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I’ve been working on the Internet for what feels like a long time now – 6 years. In that time, I have worked inhouse for 4 different brands and consulted with more than I can reliably count. That number is probably in the 35-50ish range.

Over time, as I have gained more business experience and expanded my skillset outside of just SEO or even digital marketing, and am now running HireGun both as a consultant and a software solopreneur, I have increasingly become convinced of one thing:

Those who win are those who do

Many companies will say that they get things done. But the truth comes out when the rubber hits the road. When I worked at Distilled, we always prided ourselves on working with our clients to help them get things done. After all, if we were going to be successful as consultants, our clients had to see a return on their investment. If they moved slow, then it would take a long time for them to see that positive return and at that point it was up to the consultant to keep the client happy (and still a client!).

Here are some of the traits I have seen of successful companies and individuals. Continue Reading…

HireGun Launched Today

John Doherty —  November 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

Today I launched HireGun to the world via Medium and Product Hunt. It has been quite the road to get to this point, most of which I wrote about over on Medium, so I recommend you go there to read the full story.


I’m excited to have it out to the world. I am excited to see where it goes. I think it could be big, as it works and people on both sides of the marketplace get value from it. I love seeing comments like this:

brandon-hiregun sean-smith-hiregun

Today I am grateful. Grateful to have a great life, a wife who supports me, friends and peers in the industry who support me, and a vision for where the product will go.

I’ll likely do a full recap at some point, but today I am happy. We generated some new leads for the awesome HireGun partners, identified some pain points in the business, and ultimately pushed it forward for another day. I can feel the flywhee (via)l start to turn:


In early 2012, I was tired. I had been pushing 80+ hour weeks at work for a while. I found myself unable to be civil to clients or my coworkers. My boss at the time asked me “John, do you need a vacation?”

I did. I took 5 days (a “long weekend”) and went to Colorado with one of my good buddies to go to MountainFilm in Telluride. For those five days, I removed my email clients, Twitter, and Facebook from my phone. Instead, I watched interesting movies about outdoors issues I care about, met some intriguing people, drank awesome beer at the Telluride brewery, and spent time in the mountains hiking and rock climbing. Continue Reading…

The other day I saw Rand Fishkin’s tweet linking to this article that shows that, as Rand says, “evergreen content that ranks beats everything else:”. I am, of course, inclined to agree and because I can’t  keep my mouth shut on topics like this I tweeted this:

Then an interesting discussion happened between myself and Patrick Coombe, who is someone that I respect and value his opinions. He raised the point of nofollow links and how some people still think that there is no (business) value in them. This was the discussion (full tweet discussion here, image below because Twitter’s embedding doesn’t work like I need it to): nofollow-tweets At one point in that discussion I said this, to which Rand replied that now that I’m no longer at a big company, I may think differently:

Obviously I believe that there is business value in high-authority nofollowed links, but I’ve come far away from thinking about links as “followed” or “nofollowed”. So, I am curious as to the rest of you. Do you still think of links as follow/nofollow, or is a link a link?

The poll closes in 2 days and I will publish the results after.

Do you take "nofollow" into account for SEO and promotion of content/your business?

  • If it's a high authority site, I don't care if it's followed or not. (43%, 30 Votes)
  • I think about it, but it doesn't keep me from doing outreach for that links (27%, 19 Votes)
  • No (16%, 11 Votes)
  • Yes (14%, 10 Votes)
  • Yes for links, no for promotion (13%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 70

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I’ve worked with a lot of companies helping out with marketing and growth over the last years. I’ve seen some do it very well. I’ve seen others fail to resource it and therefore they’ve failed to execute.

Here is what executives can do to empower growth teams to do just that – grow the company. Continue Reading…

Recently Paul Graham, a VC and entrepreneur whom I very much respect, wrote a post called Change Your Name in which he argued that a startup should seriously think about changing their name if they are not able to get the “.com” TLD for their brand name. Graham also stated some statistics that are meant to make us think that his position is mostly irrefutable. He said:

100% of the top 20 YC companies by valuation have the .com of their name. 94% of the top 50 do. But only 66% of companies in the current batch have the .com of their name. Which suggests there are lessons ahead for most of the rest, one way or another.

I’d argue that having the .com domain is not the most important thing (and I don’t think that’s what Graham was saying). What’s more important, in my opinion, is consistency. In fact, I’d even argue that not having the .com is missing the forest for the trees. Let’s dig in.

How Many Had Their Now-Brand .com When They Started?

Graham argues that the top 20 YC companies by valuation all have their .com name. They’re also well venture-backed and have the money to pay the previous .com owner *almost* life changing money in order to get the .com for their brand name.

Here are the top 20 YC companies by funding, which we can be pretty confident is also a pretty solid list by valuation. This data came from Mattermark. If someone has a better list by valuation, I’d love to see it. I’ve also taken the liberty of adding their other domain names they’ve owned and have links to (found via a lot of investigation online) (click for bigger version):


Graham is absolutely right that all of the top 20 own their .com. They’ve also raised, at minimum, $52.5M in venture funding.

What Graham failed to mention is that 4 of the top 8 started with a different domain name than what they ended up with. What matters isn’t the .com – what matters is starting and taking over or creating an industry. Also, at least 4 of the top 20, and likely more, own other domain names where they may have started.

Also, remember that Facebook started as thefacebook.com, And if your site is international, you’ll also want to consider buying the ccTLDs. The .com, while most popular, is not always best for building a company in another country. AirBNB takes this approach (insight courtesy SpyOnWeb, h/t Mike King:


Find A Name You Can Dominate

I run HireGun.co, which is a project (business?) I started to connect great companies who are ready to grow with the best marketing consultants in the world who are equipped to take those businesses to the next level. Unfortunately, hiregun.com was taken. This is what that site resolves to:


Hiregun.com also serves a 503 (server error) status code and isn’t even cached.


