Elliot J. Silver – The Man Behind “ElliotsBlog.com”
Alright..I’m back in action. The biggest challenge with running a blog that is based on waiting for interviewers responses to come back to me is just that, waiting for them to complete the questionnaire. I would love to post more often but as I said I gotta wait for the questionnaires. So with that being said this past weekend I received 3 interview responses which will keep me busy for the next few days.
My next interview comes from none other than Elliot Silver himself. Elliot really needs no introduction. He’s made a name for himself in the domain industry with his successful blog ElliotsBlog. Besides blogging Elliot is also very active in buying and selling domain names.
The first time that I met Elliot was probably about 4 Traffic conferences ago and we have been friends ever since. He is an inspiration to most of us. I’ve personally learned a lot from ElliotsBlog.com and its commentators and I’m sure Elliot will continue to dish out his knowledge in the years to come. Elliot also organizes Domainer get Togethers here in NY. I’ve attended all of them and glad that events like this are put together and reasons are obvious. I’ve put together a few questions for Elliot that I thought most of us would find interesting. Like Zohan would say ” So lets go…..”
How long are you domaining? And why did you decide to leave AIG, did you have a crystal ball to foresee the turmoil in the financial sector?
I have been buying and selling names since around 2003, and I left AIG in October of 2007 to focus on building my business. I had no idea about the fragile state of the financial sector (or AIG). I was in a Direct Marketing Group at AIG, which had no connection to the financial group that had troubles. Ironically, my group at AIG has grown quite a bit in the last couple of years.
What was your first domain that you ever registered or bought?
I can’t remember what the name was, but I remember registering it at Network Solutions and it had a hyphen. I am pretty sure it was a legal domain name. I broke even on the name when I sold it. I think I paid around $35 for the name.
Most of us know that you run a very successful blog, ElliotsBlog.com and you had told me that flipping domains is the best source of income for you, why flip premium domains when you can develop them and have residual income?
Development is time consuming, and it’s difficult to convince someone (especially a small business) to spend advertising dollars on my developed websites. Although I am probably limiting my upside by selling a domain name quickly after buying it, I am taking short-term profits over long-term potential upside. I have been focusing on developing domain names of interest to me rather than developing a name just because it’s good. Financially successful development isn’t a given, and I would rather create positive cash flow on strong domain sales than keep everything and need to take on debt. However, I am building out websites to create another revenue stream that is more sustainable over the long term.
When your are contacting a domain owner, in your initial offer email to a potential seller do you include the price for the domain?
I almost always make a reasonable opening offer when asking if a person would sell a domain name. Most names I buy are purchased in private from people who have owned them for years. I am sure they’ve received countless emails asking if the domain name is for sale, and I’ve found that when I make a serious opening offer, it opens the door for discussion. Even if my offer is for less than the owner would sell it, I have found the response rate is significantly higher when I include a reasonable offer.
What is the highest dollar amount that you ever paid for a domain? And what was your highest sale?
I’ve paid high 5 figures for domain names and I’ve sold for six figures. I have a built in NDA on my domain sales agreements, so by default, most of my acquisitions and sales are confidential and go unreported to everyone but the IRS. The one thing I really don’t discuss with anyone is my revenue and profits. I guess it’s the benefit of having a private business without outside investors.
Why do you think ElliotsBlog.com is a successful blog?
First of all, thanks for the compliment on my blog. I’ve been told that people read it because I am very open and upfront about what I am doing. I also don’t censor the comments people write (unless they aren’t related to the topic at hand) and I enjoy discussing opposing viewpoints with people who post comments. I am happy to share the results of my projects (good or bad) and I let people know what I am doing – even if it’s to my detriment (as was the case when I shared information about how I was making money selling on Snapnames). People have been very open with me, and I like to help others learn about this business. I hope I am flattening the learning curve that new investors may have.
Out of all the domains that you owned and currently own which one domain would you say was or is your favorite?
Torah.com is probably my favorite. I’ve turned down a couple of significant offers for it because I have plans to develop it. I think it’s an important domain name and will eventually be built into a helpful resource once I have the time and the circumstances are right.
As you just mentioned, one of your many premium domains that you own is Torah.com, is it for sale?
