As 2012 draws to a close, I though I would list how each of my business ventures did in 2012:
The Bad Things of 2012:
* I setup a bunch of new sites, but none of them have made any money:
BigCelebrities.com – Social media rankings for over 15,000 celebrities using a proprietary formula that I created. I also profiles custom written for over 5000 of the celebrities. Kind of like Klout.com, but more entertaining. The site gets less than 50 visitors a day.
CoverFights.com – Vote for which cover song music video you like best. I found and watched hundreds of videos and added each one manually to the site.
LocalArea.com – Local info for each city and state in the USA. I paid for custom written content for each of the 50 states and several hundred cities. The site gets less than 5 visitors a day.
WatchVideos.com – A custom programmed video site showing the most popular videos from Youtube.
GetVideos.com – Uses heavily modified clip-bucket.com software along with the Videoswiper.com server to automatically add new videos to the site each day.
PickStocks.com – Ranks stocks based on their social media popularity, to try to predict which stocks will go up and down. I also had somebody write custom profiles for all 500 stocks in my database. The site only gets 2-3 visitors a day.
KidsHeadlines.com – News for kids, automatically updated.
FindCliches.com – A list of hundreds of popular cliches and their meanings.
Tizzy.com – A search engine for mobile phone apps. I never added very many apps to it though.
BigFansites.com – A directory of fan sites.
FilmReviews.net – Movie reviews compiled from Twitter for all the popular movies, automatically updated each week.
* Buying Sites – I purchased 20 sites such as TipTopTens.com and Stuffonmycat.com but they have not worked out too well. About 1/2 the sites ended up making way way less than the seller’s said they were, and the rest are doing ok but not great. Mainly, it involved a lot of time and effort to take over each site, and some of the sites caused my servers to crash, so overall it was not worth the effort.
* WatchMovies.com – I setup this site several years ago but this year I added custom written movie reviews, as well as custom pages like the Six Degrees of Separation Game (find out how 2 actors are connected by their movies) and Which Celebrity Do You Look Like (upload your photo and it uses face matching to show you celebs that look like you). Traffic did not increase any, and then to make it worse last month AdSense banned the site. They were not clear why, but it seemed to be related to link trading or SEO, although as far as I know I was not doing anything wrong.
* Custom Written Blogs – I added blogs to Fairies.com, CheapFlowers.com, PickStocks.com, and BigCelebrities.com in the hopes that having frequently updated content would help my search engine listings, but it didn’t.
* Minisites – I shut down my network of 4000+ minisites because the domains were not getting much more traffic than years ago when I had them parked. I paid for over 14,000 custom written articles for these minisites, as well as thousands of other pieces of custom content such as Flash games, plus I spent a lot of time developing a content management system for all of this.
* Super Mini Sites – When it was clear the my minisites were not working out, I changed around 200 of the better domains to use WordPress instead, with a custom WordPress template design for each site, and better articles. These sites did not do any better than the previous minisites.
* Search Sites -I had a bunch of sites that were out of date and not making any money, so keep them going I changed them all to use Google Custom Search, which is a product Google offers that lets me show users narrowly focused search results based on certain keywords that I specify. I make money when a user clicks on one of the ads on the Google search results page. So far none of the sites are making any money:
FindBlogs.com (a blog search engine)
FindHosts.com (a web hosting search engine)
KidV.com (videos for kids)
SuperPhotos.com (a photo search engine)
FindInfo.com (A Google type search engine)
FindFlorists.com (a florist search engine)
* Unique Content – I added a large number of articles to each of my killer domain WordPress sites, such as Weights.com, Pastries.com, Physical.com, Hoaxes.com, and AdvertisingAgency.com, so that they would have frequently updated content in addition to the dozens of articles they already had on them from when I initially setup each site, but they did not get any extra traffic.
* Small But Good Sites – I setup a bunch of one or two page sites with good content that I compiled myself, all on good domains, but they get almost no traffic. Some examples include GreatProverbs.com, DumbInsults.com, CelebSayings.com, and OfficeSlang.com.
* Arcade Sites – I setup 20 online game sites using software from wparcade.com, but they get almost on traffic. Some example include
crazygamers.com, greatgamers.com, 247gamers.com, and superplayers.com.
The Good Things in 2012:
* Mobile Apps – I finally got into the app business. So far just iPhone apps but soon I will come out with some Android ones also. I have free 7 apps live in the Apple app store, but around 20 more under development. The 7 apps are are making around $150/month (from banner ads) which is not great, but good enough for me to envision having hundreds of apps just like I have hundreds of websites. If 7 apps make $150/month then 700 apps could make $15,000/month and that would be more than I make from all of my websites.
* Domain Parking – When I shut down my minisites, I switched all 5000 of my unused domains to Frank Schilling’s internettraffic.com domain parking and sales service. So far the parking is making 4-5 times what I was making several years ago when I had the same domains parked. Their sales platform is good and easy to use, although I am not sure if I have sold any additional domains because of it.
* Domain Sales – Sales of my domain names have been going strong. I hardly ever make any big sales anymore, but I have just as many small ones ($500 – $5000) ones as ever. Now that domain parking income is almost paying for my annual domain fees, it takes the pressure off for me having to sell domains just to pay the fees.
Looking Towards 2013:
Overall, 2012 was a bad year for me. Luckily, because I have decent income from domain sales and my hundreds of older websites, I do not need to count on new business ventures to make a living. That being said, what I described above for 2012 was pretty much the same as each of the previous 4 years. In prior years, I was hopeful something would change, but now after 5 years of this I am at the point of giving up. No, I am not going out of business or selling my sites, but I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and not making money, so I need to change things up for 2013. I am not sure yet what path I will take, but I will keep posting my business adventures in my blog as always.
Hi Eric, and thanks for sharing.
