Our Startup Journey

Numbers keep rollin' rollin' rollin'

30 January, 2018. Domain Count 170/500

Just 4 weeks ago, when I last wrote, our Domain count was at 114. It's now 170 after what has been a stellar month. My prediction of a surge in registrations following new year's certainly turned out to be right.

I particularly enjoy reading back over my first posts where it was proving so difficult just to get that first customer.

So what's changed? Not much. It's just been a slow process of waiting for Google to keep bumping us up the rankings, encouraged by some regular blogging, to demonstrate fresh content. We're still not spending anything on advertising; we're relying purely on Google traffic.

In other news, with the numbers picking up it's time for us to start planning and building our own platform to connect to the NZRS!

Nearly half way to 500!

18 February, 2018. Domain Count 231/500

Between getting our very first Domain registration on December 7, 2016, and the second registration on March 24, 2017, a total of 107 days passed with zero activity.

In the same period, one year later, we've gained around 130 new Domains.

So what's changed?

If you've read our past posts you'll have seen that we spent money on Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, with abysmal results. On the other hand, we worked hard optimizing our site for search and creating content that would be of value to our visitors - content our competitors did not have.

As a result we've seen our listing steadily climbing up the search results to be on page one for almost all our key phrases. This of course was important because we needed to be visible to a captive audience, as we simply didn't have the budget to advertise consistently.

So here's a summary of how we stack up right now:

cheap nz domains - position 4
domain registration nz - position 13
best domain registrar nz - position 9
best domain nz - position 10
cheapest domain names nz - position 4
.co.nz domain - position 12

We've still got a long way to go, but we've passed many of our long-established competitors, so the campaign has been effective thus far. If you missed our blog article you can find out more about how to improve your site's SEO.

Over half way to 500!

25 April, 2018. Domain Count 336/500

I thought it was time I post an update on our numbers. We're tracking along well now with quite regular registrations coming through. Looking at my last update there's been a gain of 105 Domains in 66 days; so we're fast approaching an average of 2 new Domains a day.

I haven't done any marketing work at all this year, except to provide the absolute best support possible to customers, which means answering emails straight away whenever possible; which should lead to increased word-of-mouth - the most effective marketing tool there is!

At our current rate we should hit 500 Domains in 90 days, or about 25th of July. Let's see how quickly we can get there!

Our first big portfolio!

10 May, 2018. Domain Count 419/500

Today was an exciting day as one of our customers, who'd been trying us out, brought over 50 Domains from another registrar. That brings us only 81 Domains from our target of 500.

In other news, last week I attended the dot NZ Registrar conference in Wellington and caught up with the guys who bought Web Drive, whom I haven't seen since 2014. It was good to catch up and he gave me a few digs throughout the day about Domains Direct and our super-low pricing. It was also great to see a few familiar faces from years past and feel like I was back in the business for real.

I've also set up a live chat for the website and will test the demand for this for a few days. As yet I've not had any conversations with visitors, but we still don't get a lot of web traffic, so it may be in vain just... or perhaps our website is just so awesome it easily answers people's questions.

Stats comparison with a year ago

18 May, 2018. Domain Count 449/500

Wow, 30 Domains gained in the last 8 days. 51 to go until our target. We're also making good progress on our own platform. Thank God because I don't know how much longer I can stand using Crazy Domains' archaic system!

I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison of Analytics from a year ago. The two images below are for the period March 17 to May 17.

2017

2017 Analytics

2018

2018 Analytics

It's immediately obvious that everything has doubled in a year, and this is solely organic traffic. There is zero paid clicks to the site in the last year. What is strange though is that the average time spent on the site has halved. The current time spent on site is 1:38, which is quite short, and I wonder if people are actually reading our blog posts and articles. It is important to note though that this doesn't include time spent in the management app.

What the hell is going on?!

22 June, 2018. Domain Count 469/500

It's been a strange last two weeks. Firstly, Domain gains have reeeeeally slowed down. My original prediction to hit 500 Domains was 25 July, and at the current rate, that might actually be accurate. We've only gained 20 Domains in the last month.

