the gap / November 9, 2017

How Spending $20,000 on a Domain Name Uncovered an Incredible Business Opportunity

It's time to disrupt a $50bn market

11 months ago I launched this site as a place to share my predictions on the best new online business opportunities.

While I haven’t written here as often as I originally planned, I have been quite lucky with some of my forecasting.

My 28 day live case study saw me build a spoken version of Medium, only for them to launch the same thing three months later.

I analysed hundreds of earners on Patreon and said that the NSFW category was actually the biggest gap in their marketshare. They recently changed their terms to be very unfavourable towards those producing adult content, so that claim has more weight than ever.

And a few days ago someone told me they made over $5,000 last month from their Amazon affiliate site thanks to this guide.

I don’t say these things to impress you – there are people way smarter than me who I wish were sharing their predictions instead – but because I feel incredibly strongly about a gap in the market I’m going to share today.

I hope I can convey in words how big of an opportunity I think it is and how badly I hope someone reading this takes action with it.

If you’re going to feel as excited by this as I am, you need to know a little backstory, and that starts with buying the domain name of the website you’re on right now.

The Long, Tedious Process of Purchasing Gaps.com for $20,000

If you’re anything like me, you’ve purchased a few spur-of-the-moment domains that you’re probably never going to do anything with.

Sadly these purchases only seem to increase in frequency as you spend more time online. Just a fortnight ago I purchased YoureGonnaDie.com (no, really) and I’m sure I’ll receive the renewal reminder before I even change its nameservers.

Most of these random domain acquisitions of mine are made at Namecheap.

When I’ve wanted to purchase more expensive domains that are already owned by someone I use BuyDomains.com.

I’ve used them to buy dictionary domains like Womanhood.com, and more personal business names like MarketingInc.com.

Last year when I had the idea to build Gaps (which initially had nothing to do with online business ideas), I decided I wanted a premium domain to go with it.

I let my rep at Buy Domains know about my budget and he sent the following email.

Tim didn’t add an extra zero by mistake.

There really were 4,000 domains on the list he sent me, and I really did look at every single one of them.

The only one that stood out to me on their list was solely.com – I liked the idea of “Going it alone and doing something big!” – but none of my friends felt the same so I left it alone.

After striking out at my usual place, I decided to check out some other platforms to see if they had what I wanted.

My goal was simple: I wanted a brandable name that was preferably just one word (be it an actual word or at least something memorable).

For the next few weeks I found myself hunting through Sedo, Flippa, DNPros and GoDaddy auctions, hoping for an amazing domain to appear.

In my impatience I bought Almost.net and Lzie.com just to feel like I wasn’t totally wasting my time. There’s nothing on those sites (I’ve warned you it becomes more common), I just thought they sounded cool.

I also made a bid for Megapixels.com but the seller wanted more than just money which put me off a name I was already unsure about.

Getting desperate and not wanting to keep annoying people at BuyDomains, I also figured out a way to view their entire inventory without having to keep asking for an updated spreadsheet.

Sadly it didn’t matter how long I spent there, I couldn’t find the name for me.

Then I Discovered My New Favourite Marketplace

If you’ve ever found yourself on Theme Forest, Graphic River or Code Canyon, you’ll have likely learned the name of their parent company, Envato.

I’ve always found it to be quite a strange name if I’m honest with you, but I can’t deny it’s memorable.

That name was the brainchild of a domain marketplace called BrandBucket. I don’t know how I ever found them, but I’m so glad I did.

While their prices aren’t cheap, their marketplace features so many brandable and keyword-focused listings that I was lost for choice.

In the first few minutes of finding their site I saw Gaps.com and knew it was the domain for me.

It was a little over the twenty thousand dollar budget I had set for myself, so I reached out to see if they could offer a discount for me. They “couldn’t”.

Since it was so close to my budget – literally just $395 more – I decided to go for it anyway.

While I understand the domain probably sounds incredibly expensive to many of you reading – “You could have bought a car” – I love the name and unlike a car, .com domains should only appreciate in value if you didn’t purchase them for an unreasonable price.