You try allot and that’s good, you’re relentless. You have to realize, you either pursue new stuff or focus on working stuff. I feel you try to find the new stuff and that’s fine, but with anything new, it’s highly speculative and you shouldn’t expect immidiate results. Now if you focus on just what works, like making 700 apps, that’s much easier as the model is there for you, and you can do it, but you’re gonna have to slow down on speculative stuff. Either way, never give up!
Doing the speculative stuff is more fun though.
You just explained the quintessential definition of insanity.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
Not sure I should be the one giving you advice but it seems your lack of success is due to your overall strategy. To have a successful website, you need to do more than throw up a site with some content. You need to provide value to users. You offer your visitors very little, so why would they go to your website, or even come back on a regular basis? You are trying to focus the sites in many different verticals, instead of concentrating on just 1. That type of lack of focus is a killer. Instead of building out all these many sites that offer no value, how about focusing on 1 or 2 large sites that provide value to consumers? I’m amazed that with your background, knowledge, and resources you haven’t been able to do that in the past few years.
Even though some of my sites don’t have much content, many sites I recently created are “real” sites and are unique and offer value to the user. BigCelebrities.com is Klout.com type site, but much more entertaining. I even use a neural network to allow people to get their own Twitter usage ranking (it estimates their influence as compared to the other 100 million Twitter users, extrapolating from millions of Tweets my programmer collected). Even a more simple site like CoverFights.com is custom programmed to work exactly how I wanted it, and I hand picked all of the hundreds of videos on the site and manually added them.
But yes, I agree, overall focusing on making one or two big sites that really provide something of value, would be a better use of my efforts and resources.
Thank you for the numbers, and trustworthy analysis. I will keep looking out for the updates you alluded to…
Wishing you more success.
You are brave for sharing this.
You put a lot more effort into your domains and web site development than most domain owners.
So, it is too bad that nothing seems to get any traction.
Google knows the difference between a business and a domain developed for revenue so I’m guessing that is part of the problem.
Plus there is the Obama malaise and I don’t see that changing anytime soon so, unfortunately, it might be time to shut down all the websites, park all the domains and just maximize sale prices when inquiries come in (or put a buy it now, fixed price on everything).
Put everything up on the shelf and do domains as a part time hobby. Sad but sounds like the way to spend less time, have less expenses and who knows, maybe even make more money.
Good luck and thanks for posting.
Yes, the fact that Google is much smarter now about indexing websites than it used to be is the main problem for me. That is why I am trying out mobile app development, because that business and the rankings seems similar to how the Web was 10-15 years ago.
But, I do have several hundred older websites, many with good quality content, that make around $12,000/month from ad networks (mainly AdSense), so I don’t want to give that up. The problem is I spend around $3000/month on hosting, and the rest of that ad revenue on creating new site, almost all of which for the past 5 years have made no money. So yes, I would be better off just sitting back and not creating new sites and just collecting the profits (and selling domains also). That is one possible scenario. I still have lots of ideas for Websites and web businesses though, so I have not totally given up yet. I just need to stop doing business the same way I have been doing it, and change things up a little.Creating websites used to be much more fun when every site I created made money and got tons of visitors. Even aside from the lack of revenue, it is annoying and depressing to keep creating what I think are good sites, and then have only 2-3 people a day see each of them.
Found you on domaining.com. But, findhosts.com would be a.great place to put more money and time into. I think it would be a great paid directory or blog like findmyhost.com to build onto it.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had a web hosting directory at FindHosts.com, with thousands of reviews submitted by users, but it got less than 25 visors a day even though I have had it up and running for 6-7 years.
Thanks for sharing. Not too many people around that are willing to share so much personal info.
Maybe instead of calling them failures you ought to call them lessons…just a thought.
I agree, they are not really failures because I don’t think any were bad ideas. They just did not make money for me. Somebody else probably could have done a lot better with these sites than I did. I am horrible at marketing and getting traffic to my sites.
I’m glad you published this. Drives me a little bit nuts when people boast the “development value” of a domain. When in reality most domainers will never actually even get to developing the name even if that was their plan when they bought it, and if you do develop it odds are it won’t pan out as big as your dreamed it would. Also most people don’t like to consider the costs or time costs associated with developing a site which greatly increases the cost basis. I think in valuating a domain’s wholesale value, if it has a development benefit, that shouldn’t give it too much of a bump as it really isn’t all that much better than just buying, holding, and waiting for an end user to come along. Bottom line if someone is selling a domain and asking a price because “if you just develop it it’s a huge winner” then why haven’t they developed it themselves if it was so easy and such a shoe-in.
Yes, I hear about the development value of great domains all the time, and that is one of the reasons I wanted to experiment with them. So far it does not seem as easy as people say. There are lots of sites with bad domains making tons of money yet my sites on great domains make $0. At this point I would rather sell those great domains and use a much more worthless domain instead if I want to start a site. Otherwise, I am tying up a great domain which I could probably sell instead and make a better profit than using it. A good example is that I originally created my BigCelebrities.com site on Indexed.com. A few weeks after I launched the site it was still getting no traffic so I decide it was a waste of the indexed.com domain (I had a few offers on it over the years) so I switched the site to use BigCelebrities.com which was another domain I owned but cared a lot less about. So far BigCelebrities.com has made $0, but at least I am not wasting a high profile domain on it.
I’d like to add though, it wasn’t a failure if you learned something (as Rick Schwartz always says).
Yes, I totally agree. Also, aside from the learning part, each website I create is like a lottery ticket, and you never know when one will come up a winner. I get ideas in my head for sites or online business and then want to create them, so it is not a waste for me to try. It is very hard to predict what will make money. I would much rather have tried with the sites then to have never built them at all.
Thank you very much for so detailed overview of your business.
It helps me (yes, really help) to correct my investment plans for 2013.
I have prity the same results by divided in scale.
