My Top Three Development Mistakes

Back in 2007 when I started in the Domaining world I went on a Mini-Site building rampage. While every single site didn’t make a fortune each one did help me collect valuable data. After a few months I could look at a Mini-Site and understand how much traffic and revenue potential it had, and by making targeted changes I could increase my revenue.

In 2009 I learned that this strategy was great for long-tails but significantly more challenging for generics. This is when I took a step back and thought, “what if I put all my focus into one site and turn it into a brand?” I began to scale down the pace of my Mini-Site development and started focusing more on building solid online businesses on my domains.

Now in 2010 I’ve put my focus into even less projects than in 2009…but as the year went on I realized that to build a brand properly I had to provide even more focus. Over the last few months I’ve done a much better job of staying laser-focused on one brand at a time. In 2010 the main brand I’ve been building is Kayaking.org and I’m excited to say that the v2 release is just around the corner! Creating the second version of this site took hundreds of hours and only about 25% of the time I spent on development. The other 75% has been spent on building the business and creating a model that can run without me. This is the difference between creating a business and just creating another job for yourself!

In making this transition from developing domains to building brands I have learned even more about some of the mistakes I made in my own business as its evolved. Since my business was focused on Domain Development since the beginning I’ve had over three years to really experiment with what works and what doesn’t. As I get ready to release v2 of Kayaking I can’t help but reflect on everything I’ve learned…so I thought I should share it with all of you.

Of course when you make a mistake you should always learn from it. Every mistake I’ve made along the way has changed the way I do things and in the end made my business what it is today. In one of the worst economies in US history my business has grown over 100% Y/Y and is on a growth path to do even better next year. The secret? Focus is #1 and #2 is constantly evolving and changing how I do things based on solid data.

I’ve corrected all of my early development mistakes and now am very confident with the results I’ll see when developing a name. Building a brand, on the other hand, is something completely new to me that I’m still working on. I am sure I’ll make mistakes, my first few brands might not be overnight successes, but I will learn from my mistakes and become stronger with each one!

A post like this has been a long-time coming and I hope you all can learn from some of my mistakes – I know I did!

Top Three Domain Development Mistakes

  1. Developing low search volume keyword domains. The very first mistake I made in the Domaining world was just picking domains out of thin air that “sounded” to me like things people would be searching for. I would then build-out these names and end-up on the first page of Google. In many cases I was not only on the first page – I was #1! However no traffic or revenue came-in, that’s when I realized that only two people a month were searching for the keywords I was ranked well for. The lesson here is that being #1 in Google or on page 1 in Google doesn’t matter if nobody is searching for those keywords! Now I don’t build-out anything that doesn’t have at least 500 exact-match search results in Google. Simple lesson – big difference!
  2. Relying on Google for traffic. The second major mistake I made was focusing all my attention on Google. One of my first very successful sites got about 90% of its traffic from Yahoo and even now Bing represents a lot of the initial traffic my sites get. Why is this? This was a quick and easy lesson – Bing gives much more credit to exact-match domains than Google does. You’ll quickly find that your exact-match names will appear in Bing sometimes the week of launch and quickly make it to the first page – Google is a whole different story. Now I focus on both Google and Bing along with other social media sources like Twitter and Facebook. So what’s the lesson here? Look at who is on the first page of Bing and try to beat them first, then do the same for Google. Bing can provide a much quicker path to traffic for exact-match domain owners that develop their names.
  3. Focusing on PPC. For most of 2008 I was completely focused on PPC. In 2009 I’ve worked hard to move from PPC to CPA and the difference in revenue has been amazing. If you’re focusing on PPC your business is probably shrinking rather than growing. The lesson here is that affiliate programs, direct advertising, and lead generation are all great ways to dramatically increase your revenue.

I think the evolution we are seeing now doesn’t stop with development. At the end of the day, those of us who are in this for the long-haul should be focusing on building businesses, not websites. You can’t mass develop hundreds of businesses, and you can’t build a business spending only one hour a day. It takes time, energy, and focus and it’s not all about just building a website – it’s about researching your market, coming-up with a sales forecast, contacting potential advertisers, etc. Welcome to the next evolution of Domaining, I look forward to sharing my successes and failures as I create and launch world-class online brands!

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • TeenDomainer December 21, 2010, 9:51 am

    Do you have any specific advice for bing, all of my sites are ranked in google but some of them do not show up in bing?

    Reply
  • Leonard Britt December 21, 2010, 10:54 am

    Yes, when I first starting “developing,” I began with several sites in wedding, fitness and pet verticals. After a few quarters and a bit of work, I was making a whopping $5/month in Adsense while Commission Junction affiliates never paid even after hundreds of thousands of impressions. So I began to wonder is my time better spent elsewhere. I shifted gears for the most part to local geos which at least offer the possibility of local ad revenue and lead generation. The geo sites do make quite a bit more per click in Adsense and in percentage terms Adsense revenues have mushroomed. However, Adsense revenue is not the goal – I just need to rank well for “City” in Google before I can more actively seek ad placements.

    Reply
  • Will December 21, 2010, 11:15 am

    Great advice, Morgan. An hour ago, I was doing content research for a domain name I hastily bought about a month ago. The CPC is almost $10, but there are less than 100 exact-match searches for the phrase! You think I would have learned by now! Thanks for the reminders, and happy holidays!

    Reply
  • chris December 21, 2010, 11:19 am

    everytime I think about buying or registering a potential domain I always check how many exact match searches there are – it has been a very helpful tool and one that I will never forget.

    Do you have any tips on what to use when making a mini-site? Is wordpress the way to go? or is it better to just use some css templates?

    Reply
  • PPC Ian December 21, 2010, 6:14 pm

    Morgan,
    I can’t wait to see the next evolution of Kayaking dot org! Great post!
    All the best,
    Ian

    Reply
  • Luke Webster December 22, 2010, 8:46 am

    Morgan,

    Great post. Some real honest straight forward advice.

    Happy Holidays and wishing you a joyful 2011!

    Luke

    Reply
  • Dwayne Parsons December 23, 2010, 6:19 pm

    I came to this posting through a twitter from Luke Webster and have to say your advice is wisdom, born of experience. I see the truth in it. Thank you. I’ll pass this on.
    ~Dwayne

    Reply

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