Today I present an exclusive interview with Aron Meystedt, Founder of the super-exclusive XF.com professional domain forum and 20-something year old professional domainer. Aron is owner of several high end premium domain names and a big proponent of developing key domain properties.
Below you will find some very good info to help build your domaining business and some very good tips for both those starting out in the domain business or maybe even for people that have been around the domain industry for years. His success speaks for itself, I have known Aron for a few years and have enjoyed my discussions with him and have learned quite a bit about the quality over quantity method and appreciate him giving his insight into domaining as it stands today and how he feels it will look in the future.
Enjoy the read below, and thanks to Aron for taking the time out of his day and night to respond, many of these questions were answered and responded to in the wee hours of the morning.
How long have you been domaining, what got you started in this exciting business opportunity?
It started when I was in high school. I instantly loved the Internet, and quickly embraced the “global aspect” of it.
Early on, I told myself “I’m going to use the computer to make money… not spend money.”
Like everything else, it takes trials and failures. I started off selling car audio online. I found a distributor, bought a domain name, and created an online car audio store. I advertised a bit and started filling orders almost immediately. It was so much fun (especially at that age). The Internet enabled me to be whoever I wanted. My customers didn’t know if I was on the 13th floor of a high rise office complex, or if I was a 17 year old kid sitting in his parents’ loft I had some success with that little enterprise, I sold the site and business and wanted to move on to something else.
For me, early on, it was about sales, not domains. I wasn’t open to any ideas other than selling a physical product. It wasn’t until later, about 5 years ago, that I began to see the enormous potential in domain names. That’s when I started investing in domains and switched my focus from selling products to domain investing.
What are some of your domain names?
Our company name is XF.com. From the beginning of my domain involvement, I really wanted a 2-letter.com. I also own HY.com, which is a work in progress. iBlog.com and iBlog.net are a strong combination that we own and are in the process of leasing. We ran a large blogging site for a few years, traffic peaking out at about 2 million visitors per month and the Alexa rank near the top 10,000. We were approached by a company about leasing the domains, and it made sense. March.com Media is a sideline of XF.com. Other projects include TrafficEstimate.com and ImageSharing.com (among many others).
You are a big believer in quality over quantity. Has that always been the plan or have you spent time doing tons of hand registrations, etc?
I always strive to find quality in every name. Please don’t misunderstand me, there are tons of good hand registrations out there waiting to be picked up, and someone could certainly have a good portfolio of names for little investment. This just isn’t my model right now. For me, it’s much easier to manage 15 or 20 really strong names as opposed to 1000-2000 decent names. Again, there’s nothing wrong with either strategy. I purchase my names with development in mind, and, if my development plans fail, I still have a strong domain name as the foundation of the next project. It’s similar to a lot on the beach. It doesn’t matter what you build on that lot, you can always tear down the property knowing the value is in the lot itself.
What drove you to launch XF.com forum?
First, I love the other forums (NamePros, DNForum, DomainState etc.). I felt the need to gather the top domain professionals and companies in one spot. We discuss strategies for furthering our industry as well as share networking information. Most of my members aren’t active on other forums, so this gives us all a chance to share ideas and thoughts. We have strong representation so far from top companies and domain investors.
How has the launch went?
Very well. All the members are very receptive to the idea and are appreciative of the invitation (the forum has been “invitation only” to this point). We’re limiting the base to a small group so each member can have a voice on the board.
Can you talk about any specific members?
Examples of members include:
Skenzo.com and Directi.com
Domain Invest S.A.
and many others.
We also have a few top domain lawyers and many individual domain investors.
It’s great to have a personal contact with each of these companies and individuals.
Many of your quality names are developed, what percentage names do you park compare to develop?
In the beginning, I parked everything. Now, I’m shying away from parking and focusing on developing each site.
I like to treat each domain as an individual “mini business”. Whether it be leasing or developing, I am looking to treat each domain as a small business in itself.
For example: TrafficEstimate.com is a good site and useful tool for estimating the traffic to big domains and sites.
I am currently selling ad space on this site and plan to treat TrafficEstimate.com as a little online business.
I still have many names parked, but all will be developed, in time.
Development offers more creative options for monetization and the ability to grow your domain asset.
What are your thoughts on the decrease in PPC revenues, how are you working to overcome this?
It bothers me and I know many people are struggling. However, since my focus isn’t on PPC as much as development, I feel confident in the future. If my revenue was solely based on PPC, I’d have a knot in my stomach…
I’d encourage all domainers to attempt development, even if it’s with a small 3 page information site.
Development is very tricky and it’s certainly not as easy as some make it out to be.
However, putting up a mini site with useful tools and articles is simple. You can always monetize with Google Adsense, affiliate ads and CPM banners.
Some of your sites are pretty high traffic (iblog.com), how have you managed to stay focused on domaining and manage large sites? Any tips?
Honestly, it’s been tough. I start at 8AM every morning and usually have to pull myself away from a computer about 1:30AM. It certainly takes a daily effort to do ANYTHING the right way.
For coding and development, I outsource most of it. Even if I can do it myself, I’d rather focus my attention elsewhere. I feel my time is best spent managing my domains and looking for new opportunities as opposed to doing development work that you can hire out for $10 an hour.
What are your thoughts on domain investments outside of .com, you own jokes.mobi?
I believe greatly in other extensions. Just look at the success of .co.uk and .de. There are huge sales every month. .com is certainly the top dog, but there is great value in other extensions.
As far as .mobi, it’s still a possibility that it could take off. There are many great .mobi’s in development. Some names really fit the mobile extention well: Horoscopes.mobi , News.mobi, etc. Anything that fits on a small screen that a user can navigate easily.
This is why i bought JOKES.mobi. It was simple to develop and simple to use.
It’s text only.
I wouldn’t spend my life savings on .mobi or .tel or anything else, but it’s good to diversify and buy a few other extensions.
Your thoughts on domaining in the next year, next 5 years?
Please don’t rely on parking to be your sole source of income. I see models changing from cost per click to cost per action. As the economy crunches, so will advertising budgets. Companies are going to need to see results from their advertising dollar as opposed to leads.
Develop. Put up a small site, try to grow traffic and monetize that traffic.
Any tips for new domainers?
Starting out, you need capital. Therefore, you’re going to have to turn over some names.
When I started, I knew I needed a base of capital to buy premium names.
I didn’t have that huge chunk of money, so I bought some cheap names and sold them.
Then bought some more expensive names and sold them. Eventually I built up enough capital to buy all the names I have today. (I don’t finance my domain purchases).
Secondly, as stated so many times, is development If you have a great name, you’d be cheating yourself if you didn’t at least attempt developing it out.
Finally, and I know this sounds cheesy: Don’t be afraid to fail.
I have had so many horrible ideas I can’t even count them. However, it only takes one great idea or one “home run” sale to change your life.
Stay focused, build up your capital, develop when you can and if you have a great idea, go for it.
Why have you stayed out of the spotlight while acquiring some quality premium names?
I feel I have been very blessed with my success thus far. I know it sounds cliche’d but any success I’ve had to this point has been a gift from the Lord.
I try to stay out of the spotlight because I feel that I haven’t accomplished anything on my own. I’ve truly been blessed.
I certainly made some great contacts early on, who really helped me a lot and now I feel like its time to help others be successful
Although I try not to share any intimate details of my life, I am always available for help or an opinion.
I can be reached at XF.com and I’m one of the few people that replies to every email (great or small) and will give an honest opinion if you have questions.
Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts Bruce!
Great Interview from Aron, hope you enjoyed the thoughts from one of the up and coming domainer pros you can email him at the email address listed on the banner below, let him know I sent you.