Here at Grit Brokerage we’re in the business of selling high end domain names that are usually short, one or two word .COMs. But there is so much more to domains and web development than just buying a premium .com, develop it out and boom you have an online business. In this blog post we're going to explore different types of domains and how they can be used to generate leads for existing businesses.
Today we have a special interview with entrepreneur and domain investor, Matt Holmes. Matt utilizes both premium as well as SEO and local lead generation domains to make a living. His company, Handshaking.com is a lead generation business that connects contractors with local customers all over the United States and has one hundred lead generation websites, while currently launching ten websites per week, plus one world record.
Matt and I have been friends for almost 10 years now meeting by way of our mutual interest in domain names. I even documented some of his Guinness World Record long handshake in 2016! Without further ado let’s get on to the interview.
Michael - Hey Matt! Thanks for agreeing to an interview here on the Grit Brokerage blog. As an entrepreneur that invests in not only domain names but also does web development, can you help clarify the difference between a “premium domain” and other types of domain names that you build your lead generation websites on?
Matt - Hey Michael, thanks for having me--absolutely! Our assets are all specific to a city, so they are typically a geo + niche, exact match .com. One asset I was just working on was dentontint.com, a window tinting referral company based in Denton, TX. You can see it’s a nice two word that applies to exactly what it does, and because it’s limited to a specific geographical area, it’s rare that we’d develop our lead generation sites on a ultra one word premium, like for example a ‘tint .com’. These sites are not designed to generate more than a few thousand in revenue each month, so a domain worth hundreds of thousands would ruin any potential ROI. Plus, in my opinion the backlinking could potentially hurt the value of an ultra premium domain.
Michael - When it comes to finding domains optimal for development, is this why we see so much competition for what seem to be average or below average expired domain auctions?
Matt - I’m just starting to actually have some case studies about 301 redirects, or building a brand on an expired domain. We actually recently just sold a concrete site that was built on an expired domain, but I noticed it had a huge amount of links--much more than we usually are able to get for one of our sites, so I was worried about link velocity slowing the site down, but the website was able to generate several hundreds in net profit each month, and we sold it on Empire Flippers for low five figures. It is true the aftermarket competition for expired domains with SEO benefits is continuing to rise.
Michael - Can you share with us a few examples of the types of websites your company builds out and how the lead generation model works?
Matt - Yep, since I don’t want to share all of our most profitable niches publicly, I will share the sites that we are working on within our partner program since it’s a relatively new endeavor. While they are beginning to get organic leads right around the expected timeframe our sales departments are also chalking up some of these sites initial sales!
Examples of our lead gen sites that your readers are welcome to research are:
-Boulder Window Tinting, which is not on a premium domain, but still generates several hundred each month.
-New York Window Tint, which is in a much more competitive geographical area, but ranks for lower competition keywords.
-Our project in Colorado - Denver Mobile Dent Repair, has already had its first sale within the first year (often takes 6-12 months to rank) and is looking hopeful with it’s very specific service niche + geographical location in Colorado.
Michael - I see on your website that you divest from some of your lead generation websites once they are well established. Are you able to share how and when you decide to sell a particular asset. Do you do this proactively or do companies come to you looking to acquire the website?
Matt - That’s right, like any income generating asset, it is worth something. Some people say that by buying investment properties, you can make a return of 7% per year. We’ve been lucky enough to average 9.2% with my own physical Denver properties, but that’s because we added bedrooms. Sadly, with investment properties, there’s not an easy way to make a 40% return on investment (ROI) like you can with online assets. The vacuum review site I bought off of Empire Flippers recently should average a 40% ROI, meaning I can get my money back in 3 years or so depending on how it goes. The way I see it, if you’re working full-time as an entrepreneur, the only strategy is to take a bet on yourself and attempt to make an even bigger return, even you can’t make you money back quickly with a site, you can sell it for an even higher multiple or listing price if you can increase its average net profit!
Michael - I remember consulting with you last year when you were considering taking your Handshakin’ brand to the next level by acquiring Handshaking.com. Ultimately you made the investment into the one word domain. Can you share what factors pushed you over the edge to go ahead and acquire Handshaking.com and how it has impacted your current business?
Matt - That’s right, we did acquire our exact match after operating on handshakin.com for 4 years. It was a bit frustrating since our registrar purchased handshaking.com after we bought that and then resold it to us, but it’s had tremendous benefits, I’d say three primary benefits:
- Retrieving missed emails being typed out to @handshaking.com instead of handshakin.com (we set up a catch all and will be moving our website over soon as well).
- In the Internet industry, owning a one word .com shows your mentors how serious you are, allowing access to better mentorship and faster growth--if you’re a big handshaker ;)
- Peace of mind that now matter how much we invest in marketing, it is not creating confusion anywhere else, we will always be Handshaking dot com, whether you hear it, see it, or feel it when meeting your next customer.
Michael - Very interesting and great decision to take the leap and acquire the best version of your brand in .COM. You do actively invest in domains as well that aren’t for lead generation, correct? What types of names are you buying and reselling?
Matt - At this point, I’ve tightened up my domain investing strategy where i’m really only focused on two word amazing .coms, or geo + niche .coms that would be ripe for development by my team, even if they’re worthless to other domain investors, and not worth much to end consumers without monthly, relevant leads built in to the acquisition.
Michael - Now looking forward to 2021 and as the world continues to deal with the effect Covid19 has had on health, digitization of business and the overall economy - how are you preparing and do you anticipate more competition in the domain aftermarket and lead generation space?
Matt - Well, ‘remote’ domains are probably pretty hot, I picked up a few good ones, like remotecorporations.com and remoteorganization.com, who knows if they’re worth more than a few hundred within a few years, but hey, we could always development them and I could add my network of remote companies that are hiring and implement SEO to get them to rank for niche keywords that job hunters might be looking for.
There’s also probably more people investing online, whether that’s with facebook ads, or low quality four word .coms, or who have great ideas to help your company. I follow Online Jobs for hiring in the Philippines where I’d highly recommend the best country to hire online talent that speaks great english, understands American culture, and has a huge diversity of talent.
Michael - I really appreciate you taking the time to share with us! Do you have any other shout outs or want to mention something we haven’t covered here?
Matt - No other shout outs besides you guys for helping me sell my first five figure undeveloped domain name! You guys were so great to work with and I hope I can acquire more mutual win-win domains for Handshaking, Grit Brokerage, and potential buyers.
Michael - Thanks again Matt, we were happy to help and so glad to have you for our first interview on the Grit Brokerage blog!