How .IO Domains Lost me a TON of Money

.io domains

Recently on this fine website I wrote my sad story how I told a relative about a great .CO domain I purchased. He had no idea what I was talking about or what the .CO domain extension was in general.  I realized as I was writing that post there is an even worse extension I've had experience with, .IO which is the country code top level domain (ccTLD) for the Indian Ocean.  Why?  I've lost a TON of money because of .IO domains and these ridiculously tech savy, annoying, start-up mofos trying to be all original.

No, I haven't actually bought any .IO domain names.  That doesn't mean that I can't be negatively affected though.  I was out of town at this conference once and someone who had a medium-sized company was interested in talking with me about possibly having me to do some web consulting work for them.  I can't remember what this person's position was but she was Vice President or something along those lines.  The company was about 100 people or so it was not large but not small either.

Usually at conferences if people have questions I try to give free and useful advice as much as possible.  Most consultants don't but this is why people go to conferences honestly.  To get advice you can't get anywhere else.  Even though most aren't not going to hire me, I am always hopeful in the future someone will.  Anyway, this executive handled marketing had expressed interested in having lunch with me.  I did not realize this until she approached me but I had given advice to a few people and there was chatter about how awesome I was to do that without expecting anything in return.

When she initially approached she made it clear they were looking for help with web marketing, even though she had a lot of marketing experience.  The company in her mind had made some vital mistakes online and she wanted to talk over things I thought could be improved.  I said to myself, “Wow, this could really turn into something for me here.”  That assumption was wrong, very wrong all because of a mention of .IO domains.

When I had lunch with her the next day she started explaining some problems the company was having.  They had tried Facebook advertising and were having horrible results.  I sent her the link so she could watch the Facebook Fraud video by Derek Mueller.  I then explained that most likely those Likes and Shares were not authentic, even if paid through Facebook, as mostly it seems to be bot accounts or from click farm countries.  I also made small suggestions about website improvements (yes, I know this blog needs a refresh) the company could make, various paid and free tools that might be helpful, some books she might want to read, and recommended they switch hosting providers (they were using NoDaddy hosting).  Then she started asking questions about search engine optimization (SEO) and was relaying to me the company was having a hell of a hard time against competitors.  She also felt like an SEO firm they had used had not delivered.

It sounded like the SEO firm “Guaranteed” a 1st place ranking in Google which is not really possible.  (I encourage everyone to read my 6 Questions to Ask a Search Optimizer if you haven't.)  I had to start explaining basic SEO principles, since she did not understand them, and that most professional marketers and search optimizers make wrong suggestions to new clients.  Most of the time they will recommend 3rd party SEO resources instead of Google and this really only confuses people.  I explained that Google tries, but does not do a great job, of providing resources for normal webmasters to understand how Google views search.  I suggested that she follow the Google Webmaster Central Blog and watch some of Matt Cutts videos.  (We all know those are marginally helpful.)  While it is useful to follow search news I said, “The major tech and SEO websites make assumptions from reading and watching both of these.  Sometimes what they write is not wrong but it is guessing honestly.  If you want to hear the information unfiltered it is best to get it from the source.  That way, hopefully, you will be less confused. ”  She seemed to get what I was saying here and nodded in approval.  I continued my spiel, “You probably won't understand everything reading and watching those but it is good to be aware of these.  Keep in mind Google claims they want to help small and medium sized businesses but they don't really.   The main reason to follow Google is that you will stay updated with their news and requirements.”  Since she had her iPad out on the table I was showing here exactly where to find everything.  She was amazed how little she knew in this new digital age and through our exchange she even said that the company would probably be expanding soon and could use someone like me.  I thought I had this in the bag.

I let her soak in the videos and some of other resources I suggested on her iPad.  After awhile she asked,”What have you learned watching these videos?”  I thought it was a good question and started to explain that Matt Cutts, Google's head of Webspam and the guy that built Google's family filter engine, said he didn't recommend country code top level domain hacks or usage.  I said, “This includes .IO which is a popular domain extension among start-ups.  Originally he said that .IO specifically would be considered by Google only for those that live in the Indian Ocean.  There are not that many people that live in the Indian Ocean though and now .IO is considered generic by Google and not country specific.  It would be bad if I wasn't aware of this especially if someone was looking into buying a .IO domains and they came to be for advice about it.”

After I said all this… there was a long blank stare.  It was clear she was starting to question who she was sitting down with.  The stare was really to say, “Who is this guy?”  She then softly asked, “.IO?”  This lead to me to try to explain ccTLDs in regards to search engines and how Google views them.  This, I think, she sort of understood but the whole .IO domain extension clearly made no sense to her.   I don't remember entirely what I said because I was trying to move the conversation out of domains at that point.  There was a definite mention of I/O in computer terms.  (For those that are not aware the IO refers to input/output, which is pretty geeky.)  At this point I knew I had lost any hope of consulting work or a future position at that company.

She did not seem to understand .IO and her eyes and facial expression were a definite indication of confusion.  It just didn't make sense to her why someone would buy a .IO let alone what the hell it meant.  I believe me even bringing it up in the conversation even baffled her.

While the rest of the lunch went ok, I could tell that mentioning .IO domains really hurt me.  My chances of consulting work or scoring a full time job at this company went down in flames just because of one mention of IO domains.  She emailed me later thanking me for the suggestions and taking the time out of my day and said she'd be in touch.  Never happened.  I even tried to reconnect with her a  few weeks ago but I got no reply.

She did genuinely seem like she was going to offer me something but mentioning this super nerdy extension basically ruined any chances I had.   So that's the story of how I lost money because of friggin .IO domains.

