Rick is Right About Development

When it comes to development, Rick made a good point yesterday. One of my biggest obstacles when it comes to development is myself. With domain sales down for me, I have been spreading myself thinly in an effort to build revenue generating businesses on my domain names.

  • In the last two years, my company has built Lowell.com, Burbank.com, and Newburyport.com into full-fledged businesses, which require frequent updates, client meetings, sales calls, and time devoted to city research.
  • I have my domain blog, which I update every day with news, advice, and commentary. This takes a considerable amount of time, but it’s a good outlet to share and learn.
  • I am in the process of building out Torah.com into a fully operational website, which will have a whole host of features that one would expect to find on a website of this nature.
  • I have a bunch of mini sites, which don’t take a whole lot of time to manage, but they do take some time adding content, testing layouts, researching topics…etc.
  • I spend time acquiring good domain names and looking to make deals to sell other domain names.

I find myself going in circles sometimes because it’s not easy to manage all of this. Building businesses takes time and effort, and I am finding myself having less time to do the things I enjoy. There is a fine balance between spending the right amount of time building a solid business and spending too much time getting few things done.

I completely disagree with Rick about his belief regarding search engine traffic, and I can’t understand how his domain names would lose traffic with mini-sites, because one would imagine the type-in traffic would at least stay consistent, however, that’s a topic for another day.

If you are a domain investor, you need to figure out what you want to do with your domain names before you do it, especially if they may be difficult to re-sell quickly. If you are planning to develop them into a business, it might be best to focus on one and make it into the best business possible before you start another project. Staying focused on one project is difficult, especially when you are working alone.

Take it from me, buying and selling great domain names isn’t difficult. Building a business on a domain name is a completely different story, and while I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made, I am finding it much more difficult to gain traction with some of my projects, since I can’t always focus on one project at a time.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
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 closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com 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. I differed with Rick on his blog and I’ll have to respectively differ with you here Elliot. There are different types of development and it’s very important to note that. GEOs are about as labor intensive as sites get which is why I haven’t gotten into the space. They key for me is building content and affiliate based sites that require very little maintenance but add enough value to generate leads, garner links and repeat visitors. Sites that generate $100+/day each that would have made $2 max parking. To me this type of development adds tremendous value and creates income almost as passive as parking while increasing the value of the domain. The focus with this model is maximizing earnings to effort/time as we all know time is always the bottle neck for a small operation.

    My point here is that there are very different shades of development and to lump it all into one category is a mistake. 😉

  2. Nice post, Elliot.

    If you buy the right domain names and not junk, then you can certainly feel like a “kid in a candy store” due to the tremendous amount of opportunity there.

    That is why sticking to a solid game plan is important.

    @BullS: I don’t think a Geo owner has to live in a particular city to add credibility. Donald Trump doesn’t live in all the places he has projects, but his passion and organization are what drive the projects to success.

    As long as Geo owners understand they are stewards of the people of that city and make the site a true site they can be proud of…then address of the owner doesn’t matter.

  3. @ Byran – I totally agree about the “there are very different shades of development and to lump it all into one category is a mistake.” You see that kind of thinking in this business all the time.

    For us, the key has been hiring people to do much of the work. When I look out my office window and see a 6 story office building, I’m well aware that the person that owns the building probably didn’t build it with his own two hands….he hired people to do it.

    Of course, it costs money to do it, but I think if you are successful, it can return incredible multiples of that investment. With our local news site http://www.kelowna.com , we are doing everything in-house, which adds to the cost, but is necessary for the project.

    Our next project, jobs.ca, which will launch next month, is being built by a development company as we just are not set up to build sites like that, but can hire people that are.

    There is a 100 ways up the mountain, just pick one and run with it.

  4. How many domainers are in Rick’s position getting millions of visitors of type-in traffic per month? I deal with a wide variety of domainers, including most of the big portfolio guys, and it’s a very very small club at the top.

    So for everyone else, which is 99% of the domainers out there, to follow the strategies of the upper echelon players like Rick makes no sense because you don’t have the same financial circumstances nor the guaranteed income stream. You have to follow a strategy that matches your financial position and your portfolio quality.

    For a guy like Rick to take a domain that does 1,000 visits a day by type-in traffic and put a site on that instead of PPC where every click is a rev generator, his income is guaranteed to drop. But for a guy who has a domain with no type-in traffic, he’s not making anything at all, so to put up a site and start to build traffic will take time, and it might not turn into anything huge at first, but in time these small sites do grow and generate money.

    It is a lot of work developing sites like El said, and it is even more work managing them once their built. There is no easy way around it, even if you automate, there will always be work. You could have an automated processs where the provider decides to change something in the code and then you might have to go back to hundreds of sites and recode the site for the new changes. The time in that is off the charts.

    I did the original development for El’s TropicalBirds.com and now it’s grown into a really nice site with lots of information, multimedia and images, e-commerce selling bird cages and supplies, and a forum for users to interact.