Torah.com is not for sale. I currently have a mini site up for search engine ranking purposes, as I don’t want to park the name. I have a general idea of what I want to do with the website, but it will be time consuming, and I can’t dedicate the time to do it just yet.
Why have you chosen to develop Burbank.com and Lowell.com why not flip them? Did you buy them with intentions to build out or to flip?
I grew up about 45 minutes from Lowell, Massachusetts and I think it’s a great city with a rich history, and I am very interested in New England history. I strongly believe in the value and importance of city .com domain names, and I think there is good money to be made in the local markets. I think the city .com names are important assets, and developing them is the way to help them reach their full revenue potential.
I specifically purchased Lowell.com and Burbank.com with plans to develop them. I read about the successes of David and Michael Castello, Jess Bookstaff, Skip Hoagland, and others, and I wanted to see if I could replicate it. I know that great domain names are getting more difficult to buy and flip, so developing geodomains is a way to build another revenue stream aside from domain flipping. I recently reached a deal with Fred Mercaldo, and his company will be re-launching Burbank.com on his platform, and they will be responsible for the marketing and ad sales.
Do you regret developing any of your sites and why?
I somewhat regret spending time building out some of my mini sites. It was a great learning experience, but probably not a good use of my time. I was able to learn more about website themes, coding, SEO, and keyword research, but it hasn’t turned into a financially smart decision.
The one domain that I really liked and hated to see you sell was FrenchRiviera.com, Did you ever regret selling a domain and which one?
I can’t think of a domain name I’ve ever regretted selling. There are names I’ve sold that I like more than others (like FrenchRiviera.com and DebtCollectors.com), but I’ve used the proceeds to further grow my business, and I don’t regret that at all.
You’ve mentioned to me that you are going to relaunch Lowell.com using Wordpress, tell us why?
Originally the site was built without a content management system (using Dreamweaver) and it was time consuming to add articles and calendar updates. Because of my other projects, I got behind and became frustrated with the platform. If the site were simply a static, informational site, the site would be more than sufficient. However, I constantly get press releases and local news articles that need to be added, and it became burdensome for me.
I am very comfortable using Wordpress, and this platform will allow contributors to add articles and calendar updates on their own, without the need for me to write the articles and post them. All I will need to do is read and approve them. It will free up more of my time and allow me to make other changes to the design/layout when/if necessary. The platform will also allow people to post comments on the news articles, driving more page views and additional time on the site. Finally, local businesses will be able to create and pay for directory listings without the need for a local sales person.
You mentioned in your blog that you own close to 300 domains, break them down by extensions using %.
98% are .com, there are a few .orgs, a couple .nets and maybe 3-4 others that correspond with .com names I own.
What are your development goals for 2010?
I’d like to re-launch Lowell.com and Newburyport.com on Wordpress in the first quarter of the year. I would also like to continue growing traffic on DogWalker.com and CatSitter.com while growing the paid advertiser base. I’ve learned quite a bit about web development and business development in the last year and a half, and as a result, my development goals are much more modest this year
Do you think that developing Geo domains is the best way to make money?
I think there are a whole lot of ways to make money in the domain space. In my opinion, the best way to do it is to take something you love and turn it into a business. My blog is something I have become passionate about. I love the chance to share with others and learn. I am very lucky that it has turned into a business because I enjoy the interaction. If you aren’t passionate about something (tropical birds in my case), it makes building and monetizing the site more difficult.
One other thing I’d like to add is that I still make a majority of my income selling domain names. I don’t consider myself a good advertising sales person, so the ROI hasn’t been there yet for my geodomain names. I do believe they are powerful brands and hold significant value. I am making more money in advertising and affiliate revenue than I would if the money was in a CD at the bank, but I am certainly leaving money on the table right now with these sites.
You’ve mentioned DogWalker.com and CatSitter.com, what are your expectations with these sites?
These have been fun to build – especially DogWalker.com. My developer, Mike McAlister, exceeded my expectations with this site. Michael Sumner also helped with some of the Wordpress functionality, and it’s been going very well. At this point, I am hoping to break even (including the expensive domain purchases) sometime early next year. There are close to 140 paying advertisers on DogWalker.com, and CatSitter.com just launched but has several advertisers right now. Just about every day, I get new signups on DogWalker.com and CatSitter.com.
Well that raps up my interview with Elliot and want to wish him more success in the years to come.
Thanks for the interview Elliot.