I Spent $35,000 on a “Typo Domain.” Good or Bad Investment?

After spending an “unreasonable” amount of cash on a typo domain six months ago, here’s my ROI and the lessons learned.

I Spent $35,000 on a “Typo Domain.” Good or Bad Investment?
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My Experience

One of the most powerful lessons I learned after spending $35,000 on testimonial.io and $900 on testimonials.to (a typo and a plural version of my primary domain testimonial.to) is this:
The best you can do to see substantial growth in your startup is to develop your own growth hacks.
In March of 2022, Joe Speiser posted a Twitter thread that mentioned my startup, Testimonial, and it went viral.
Unfortunately for me, Joe misspelled our domain, so we got zero traffic from the tweet. 😅
Shocked by the brutal fact of missing such a great opportunity, I decided to stop any future traffic leaks like this.
If customers frequently type the wrong domain, it’s not their fault. It’s my fault of not owning it 🤦‍♂️
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I made this reasoning and calculations and concluded that buying the .io typo domain was an excellent investment, even if I had to pay $35,000.
I just needed to bring in six customers annually to make it worth it at the valuation level.
Last September, I secured both domains and started to validate my hypothesis.
I was happy with my investment and excited to see it develop.
But to my surprise, I received quite some negative feedback from the Hacker News community.
The comments varied from arguments that attempted to disarm my logic to sarcastic recommendations of how those $35,000 would have been better spent and more.
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The reality is that from your mom to unsolicited advice online to gurus trying to sell your info products or consulting services, everyone will try to tell you how to grow your startup.
However, the lesson is clear: you know your startup better than anyone else, so you must take charge of its growth.
Most of the time, making sound business decisions will be tough because going against popular opinion and the accepted marketing techniques is fighting the status quo.
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It may even feel lonely, but you need to persevere.
“Why on earth would you want to experiment? Isn’t that very risky?”
Listen to me - nothing will pay off better than growth hacking your own way to success.
Copy-pasting “the newest” marketing shortcut to model other “successful” companies, is a hit-or-miss strategy.
Don’t get me wrong. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time to test a marketing hack on your business.
What you need to avoid is:
  • Replicating other startups’ approaches to growth from A to Z without really considering your actual needs
  • Going from trend to trend and trying to always stick with the latest hack, just for the sake of it
  • Stop questioning your marketing strategy and settle with the industry standard
Growth hacking is not about trying anything and everything to go viral.
Don’t be this founder: It’s more about understanding your product, your target users, and their coexistence with the market and daring to try things that could speed up your results.
You will need to ideate crazy things, get inspiration online, and create your own plans, but if you are persistent, it will work.

What Happened to the 35K Investment? Was It Profitable?

After a few months of owning testimonial.io and testimonials.to, I am so proud to share that I’ve made $40,880 from the typo traffic alone.
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8,464 visitors came from the .io domain; 82 of them got converted.
4,134 visitors came from the testimonials plural domain; 31 of them got converted.
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You can find the full breakdown here 👇
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I want to give a shoutout to Rewardful. I used it to track all the traffic and conversions from different typo domains. All the above screenshots are from my Rewardful account.
Our typo-domain “affiliate” now literally becomes the most successful affiliate for Testimonial of all time.
I didn’t have to:
  • Work more on SEO
  • Hire new staff
  • Pay additional affiliate commissions
  • Run paid ad campaigns
  • Create content hoping it would go viral
All I had to do was use Rewardful to track traffic and conversions from different typo domains.
How much extra revenue will these domains generate for Testimonial in the coming months and years?
I am excited to see it!

Other Startups Who Hacked Growth Using Typo Domains

This growth hacking experiment turned out to be more profitable than I expected, but I definitely wasn’t the first one to try it.

Pieter Levels & RemoteOK

After six years of negotiation, @levelsio paid $102,000 to move his remote job board RemoteOK from a .io LTD to a .com as the main domain.
His decision and backing reasoning attracted a lot of Twitter hater commenters, too.
However, Pieter’s tweet and numbers wrapped up the conversation reasonably well in his favor:

David Park & Jenni

@davidjpark96 spent $20k on jenny.ai, a typo domain for his startup Jenni (jenni.ai.)
These were his results after two months 🤩
People were amazed at David’s genius. Others called it good timing or even luck.
He humbly said this about what triggered his investment:

More Well-Known Ways to Growth Hack Traffic

Using a typo domain is just one in thousands of existing hacks (and many more that are yet to be invented.)
I've learned about these well-known growth hacking cases online through the years (just to name a few.)

Airbnb “Hacking” Craigslist

We know Airbnb as a tech giant and an iconic unicorn, but in its humble origins, things weren’t as fancy as they are today 😜
It’s interesting how they tremendously increased their traffic by leveraging Craigslist’s user base by doing two things:
  • Post their home and apartment listings on Craigslist with just partial details, followed by a link to the listing on their own site. People had to visit their site for complete details about an attractive accommodation.
  • Contact people renting properties through Craigslist so they would put their listings on Airbnb too. They eventually coded a program that would do this automatically to engage with hundreds of property owners per day.
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Hubspot & Free Tools

After starting operations in 2006 with three paying customers, Hubspot closed in 2023 with $1.73 billion in revenue and more than 120,000 users.
Dharmesh, CTO of HubSpot, and his team created many free tools in the early days of HubSpot. One of the most famous tools is the website grader. It helped people check their webpage speed and SEO. To run the website grader, users have to give their emails which helps HubSpot collect tons of leads into their sales funnel. It’s all inbound without having to spend too much time and money.
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Even today, Dharmesh is still coding new tools. The most recent one is called ChatSpot, powered by ChatGPT. You should check it out 👇

Final Thoughts

There are no rules here. That’s why they call it growth hacking.
I hope my experience and the examples I included here can inspire you to start doing something unique in your startup, even new and different things that don’t seem scalable.
Only by iterating, testing, and experimenting will you get outcomes different than the average.
Thanks for reading this far. I may do another update about this typo domain (or not?), but if you are interested in following my journey feel free to connect via Twitter 🙌

Written by

Damon Chen
Damon Chen

Founder of Testimonial