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Castello Brothers on Successful Site Development

59

The Castello Brothers Top 10 Suggestions For Successful Site Development

My brother Michael and I have done well financially (is there any other way?) developing our sites. Nevertheless, we’re both on a lifelong learning curve and after 10+ years in this wonderful business we still feel like we’ve just begun. Here are ten suggestions we’d like to share with you so you can unpark your names and start making some real money.

1) Choose a domain name that reflects a topic you’re madly passionate about. Don’t do this and your site will become the worst thing it can be – work.

2) Stick with dotCom or the ccTLD of your country. If you don’t agree, please visit our portfolio, choose one of our names and develop the dotNet.dotOrg or dotInfo version into a huge site. You’ll quickly become our best friend and we’ll buy you a bottle of 1995 Dom as we toast the direct nav traffic you’ll be giving us.

3) Don’t build a site, build a brand. There’s a difference. Anyone can build a site.

4) Write at least a page of original content a day (in a year you’ll have 365 pages). What would motivate you to do this? See suggestion #1.

5) The content you write must turn your site into an authority or “reference site” about its topic. This is important for site credibility, SEO, return traffic and selling to advertisers. Remember, the last thing you want is someone having to go somewhere else for info about your site’s topic.

6) Do not put Adsense on your site. Why would you send valuable visitors away for pennies on the dollar? Who thought of this? Google (and that’s why they’re rich and you’re not). Furthermore, you need these people to tell you why they’re on your site so you can continue to build the user experience and discover their expectations (and you’ll also meet somebody else – potential advertisers). This will not happen when you keep sending them away. On a developed site, Adsense is the equivalent of opening a store on Madison Avenue and guiding customers from the front door straight out the back door as they hand you a quarter along the way.

7) Add a forum and blog that is monitored daily. Forums and blogs instantly turn an inorganic site into a living, breathing thing with a heartbeat. They add excitement, personality and lots of loyal, returning visitors. Also, add a Calendar of Events that is relevant to your topic.

8.) After you’ve developed the traffic and SEO rankings start selling static advertising to people who would profit from being on your site. Who are these people? By the time you’ve developed the site and achieved high SEO rankings they’ll be right in front of your face. For example, we’ve met many who were giving us listings to be on our Calendar of Events and didn’t know they could be on the front page for a fee.

9) Never, ever email a potential advertiser. This is Sales 101, but most people don’t know this. Get them on the phone or, if possible, meet them in person. If you won’t do this get someone who will and share the revenue with them. Don’t ever try to sell someone something you wouldn’t buy. You’ll come across as disingenuous and nothing will kill your reputation and credibility faster. On the other hand, if you believe in the power of your site that passion will be instantly communicated and selling is a cinch.

10) During this whole process, make the site an extension of your personality. It’s got to have your creative fingerprints all over it. Your site is your baby and never hand the reins over to someone else unless you’re selling it.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and professional domain investor. Elliot is President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a domain investing company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Elliot is the publisher of DomainInvesting.com.

Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | | Facebook | Email
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Comments (59)

    Ron Jackson

    Marvelous tips – There will be people who read that post and go on to make seven figures over the next few years simply because they listened to the Castello Brothers’ free advice – advice based on years of experience that has given them personal insight into what it takes to reach the top.

    February 17th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Bf

    To Castello Brothers: If possible, I would like your feedback on the following:

    Markus Frind, the creator of plentyoffish.com (free dating site netting $10M/yr – backed only by AdSense) posted the following in 2006 “How I made a million in 3 months.” http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum89/13958.htm

    What stuck out to me was the following:

    -”Build your site around your users and make them part of your site, don’t build your site for consumption.”….”You have to create sites that will bring in repeat traffic. If you think you will get rich off SEO think again.”

    Do you ever consider adding ‘interaction’ functionality on your sites to bring in repeat users? Focusing also on users creating content, instead of just the publisher.

    Thanks,
    BF.

