Expounding on Development | DomainInvesting.com
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Expounding on Development

17

I wanted to write a more in-depth post on the development of my mini-site, TropicalBirds.com due to the amount of comments that were left and emails that were sent to me. First, thank you to everyone who sent their compliments to me. Domain investing and development can be isolating things, and I appreciate the support from my friends and colleagues.

Development can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. If you have a vision for a website but lack the development expertise, this post is probably for you. I came into the domain industry with absolutely no development skills or even development knowledge. I was barely able to put my development thoughts in an email, and 99% of the vocabularly I used was in layman’s terms. However, heeding the advice of a couple of friends, I taught myself how to use Dreamweaver.

For those of you who don’t know, Dreamweaver is an Adobe program used to build webpages. I probably only use about 1% of its capabilities, but that was really all I needed. Much of what I’ve done is cutting and pasting within the parameters created by my developer. I learned a bit of code (from my Ebay and blogging days), and using code, I was able to make simple changes.   I think there are books about code, but I am talking very rudimentary code.   Well… maybe I am getting ahead of myself.   Let’s start from square 1.

My first step in the process was buying TropicalBirds.com for several thousand dollars.   I saw the name and thought it would be a great foundation for an informational website about tropical birds. With hundreds of species of tropical birds, I knew I could jampack it with information that will get spidered (spread out) throughout Google. Since the name only receives a couple of visitors per day, I knew I would have to develop it to increase traffic and generate revenue. Spending several thousand dollars on a domain name is always a risk, but it was a calculated risk, and I believe I got a fair price.

As I was buying the name, I was thinking about a theme for the site – not difficult when it’s a category generic domain name. I thought about tropical colors, and I decided that orange, green, and red would be perfect.   I contacted LogoJeez.com, and verbalized my vision for the logo. A few days later, they presented a few logos from which to choose, and I have to admit, I barely changed anything. I’ve worked with them in the past, and it usually takes a few rounds to perfect, but this one was almost spot on the first time.

With my logo in hand, I was in contact with my friend Kevin who created the layout for me.   I told him what I wanted to accomplish with the site, I told him that I wanted an easy navigation scheme, and I gave him my logo. Within a couple of days, he provided the layout to me – it was almost perfect with a few minor personal changes. He sent me the base page and the stylesheet, which is used to dictate how the website will look – it’s basically where the architecture plans for the website are kept, and all the pages of the site read the stylesheet to know how to look.

The tricky part with development is building the pages. With a bit of coding knowledge (VERY basic), I am able to replicate pages to build new ones. I basically copy and paste text from Microsoft Word into Dreamweaver, and save it as a different page name. Kevin created the layout for me, complete with pictures, so I basically change the name of the image, copy the image into the image folder, copy and paste the text, and add other pictures using copy/paste. Since the meta placeholders are where they should be (keywords, page title, page description), I just change those out, too.   I do a “save as” and it’s easy.

When it comes to the technical aspect of things, I am a rookie. I wouldn’t say learning Dreamweaver is easy, but if you can learn a little bit about code (what is bold, what is italic, how to create bulletpoints…etc), you can easily make new pages for a website. I wouldn’t have been able to create the foundation and stylesheet from scratch, but with Kevin’s help, I got a great start. He was also willing to create a couple of the more difficult forms for me and has always been willing to give advice. Dreamweaver isn’t easy, and I know I am not using all of the features, but the best way to learn is by playing around with it.   Lot’s of doing and then undoing when I did something wrong!
I am not a great writer, and with Burbank.com being developed by yours truly at the same time, I don’t have much time to research dozens of tropical birds. I hired a copywriter based on a recommendation from someone else. Not only does she do good work, but she has had some great ideas for expanding the site. I get between 4-6 articles per day from her, and I am formatting and uploading the pages as they come. Once my copywriter has finished working on this project, I will recommend her personally, but I don’t want her inundated with requests before she finishes. I would happily use her skills again in the future.

For pictures on the site, I used copyright-free images from Wikipedia. These images are free to use as long as they are cited. All citations are on a single page of the site, which is linked from each page with an image. Additionally, I embedded some YouTube videos throughout the site, which was very simple and only involved resizing.

To generate revenue on the site, I have 3 Adsense advertisements on each page. While they are somewhat strategically placed, my plan is to test the placement at a point down the road to see how that impacts revenue. Additionally, I have Amazon affiliate links on some parts of the site. If people are looking for a bird cage for their macaw, I am happy to refer them to a place that can give them what they want. Once the site is finished, I will look for another affiliate who can offer   more related bird products, but for now Amazon will suffice.

