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“It’s your main online presence – you own it – so use it that way. Every time I see a company promoting their Facebook or Twitter page in place of their own domain, I cringe.”

Sedo is a full service domain marketplace where visitors can buy, park and sell domain names. A well know spot for those in the domain industry, but a hidden gem for those in the business world in search of the right name to represent their business online.

Jeremiah Johnston is the Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel, Sedo.com. he has nearly 10 years of experience leading Internet-related companies. He began his career with Sedo in 2004 as General Counsel, helping the company keep a step ahead of the domain industry’s ever-changing legal landscape. Now serving in the joint role of General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Johnston oversees a variety of responsibilities for Sedo and helps lead its push into the North American market.

How would you describe Sedo to a small business owner that might not be familiar with the company and the service you provide?

Think of us as realtors – that’s one easy way to understand what we do. The difference is, we help people buy and sell online real estate. When you’re opening a business, location is key, and the same rules apply online. Sedo can help you find the right address at the right price.

Each domain extension — like dot COM, dot NET, or dot ORG — has a registry… sort of like how your city hall has a registry of deeds that keeps track of who owns which property. The first person to register a specific domain essentially owns it and they can use it for themselves, or they can sell it. We deal mostly in that second-hand market – the person-to-person transactions where the registry is not involved – and we offer a number of services. One of the main things we do is run a marketplace where people can search for domains that have been put up for sale by their current owners. If you need a domain for your business and you’re only looking at the registries, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t find what you need since many of the sought-after names have already been taken. Our marketplace has more than 18 million domains that have already been registered, and are now up for sale.

However, we can help with domains that may not necessarily be up for sale too. Say you know the exact domain you want for your business, but the current owner hasn’t put up the for sale sign, figuratively speaking. We have a brokerage team that can track down the current owner and negotiate a sale on your behalf.

We do other things too, but those are the main ones that small business owners should be aware of.

Although anyone can go to Sedo.com, search and bid or buy a domain, what is the benefit to hiring a Sedo broker to help in the process?

Going back to the real estate example, you can buy or sell a home without professional advisors, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Our brokers are experts in the industry and can help buyers and sellers get the best deal based on things like their knowledge of market conditions, the traffic a domain receives, or its SEO value. Also, it’s risky executing the transaction by yourself and making sure that money and the domain are both exchanged promptly and fairly. We know how to do that and take the burden off your shoulders.

I’d especially recommend using a broker in the example I mentioned before – when you have a specific domain in mind and want to approach the current owner to see if they’ll sell. As the buyer, Sedo can insulate you from the process by concealing your identity and negotiating on your behalf. Otherwise, the current owner may raise the price above what the domain is really worth, just because of who you are and what you want the domain for.

What are some reasons why having the right domain name is important for a new business?

Like I said before, location is key. You want a name that is short and memorable, making it as easy as possible for customers to visit you time and time again. You should also look for a domain that represents your brand, or contains generic keywords that describe your business or product.

With that said, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have multiple domains for your business. You’ll definitely want to identify a primary domain to give customers and put on your business cards, but maintaining a portfolio of domain names can really help to increase traffic and capture everyone looking for you or the products and services you sell. Most people find things online through a search engine like Google, and if the keywords they search for are also part of your domain name, you’ll have a better chance of appearing at the top of the search results. In addition, people are bypassing search engines more and more to type addresses directly into their browser, so keyword domains are also a great way to capture that traffic. And what about those who misspell your domain? Smart businesses grab common mistypes of their domain to catch those who would otherwise land on an error page.

One thing to note, though, is that owing a portfolio of domains doesn’t mean you have to manage multiple web sites. All your domains can all point back to your primary domain, while simply acting as means to funnel traffic to your business.

What are some suggestions you have for choosing domain names that business owners should keep in mind, especially those new to domain names.

My first advice is make it simple. If you can avoid using special characters like a dash or underscore, you should. Unless those characters are part of your business name, they’ll only cause confusion when people are trying to remember your domain. If the exact name you want is taken, look for something different, or look at different domain extensions where the name you want may be available. Most people only consider .COM domains, but there are other good alternatives like the newly available .CO domains.

I’d also tell people to make sure they’re considering the second-hand market and to not be scared away by the market price for good domains. Some domains are more expensive than others, and you can find one in your price range that’s worth the investment. We’ve helped sell domains for $13 and for $13 million, but the average price of a .COM domain on the second-hand market is $2,000. For most companies, that’s a reasonable investment in the grand scheme of a marketing budget since it’s roughly the cost of a vinyl sign or display booth. And remember, it is an investment that will hold its value and could even appreciate if you ever wanted to sell it. In addition, it’s an asset that could pay for itself over time because the right domain – or portfolio of domains – can reduce the amount of money you need to spend monthly on search engine marketing or other forms of online advertising.

Should business owners consider domains other than the popular dot Coms? Is there value in owning, say, a dot net or the newer dot CO domain for a business website?

Absolutely! Everyone knows that dot COM is the most recognizable extension, so if you can get a dot COM domain that represents your brand or that contains generic keywords related to your business, you should. With that said, it’s not always easy to find the right dot COM domain – the ones you want could already be in use, or they could be outside of your budget. Looking at other extensions is a great alternative to find memorable or keyword domains that are available and within your budget.

Dot CO is a great example. The word “company” has always been abbreviated by “Co.” so it’s a natural extension for businesses to use, and since the dot CO registry just began issuing domains to the public last year, they’re much more available and less expensive than dot COM. Another benefit is that it’s shorter – only by one character, but in the age of Twitter, it’s still a big advantage.

You mentioned dot NET, which is another good example. Just like other extensions, dot NET domains are a great alternative to dot COM because they’re more available and less expensive. But another advantage they have – that most people aren’t aware of – is their SEO value. Search engines like Google treat different domain extension differently, but Google happens to treat dot NET and dot COM the same, making it a great alternative, especially for keyword domains.

While domain investing is an industry of its own and many of Sedo’s customers are domain investors, do you have any idea of what share of your customers are end users of the domains?

It’s difficult to determine which members of the Sedo marketplace community could be classified as domain investors versus traditional website operators and online businesses, especially when many qualify as both. Truth be told, Sedo helps Fortune 500 companies earn money from their un-used domains and in turn help them acquire new ones for future projects. The global diversity of Sedo’s customer base also makes this a difficult question as our 1 million plus users hail from more than 100 countries and speak more than 20 languages. At Sedo, our goal is to provide a professional suite of domain services and a global domain marketplace where anyone can come find the right domain for their voice on the web.

What should business owners know after they have their domain?

It’s your main online presence – you own it – so use it that way. Every time I see a company promoting their Facebook or Twitter page in place of their own domain, I cringe. Don’t get me wrong, social networking is an extremely valuable tool to build communities and engage customers, but some people are relinquishing too much control of their brand to these third-party platforms. It’s something we call the navigation nightmare – you’re getting customers into the habit of finding you online via these social networks. The problem is, no one knows what the future holds for social networks. They’re still relatively young and figuring out their business models, and it’s not inconceivable that they could charge a hefty fee for things that are currently free. Or even worse, maybe the social network you spend time cultivating is replaced by the next best thing. In that case, your time and effort is wasted.. So if you’re thinking of adding Facebook.com/mycompany to your next ad campaign, don’t risk it! Own your brand by sending people to the domain you own and forward the traffic to your Facebook page.

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