    February 17th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    jeff

    hi,

    great write up and was very helpful.. i had enjoyed the thoughts into this.

    cheers and congrats… you surly own a nice portfolio of generic .com names..

    obviously private advertisers are the way to go and better roi however i still think adsense will do ok if you dont private advertising on your site imo.

    plenty of fish-what a powerhouse and look how basic the site looks.. flashy sites dont always improve the best.

    j

    February 17th, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    David J Castello

    Markus Frind’s story is fantastic, but it is by far the exception and not the rule in this industry. Social sites get a lot of press when they are successful (and with a gazillion visitors those Adsense pennies will add up), but I know scores of domainers who have gone broke trying to emulate that model. The 10 suggestions we made above have generated revenue for us over and over again with different domain names.

    And yes, we are working different types of interaction to bring in repeat users (the public forum on Whisky.com is doing quite well as are the Classifieds on Nashville.com).

    February 17th, 2009 at 12:42 pm

      Elliot Silver

      My biggest fear with adding interaction is that you then have to moderate it or hire someone else. Think about these issues:

      1) Someone posts that they got sick at Jimmy’s Seafood Shack. Do you moderate this and anger the person who posted, or risk litigation/angry advertiser?

      2) Company posts info about their business, thus eliminating the need for advertising on site.

      3) Spammy sign ups require constant checking.

      Just 3 things at the top of mind.

      February 17th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    BF

    Thanks for your feedback David.

    February 17th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    David J Castello

    Eliiot:

    1) Call Jimmy’s Seafood and ask them to respond. We’ve actually met advertisers this way. For ever action there’s an equal and opposite reaction and sites are no different.

    2) We do free listings, too, but they don’t get a link to their site or any other info besides their address and telephone number. The moment their competition puts up a full blown ad their “free” listing looks insignificant and they want to upgrade. Note: the only “free” basic listings would be in a database, never on prime real estate like the front page or category headers.

    3) When you start making 30K a week in advertising revenue tell me if this still bothers you :)

    February 17th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    ac

    The plentyoffish example is a different animal here. By itself, the domain plentyoffish doesn’t mean anything and is not a category killer..and, many people are too cheap to pay for dating and then if they strike out on pof, they are directed to an adsense dating advertiser..so, it is like an intro service..kudos to mr.frind as he’s a sick genius! But, actually a different business phenomenon here and a different web strategy/phenomenon.

    February 17th, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    jeff

    i agree with what ron said, free info and was very helpful. learn from the big boys and hope one day we can make some cash, lol..

    i do invest outside the .com area and i do run google ads on sites…hope to eventually go after private advertising one day. good suggestion in picking up the phone vs email.

    30k a week, wow.. many years in building that up and the perks of owning generic .com names early on.. 99 percent of the domainers today(this includes myself) cant go out and drop 100k plus on a name and grow it into brandable business model. the perks in being seeing the vision years back and grabbing names!

    congrats and you guys are a powerhouse!

    keep up the great work!

    February 17th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    BF

    to Elliot:

    On the points you’ve made. All valid. I do have the following opinions:

    1) A site like Yelp.com has proved what David confirmed on his second post. Advertisers do get involved and as the site gains status, they work hard on keeping their ‘virtual morality’ intact. For yelp.com’s case, I’ve read you sometimes get better treatment if you say ‘I found you on yelp.com,” where advertisers make sure treatment is immaculate to avoid a bad comment on the site.
    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/07/23/100134489/index.htm

    2) I agree with David on the free listings in providing upgrades that are easy to pay for. To hear that this model works well is great news. One point that is not addressed is if a sales force is involved in the process or not. Is the purchase/upgrade process automatic?

    3) I think one way to decrease spam along with overhead is allowing the community to also take part in tagging spam signups.

    Thanks for your feedback Elliot

    February 17th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    David J Castello

    BF:

    Automated database sales take a long time to build. Our Daycare.com does well, but it took years to get to that point and you start at a much, much lower monthly advertising rate. Nothing sells advertising faster (with a 25X-100X price rate) than person-to person. It’s like selling print advertising to a magazine, pays accordingly and can get significant cash flow moving quickly. In the spring of 1998 I signed my first 90 advertisers to PalmSprings.com in 88 days.