Developing TropicalBirds.com isn’t/wasn’t easy, but I know my personal limitations, and where I didn’t have expertise, I hired someone who is an expert. Yes, development does take quite a bit of time, but I think it will pay off.   Instead of listing TropicalBirds.com as a domain name for $10,000, I will hopefully have a revenue producing website that isn’t for sale. All in all, the site cost under $1,000 to build and it probably took a solid 30 hours on my part for research, revisions, page building…etc.

I could have done the same type of website with CoolTropicalBirds.com or TropicallyBirds.com and saved several thousand dollars on a less expensive domain name. While that might have worked in the long run, if the site failed, I would have spent several hundred dollars on a website with a poor domain name. At least if TropicalBirds.com would fail, I would have a strong domain name to try and recoup my investment.

As I’ve said in the past, I really think development is where domain investors should begin to focus. Although I am still going to be relying on Google for revenue, I am able to increase the traffic to the site, something I couldn’t have done if I parked it. Also, I can sell links on the site to other bird websites, and eventually I can sell advertising, which will make the site non-reliant on Google for revenue. There are many more options with a developed website than a parked domain name.

This project has reaffirmed my belief that it is important to own a strong domain name.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (17)

    Martin

    Hi Elliot,

    1. I don’t understand why you spend several thousand dollars for a domain name, but you don’t even consider paying several hundreds to outsource the whole development. You admit yourself you are a layman when it comes to actual designing/coding, but you spend a week with Dreamweaver instead of spending a day writing a development plan and finding somebody who creates the website for you (and does it for a living).

    2. Coding every page in HTML is maybe 10 years old and very unpractical. What are you going to do when you want to change the footer on every page or, say, change the placement of the ads? Spend the whole evening editing file after file? In the comments under the last article about TropicalBirds.com someone mentioned WordPress and I wholeheartedly agree. Use any OS content-management system (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal) and you’ll save cash, time and effort. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, learn HTML, CSS, browser differences etc. do you?

    3. Hire a professional designer. The website doesn’t look very good IMAO.

    Anyway, I agree with you webdevelopment is nothing to be afraid of and is actually fun. Thanks for your inspirational articles.

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    “I don’t understand why you spend several thousand dollars for a domain name, but you don’t even consider paying several hundreds to outsource the whole development. You admit yourself you are a layman when it comes to actual designing/coding, but you spend a week with Dreamweaver instead of spending a day writing a development plan and finding somebody who creates the website for you (and does it for a living).”

    I enjoy developing, and I would rather be thrifty when I can afford to be thrifty. I could have paid someone to build all the pages, but I prefer to do it myself. It’s also been great practice for me, and I think it’s important to know how to use the program in case there is a problem down the road or I need to add a page. I want to be self sufficient.

    “Coding every page in HTML is maybe 10 years old and very unpractical. What are you going to do when you want to change the footer on every page or, say, change the placement of the ads? Spend the whole evening editing file after file? In the comments under the last article about TropicalBirds.com someone mentioned WordPress and I wholeheartedly agree. Use any OS content-management system (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal) and you’ll save cash, time and effort. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, learn HTML, CSS, browser differences etc. do you?”

    I asked several developers I know and it was split 50/50. A few minutes ago I realized there was an error in the sidebar. It took me 2 minutes to do a find/replace in all documents, and another 3 minutes to upload the entire thing. WordPress is great, but I think a majority of the websites coming online still use the standard HTML. It took about the same amount of time that it took me to upload the Bido banner on my WordPress blog and paste the link in the main template, page sheet, and post sheet (well, maybe a few seconds longer, but not significant).

    “Hire a professional designer. The website doesn’t look very good IMAO”

    While your comment is certainly appreciated, there are plenty of others who disagree with your opinion. I don’t know why I would spend thousands of more dollars on the site using a “professional designer” when I like it as is. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the ultimate test will be whether it makes money, which it will 🙂

    Anyway, I agree with you webdevelopment is nothing to be afraid of and is actually fun. Thanks for your inspirational articles.

    Thanks 🙂

    June 17th, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Gustavo

    @Martin
    I have to disagree with you about your statement that “coding every page of a mini-site with Dreamweaver is maybe 10 years old and unpractical”.
    Because you could, for example, create Editable Regions, Templates and Snippets and your mini-site will behave pretty much like a CMS.

    @Elliot
    Congratulations on your decision on learning to code, that will be on the long run, a great investment.

    By the way you have some broken links in your site.

    Cheers.

