Why Most Domainer-Developers Fail

Domainers are rushing-into development like never before and in doing so many are starting to run-into some of the stopping-blocks I encountered in 2007 when I started developing my domains. I receive dozens of emails each week from Domainers with questions about development. Many of these emails start-out the same way, “I’ve tried everything to make money with my domains but it’s just not working.” In many cases these Domainers are making some very basic mistakes that can lead to a losing model. To help sort through the mucky-muck that is monetization I thought I’d cover a few of the basic ways you can fail.

First it is absolutely essential to understand that Domain Development and Domain Monetization are two completely different things. I talked about this in my presentations this year at Meet Domainers in England and DNCruise. Domain Development can be dumbed-down and just called building websites. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people that can build a great website for you, just search for “web designer” in Google! 99% of these companies can build a great site for you but they can’t build an online business for you.This makes sense as most web developers are hired to build websites for existing businesses.

Domain Monetization is the process of taking a developed domain and generating consistent income with that domain. Monetization is a lot more like stock investing, you pick a strong keyword domain for development, study the niche, and take the time to understand how people make money in the niche. Monetizers are focused things like SEO to build-up targeted visitors and studying which ads visitors click on the most.While web developers use tools like Dreamweaver and Photoshop, monetizers like myself use tools like the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, SEOMOz, and Compete. Monetization happens after you’ve built a great site.

So why do most Domainer-Developers fail?

This isn’t going to be a long answer. Most Domainer-Developers fail because they just build a website on their domain and expect the money to come rolling-in. The problem is that Domainer-Developers aren’t following-up with the monetization step. Throwing Google PPC ads on your site can work in some cases but it’s not a great long-term model. Things link Lead Generation and Direct Advertising are how you build a real online business.

That brings me to the second reason most Domainer-Developers fail. Even if they do branch-out and focus on better ways to generate revenue they oftentimes forget that at the end of the day they should treat the domain and website as a business. Make a Twitter account, build a Facebook fan page – these things don’t take hours to do and with under 30 minutes a week you can actually interact with people in your niche and become an authority MUCH quicker than just sitting there.

Finally the third way Domainer-Developers fail is SEO. I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve seen with terrible title tags, duplicate content, and no backlinks. Just look at the sites on the first page of Google, you’ll they are there for a reason, this is often because they have great content, good backlinks, etc. If you’re expecting the domain name itself to just carry you to the first page of Google – think again, Google hasn’t done this for years. While Bing will proudly give you a first-page ranking Google reserves the first page (in popular niches) for those with some real street cred, and by this I mean Google street cred which is backlinks.

Now take a step back. Look at your portfolio from 10,000 feet.

Are your domains making money for you? If not then what are you doing to change it? Mass development is not the answers, automated parking systems won’t win you many accolades in the search engines. Looking at your portfolio from above pick three names you think would make great businesses. Not 30, but three! Now one by one turn these into real online businesses that generate real income. If you’re trying to do it all you will fail, create a winning model, then repeat. It’s worked for me and it can work for you…but it’s not going to happen overnight!

Remember, if you’re failing now don’t feel bad. It’s those who fail, learn from it, and make changes to their business that are successful in the end…and I’m in this for the long-haul, how about you?

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Brian Gilbert November 29, 2010, 3:10 pm

    Well said/written Morgan! I couldn’t agree more.

    • Morgan November 29, 2010, 4:30 pm

      Thanks @Brian!

  • Dean November 29, 2010, 5:16 pm

    Great Advice!

  • TeenDomainer November 29, 2010, 6:00 pm

    As always great advice, that what I did recently I decided I needed to sit down and I picked a few of my names to build out. Now I still make a few minisites but my focus is on my bigger names.

  • Leonard Britt November 29, 2010, 6:33 pm

    Yes, I have seen how Google does place far more emphasis on inbound links which a new site generally will not have. But I don’t believe just doing a few link exchanges is going to do the job. I recall with a few of my geo sites going through the top several pages of Google and sending link exchange requests to the contact for those sites. I got one reply which said they would refer me to their webmaster. In some cases I did find some directories which competing sites were listed in and I was able to submit my sites as well. I’m not sure what ranking benefit a Yahoo directory or BOTW listing has but I have noticed a number of well-ranking sites with Yahoo directory & BOTW links.

  • George Pickering November 29, 2010, 6:58 pm

    This concept is not unique to domainers, most internet companies (even those backed by VCs) fail or must sell as a distressed asset because they are failed businesses. We always hear about the few success stories, you never hear about companies like Imandi.com, Lifeminders.com, AmazingMedia.com, AskMe.com, BizBuyer.com (or even Business.com) that don’t make it.

  • Deke November 29, 2010, 8:18 pm

    No doubt George — there is a bone yard of sites going back to the 90’s.

    Just wait two or three more years when developers are crying because there are three, four, or more times as many developed pages on Google as there is now. It’s coming in the form of Demand Media and copycat wanna-be site makers that see the insane profits Demand has been making and crank up the engines.Then they will have sites that they put their life into with little to no traffic but the domainers will still have their direct navigation.

    To me developers had better own the foundation first — the direct navigation traffic and then build from there. If they get stomped on one day by the big G or squeezed out by too many developed pages, then they will still “own” traffic.

    I’d rather bank on that than end up holding a bag of dust.

  • LS Morgan December 1, 2010, 4:53 am

    Social Networking can really help fabricate a traffic backbone. Developing a mature SN web for your site isn’t easy, but it’s worthwhile and in my opinion, will be just as valuable as SEO, going forward (unless interest in Social Networking as we know it eventually fizzles)

    I have one site that I maintain strictly as a hobby, due to a personal interest. While the domain is a bang-on search term and it ranked P1 almost instantly for domain match and most every combo of title tags after clearing the sandbox (with strictly viral linking, no meaningful SEO efforts on my end), I still get about 20% of my traffic from tangents that can be traced back to its SN base, with another 60% coming from direct nav/bookmarks/inbounds from emails and the remainder via the engines.

    Just like with anything else, developing your social networking web for your site isn’t as simple as registering the accounts and mass-friending. There’s a good bit more to it than that, but seeing this in action was so shocking, I actually shifted a some of my marketing budget from other sites to carefully targeted Facebook ads, which have been converting like a MF’er. For some sites, I’ll probably fire G all together.

  • Mark February 9, 2011, 5:41 am

    Good post.

    I think a domain developer needs to have a vision of how his (her) site might become the best (or at least a highly distinctive presence) in its niche.

    Like any business, you don’t have to get there on day 1.

    But the acid test is “Would anyone link to this site without being asked to?”. For a huge proportion of sites the answer is “No” and it always will be.

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