All my New 2012 websites with new/fresh content (rewrite/copywrite) are hardly visible in search engines despite of SEO works. Yes, they are indexed but no much returns in visitors/cpc.
In 2012 I have switched with my development from sites in cyrillic to sites with content in English and I couldn’t get so many visitors like I have on old establish Cyrillic sites. I can confirm that only “old” cows could fully support my small domain portfolio in 400-500 names where I have replaced most of .net/.org/.ru to .com.
Parking didn’t work for me either. I did try all parking platform (excluding Internettraffic) and probably will switch it off because no revenue.
Next year I plan to extend for one Cyryllic project (only one this time) on greate name that I could by for cents from loosing money domainer.
I plan to play with 2-3 eng projects one more year. But definitely will escape mass development.
My SEO strategy must be changed from link-related to content related efforts. I plan to make more video/iconograffic/white pages for projects because I believe it can make native visitors stream and rank/trust on search engines.
I have never created any non-English sites or even English sites targeted at people outside of the USA.
As for parking, I have not found that it good as a business by itself (buying domains and parking them and just collecting the checks). In the good old days that was the case though. For me parking is just bonus money while I hold all my domains to try to sell them. Switching to Internet Traffic made a huge difference for me though so you should give them a try.
Fascinating insight. Agree, the last 5 years were much of the same. I am seeing a lot more individuals making offers above 100k this year.
The main problem is that nowadays buyers seem to only want to pay what a domain is worth, which is not as good for domainers like us. Many years ago it used to be that people would sometimes offer me way more than I was hoping to sell the domain for. I would then double their offer and negotiate from there.
At this point, doing the domainer/developer spray & pray thing of minisites, slapping a bunch of custom articles, is not going to cut it
A mile wide & inch deep kinda thing
With the internet, it’s a winner take all thing where instead of focusing on niche sites like: office proverbs, slang, insults etc the most popular site would likely have just the ONE site devoted to ALL OF THE ABOVE…on some reg fee name at that, instead of having 10 different sites
This is the typical domainers’ fallacy
All the top ranking sites have ONE SITE – not 10 or 20
That’s why I always LOL @ typical domain parrot (not you) who have no real world experience or education who try to parrot certain geriatric domainers, who try sell all these long tail domains to ‘end users’.
The main factor on the net that determines success is EARLY MOVER ADVANTAGE.
They can only fail if they drop the ball.
Having the ‘ideal’ name is way down the priority list.
It’s something mostly only domainers obsess about.
They try to use this “fear” tactic as a pitch to end users
I truly believe if you had spent most of your money & effort pre-2000 on cheapflowers.com, making the right partnerships, dropshipping etc, producing a kick ass site, it would have, today, produced a constant revenue stream in the 6 figures if not 7 figures
EARLY MOVER ADVANTAGE…plus with the customer base starting from “year dot” (2000) worth in itself a small fortune
All those joke, proverb sites, arcade sites, at best today, won’t produce money commensurate with the effort.
There’s no moneyness to the topics plus everyone’s doing them..
All the best
Bored.com used to be my one big site, but I sold it 5 years ago. Now Dumb.com is my largest site, and is similar to how Bored.com used to be back when I owned it (Bored.com is now mainly focused on online games). I do actually have much of the same type of content on Dumb.com as on those domains you saw (proverbs, insults, etc.). Putting that content on all these other domains was more of an experiment to see if the sites got any traffic. I did not use the same exact content as on Dumb.com, but it is similar. As with when I owned Bored.com, my conclusion is still exactly what you stated, which is that it is much better and easier to have all the content on one big site.
Yes, I agree, joke/arcade/silly type sites are not where the big money is right now. There are way too many other opportunities.
You’ve been in this game longer than most, your portfolio quality reflects that (taking into account all past sales)
My issue is this:
I see a huge divergence/incongruency (IN GENERAL) in your sales prices & the prices in the (supposed) sales of the other big name guys (those with blogs) & even a few of the marginal domainers (in reality “domaining for a living” types ie subsistence wages living like a hermit in Ohio/Oklahoma. LOL)
If it is to be believed some of them seem to be doing sales of a MAGNITUDE (10x) up from your transacted sales prices (hypothetically assuming they had identical domains to you), based on their random self-reported finalized “sales”
So what do you think is the reason for this?
Is it all smokes & mirrors where they inflate their “sales” (a hype game to enhance their “brand” so that when end users do a search for the owner they’ll see their blog, sales prices & come to the conclusion that the guy “doesn’t sell cheap” & with the ultimate aim to elicit a high offer from end user?
Or Negotiation technique?
Yes, I always have that same exact thought ever time I read about the high priced sales by Rick Schwartz or Frank Schilling, or even just some of the random sales Sedo.com and Afternic.com. I have no idea how they get such high prices for their domains. I have been domaining for 15 years so even though I may not be an amazing negotiator, I have tried enough different negotiation methods to be able to say I am pretty good at it. Even after all these years I have not found any particular method works best, other than it is usually best to let the buyer make the first offer (assuming the domain does not have an official asking price). I have tried several different brokers and never had any of them sell a domain for more than I though I could sell it myself, so that gives me more confidence that I am doing ok by myself with it.
The only time I have ever sold domains for more than I thought they were worth were 4 or 5 sales I have had through the Buy It Now system at Afternic.com. I used to just have all my domains listed with Make An Offer but a few years ago I just used Excel to multiply x 3 the asking prices I had on a spreadsheet I made for my own internal use. Out of 4000 domains I have listed with Afternic 4-5 sales is not very many, but at least they were way above but I was hoping to get for the domains. Almost all were sold for $6000-$7000. I assume big companies wanted them for various reasons and did not want to be delayed and deal with negotiating so they just clicked the button to buy them.
You have some great domains like Weights.com and Physical.com but when I checked out the sites they look like an average WordPress content based site that an average person would build… On weights.com you have one adsense banner, and on Physical.com you have two adsense banners. These are top notch domains that should be monetized with something other then adsense.
