Domain Development is quickly becoming one of the hottest topics in Domaining. Of course by domain development I mean website development, the process of putting a website onto your domain. Back in 2007 I was developing my domains by hand using good old notepad and Photoshop, I was also my own content writer, marketing manager, etc. A bit like a one man development band I was pumping out websites for many of the domains that I was buying. In the end I built out over 350 websites of which over 200 are still operational today.
What I learned through this experience was that development wasn’t the hard part, getting traffic to the name and then converting that traffic to money, that was the hard part. Now it’s easier than ever to put a website on your domain name thanks to platforms like WordPress that take all the complexity out of building a site. The problem is, most domain and website investors expect the traffic to come pouring in just because they have a good website with good content. Sorry, but that’s just not enough, I know and believe me I tried!
The biggest lesson that I learned building all these websites was that every niche is different, and every set of keywords has a different set of competitors. Trying to use one strategy to build up traffic and generate revenue across a group of sites won’t cut it. With every single brand that you build you need to look at who owns the above-the-fold space in Google and figure out what they did to get there. If the front page is filled with brands that have multi-million dollar advertising and SEO budgets, and your budget is $2,500 set your expectations low.
This was lesson number two for me. If you want to build a site that makes $1,000/month don’t expect to build it for $1,000 or $2,000, or even $3,000. If anyone could pay $1,000 and make $12,000/year nobody would work. The payment you’ll need to make is either time or money. When I started my business I spent about twenty hours each weekend working on some of my top sites. I was giving up my time rather than my money and while I had no free time, I was making good money!
Building a great website, whether you are using WordPress or not, will take time. You have to decide whether you want this to be your time, or if you’d like to exchange someone else’s time for money so your time can be spent doing something else. Of course this lead to lesson #3, I didn’t want to spend my time building websites, I wanted to be more strategic and the money was coming in, so I used part of the profits to pay someone else to run the site. This immediately changed my life as I went from a self employed model to a business.
Okay so now you (or your new web guy) put a great website on your domain. You have some nice fresh content, a great-looking logo, and the exact match domain to match, life is good right? Well only if you already have type-in traffic coming to your domain. If you were already making $1,000 or more a month parking you could start generating revenue right away, but for everyone without type-in traffic (which is most people reading this), now comes the really hard part.
Ranking well for competitive, high CPC terms in Google is not easy. Yes, building a website has become easier than ever but ranking well for competitive terms is harder than ever. So you have a great insurance name, or an amazing debt-related name, the term has high search volume and a great CPC. What might look like a gold mine could turn into a money pit as it can get very expensive paying an SEO firm to build up your ranking over time.
But can’t you just do the SEO yourself? In short, no.
Sorry I don’t mean to be blunt here but this leads me to lesson #4, don’t do your own SEO unless you have a track record getting sites ranked on the first page of Google for competitive terms. If you want to learn SEO, awesome, that’s a great thing, pick a test site and go nuts, but don’t expect great results. SEO professionals spend an incredible amount of time doing nothing but SEO, they’re the best at it and any good SEO will tell you, it’s not something you can pick up and master in 3-6 months.
This is where I see most Domainers fail when it comes to development. I get a few emails a week from Domainers that say something along the lines of
“I read your blog and found out about WordPress development. I have built five sites on my domains but none are making money, what am I doing wrong?”
I respond to each of these the same way, “How much traffic is the site getting?”
Usually the answer is “I don’t know” which usually means a big whopping zero visitors/month. Monetization is tied directly to traffic, the more traffic you have, the more money you can make. You need to generate at least a few thousand visitors a month to really generate any kind of meaningful revenue for a site.
So what does this mean for Domainers that want to put websites on their domains? It means you need to be realistic with yourself. Solutions like WordPress do mean that you can now put a great website on your domains without having to hire a developer. If your domain is already getting nice consistent traffic this might be all you need, but if you don’t have any meaningful traffic coming to your site the hard part is still ahead. Take the time to learn your niche, understand who your competitors are and what it might take to rank well in the space.
Also unless you have a huge SEO budget avoid niches like Insurance, Debt, Credit Cards, etc. They may all have great CPCs but the players in these markets have huge budgets and own the space, to compete you’ll need some serious funds and it’s definitely not something you could tackle on your nights and weekends.
This leads me to lesson #5 and possibly my most important lesson. Decide where you want to spend your time being tactical and where you want to spend your time being strategic. For me since I was building a Domaining business, not a website development business, I needed to pay other people to be tactical and build the site. If you spend your time learning HTML and CSS, or your nights and weekends are spent setting up the perfect WordPress site, how much time is spent working on your Domaining business?
You can’t do it all, building a website on a domain and watching that site turn into a real revenue-generating brand is an incredible feeling. Just know that it takes a lot more than building a site, that’s the easy part. Be honest with yourself and you’ll find your goals will become much more realistic. Last but certainly not least, build something you would use yourself, build something you are proud of and passionate about, that’s where the best sites come from.