My friend Peter Askew recently remarked about the power of “developing domains” to build audiences and achieve success:
He was following up on a preior tweet where he showed traffic growth of an older dormant domain he has “revived”. The chart shows significant traffic success:
This is what domainers call “development” and what SEO practitioners call “a website”. Development is a process… a technical process of building a web asset (in this case, on a domain). As the famous former Microsoft CEO Ballmer once chanted….
Well, close anyway. While Ballmer was courting software developers, Internet business people are courting audiences. Domain development is how audiences are earned. Domains are Internet assets which can be used to store a portion of the earned attention, at least for as long as search engines permit.
The Root SEO Problem, Often Overlooked
The reason Peter (and many domainers) referred to “development” is because before Google became a search monopoly, there were actually people who build web assets on domains without content. Compared to the performance of such minimally-developed domains, a developed domain thrives.
Domain parking was one pathway to content-free publishing, and SEO was another. Parking is largely gone now, and SEO remains as a form of competitive webmastering aka publishing.
The root problem, is the SEO marketplace. As SEO became valuable, various practitioners commoditized it and broke SEO into discrete pieces, to be executed a-la-carte as budgets allowed and profit margins recommended. In most cases, the most profitable parts of a web site search optimization (or “SEO”) were split off and sold as stand-alone services.
While website building (or “domain development”) was the true path to success, those other fast-money options were more attractive. Today, however, there are only a few known ways to draw an audience to a URL, and fewer to store that attention in the domain. A primary channel is search. But since search engines like Google became Internet monsters managing large portfolios of interconnected web properties, so did “search” become a massive traffic channel that spans beyond users searching on a search website like Google.com or Bing.com.
Me, Too Marketers Use Many Names
Oddly, even though there has been shake out and many SEO firms had to exit the audience-building business, some marketers still try to segment the marketplace for audience-building services, using new monikers like “Content Marketing” and “Inbound Marketing” and “Social Media“.
Isn’t this really just a case of marketing services?
When they tried to market just-one-part as “SEO”, they ramped up and crashed. The smart ones ramped up and cross-sold general services into the client base, but most “so-called-SEO firms” died.
The people behind them tried to do the same thing again, only selling something different. With “link building” and “guest posting” and “Content marketing” etc., but they, too, failed or are falling.
The reasons are obvious to insiders. SEO (or “competitive web site development”) requires a lot more than a tactic or two. Plus, one or two tactics executed out of proportion with the rest of publishing calls unwanted attention from the web spam police at Google.
The profits weren’t flowing much beyond an initial engagement for these folks, as tactics and methods failed to deliver promised performance.
Dear Domainers: It’s Called “Owned Media” Now
As marketers attempted to segment and label various facets of successful audience building around a reliable domain asset, they gave interesting names to the parts they understood. Earned Media, Social Media, Blogs, and now Owned Media.
What the marketing world is waking up to, and Peter is again demonstrating, is that Owned Media works. In other words, web sites work.
Developing Successful Web Sites is Hard Work
It should come as no surprise that developing good websites is hard work. It costs money, and labor. I might even be so brash as to suggest that the costs associated with web site development are proportional to the successes gained with audience-building, on average.
What else would you expect? As smart companies like Google build monopolies around Internet audiences and traffic, they assumed control of a significant portion of the profit associated with those audiences. Capitalism would have it no other way! Market efficiency, and all that. If you are ater Google’s traffic, in order to monetize it, then, I hate to have to remind you but…. Google is your biggest competitor.