Weights.com should be a storefront for weights, exercise equipement, supplements, etc… If you want to have articles fine, but those should be in the background and not the focus of the site. And put money into the SEO for long tail keywords so you can start getting traffic. Sell 25% of the products at break even just so you can start to get some word of mouth in cyberspace as having the lowest prices around for some products.
Physical.com should be a lead generation site for finding a doctor to get a physical from. How much is a new patient worth to a doctor? I’d think at least $50 if not more. Again, spend money on SEO for this site. A good model to follow is the top car insurance lead gen sites. They have the lead gen form on the homepage but they have a ton of content that organically drives traffic.
Instead of spending money on thousands of articles for tons of sites, you should focus your efforts on a few sites and do them right.
Also, when you do add content, Google doesn’t want 300 word articles (http://weights.com/2012/12/27/stretching-guidelines/ ). I’d stick to articles of 1,000 words. My belief is that short content gets dinged in Google’s algorithm.
Yes, the sites I built using WordPress on Weights.com and the other similar type domains were basically just article sites, not “real” sites, and Google is getting very good at detecting that. I don’t think the problem is how those sites look or the quality of the content, the problem is that because they are not real sites (if I was actually selling weights online as you suggested, that would be a real site) I don’t get any quality links. So, no matter how good I make my sites, without good links they won’t rank.
Right now Weights.com and Physical.com each only get around 10 visitors a day, so whether it has only 1 banner or 2 does not really matter at this point. I might make 2 cents a day instead of 1 cent. Same thing for lead generation. 10 visitors a day won’t get me many leads. With great domains like those, I could pay to advertise (like in AdWords) and then collect leads, and I know there are a lot of people who make good money doing that, it just is not really something I am into.
Yes, I agree, longer articles are probably better, but I have tried that too, but no matter what I do none of my article type sites rank well. It might be that Google detects I own all of these sites (I have tried using different servers but that did not help) and they rank me lower than if you created the same exact site. I do have many old non-article sites that rank in the top 3 in Google, so they are not totally black listing me.
At last a realistic article on domain development, thanks for having the balls to tell it like it is.
Thanks for sharing as always Eric! Always interesting to read your articles because you do not hold back!
I really appreciate you sharing that. I was beginning to think that I was one of the few that couldn’t seem to make things work.
There was a Google update that just completely shut down everything I had going. After years of trying to build links and grow, done, instantly.
So, I appreciate that you broke that down. Wishing you find success going forward.
The recent Google updates have not caused too many problems for me. It is mostly the overall changes Google has made in the past 5-10 years. It used to be I could just create a good site and it would automatically get a good listing in the search engines and get traffic. Times have changed.
I like you man, so many misadventure but still very positive. Keep it up, how many times one can fail….. you will hit something sooner or later. Good Luck and Happy New Year.
Wow! You are so honest. I really respect that!
It sounds like you have been drinking the domainer “kool aid” that says having a premium domains is one of the most important parts to building a successful online business. This is bull. The most important things in online business is passion.
Do you love watching movies? Do you have a deep abiding passion for it? Do you LOVE sharing that passion with others? If no, then you have no business building out “WatchMovies.com”. Trying to do so without a passion will at best result in a website that is not embarrassing to you, at worst it will result in thousands of wasted dollars and no profit to be seen.
Do you love “Local Guides”? Is guiding a hobby of yours? Do you read guide books in your spare time? Do you spend time on guide forums? If not, then what business do you have building our LocalArea.com? Just because you happen to own the domain and can pay people to write few hundred mediocre articles at best does not mean doing so is a good idea. You built a website at LocalArea.com that is a mile wide and a foot deep. Why would anyone want to go there for information? There are a hundred better resources for each area you have on LocalArea.com so what value does LocalArea.com actually provide anyone? Why did LocalArea.com turn out so shitty? Because you don’t care about local areas, you just want to make some cash.
I am not making fun of you. You are VERY successful in many ways online, but the cheese has moved and you haven’t seemed to adjust to that change. You can’t make money online anymore with shitty websites on good domains (don’t get the wrong idea, shitty websites can be very expensive to build). On the other hand, you can make money (fistfulls of it) with great websites on shitty domains. This is the way it should be. Money should always follow passion and knowledge and never arbitrary limited items grabbed by “investors” like domain names or real estate.
In the past, if you wanted to make money online you just had to show up for the party. The internet was new then and the real business models for websites were new and continually changing. People that were just willing to jump in and try it could do very well. You showed this with many of your websites. You made a lot of money in the past. But that is changing.
The internet is evolving (as it should). Gone are the days of made for adsense sites bringing in big money. Over the last 5 years the internet entrepreneur has had to evolve to a legitimate businessman, with a legitimate knowledge of a legitimate business. You cant be a legitimate businessman that runs a hundred websites. If you try it they will all gradually fail. You need to FOCUS on that thing that you most enjoy and give it all your time. Build something that is powered by passion, your passion. Remove the idea from your head that developing domains is a business. It is not. It is a cash sucking nightmare when done incorrectly, and a less than profitable option when done right.
Follow your passion and you will do fine. If you don’t have a passion online then perhaps you should look somewhere else. At the very least you will still have a ton of valuable domains to sell off one at a time.
This response is not just for you, it is for all of us “domainers” that have failed to evolve.
