Why There Is No One Size Fits All Development Solution

When it comes to development and monetization I’ve learned just about everything the hard way through trial and error. Things have changed a lot since I started developing sites back in 1995 but with a new landscape comes new opportunity. SEO used to mean simply repeating a word a few more times than your competitor, now you can get 50-page reports detailing hundreds of tiny changes you can make to improve your search engine rankings.

Now remember, I was only developing websites back in 1995, I didn’t own a single domain. It wasn’t until 2007 that I discovered Domaining, and I was hooked on the concept of domain names as brands and SEO tools almost immediately. Like most new Domainers I immediately started buying domains like crazy, sure half of them turned-out to be junk but isn’t that how we learn?

I started developing my domains pretty much the first day I started buying them. It was a steep learning curve for me because I knew how to build websites, code PHP, etc. but I knew absolutely nothing about monetization. This was the missing link, and my experimentation began – it was when I bought a .us and .info name that both made $xxx in their first month that I knew I was starting to get it.

The first lesson I learned is that not all domains have great revenue potential. A domain trying to sell peanuts has a harder time monetizing traffic than a domain that tries to connect people up with insurance or lawyers. Yes – the keywords are crucial – but the market and niche is equally important. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a Domainer say, “This domain has over 100,000 exact-match searches, it’s going to make a fortune!” It absolutely could make a fortune, but the search volume alone only tells half the story.

Through extensive trial-and-error I learn that the following categories performed the best for me – credit/debt/finance/taxes/law. Sure I had some great travel names, sports names, and consumer electronics names – but those were MUCH more difficult to monetize.

That was only lesson one for me. Lesson two was that there really is no “one size fits all” development solution. I wanted to build-out nothing but mini-sites – heck, my minisites were making money – shouldn’t they work for every domain? No – they don’t.

You see I was noticing early-on that the more exact match searches my sites had, the better they would do. I didn’t really have anything over 10,000 exact match searches until I bought Kayaking.org…and that’s where I learned my lesson. I thought – okay so I just put a minisite on Kayaking.org and it will make more money than any of my other domains because it has more search volume. Wrong – and a valuable lesson learned.

Kayaking.org didn’t hit the first, second, third, or fourth page of Google or Bing. In fact – it failed. There’s two ways you can approach failure – you can give-up or you can learn. I’m someone who loves learning and is always learning so for me this represented an opportunity to take my business to the next-level.

A site like Kayaking.org needed a lot more than a minisite, that search volume meant that it would be significantly harder to rank well for the term…but the traffic that would results would be much larger than my typical development project. It worked – Kayaking.org sprang to life and since then I’ve been building the brand and treating it like a business, not just another minisite in my army.

I built some lead generation sites for my geo-targeted law and credit names. From this I quickly learned that my standard minisite wouldn’t work, I needed to make a different kind of site, focus my content differently, and keep my monetization option laser focused on lead generation and nothing else.

So what’s the lesson I learned here? Minisites are great – you can absolutely make money with them…but they aren’t the right fit for every domain you develop. I’ve found that minisites are fine for domains with between 1,000-10,000 exact-match searches, after that you’ll have to go a step further if you want to see results.

There is no one size fits all development solution, you can’t just mass develop all your domains the same way – you need to think outside of the box and find the best-fit development option for your domains. Generics and domains with very high search volume really need to be treated more like a business while the long-tails and lower search volume domains can do just fine with a minisite.

So next time you look at your portfolio stop thinking about a solution for all your domains and instead find the right solution for each of your domains. Oh – and don’t forget to learn from your mistakes along the way!

{ 17 comments… add one }

  • TeenDomainer August 9, 2010, 8:43 pm

    Great post, now to domains are the same and there is never one solution to all of ones domains. What law lead gen programs have you done well with I am building out some law names now and am looking for the good ones.


  • Morgan August 9, 2010, 8:57 pm

    @Brian – thanks for the positive comment. Lead gen is new territory for me so still learning – working directly with someone now who already has relationships with lawyers. I tried LeadPile but haven’t been very impressed with the results – still looking-into more lead-gen options for my credit/debt names as well.

