Hello and welcome to another exciting Domaining MBA Monday and a topic that I think will be meaningful to just about everyone. What I’m talking about is Domain Development, which really is just Web Development and no, it’s not the same as monetization. This is by far the biggest mistake I’ve seen new domain investors make, building a website on a domain with no existing traffic or revenue and then expecting the money to come pouring in.
Sorry, this isn’t Field of Dreams, if you build it they really won’t come, you have to do more.
The problem is, building a website and monetizing a website are two very different things. You can hire a web designer who can make a great-looking site, even get a hardcore PHP guru to add some innovative functionality, but none of these people are going to generate revenue for your site, that’s where you come in. Well it doesn’t have to be you, you can hire someone to do that too if you want, but it’s not likely going to be the same person that built your site.
All over the world people are launching websites at a clip of roughly 7.3 million/day. Your site is one of these 7.3 million, it’s up to you to determine how to make yours stand out from the crowd but the website itself is only the foundation. Like most things in life, you have to pay to play. Building a website is always an investment in either time or money, and sometimes both. Having some coding skills or familiarity with a platform like WordPress can help you save money on development costs while you’re getting started. Just remember, you’re exchanging that money for your time so it’s up to you to make sure you’re paid fairly.
If you don’t know how to code, don’t know much about WordPress, and really want to stay-out of the development process then you’ll need to hire a web designer/developer. Don’t expect this person to build you a site that magically gets massive amounts of traffic or starts generating revenue, expect them to build you the site you want. People ask me all the time about what kind of budget to set for a development project, I think anywhere between $1,500 – $3,500 is a reasonable budget. I know many people will tell you that $500 can get the job done, and it can, but remember that content, logo design, and some initial marketing funds need to be included in this budget along with SEO if you aren’t going to do that yourself. If you do some of this yourself you can bring the costs down but you have to decide if writing content and designing logos is what you want to be doing.
When you’re just starting out I recommend doing everything that you can yourself. If you’re a great writer, awesome, write killer content for your own sites. If you happen to be a Photoshop nut, rock out and design an amazing logo, try to save money any way you can but also be realistic with your time and the budget building a real site takes.
The first thing you’ll want to focus on is creating great content and promoting that content in ways that reach your target audience. This can be done for free with social media and by connecting with other people in the space, or you can pay an SEO company to accelerate the process. Just understand that these are the things you need to do to be on the map. Sounds like a lot of work? It is, and that’s why putting a website on a domain name is not the same as monetization.
So your site is up, it’s starting to get ranked for a few terms and you have a steady flow of content coming in. At this point maybe you have a few thousand visitors and are starting to look at monetization options. Now you need to decide whether PPC, Affiliate, Lead Generation, Direct Advertising, Direct Sales, or any of the other monetization option is the best fit for your site and its visitors. This is a trial and error process in most cases where you’ll need to run targeted experiments and continue to optimize based on results.
You might start with Google Adsense to see how much money the site makes with PPC. Let’s say you’re making $500/month and getting a CTR of 10%, you then might switch to affiliate ads and see how your revenue and CTR improves, or declines. This optimization process takes time and while you’re doing this you’ll also be doing everything you can to get more and more visitors to your site.
Monetization is an ongoing process as is traffic, the idea of “set it and forget it” sets a false expectation. It’s a business, treat it as a business, and know that every business needs a domain name and a website, but these two things don’t make that business profitable, you do.