To all those f$@)@& annoying ass hip start-ups using a .IO domain you made me LOOSE a LOT of money.  After this post if you use a .IO domain and I think your product is good and use it, I still won't mention your company or service to ANYONE.  You make me loose money, I make you loose money.  How does that feel?  Buy a real domain extension at NameSilo.

I once heard someone explain that the reason he choose a .IO domain was because he wanted to be in the “SoHo of the internet.”  Well honestly that's great but I certainly don't live in the SoHo of the internet.  Even if I did live in the SoHo of the internet it would be too expensive for me.  I believe .IO domains are $60 the first year through NameCheap and $100 a year to renew.  That's damn expensive for a domain name and I'd rather buy a quality domain in domain auctions or the domain aftermarket.  The SoHo of the internet does not pay my bills.

To be fair to IO domains, it is hard to know whether that truly hurt me in the conversation and lost me consulting work.  However, things were going really well up until that point. I can only assume what was going through her heard after the lunch.  I'm pretty sure it was not all positive after mentioning a weird domain extension though.

If a client is using a .IO domain and loves it I probably won't say anything.  In the future I'll refrain from even mentioning .IO domains.  I'll just look confused and awkward.  If a someone asks about using a .IO domain for a web service or app I'll reply, “Say Hell No to .IO!” 🙂

What do you think about .IO domains?   Annoying, cool, fun, or it is a passing domain fad?  What do you think of my sad story of losing money because of silly .IO domains?

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  • Well, like all of us Adam you learned a lesson the hard way. And that’s the best lesson you will ever get in life and in business. Always learn from your mistakes,

    Can’t say I’ve ever looked at .IO with anything other than WTF?

    • I definitely learned the lesson of not mentioning crazy domain extensions to anyone outside of the start-up crowd. I’d like to say I’ve made this mistake once Paul, but I’ve mentioned IO domains at another conference. That time it didn’t go well either. 🙂

      I assume this executive would have described herself as tech savy and generally knowledgeable about computers though. Also she had extensive experience traveling abroad so she did sort of know what ccTLDs were and understand why an individual or company would use them. Unfortunately… IO domains not so much.

      Some of the prices IO domains have sold for are quite impressive. Some of these sales definitely make me say, “WTF?” too though.

      The real winner in all of this IO start-up and tech fueled domain craziness, the British Government. They make money on all IO domain registrations.

  • .io domains are the best for tech startups. .ly domains are cool, too

    • Out of curiosity Mike why do you personally like .IO domains and .LY domains? You like going against the grain and dispruting with the tech start up community?

      Also does the high price of registering and renewing IO domains and LY domains bother you? It looks like you own quite a lot of IO domains and the renewals must be brutal.

  • .io domains are for hackers, starting because of the original association with input/output, but now it is because many awesome tech companies use it. If someone uses a .io domain, I know there is a good chance it will be for a service or product that I am interested in. .ly domains are great because of the awesome domain hacks (e.g.,

    the price doesn’t bother me – in some ways I like that it is higher priced because there are better names available. using a .io or a .ly domain for your site is a way to distinguish yourself from the masses of .com’s, and to let other hackers know the site was created by one of them

    • There have been great services and companies that have used an IO domain or an LY domain. I’ll admit that but just by looking at the domain extension I’m not going to assume I’m interested in the services or products a business offers. You don’t find that kind of odd and silly?

      It seems businesses building on IO domains are not just aiming for hackers nowadays. The same goes for LY from what I’ve seen.

      • I like to think of domains as virtual real estate and tlds are neighborhoods. .io is where the hackers are. Just because you go to Little Italy doesn’t mean you’ll find great Italian food, but there is a better chance, and there are more Italian restaurants there.

        • I saw that Docker.IO switched and I believe there have been a few others. What do you think about that?

          Also what do you think of companies that use an IO domain that eventually change names and rebrand to using a COM?

          • I think the reason is to get the mainstream population to use it. I think that currently the mainstream population only recognizes .com as a website (maybe also .edu, .org). I think this will change with time and be less necessary.

            If you are a hacker building a site for hackers, IMO there is no need to use .com, and it may even be worse (depending on the name).

    • One problem is .io doesn’t auto hyperlink many places like FB comments, tho in what’s app it does. What’s up with that? :/

      • Wasn’t aware that .IO doesn’t automatically link in certain websites and messengers. You should probably use a different extension Gary.

        .com is king! 🙂

  • Trev Anil says:

    You have to know your audience. You wouldn’t sit down with someone and start talking politics or birth control. The same is true for non-traditional domain names.

    • I see what you are saying Trev. I don’t believe domain names are as polarizing a topic as birth control or politics though.

      Of course… since this happened to maybe I’m wrong. 🙂

    • Thanks Raymond. Sucks I lost business over it but at least I know now not to mention IO domains EVER.

  • .io has been around for a while, probably as long as .com, it did picked up a bit on behalf of the tech industry(2010-2015), mainly millenials, or “new kids”, unfortunately most of these start-ups failed, and I mean, a lot them just vanished,.. one other thing is that most of IT companies, or other big servers began blocking such domain due to the spam going on.. CES, the biggest tech tradeshow, in 2014 you could see a few .IO’s,but in 2016 not that many, only 2-3,.. A lot of the .io’s where dumped in the market from these failed start-ups for auction, and then squatting began, and the rest is history for .io’s…. Now is known for a squat extension picked up by millenial tech geeks… I hate to say it but is true, I was one of them, became the place where people began dumping all these I.Os, some them did sold at good price, AT THE RIGHT TIME, meaning they got off the hook of the domain just in time,… In my opinion I get a .com, don’t matter how long it is, how many words, or whatever, .COM is now a brand, and companies brand their name with .com, if the name you want is taken, get creative, add a suffix, numbers, anything,.. Then go for org., net,.biz….