Yes, 99% of my sites are things I am not passionate about (LocalArea.com is a good example that you brought up). In contrast, Bored.com (which I sold 5 years ago) was a site I was good at running, personally liked all the content, and it was fun to work on, so that was part of what made it a success. But, the “passion” problem is not what worries me most about my website development efforts over the past 5 years. What worries me most is that out of the dozens of new sites I created, a few were what I would consider really good sites with good content, and those still only get 5-10 visitors a day each. For example in early 2012 I spent 2-3 months creating BigCelebrities.com. My idea was to make a more fun, crowd-pleasing version of Klout.com and similar social media ranking sites that are trendy nowadays. I spent a lot of time developing a proprietary ranking formula, having my programmer setup a neural network to estimate Twitter rankings so anybody can find their own ranking, setting up scripts to automatically pull data from the social media sites, paying a writer to write over 5000 bios for the celebs and list all their social media links, creating a script to pull the rest of the bios from wikipedia, doing the sites design and getting everything to work correctly, and the other usual things involved in setting up a site.
I then used similar technology to launch PickStocks.com, which is BigCelebrities.com applied to stocks. I do have a passion for the stock market, so it is something I know a lot about. The PickStocks.com site works but there is still a lot more I could do with it, like add sentiment analysis of the Tweets about each stock, to show which stocks are trending in “good” tweets vs “bad” tweets. Plus I should add a system to track how well a hypothetical portfolio of the stock picks on the site would do.
But, with both of these sites getting less than 10 visitors a day, I don’t feel it is worth doing any more with them. I did try a small amount of pay per click advertising for each site, and that did not lead to any repeat visitors or profits.
There are also a few other sites like these I created that I thought were not just sites to attract Google searchers, but none of those have done well either. So, that is why I am frustrated.
Wow! Sorry to hear most of your websites weren’t worth the effort but thanks for the reminder that many website launches regardless of the money invested in them don’t work out.
Over the past few years, I have not found much of a difference between launching a $10,000 site and a $100 site. From my experience either one has about the same chance of making money. But, that is because I depend mainly on getting all my traffic from Google, and at this point I really have no idea what will do well in Google.
It’s not often that someone will admit to failure and put themselves in the public eye, and as you can tell everyone here genuinely appreciates your honesty as do I.
I believe that in 2012/2013 minisites are dead, just as parking died in 08/09. It’s been a death by 1,000 cuts (i.e. 1,000 Google algorithm updates). I began giving up on minisites altogether at the outset of 2012, and over the course of the year I have only maybe a few that are still live. I was seeing the same results as you, although I only had probably no more than a few dozen all told any one time. I tried a system called BeyondDomaining back in 2009/10 which I bought for something like $50. I made more than my money back, mostly on a single site that ended up netting maybe close to $1,000 in its short lifetime but began dying out like all the rest toward the beginning of this year. Similarly, I tried a system called ContentMinisites on several domains, managed to get one domain earning $50-$70/month and some others a bit less, but those too soon traveled the way of the dodo.
So I agree from my own experience, your testimony and from what everyone else has said in the comments. Exit stage left on the minisite front, as far as I’m concerned. For the amount of time and effort they take to manage its just not worth it.
That said, on a few of your sites it seems like you’ve got some great ideas, and I find myself surprised that for example, on WatchMovies.com, the ‘Six Degrees of Separation Game’ and ‘Which Celebrity Do You Look Like’ actually sound pretty unique and fun, so I’m surprised you aren’t getting any viral traction on that site. That makes me think, perhaps you might benefit by hiring a part time social media manager who really knows how to drive social media traffic. I’ve never worked with one myself, but just a thought that crossed my mind.
The other thought that crossed my mind was that, judging from the amount of time and effort and money you put into these minisites, you would have been better off taking what I have heard Schwartz/Schilling refer to as a ‘5 year nap’. But you don’t sound like someone who wants to rest on their laurels. Sounds like you’ve done okay with the apps and there may be some promise there, but I would have to wonder to myself, when you said you may be planning to scale from 7 to 700 apps, if there are enough people like you out there, and maybe in another 5 years the app model will just turn into another iteration of the minisite model. After all, in a world with 10,000,000 (or whatever) apps, there’s going to have to be some way to weed out the quality from the herd by whoever the gatekeepers are, and if you are just going to build out 700 run-of-the-mill apps you have to consider whether it has potential to turn out the same way. I don’t mean to put down your idea, just wondering if you’d thought of this.
As I see it, that is the main problem with the web now, that there is just SO MUCH more content being produced. I heard once a quote that right now today, more content is being published and uploaded online every single day than previously was ever produced by man from 2000 back to the dawn of civilization. If that’s true, its not wonder it is so hard to grow traffic and get content found amongst a sea of new content being produced daily.
Anyway, appreciate your post Eric, and hope I did not come off as condescending in my giving of advice. Just felt with a post like yours, I owed a few minutes to give honest feedback. Wishing you nothing but success in 2013.
No, your advice is good, not condescending. I never used any ministie software but I did take a look at it all 3-4 years ago and decided to build a custom minisite system from scratch instead because I hoped that having a different structure/design would set my sites apart from all the people using off the shelf minisite software. In the end it did not seem to make any difference though, since my sites did badly.
Yes, I have tried using social media (mainly Facebook and Twitter) for some of my sites, and have not found it to lead to much of a boost in traffic, and I have paid several SEO consultant to do social promotion for my sites and that had zero effect on traffic. But, of course many people get huge traffic by using social media, so I am not sure why I don’t.
Yes, I agree, in 5 years apps will probably be where websites are right now (way overpopulated), but hopefully just like I did with websites, if I get in early, the old apps I have (5 years from now) will still be doing well. And then I will move on to the next big thing. Right now it seems that 700 run of the mill apps is similar to having 700 run of the mill websites 10 years ago, and that has treated me well (I had only 300 sites but close enough for comparison purposes).
Eric, thanks for being so open about the performance of your projects.
Your blog is on my ‘must read’ list and I know I’m not the only one that appreciates all your insights.
One of the key outcomes for my developed projects this year was a huge increase in sales leading up to Christmas. The revenue from my affiliate shops sky-rocketed, earning substantially more in 2 months than they had over the entire year. Next year I’ll be looking to take full advantage of this, and hopefully I’ll see more revenue.
