Do You Have A Real Long Term Domaining Plan?

When I started in the Domaining world back in 2007 I thought that buying a bunch of domain names meant having a good long-term plan. I quickly learned that most of what I bought was junk and didn’t represent an investment at all, in fact they quickly became liabilities. At the same time I also started developing domains like crazy, initially some started making good money and others just sat there blowing in the wind. I learned that not every niche monetized well and that high search volume can also mean considerably more work when it comes to development and SEO.

By the end of 2008 I dropped about 600 domain names, these were all names that I registered with high hopes but quickly learned they were not in niches that had much potential. This is probably the hardest thing for new Domainers to do and unfortunately something that many people put-off until 2-3 years down the road.

I dropped those names and literally cut my portfolio in half because I had one big realization – long term success in Domaining is all about traffic. You can get traffic two ways in the Domaining world, direct navigation or organic search. If you look at the trends direct navigation is down and organic search is up and in a major way. The decline in type-in traffic along with erosion of PPC has left many Domainers in the place they are now – with a large collection of domains but little long-term plan.

While you may have thought at one point that owning a portfolio of domains is a good long-term plan, without traffic you really just have a nice collection of names, each with the potential to get traffic. However you can’t take potential to the bank, but you can take traffic to the bank. The nice thing about traffic is that it represents both a long and short-term plan however if you’re relying only on direct navigation then you are focusing on a dwindling source.

Search traffic is growing every day and with the incredible proliferation of smart phones mobile search is now a big part of the market. Even if you have a domain that gets plenty of type-in traffic we all know you could get much more with a great ranking in the search engines. Remember, that exact-match domain will help with SEO but it’s never going to show-up in the search engines if it’s parked. Think of a domain like Laptop.com – it is parked and even though the domain is an incredible generic, it can’t be found on the first page of Google so misses out on hundreds of thousands of potential visitors per month – that’s traffic lost!

Domains with traffic and revenue can be sold at any time, the liquidity is there because the traffic is there. The #1 way to drive traffic to your domains is to develop them and reap the benefits of organic search paired with an exact match domain. A long term strategy in Domaining (and the one that many of the early Domainers focused on) is buying domains with traffic. Initially this was type-in traffic but with the incredible growth of search organic traffic exact-match domains now represent a clear path to traffic.

Just about 90% of the domains I’ve purchased had no traffic when I bought them. I now have over 160 domains with traffic. How did I do it? Rather than just parking my names and hoping for the revenue to come I got proactive and developed my domains. I didn’t use a mass development system, instead I just used good ol’ Notepad and HTML coupled with good graphic design and excellent content. This year I’ve found my traffic has increased dramatically and with it my revenue, at any point if I want to sell a domain I can email a list of buyers that I already know want revenue names. Sites like Flippa also make it easier to turn your domain + website into cash.

Either way the rules of Domaining haven’t changed much – traffic is still king, it’s how you get the traffic that is changing. Development is the key to long-term success in the Domaining space. Think of each of your names as the potential to capture a segment of traffic, the more domains you have the more access to traffic you can enjoy. However don’t rush it, start by finding a winning model and then replicate that. I don’t think that rapid development or building everything out at once is the right idea. Heck it took me 3 years to build-out 150 domains, many mass development platforms can do 15,000 domains in under an hour.

So now it’s time to look at your portfolio and ask yourself, “Do I have a real long term plan?”

If your plan is to constantly email potential leads to see if they will buy your domain or list your site on every sales and auction site you can find, is that really something you want to do long-term? A long term plan means liquidity now and liquidity later. Unless the world completely changes traffic will always represent a path to money online. 2011 is just a few weeks away if you’re in this for the long haul it’s time to start or continue developing and building traffic and revenue to your domains.

I don’t spend my day emailing potential buyers or listing my names for sale on auction sites, to me this is a process I don’t see as successful or fun in the long-term. Now my focus is on one thing and one thing only – traffic.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • adinfinite December 17, 2010, 9:27 am

    Great article Morgan. Just this week I decided to focus on building out sites in the investing/trading niche as that is what I know. I have a financial background and the one site that I built in this niche gets the most traffic by far. In fact I got an email from a company this week that actually offered to pay me mid $XXX per month to put a banner on the site and even asked if I had similar sites with similar traffic numbers! That made me realize that I need to focus on what I know. For the last two years I have been all over the place buying all sorts of names and trying to flip and develop minisites. Now I will focus and build out a network of sites around my passion. In fact, starting today I am selling off non-core names so I can raise funds to buy more names in my niche. In fact, if you dont mind Morgan, I wanna make a shameless plug for http://www.onlinecompetitions.co.uk it has great exact search numbers and I am selling it for $250. I once had a $2k offer but the guy disappeared mid negotioations. LOL.

    Reply
  • Leonard Britt December 17, 2010, 10:12 am

    Interesting your analogy about the parked .COM getting only a small percentage of the search traffic for that keyword. Actually the parked domain gets a very small percentage because it not only misses out on the exact search volume but the phrase search volume as well. I have one site which doesn’t even rank on page one of Google for the primary keyword but site traffic is about 70% of the exact search volume because it ranks for a number of long-tail search phrases. Perhaps a domain’s potential might be approximated by the phrase search volume and one’s “market share” is the traffic relative to the phrase search volume (traffic monetization is a separate issue). Being #1 on Google for every domain in one’s portfolio is not realistic but parked alt TLD domains do fall far short of their potential. I will agree with you that I don’t enjoy sending out emails to potential buyers. One does need to continually evaluate one’s portfolio – brandable .COMs with zero search volume do sell as long as one is realistic with price. However, I have sold very few brandable domains in alt TLDs so as renewals come up I am being a bit more strict than in prior years with alt TLD domains.

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  • Attila December 18, 2010, 6:15 am

    I am glad you wrote this Morgan. I felt the same way when I started getting deep into domain acquisitions early 2009. Buy, buy, buy and hoping one day I will have a plan. Well, after about a year and half of non stop buying, I stopped being the drug (errr, domain) addict and started making plans. I believe I owe it mostly to you Morgan, when we had that conversation “so whats your goals with all your domains” that you made me think all while we were fighting for that last piece of sushi in Hong Kong.

    The past 6 months I spent coming to Philippines to do market research, get an office, renovate office (its really kickass Morgan, will send you photos later) and build up an amazing team of programmers, designers, writers, marketers and more. I can say confidently that 2011 is going to be an amazing year.

    By the way, Happy Holidays Morgan! Lets catch up sometime, its been a while…

    Reply
    • Morgan December 21, 2010, 8:35 am

      Thanks for the kind words @Attila – means a lot! You are doing everything right – can’t wait to visit you in the Philippines! 🙂

      Reply
  • Attila December 24, 2010, 12:40 am

    Hey man, can’t wait for you to come out also. I found a sushi place where we can continue the battle for the last piece of sushi roll :-p

    Might be coming out to west coast early 2011, though will let you know if more when things are settled (stream lined) in both China and Philippines…

    Reply

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