Building A Brand: Update on Kayaking.org

In case you missed it, I’ve been spending that last few months re-launching Kayaking.org and turning it into one of the top kayaking sites online. Building a brand is much more than putting-up a website – it involves putting-together all of the components that make an online business successful. I think this is where most people go wrong when they launch a new site. If you want your website to be more than just a website then you need to build a brand.

A good brand starts with a good domain name. This is where we as Domainers win. Sure, you don’t need a good domain name to build a brand, icanhascheezburger.com is a very strong online brand despite having a good domain name. They won with great content and a compelling concept. As Domainers we all have tons of great, easy to remember domains that would be the perfect starting-point for a brand. This is what initially drew me to Kayaking.org – I thought that it really did sound like the online hub for all things Kayaking. Since Kayakers tend to be more down to earth folks I thought that the .org extension also made a lot of sense.

When I first built-out Kayaking.org in 2008 I just put-together a five page mini-site and thought the traffic would start rolling-in. Well it didn’t. With a term as competitive as “kayaking” I had to go a step further – I had to build a brand. It’s been an exciting and time-consuming process but in the end the results are very rewarding, and I’m still just scratching the surface.

The first thing I did to get the brand started was develop a full-scale website with detailed articles and an easy to use directory and trip report system. When most people are searching for “kayaking” online they are usually looking to either buy kayaking gear or find a place to kayak in their area. By allowing users to generate this content I can allow my visitors to contribute to the site and help make it an even more valuable resource.

I have also made Twitter a central part of my strategy and offer a “Twitter Picture of the Week” on the site. The more ways that I can help people interact with the site and use it as a resource the stronger my brand becomes. If someone has a good experience on my site and shares it with their followers on Twitter this can dramatically help grow my brand.

Of course running a brand means running a business, and businesses need people to scale. I have someone that is now working part-time for me emailing Kayaking stores and adding them to the directory. When we email the stores we not only provide a brief description of the site and it’s goals but also include a nice PDF file that explains in more detail the impact that Kayaking.org is trying to make online. (If you’d like a copy of this PDF just shoot me an email, I’m happy to share it)

Every store we contact also gets a small badge to add to their site that says “Recommended by Kayaking.org” This is a great way to build a brand because it costs you nothing and related sites can provide valuable backlinks that both build the brand and help improve my search rankings. Initially stores are provided with a completely free listing in the directory with the option to add upgraded features. We are emailing just about every Kayaking store in the country so it really will be the largest kayaking store directory online!

So I’ve got the content, social media, directory, interactive features, good domain – all of these are essential features of an online brand. However the buck doesn’t stop there, having a good logo is very important and an area I feel that Kayaking.org has been lacking for a while. I recently hired a logo designer to create a new logo for the brand, please take a look at the three options below and let me know which you like the best:

(click to enlarge)

This year I’ve made a clear change in direction within my own business. I’ve talked about this change on my blog, at conferences, on the phone, and in person. The change is a move-away from trying to develop every domain I have and instead focusing on turning a few key domains into brands. In the end this won’t take any more time, it will just require a redistribution of my time so that more of my efforts are spent on a single brand rather than the launching of 20 new ones!

At the end of the day I’d much rather have ten sites making $1,000/month than 100 sites making $10/month. Sure, both strategies get you to the same place but in the end I’d rather have ten fully established online brands than 100 mini-sites. Each one of these brands also has the potential to make far more than $1,000/month but the key here is focus. To get better focus you have to realize that you can’t do it all. I knew I had to directly reach-out to Kayaking stores but I didn’t have the time myself, so I hired someone to do it. I know that the logo I designed for the site just didn’t look as professional as I wanted, so I hired someone to do it.

In the end your brand should turn-into a business, with staff that more than pay for themselves and visitors that make your site part of their daily routine. Forget automation and rapid development, auto-blogs and a quick path to riches, I’m running a business that is doubling it’s revenue this year (vs. 2009) and I’m not doing it selling domains, I’m doing it building brands.

{ 20 comments… add one }

  • TeenDomainer November 17, 2010, 8:30 am

    Thanks for the update Morgan I am in the process now of building out a few of my sites into online brands. Could you send me that email pdf? Thanks

    Reply
  • Vexicore Media November 17, 2010, 9:53 am

    I have been following your development of Kayaking.org since 2009. Since I am fairly new to domaining, I am always looking for stories on how other sdevelop their domains into either and affiliate site or an online brand. Following your updates in the development of Kayaking.org has inspired me to develop some of my online sites into online brands. Also can you email me a copy of the PDF?

    Reply
  • Anthony Hanner November 17, 2010, 10:21 am

    Thanks for the post, Morgan. I believe building well developed sites into brands is a great avenue to take.

    As far as the logos, it would depend on the header. If you plan to keep the same header, I think the first one works well.

    If you plan to change the header design as well…it is always good to go with an active shot for a sports or recreation domain…so I like #2.

    I look forward to seeing all the changes when done…be sure to post.

    Reply
  • Grant November 17, 2010, 10:34 am

    Morgan,

    I like the first logo artwork, but not the font.

    You left out a zero in your example, it would be 1000 sites at $10 instead of 100 sites. Just wanted to let you know

    Reply
  • PFD November 17, 2010, 11:58 am

    Hi Morgan,

    I like the second logo as well.

    Reply
  • Sammy Ashouri November 17, 2010, 12:18 pm

    Morgan–the links in the footer aren’t working. I’m getting a server error after I click on them. Just wanted to let you know!

    Design #2 😉

    Reply
  • Leonard Britt November 17, 2010, 1:27 pm

    I’ll agree it is more rewarding to focus your development efforts on a few domains which interest you and which have greater potential than having hundreds of minisites on topics you aren’t really that interested in. I’m still trying to do everything myself so the ad sales side has suffered.