    The best thing to do first is create a mission statement and business plan that works for you and the type of domains you have. Then decide how you will achieve your objectives. You may be able to do a lot of building yourself, or you may want to work with a developer, or you may want to joint venture with a company, license a domain or a myriad of other ways. It’s also important to look at the time management of what your plan entails. Will there be automated systems or do you need a team of writers to create content. Will you have to do updates on hundreds of sites or is there a way to automate it. You have to study your system and find ways to make it efficient, logistically viable, and profitable. It’s no easy task, nor a way to get rich quick, but it can be done and it can create more money than you’re making now.

    And I will tell you straight out quit focusing on the common monetization methods. Systems like AdSense or CJ or PPC are all fine and dandy and will pay the bills but that is NOT where the big money is with targeted niche sites. The big money is in selling advertising, selling products or services, and generating leads.

    Everyone who is putting down small sites hasn’t learned the ways to make money off of them or just didn’t do them the right way. These small sites work and often better than big sites. But there are very specific things you have to do to make them profitable. And that is the secret!

  5. Although I have not been in the industry long, I have quickly learned that focusing your energy on the top-producing revenue streams is the goal. If you have a great domain, build it out. If you have a natural click-through site, leave it alone. If you have an up and coming trend, build a network to service it.

    Selling domains is the goal. But some domains simply won’t sell without development. Some of course will. For the great names you own that need work, you are doing the right thing.

    I once had about 200 websites across 50 different subjects with no real aim. Now I focus on just 5 product targets and have about several sites to support each topic – so maybe about 25 sites instead of 200. It’s still not easy. But why would it ever be easy?

    Think of the guys who own old websites that just rake in cash daily. Look at your competition. What did it take for them to get there? What are their rewards?

    A smart guy like you can achieve anything. Just don’t get wrapped up in too many things (good advice for me too).

  6. How many domain names and development projects did it take Tony Hsieh to build Zappos from ZERO to a billion dollar business?

    The key is to narrow your focus or hire people like Shaun said and that’s the part you left out… development at any level takes money and technical talent. You were lucky to team with Kevin which hastened the learning curve, but with copy and design and travel and promotion, even a one-man company will require a budget to sustain itself let alone grow.

  7. Development is NOT easy, but if done right it can be very profitable. Some very important things to remember:

    ** Develop for the long term. The sites I spent LOTS of time working on 8 years ago are paying off in spades now. At first they were making me $200 per month and I thought I was the smartest guy on earth. Now I have a few months per year where I clear $10k from them – with less than 5 hours of work. And this is NOTHING compared to some of the real players in the game who crank out a lot of these sites.

    ** Learn SEO. It is really, really tough to make it without search traffic. You need a lot of patience though – you might not see good rankings for a year or two. BUT…google respects time as much as anything else. Build a site today, update once in a while and in 5 years it will be infinitely easier for that site to rank than any new site will.

    ** As Elliot has said many times, learn some tech stuff yourself. Basic HTML knowledge goes a long, long way.

    ** Craigslist is your friend. I recently hired a smart college kid for $11 per hour to build me sites and do work for me, and a recent college journalism grad for $12 per hour. I’m tweaking my formula, but hope to have them take over the basic tasks for me.

    ** Pick your topic wisely. Pick something that is expensive – $100+ at least, and that has good search volume. You WILL NOT win with super popular topics that the big boys or scammers are going after (viagra, mortgages etc).

    ** Again – it is going to take time and dedication. The castello’s have frequently said all you need to do is build a page per day – and they are dead on. Add one page per day and google will like your site quite a bit. Get a few links (buying makes it faster) and in 2 or 3 years you may have a great site on your hands.

    ** Let’s do some math – 3 hours per week for 2 years. Half the time writing content, 25% getting links and 25% building the site, researching seo etc. This could build you a really great site with great content. 300 hours = less than 10 weeks full time. There is a good chance your site is now making a few thousand dollars per month…and will continue for a while – possibly indefinitely if you play your cards right. $36,000 per year for 10 weeks work up front….not a bad deal, right? Even though it’s not guaranteed, how much would that be worth to someone? “I have something that has made me $36,000 for 5 straight years. There is a chance it could be gone tomorrow, but I see no reason why it would be. It is for sale for $150,000”. Not bad for your time, huh?

    **Remember, pick your topics wisely. Don’t waste time on the forums and blogs (seriously – I waste WAY too much time talking rather than doing).

    (after reading this, I’m realizing i need to get my sh*t together and stop messing around so much and build 10 more sites!)

  8. This was an excellent blog. Is there anyone that will look at your portfolio and tell you what makes sense to develop and what not to?

    Also, can I get Kevin’s contact info for development? Or where else do you recommend to go for mini-site development?

  9. If you’re developing a domain from scratch then it may be three or five years before you really rake in the $$$.

    By then the world will have moved on and you may need to have a quite different looking / functioning site to be relevant and useful to visitors.

    So it’s a great investment to plan and write your site in a way which can be changed easily in the future.

    Using CSS for styles, using external files for common elements like menus, building a file structure that can be adapted easily etc will all pay off.

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