July 3, 2008, 12:00 AM

Bice’s buys up domain names to boost traffic and sales

Bice’s Florist is closing its stores and buying up domain names as part of its strategy to drive more customers to its site and boost e-commerce sales.

Bice’s Florist is closing its stores and buying up domain names as part of its strategy to drive more customers to its site and boost e-commerce sales.

 

The Fort Worth, TX-based florist has closed four of its six bricks-and-mortar locations and plans to close a fifth soon and has adopted a domain name acquisition strategy as part of a shift of focus to online retail.

The new business model is working, says Bice’s Florist owner Keith Riewe. By purchasing 35 to 40 domain names such as eflowersite.com, nationalfloraldelivery.com and blossomlink.com, Bice’s has increased traffic by 47% to about 68,000 unique visitors a month. Sales also are up by $1.5 million to about $3.7 million, he adds.

Riewe, who comes from a computer technology background, says he started looking into purchasing domain names as a way to drive traffic and sales soon after he purchased Bice’s six years ago.

Most of the domains redirect to Bice’s home page with the BicesFlorist.com URL displaying in the address bar. The only difference is that a unique identifier is tacked on to the end to help track each domain.

However, Riewe says he’s rethinking that strategy. “I don’t know if people like the fact they are being forwarded to a different domain name with all the concerns with identity theft out there,” he says.

When selecting new domains, Riewe looks for catchy names that consumers will remember from ads or that they may type in on their own. He also looks for short character counts and specific terms that a user may enter in a Google or Yahoo search.

For example, an ad with the phrase Computer Hut conjured up the idea for FlowerHut.com. That name was taken-but the similar Flower Nut was not, and so FlowerNut.com became a new Bice’s domain.

Bice’s markets the various domains in many of the more than 800,000 direct mail pieces it sends, as well as through paid search. The florist also promotes unique domains tied to specific promotions such as holiday campaigns. For those, the e-retailer will often create a special landing page for the domain that links through to Bice’s home page.

 

Although Riewe is able to track and spot underperforming names, for now he’s keeping them all. It costs only about $10 a year to maintain a domain name through GoDaddy.com Inc., the domain name registrar service Bice’s uses and, Riewe adds, if Bice’s owns a name, that means a competitor can’t purchase it. “You want to have as much property that’s unique to your industry as you can,” he says.

In addition to creating new domains Riewe also uses Sedo’s domain name marketplace to purchase existing ones. The site offers more than 500,000 previously registered domains, selling about 2,500-3,000 each month, says Matt Bentley, chief strategy officer for Sedo.

Domains are arranged by topics such as Sports, Technology and Travel, and the average going price is about $2,200. Sedo also offers consulting to help marketers and retailers with their domain-acquisition strategy for a one-time $69 fee.

When considering domain names to purchase or create, Bentley recommends including as many commonly used search terms or words in the names as possible. “Make a list of all of the keywords that are relevant to your web site-the keywords you are buying on Google and Yahoo and paying 50 cents a click for,” Bentley says. For Bice’s that may be terms like “Mother’s Day Flowers” or “Tulips.”

Then, he recommends retailers create targeted landing pages specific to those terms such as a page advertising special Mother’s Day bouquets. Soon, he says Google and Yahoo will begin picking up those pages, which will boost organic search.

Bentley also suggests retailers use the specific domains in paid search. He says consumers looking for something very specific such as “rose bouquets” are more likely to click on a paid search ad with the URL RoseBouquets.com, than a more general URL like FloristsForYou.com.

While buying up domains is a fairly new strategy, Bentley says some are already seeing its value. Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline has purchased such specific names as Restlesslegs.com, while online retailer NetShops has made a business out of buying domains and creating sites to match. The retailer owns such URLs as AdirondackChairs.com and Childrenstableandchairs.com.

“It’s a great way for smaller players to even the playing field with the eBays and Amazons,” Bentley says.

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