    Interesting that you are providing free directory listings. How do you plan to upgrade those potential paid clients? Keep us posted on the site’s progress.

    Oh I prefer the logo where you actually see a person kayaking but I believe the .ORG part should be bolded for emphasis and the color of the person should perhaps be a dark bluish color.

    Reply
  • Ratzo November 17, 2010, 1:29 pm

    Morgan, great post. Can you share your pdf with me, my email is this comment. Thanks in advance

    Reply
  • Steve November 17, 2010, 2:50 pm

    “Oh I prefer the logo where you actually see a person kayaking but I believe the .ORG part should be bolded for emphasis”

    Exactly what I was thinking, .org just a bit bolder on #2.
    #2 passes the “billboard” test. – Which one is the easiest to see driving by a billboard at 60 mph. #2.
    Best Regards.

    Reply
  • Iain Taylor November 17, 2010, 2:52 pm

    Hi Morgan,

    Great post – I am in process of getting some logos created at the moment will share with you soon.

    I like logo option 2 – there is more activity going on but agree with Anthony that it depends on the extent of your header redesign. You could adjust logo option 2 by moving the kayaking picture to the left of the domain itself. It would then work on your current header without needing too many further changes.

    Hope this helps.
    Cheers
    Iain

    Reply
  • Will November 17, 2010, 4:32 pm

    Bravo with your decision to focus on building brands with fewer sites. I liked the strategy you espoused in your free ebook (build lots of small sites), but intuitively, it makes sense to pour your energies into a smaller number of sites vs. juggling and managing hundreds of mini-sites. Will you update your free ebook to reflect your new strategy?

    Re. the logos… I like #2.

    Reply
  • Alex November 17, 2010, 10:32 pm

    Hello from Russia

    I was reading your blog long time. And i like your strategy to develop domains instead of parking, and develop large sites. My favorite from logos is number 2 , it brings an idea of site – kayaking as a process, a style of life.

    Just want to ask one question. What CMS (or frawemork) you are using to build mini-sites or sites like kayaking.org?

    Most domainers here in Russia using Joomla, but it is a bit heavy for mini-site.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Morgan November 18, 2010, 8:05 am

      Hi @Alex – thanks for your comment and the kind words! I generally do not use any CMS for my sites – about 90% of my properties were hand-written in HTML/CSS by myself 🙂

      What do you think of the new IDN of .ru – is it going to be the new standard in Russia?

      Reply
  • Thuy LeDinh November 18, 2010, 8:20 am

    Enjoyed and appreciated your blog. So much so that I will feature your site on our home page for the weekly “Favorite .ORG” from December 6 to 12.

    Re. Logos, #2 is best, but the .ORG is lost being that small, and since you’re doing it with 4-colors, why not make the guy green or another color instead of black?

    Reply
    • Morgan November 18, 2010, 9:04 am

      Thanks @Thuy – appreciate the kind words and I am honored to be featured on your home page!!

      Great feedback about the logo too!

      Reply
  • Alex November 18, 2010, 9:25 pm

    Hello, Morgan.

    Hand-writing ia s big job 🙂 But your sites (kayaking as an example) compares favorably to the site templates in CMS

    As for me – hand writing is a bit tought for me because after creating site you need to update it regulary with news or other content. And this part of work is easier when you have administrator panel, like in many CMS.

    About new IDN .ru (you mean .РФ ?) – imho, even if he becomes the new standard, it would take a very long time. Many organizations now purchasing such domains and simply link them to the basic RU domain.

    One of the biggest problems, why this new IDN would not become new standart in near futura, is that you can’t type new domain name if you have no russian layout on keyboard. Try to type магазин.рф for example 🙂

    And this means that such sites loose visitors from Non-russia, russian tourists, and many others. That’s why, imho, old .ru domain will stay attractive for most people in Russia.

    Anyway, time will show who is right 🙂 Cybersquotters (and some of registrants) already took best names, and i never been squotter – most of my sites i develop from new domains, some sites living on backordered domains.

    Morgan, i have qestion too. Is it profitable enough to develop english-language site?

    For example, my russian-language sites bring me about 0,1-0,15 usd per click, and with average 1,4% CTR i earn about 50-70 USD from site in month (Adsense)

    But i have no information – is it worth to start and develop english-language domain, how much can it bring to me and how can i take profit from it?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Morgan November 19, 2010, 9:22 am

      Thanks @Alex – very true, content writing is a big job. This is the #1 expense in my business, I put the most of my money each month into paying people to write content for me.

      Also thanks for the insight on .ru – it will be interesting to see where this goes.

      You can absolutely make money with English-language sites but I’m not sure about the .ru extension. I would stay as far away from Adsense as you can and focus on where you can really make money, affiliate products, lead generation, and direct advertising.

      Reply
  • @chrisco November 20, 2010, 11:49 am

    Logo feedback appreciated here, too: http://highstranger.com/logo

    Reply
  • Rob Rutstein November 26, 2010, 7:37 pm

    Hey Morgan,
    Great job on the website. I follow your blog, and really enjoy when you share many of the “behind the scenes” details on your domain development & strategies. I like logo #2 for kayaking.org. Would you mind sharing the logo designers name? I have a local water sports themed site that could really use a logo for “branding” the web site as well. If it’s OK to share, check out http://www.LoxahatcheeRiver.net — I started a basic kayaking page under the “sports” header, maybe we could do a link exchange. I would be happy to display the “recommended by kayaking.org” badge. Please send a copy of the PDF — Thanks!

    Reply
    • Morgan November 29, 2010, 1:47 pm

      Thanks for the comment @Rob – yes I used Logo Nerds, only costs $27/logo – great price and good quality!

      Reply

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