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!