    February 17th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Eugene Krassnoff

    David,

    Thanks for the great tips. Have you and Michael thought of writing an e-book on Geo – development or put up a website that would address those type of questions? I think the Geo community will highly appreciate that.

    Thanks,

    February 17th, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Jessica

    Great post, David.

    February 17th, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    David J Castello

    Yes, Eugene, Michael and I have talked about it, but we simply don’t have the time because we have so many names under development and so many more to go. Instead, we try to guest on blogs and speak at domain conventions as much as possible. We’ll both be at the Geo Expo in San Diego and TRAFFIC San Jose in April.

    February 17th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Josh

    Tx for the post, David.

    What struck me most was your conviction about not emailing people when selling, and to meet in person or over the phone.

    February 17th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Mark Fulton

    Very resourceful and insightful. Number (9) hits home as I have emailed a few potential advertisers. I was surprised to read that I’m doing almost all of these right with DotSauce.

    Thanks for sharing, will be passing this along. :)

    February 17th, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    David J Castello

    Josh:
    Yes, it is very important not to email potential advertisers (unless it’s to tell them that you have received their email inquiry, introduce yourself and tell them you will be calling them). To clarify, you can email advertisers, but don’t try to tell sell or close the deal via email. I consider myself a decent writer and I certainly know how to write an email, but the stats I compiled bear it out. After PalmSprings.com became successful, Michael and I got busy launching other sites and I began emailing back advertising inquiries with our rates, etc. Sales dropped immediately, so I started compiling conversion rates for advertising leads. They were: 11% for email, 78% for telephone and 94% when I met them in person.

    February 17th, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Jon

    I have a question for David about daycare.com I would love to get pointers on. Say you were starting the site now with this exact domain.

    1. How many free listings per city would you offer before starting charging daycare centers for listing (in a given location)? 3 or so listing or more like 10 free listings?

    2. Would you charge the very first paid advertisers (in a given city) almost nothing like $25/year to get them on board, or would you go right away to charging $100-$300/year?

    3. At what point do you start calling daycare centers? As soon as the cite is launched and there are no paid listings (in their city) yet? Or once you get a few paid listings, so you can tell them that the others in their city are already paying and they should too?

    4. When you call, is it best to offer them some extra incentives? Like maybe they pay for 2 years up-front and get the third year free. Or do you just tell them that paid listing on daycare.com is a no-brainer and that a $100 spent on marketing on daycare.com is money much better spent that $100 spent on any other marketing.

    5. During the phone-call, do you mostly emphasize that daycare.com is such an obvious place to look for daycare?
    Or do you also talk about traffic and other technical stuff?
    My thinking is that with a name like daycare.com, it may be best to avoid talking about anything technical to avoid potentially confusing them.

    That way you also sort-of elevate yourself above all the competition. You basically say to your potential advertisers:
    We are daycare.com. We list daycare centers in your city. You are daycare center. Give me $100/year. What more do you need to know.

    6. Any other insights you can share about what you would tell them on the phone.

    Thank you so much. Jon

    February 17th, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Josh

    David,

    Thanks for getting into more detail about that.

    I think the thing about the phone,… is one has to make sure you aren’t interrupting the person, and also have a good phone vibe, and phone gut.

    February 17th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    MIchael Castello

    Good questions Jon. There are some names that dirve traffic and advertisers to you and Daycare.com is one of those. In short, we never called one daycare to be on the site. Not one. At the beginning we had just one page with the Daycare.com logo and a simple form for facilities to list their daycare for free. We were getting over 3,000 submissions a year. That helped to create a database that could then be searched by parents looking for daycare. We then started building out the site using information that each state requires for starting a daycare. We then put a system in place that would charge $5 a month to list and also offer premium listing placement for $10 more a month.

    What happened then was organic. The next 3,000 came to search our database and found their local competition already listed on our site. Many signed up and paid the fee to be listed. We understand now why search engines make so much money for listing placement.