While I’m sure I never will, I could likely sell the name in the next week for what I paid — if not for quite a bit more now that it has some history.

How They Sold $3.1m in Domain Names Last Year

BrandBucket have to be one of the most successful domain sellers you likely haven’t heard of.

Before I get into why I think they’re doing so well, I must preface it by saying that my reasons wouldn’t matter as much if they didn’t have great names to sell.

I mean, right now they have Bunny.com for sale…with an actual price tag (!).

To put that price tag comment into perspective, if Bunny.com was listed on Flippa, the seller wouldn’t reveal their reserve and nobody would bid high enough for you to figure it out.

If it was on Sedo the price would be double and nobody would reply to your bids anyway.

If it was on DNPros you would wait up to a week or two for each reply from the seller.

On BrandBucket, you could buy that name in the next 24 hours without any messing around.

In comparison to Namecheap who likely sold millions of domains in 2016, Brandbucket “only” sold 1,017.

Here are their specific numbers for last year:

  • Domains sold: 1,017
  • Average sale price: $3,070
  • Median sale price: $2,295
  • Repeat buyers: 14.5%
  • Successful sellers: 238
  • Sellers who sold four or more domains: 51
  • Total revenue: $3.1 million

That’s a huge number of sales for a domain name marketplace that hadn’t caught my attention in the five years it was around before.

To put their growth into perspective, they sold $2.4m in domains in 2015 on the back of 801 sales.

That’s a revenue increase of 29%, on domain sales increase of 27%.

Allow me to whip out my green highlighter for a sentence which underlines why I think BrandBucket are doing so well (besides the upfront price tags and them actually replying to your offers).

BrandBucket is revolutionary to me because unlike Namecheap, Flippa, DNPros, Sedo and BuyDomains, you can actually “see” the business you’re about to buy.

The logos accompanying each business help you picture what the brand and company could look like in your head, even if you don’t like the logo. (I didn’t use the logo that came with Gaps and I didn’t use the logo when I later purchased Detailed.com through them either).

On the surface it seems like such a simple thing that you might not agree with me.

You’re probably thinking “So what, they just added a logo to their listings.”

Well, they’re not any old crappy Clipart logos, and it helps if you’ve spent weeks looking at nothing but thousands of rows of text on other platforms.

I should add at this point that I have no affiliation with Brandbucket and they don’t know I’m writing this article. The last domain name I purchased from them was banned on Facebook (I had no idea before purchasing) and even after buying two premium domains in the past they weren’t willing to take any responsibility.

I simply admire their business acumen.

Just trust that when you’ve spent weeks looking through every marketplace that you can possibly find, discovering BrandBucket truly was – to use a terrible clichΓ© – like a breath of fresh air.

There’s something else they do which is a little more subtle, but my experience with Gaps shows me it may be crucially important.

With Gaps, I know my ideas aren’t revolutionary. After all, I only have these ideas because I obsessively monitor startup news and funding rounds like nothing else matters.

I’ve been making predictions and ‘finding gaps’ since my 2010 launch of Cloud Niche. Having people read these predictions is a dream for me.

The reason I think people enjoy reading Gaps updates is not because I say anything groundbreaking, but because I’ll sometimes validate an idea they already had.

When you’re building something new online it’s easy to get really excited about an idea, but just as easily that excitement can shift to thinking about all of the ways your idea can fail and how there’s a reason nobody has built it before and so on and so on.

If I write about the same idea you’ve had or even just something similar, then at least that’s two of us, and it gives the whole concept a little more legs.

I like that BrandBucket do the same thing, even if it’s not as prominent.

If you click on any domain for sale on their site you can see what kind of project their team think it would be a good match for.

For instance, one of the featured domains on their homepage as I write this is RivalMark.com. If you click on the listing to investigate further, you can learn more about which industries they think it fits.

There are enough options there to appeal to a lot of people, but not too many that you think they just added any random word.

