Domain Development 101

I’ve been writing about Domain Development on my blog for years now and while I’ve talked about my own development projects, I’ve never done a basic “Domain Development 101” post…so here it is!

Before I get-into my process for development I’d like to talk about the term, Domain Development. This term has become quite general and really just means having any kind of website on your domain name. In my mind this is just basic Website Development taking place on a domain name. Since putting a website on a domain name is far from a new thing I’d like to create my own definition for this heavily used term.

Morgan’s Definition of Domain Development: For me, Domain Development means putting a business on a domain name. It’s more than just building a website and adding a few articles, it’s about coming-up with a comprehensive strategy to turn your domain name into a real revenue-generating business.

So when I talk about Domain Development I’m not going to talk just about building a website, I’m also going to talk about branding, marketing, and of course – sales. All of these are components of the Domain Development process that often get overlooked yet I feel are so critical to success. Just think about it, when we talk about owning a Domain Name we often think of owning an online brand. Developing this domain means actually developing the brand itself – you have the name, now it’s time to build the business!

I have divided the Domain Development Process into five steps:

1. Understand your Market: Before you start building anything, make sure you know how big your market is. If only ten people in the world are searching for what your business is offering, is it really worth building the business? Use the Google Adword Keyword Tool to check the search volume for the keyword phrases you are targeting. I recommend checking the box for “Exact Match” and looking at the number of local searches. I usually draw the line at around 500 (and this number has changed for me over the years), this is a good baseline but it can also be useful to check the related keywords to make sure they have some search volume as well. Don’t overlook these keywords as your business should rank well for more than one keyword phrase which means you’ll want to look at the traffic you could get from 3-5 keyword phrases search traffic combined.

gakt2. Monetization Options: Once you have validated that you have a market you’ll need to determine how to make money in that market. I’ve found the easiest way to understand what your options are is to look at what other people are doing. You can simply type the keyword phrase you are targeting (or your domain exactly matches) into the search box and take a look at the site above the fold. What are they doing to make money? Are they selling eBooks? Do they have Google AdSense everywhere? Are they leveraging a specific affiliate program? After looking at a few samples you should have a good idea about how other people are making money in the niche, now you have to decide how you will make money.

Remember, this is your business so you get to make the tough decisions. Make sure you really take the time to understand what your options are and the best solution for your site. If you are thinking of using an affiliate program, get the stats, make sure you understand how what the average conversion ratio is, how successful other publishers are with it, etc. Take all the code snippets for your banners, eBooks, Ad Sense or whatever option(s) you’ve decided and put them together in one file. You can use this file when you’re building your site to easily add-in your monetization options.

I highly recommend OfferVault for finding great affiliate programs or CPA offers. This affiliate search engine can help you quickly identify great ways to monetize visitors within your niche.

offer_vault

3. Logo: Every business needs a logo, period. Gone are the days when getting a logo designed costs $500 or more. There are great ways to get a custom-designed logo made for your business at very reasonable prices. A logo makes your brand look professional and increases trust and comfort with your visitors. Let’s face it, people are sick of parking pages, and most parking pages often just have the company name or domain listed at the top of the screen.

To get a logo made for under $30 I highly recommend LogoNerds. They make great-looking custom logos for $27 which really takes price out of the equation. I’ve used LogoNerds for over a year now after having mixed results with logo designers on oDesk and eLance. For me I’m all about reliability and LogoNerds hasn’t let me down yet! There are plenty of other great services out there for making logos but the point here is simple, if you’re doing Domain Development, you need to have a logo.

logonerds_site

4. Development Platform: So you know your market, understand how to make money, and have a great logo for your business, now it’s time to build your website. In my mind you really have two options when it comes to development, Static HTML and WordPress. I know there are other great development platforms out there like Joomla, Drupal, and more, I just don’t think that any are as easy-to-use as WordPress.

The decision here comes down to your own development experience level and the number of updates you plan to make on your site. If you already have experience writing HTML and CSS Static HTML can be a great option. With Static HTML sites you can make the site look-and-feel exactly as you’d like since you’re building it from scratch. Static HTML sites can often load quicker and have less security issues than a platform like WordPress as well. The main problem with Static HTML sites is that they often require more work to update than WordPress which has a Dashboard you can login to and update your site with from anywhere.

In many cases this decision will already be made for you. Most Domain Investors don’t know how to build websites themselves so WordPress is the best way to get started unless you have the budget for a web designer. One of the greatest benefits to using a platform like WordPress is that there are tons of themes that can give your brand a professional look instantaneously. Many of these themes are designed by professional designers and would cost thousands of dollars if you hired a designer to make one for you.