It was frustrating earlier this week to again be victim to Crazy Domains' over-the-top approach to combatting fraud. Because a new customer got picked on, by the time I was able to activate the pending registration, he'd registered it with someone else.

And in my over-zealous mission to gain customers I went about upsetting somebody bigtime, by trying to be just a bit too helpful.

I was contacted about transferring an expired Domain to us from Freeparking, for renewal. I did some research and found that the DNC does in fact allow expired Domains to be transferred between registrars. Great! Next was to contact Crazy Domains - though I didn't have high hopes. Their immediate response was "you can't transfer expired Domains." I pleaded with them to at least acknowledge that the NZ registry allows this, and they just need to make a change to their system to allow it. After all, it would mean more business for them. Nope.

I then had the idea to transfer this Domain to someone who I knew accepted expired Domains AND was cheap... enter Domains4Less.

I transferred the Domain and then sent the customer a link to renew, for half of what he'd have to pay Freeparking. Once renewed I'd then transfer it over to Domains Direct. Well, he was NOT at all happy that I'd done this. There was some concern about me "sharing personal details" with Domains4Less, which of course I didn't, because his details are publicly available as part of his registration.

In my attempt to dig myself out of this I paid for the renewal, transferred it over to Domains Direct, and sent off a friendly email that all was taken care of, the Domain was now active, and I'd given him this complimentary year of renewal.

This just seemed to make him MADDER! He requested his UDAI and then transferred the Domain to another provider, who are MORE EXPENSIVE than the original registrar, FreeParking!

A few days later, an unstamped envelope turned up in my home letterbox with the $23 in cash for the renewal.

True story.

My last gripe of the week goes to Crazy Domains, whom I've been battling with to get some Javascript code fixed in their white-label platform that prevented inbound NZ transfers. I spent a couple hours debugging the code so I could send them the specific line of the specific file they need to fix. They came back to me today and told me they can only support their own platform and not mine... despite the fact that I've sent URLs and screenshots clearly showing their platform. Honestly, it's like the tail wagging the dog.

We're ALMOST there!!!

16 July, 2018. Domain Count 499/500
499 Domain Count

I can't believe it, but we're standing on the precipice of achieving our startup goal of 500 Domains!!!

Back in April my calculation was that we'd hit 500 on July 25th, so we are coming in pretty close, but with 9 days to spare.

We had a 5-day period with no new activity, and have been sitting at 496 for about a week (gained one, lost one). We'd actually have hit 500 today if it weren't for Crazy Domains' draconian transfer system, as we have a transfer pending, but their authorisation email has disappeared into a black hole.

Anyway, I hope to share the good news tomorrow, and then decide whether to continue the blog into "Our journey to 1,500 Domains."

We did it!

17 July, 2018. Domain Count 500/500

We started this journey on 1 June, 2016, and looking back to my first post, I can't believe it has been over two years.

We officially launched on 20 January, 2017, and it wasn't until 63 days later that we got our first customer, who registered two Domains.

On this date one year ago, we've gained 55 Domains. Compare that to the same period this year when we gained 330 Domains. In total, we now have around 200 customers.

We gained these customers with zero dollars spent on advertising or marketing (except for a few early failed attempts on Google/Facebook). Instead, our strategy focused on four things:

  1. Do ONE thing really well - and be the best at it
  2. Offer the best value in the market - serving a price-conscious niche
  3. Deliver the best possible customer experience - so they'll tell their friends
  4. Publish invaluable content on our website - so Google will consider us an authority on the subject

Reading back over past posts, I'm really satisfied to see us reach this milestone, especially because it was quite embarrassing to publicly-document what seemed like a pending failure. As a previously successful business owner, it was a strain on my ego. I hope it serves as a great case study to other entrepreneurs that starting a business is HARD, but if you believe in what you're doing, are passionate about it, and work tirelessly to achieve your goals, anything you want is possible.

Thanks to all the readers of this blog, and thanks to our customers who chose Domains Direct, and got us to this milestone. We're super-excited about our forthcoming platform and continuing to grow our business and deliver the best to you.