Other listings, like for Uprival.com, are a little more descriptive, “A consultant or consulting firm. Collaboration. Video game community. Viral marketing.

If you had the name in mind for any of those things, they’ve just helped you validate that idea, and I think Gaps is proof of how powerful that can be.

I’ll cover this ‘tactic’ more in my second gap in market if you wonder where I’m going with this but for now, let’s start with the idea that made this article something I had to write.

The $10bn US Market That Needs Its Own BrandBucket

A fortnight ago I hired five writers on Upwork for a new project of mine. The end result was a little frustrating.

Two produced a great article.

Two produced an article that needed a lot of editing.

And weeks later I’m still waiting for the fifth.

Not to mention that four of the five needed to be ‘bumped’ in some form by saying “When are you going to send me this?” which as a writer myself I hated asking of other people.

Just to be clear, what I’m about to share with you was not spawned from this interaction.

I’ve had the business idea I’m about to share with you for a very long time, but this recent experience helped cement the idea for me even further.

There needs to be a better way to purchase content.

We need people (lots of them) to build a content platform that is to Upwork what BrandBucket is to Namecheap.

There are hundreds of places to buy domains and hundreds of places to buy content, but BrandBucket stands out for a reason, so it’s time to see the content-focused equivalent of that.

I’m not just talking about my own needs here, because I know of a lot of people who experience similar frustrations when ordering content for their sites.

According to Forrester, US marketers spent more than $10bn on content in 2016.

Not content marketing. But just the content they have to market.

And that’s just the US. We must be looking at many tens of billions more when we factor in other English-speaking countries of the world.

The industry that I feel is ripe for dominating is that of pre-written content.

Bear with me here.

I know there are a lot of companies that sell pre-written content, but I feel most do it so poorly that there is an incredibly lucrative opportunity to dominate the market.

Constant Content is one of the most successful examples and here’s how they present their pre-written articles:

They don’t provide any pictures so you can ‘feel’ what you’re getting.

The prioritise selling an article multiple times which makes no sense for buyers.

$100 for a 463-word article is an absolutely crazy mark-up for what that article would cost to reproduce, and even their article previews have some pretty bad grammatical mistakes.

Hold on to your midnight domain purchases — Owler estimates they made $5m in revenue last year with just 34 employees.

Something I would purchase time and time again – and what I think is an incredible gap in the market right now – is pre-written content good enough to put on a site and promote with ads or outreach, even if it had BrandBucket-equivalent pricing to match.

I’m going to talk about this vision of mine in a lot more detail (I think there are at least 100 opportunities here for people to build something), but before I do that, let me cover the market a little more so you can possibly see the potential I see.

dotWriter: $2m in Annual Revenue

It’s hard to trust Owler revenue predictions as they don’t reveal their sources, but I’ve actually found them to be pretty accurate when I later discovered a company’s actual revenue.

Keeping in mind that these numbers could be off by a bit, Owler estimates that content platform DotWriter is currently pulling in $2m per year with the help of around 64 employees.

Founded just recently in 2015, the Italy-based startup reached 10,000 registered writers before it was acquired by Mediastinct, who describe their main business offering as a “programmatic marketplace for advertisers.”

Mediastinct’s first call of action was to set-up a booth for dotWriter at ad:tech’s New York conference at the end of 2016, showing they believe the business has a lot of room to grow.

As with other pre-written content platforms, dotWriter simply shows you a headline, a word count and the price for an article. If your ad blocker doesn’t work, you’ll also get an animated robot in the bottom right of your screen introducing you to the platform.

While their pages show you what you need to see, I really don’t think they do much to help you envision yourself as the owner of a piece of content that’s worth buying.

They also offer the ability to order custom content, but that’s seemingly an afterthought if their current design is anything to go by.

CrowdContent Had 44% Growth in 2016

Founded in British Columba, Crowd Content owner Clayton Lainsbury wanted to build a content platform that was “simple but powerful.”