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    Thanks! I am still adding pages, which is why I have the 404s. They should all be done in a week or so. Since the site wasn’t indexed in Google (and now has just the homepage), I don’t think the 404s will impact the ranking. If it had been ranked and/or there were many pages indexed, I wouldn’t be lazy about it and just redirect those blank pages, but I am uploading new content as I get it!

    June 17th, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Bahamas Hosting

    @Martin

    You are right about hand editing HTML being 10 years old but that doesn’t mean it is not a good technique to use. There are certainly valid reasons to use it and mini sites are a good example. And of course a 500 page content rich geodomain site is one you should use a CMS with, even if a custom coded CMS.

    You are also right that Elliot is making extra work by not being able to dynamically change his footer, header etc by using the hand edit technique. But I think Elliot knows that already and is well on his way to understand how to use some php to dynamically serve his header and footer and perhaps his nav as well.

    And I think the readers on this blog are enjoying following along and learning as well. 😉

    – Richard

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    Someone just emailed me about doing that 🙂 I am learning about it now… maybe next time.

    June 17th, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Indra Laksami

    This is a very good start Elliot, Maybe later down the road, you might wanna develop some online store like chocolate.com and start making million dollar sales yearly.

    June 17th, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Indra Laksami

    Also, do keep us updated in the next month or so on the revenue of this website. If it does great with google adsense, then maybe its time I start learning dreamweaver and develop my domains too

    June 17th, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Gordon

    Great post – a few comments to add / questions to ask.

    1) Having a good logo and design makes such a difference. A nice looking site and legit looking logo can mask (to some extent) a crappy site when it comes to selling advertising, or selling the site. A crappy looking site will often sell for a crappy price.

    2) You are right, a good copywriter is extremely important. There are a lot of really crappy ones out there. Tip to everyone – go to craigslist (in a city where you don’t have to pay), and post up a help wanted ad for writers. You’ll probably have 50 emails within 3 hours.

    3) I’m torn on the CMS / dreamweaver / HTML debate. For smaller sites I like to use HTML with include files, for bigger sites CMS makes more sense. I will say though that having basic knowledge of HTML is invaluable no matter how your site is built.

    4) Word of warning to everyone – you are building for the long term. Especially with the way google looks at new sites, you could spend thousands of dollars and many hours on a new site that won’t make you $200 in the first year. In 3 years it might make you $5k, but go into it knowing you are doing this for the long term. It takes time, patience and knowledge to play in the development game.

    5) Elliot – what are your thoughts on focusing on certain sites? Your “big gun” sites probably aren’t done yet, but you just spent 30 hours on tropicalbirds.com. How do you decide where to spend your time? (this is my problem, I can’t keep focus on my most important projects)

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    Thankfully, I am in a good position, where I can afford to spend my time doing this. If I had a f/t job or couldn’t afford to spend my time doing this, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop the site. I have been very fortunate this year, and I am in a position where I can spend 30 hours on a project, that even if it fails, I’ve learned from it and I still have a good domain name to fall back on.

    I developed DebtAssistanceClinic.com using WordPress a few weeks ago. I am actually beginning to see some organic Google traffic, but I wouldn’t have dedicated 30 hours to that project.

    With a solid domain name that was bought for a good price, I think it’s worth developing under a couple circumstances:
    1) You can build an informational site and a “real” business doesn’t have to be created – that takes a ton of time
    2) You have an interest in the topic
    3) There are enough searches and interest in the topic that you know a developed site will bring visitors

    BTW – see you tomorrow

    June 17th, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Gustavo

    I agree with Bahama Hosting about using a CMS if you are planning to create something somehow bigger that a mini, in that case you should considering using a CMS.

    If you are expecting to become a 500 pages or more Web Site, creating a custom coded CMS or customed made PHP site may be a better option than an out of the box CMS.

    But for this mini-site I believe Dreamweaver was a good option.

    Happy coding.

    June 17th, 2008 at 11:11 am

    admin

    Does anyone have information on creating a CMS? Costs? Contacts? Thanks.

    June 17th, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Bahamas Hosting

    Elliot,

    I am speaking from experience when I say that if you learned a little PHP it is pretty easy to automate a lot of your HTML pages. You can build a template and dynamically include header, footer, nav, content data etc from static files and/or a mysql database.

    To learn the basics, I recommend you read and practice the code in a book called “PHP in a nutshell”.

    Sure there are open source tools out there that you can try and customize, but it sounds like you want to learn and are not afraid to do some work. 😉

    – Richard

    June 17th, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Gordon

    I use Modx and a ukranian guy. To give you an idea, he put a 50 page site into Modx and customized it for me for $600.