  • FloName August 9, 2010, 9:05 pm

    I might ask that same question, Morgan. I have a few GeoLawyer domains and I’m not really sure what to do with them.

    This post BTW, offers some excellent insight on development strategies. Especially in the way it articulates the differences in traffic potential between low and highly searched keywords.

    Off to Retweet πŸ™‚

    • Morgan August 9, 2010, 11:28 pm

      Thanks @FloName πŸ™‚

  • Sell Me One August 9, 2010, 10:24 pm

    Your Kayaking domain and stories I have followed, one thing sticks out. You may have read into the potential search volume incorrectly. My thoughts: Kayak is a large travel portal and spends on branding so the search volume goes up for similar terms, but visitors are looking for the travel site not a Kayaking site. The true numbers for real Kayaking are probably much lower, still good but lower. So the traffic probably would not convert as well as one might think. Just my 2 cents. But you learned a lot, shared a lot with your readers, more than a few thousand dollars worth in college credits!

    • Morgan August 9, 2010, 11:33 pm

      @SellMeOne since all of my traffic comes organically from search I can see what query people type to get to my site. 0% of my traffic comes from people looking for the kayak travel site. Right now most people get to my site by typing “kayaking” into Bing. I could understand if I had kayak.org, but Kayaking.com is a major Kayaking social network. If you look at where I show-up in search results there really could be no confusion.

      However, there are cases where what you are talking about does happen. Suppose I did own Kayak.org and decided to put my own travel site on it and rank for travel-related terms – then I could get some traffic from confused visitors.

      Thanks to good old Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools I know exactly where my visitor is coming from!

  • Leonard Britt August 9, 2010, 10:56 pm

    Yes, one-word keywords often are intensely competitive to rank. Two of my top traffic sites are three-word domains. One ranks #3 at Google. The other actually gets most of its traffic from the images on the site. Both have nice CTRs but the CPC is low because they are Spanish sites. Note I tried Leadpile on the real estate page of a few geo sites and apparently the form asks so many questions noone ever finishes completing the form. I may try a Wufoo form to gather leads but would need to line up lead buyers first and commit resources to processing leads which come in.

  • Poor Uncle August 10, 2010, 12:53 am

    That was a great post. I enjoy it very much.

    I have a few deal sites that I can get hundreds of visitors simply by placing a few deals on sites like craigslist and other free classified ad site. But, how do you generate traffic for Len Gen and GEO sites? These sites’ content tend to be static. Beside, SEO…how much time do you spend on marketing your site?

    I am a domain/net newbie. I’ve been reading up a lot of domaining blogs for the past couple of months. I may be wrong, but it seems like everyone in the business has a blog. Is the blog essentially your marketing tool to generate traffic for your other sites? It seems so obvious, but I haven’t read any blog that explicitly recommend having your own blog as a marketing tool for your business.

  • Tim Smith August 10, 2010, 3:56 am

    Another good post Morgan. Growth and knowledge gained through trial and error is often the strongest. The old saying holds true – You never fail until you quit trying.

    Let’s keep trying, learning, growing, and – one day – succeeding.

  • Sell Me One August 10, 2010, 7:00 am

    I explained the search volume badly.
    Example: we all know what the “Statue of liberty” is, we assume that anyone searching for it wants photos and info about it, but they maybe searching for a football play or some new rap artist writes a song about it and the search volume spikes, you would still get clicks to your site but the traffic wouldn’t be targeted, but then again traffic is traffic. Your stats would still show clicks for the generic term of-course. I still know your domain is a good one and you have done a great job with it, just trying to share some over analyzing with you, we all do it.

    • Morgan August 10, 2010, 7:34 am

      @SellMeOne – sorry but you’re still missing the boat on this one. You can try it yourself – search for “kayaking” on Bing – you can see that my site shows-up before Kayak.com and it is clearly a site about Kayaking not travel. I can assure you that there is no confusion here. Also on the long-tail searches Kayak.com isn’t on the same page as me so it’s impossible for someone to click on a link to kayak.com because it isn’t even on page!