This year my revenue from domain sales and my online stores has more than covered my acquisition and renewal costs. This was definitely not the case a couple of years ago, I’ve learnt some expensive lessons in the past!
I had sites in other niches that performed very poorly, so I decided to cut my losses and I’ve sold a few domains and closed down the websites. In particular I’ve had limited success with sales of low value products (anything under about $30), because you need a huge volume to bring in much money from commissions.
One fundamental shift that I made a while ago was moving from advertising to sales commissions (affiliate programs). I’ve earned a lot more from commissions than I ever did from advertising, and now only one of my sites has any advertising.
All the best – thanks again for sharing.
AdSense rates on many of my sites went up 2-3 times the usual rates during this December, although that happens every year if I remember correctly.
I used to do a lot with affiliate programs in the 1990s before there were big ad networks like Adsense but I like just putting an ad on a site and not having to worry about ever changing it. With affiliate programs there are frequent changes and optimizations, and with hundreds of sites that is hard for me. But, you are not the only person who says affiliate programs are the way to go, so I always keep it in the back of my mind in case I get fed up with ad networks.
Its been awhile since I’ve been here, you have some nice content on your site but I think it needs to be presented better. You’ve got the content but the look and feel seems to be lacking. Websites are like art and that’s why you need graphic designers. I judge a sites credibility on how it looks and I think many others do the same. When I look at your sites they look like something I can make easily and that’s not a good thing.
For not that much you can hire someone to makeover your sites, NOT the content just how and the way you present it to visitors.
Oh and using facebook to market your site doesn’t mean to just make a facebook page 🙂 Facebook has advertising that allows you to target users by interests, ages, hobbies, etc…and IF you have a good name that you think will perform better than other domain names in the demographic your targeting than your going to end up paying less than the competitors, WHICH make you more competitive.
Find a major revenue source specific to the site, not adsense or affiliates,..Not all businesses require even a fracton of the investment or time you put into your flower business.
Once you have a good looking site with a good revenue source then you should advertise. But be Warned a good domain will give you an advantage in advertising but Advertising online is very complicated.
I wish you the best
I agree, my sites are not very sell designed. But, Google does not take that into account in its rankings, so when my sites only get 2 or 3 visitors a day, I don’t think the site design is going to matter much.
As for doing advertising (like on Facebook), at most I make $5 – $10 per thousand visitors to my sites (like weights.com), and many times more like $1 per thousand. Even if I optimize the ads to make $10 per thousand visitors, that means I only make 1 penny per visitor. Any type of target advertising such as Facebook costs way way more than that, I would guess more in the 25-50 cents per visitor range.
If for example I changed Weights.com to sell (either direct or via affiliate) a “how to get muscular” type system (video, ebook, whatever), then what you are talking about might work, because I would make a much higher profit per visitor. I could do that myself, but I would rather just sell or lease a domain like that to somebody who is an expert in that type of thing. Having a killer domain like Weights.com would give me a big advantage over the competition.
HUGE thank you for sharing the TRUTH. We all have experienced similar results at one time or another.
Personally I have taken a strong lesson from Rick Schwartz it’s all about sales. Sell a product – people buy products they don’t buy advertising.
Happy new year
Sad tale. Boiled down and assuming a basis cost of $100 per name you are floating a half million dollar investment that makes $50K a year for GoDaddy, $50K a year for Schilling and likely another 50-100K for Google. What’s wrong with this picture? But you don’t care what others make, you need them to absorb the cost of carrying 5000 chances to make a $500-5000 sale. You sell a few names each year and if you were to look at the name itself, there’s great return on your investment. But you are carry baggage. And your development strategy also relies on Google to deliver traffic. I could show you a half dozen examples of how others have invested a half million dollars, doubled their money in less then two years and earned an income stream of $150K a year. You probably have one domain capable of earning 2-3 times of all the others combined. Likely one with hidden value that never occurred to you. If you liquidated the other assets the proceeds could be redirected to a strategy that grows valuation quickly and with little work. An outside advisor may be of great benefit.
Yes, the main problem is that all my sites rely 100% on organic traffic from Google. I do zero advertising for any of my sites. I have tried ads, but none ever make more than I spend. I need to have a large site where I can buy traffic and make more than I spend.
OH MY GOSH!!!!!! You’re making 12K a month parking domains and you’ve been building all these sites for 5 years? What are you doing!!!! You should sit on that revenue, and focus on ONE websites. ONE service that you sell on that site. ONE business. You have an amazing opportunity to have that type of revenue coming in and bootstrap ONE good business. There is just no possible way that you could make all those sites any good with being that spread out. I can not put into words how big of a guarantee I could give you that you will eternally suck at trying to run 100 websites. Even Mark Cuban with a full blown staff can’t run 100 websites/businesses well.
ONE website, ONE business, and guess what, with a bunch of hard work you’ll eventually get good at ONE business/website. It will be hard to be disciplined enough to stay away from your others, so you should park every single domain except for the one website you actually want to succeed.
I actually have over 300 real websites (not minisites or WordPress article sites). Creating new sites is actually what takes most of my time, but yes, focusing on 1 big sites seems to be the key.
Hi Eric your GetNames.com domain that you let me build a site on gets very little search traffic too like 1 to 3 visits a day. The site was getting 20 search visits a day on WebDomainsBuy.com and before it was webdomainsbuy it was 3was.com same traffic. I figured it would have got more traffic with your very old domain but it went way down. All the sites I build get at lease 500 search visits a month if not more. Maybe it is possible that you have been targeted by Google because I really don’t see why it is getting such low search traffic.
I think on adsence all it takes is someone to sit there and keep clicking on your ads 100 times a day for a week or two and Google will banned you.