    We are going to use this same model for Adopt.com but this time we are going to use each states database that is usually available online for free or for a small fee. We can list the agencies and lawyers that handle the complicated and expensive adoption process. We hope to make that process cheaper for families and children that are anxiously need each other. We are passionate about this and plan to have a full site up this year that is not only local but global.

    February 17th, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    David J Castello

    Jon:
    As you can see from Michael’s answer, Daycare.com is a database driven automated advertising site. It does quite well now, but took years to get its automated advertisers to pay $5 a month for a listing. On the other hand, for static advertising on PalmSprings, the lowest fee is $100 a month and many pay $1500 a month.

    The advantages to both systems are obvious and we launched each of their revenue models at about the same time. Currently, we are experimenting with ways of successfully combining both methods on the same site.

    February 17th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Jon

    Thank you so much Michael and David. In case of PalmSprings.com, do you find that potential advertisers even ask much about traffic, or PalmSprings.com name seals most of the deal?

    February 17th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    David J Castello

    A healthy combination of both with testimonials from clients (very important to gather these as you go along) usually seals the deal.

    February 17th, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    JJ

    Very interesting post and comments – thanks Michael and David for sharing your thoughts.
    If you don’t mind me asking, for your geo sites, do you charge different rates depending on what category a business falls in, or the expected page views/referrals, or do your rates simply depend on size and location of ad?
    Also, if your domains were not the pure city.com but instead, an alternative such as citystate.com, visitcity.com etc, but with the same traffic and search engine rankings, what impact do you think that would have on your ad sales? I’m thinking that a strong sales person in a face to face meeting could get over that hurdle, especially if the city.com is not a developed/competing site?

    February 17th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    jblack

    Seems like a list of sound points.

    Where on palmsprings.com does one readily find the 365 pages of original content about Palm Springs?

    February 17th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    jblack

    Great comments and instruction by the Castellos, very well done!

    February 17th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    David J Castello

    JJ:
    It’s all relative. Generally, the stronger the domain name, the easier time you’ll have selling static advertising. Of course, you can have a secondary name with tons of content and top SEO rankings that will also attract advertisers.

    jblack:
    One of the marketing secrets about PalmSprings.com is that every advertiser gets a free splash page written by their rep extolling their virtues. We originally did this because we didn’t want to link straight out of the site because we wanted to “internalize” our traffic so that every visitor would hit more advertisers (another reason for not doing Adsense). What we didn’t realize at the time was that we were building a ton of orginal content. Original content can come in many forms. On PalmSprings.com it came from advertiser’s splash pages. However, Whisky.com was built using the page a day strategy.

    February 17th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    MIchael Castello

    jblack. Therein lies a little secret. There are many pages that are not visible from the frontpage of palmsprings.com. We made, what we called, satellite pages. Here are a few examples in particular that may seem old and not really justified. But you realize is there are many people finding these pages through a search and visit our site when looking for something a little different. All of these satellite pages bring visitors to the site and eventually the visit the city.

    http://palmsprings.com/stars/
    http://palmsprings.com/services/wind.html
    http://palmsprings.com/active/horseshow/index.html
    http://palmsprings.com/points/holocaust/

    As you can see some are old but these are the static content pages that search engines love. The basic properties that made the iweb are still very stable today and will be in the future.

    February 17th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    wannadevelop.com

    David & Michael, good job — great success stories.

    Great rundown of some of the most important things.. Definitely a check list to keep on a sticky note somewhere close by, visible at all times.

    God knows its so easy to get distracted when developing more than a few domains.

    Having a clear “plan” is a must.

    Once you have a plan, the next thing is you need to execute it accordingly. You need to stick with it til the end.

    It’s ok to make mistakes along the way.. We learn as we go.

    I see a lot of people worrying about advertisers and selling advertising…

    Guys, do not worry about this stuff. You need to worry about developing a good website. Create relevant and unique content. Become the authority. Rank and dominate the niche.

