The Decline of the MiniSite: AEIOU Bites the Dust

Rick Latona announced on his blog today that AEIOU would be leaving the web design game with a post titled, “There’ no money in web design. AEIOU is getting out of the outsourcing business.” This is not a big surprise in a world where Domainers are starting to become less confident in the potential of MiniSites.

Now with AEIOU out of the business and are the two major players left standing. However AEIOU’s vocal exit from the development community could be a sign of what is to come. Here’s the reality:

– Just putting a minisite on a domain name will not guarantee that you’ll make money

– Many new Domainers buy junky names thinking that putting a minisite on the name will suddenly provide revenue and a high selling price

– Using PPC on a minisite is no longer a sure-fire way to generate revenue

– People are spending thousands of dollars on websites that aren’t even close to making them back their initial investment

Now let me be clear on this issue. I am not saying that MiniSite development companies don’t built nice sites. That’s an argument I don’t care to get-into – what I can say is that many new Domainers are unrealistic with their expectations of what a MiniSite will produce. If you use the Google Adwords keyword tool and find that 20 people a month are searching for the keywords in your domain – you might just have a bad domain name.

As you probably know I love analogies so here’s a good one. If you buy a storefront on a street with little traffic and put-up a basic storefront with a cookie-cutter design would you really be surprised if your store didn’t turn-out to be a huge success? MiniSites have their place but some domains need a full-scale website. Look at – he runs a very popular blog – if he never had a blog there and just put-up a five page mini-site – do you think the domain would make much money? On this domain – – do you think a mini-site would get the same-level of traffic as my blog – no!! So don’t expect your MiniSite to get a lot of traffic or revenue unless you know your domain has keywords that people are actually searching for!

Now you might be saying – wait – what about content!! True, content is King, I’ve said it many times. It takes more than just good content on your own site though – you need other people linking to you, articles with good anchor text linking to you – in short – you need more than just a site to get traffic. So good content is essential – and yes – plenty of MiniSites have great content but there’s a lot more to it if you really want your domain to make good money.

So what is my grand unifying point here? Simple – just because you put a MiniSite on your domain doesn’t mean your domain will get traffic and revenue. It’s a process and oftentimes just building the site – not matter how great the content – just isn’t enough. If you’ve spent thousands of dollars on MiniSites – don’t despair – you are most likely moving in the right direction – but in many cases you’re not done yet – you’ve only just begun!

MiniSites aren’t dead yet – but the death of AEIOU could signal the beginning of the MiniSite Recession…

Share your comments and let your voice be heard! What do you think about AEIOU calling it quits – is there really no money in web design any more?

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Bruce Marler October 19, 2009, 6:41 pm

    There is money in web design, its just impossible to make real money doing it for 200 dollars a pop in a niche industry. Rick is a smart businessman and said it out loud. Smart move by him.

    Minisites are still valuable in many ways, I am way ahead based on the sites I have this year. But that is mainly based on the offers I received on them and not from the PPC. I believe that minisites have allowed me to get more from domain sales based on the perceived value of selling a website rather than a name.

  • TechFilipino October 19, 2009, 6:43 pm

    Hi Morgan, I think that minisites fit domainers with a small team. But if you were to scale it up and add up other overhead expenses, it does get to a point that it is unprofitable.

    5 pager minisites are dead, its about working harder for your minisites, more unique contents and link building.

    I personally left outsourcing here in the Philippines, due to the fact that web design is really unprofitable. Not unless you could cut your expenses to make profit.

    • Morgan October 19, 2009, 9:05 pm

      Thanks for all the great comments. Given that I currently generate a majority of my domaining income from MiniSites I’m definitely a believer. That being said – like I say in this post – it is all about choosing the right domains for development. I have all the respect in the world for Rick and know he will be successful with whatever he does.

  • Lee Traupel October 19, 2009, 6:44 pm

    Development is the way to go for Domainers. But, many of the providers (not singling any one company out) are not really SEO, Hosting and Web Site Design, Monitization Experts, or at least not at a level that will product results. Here’s the formula for success for Domainers;

    *Develop on WordPress Platform
    *Utilize a series of Custom Plug Ins to drive SEO, &
    *Incorporate Social Media (push out post/comments, etc.)
    *Develop Site with SEO Best Practices (not just Meta Tags)
    *Incorporate a Bog and Blog & Invite Guest Bloggers
    *Add Forums if fits Domain Name
    *Build a Link Development Campaign
    *Generate Fresh Content (some can be repurposed) every month
    *Incorporate Analytics for all Sites
    *Utilize Multiple Monitization (Ebooks, Newsletters, Affiliate Links to real Products via Amazon, et al.