I agree, it seems like Google penalizes me. I have built some good sites on good domains but they get no traffic. I have not had problems with Adsense though, so that is not the issue. The quality of traffic I give Adsense is very high.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us. You have one of the best domain portfolios I have seen and I am sure there are plenty of entrepreneurs out there that would be willing to team up with you to build out a few of those names. You should take a strategy out of the startup world and see how some of these incubators and accelerators are running their businesses.
Setup a system where you invite talented people in who are willing to work for equity. Then you can exploit the earnings potential of your premium domain names without working like a man man trying to manage each website.
I am sure 2013 will be a great year for you. Liquidate some of the minisites you have and try to recoup any losses from 2012. Some of the smaller sites could easily be liquidated on Flippa.com.
Good luck with everything and I look forward to hearing some positive news from you in the future.
I appreciate the yearly breakdown on your results. I remember you from back in the day when I was in the humor niche – we talked in email a few times and exchanged some links.
I was in the same boat as you with my websites not performing well anymore. They slowly started to drop in both traffic and revenue due to a variety of things- SERP changes, more competition, a change in landscape (pictures/jokes out, videos in), lower payouts, etc. I ended up dropping out of website development and focusing on other internet niches and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
One of the main differences now is what you mentioned was hurting you – Google’s new ranking algorithms. Previously you could just develop sites and they’d rank, but nowadays you really need to focus on marketing a site using methods such as PPC, media buys, Facebook, etc. And most importantly the site needs to have some element that keeps bringing a person back and is interesting enough for them to post about it on their social networks, in email, on forums. The Six Degrees game is neat, but that’s not going to hold someone’s interest for long. You’d need to develop new features for the website regularly and/or add a social element to keep them coming back.
You’ve got a great portfolio of domain names and that gives you a lot more options than most people in deciding what to do next. Year of 2012 wasn’t a year of failures, but a year of realization, and now that you’re not developing websites full time you’ll have plenty of time to focus on new ventures.
I agree. To me none of the sites I created were failures, because I wanted to create them and am happy with how they turned out. It is my business strategy in general of creating websites that is a failure for the past 5 years. So, I need to rethink things. There is still huge opportunity to make money online though.
How ironic the number and quality of guests/comments about the state of the state. I think you’ve found your niche.
From my experience you need to find a formula that work and then throw fuel in the fire. The throwing fuel is simple, finding the formula is a little harder. Smart and generally more experienced people usually would increase their odds by seeing the scale before tackling the problem.
I really enjoyed the frank and honest post about mass development. would say one things we learned years ago is you just cant stick what some people are calling mini sites, a 5 page website it does not work, like every market you have to pick and choose your market and most of all havfe the passion to follow it to the end, I spend 3 years building a backend ecommerce system for 400 geo location shopping sites allowing the local retailers to add goods online, from a backend point of view it was cool, from SEO point view googler loved it, from a programmers point view it was great, from a customers point of view it was to complicated we had to bin it.
We then did good old fashioned market research visting sections of the customer base we are targeting visiting local shops, and business and getting there feed back I can tell you it was a eye opener for us as we expected everyone to be a level that we would call internet savvy. that was not the case, Some of our mass development is working and some of it is not, its trial and error and we learn from our mistakes, I really enjoyed reading the post as a developer, and sure you have learned from this I would say step back look good points what you have done see what needs modified that might sort the problems out.
As you know when you doing mass development you have to also include social media into each site to give it the branding, when you then times that by 800 or 2000 websites its a job for 50 people not one. but once you have it all in place it will work, I would be happy to discuss some things we have done as its all about learning from each other, we made big mistakes and im sure we will continue to make mistakes we also listen to others and learn that helps us improve our mass development.
Although I am sure there is money to be made, I am really not that interested in mass development, especially now that I having higher parking income (via InternetTraffic.com). I would consider what I have been doing (other than the minisites) unfocused and half-assed development.
Great post, I assume you have some developers working for you to handle the many sites you have developed, when in doubt reducing expenses to increase cash flow is a good idea until you have a set direction.
With regards to your plans for 2013, I would suggest you reach out to a company called wesley berry flowers, they have a national lead gen platform for the flower industry and are quite agressive with online marketing, this would be a perfect fit for a jv. This appears to be the biggest need in the domain space, matching good domains with capable developers who have an establised monetary platform, there are few verticals outside of finance/insurance that are plug and play for monetizing..good luck and look forward to reading your updates in 2013
I have one full time server admin/programmer, and 2 other programmers who mainly work on creating new sites for me. I will check on wesley berry flowers.
“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
Have A Great New Year 2013
First of all, I appreciate you sharing your story which highlights many of your hard fought battles online. We can definitely all learn from your struggles.
I’m not a superstar SEO but I’ve held my own when it comes to developing minisites. I would highly recommend you focus on product based domains that do not infringe on trademarks that have known search engine traffic inquiries.
Trust that they aren’t hard to uncover.
If you haven’t given up on minisites, then this my dear friend is the way to go. If you’ve ever heard of semrush,
then using this tool or something similar to find buying keyword phrases will reveal you can still make some nice coins provided your minisite offer value to your website visitor when they land on your site. It isn’t that hard to do if you have the time or resources to create content.
After reading your post, it’s really evident that most of the domains you chose to base your sites upon were not keyword based and a bit flaky. Now don’t get me wrong, your celebrity, fan and film based sites are cool but would have perhaps yielded better returns, however they lacked an actual personality of some kind to drive the wow factor.
Also, these type of sites don’t typically show relevant, high paying ads unless you’re displaying adsense with the personalization setting that matches ad inventory your site visitors have previously clicked prior to visiting your particular website.
The sites I visit daily which feature celebrity gossip and news are obviously quite invested and knowledgeable about the industry and have a knack for getting visitors to comment. The comments section in many entertainment blogs is where all the action is as commenters go gladiator style with their thoughts about the celebrity or each featured story overall.
Anywho, again thanks for sharing your journey and all the best in 2013.