It’s hard to find any specific revenue numbers for Crowdcontent, but a blog post in 2016 boasts the company having grown by 44% from the previous year, so it’s certainly a business in demand.

Their About page, which seems to have been updated in October of 2016, states that they have sold more than 25 million words of content for their customers.

Though I can’t guarantee any numbers, all signs point to this being a multi-million dollar business.

Like many similar marketplaces, they state their aim is to help those looking for content connect with the best writers who can help make that happen.

In another About page update, they added that a number of clients rely on them to create more than 1,000 pieces of content each week, further showing the absolutely huge demand there is for reliable writers.

Even before this article, I’m sure it was no surprise to you that on-demand content is a huge business, but let’s just throw in a few more platforms with their estimated Owler revenues.

  • WriterAccess: $5.6m in revenue with 17 employees
  • TextBroker: $5m in revenue with 100 employees
  • Scripted: $14.4m in funding with $6.4m in annual revenue
  • Text Workers: $1m in revenue with 32 employees
  • TextMaster: $5.9m in revenue with 101 employees

Again, I can’t promise that Owler estimates are totally accurate, but when I’ve later found out a company’s actual revenue, they’ve been scarily close.

As much as we know how big the on-demand content market is, I think there’s an equally huge market available for really incredible, pre-written content that saves you from the pain of choosing the best writer for a job or the wait for your order.

Let’s look at one more example of how big this market is before I get into the ‘What I Would Do’ section.

An Estimated $120m in Writing Jobs Take Place on UpWork Each Year

Since some of my pain in this area stems from a recent hiring-spree on Upwork, I decided to look at their biggest categories and see how many currently active job listings there are for each.

In all honesty I thought writing would have been second or third on the list (CSS and design jobs absolutely dominate Upwork) but still, there is nothing lacklustre about these numbers:

  • Web, Mobile & Software Dev Jobs: 27,312 active listings
  • Design & Creative Jobs: 16,248 active listings
  • Sales & Marketing Jobs: 13,278 active listings
  • Writing Jobs: 11,248 active listings
  • Admin Support Jobs: 6,874 active listings
  • IT & Networking Jobs: 3,031 active listings
  • Engineering & Architecture Jobs: 2,936 active listings
  • Translation Jobs: 2,884 active listings
  • Data Science & Analytics Jobs: 2,278 active listings
  • Accounting & Consulting Jobs: 1,907 active listings
  • Customer Service Jobs: 1,203 active listings
  • Legal Jobs: 883 active listings

Over $1bn in jobs are transacted through Upwork annually – that’s over $2.7m each day. With writing jobs making up 12.4% of the listings on the site, we can estimate that content is worth at least $120m per year for the site. While Upwork only see a percentage of that, it does show how much money is being spent on this asset.

Of course, writing jobs are among the cheapest so it’s hard to give exact numbers, but my $1bn per year number was from 2015, so that has likely increased as well.

Interested? Here’s the Approach I Would Take

As the idea came to me because of BrandBucket, we can’t take what they do so well out of the equation.

BrandBucket help you ‘picture’ what you’re buying, and I think the same should be done with content.

Show me some charts or Unsplash-esque images that are associated with (and come with) what I’m buying. Don’t just give me a table of headlines showing what you have available.

If I was going to take action on this idea – and it is tempting – I wouldn’t sell any article for less than $100.

I would want to showcase the absolute best of the best articles where prices can reach up to $5,000 for unique content that has been researched with its own exclusive data that gives me quotable insights for other websites to link to.

That’s the real angle here for what I’m suggesting: Content good enough to pick up links.

That’s content worth paying a premium for.

Don’t just come up with some quick headline and then hire a writer for $20 to fill in the blanks.

Really research the type of content that has worked for others – Detailed is a great place for that – and then figure out how you can make the absolute best content for any niche.

If you’re going to sell an article for $200, make sure it costs you at least $100 (either via staff or time) to put together.

When you’re just starting out, I would probably make your expenses even closer to the price you’re selling the content for. Build up a great reputation of your content being worth every penny. Go the extra mile.

