Why The Castello Brothers Got It RIGHT From The Beginning

I’ll keep this Friday’s post short and sweet because this is definitely a topic I could talk about for…well a really long time! It’s a story of two brothers who found a model that not only worked fifteen years ago…but that is still the best model for success I’ve seen yet. The Castello Brothers started in the early days of domains and could have easily parked all their names like most Domainers did and collect the money. However from the very beginning they saw domains as brands, and one by one they built an empire of online brands.

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From one of my personal favorites, Whisky.com to my childhood vacation destination LagunaBeach.com – they have some of the most premium real estate out there. Okay – so now back to the title of my post – these guys had it right from the beginning and it’s taken me until this year to really wrap my head around it…but now I think I get it!

Since 2007 I’ve been working on building my own little empire of sites but focused on quantity over quality spewing-out tons of mini-sites, all with good content, but none a brand onto itself. While I got lucky and did end-up with some lucrative sites that still make me grin when I login to my affiliate accounts, for the most part I missed the largest and most reliable form of revenue – direct advertising. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve not complaining about what I’ve built, but I’d like to be making $xx,xxx/month rather than high $x,xxx/month – right!

That’s right, I’ve talked a lot about affiliate marketing and lead generation on my blog but I don’t think anything is as pure and simple as direct advertising. Having a direct relationship with your advertisers means you can deliver to them a significantly higher level of service than if the ad was fed through a 3rd party network. If you have the traffic, or the brand I’ve also found that direct advertisers contact you.

Let’s take Kayaking.org for example, I turned this into a mini-site last year, no traffic, no ranking, no revenue. This year following a lot of what I’ve seen the Castello Brothers do with their successful sites I built-out Kayaking.org into a real website and online brand. I provided more content than ever before and added a custom directory and trip report feature. I started a twitter account and began engaging people online. Before I knew it I was contacted by an outside advertising agency, there was a bathing suit manufacturer who wanted to advertise on my site.

They had found me on the first page of Bing and looked at the site, saw me as an authority, and wanted to be on the site. If you’re doing things right and building a brand, these kind of things should happen! On Kayaking.org we are also contacting kayaking stores and rental locations and getting them to join the directory as well as potentially become advertisers on the site. We’re just beginning this process but I’m trying my best to use the same model the Castello Brothers have on so many of their successful sites.

I’ve bumped-into a lot of Domainers that have been around since the good old days and have been living off parking revenue for a long time. Now as parking has declined they’re looking for a solution, a way to get that revenue back, while they were parking the Castello Brothers were busy building brands!

So does this mean affiliate marketing is dead? No, not at all – I still have plenty of sites doing well with affiliate marketing and even AdSense. However…for a long-term model it would be nice to not have to depend on Google for your revenue, would it? Let’s face it – we all know that the future of Domaining is moving more and more towards building brands online rather than just selling a flat domain with some parking revenue. In this Brave new Domaining World brand-building trumps quick revenue.

This is not a sponsored post and the Castello Brothers have no idea I’m writing this. I felt it was about time to write this post – I’ve learned so much from the Castello Brothers and see how much they give back to the community. It’s about time for me to make sure all of you know who these guys are because they are one of the few who got it right from the beginning!

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • David J Castello October 1, 2010, 1:30 pm

    I’m in Las Vegas celebrating Dan Pulcrano’s birthday party and just saw this. Thank you for the kind words, Linton!

    Reply
    • Morgan October 1, 2010, 4:30 pm

      Absolutely @David – thank you for the inspiration!!

      Reply
  • Leonard Britt October 1, 2010, 1:45 pm

    I saw an interview where one of the Castello brothers mentioned their early days with PalmSprings.com where he walked the streets for three months trying to land advertising sponsorships for what at the time was an unproven concept. He averaged about one advertiser daily which likely means he had a lot of small businesses tell him, “Not interested, are you nuts? etc.” That had to be tough doing day after day with perhaps a 95% rejection rate. I have no idea how much traffic the site had before they went out campaigning.
    I have been developing some local geo sites in the last year but most don’t rank high at Google so traffic is light. My view is I need a better search ranking and more traffic before I can attempt (reluctantly because I am NOT a salesperson) to persuade local small business owners on the idea of advertising on my sites. But at least I realized after several months of websites in other themes that it was going to be a long time before I could count on Adsense to pay the bills. I do have two sites which rank for city/state search combinations on page one of Google while several rank for city/state combinations on Yahoo/Bing. Hopefully by sometime next year site age will no longer work against me and I believe by then I could seek a Yahoo directory and/or BOTW link which would probably propel a few to the search ranking I need.

    Yes, a geo site needs to be more than a landing page with Wiki data. What are people looking for and are they going to find it on your site?

    Reply
  • backorder it October 1, 2010, 4:15 pm

    Gréat Story.. We are learning day after day….thanks.

    Reply
  • Mac October 1, 2010, 7:04 pm

    Hey Morgan! Great post!

    From what I gather, flipping domains is quicker cash in the bank, whilst brand development is the slow road, but potentialy much more lucrative path.

    I can’t help but liken this to property investing… long term investing – AND – short term investing… I get the feeling it’s a good idea to do both.

    Do you have a ratio you work with?

    ie: 80% short term (Flip) 20% long term (Brand Development).

    Any feedback on this would be great!

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Anthony October 2, 2010, 7:45 am

    Morgan … In the beginning the Castello Brothers got it right 🙂

    Reply
  • Poor Uncle October 2, 2010, 11:07 am

    Hmm…not really sure I’d agree that domaining is moving more towards development vs. buy/sell names. If that were the case, then domaining would no longer be call that. I maybe new to this domain game, but as far as I know, development have always been on the table. There is nothing new there. Except now you can do it faster and easier (no different for the guys who are sitting on a pile of good names).

    For me, one of the allure of the online is the ability to make money efficiently alone (anytime & anywhere) without having to deal with a bunch of people face-to-face or having to carry a big payroll. I love Google PPC model. Frankly, that’s the essence of efficiency. I understand everyone is talking about hedging against PPC disappearing revenue. Which means making money while wearing your pajamas will get a lot harder.

    Reply
  • Michael Castello October 3, 2010, 12:54 pm

    Thanks Morgan. I still find it hard to explain exactly what we do and why we do it.
    Many domainers including myself and David love to see a domain sell for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. What we love to see even more are domains that make hundreds of thousands or millions every year but are still owned by the original registrar. It is a treasure that just keeps on giving.

    When you develop a memorable domain name you give meaning to that word. It becomes a language that can then communicate with the rest of the world. We have to breathe live into these names. It is what they were created for in the first place.

    Reply

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