How to Develop Your Domain Names

Monkey trouble

A self portrait at the moment. Image courtesy of Drawn

This guide to developing your domain names out is just a stub. We’ve collected 22 Tips on various bits of paper and computer files, and are in the process of typing them all out. These include using WordPress, BANS, collaboratively developing names, and many more.

We’ll gradually add the rest of these tips over the next few months. But firstly, let’s start things off with some basics.

Develop sites according to your interests.

This is the simplest step you can make to make your life easy. You can make your site about anything – but if it is something you are interested in you’re onto a winner. You’re probably collecting the information for yourself anyway, so why not share it? It helps people and makes some spare change too, so what could be better. Developing interests is a good way to share what you already do, and makes searching for domains in that area a labor of love. To some extent, you are what you write about. If you look at the plans of the big guys like Kevin Ham, developing interests is what many successful domainers end up doing.

Making a site about an interest not only helps you with content, design, and knowledge of the field, it also makes promotion a breeze too. After all, you’re probably already chatting to people in the field and attending forums or other people’s blogs. This is following the line of least resistance and I highly recommend it.

Quality Versus Quantity

Everyone has their own take on quality versus quantity of material, and in an ideal world, you would have both. If I had to choose, however, I’d go for quality every time. For while it’s easy to pay for cheap copy or push sites out for people to chance upon, in the end it is often a wise use of your time sitting down for a day and writing one really useful article. If you calculated the amount of time you spend checking your email, a day isn’t very much in the scheme of things. Properly written, good articles can have people keeping them in mind for weeks or months, even returning to them to check details like a favorite book on a shelf. If you find yourself wanting to read your own site’s content then you are probably on the right track. Besides, if you had to chose between making the world a better – or merely a more cluttered – place, it’s an easy one to choose.

Consider Wordtracker (or Google) Scores, and PPC rates.

Another sound strategy is to base your development on names with high Price Per Click, and/or high Wordtracker scores. A higher PPC will easily mean greater income from less visitors – meaning that a $1 a day blog could become a $10 or $100 a day blog simply by shifting subject matter slightly. This needn’t be a drastic change, simply changing your blog from being about university life to chosing a good university will do the trick. Also consider how many people visit your particular subject or keywords, using Wordtracker’s free keyword tool. There are other tricks to this, that we will cover in a SEO and traffic guide, coming soon.

Do Some Basic Calculations.

After listing the areas and sub-areas I felt interested enough in, I found about 60 or so that I felt passionate enough in to want to start sites in (namehugger.com is my one for domaining and developing). Now, if each site could earn $1 a day (a modest aim) it would mean $420 a week – which is more than enough to live on (for moi). Some will of course do more than this, others are more for the community or love of it (namehugger again). But overall, 60 sites x $1 a day is a good place to start with basic calculations. You might have grander financial ambitions for a lesser number of sites, or lesser ambitions (basically parking or minimally developing sites) across many more domains than this. Overall, remember that developing is a gradual process that is never really completed, and can happen bit by bit as you turn parked domains into sites.

Now, how many visitors do I need to make my $1 per site a day? Here is a good rule of thumb: for every $1 a week you need approximately 2 unique visitors a day. (Conversely, every good unique visitor per day should earn you approximately 50c a week, if your site is properly written, designed, optimized, with a wise choice of ads, et cetera). I’ll include tips for optimizing sites, as well as include some charts for how much to charge advertisers in follow-up tips. But now I know I need to be aiming for at least 14 unique visitors per day, from each of my 60 sites, to reach my aim of $420 a week. At a stable 900 UV’s (unique views) per day, with other commitments you should be looking at at least 12 months to reach this sort of level. If anyone has stats from their own experience, please post them below.

Start With WordPress.

You can make a site in any number of ways – from coding it yourself, using software, using BANS and any number of paid solutions. The basics that every domainer should be down with is WordPress. Most of my resources on our Namehugger Development List is WordPress based – it simply has the widest range of templates, plugins, and support. Most hosts will allow you to add a WordPress site to your domain name with the click of a mouse. Namehugger is run on WordPress, as are my 40 or so other sites. We are developing a sister site dedicated to WordPress – WordPressTheme.me - where you can get a basic how-to guide to starting WordPress, and also free themes that are designed to make your names look like $10,000 deal, professional websites, rather than the simple blogs that they are. Another good place to start with WordPress is Dotweekly’s Guide to Starting WordPress.

Develop Names Collaboratively.

There was a good article in DNJournal recently about Skip Hoagland. Owner of Atlanta.com and many other Geo sites (Atlanta.com alone earns over $2 million a year), Skip credits his success from forming partnerships for developing his domains. The figures are different for such a capital intensive, major undertaking like Atlanta.com (for example, Skip recommends hiring an office to seem like a “real” business). But his approach is revelatory:

To give you one example, if we are 50-50 partners, the manager would keep 90% of of the first $250,000 we gross, so they have enough money coming in to run and fund that business. I would get 10%. From 250K-500K, my share would go up to 20%, from 500K-$1 million maybe 30%. Once we get over a million in revenues, the managing partner gets 55% of the gross. The guy who does the work should get the most money. If you empower people to make money and be paid fairly your life will be much more stable and wonderful than it would be if you’re trying to screw somebody.

The name of the game is long term stability. A lot of people are greedy, they try to go for the quick buck and they try to trick somebody. It’s easy to trick someone in a contract but after a few years these tricks become transparent. That’s why partnerships fall apart.

Such an approach across many names will earn you much more than you could achieve alone. My own lo-fi version of this collaborative approach is to harness the passion of friends and colleagues. If you know someone who is passionate about a subject (but perhaps doesn’t know the first thing about choosing domain names or setting up website) why not buy a great name for them, and make a nice skeleton WordPress site for their use? Your partner could fill it with content and promote it, for perhaps a 50-50 profit split, meaning you would own a half share of an automatically updated and promoted site written by an expert for about two day’s initial work. Even if you also end up adding to such a site yourself, two people can easily earn more than double the revenue that one person could alone. Examples of collaboratively written sites include sta.rtup.biz (with three main partners) and boingboing.net (written by a small group of friends). Working with friends can also help mix your work with pleasure.

While the rest of the tips are being written, for further tips we recommend examining all the links recommended on Namehugger’s Development List. Each are the basic building blocks used and recommended by most domaining developers, and will give you clues on how the process is done.

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Why not add your tips for developing your names here – share the love!

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