There is no online business more certain for the next five years than people needing content to either put on their websites, or content to help promote them.

While not everyone will be able to justify or even afford a three or four figure price tag for a single piece of content, there are millions of webmasters who could, and thousands of marketing agencies who would love to take a break from coming up with the next viral hit.

There Has to Be 100 Opportunities Here

To take this even further, and because there is such a huge market for content, I would attempt to dominate a single sector at a time.

Create the brand for the best automotive content that gets people talking and picks up the links.

The brand for the best consumer research that gets people talking and picks up links.

The brand for the best personal finance advice that gets people talking and picks up links.

With this single-industry focus you can:

  • Hire the best writers for your niche and keep them busy on topics they care about
  • Target all on-site messaging to potential clients in that industry
  • Monitor just your space, day in and day out, to see what people are sharing
  • Build up a portfolio of success stories in that particular field

I would even take a leaf out of the Toptal playbook with an angle as good as “The top 3% of articles in the jobs space are right here.

Of course, replacing ‘jobs space’ with the field you really wish to dominate.

It would be awesome if a few Gaps readers could team up and work together to help each other promote their finished niche-focused offerings.

Just don’t forget this: The content you’re selling has to more than worth the time it saves someone to come up with their own ideas and pay their own writers.

People will be able to do what you’re offering for less, so make sure they save a lot of time (both in creativity and creation) by going to you first.

To get my message across properly, let me give an example.

Let’s say I’m looking for content for a client who has a website about personal finance and we’re looking to promote something that has the chance to go viral and pick up links.

I want to go to your site and see at a minimum:

  • The headline for the article. No ‘5 steps to financial freedom’ but something creative and original.
  • How long the article is and how many images are included
  • The audience demographic that would most be interested in the piece
  • Success stories of similar pieces of content (again, Detailed is great for this)
  • Who wrote the article and what their connections are to the space
  • Insights on what makes the article “special” (exclusive interviews, curated quotes, survey results, etc.)
  • Sample images you’ve included in the piece from the likes of Unsplash
  • How much it’s going to cost me

There’s so much more I want to know than just the headline and the price that every other marketplace fails to share.

I really hope there are a few people who see as much potential in this idea as I do.

I’m happy to facilitate connections for you with other Gaps readers if you want to collaborate on marketing ideas, but only after you’ve actually built something.

Build it. Finish it. Send me an email, and I’ll let you know who else did the same.

I have a lot of incredible business opportunities to share here on Gaps over the next few months, but I’m the most excited about the earnings potential with this one.

If you’re new here, you might not know that I try to cover a few opportunities each time I post, so let’s look at one more.

Another Gap in the Market That Could Replicate BrandBucket’s Success

This next gap in the market came to me after constantly seeing people build side projects for platforms like ProductHunt, only to abandon them after the thrill of their 500-upvotes wares off.

Today’s Product Hunt homepage highlights projects we’re excited by right now, yet if you go back just two months on the Wayback machine, that exciting list of smart ideas transforms into a graveyard of abandoned web space.

With 170,000 new websites coming online every single day, surely there’s an opportunity to connect those with the creativity and consistency in ‘shipping’, with those who are able to focus on one thing at a time to see a project through.

BrandBucket don’t own the majority (if any) of the domains on their platform. They primarily help faciliate transactions between people who are looking to sell a domain and those who are looking to buy one.

Build the platform that helps creative side-projects get a new lease of life and I’ll be your first customer.

To give you an example of the size of the opportunity here, let’s look at Product Hunt’s ‘Maker of the Year’ for 2016, Mubashar Iqbal.

While I’m about to highlight some of his ‘dead’ projects, please don’t get me wrong: Mubashar is an incredible maker and fully deserves his title. His skills are inspiring.

That said, I think even he would admit that building projects is often a lot more exciting than seeing them through for years into the future.

As he stated in an interview with Indie Hackers,

Although I have a drive to make projects and make software and to kind of launch things, I’ve never really had the strong desire to be a CEO and a leader of a company.