    Why worry about advertising strategies and all this stuff when there is 0 visitors to your websites?? No eye balls!! Nobody to serve the ads to!! Nobody. You got nothing yet.

    When you start to have some traffic coming in, and I mean hundreds per day, at minimum.. That is when you should start worrying about selling ad space.

    Have either a 100, 200 or 300 day plan.

    That is how I do it :)

    Development is a never ending process. It is done in stages. It involves a lot of time and work. Can be simplified quiet a bit if you know what you are doing but it will always involve tweaking and re-optimizing. It is part of the business. No getting away with it.

    If you aren’t making your website/business better.. Somebody else is. Your competitors are working on their sites.. You always need to keep going at it. There is no such thing as easy money :)

    Best,

    Mike

    http://www.wannadevelop.com

    February 17th, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Sandym

    This whole post, comments included, is some of the best advice I have read in a long time.

    Thanks so much Elliot, David and Michael.

    Time for me to refocus and get back to work.

    February 17th, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Phil

    Thanks for the conversion rates of advertising leads.

    This post and comments make it clear that for a palmsprings type model you need to bring in extra sales talent if it is not your strength.

    If anyone has any experience of outsourcing sales I’d be interested to hear about it.

    February 17th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Patrick McDermott

    “Where on palmsprings.com does one readily find the 365 pages of original content about Palm Springs?”

    I hope the Castello brothers don’t mind my posting this.

    You can follow the progress of their wonderful site as it was being developed on Archive.org.

    Site pages are archived from December 21,1996 to February 08,2008.

    See here:
    http://sn.im/Palm_Springs

    February 17th, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Kevin

    Some very good points David & Michael.

    However, most of the really good points here involve either having quite a bit of skillsets beyond what most domainers have and/or marketing capital to hire the people to do things right.

    Selling on the telephone for example does indeed work. We’ve done it at our company but you have to have really skilled advertising sales reps working for you or know how to do it yourself. I was VP of a telemarketing firm when I was in my 20′s so I learned in the trenches and learning how to do professional closing by phone is the most powerful selling skill you can master.

    Phone selling however is extremely time consuming because you’re going to talk to a lot of prospective advertisers who will gladly listen to your pitch but never close. Sometimes the conversion rate can be great and sometimes not so great. Again it all depends on how qualified your prospects are to buy and how good you are at selling. You can be a great salesman but if your leads aren’t good, the sales won’t happen.

    So bottom line these are all very good tips, but to put them into play is taking development to a much higher level than most domainers are capable of from all the necessary skillsets, staff, capital, or having top quality domains to work with. Having a powerhouse domain like PalmSprings.com is ideal for all these suggestions, but most domainers don’t have something that premium and brandable to work with.

    So my suggestion to those domainers wanting to implement these tips would be to invest in a top notch domain so you have a great property to work with, learn how to do advertising sales from those domainers who have done it already, focus on your one great domain to start with, and find creative ways to get top talented people to work with you with on commission or on JV equity %.

    February 17th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    David J Castello

    Kevin:

    I just realized that I didn’t clarify something about telephone sales. The only unsolicited selling I’ve ever done has been person-to-person. I walked right in and said, “Hello” to the owner. Yes, sometimes I took a deep breath before I went in, but I was determined to get as much cash flowing for PalmSprings.com in early 1998 as possible in the shortest amount of time and this was the only way to get the job done.

    On the other hand, I would never do telephone cold calling for any reason. All telephone sales for any of our sites are because we’ve received an email inquiry about advertising first.

    And, yes, you are 100% correct. It does come down to the quality of your name. No matter how much resistance I encountered in the beginning, I knew that a great name like PalmSprings.com “had my back.” I would rather buy one great name for $125,000 than buy 15,000 mediocre ones for $8 each and park them.

    February 17th, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Conor Neu

    Wow, great article, but even better are these follow up comments.

    Here’s a question for you guys.

    How much time do you spend these days in Palm Springs actually working on your business? Or, if you live in Palm Springs, how much time do you spend in Nashville?

