Today we have an interview with content creator extraordinaire Bob Hawkes. Bob shares a lot of insights about his background, what he likes about domaining, and even some of his recent sales.
Q1) Tell us about Bob before domaining? What did you do for a living and did that lead to getting involved with domain names?
BH) For more than three decades I taught physics at a small primarily undergraduate university in eastern Canada. I carried out research, mainly in astrophysics and space science. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with amazing colleagues and students, and I am truly appreciative of every day.
As to how I got into domains, I used to run a small home-based landscape photography business. That got me into websites and domain names. As I was nearing retirement, I got interested in domain names as something to buy and to sell, and that lead me to NamePros and the domain community. My early domain investments were mostly terrible, but I gradually learned to select better names. That learning continues every day, as I still have much to master.
Q2) What is it about domain investing that you like?
BH) The people of the domain community are so varied and interesting, that is definitely part of the draw. Also, I really like to try to find answers to questions, using resources such as NameBio.
Ultimately, the biggest satisfaction, though, comes from seeing a name that you had a role in bringing to market come into use.
Another aspect of domain investing I like is that in considering names, and studying trends, it has inspired me to learn more about technology, words, businesses, aesthetics, and more.
Q3) What is your investment strategy? How do you decide what to register and what to avoid?
BH) At my stage in life I am very risk-averse. My main rule is to only reinvest in domain names what I make from domain names. That means I don’t have funds to go after elite names in auctions, even though investing in them is probably the most lucrative strategy.
Partly because I write for NamePros, I try out many things, both types of names, and also registrars, marketplaces and so on.
I have many names I regret, and I try to slightly improve portfolio quality by only adding names that I would consider in the top half, at least, of my current portfolio.
Within .com, I acquire a mix of brandable and exact match multiple-word names, along with a selection of uncommon dictionary single word names that I think might make an effective brand. They must be speakable and easy to spell, and hint at some application.
I invest in single-word and 4 or 5 letter brandables in my own country code .ca.
I have a few names in .co and .io. I like the .org extension a lot, but only have about a dozen names, and fewer .net.
I have a number of .xyz, mainly one-word names that could be brands, and speakable 4L.
See a later question for rationale, but I have been building up .cc single word names and continue to do so.
I try a number of new extension names for one year trials, and keep longer term a much smaller number. The new extension names I hold for longer periods must have a great match across the dot. I don’t see that the math works for significant premium renewals, so I avoid them.
I do have a prospectus to guide acquisitions. I review the prospectus annually, usually changing a few sections.
Q4) You are a prolific content creator/blogger. How much time do you spend on a topic from having an idea to hitting publish?
BH) Probably way too much! Even the shortest articles I write are usually at least four hours altogether, but many of the NamePros Blog articles are 10 to 20 hours work in total, occasionally more. The articles that take the longest are where I visit many sites, and characterize how they are developed, or topics I do not know well and need to spend a lot of time just researching the topic.
I like to present results or information in a balanced fashion, explicitly noting assumptions, and include numerous links so someone could replicate the study if they wanted. This tends to make articles long. I feel graphs makes data more accessible, so that adds to time in some articles.
I have a huge list of ideas I am considering writing about. Some of them find completion, and many do not. On the NamePros Blog I try to achieve a balance of articles that will appeal to different members of the forum.
Q5) What are the biggest mistakes you see new domain investors making?
BH) I still struggle with this myself, but I think the major mistake is not restricting investments to names of sufficient quality. It is not just that weaker names will sell for less, in most cases they will never sell at any price. I see some chasing way too many names on a bandwagon, rather than focus on the best, not the most, names.
Other than in .com, the type of name that sells in most other extensions depends on that extension. I think some overlook this fact.
Q6) Can you share with us the domain name sale you are most proud of? It doesn’t have to be the biggest because sometimes you get a better price for what you thought was a lesser name.
BH) First for perspective, I acquire names at modest prices and sell them at reasonable prices. I don’t think I currently have any name listed at more than $4995, with most priced $1000 to $2900, so my sales are always lower half of 4-figure sales, or less.
