The Story of BanjoHut.com

The Past, Present, and Future of a Domain Name with Strong Ties to Knoxville

Featured image for "The History of BanjoHut.com" blog post - black and white photo depicting interior of an old shack with a fireplace, teapot, some shoes on the floor, and an old banjo hanging on the wall.

As a self-employed music instructor, I am tasked with aspects of my business that go far beyond just teaching music lessons. Tasks such as marketing and accounting take up a fair amount of my time. I happily spend a lot of my time on the digital marketing front because I love it – but I probably should spend a little more time on the accounting front (sorry, a little inside joke there for my wife).

Since the vast majority of prospective students look for music lessons instructors via search engines such as Google, a big part of my marketing task is having a website (actually, multiple websites) that rank high in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) when people are searching for lessons on various instruments in Knoxville. Since websites have to live on domain names, I have spent a lot of time and energy (and in some cases a lot of money) acquiring great domain names for my websites. I became very good at ranking my websites and several years ago started a side business of building high-ranking, SEO-optimized websites for other music schools and music instructors. Therefore, I actively search expiring domain auctions for potential domains for myself as well as clients. That is how I discovered BanjoHut.com was up for auction.

I was immediately intrigued by the domain because I knew that it had belonged to a local business here in Knoxville, TN; a very popular mail-order and online banjo retailer called The Banjo Hut. They shipped products world-wide, but also had a showroom locally in their Knoxville warehouse. I had personally bought various banjo accessories there in the past. However, it wasn’t until I saw the domain name up for auction that I researched it and found out that the store had gone out of business. I was the first one to put in the minimum bid of $69. Domain auctions are normally conducted online, often times for several days. So I kept an eye on it and thought that I just might be the new owner of the domain for only $69. Alas, someone else bid within the last 5 minutes of the auction. When this happens, the auction will keep going until there has been no bid activity for 5 minutes. So, I had a proxy bid set up to go up to $200. This automated bidding system allows the computer to bid for me by slightly outbidding my competitor until I reached my maximum bid. This happened rather quickly and before long I reached my maximum bid. Most likely, this was a domain investor hoping to get a fourteen-year-old, established domain name with authority and backlinks that gave it some “Google juice” (a term that SEO agents use for a domain or website that is looked upon favorably by Google’s search algorithms). But I wanted this domain pretty badly for a couple of reasons. The first reason was business. I knew that I could build out a website promoting the banjo lessons portion of my music lessons business, and capitalize on the Google juice myself. The second reason was sentimental (often not a good thing when bidding at an auction). I knew that this domain had a history with a local Knoxville business, and I wanted to put it back to work for a local Knoxville business. My auction competitor could have been based anywhere in the world, and most likely would have just provided backlinks to other websites that probably had nothing to do with banjos, and milked out whatever Google juice they could have until the domain lost favor with Google and became worthless. So, without revealing the actual amount that I paid for the domain, I continued bidding until I was several hundred plus dollars into the domain – at which point, the other bidder finally stopped bidding. I won the auction, but now I had to go home with my tail between my legs and tell my wife how much of our money I spent on that domain, especially since she knew what limit I had originally set.

However, in the long run, it will be an investment that will earn back much more than it initially cost. I had to wait for the domain to transfer into my my ownership at the registrar where I purchased it. Then I had to wait for it to transfer again to my usual registrar. But as soon as I could, I built a basic website on it. I have continued and will continue to keep building it out and adding more content to help it keep it’s current authority with Google and even gain more authority eventually. But I know it had some decent Google juice because shortly after building just a basic site on that domain, it was already ranking on page 2 of the SERPs for the search terms “banjo lessons knoxville tn” and other similar queries. I am quite certain that in a reasonable amount of time, BanjoHut.com will be ranking high on page 1 of Google for those queries. By doing so, it will continue to provide me with banjo students through the years which will more than cover the acquisition cost. But I also will know in my heart that I rescued that domain from almost certain destruction as a mere backlink source, and I put it to work for a local Knoxville business again. One of these years, hopefully many years from now, when I exit the music lessons business – this domain may be able to once again be transferred to another banjo instructor or banjo retailer here in the greater Knoxville area.

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