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An Interview With Mike Sullivan Of SullysBlog.com

December 9, 2010

The domain community has seen its share of new industry blogs coming online over the past year (including yours truly.) One of those, in this authors mind, stands out as an especially keen addition to the domaining world, not simply for the value it adds to domainers, but for both domainers and end-users alike, in essence bringing them together under the same roof.  That site is SullysBlog.com, written by Mike Sullivan.

Sully’s Blog publishes a variety of content, but with a focus on conducting interviews with end-users who’ve built successful businesses around generic domain names. Through the interview process they share how their domain name has helped impact their business and their bottom line.  As we as an industry still seem to be  struggling  to educate businesses on the value of owning quality domain names, nothing could be more aprapos.

Today we go behind the scenes with Mike Sullivan, to give you …

An Interview With the Man Behind the Interviews

DomainAnimal: Mike, thank you for giving me, and my readers, this opportunity to learn more about the man behind one of the domain industry’s more influential new blogs of 2010. Can you tell us a little more about yourself.  What was your background before getting into domains?

Mike Sullivan: Like most domainers, I have a day job.  I’ve worked for a leading HR consulting firm for the past 13 years which has been an excellent experience for me. My career at this firm has helped me to develop a level of business acumen that I don’t think I could have achieved anywhere else.  I’ve also been involved in web design and development on a part-time basis since the mid 90’s.  I established and incorporated my first business in 1997. Infinite Designs, Inc. has served a variety of industries over the years.  Within the past year, I’ve stopped taking on new web design clients, as I steer the company’s focus towards domain investment and development.

DA: What was it that led you to domain investing?  How did you catch the bug, and can you share some of your first domains?

MS: I’ve owned a domain, CoolBars.com, for about 12 years.  I tried a couple of development efforts with it on my own and generated a small amount of income, but nothing substantial enough to call it a stand-alone business.  I then started negotiating with an entertainment company to create a joint venture to develop the site.  They were already deeply embedded in the nightlife industry, and they really wanted the domain name.  When push came to shove, I wasn’t comfortable with the terms of the agreement.  So I started searching for information on where to sell domain names and/or find development partners.  That search led me to Elliot Silver’s blog.  I devoured it, reading articles back as far as I could in one sitting.

I was hooked.  Domaining just felt like the right thing for me.  So I decided to learn all I could about it.  I read just about every blog, forum, newsletter… anything I could lay my eyes on.  I started talking to people and asking questions.  I have to admit, I have a bit of an addictive personality, so when I find something I like, I just can’t let up.

Like most new domainers, I went crazy right off the bat, registering 500 domains before I sold a single one.  I then thought, “How am I going to pay for all of these renewals?”  This is a very important lesson in the domain world.  Luckily, a couple of early sales put me in a position of having some renewal money, but I realized most of my domains were worthless.  I have since cleaned up my portfolio quite a bit.  A couple of my first domains of any resale value were HairSalonsForMen.com and SalonsForMen.com.

DA: You’ve published a litany of insightful interviews with a wide range of entrepreneurs since you began blogging at SullysBlog.com. What inspired you to start Sully’s Blog, and what made you choose that direction, of focusing much of your content on interviews?

MS: There are a few things that led me to creating Sully’s Blog.

First, I wanted to learn more about WordPress.  There are so many great sites in existence based on this platform.  As a web designer, I wanted to get some exposure to it.

Second, I’ve always been fascinated by entrepreneurs and the risks they take to do what they feel their calling is.  I mean the true entrepreneurs.  The brave ones that have failed, yet get back up and dust themselves off to try it again.  These are the people I want to talk to and find out how they do it.  What better way is there to learn than to ask the people who have done it, those who are doing it now, and those that are trying to start.  This goes hand in hand with domaining. If you intend to develop any domains, get ready for some setbacks.  If you can save a little time or money by learning what has worked for others, then do it.