I like to see names in meaningful use, I will share three lowish 4-figure sales from the last 9 months that are already in use. I think each demonstrates a lesson about domain investing. All three sales are on NameBio, if people want to look up exact prices or other information.
Last September I sold Hyperbolic.xyz. I had registered the name a few years earlier. Any of the standard metrics, like past sales, registered TLDs, or number of business listings, would, at time of registration, have suggested the name was not worth holding. In fact, I did come close to dropping it. It is the only sale of that term in NameBio.
From my astrophysics experience I knew the meaning of hyperbolic well, an orbit without limit. That struck me as a great metaphor for a brand. Under Web3 will web design and development be different? The answer is yes according to the company that is, you can learn more at the site. Lesson from this: take advantage of your specialized background in order to acquire good names that others have overlooked.
Inspired by Swetha, a couple of years ago I pondered what extension could I get single word domain names at standard prices, with reasonable renewal fees, with some global use in the extension, and with a stable registry operator. I decided on .cc and continue to build holdings, using ExpiredDomains to check for drops, and occasionally buying wholesale.
I went more than a year with not a single .cc sale, but have sold 4 during the last 6 months. The best sale happened in February, with the name Rebound.cc.
I love the positive energy of the name, and that it could be used so many ways. Rebound.cc is developed as a global site for promoting distance cycling. Lesson learned: be mindful in deciding what to invest in, and have the confidence and patience to keep at it.
The third sale, it turns out within a day of the rebound sale in February, was CareCourt.com. I acquired the name a number of years ago at auction, and loved it from the outset. Easily remembered, alliteration, and I saw use in child care, home care, automotive care, pet care, senior care, assistive living, etc.
One of the major brandable marketplaces declined the name, however. The name sold BIN and is now redirected to the site of a lawyer specializing in mental health related cases, a use I had never considered. Lessons learned: there are always more ways to use names than you think, and even though curated marketplaces usually make good decisions, don’t drop a name you sincerely believe in just because they rejected it.
Q7) In 2023 would you advise that a newcomer get involved in domain investing?
BH) I do see storm clouds. Decentralized naming systems are a disruptor, not because they have found meaningful use, but have sowed confusion and uncertainty. The current economic and fiscal situation is not conducive to business investment in general. Rising wholesale costs and renewal fees for domains, and also higher marketplace commissions, along with higher interest rates, all make it more challenging to start out now. I worry that the big players have definite advantages, making it difficult for the solo domain investor to continue to compete.
There will be people who still do well, though. I think it is critical to put the time into learning at the outset, to have focus and discipline, and to make the most of competitive advantages and skills that you bring into domain investing. If you do not have a good answer to the question ‘What do I hope to achieve and contribute by being in domain investing?’ it is probably best not to start.
Q8) In my opinion and the opinion of many you are the nicest person in domaining that is public facing. You always have a kind word and stay above the fray when the drama breaks out. How do you stay so grounded and not get caught up in the negativity that arises from time to time?
BH)Thank you for your very kind comment. I have encountered lots of kindness and openness within the domain community, at NamePros, on social media and elsewhere. I think we sometimes let a small minority of persistent and angry voices influence how we perceive the overall domain community, which in my opinion is actually predominantly positive and supportive.
My many years in education helped me see that much more is achieved, and learned, through being positive and supportive, rather than negative and rude. We seldom know what is happening in someone’s life, and a tiny positive gesture can sometimes make more of a difference than we think.
I read in a book once the following advice. It was meant for social media, but is sound advice in general. Before sharing something, ask if it is definitely true, if it is useful or helpful to others, and if sharing is kind to those involved. I don’t always live up to that lofty standard, but it is a worthwhile goal that I try to keep it in mind.
Staying grounded is a whole topic in itself. I think finding balance, trying to reduce stresses to the degree possible, taking breaks, pausing before saying something, and getting time outside each day are all helpful.
Thank you for this interview, Raymond, and best wishes. You have contributed so much to the domain community over so many years, through several blogs, on NamePros, on social media and in other ways. I and so many others have learned much from what you have written.
Thank you for taking the time to share with our readers Bob