same names. if this happened, suddenly the auction price of a domain could double or triple simply because a few more people are in the game.

  17. “Richard Ball, we did recently discuss the content exclusion tool at…”

    The operative word there is: content. If someone’s reading a post on Inside AdWords about an upgrade to the site exclusion tool which applies only to the content network, how would they know that it now includes a brand new feature that blocks AdSense for Domains traffic on the *search* network?

    Advertisers need to know this new feature exists. That’s why I wrote the post over at Search Engine Journal. Glad you liked the screenshots. I suspect you weren’t too pleased with the domains. Somebody at Google’s not doing a very good job keeping the AdWords *search* network clean. Can your team lend them a hand? ;-)

  18. Matt, do you ever venture over to the Internet World show in London? Or is it just SES London that’ll make you take the trip across the pond?

    I’m really looking forward to Internet World 2008, any other of you commenters coming?

    BTW Matt, I found a small and blurred pic of you from SES 2007, you can be seen slapping your head… This was after I asked you whether a career in SEO was a good idea.

    I’m going to stick with it until I win a TV talent show.

  19. Morris Rosenthal

    Matt,

    I went on a short domain buying binge year when I was laid-up for a week. My goal was to rescue failed websites of small publishers from being turned into spam sites, and I thought recycling them to new publishers starting out would be a neat use, but there would probably have been trademark issues. The “plum” had belonged to a serious NYC trade who couldn’t be bothered to re-register it (they were folding the imprint) when I called up to warn them a few days before the auction. Once I hosted the domain, it quickly became apparent that people might confuse it with the original company, and I was happy to return it to the founder of the original press when he came across it and contacted me. Apparently, the publisher he had sold out to was supposed to keep the domain registered!

    I did a post about it at the time based on a 7 year old small press directory pulled out of the Internet Archive and found that of the 132 publishers listed in that directory, 67 were still online and functioning as publishers. Of the other 65 websites, only 25 were unhosted, but most of the 25 still belonged to the original owners. Of the remaining 40 that still load a page but were no longer a publisher website, 29 have been taken over by fake directory sites, web spam, and there may have been a browser hijack on one. In any case, it gave me something to do for a week.

    Morris

  20. Richard Ball, I’ll mention that to a few folks about possibly doing a post; I can’t guarantee it, of course.

  21. Dave (original)

    Matt, while Google get’s it right more often that not when searching. Parked Domains with only Adsense should never been beforepage 3, IMO.

    Nothing worse than clicking a SERP link to SEE ONLY ads!

  22. @Dave: There’s nothing worse than clicking anything and seeing only ads, but it’s particularly damaging to a Search Engine which are seen to “recommend” that page.

    The problem, as always, is distinguishing between what people are searching for and what they’re not interested in. If I’m looking for places I can buy widgets from, then a page full of ads for companies selling widget would match my relevance criteria. Wouldn’t you consider that a legitimate match?

  23. Nothing like the good old Google-O-Meter to make a point :)

  24. Matt was great yesterday during the roundtable. Here’s a short video snippet of him:
    http://www.sparkminute.com/?p=328

    And here’s one of Kara Swisher:
    http://www.sparkminute.com/?p=331

    And one of Clay Shirky:
    http://www.sparkminute.com/?p=335

    All from the same roundtable discussion.

  25. For the C level execs at Web 2.0, you could probably wow them with some Google statistics for 10 minutes. Give em a few juicy morsels about query stats, some web 2.0 stats and a few more pretty graphs.

    For substance, add some Spam stats, explain editorial links and that spammers frequently target UGC to try to influence Google rank.

    Talk about how important it is for them to build Spam protection into their site. Maybe even tell the that just adding a Captcha isn’t enough to stop Spammers, they should reduce the financial motives for spamming, such as by adding nofollows.

  26. Richard Hearne

    All I can say is – Graph API is so cool.

    Why dont I know about these things previously? I only spend apporx. 40% of my life in front of a Google screen of some description….

  27. Scott

    “Google’s quality guidelines. Someone said that they had 800 links on a web page. I recommended that they keep it to under 100 or so, as we mention in the technical part of our guidelines.”

    Matt, still nothing from Google Biz Dev after 2+ months of trying to get in contact with them about Google guidelines. /sigh.

  28. Ars

    lol, this graph surely display what you mean by “a lot”. :)

  29. “Dave (original) Said,
    April 23, 2008 @ 2:14 am

    That comment about “nothing to hide” is offensive, at best.

    Only to those with something to hide.”

    It is offensive and to suggest that just because people aren’t eager to volunteer sites to discuss, they are blackhatters is rediculous. As if the only reason to not show what sites you own is because black hat SEO tacticts have been used. People may have developed their own marketing strategies (something that costs time and money) that they don’t just want to share with the world.

    Perhaps Google it self is also a blackhatter because they don’t share their algorithms with the world.

  30. “Talk about how important it is for them to build Spam protection into their site. Maybe even tell the that just adding a Captcha isn’t enough to stop Spammers, they should reduce the financial motives for spamming, such as by adding nofollows.”

    That’s a good approximation of what I’m going to say, Jonah. I’ll give some tips for websites to get a little off the beaten path so that they lower their risk profile.

  31. Dave (original)

    Peter IMC, when one owes a *public Web site for the whole World to see*, YET doesn’t want the *chief spam hunter from Google to see it*, you can bet they have something to hide. That “something” is likely SE spam to the NON-naive.

  32. Dave (original)

    Perhaps Google it self is also a blackhatter because they don’t share their algorithms with the world.

    THE difference is that Google admit to having LOTS to hide and the reasons are blatantly obvious by their OWN admission.

  33. Dave (Original)

    The problem, as always, is distinguishing between what people are searching for and what they’re not interested in. If I’m looking for places I can buy widgets from, then a page full of ads for companies selling widget would match my relevance criteria. Wouldn’t you consider that a legitimate match?

    No, not by a long shot. IF/WHEN I want bought placements (skewed toward the highest bidder) I will look at the Adwords, or use a PPC SE. If I’m using Google, I want unbiased and objective organic results. As such, parked domains with nothing but AdSense should NOT be seen before page 3, or so.

    I cannot for the life of me see how Google’s ranking algo considers parked domains, with nothing but AdSense, relevant to ANY organic SERPS.

  34. Domainers?? I got another name for them that i want say in case theres children about.
    Its these people that are the reason no one can get a decent domain these days, how many times have you looked for a domain and find most are parked, the internet has become one big parking page.

    Dont get me wrong, i agree to people been able to park a SMALL AMOUNT of domains as they are a few valid reasons to park a domain but its about them we had limits put on domains.

    5 or more domains that have no active content then they should forfeit that domain. Time to clean the internet up.

  35. Its funny, I met with an attorney the other day that simply buys domains so his competition doesn’t get it. This is such a waste of money. He owns hundreds of domains with no intention on building sites on them

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