Yesterday I mentioned that Dotster.com would be holding a one-hour, $1 domain name sale. February 14th at 4pm EST came and went, and I’m willing to bet that very few people got their $1 domain names. Why? Because Dotster followed a fabulously evil formula to get some cheap advertising. I’ve written the formula in more general terms so that any evildoers out there can duplicate it.
- Sell an item for twice its price elsewhere. In Dotster’s case, that item was a domain name registration. Dotster’s regular price for one year of registration is about $15. Competitors like Yahoo!, GoDaddy, and RegisterFly regularly sell their domain registrations for half that or less.
- Advertise a drastic discount for a very limited time. Dotster announced it would sell all domain name registrations for $1 (a mere third of the cheapest normal price around) … but only during a 60-minute window.
- Watch news of the sale spread across the internet, and even help it spread, too! News of the Dotster sale made most of the big deal sites as well as Digg and the most important and awesome blog in the entire world, Funny Munny.
- Do nothing else. Don’t try to shore up your web server or request more bandwidth from your host. In fact, if you are your own web host, you should move your online storefront to a smaller server and cut the bandwidth a few minutes before the sale starts.
- Sit back, relax, and watch the server timeouts. If you did everything else correctly, you’ll have thousands of people simultaneously connecting to a website meant for no more than two or three visitors an hour. Anyone who manages to get the front page to load will still have to struggle with a checkout process which you should have expanded from the usual two or three pages to ten or twenty pages. And just in case anyone should make it to the last page of checkout, recode the final Submit Order button so that it calls a script that doesn’t exist.
Indeed, I have spoken to just one person who managed to complete the order process during Dotster’s Hour of Evil. It took him the entire hour just to get through one domain registration.
Had Dotster been truly evil, it would have gone ahead and registered any domain names customers attempted to purchase during the sale hour. Then it could kindly offer to sell them the domains for the usual $15/year registration fee. Maybe Dotster was visited by the Ghost of E-Commerce Failures Future and had a change of heart.
Still, Dotster got a lot of advertising out of this ploy, and it won’t take many domain name registrations to make up for the handful of $1 domains customers mananged to grab. I, however, won’t be making any purchases from Dotster for one simple reason: you just have to wonder how reliable a web hosting company is that can’t keep its own website up during heavy traffic.