Our Startup Journey

We're splitting up the blog, plus 1st page on Google!

21 June, 2017. Domain Count 50/150

Now that we've hit 50 registered Domains I thought it prudent to split the blog up so that the pages don't get too long. We've now completed our journey from 0 to 50 Domains, so this blog will continue the journey afresh from 50 to 150 Domains.

In other big news this week we finally hit page 1 of Google for our keywords cheap nz domains. Woohoo! We still have a long way to go on some of our other search terms, but this is great progress as we're up against some well-established competition.

Overtaking competitors is easy

27 June, 2017. Domain Count 52/150

As we climb our way up Google (as high as #4 on page 1) I've realised just how easy it is to pass these old established players. While they rest on their laurels, enjoying the fruits of remaining on page one to keep generating new business, a bunch of them (most notably acquisitions) have left their sites to go old and stale, with their 2005-style designs.

Take this well-known competitor and look at their website in mobile view, and compare to Domains Direct's responsive website.

Old unresponsive competitor website screenshot
Domains Direct responsive website screenshot

Now everyone knows by now how important mobile has become. Most webpages now receive the majority of their traffic from mobile devices, and Google is favouring sites with responsive design as they prefer to send users to sites that will give the best user experience.

As you might remember from a previous post, I'd spent a couple of weeks optimising the website for not only the best user experience, but also to keep Google happy (tidy code, fast loading etc.); and it seems to be paying off!

Page 1 on Google, but a long way to go

4 July, 2017. Domain Count 51/150

First the bad news: we lost a Domain overnight to expiry. The good news is, a Google search shows there's a website for the Domain, so it must have expired by mistake. Very worrying as I'm certain the client should be receiving renewal notices, but I have contacted him to double-check.

So we're now sitting comfortably on page 1 of Google for our key phrase cheap nz domains but I haven't yet seen any major upswing in traffic, nor new registrations. A few other searches such as nz domain registration and nz domain names puts us anywhere from page 2 to page 5, so we're still a long way from true visibility. Still, we are slowly climbing the up the results, so it is just a matter of time.

Second attempt to get .nz authorised

13 August, 2017. Domain Count 57/150

Now that we've been operating for 6 months I thought I'd check in with the DNC (office of the Domain Name Commissioner) to see if they'd review our application (which they previosuly turned down) now that we've got 6 months of operation under our belts and all the support systems that go with it, that they said we previously had no experience with.

The inevitable "how many Domains are you managing?" question came up pretty quickly and I'm hoping that our still tiny "57 domains" will not work against us. The point of course is that we've demonstrated we have a full-service website, a customer support system, and a real Domain management system. Though sometimes I wonder if there are forces working against us; but that is probably just my paranoia.

I've asked around for someone to help us with our SEO efforts, in exchange for our promoting their services to our customers, because while I feel like I've done the best I can to the best of my knowledge, we're still only achieving single-digit visits to the site each day. The problem of obscurity persists, unfortunately.

I also need to get a move on and set up the mailing list so we can start being more visible to the customers we have, as I'm sure there are probably some early customers who can't even remember they registered their Domain with us!

Here's our analytics for the last 30 days.

Domains Direct Analytics snapshot

Facebook promotion spend and results

12 September, 2017. Domain Count 65/150

This last week I did a very basic promotion on Facebook, designed to drive traffic to the website. Regrettably the click-throughs haven't yet resulted in any additional registrations, so another strategy is going to be required. Here's the ad I ran:

Domains Direct Facebook ad

Here's our actual spend and the resulting click-throughs:

Domains Direct Facebook ad spend

And here's our Analytics for the last month which does show an upward trend, but now that I've disabled the ads I'm guessing the traffic will drop back.

Domains Direct Analytics

Well trial and error are all part of the path to success and clearly promoting a website with PPC is not very effective. For one thing, there's no repetition, and people need to see an ad multiple times before they typically take action. Unfortunately it's simply not cost-effective nor within my budget, but I have a few tricks to try out next.

I also got an email from the DNC today advising they were having another look at our application to become an authorised registrar, so here's hoping for better luck this time round!

Half way to 150 Domains, plus .nz authorised!

25 September, 2017. Domain Count 75/150

As I look back over our early days where we were struggling to get a single Domain registration I'm pretty pleased to now be half way through our journey to 150 Domains, and I look forward to reaching the next milestone - our journey to 500.

We also finally received our .nz authorisation, so we're officially a .nz registrar!

With still such a small number of managed Domains I don't think we'll be building our own platform just yet so we'll be sticking with Crazy Domains for now, but at least the registrar status is a step in the right direction.

Shut down for spamming!

25 October, 2017. Domain Count 87/150

Yesterday morning I awoke to an email from Crazy Domains that are account had been suspended due to spamming. News to me, I got on the phone and was told that we may not send more than 500 emails per hour. Now, considering we're not even sending one an hour, I was a bit miffed by their actions, and asked that they advise what the source of the spam is, i.e. has our account been hacked? Is there a vulnerable PHP file somewhere? etc.

They were kind enough to turn us back on but have since not yet advised why this happened. A very frustrating experience, to be down for 9 hours, and have no idea it's happened because it's the middle of the night. Not to mention, an email, rather than a phone call! I explained this is people's livelihoods they're messing with. I'm not holding my breath they'll come back with a source.

Now, as I look back at my last post, which was one month ago, I see that in 4 weeks we gained 12 Domains. Still not setting the world on fire, but it was only earlier this year that we were struggling to get even one Domain registered. I sent out our first customer email a few weeks ago, however there was little response.

One frustrating experience this week was an email I received from someone with 40 Domains who wanted to move them to us, and that they "were sick of Crazy Domains." If you've followed our full blog you'll know why it was so painful to have to serve him up a big helping of irony.

What happens if we chuck in the towel?

21 November, 2017. Domain Count 98/150

A prospective customer emailed yesterday asking what would happen to his Domain if we decided to call it quits on Domains Direct (don't worry, we're not planning to) and I thought it was a good topic to bring up, as readers of this blog might have the same concerns about our future, given our documented struggles.

The thing is, even with sub-100 Domains, we've still created a brand that now has some value. We have 30-40 customers, and we rank well in Google for most domain name-related searches (though the conversion to actual sales is still painfully slow); so to a competitor we'd be an attractive, albeit small, acquisition.

If we did call it a day, I'd suggest we'd either sell or give away the business to a competitor who would take over and probably roll into their own service.

But rest assured, we take the responsibility of having paying customers very seriously, and our priority would be to make sure everyone had a smooth transition.

Happy new year!

1 January, 2018. Domain Count 114/150

Because I haven't written in a while I thought it would be worth noting that I'm observing an increase in Domain registrations the last couple days as I believe people are starting to think about what they want to do in the new year, and a lot of people want to start businesses.

Of course, one of the first things you do when you want ot start a business, is register the Domain!

Also finding that our Google rank on a number of keywords has increased markedly lately and we're appearing now on page 1 for all of them - but it's still not translating into an a big increase in traffic to our site.

On to Part 3 of our Journey