RootOrange co-presidents Frank Langston and Camilo Acosta have developed a business model and a technology that lets small business owners across the country use the same domain name and URL based on location.
The technology relies on the IP address of the browser that the consumer uses to search for the company name in their area on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other engines. Based on the Web browser's IP address and other technology, RootOrange serves up the Web page of the local business leasing the name.
The technology points RootOrange's servers to the correct local business that leased the domain and serves up the Web page in an i-frame.
Camilo points to an "oversight in the structure" of the Internet that makes the technology and service possible. "It's a development in the Internet that got skipped, never happened," he says. "We saw the gap and now we're making it happen."
RootOrange officially launches this week at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, with the URL Attorney.com, but owns about 3,000 domain names. If the requested domain isn't in the company's inventory it will partner with the person or the company that owns it.
The top legal keyword, Attorney, generates more than 1.8 million monthly searches in the United States alone, Acosta says. Law firms and individual attorneys, in any metropolitan area, can now grab their share of exclusive local traffic.
For small businesses that don't want to spend the money or can't afford to pay thousands of dollars to buy a generic Web name, this lets the company lease the name along with dozens of other businesses across the country by going to RootOrange's Web site, finding the name and signing up.
"There have been studies that show online consumers tend to click on ads that contain generic domain names up to 60% more than ads that don't use generic domain names," Acosta says.
Businesses can also use the generic domain name in display or paid-click ads. When running an AdWords paid-search ad, for example, marketers simply target a specific area, such as Baltimore. Anytime someone clicks on that ad using a generic domain name, RootOrange will know to route the person who clicked on the ad to the correct local site.
Camilo views the service as an alternative to going without or choosing a name that is less than optimal for the business. Many of the best generic domain names were acquired during the early days of the Internet by legitimate businesses or domain squatters. Now, small businesses that missed the bandwagon can't afford to pay the thousands of dollars sometimes required to develop a successful branding and marketing strategy.
As for Camilo and Langston, a $35,000 prize from entering a tech competition at Princeton University where the two graduated, along with a seed round of financing, got the business rolling. Both also come from entrepreneurial families.
Now the two are off to the SXSW conference in Texas this week to compete in a Microsoft competition. Their Web technology has been chosen as a finalist in the 2010 Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator contest.