    So, there’s the formula for successful Domain Development. The challenge is in the details…

  • Michael Sumner October 19, 2009, 6:52 pm

    Morgan, that was a great, unbiased look at mini sites. However, I don’t see how Rick leaving the mini site business has anything to do with the future of mini sites.

    It’s a tough business, and when you turn out a good product like Rick did, and when you have a tremendous amount of overhead staffing a full-time team of writers and developers in the Philippines, the margins are painfully low. Domainers are also a picky bunch that are hard to please, so the frustrations are not worth the revenue to him because he makes so much more money on his core competencies (auctions, loans, etc) that don’t take up nearly as much of his time. I think Rick leaving the mini site business is more a reflection on how difficult the web development business is more so than it is a reflection on the mini site model itself.

    What I try and reiterate as often as possible is that you really need to start with a good domain name if you want to put up a mini site. What is a good domain? You need to look at exact search volume for your domain, the CPC for the keywords, the search volume of related keywords, the monetization options available such as affiliate programs and companies that may want to purchase direct banner space, etc.

    If you think you can throw up a mini site on a mediocre domain and put up some Adsense and get rich, you’re going to be in for a wake up call. That doesn’t mean mini sites don’t work, it just means you have to use common sense, just as you do with any investment, be it real estate, stocks, etc. You can’t rent retail space in the middle of nowhere, fail, and then say the retail industry is dying. You just have to know what you’re doing. We try to help our clients make wise decisions… because if the clients are not happy then our reputation goes out the window.

    You don’t always need to have high search volume if the CPC is through the roof. You don’t always need high CPC if the keywords (both exact and related) have high search volume. But you need to at least have something going for your domains.

    The fact of the matter is, you can rank well with mini sites. I’ve proven that they can rank even for terms with massive competition. The question is, if you rank, will you get a lot more traffic because people are searching for the term, and if so, can you effectively monetize those extra visitors. If the answer is yes, you should build yourself a mini site or hire someone to do it for you. If you’re not sure.

    I also want to point out that a mini site is not restricted to five pages… we build them on the WordPress CMS so clients can easily add more pages. At one point even only had a few pages of content, but he kept working on it. A mini site is a great foundation for building a more complete, thick website. You don’t have to start with 100 pages to be successful.

    • Morgan October 19, 2009, 9:02 pm

      Thanks for your comments Mike!

  • Rick Latona October 19, 2009, 8:23 pm

    Bruce is right. I just don’t want to sell them anymore. There’s nothing wrong with developing your names.

  • Ze October 19, 2009, 8:32 pm

    There is a lot of money in web design as there will always be money in architecture. I see minisites as prefab housing. Built just to accommodate the essentials. If you want to be able to provide any kind of special service, your own special way, you’ll need a web designer that understands all the principals of online business; branding ,programming, marketing, psychology and aesthetics, just like an architect knows about design, plumbing, concrete, woodwork, gardening, etc..

    The more we speak about domains as virtual real estate, the more I see my job as a web designer compared to the one of an architect. Someone that designs and manages development executed by contractors. The problem is that most domainers still think that it is wise to ask a programmer (contractor) to develop a website. (or a minisite..) Would you ask a plumber to build you a house?? Would you live on a prefab if you were rich? (no offense if you do…) Then would you develop your most valuable domains on prefabs??

    Domainers must realize that it’s not just about getting traffic into a website that makes a domain valuable or profitable. It’s converting that traffic into buying customers that creates value. Minisites do nothing for conversion and therefor add little or no value to the domain. Build a business on it and you’ll see the value of the domain increase tenfold. (…wishful thinking..;-)

    One thing I’m damn sure – there will always be a need for web design as long as there is a need for websites.

  • Danny Pryor October 20, 2009, 5:25 am

    Web development has changed since its early days. Small sites are only a stop toward larger development and greater presence on the web. If you’re planning to build a single domain as a mini site – or as we call them, business card sites – you should have a larger-scale plan in place. You may set up an “anchor” domain with dozens of smaller sites around it, thus building a network of domains in a specific industry or providing specific content. This really is only worthwhile, however, if you plan to hold onto the domains for two to five years. If you’re flipping, development is probably not what you want.

    • Morgan October 20, 2009, 7:41 am

      Great points Danny – thanks for the comment!

  • Michael October 20, 2009, 6:02 am

    I do not think mini sites are dead. I create my own mini sites within a few minutes. Using x site pro I out source all the content at $6.00 per article and add adsense. I have a core group of 5 all .net sites that generate about 2 K a month and growing. in only 7 months. Total investment for a 5 page mini site $30.00 and about 30 minutes time not a bad return 🙂

    • Morgan October 20, 2009, 7:41 am

      Thanks for sharing Michael! As someone that has been developing mini-sites for years I can agree!

  • PI Outsource October 20, 2009, 9:03 am

    The money is in SEO! Looking forward to Rick’s next venture.


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