Choosing a Domain Name to Develop

Most domain investors have contemplated development at one point or another. Some people move forward with development projects and others opt to simply be a domain investor instead of trying their luck at development.  Here are a few things to consider:

1) Cost of development and  maintenance. Programming, security updates, and design work can be expensive. Weigh these costs against the realistic  profitability  expectation to see if it’s worth it.

2) Time commitment. Many websites aren’t (or shouldn’t be) “set it and forget it.” Think about how much time it will take to update the site (content, upgrades, inventory…etc) and determine if you’ll be able to commit that amount of time.

3) Advertising, marketing, and SEO budget. Even if you have a great website on a category defining domain name, you will still need to spend money advertising your new site and doing SEO work to get traffic. Think about whether you’ll be able to afford to do this – either with your own time or funds.

4) Add value to the domain name. If you develop the domain name, is it likely going to make an impact in search rankings? Will a potential buyer just scrap your website upon domain acquisition? It’s likely that your development won’t hurt the domain name, but if it doesn’t really enhance its value by more than you’re paying to develop it, you might want to reconsider.

5) Interesting topic. If the development topic isn’t of interest to you and you have no interest in learning more about it or dedicating time to it, you might want to pass. It’s not fun to have to research a topic you have no interest in … like tropical birds in my case.

There are a lot of considerations to make before devoting your time and your money to building a website. Sometimes we see huge sales like / and we think we can easily take a big domain name, build it out, and sell it for a great ROI. The truth is that most of us won’t be able to do it.

Think about these things before you throw your good money after “bad.”

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Elliot,

    Speaking of developing domains, do you have an idea when you are going to share some of your opinions and results of the city in a box platform? Your site at looks great and I am curious to hear how it is performing financially (if there is much of an improvement over the old design). Also I would love to hear what you like and what you don’t like about the platform.

    Any idea on when you feel you might be ready to form an opinion and share some of this info?



  2. I believe having an interest in the topic is important because development does not instantly generate profits. There is a bit of upfront work with no payoff and it can be discouraging particularly if the topic is of marginal interest. However, one also has to look at the competition for a search phrase and perhaps not go for the most competitive one-word domains. Imagine putting many hours into development and the site still ranks on page fifteen. Will that development effort pay off?

  3. Hi Elliott,

    All of your points are right on but I would like to add that if you want to build a site that adds value or can be monetized it must also have:

    1) Some unique or distinctive aspects. Most people have already committed their time to specific sites and it is difficult to move them from one channel to another. Most niches are already serviced well so any new site has to have some solid appeal to get eyeball time.

    2) There must be some technology or subject matter moat. It could be that the writer has a unique perspective or that the technology is difficult to copy (Groupon’s technology moat, as we have seen, is razor thin as is its perspective). Sometimes being the first mover is enough but nowadays it is difficult to find any niche which is not already being thoroughly serviced.


  4. To develop or not is a tough question.
    Even when everything goes according to plan you might find that a developed website with traffic might not make any money.
    For Instance was built by us around 9 months ago.
    The site has slowly gained organic listings and traffic.
    As of today the site gets around 3000-5000 uniques per month.
    Problem is its very hard to monetize.
    Granted I could optimize the site better.
    Hopefully an end user will come along with a decent offer.

  5. Another consideration is competition. I develop in the restaurant space which means competing against Yelp, etc in the rankings. Some have surpassed, mostly the lower searched geo’s. Moderate search keywords which are under-served work better than the highest searched, I have found.

  6. Elliot,

    I tell most people the following.

    Delete the bottom 10% of your domains. They probably are just full “bad” dreams.

    Select your top five domains. Then select your preferred domain… you have “Love that Category or Topic”

    Learn quickly via your passion domain, then decide whether you have the tolerance to develop the other “top five”

    The passion domain will test your capabilities.

  7. GREAT post! I wrestle with this almost daily.

    First step, tell yourself I am not building a website, I am building a business. Will you TM this business? Will you incorporate? Are you passionate and knowledgeable about this new website/business? No? Move on to something else.

    Now you realize the magnitude of your endeavor.

    Would you buy commercial office space fill it with people, furniture and inventory then just sit back and expect customers to come in day after day and buy your product?

    How about customer service, competitive pricing, unique experiences etc?

    As in business, you want your customers to tell other people about your business be it a restaurant, flower shop, hair salong etc.

    So, you should develop your domain with the primary motivation to have your customers tell their friends and family to visit your website.

    If your customers won’t tell their friends and family to go to your website, you are dead in the water. That’s how you build traffic and that’s how you build backlinks/credibility.

    Why did google and facebook and ebay take off with NO advertising? Certainly not because of type in traffic. Because people told other people to go to those sites for a unique experience.

    Good luck. As Rick Schwartz said… something like “make sure your ladder is leaning against the right building before you start to climb it.” I never forgot that. Think about it.

    Ties into Sun Tzu who said “every battle is won before it is fought” meaning that from the very start you are destined to fail or succeed.

  8. As a newbie, I felt discouraged reading these comments. Perhaps, this blog has a high percentage of readers who have been around the domain game for a while. Hence, are in the money, and can weight their options in terms of investing in domains or to develop some sites with some serious money behind it.

    As a new comer, with no profit or experience to speak of…I felt that learning to develop websites is the only viable way for me to make any money on the internet. I come in with the idea that, if someone is making $1000/month with his site, perhaps, I can learn from him, and maybe I can make $100/month.

    With the economy the way it is (especially in california)…time does not always equal to money. I would encourage all newbies like myself to learn to develop. There are tons of free software online. You can start to develop and monetize with nothing more than a domain name and a hosting account. Everything else is absolutely free! AND lets be honest your time is not worth nearly as much as it use to. 🙂 At least not for me.

  9. Elliot,

    I have been developing websites for years. I can design anything. Also, I can develop a website to do almost anything.

    My portfolio of my personal domains to develop includes about 25 decent names. The problem for me is that I dont really know what to do after I’ve developed a site. The marketing and monetization side of things is where I get lost.

    What would you suggest for someone like me who can develop all day long but can’t monetize to save my life?


  10. Hi Elliot,

    I’ve been developing sites for 5 years, and I can share where most web developers fail: TRAFFIC!

    It is not that complicated to create a beautiful website with quality content. In fact, you can outsource most of the work for a couple dollars on sites like elance or odesk.

    Where most web marketers fail, is getting traffic to their site.

    Developing a domain is like building a beautiful store in Antarctica. The store may well be user-friendly and wonderful. However: who are your customers? The penguins? How are people finding you?

    I always tell new web developers to spend 20% of their time building their site. The remaining 80% of their time should be spent getting traffic to their site.

    Assuming your site offers a useful product or service and has decent conversion rates (if not, you’ve got to test and tweak those factors), the only thing standing between you and millions of dollars is a lack of traffic to your site, so spend the majority of your time on your traffic strategies and implementation.

  11. BFitz’s point is a good one and should be #6 on your fine and useful list Elliott.

    Where there are several well-established gorilla competitors charging around your piece of the internet it’s gonna cost a small fortune to develop your domain to the point where you can compete with them – even on your exact match keyword.

    One useful guide is to see how many websites with low PR feature in the top 10 of your keyword search results.

    Could you build a better site than them and take their place?

    Do you have the resources and commitment to build another PR5 site just to be on the same playing field as them?

    Or would you settle for a less ambitious task on another of your domains.

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