Finally, I was inspired to start Sully’s Blog because I was learning so much, and I continue to learn to this day.   These people are willing to talk to me and share their stories, strategies, and visitation statistics with me.  This stuff is too good to keep to myself.  If I’m going to blog, I want to bring something different to the table, and something of value.  Most of the domain bloggers out there have their own styles; industry news, parody, development tips, etc.  All of these are valuable approaches, and I want to share what I learn.  That’s my M.O.

DA: I find that your interview questions often seem to be well thought out, in terms of how they tend to draw out information from your interviewees that is relevant and appealing to domainers.  Can you share a little about your process for developing an interview?  How long do you spend composing questions?

MS: It’s often difficult to conduct interviews specific to domains.  The business owners are often interested in promoting their business.  The challenge for me is to find a way to ensure the business owners that this is promoting their business.  Truth be told, many of them can clearly see how this is beneficial to their business, and therefore, they are happy to share the intimate details.

I research every company I interview.  Some companies I investigate more than others.  It really depends on the business, the domain, and the person I am interviewing.  Every situation is different.  Some interviews go so well that I could write pages and pages.  For others, it’s like pulling teeth to get the information we all want to hear.  In some cases, I don’t feel like the interviews are worth posting.  I’m really interested in sharing what I think will be worthwhile and helpful to people.

DA: Your blog has seemed to gain a lot of momentum over the course of 2010. My SEO toolbar tells my your site now has an Alexa rank close to 80,000, and I’ve noticed more and more of your headlines steadily appearing in the Domaining.com daily newsletter.  Any thoughts on what has allowed you to attract such a healthy readership in such a relatively short time?  Can you share what the top source of your traffic is?

MS: I’ve been pleased with the speed at which Sully’s Blog has caught on. I think the fact that I am bringing relevant information to domainers is what has attracted readers.  It helps that other bloggers have mentioned me in their own blogs, and I greatly appreciate that.  One thing I have found is that the domain industry has some of the most  professional individuals I have ever met.  These are people like Elliot, DomainShane.com, and many others who will go out of their way to help you and not feel you are trying to take away from them in anyway.

As far as traffic is concerned, half of my visitors come from  subscriptions on feedburner, while another 20% come from direct traffic.   Another portion come from  aggregators such as Domaining.com.  My lowest numbers come from search engines, which tells me I really need to beef up my SEO.  This is not something I have addressed up to this point.

DA: What is the most important piece of advice you would share with anyone wanting to start their own domain blog tomorrow?

MS: You need to have a passion for it.  It’s a must!  You can see that those who are successful at blogging are fully engaged in what they are writing about, whether it’s about domaining or any other topic.  You need to find  a unique niche by doing your own thing, doing it well and doing it often.

DA: Earlier this year you were tapped to write for MO.com, another site regarded for its engaging interviews with online entrepreneurs.  What was it like to be approached by such a successful group of folks, knowing they were a fan of your work?  How has it been writing for them?

MS: I love writing for MO.com.  Brian Null is great guy, and he has a fantastic team.  I feel it’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to interact with some of the greatest entrepreneurs and ask them questions about what we all want to know.  It’s like having an endless crowd of mentors.  MO.com is a must read for domainers and anyone in any sort of business.

DA: If you could interview any three business owners or domain investors in the world right now, who would you most like to interview and why?  Give us the top three interviewees on your bucket-list, if you will.

I don’t really have any top picks at the moment.  I guess a couple that come to mind are:

Rick Schwartz – I actually did interview Rick.  He was kind enough to answer a handful of questions I sent his way.

Bill Gates  – Now who wouldn’t want to sit down with Bill and ask him how to run a business?

Otherwise, I’m really interested in the everyday entrepreneur/domainer.  I like to talk to people who are just going out there and giving it a shot.  Some of them have made it, and we can learn from their experiences.  Others are struggling, and we can learn from their “bumps in the road” as well.

DA: Anything else you’d like to add?

MS: I try to respond to any emails and questions posted in the comments section of the blog.  I want every reader to know I appreciate them dropping by and value what they have to say.  Mike, thank you for this opportunity.

DA: Mike, THANK YOU!.

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