    I know that pounding the pavement and speaking with people directly was important at the beginning, but how easy is it to run these businesses remotely now?

    February 17th, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    David J Castello

    Michael and I work 24/7 on the network. We are fortunate to have one of the best domain portfolios in the business, but we still have a lot of “beachfront property” to develop.

    From 02/28/98 until 12/02/99, we worked seven days a week selling advertising for PalmSprings.com. December 2, 1999 is a very important day in the history of PalmSprings.com. Hotel advertisers are the lion’s share of PalmSprings.com and 12/02/99 was the last day we ever solicited a hotel to advertise on PalmSprings.com. After that date, every hotel who has advertised on PalmSprings has contacted us first.

    Today, CCIN is fortunate to have the two best Geodomain sales reps in the US working on PalmSprings.com: Kate Buckley and Natalie Lambert. And if anyone think it’s easier because we now get leads, try telling a hotel advertiser that the rate is $1500 a month – with a one year contract to boot. In 1998, the advertising rate for hotels was $100 a month.

    February 17th, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Steve M

    Great info as always, guys.

    Thanks.

    ps Let me give those who are uncomfortable making their own advertising pitches another way to go:

    Google “outbound telemarketing” and (after carefully talking with & researching the many companies which offer it) hire someone else to do it for you.

    While this path is not inexpensive if paid for on a “cash & carry” basis, some firms (especially in today’s economy) will let you pay them in full or in part from the ads that they actually sell.

    As Kevin will tell you, though, this industry is fraught with economic risks if you don’t know what you’re doing, i.e. bad contracts, bad scripts, “over-eager” salespeople, etc.

    But; in addition to you not having to do the selling yourself; you don’t have to give up a piece of your domain/ company with this path.

    February 17th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

      Elliot Silver

      @ Steve

      Your OBTM idea is pretty good and I hadn’t even thought about that, which is sad because I spent a considerable amount of time managing OBTM programs at AIG. I also spent time in call centers in WV and FL. I have an acquaintance from grad school who has a small DM shop and they do some OBTM, so I am going to give him a call tomorrow. I like this idea…

      “Hi there, I wanted to let you know you’ve been given a complimentary listing in the Burbank.com Yellow Pages. When you have a chance, please visit the site and review your listing. If you are interested in maximizing your exposure on Burbank.com, we offer… etc.”

      February 17th, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Kevin

    David,

    Cold calling works well as long as you do a certain subtle sales approach, have professional ad sales reps who know how to do cold calls effectively, and are calling very niche targetted advertiser prospects already advertising in offline and online in that niche.

    We got great receptivity surprisingly and the closing rates have been better than expected for cold calls.

    But certainly don’t do broad cold calls, only to precise advertisers who are perfect for the site niche you have. If you do it correctly they usually thank you for bringing the ad opportunity to their attention.

    Kevin

    February 17th, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    David J Castello

    Kevin:

    Like you, I did cold calling in my 20′s and even though I did quite well I swore I would never do it again. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something very Death Of A Salesman about it. To this day, watching that scene in Wall Street where the manager tells the broker to get back on the phone and start making more cold calls gives me a shudder.

    In the Geodomain market, I found it much easier (and actually fun) to simply walk into a PalmSprings.com business, hand the owner my business card, smile and say, “Hi, I’m David Castello the publisher of PalmSprings.com and I just wanted to introduce myself.” They were always nice and 50% of the time they were curious and wanted to know more – which usually led to them advertising. I guess you could say that I was more socializing than selling and I never felt like an Amway salesman. After a while, I found myself looking forward to it. A lot of these people became good friends of mine and as we discovered ways to make them more money off of PalmSprings.com they would refer me to other businesses. And, yes, I quickly noticed that just saying the word PalmSprings.com to a Palm Springs business owner always had a magical effect.

    February 18th, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Tim Davids

    David…I love your use of “magical”…I recommend anyone with a geo, pure or longtail go and walk around that “place”. You’ll never be more motivated to sell and socialize!

