1) 2020 has certainly been a trying year, how has Squadhelp fared?
There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a difficult year on many levels. However, it has also been a transformational year for the digital economy. The word that comes to my mind is Pivot.
Most businesses have had to Pivot in some way or another. Whether it is a complete pivot of business model, or some operational adjustments – I can’t think of any business that operated as “Business as usual” this year.
For Squadhelp, we have worked during the last 6-9 months to transform towards a much more targeted, and metrics driven business. Beginning in March, we started testing a fundamentally different advertising strategy to acquire new customers. The changes in our advertising strategy, combined with a higher demand for premium domain names has allowed us to achieve a record level of growth during the last several months. Except for the month of March, we have seen a consistent month over month increase in overall Marketplace revenue as well as average selling price.
2)You had big news this year with the launch of your white label solution, How is that going?
The WLM solution has been received extremely well by Sellers. We have been adding ongoing features to the platform, and are seeing more and more sellers use that solution for listing their domain names for sale. We currently have over 200,000 listings and are expecting that number to continue to increase.
We recently added an “All Domains” marketplace which allows these WLM listings to be discovered at an aggregate level at Squadhelp.com. We have been testing various methods of promoting this Marketplace and plan to make some additional changes that will further increase the exposure of WLM listings.
3) What kinds of domains are most in demand at Squadhelp?
Interestingly, we are seeing a shift towards higher quality, more premium domains at SH. While we still continue to sell many names that were recently registered in the last 1-2 years, many of our customers are now seeking names that are more premium. Some of this shift in demand is due to the change in our Advertising (targeting) strategy.
We are continuing to see a strong demand for short (4L, 5L) names. In terms of industries, there’s been an increase in demand in the Tech, eCommerce, Education, Health and Payment categories. As expected, most of our customers are looking for .com, however we are starting to see an increase in demand for few alternative extensions (such as single english word .co and .io).
4)Domain investors have expressed frustrations over the years with brandable marketplaces. Whether it’s perceived favoritism, a glut of inventory or lack of visibility for their names. How does Squadhelp insure that everyone’s domain names get a fair shake?
At SH, we do not list any of our personal names for sale in order to avoid any potential or perceived conflict of interest. We do list names that are registered by SH on behalf of other sellers, however there is absolutely no special preference given to such names in Marketplace rankings.
Our AI based Discovery and Search technology are completely data driven. There are over 27 different signals that can determine the rank of a domain and many of these factors are directly in seller’s control. For example, if you assign proper possible uses, add root words and a good description, it can improve the rankings in the Marketplace.
We have now added an actionable dashboard that updates daily and it shows specific actions sellers can take to improve the exposure for their portfolio.
Ultimately, the biggest challenge with brandable domains is getting the right names in front of the right buyer. A significant portion of our ongoing tech investment is to solve this specific discovery challenge.
5) Are you active with marketing names to startups and vc’s?
We make significant advertising investments to reach startups, VCs and accelerators. In addition to direct advertising, we have now partnered with several accelerators to help their companies with branding projects. In addition, we have recently added a new white label option for the entire Squadhelp Marketplace. This allows VCs, accelerators and other startup focused companies to add our premium domain catalog directly inside their own website with their own branding.
6)Your company and BrandBucket are the two largest and most well known brandable boutiques. Since exclusivity is required, why should a domain investor list with Squadhelp over BrandBucket?
It wouldn’t be right for me to compare SH with other Marketplaces. I believe BrandBucket is a well respected Marketplace and many sellers have had good success there. Infact I think sellers should diversify their portfolio and list across multiple Marketplaces to test things out themselves. Depending on the nature of the portfolio and style of your names, you may find that one platform works better than others in your specific situation.
The important thing is to make sure that you give a Marketplace at least 6-12 months before assessing results. In the case of Brandables, it can take a while to achieve sales especially if you have a small portfolio.
For us, our main focus is to continue to find ways for sellers to achieve a strong STR for their portfolio. Therefore, our top two priorities continue to be high degree of advertising investment, as well as tech investment to improve domain discovery. We also offer a partial exclusivity and syndication options which allows sellers the ability to list their domains outside SH for increased exposure.
7)Commissions are high at brandable marketplaces, that’s no secret. Do you see them coming down in the future?
We reinvest the Marketplace commissions back into the product, Marketing and increased exposure.
While there is no question that the brandable Marketplace commissions are high – ultimately you have to assess whether those high commissions are helping you achieve a better Sell through rate compared to other alternatives.
If you are able to achieve a similar STR via your own landing pages for example, then it certainly does not make sense to pay high commissions.
In fact, our Standard/WLM listings offer 7.5% commission, however they mostly rely on your own Type-in traffic.
The good news is that sellers now have many choices. I don’t know whether or not the commissions will come down in future however I do think that competition is good for domain investors.
The marketplaces must work hard to earn those commissions, and if the sellers do not see a reason to justify those commissions, they will move to other (better) alternatives.
8)Do you see any interest for other extensions besides .com?
Ultimately .com is the most preferred extension. A different tld (other than .com) represents a trade-off.
In the world where Siri and Alexa are becoming an important part of our daily lives, many startups are shifting towards “simpler” brand names that are easy to pronounce and spell.
The domain hacks and misspellings are not as desirable as they were a couple of years ago.
However many startups do not have 6-figure budgets for acquiring names. Therefore, some of them are gravitating towards simpler, single word brand names in alternative extensions such as .co and .io.
We are seeing an increase in demand for one word names in .co and .io extensions however .com still accounts for over 90% of our sales.
Do you have any other closing thoughts?
I believe the next few years will see a massive rise in demand for digital assets (i.e. domains).
Therefore, I feel this represents a great opportunity for domain investors as well as any Marketplaces, Brokers and Domain registrars within the ecosystem.
The focus for next few years should be about finding ways to increase the pie via collaboration and innovation.
I am excited about the opportunity for innovation and growth in this space and I strongly believe that 2020 will turn out to be a pivotal year for this industry.