The sites I mentioned in my posting were real sites, not minisites, so those were not as keyword based. My other 5000 domains, which I used for minisites, are much more keyword based. See a list of all of my domains at NameShopping.com.
thanks for keeping it real.
what you have done is what a lot of us wish we could afford to have done, and if we could, we would probably have had similar results.
It seems like most of your sites are about entertainment and could all make a one massive site. I would leave entertainment to the big boys, its hard to compete.
What I am seeing is that the ventures that endure, (especially in hard times), are the ones that have a physical product. Around here, when businesses are having a hard time, the bakery is always full of customers.
The whole world loves cake and cookies and bread. I would put all my other domains in park, take out the key and work on weights.com and pastries.com, also, they should qualify for jointventures.com
good luck man.
Yes, the vast majority of my sites are entertainment site. I do have one big entertainment site at Dumb.com, which is similar to how Bored.com used to be when I owned it, and I have been working on that site a lot lately. Dumb.com gets 10,000 visitors a day. Bored.com used to get 70,000 visitors a day.
I did already apply for JointVentures.com. They looked at my domains (including pastries.com and weights.com) and said they will get back to me.
Thank you Eric ansd all the commentators for all those insights, and to Rick for making me discover that blog !
I think you should consider partnering with site developers with a proven track record. You have some really amazing names but you are spreading yourself too thin. I would suggest picking a few of the better names and having someone develop a real content / community site behind them. Good marketing / seo + a great name can turn into a great revenue generator. It is far easier to dig deep than it is to dig wide.
Shoot me an e-mail if you want me to put you in touch with a few talented web developers / marketers.
I have not had a good history with partnerships (see my blog posting at http://www.impulsecorp.com/partnerships-part-3) and would rather not ever do one again, but I do frequently lease domains for a small down payment, giving the lessee an option to buy, so that is a little like a partnership. I would rather just sell (or lease) the domains to somebody who can develop them.
This post of yours is one of the best that I’ve read from a domain investor in a few years. You clearly work hard, you’ve experienced a significant amount of success in life, and yet you are humble to the core…you have my respect.
Happy New Year,
Alwasys welcome to hear some truth. As sometimes ony hearing inflated good is just hot air.
This is not to say all are like that and is also not to say that misery loves company. Merely observation.
Was a bit confused on the why no mini sites worked out and if perhaps was more that the sites were all on the same IP or some other underlying issue. Reason being mine are still ranking number one for many EMD and continue to drive me business??
Also saw your list of domains and bit of affinity to dubstep. I was just thinking about developing that but now maybe not…lol
Nice portfolio overall. Am supposing Ricks jv will probably be joining forces with your list soon from the interest I am reading up on. I wish us all the best, and turn experience into success.
4000 of my minisites were on the same IP, but I also had 200 that were much better designed and used WordPress, with a different host, and those did not do any better. So I don’t think the IP/host was the problem.
I am not into Dubstep, but one of my developers is, so he has created a few sites/apps for me in that market. Yes, I have some domains that were accepted for Rick’s JointVentures.com site, so I have hopes that he will be able to lease those domains, which will eventually lead to some large sales.
Hi Eric, this blog is a goldmine for knowledge nuggets. Thank you for sharing your experience. This post highlights the difficult market conditions of SE rankings, which appears to be the fundamental problem of testing new sites & investing in development. At the end of the day, do you think you might be overextending your diversification? With owning and operating too many sites, you can only focus on each site individually for a nominal amount of time.
I have seen growth from 1 website in which I have been consistently developing & tending to for a little over a year now (about 10hrs per week) in an extremely saturated market.
There is validity in consistency — which was your approach to managing the blogs — however, blogs (and all sites for that matter) require “authority”.
StockPicks.com is a good example, you’ll need to engage other businesses in the industry and build trust among your audience. I have visited the site and don’t feel as though I can trust the website. The design looks like a free web template, and the advice is does not seem trustworthy. Although this might be your proprietary technology, your description of the algorithm is more detailed then HOW visitors can use the information to make money on the markets. Current share price and BUY / SELL recommendations don’t exist & there is no established financial credibility. Compare your site to http://www.marketwatch.com/ or http://bloomberg.com/ and you can see that this is a massive undertaking to compete. Becoming an authority you need visitors need to trust.
Going forward in 2013, do you plan on investing in a parallel business? Have you considered investing in a business with a hands off approach?
Yes, I am overextending myself. But, for every case like yours where somebody spends a year focusing on one site and gets good traffic, there is also somebody who spends a year developing a site and it does not get enough traffic/income to make it worthwhile.
Right now 3 out of my 5 top earning sites (all using Adsense) are sites which I created in a matter of days and have not touched or promoted since I created them. This is compared to the other 2 of my top 5 sites (Dumb.com and Adoptme.com) which I have put a huge amount of time and effort into, month after month. Considering how much easier it is to create a site and then not keep updating it and promoting it, I would rather keep at least creating some sites like that.
As for StockPicks.com, I really never finished developing it. What happened was I spend lots of time and money creating BigCelebrities.com and I then used some of the same technology and programming to create PickStocks.com. so you are right, it is kind of a pointless site and not an authority type site. But, since it only gets 2-3 visitors a day, I don’t see how having a more authoritative looking design and better text would cause it to get more traffic. Google does not take any of that into account in its algorithms. It would help if I had a system on the site for tracking the stocks it picks, and then showing those stocks make a lot of money, but I have not added that yet. Basically, if I did something great with the site that people would like, then it could become an authority site, and that would get traffic, but that is not easy to do of course.
I would consider domain investing/flipping to be somewhat hands off, in that it does not take a lot of time, and I have tried that over the past few years, and have done ok with it, but it is risky and it is hard to count on steady making profits that way. As an alternative, if I were to invest in somebody else’s business, which would be hands off for me, that has a lot of risks, so I would rather invest in my own business.