    At this moment I’m about 5 miles from a city.org I own and even though its a . Org I get pumped when I’m driving or walking through “my” city…

    February 18th, 2009 at 10:15 am

    jblack

    Once again, thanks to Castellos. Their concise comments are more instructive than about anything else I’ve read in years.

    February 18th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Kevin

    David,

    No doubt about it, cold calling is brutal and nerve wracking. LOL. You have to really be able to handle and get used to lots of rejection.

    I had a really good mentor back then who taught me every NO takes you one step closer to a YES for whatever it is you’re marketing. So I would look at the No’s in a positive way and then they aren’t so bad. And then you just get used to saying the word Next in your mind and start dialing again.

    Very few sales people last in the telemarketing divisions of companies. The turnover rate is like a revolving door. Usually we found 1 superstar per 100 sales reps we hired and eventually you build a great team of top account closers that are fearless on the phone.

    February 18th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    David J Castello

    Kevin:

    I would agree with your 1 out of 100 ratio. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I view the CCIN sales staff as being diplomats or ambassadors. We more socialize than sell, but we have a fantastic sales conversion rate.

    The first day Natalie Lambert starting repping LagunaBeach.com she asked me for advice as to what to say when she walked into the Laguna Beach businesses. I told her, “Don’t sell. Make believe you’re running for Mayor. Just introduce yourself and LagunaBeach.com, hand them your card and leave.”

    As simple as that sounds, I realized it was what I was basically doing back in 1998 and it worked wonders. Most business owners were taken aback because they were waiting for a sales pitch that never came. The message was: “We’re here to stay. We’re going to have an impact on your business and your going to hear about and see us – a lot.”

    February 18th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Josh

    “Like you, I did cold calling in my 20’s and even though I did quite well I swore I would never do it again. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something very Death Of A Salesman about it. To this day, watching that scene in Wall Street where the manager tells the broker to get back on the phone and start making more cold calls gives me a shudder.” – David.

    That was a good read, David.

    There’s quite a few different views out there on selling.

    Imo, “selling” is way more about communication, than selling. In a way, it’s more about a person perhaps deciding to buy, than someone else “selling”.

    Be genuinely friendly, be cool, lay it out straight, no bullshit, no hype. Keep it real. Enjoy yourself.

    -Josh

    February 18th, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    David J Castello

    Josh:

    Perfectly said. Optimum selling is a mixture of passionately communicating new information and socializing while keeping it real and fun. This becomes even more true the higher you go up the corporate food chain. Those people are sharp and can smell a particle of BS a mile away.

    I just had a guy call me and try to sell something. I can’t remember what he was selling because I was laughing so hard. He sounded exactly like the Sham-Wow guy.

    February 18th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    wannadevelop.com

    Selling advertising via the telephone works, it’s nothing new !

    But I am surprised not even a single person mentioned Social Networks.

    Most business owners are on them. Well, the ones that know about the internet and have websites and ones who understand the power of doing business online.

    Linkedin, Facebook, etc.

    Most of the real estate agencies/individual brokers who I have pitched to and with fantastic conversion rates at that, I’ve found have been on specialized networks such as http://www.activerain.com

    and I would never sell a spot for $1500 per year on one of my sites… n

    not for a Travel spot either

    not for a Restaurant spot….

    try emailing me and offering me $1500 per month and I may consider it and I will require 3 – 6 month minimum

    $xx,xxx contracts please

    and I offer only exclusive spots to 1 person / company per category and always focused on long term

    closing 100s of smaller deals at $xxx per month is a waste of time

    I only focus on selling advertising within very specific categories/niches on my sites… real estate, travel, restaurants, clubs, country clubs (lots of entertainment / recreation) and car sales

    That is where the money is

    $$$

    Best,

    Mike

    http://www.wannadevelop.com

    February 18th, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    David J Castello

    Mike:

    Who said anything about $1500 a year? I wrote, “…the rate is $1500 a month – with a one year contract to boot.”

    That translates into $18,000 a year for the advertisement.