    Will send you the contact info, but will first make sure that my projects come first 🙂

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    LOL… THANKS!

    June 17th, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Ralph

    Hi Elliot,

    Very informative writeup.

    I did have a question… How did you go about finding a quality writer and what is a reasonable amount to pay?

    Thanks

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    I posted my request on a forum and she responded. I reviewed her past work and references and liked what she did. I am paying under $400 for all articles.

    June 17th, 2008 at 11:44 am

    AC

    Thankss for taking the time to respond to these comments and questions with all the work you have. May I ask two questions?

    1. You probably posted this already somewhere but were Tropicalbirds.com and Burbank.com bought privately or at auction?

    2. For a good copywriter, what is a good way to check that the content isn’t taken from other sites and is “good to go” in terms of rights of use?

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    I can tell you are on the path for greatness in this game!

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    1. You probably posted this already somewhere but were Tropicalbirds.com and Burbank.com bought privately or at auction?

    They were both purchased privately.

    2. For a good copywriter, what is a good way to check that the content isn’t taken from other sites and is “good to go” in terms of rights of use?

    A site called copyscape.com can help you detect whether the content is taken from another site and/or if someone is taking something from your site.

    Thanks for the compliment! Just trying to have fun while earning a living 🙂

    June 17th, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Mark

    Hi Elliot:

    First, just want to thank you for being generous with info. I am not sure if you hear this enough but there are many of us that greatly appreciate the candid info that you provide. Your blog bleeds integrity and that deserves thanks. So thanks!

    Second, just curious if you could provide some detail on your process of buying a name privately. I am not seeking specifics like prices you paid, etc. But more general stuff like, do you use an attorney to write up a sales contract and liability release, do you use escrow, etc.

    Thanks mucho,
    Mark

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks 🙂

    Regarding my private purchases:

    I wrote a few paragraphs, but I am going to make this a full blog post in a few mins – thanks for the inspiration!

    June 17th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Michael Castello

    Great article Elliot. Very helpful to newcomers and veterans and there will be plenty more looking for this type of information. Sometimes we get so advanced in what we are achieving that we leave the person who is new out of the picture. I see this in the advancement of many blogs. Same problem we deal with at the conferences we speak at. You want to communicate with everyone in the audience but you know you are not connecting to the newbies OR the veterans have already heard it all before. Maybe you could have a sidebar section that always has this type of informative article in the Developers 101 section and have other progressive articles in the Advanced Domainers section. Almost like a school of articles from your written work. Just a thought.

    June 18th, 2008 at 1:39 am

    Seyi

    “Sometimes we get so advanced in what we are achieving that we leave the person who is new out of the picture.”

    Well said, Michael; that is very kind of you, and Eliot is very generous for sharing his secret for success. Some folks aren’t that nice. You guys are the real “domainers’ role-models.” More grease to your elbows.

    June 18th, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Eric

    Great site Elliot!

    I have two questions regarding TropicalBirds.com

    1) What made you decide to go for TropicalBirds.com rather than TropicalBird.com? Did you do a search that found the plural form was more popular?

    2) For the Disclaimer located at the bottom of the frontpage, did you hire a lawyer to write that up or did you make it yourself? Do you recommend anyone in particular?

    Thanks

    June 18th, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Davud Mete

    Hi;
    Great post as always Elliot. I was informed about your blog about a month ago, and since then it became one of the most valuable sources of information and great ideas about domaining for me. I follow your thoughts about developing mini sites instead of only parking them. Especially for people like me who don’t have got the financial power or guts to buy premium domains which could get a lot of type-in traffic without any content and search-engine indexing developing mini sites would be an reasonable strategy.
    In the post you explained why you got tropicalbirds instead of cooltropicalbirds or some name like that. I really liked the way you think and i think its the most important lesson a mini-site developer can get from your post. From now on I’ll try to get some premium names following your lesson.
    I have a question related to this issue. I got informationalsites(com) and want to use it as an umbrella site for the informational sites I’m going to develop on my domains topnotchbeaches(com) organiccertificated(com) and another ones ill register or acquire. I’m just wondering if these domains are worth something suppose that my plans for developing will fail.

    ***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***

    Thanks for the compliments! I think InformationalSites.com is worth something, but I think the value in TopNotchBeaches.com is in development. IMO, CertifiedOrganic.com would be a much better name. Certificated isn’t really a commonly used word, so I wouldn’t develop that one.

    June 20th, 2008 at 1:49 pm

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