When you search the exact phrasing of their company, “Hiregun Solutions”, in Google, guess what site shows up?


Here’s another example. Take online marketing agency Distilled (which I worked for in New York City for 2.5 years). Distilled uses the .net domain, aka www.distilled.net. The .com is owned by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and it redirects to 911hoax.com. Check it out:


But check out what ranks for the term “distilled”:


And while it’s a woolly metric, I dare you to try to guess which site has more links (and therefore in the algorithm eyes is more trustworthy). Alright I’ll save you the investigation.

I'm shocked. Not.

I’m shocked. Not.

Why The .Com Might Not Make Sense (At First)

As I’ve shown with the HireGun and Distilled examples, it doesn’t necessarily matter that much what your domain is at least at first. Longterm, when you are more concerned about type-in and other forms of direct traffic, it may behoove you to try to acquire the .com domain. In Distilled’s case, they have tried many times but the owner refuses to let it go. In my case with HireGun, I have no need to have the .com domain right now because it is a small project (albeit one I am investing in) and there is no reason for me to go barter and try to buy the .com when I am not even sure how well the business could scale up. Why waste the money? Pick a name, ship it, and start doing the real work – building a product, marketing that product, and proving out that it’s a viable business model.

I’d also like to point out that a lot of successful companies don’t own the .com for their brand name, or have some permutation of their brand name just to get started. This also carries down to things like Facebook brand page URLs, Twitter handles, and more. Sure, you can use a service like KnowEm to see if all of the important sites on which to have a profile have your brand name available, but in this day and age with so many online companies, so many social media users, and so many domain and social media name squatters, it’ll be hard to find a meaningful name with not one taken.

As one astute Redditor pointed out, depending on who your audience is having something other than the .com might actually help you short term. And it makes no SEO difference:



What’s more important, in my opinion, is consistency. Using HireGun as an example, this is the company presence:

Domain name – hiregun.co

Twitter – @hiregunco (though I am trying to get @hiregun)

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/HireGun

Google+ - https://plus.google.com/+HireGun/

Angel List - https://angel.co/hiregun

I have made a point to get (@/+)HireGun wherever possible, and when possible with a capital H and a capital G to keep the brand consistent as often as possible. I have made the choice to do this because I believe that I can get all of the @/+/hiregun names where needed, because my brand name has essentially no competition. However, if I wanted to be truly consistent across the board, I should get @/+/hiregunco across the board. This is a decision that everyone has to make to keep their brand consistent.

Related read: Jason Calacanis’s point 7 in this post about How To Save Your Startup Money. tl:DR – fake it till you make it.

What Matters Most in Startups

What matters most in startups is traction. When you’re in a new space or working to take down an incumbent, you need to move as fast as possible. You’re shipping product, you’re doing market analysis, you’re testing new growth channels and trying to get that first 500, then 1000, then 10000, then 100,000+ users.

Focusing on something like getting the ;.com is, in my opinion, counter productive. Go after that once you have product-market fit, have a solid revenue model, and aren’t concerned with shutting down your company next month.

So my advice is to find a name that works for your company, buy a sensible version of the domain name, and start working as hard as possible to get traction. Start doing great marketing and building a brand, and it won’t matter at the end of the day what your domain ends up being. And what’s the worst case? You start with a .co and train people to go to it, then you eventually acquire the .com and redirect .co to it. You save all your traffic, customers, and links if you do it right, and you’re already off to the races.

Good luck. I welcome any comments.

I recently read this post entitled The Curse of the Full Stack Marketer. I tweeted a few brief thoughts (a brief rant really) around this post, but now I think it needs a longer treatment. I also realize that there have been a few posts written as follow-ons but I’ve purposefully not read them so as to make this my own thoughts.

I think that there are a few elements at play that make this an interesting and tough topic (especially as someone who feels the tension very personally). Those include:

  1. The rockstar problem
  2. The meritocracy problem
  3. The individual vs manager dilemma
  4. The small vs big company challenges and differences

Let’s unpack each.
Continue Reading…

I don’t often write about technical SEO issues anymore on this site, but I have over time often come across questions about when it is best to use a 301 vs a 302 vs a canonical tag on duplicate content. I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about each in depth with the pros and cons of each, as well as a few examples of when to use them. Continue Reading…

I’ve often been asked about guest posting for SEO purposes. I always said that it was less than ideal, but when at an agency I couldn’t really say that it shouldn’t be done.

After being in-house for a year and a half now, I’m putting my stake in the ground.

I do not think that enterprises should be guest posting for SEO purposes.

Before we get going, allow me to draw a distinction between “amplification”, which is spreading the word about content you’ve produced or something you’ve launched, sometimes via guest contribution, and “guest posting ” as most SEO’s think of it, where you write content specifically for a site for the purposes of a link that hopefully will pass some link equity.

Here is why I think “guest posting for SEO” for enterprises is a waste of time and better-used resources. Continue Reading…

I am a voracious reader, which is hilarious because when I was younger and bored, my mom would say “Read a book!” to which I always lamented “But reading is boring.” How we change.

May was no exception to me reading a lot, and actually I read a lot more in May than I have most other months recently. Part of that was due to a cross-country trip in which I had a lot of plane time to read, but I also think that May was an exceptionally good month for good writing.

Here are the articles and books I read in May that I found really impactful. Continue Reading…