You’ve Got to Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done.”

I saw Rick Latona’s post today about his company exiting the mini site space, and I immediately thought of Kenny Rogers’ 1978 song, The Gambler. Rick’s company,, has decided to exit the mini site development space, citing the lack of profitability, “The reality is there is no money in web design.” Although I disagree with what Rick said about web design because I know people who do quite well, I believe he has much bigger fish to fry, and I can commiserate with that decision.

I spent some time building my own mini sites, and although it’s enjoyable to see a project completed on a good domain name I own, the reality is that they often aren’t worth my time and effort. Like Rick, I have bigger fish to fry. When I have started new mini site projects, friends have told me I should focus my efforts on my bigger projects (,,…etc), but for me, it was more of a learning experience than anything.

The mini sites I built are earning more money than when they were parked, and instead of having them sit idly, they have pages indexed in Google. However, in retrospect, they weren’t really worth my time and effort, since that time could have been better spent doing other things that are more profitable (researching, buying, and selling domain names for example). Chalk it up to a learning experience I can have as a full time domain investor.

Anyhow, like the Kenny Rogers song, it’s important to know when you’re taking time away from profitable endeavors and doing something that isn’t going to help your bottom line, it’s time to throw in the towel. I’ve pretty much thrown in the towel on developing mini sites on my own to save money, and there would have to be a compelling reason to do another one since my lesson has been learned.

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. Here here Elliot – good post and i think you’re saying what most who built minisites are thinking – why did i waste my time! The real satisfaction, sleepless nights, and stress come when you are building a full blown site/business. I’ve recently started a new site (7 weeks old) and the focused effort on that is starting to pay dividends. Wheras in the past i would have flitted from one project to the next and in the end did none of them justice.

  2. Elliot…

    (An unrelated post) Your RT button at the bottom of every post auto inputs ‘RT @tweetmeme’ when attempting to retweet the post. Shouldn’t it auto input ‘RT @elliotsblog’ instead?

  3. Yeah, it’s fixed. It auto inputs ‘RT @elliotsblog’

    Now your retweets will certainly increase your twitter following base and traffic to the blog.

  4. Bruce Marler has a great post up on his blog.

    Overall you have to evaluate what your objectives are and realize any kind of development big or small takes a lot of work and time to achieve the expected results. It’s a process, step by step, just like growing a garden or building a home.

    An important factor also is when you get into developed sites it is a continuous work. There could be software changes, new content changes, advertiser changes, theme and style changes, navigation changes, whatever, there will always be changes. So you should never look at a site as “finished”. It is just like a garden, dynamic and growing each day.

    And there are ways to make money from these small sites without making money directly from your click ads. Having a well indexed site will build organic traffic and will also draw in potential end users you can sell the domain to for a price way higher than to another domainer. So even though you might not make a lot on your AdSense instantly, the potential to have your domain found by a prospective buyer increase significantly when you have a developed site on it.

    The best way to make money on the sites is like I always preach, find your own display advertisers. It might take work and time but eventually you can find someone you can sell an inexpensive ad to that will make the site profitable on top of your click ad revs.

    If anyone needs a new server home for their AEIOU sites please contact me and I’ll get your sites handled and also show you how to grow them beyond just mini sites. I provide the hosting for Elliot’s Blog, Rick’s Forum, and a ton of my own sites and client sites.

    You can e-mail me at

    We’ve got a full variety of site deployment strategies, advertising networks, direct ad sales reps, and also private joint venture investors to fund enterprise level developments on your domains if you have top quality domains you want to develop on a grand scale with hundreds of thousands of capital to do it right with advertising, marketing, etc.

  5. “However, in retrospect, they weren’t really worth my time and effort, since that time could have been better spent doing other things that are more profitable (researching, buying, and selling domain names for example).”

    Agree with you completely. I have built my share of mini sites and regular sites and adsense just seems to pay less and less. Sure you get more traffic but hard to monetize.

    Like Kevin says, having your own display advertisers are the best but the fact is (for me) domain SALES trump domain ad revenue year after year.

    However, sales can run hot and cold while ad revenue is steady cash flow so domain investors should decide what is more important to them.

  6. There is one time that a mini site directly helped me with a domain name. I bought at auction for $11,000 and had build a mini site on it. I then spent several days adding content to their design, and traffic increased as a result (search traffic). I then sold the domain name and mini site a few months later at a profit.

  7. I think the problem is when we consider mini sites as the end in of themselves. If that is the thinking then they will never work out to the full potential of a good domain.

    However, if we view the mini site as just a nice base…a starting point in the development of a much bigger picture…then using a mini site developer to give you a head start can work.

    Novices at designing sites most often get caught up in where to begin…”where do I start!” The mini site can help give them a base…as always, depends on who is building the mini site and what the overall development plan is as to whether it will ultimately succeed.

  8. Time=money. With that being said, with all the time being spent on building mini-sites, you can spend on buying and selling domains with type-in traffic which for most people is way more cost effective.


  9. Does nobody else question this? Rick Latona was one of the first big names to push mini-sites and push them hard. People bought into the bull experiment and followed him into this venture and in the most cases most likely lost money. I find it hard to believe that Rick Latona did not make any money in this space, perhaps he lost if you consider opportunity cost but his expenses for this specific project could not have been high (an outsourced office an in the phillipines??…). In my opinion AEIOU was never a mini-site development company or a domain company, it was marketing machine to push sales for the auction business. They tested the waters to see if they could coerce people into buying crappy long tail names and developing them and it failed. Overall the whole thing seems like a pump and dump scheme in my opinion.

    I really would like to see a show of hands how many people really realized outsized ROI by using Rick Latona’s service. My guess is very few because the ultimate end game for most of the non-quality domain names developed by AEIOU could not be sold at auction for the amount it cost to develop them.


    I guess the writing was on the wall last week when his new partner Rick Schwartz bashed development in the post “Are mini-sites dead”. RS new what was coming down the pipeline. Way to look like you are ahead of the curve RS when you new the announcement was coming.

  10. @ Shiphouse

    My mini site from AEIOU worked out very well for me, as did my Site Graduate sites – two of which I sold. Some of the mini sites I built have done well, and the verdict is still out on others.

    I also just checked another AEIOU site monetized with Adsense, and its making about $20/month for the last few months.. up from a couple dollars a month when I bought it.

  11. Elliot,

    I don’t doubt that your mini-site worked out well for you. But in my personal opinion AEIOU had to take on many names that were of low quality to justify the business for as long as they did. I really have to wonder how many names they “accepted” to develop over the past several months that they knew had no chance of ROI for the end user.

    I give them credit for getting out but in my opinion I have to imagine they realized the fate much earlier while at the same time taking on new business.

  12. Shiphouse,

    whoever you here – congrats. I’m away at the moment and catching up on some reading. Of all the comments I’ve read on this topic (here on Elliot’s blog and others) its the same old shit. You are exactly right imo.


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