Mubashar is so prolific with building side-projects that the following list is only a sample of his creations from 2017 and how they’re currently doing according to SimilarWeb:

  • Walletlist.me: 0 monthly visitors
  • Hackathonmatch.com: 0 monthly visitors
  • Botlist.co: 24,579 monthly visitors
  • 500coins.co: 2,000 monthly visitors
  • WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com: 0 monthly visitors
  • TopShots.co: 0 monthly visitors
  • WhenActive.com: 0 monthly visitors

WhenActive is such a great idea with a great name, but it really deserves some love from someone who is only focused on the site.

Sure, there are similar services out there, but there are similar offerings for just about everything. If Buffer and HelloEdgar are still getting new sign-ups (hint: they are), then you can close new customers for WhenActive.

Update: Mubashar replied to me on Twitter just after this article went live.

Continuing on from that, he supports the idea of a marketplace.


There should be some kind of marketplace for these type of websites to be submitted and sold. Just listing them on Flippa is only half of what I think these sites deserve.

I hinted earlier that part of BrandBucket’s success is helping you validate the idea behind their domains and what they could be used for (your next project).

Based on that, I think a maker marketplace could do something similar to stand out: Help people ‘see’ the future of the business by showing them what kind of audiences to target, which marketing angles to try and even what kind of webmaster would be perfect to take the project on.

Hire someone who actually knows about online marketing to give the best step-by-step advice for anyone considering owning these side-projects and what they should do next with them.

For example, let’s say Mubashar decides to list Will Robots Take My Job on the maker marketplace, some of the advice could include:

  • Finding prominent journalists who didn’t already cover the site and let them know who did
  • Adding more content to try a d benefit from its almost 20,000 backlinks (from incredibly powerful sites)
  • Sell ad space to niche job boards based on the job being entered

The site has 20,000 backlinks and two pages of content. That feels like a waste to me, and hopefully helps you see why I think some of these side-projects need a marketplace to help give them a new lease of life.

When it comes to marketing, give ‘make money online’ bloggers a commission for any sales they send your way.

Keep your own commission incredibly small when starting out to encourage more people to list their sites.

Send very personal, non-automated emails to some top ProductHunt makers to see if they’re interested in finding a new home for any of their projects.

Come up with the name and build the entire platform. Don’t build half the platform and then send it to me to see what I think (this happens a lot).

Please, finish the entire thing. People will not give you the time of day to support your project if you don’t believe in it enough to actually finish the thing and make it usable.

If you don’t know how to design a website, hire a designer who does or take 1-2 hours per day for the next few months and learn. Download free templates and learn how to tweak every single aspect of them.

If that sounds like too much work then you’re not alone in thinking that, but this is also probably not the project for you.

It’s the project for someone, and I really look forward to being a customer.

To wrap up this post, here’s my final order:

  • Budget: $1,000. An absolutely incredible piece of content in the cooking niche that I can buy and ‘pick up’ right now that people will likely share.
  • Budget: $5,000. A project that made the homepage of ProductHunt then faded into darkness that still has potential.
  • Budget: $2,000. An incredibly detailed article with a clever headline and unique data I can share with the readers of a popular personal finance blog. As soon as I hit purchase, I want it.

I guarantee I’m not the only one with these requests.

It’s Good to Be Back: A Personal Announcement

I know I have been quiet here over recent months but you can still find me posting regularly on Detailed if you’re ever looking for marketing inspiration.

I have a large number of articles in the wings for this site which you’ll see going live over the next few months.

Around nine weeks ago I very, very quietly launched Detailed Pro to the world, and the initial reaction has been incredible. If you have an existing website that you need help promoting, I’ve likely already found the best traffic sources you’re missing.

If not, I’ll do my best to hunt them down for you.

I really hope you enjoyed this one.

I have nothing to sell here on Gaps and no ads or affiliate links, so if you could share this article with anyone you know looking for a new online business venture I would really appreciate it.

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