Afternic Domain Auctions


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September 12, 2012

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Latest news of the domain name industry - The Next Big Thing in Domain Monetization?: New Companies Are  Making the Dream of Affordable Mass Development a Reality

By Ron Jackson is a mini-site development service founded by veteran Internet and domain industry entrepreneur Rick Latona and Ryan Steel. Steel comes from a development background with a strong focus on search engine optimization. He told us, "Rick and I met at the Final Four games here in Atlanta. It pretty much went like this: Rick said  “I have all these domains just sitting around, I think we should do something with them." I said “I agree!" And with that simple exchange their partnership in one of the domain industry's fastest growing sectors was born.

"What got us really into mass developing was the fact that at the end of the day with parking all you will ever get is type-in traffic," Steel said. "So we spent two years developing a scalable process that would allow us to tap into the search engine traffic without getting too high in development costs. We didn't actually start offering services publicly



Rick Latona Co-Founder

until August of 2008 (I still think this puts us ahead most of the 'craze'!).  Once we had a smooth process going, we came out and started offering our Rapid Mini Site product." Our exclusive interview with Steel continues below.

DN Journal: Give us some details about your specific program – how you attack the problem of developing a large number of sites at an affordable cost.  

Ryan Steel:  Our core product is our Rapid Mini Site.  This is a 5-page website, with unique content and design that includes a search engine marketing campaign. They cost $250 apiece and we offer bulk discounts.  This is no automated process, each page of content is written by our in house team of writers and is geared towards search engine optimization.  The designs are focused on producing high click thru rates and on site optimization. The link building process gives your site a jump start in the search engines.  If you were to take away any one of these pieces, the performance as a whole will fall apart.  This is where I believe we stand apart – we are a full service shop.  We even take care of the hosting!

Ryan Steel Co-Founder

Building a scalable development process is our key to success.  Our production levels are directly related to our staff count.  In order to increase production, we just start hiring additional staff.  Having a system based on checks and balances really allows us to add to our force without having any mishaps.

In the end, automated sites will have a hard time surviving.  We believe having a real development team is the key to being able to successfully develop on a large scale.  Even if we cannot create 1,000 sites overnight, I trust that the 250 sites we average per week will outperform the 7,000 automated sites.

Along with our Rapid Mini Sites, we offer custom development, writing and search engine marketing (link building & consulting).  Pretty much anything you need for your website or online business.

DN Journal: While these sites are often referred to as mini-sites, many of the current services allow domain owners to add their 

own content and advertisers (or feeds) to further the development process. To what degree does your system allow this?  For example, does your service allow a domain owner to plug in third party content from a source like Tinbu.

Ryan Steel:  Our Rapid Mini Sites are designed for growth.  We start our clients off with the base 5 pages of content, however we encourage more to be added and help with these needs.  Upon signing up, our customers can even request that the site be developed in WordPress, which provides a very user-friendly management interface.  Adding custom content, plugins, and additional advertising can be as simple as a few clicks.

I actually advise my clients to be careful when working with RSS feeds.  A site built on just RSS feeds provides nothing unique.  It is uniqueness that the search engine's look for to make sure you stand out.  If you are displaying a bunch of content from on your site – why would Google ever rank you higher than  

DN Journal: The #1 question on domain owner’s minds will be, will this service make more money for me than parking the same domains? Since this is a new category, with many of the service providers having been open less than a year, there is not yet a long track record for comparing results, but based on what you currently know, how do you answer this question from your customers?  

Ryan Steel: Granted we have only been open to the public for less than a year, but we have been developing mini sites for just about 3 years now, and full websites for almost a decade.  I can gladly say, to this day we are still our biggest customers.  We have seen development not only benefit our daily bottom line, but our resale values as well.

Whenever you add content to ads, your CTR (click-thru-rate) will take a hit.  The whole idea behind developing is that you are able to overcome that drop with additional traffic.  I figure for any given keyword out there, there is 3x as much traffic coming from the search engines than type-ins.  In a lot of cases, this number is extremely low and we experience 10-20x the traffic.

We have a manual review process for every domain that is submitted for development.  We analyze the keywords in the domain for search engine volume.  If there is no search engine volume behind a domain, there is no reason to develop it unless you have a business model that you are trying to strive for.   


