GoDaddy execs comment on WordPress and the domain aftermarket.

GoDaddy (NYSE: GDDY) released Q4 2018 and full-year earnings yesterday and held its investor conference call.

Two things in the call stood out to me.

First, the company discussed continued progress on GoCentral and its growth in managed WordPress.

GoCentral is GoDaddy’s homegrown website builder. It’s designed to be extremely easy for any type of business to start a website. I’ve tested the product and it’s definitely an easy way for a restaurant, mechanic, or any of hundreds of other types of businesses to create a web presence quickly and without the help of a developer.

On the call, GoDaddy CEO Scott Wagner noted, “Our Managed WordPress offering automates the entire process of starting and maintaining a secure WordPress website, which saves our customers literally hours of work, frustration and distraction.”

Later, in response to an analyst’s question, he said (quoted from SeekingAlpha transcript):

The biggest issues with WordPress, if you are working and using on it, are plug-in maintenance and overall security and just the level of time and attention that it takes to actually run that. Look, our managed platform, managed WordPress platform, totally automates and simplifies that process and we are making it easier and easier and easier. And so the feature improvement is both security layer, but more importantly, on app plug-in and theme updates to just make it super easy for performance and reliability. So I think you are seeing it not just for pros, but also for pros handing sites like that off to individuals or small businesses that are managing it for themselves.

I think that starting a WordPress website is something in which GoDaddy really shines. It uses onboarding wizards similar to GoCentral to get you started quickly. I’ve used WordPress since 2005 and, despite all the improvements in the platform, still find it hard to spin up a site with a good design. It’s much, much easier with GoDaddy.

Wagner noted that GoDaddy is now the largest host of paid WordPress instances.

One future opportunity for GoDaddy is to help companies make the leap from GoCentral to managed WordPress. GoCentral is a good product and will meet many companies’ needs. Over time, though, they might want to get the flexibility of WordPress. It would be very powerful to have a one-click migration from CoCentral to managed WordPress.

Dreamhost is doing this to a degree with its Remixer product. Remixer is a much simpler website builder, though.

The other thing on the call that caught my attention was CFO Ray Winborne’s comment on the domain aftermarket:

For the first quarter, we expect revenue of $705 million to $715 million, representing 11% to 13% growth versus the first quarter of 2018, as we began to lap the gains from changes in merchandising of aftermarket domain sales in early 2018.

This reconfirms that GoDaddy saw a marked improvement to aftermarket domain sales when it changed how it presented premium domains in domain search results. At NamesCon this year, GoDaddy GM Paul Nicks said conversions increased 30% with this change. It apparently had a material impact on GoDaddy’s revenue. I think there’s other low-hanging fruit here that GoDaddy can tap in 2019.

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