With the recent launch of DogWalker.com, I’ve been given more perspective about web development from the point of view of a domain investor. The site I launched is different than my other websites in a few ways, and I’ve expanded my breadth of knowledge as a result. This isn’t the most polished blog post, but I wanted to share some jumbled thoughts while they are fresh.
In some ways, domain investors frequently go about things ass backwards when it comes to web development. Instead of coming up with a great business plan and execution strategy – and then finding a brand and domain name to use, many of us (myself included) build the strategy around the domain name. Not that this is a horrible idea because a domain name is key, but many of us don’t have the background (or time) required to execute a new Internet business.
Before you do anything, think about what domain name you want to develop and how you’d want to develop it. It doesn’t have to be your best name, but it should be a name that has a good chance for success (either a great domain name or a great idea you plan to implement). If you don’t think you have one – or if you aren’t sure about that, then you probably shouldn’t develop it.
You don’t need a great domain name to have a great website. However, you do need a great product, service, or unique information that will propel you above your competition. If you have neither, please don’t develop just to develop. If you are passionate about a topic and aren’t developing to make money (like I did with my blog), then by all means go forward and have fun with it!
You will then need to think about why you want to develop and what your long term goal for each website is:
- Create a full time business opportunity
- Earn a passive revenue with limited involvement
- Set it up and forget about it Adsense/affiliate
- Topic of interest where money doesn’t matter
- A plain website to protect from UDRP “non-use” or other TM issues
Once you’ve determined what your goal is for a potential site, ask yourself if your idea will get you to your goal. No – really, don’t BS yourself right now – think about this realistically. TheMesotheliomaPros.net is not going to become a money making website, despite the fact that mesothelioma has high paying keywords. No matter what, you won’t be able to compete with the big guys and you are wasting your money on development. If you have Mesothelioma.com or .org, then you might have a shot.
The next step is to figure out how you will get there. You need to know what type of website you want to build on your domain name. You don’t need an expert’s knowledge, but you should know these things to communicate with a developer. Think about how you are going to make money and about how people will find the site. Some questions to consider:
- Are you going to solicit advertisers?
- How will advertisers sign up?
- Why would advertisers want to be on your site?
- How are people going to find your site?
- What are you going to do to get ranked highly in Google?
- How much will you pay for advertising and PPC campaigns?
- Who would come to your site, and what are they going to do once they’re there, and why will they come back?
Use Google to do your research and seek out the advice of experts – both personal advice and blog posts. Look at other websites that have similar offerings and take note of the designs and functionality that you like and don’t like. Make note of those because a designer and developer are going to ask you to show them sites you like, so it’s helpful to have that information on hand. See how other websites are advertising and research inbound links to those websites.
Find a good designer and a good programmer (if you have a more complicated site or need extensive modifications on a template). There are thousands of great designers and programmers, but not nearly as many people who are masters at both. I blogged about where to find designers, programmers, SEOs, writers…etc. I see a lot of people posting RFPs on domain forums, but why post to a small group of these experts when you can reach hundreds?
Learn the basics of development, and/or learn how to use WordPress. You don’t need to know coding to use WordPress, and I am not talking about any design elements or coding. Learn where to find things in the control panel and how to create pages, posts, and other nuances of WordPress. If you don’t know anything about development (like me when I first started), you are going to waste a lot of money on simple fixes.
David Castello advised me to learn about Dreamweaver, and believe it or not, I used the basic knowledge I learned creating listings on Ebay to get a leg up on Dreamweaver. I also learned a lot about WordPress at the advice of Kevin Leto (who manages my blog), and that has been helpful. It’s not the most intuitive thing for someone who isn’t familiar with development, but I liken it to the domain business. It takes time to get a gut feel for domain names but it’s not rocket science.
Sorry if I sound like a downer with all of this, but I want to be realistic with you. When I see my friends successfully launching sites, I get amped to go out and do it myself. However, I don’t want people to see the sites I launch and try to go about it on their own without the knowledge.
Soon enough you will be able to map your route to success.
Again, the best piece of advice I can offer is this: Do not develop just to develop (unless you are doing it to practice or to gain knowledge about development). Only develop great domain names OR only develop great ideas. If you have an average idea and and average domain name, you will probably waste your money.
Agreed. I came up with the plans first and then went after the domains to fit the plan. I think you need discipline if you plan on developing domains. Even with a team, how many domains can one person develop in a lifetime. That is why parking is so successful. It is a LCD solution that is razor thin development, allowing someone to launch 1000X sites. But if you plan on going deep with your domains, it prohibits your ability to launch more than a handful of names (w/o partnerships).
thanks for the great post, I learned a lot of new things. George Pickering mentioned in his comment that its good to have partners or a team, but my problem is I don’t know how to find partners or a team to help me develop my domains. I’ve developed a couple of domains but it just gets too much. So can anyone enlighten me on how to find a developing team or a partner?
Every offer for a name I get I always ask the enquirer if they have a plan for the name and would like to consider a partnership, that way they can have the name for free.
It’s surprising how many trying to buy names have really good business plans and ideas for development. With a water tight agreement in place it would be an easy step to launch into a partnership with one of these buyers.
Is DogWalker.com created by some domain development company or you make it? It looks great.
Another very informative post El!
I think one of the best pieces of advice is to learn as much as you can at least about the basics of everything involved in developing sites. You don’t have to become an expert, cause that takes years to master, but if you just gather some general knowledge it’ll give you a much stronger understanding of what all the experts you’ll be dealing with are talking about. Don’t be afraid or intimidated to ask lots of questions if an expert starts using web, server, seo, or coding terminology you have no idea what they’re talking about.
Also it’s important to recognize the Internet is dynamic and changing everyday with new technologies so whatever you do will always be a work in progress. So even when you think you’re done, you never really are. There will need to be tweaks, updates, upgrades, new features, and on and on
Sometimes a new version of a major component of an operating system will be updated on your server that will break the coding of scripts from sites you did years before. Many are experiencing this with PHP5 being upgraded on servers from PHP4. Or you might find content feeds stop working because a provider went under. I’ve come across major sites where features aren’t working and you can tell someone isn’t doing their job and monitoring the site.
The other point to remember is almost everything is trial and error. Just cause something works for one domainer’s project doesn’t mean it will work as well for your domain. There are a myriad of factors that come into play on every project that can determine it’s success.
Above all, keep things simple wherever and whenever you can. Simplicity always works best and maximizes efficiencies and time productivity.
Wonderful article on domain development. Good details and theory behind interpreting your domains to WHAT you believe in as a business, not just because it’s a great domain name.
You might want to link up with Bruce Marler’s great post on this at the moment, where he discusses exactly the same idea of understanding and creating a business plan BEFORE you choose a domain, which is controversial viewpoint within the domain community. I agree at some points of this, and others I don’t.
However, the discussion is so valuable for people coming into this game, and those already switching from the PPC debacle and lack of transparency to controlling their own financial destiny with their domains.
I’m also impressed to know that Kevin is managing your blog! I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to know how to get Kevin managing their blog, and that he even does this. (Probably only for hotodoggers like yourself).
Seriously, kudos on this article, El. Check out Bruce Marler’s article at