      You say that “traffic is traffic” and this is definitely not true. I’ve been building websites for 15 years and I know that only targeted traffic is valuable. You can have a domain that gets 10,000 unique visitors/month but if it’s not targeted it won’t convert. This is something I emphasize to everyone I teach and a valuable lesson you’ll learn the hard way if you don’t understand your visitors.

      I study my traffic in great detail and can assure you that none of my traffic comes from people looking for the Kayak.com travel site. You should definitely spend some more time learning Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools – it can really help you understand your traffic better.

      I understand what you are saying but this doesn’t apply in this case.

  • randomo August 10, 2010, 8:55 am

    @Morgan: Yes, I keep hearing that lead gen is the way to go for some domains, but I haven’t really gotten started in that direction. I corresponded briefly with a real estate company about sending them visitors from some geo sites, but once they understood what I was talking about, they stopped answering my emails. πŸ™

    @Sell Me One: “we all know what the β€œStatue of liberty” is, we assume that anyone searching for it wants photos and info about it, but they maybe searching for a football play” – I hope so! Then they can find my StatueOfLibertyPlay.com. πŸ™‚ (Just a fun little site I’m working on, no ads or SEO work yet.)

  • ValueDrops.com August 10, 2010, 9:30 am

    nice post, thanks. I am a developer as well and my trial/error has shown me that .coms usually do better for search engine placement. I no longer develop any other extension.

  • Sell Me One August 10, 2010, 10:25 am

    Traffic is traffic was sarcasm, means its better than nothing.
    I understand your point. You missed my point, your site is listing well, agreed, no debate.
    I am talking about why search volume in the search engines can spike for a time period. Say “bowls” averages 100,000 a month, during the super bowl or college bowl games the volume increases 10 fold, they are looking for sports not dishes. Doesn’t matter if real “bowl” sellers are not listed well, its what a visitor was looking for. all the listings could be for plates and bowl stores, the volume is still for the bowl games they might just not have been listed well or have done the seo as well as you. Enough searches for the term and people will click threw what ever is listed on the front page by default, if they like it they will be interested and stay, they may even buy.
    Your terms and phrases have many searches for exact kayak products and services, good job, never meant to offend you, my point was a lot of times main root keywords and phrases search volume are inflated because of branding and advertising, songs, catch phrases ect. that traffic is traffic, no one would turn it away.
    If your selling 50 cent pieces “coins’ you would be excited to see so many searches available, but wonder why the sales lag, then spin the site to music downloads, cd’s ect and bam=sales!
    I would never attack your expertise, just sharing thoughts.

    • Morgan August 10, 2010, 2:18 pm

      @SellMeOne no worries – definitely not offending me. I love comments and have no problem having a good dialog with any of my readers so don’t worry πŸ™‚

      Never thought you were attacking me in any way so don’t feel bad – just a good discussion!!

      I do agree with what you are saying about traffic spikes but don’t think that Kayaking is affected by this at all. Your Super Bowl example is interesting but still not quite right. During the super bowl the search volume for the long-tail “super bowl” increases but there isn’t an increased search volume for the term “bowl” on its own.

      I think there are definitely examples of traffic spikes and I see them a lot with my tax-related names around tax-time. Still I know for a fact that this kind of spike or behavior isn’t happening with “kayaking” and for 99% of the search queries Kayak.com and Kayaking.org aren’t even on the same page so it actually wouldn’t even be possible for a user to click. The same goes for bowls.com – if “super bowl” is getting a ton of searches it doesn’t mean that bowl.com and superbowl.com will show-up on the same page.

      What you really want to look for is domains that have the same keywords and show-up on the same page, then I think you’d see the behavior you are talking about.

      Thanks again for the comment and never hesitate to share your opinion – that’s what my blog is all about! πŸ™‚

  • Mojito Recipe August 10, 2010, 1:52 pm

    How did you get the eHow link for Kayaking.org? If Kayaking.org is starting to rank well it must reflect the linking power of your blog. MorganLinton.com has become quite an asset. Best of luck.

  • Arnie K August 10, 2010, 5:10 pm

    Nice article. I have a network of good generic websites ranked well. Most are service sites. How would you suggest I monetize them? I was thinking of geo targeting them.


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