Screenshot of an site built 
for the owner of

The truth is, the domain name is very important to what we are doing on a rapid level.  Any domain with enough investment can rankwell for a term, however that investment is not something we are striving for.  We want to be able to apply as little effort, for as big of a return as possible.  By screening, we are protecting our client's investments with the knowledge we have learned by doing this over the years.  We turn down around 60% of the domain submissions that come across our table.  Many of these customers return with a caliber of names we strive for and we have great relationships with!  

DN Journal: Many developers say there are additional benefits, beyond immediate monetization, to moving beyond the parking page. For example, more “curb appeal” for potential buyers, less likelihood of inadvertent trademark infringement (from ads served by the PPC company), etc. What do you see as the added benefits of following at least a minimal development strategy?  

Ryan Steel:  I feel there are a tremendous amount of benefits to even the smallest development.  Let me outline my favorite:

  • Increased Resale Value

◦     A site that is parked is at the best it can be, today.  It will not grow in traffic or revenues – it is basically saying that this is all I can be.  Even the smallest development can put you up on the search engines.  Increase your traffic and revenue, therefore increasing the value of the domain itself.  If offered non developed for $100,000 that gets 100 visitors a day – or a developed that gets 300 visitors a day for $100,000 which would you choose?

  • Control your ads

◦     There are so many different options to monetize your website out there besides the traditional CPC model.  As part of our service, we help pair you with additional advertising networks out there that may offer a direct product related to your website. These can be Cost Per Lead offers that require a simple form submission or even CPA offers where you earn a commission on a sale.

Getting out of the box can prove to be very profitable – it all boils down to providing your customers/surfers with what they are looking for.

  • Increased sales reach

◦     Once your site is showing up in the search engines, not only do you find yourself having a larger traffic base, but your sales reach increases as well.  If someone is in the “Yellow Widget” business and they are searching for competitors and see that a top 5 site is listed for sale, that person is going to be interested.  We generate a nice stream of sales leads through a simple “ is For Sale” page.  As a bonus, these are not domainers – they are the all sought after “End Users”!  We all know what that means – higher resale value.

DN Journal: Parking is a well established industry with many major players. Your service category is the new kid on the block. How do you see the equilibrium between these two sectors (parking and mini-site development) changing over the next couple of years – do they both hold their own, does the balance of power shift, etc?

Ryan Steel:  I personally love being the new kid on the block.  To me it just translates that you are pushing the limits, and it is there that you will find success.  

You will never here me say a bad word about parking.  I feel that there is definitely room for both of these domain monetization services to co-exist.  A domain with traffic does not always mean it will make a good development. However there are so many domains out there with little or no type in traffic that have a search engine volume that would firmly support the idea of development.  My recommendation is to pick the right poison.  A typo name, gets parked.  A generic 3 keyword .com needs to be developed.

The only trend that I really see happening over the next few years is that the premium generics that were parked will turn into developments.  Parking will only get you so far on these names, and companies will soon be realizing that.  Parking itself though, will be with us for a good time to come.

As for what the future holds for, we are changing everyday.  Our motto is to never have a motto.  Development is a game of adaptation, and we plan to continue to position ourselves with the changing of the market.  You will definitely see a lot more ccTLD development coming out of our camp, we have proven ourselves in this market and have found quite a bit of success in it.  We are also working on additional monetization methods for developed traffic.  

DN Journal: Thank you for your time Ryan. Anything else you would like to add before we say goodbye?  

Ryan Steel:  Development costs money.  We feel that the success in development comes from the ability to scale your developments in an economical fashion.  If a client was to come to me today and wanted to develop this $50,000 website and expect it to be cash flow positive out of the gate, I will simply bow out of the bid.  As a new kid on the block, our clients need to be able to trust us.  We encourage this trust by using our experience to provide the best educated proposal for any development, including our Rapid Mini Sites.

If our clients do not succeed, we do not succeed.  It is as simple as that!

Thank you for the time Ron, we are happy to be part of your round up!

Click any of the links in this table to learn about the mass website development services provided by other companies featured in this DN Journal Cover Story

Bonus profile of content provider

Click Here to Go to Page 1 of This DN Journal Cover Story


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