My favorite company for theme design that I’ve been using since 2008 is WooThemes. All themes from WooTheme’s are built by professional designers and can be setup and modified without having to write a single line of code. I’ve always found these themes to be extremely reliable and very easy to setup and customize.

woothemes_site5. Content is King: Last, but certainly not least is content. Content is critical for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, content is what brings users to your site, and keeps them there. If you have high-quality content this will directly impact how your brand is perceived, of course the same is true for low-quality content which is why good unique content is so important.

Content is very important for ranking well in search engines. Search engines use content to understand what keywords you’re targeting. While it is important to write high-quality content, it’s also important to do this in a way that search engines understand. This does not mean gaming the system and trying to repeat a word a zillion times, it does mean thinking of search engine’s though while you’re writing.

The best tool that I’ve used so far to help me write great search engine friendly content is Scribe SEO. Scribe SEO will actually analyze your content and give you a score on a scale of 1 to 100. Scribe goes through a detailed checklist letting you know specific areas where you could improve and even indicating exactly what you need to do. Scribe also has a WordPress plugin which can make it easy to check the quality of your posts if you’re developing using the WordPress platform.

scribe_siteOf course writing all the content yourself could be a near-impossible task. Just because you want to start an online business doesn’t mean you have to become a writer in your free time. There are some great options for hiring content writers and the best solution I’ve found so far is TextBroker. This service allows you to easily submit article requests while specifying the quality level and price you’re willing to pay. TextBroker has a huge pool of writers across every skill level so when you submit an article request you can usually expect to have it written within 24-48 hours.

What I like the most about TextBroker is that you can enable a Copyscape check that ensures the content you’re getting is indeed unique. The biggest problem I’ve had hiring content writers in the past is getting back plagiarized content. TextBroker runs every single article through Copyscape so you know what you’re getting is indeed unique content. TextBroker also takes all the complexity out of finding, hiring, and emailing content writers back-and-forth so you can streamline the process and put your focus on your business, not on managing your content team.

textbroker

And there you have it, the five basic steps to Domain Development. If you would like to learn more about Domain Development make sure to check-out the Domain Development section of my blog. Thanks for reading, now get out there and build your business!

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Tia Wood September 21, 2011, 11:15 am

    I want my Morgan Show. When does it air next?

    Reply
  • Mark September 21, 2011, 12:18 pm

    Hi Morgan:

    Great post.

    Any chance you can reveal a couple of sites you developed utilizing the logonerds logo service?

    Also, can you provide a range on what your success has been regarding monetizing sites in the way you describe? In the past, you commented that a few of your sites brought in $50-$100 per month by affiliate marketing. Can you provide a broader range on what can be expected in the current marketplace?

    Thanks again for a solid post.
    Mark

    Reply
  • RH September 21, 2011, 12:29 pm

    An excellent article, clear concise with proper examples and links.

    Reply
    • Morgan September 21, 2011, 12:34 pm

      Thanks for the positive feedback everyone!

      @Tia – my life is so busy now I’m not sure I’ll be able to do live shows…but probably will be doing pre-recorded, more to come!

      @Mark – definitely! Three examples are Kayaking.org, HotelCritic.org, and MoneySaver.us. As for how much money you will make it really depends on the niche, competitive niches with higher CPC are harder to rank well in but have much more income potential. Moving up to direct advertising and lead generation is a great way to make more money on a site that is already using affiliate offers.

      @RH – thanks, much appreciated!!

      Reply
  • Leonard Britt September 21, 2011, 2:24 pm

    Wow! A great resouce worth referring back to in the future. It is one thing to identify a domain which could make for a good brand, have some SEO benefit because it is an exact match term and which some business might want to acquire. Building a simple website takes a little education but is within the reach of most individuals. However, a website is not a business. It is a totally different animal to take on the role of developing that nice keyword domain into an online business which competes with other businesses in the same space.

    Reply
  • Michael Cyger September 21, 2011, 7:49 pm

    Great post, Morgan.

    A few personal thoughts:
    * I usually define what content I will publish, as well as it’s format, first
    * Then I pick a WordPress theme (Yes, I’m a big fan too). The theme I choose is a function of the type of content I will publish.
    * Finally, I have my logo designed, which will usually be a function of the theme design (e.g., size of logo space and colors).

    Steps 1 and 2 must come first, as Morgan suggests, and step 2 will help define the theme you select. For example, lead gen, Google Adsense and directory sponsorships may each require a different theme type or functionality.

    LogoNerds is a great price. I’ll have to try them.

    Reply
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