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24,000 Domains Article Postmortem: Traffic, Revenue, Business Models

I published a post listing 24,000 available brandable domain names that anyone could register a couple days ago.

It was far more successful than I ever imagined receiving over 17,000 page views. Ranking 3rd on HackerNews frontpage and 2nd in a major subreddit with over 30,000 subscribers.

I wanted to go through the entire setup of the article, the marketing, the goals, the traffic, the results and conclusion.

The Setup

The article was actually part 2 of a list of 5 letter brandable domains. The first post received very little traction/attention. 873 views over the four day period when it was first posted. I asked for feedback on the format and anything else. I posted it to reddit (startups and web_design) and hackernews.

It got OK traction in r/startups with some good discussion and feedback and the other two posts were pretty quiet. I did nothing but respond to comments to market the original article.

A few complaints about quality were expressed and formatting requests.

Taking those into account for the bigger list I added a text file download (289 downloads) and decided to release the rest of the list at once.

My goal was to target the startup community first and let people find some domains they could use for their startups for registration fee. For the second article, I also would target hackernews and reddit to but perhaps needed to do more marketing. I also emailed techcrunch asking if they would be interested in publishing it, never got a response. Maybe some smaller startup oriented sites would have bitten, next time, perhaps.

The Marketing

Simply submitting an article to a social news site generally does nothing. It takes a lot of luck for the article to get noticed if you don't do anything beyond submitting it. I am not suggesting anything slimy here, but you need to talk about your article a bit. HackerNews was more focused, so I decided to spend my time there. I brought it up in the hackernews IRC channel and discussed the article with a few people. The people in the chatroom seemed to enjoy it and gave it that initial boost of a couple upvotes(link to HN post). Once it received some love, it started showing up on the frontpage at the bottom and people were actually reading it naturally. It received approximately 40 upvotes over it's life span and topped out at 3rd place on the HN frontpage.

I didn't engage the reddit community proactively at all in either post and the results in r/startups and r/web_design were opposite of one another. The first post did well in r/startups and died the second time. The second post did fantastically (1st or 2nd) in r/web_design but the first was buried fast.

I responded reactively to comments on both sites, keeping a close tab as I worked throughout the day.

The Goal

I didn't really have much of a goal when doing this other than trying to get people some cheap domain names for their startups. I didn't think through it very much. I got yelled at by an internet marketing friend for not having any calls to action or newsletter which I subsequently added that got a whopping zero signups. Some people suggested I could have used it to leverage publicity for my own startup, used it to line up some consulting work, sold domain names, and probably a lot of other possibilities. I pretty much did none of the above successfully. If I were going to do it all over, I might time it with some other launch to cross-promote. However, this post was the result of some procrastination and frustration with my startup – a way for me to get back in my comfort zone for a minute before going back to getting my ass kicked by NLP.

The Traffic

The one thing that went above and beyond my expectations was the traffic.

Over the first ~60 hours the stats were:
17,532 pageviews on the second post (by day 6886, 11103, 1453)
1,072 pageviews on the first post from the linkback in the second post

HackerNews and Reddit sent 4,500 visits and the first day ended with 6886 pageviews. I thought that was successful. However, one twitter message changed it all.

I don't know how Kevin Rose found it, but he tweeted it the next day to his 1.2 million followers. I thought the spike was over and happened to be out doing something. I came back 45 minutes later and saw 4000 people had visited in the 45 minutes since he tweeted it.

I don't know exactly how much came from Kevin Rose at this point, but I would guess over 10,000 pageviews. The 846 from facebook ( ) and 1,500 from twitter are definitely from his tweet. Most Twitter traffic shows as direct as well, so I think the majority of that is due to him. Not to mention the very long tail of various readers and aggregators for Twitter.

Interesting stats:
Assume 10k clicks from Twitter from 1.2 million followers = 0.83% CTR
876 facebook clicks from 137,000 fans = 0.64% CTR
Twitter users stayed longer than HackerNews, Reddit, and Facebook

And then as quick as it started, it was done.

The Results

Total Amount of Money Earned: $9.89 (3 namecheap affiliate sales)
Total Amount Donated: $0.00 (I expected zero, but it is somewhat disappointing to have 17,000 people read something and not get a single donation)
Newsletter signups (off 3727 uniques): 0
New Twitter Followers: ~10
Websites Created as a Direct Result: 1 ( )
Domains Registered: Not sure, only about 6 were mentioned in comments that people took them.


If I were going back to my domain name roots, this business model sucks. I wouldn't have published the whole thing, selling access to one person for $10 would have earned me more cash. I could probably offer the list private and ask for a commission on anything registered (say few dollars per name) and make a lot more money.

I think this highlights one of the biggest problems between small businesses/startups looking for domain names and domainers who buy and sell them regularly. There is simply no money in helping small businesses/startups find available domain names. Another issue is the type of tools, approach and thinking that accompanies each party. Most users need 1 name and search one name at a time. Domainers search thousands (I checked 100,000 in 30 seconds) and register in bulk playing a statistics game. If you wonder why it's so frustrating searching name after name, it's because you're using a tiny fishing pole while we're using drag nets over the entire area you're looking.

I attempted to give people a chance to use similar systems that domainers use and it showed me there is no business model for it. Little/no direct financial reward in publishing these lists targeted at this audience.

Looked at as a marketing opportunity, this could work wonders for anyone trying to get press. How much would 17,000 uniques cost for an internet savvy audience? At 5 cents a click it would cost $850. From this perspective, it was some ultra cost effective marketing plus it built a ton of links from different places naturally.

Finally, I was really happy with Drupal and LiquidWeb. As far as I could tell, my server never hiccuped from all the traffic!