Kevin Ham, Cameroon, and the Domain Name Industry - Monetizing the Traffic
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It was a simple matter to earn money from all these names, as anyone who buys and sells domain names can tell you. Many people will type what they are looking for into their browser’s address bar rather than the search box of a search engine. That’s why generic domains can be very valuable; they’ll generate traffic in that manner.
A wise domain owner then makes a point of setting up a page for the URL that contains lots of ads that are relevant to that particular domain. It pays to have the page look nice, however. For example, weddingshoes.com, one of Ham’s domains, leads to a site with navigation on the left, small ads in the middle, and larger ads with images on the right. There’s even a short article on finding the perfect wedding shoes. Clicking on the site navigation (labeled “related items”) leads you to other pages; each page features related ads and many include a short article specific to that topic.
The point is that the site doesn’t look like a “made for AdSense” mess with no real content. In fact, Ham’s ads are from Yahoo. Whenever a visitor clicks on an ad, Yahoo gets paid by the advertiser; the search engine in turn pays Ham. Ham makes more than $9,000 per year on that single site – which isn’t bad for a total yearly investment of $15 ($8 for the domain name and $7 for overhead). That’s just one site – and Ham owns thousands. Paul Sloan, who wrote the CNN Money article on Ham, estimates that the dot-com mogul makes about $70 million per year.
Ham also became a pioneer in some practices that many would consider at least a little bit shady. I’m talking about domain tasting and domain kiting, which I covered in an article a few months ago for SEO Chat. There is a provision that lets a domain buyer return the domain for a refund within five days after purchase. This provision effectively lets buyers try out a domain to see whether it will make money, and return it if it turns out to be a dud. Ham began registering hundreds of thousands of domain names, returning the ones that didn’t make enough money. By 2004 he launched his own registrar business, and began a new company, Hitfarm, to match ads with sites for himself and about 100 other domainers.
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