    And I disagree that 100s of smaller deals at $XXX a month is a waste of money. Of course, you always gun for the big fish, but to turn away $1200 to list a local restaurant for one year is foolish (and Elliot will be the first to tell you!).

    The front page of PalmSprings.com alone makes over 3/4 of a million dollars a year. Believe me, Michael and I know where the money is.

    February 18th, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Domain Superstar

    “And I disagree that 100s of smaller deals at $XXX a month is a waste of money.”

    Yes, you are definitely correct David and good post too. The way to make even the smaller deals work is to simply have an efficient and streamlined process for easily setting these deals up and monitoring them in a way that will easily scale.

    Of course, Mike is also right too in the sense that he maybe wants to only accept larger deals and build his sites brands.

    A lot would depend on the longer term strategy that one has for the site and of course what type of niche the site is in.

    February 18th, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Duane

    Great write up and good points made,

    Which one should also consider on the Adsense aspect, the PPC advertisers popping up on your Website coming from Adsense are future potential customers.

    I have done the following with several sites. First you use Adsense while you build up advertising customers. For each customer you sign up you delete a Adsense block.

    The advertisers are monitoring where they are getting there Traffic from and also noticing other advertisers buying up space on your platform.

    So at the end, you can (ab)use Google to find good paying advertisers.

    February 18th, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Frank

    Great advice and views by Elliot, David, Michael and many others – thanks for the sharing.

    I’m wondering if anyone has any experience and / or specialized tips for developing a Geo that is a ‘region’ rather than a specific city. Locations such as:

    LongIsland.com
    CapeCod.com
    OuterBanks.com
    FingerLakes.com
    BigSur.com

    (None of which are mine)

    Thanks.

    February 19th, 2009 at 12:58 am

    wannadevelop.com

    A lot of businesses will want to try out advertising online but don’t know what to expect. You have to be realistic.

    For like a few hundred bucks per month they expect the world.

    It takes a lot of time to correspond with them, set them up, provide support, etc.

    I rather sell to one good and serious advertiser who understands the value and power of exclusivity and the internet — he will pony up.

    There is plenty of smaller advertisers out there that will drive you crazy, literally, so you have to be careful who you work with. I had some really bad experiences in the past and would rather deal with only a limited base as there is so many hours in a day.

    My own personal preference and makes more $$$ at the end of the day but to each his own.

    I am glad it is working out for you guys though. Good stuff… There is definitely many ways to make money off of a good website and that is the bottom line.

    Build something unique that will interest visitors time and time over and over again and you will have advertisers lining up, opening up their wallets and fighting for visibility.

    Mike

    February 19th, 2009 at 2:03 am

    David J Castello

    Frank:

    It all comes down to intuitive public recogniton for a region (in other words, how much direct navigation does it receive?).

    All the domains in your list are good and we’ve tried to acquire CapeCod.com and BigSur.com. Those two are exceptionally strong brands with lots of public recognition all over ther world.

    February 19th, 2009 at 11:26 am

    JJ

    David/Michael,

    Thank you for all your helpful comments.
    You say that the majority of your ad revenue comes from hotels. I was wondering whether you had considered developing more targeted ‘hotels’ domain names such as palmspringshotels.com, nashvillehotels.com etc. These would be easier to rank for hotel related searches (the current #1 spot in Google for ‘palm springs hotels’ is palmspringshotels.org), and should deliver a more targeted customer to your hotel clients. I’d be interested in your opinion on developing hotel domains and selling ads in the same way you have for your city domains.
    Thanks

    JJ

    February 19th, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    David J Castello

    Secondary Geos such as PalmSpringsHotels.com and NashvilleHotels.com are quite valuable. However, I call them “secondary” because they would be the 2nd choice, if it all, for a local advertiser.

    I would never try to sell advertising for a name because of its search engine rankings (in fact, I could not think of a more scary or insecure situation). Neither our LagunaBeach.com, WestPalmBeach.com or PalmSprings.com are #1 on Google for a search of their respective cities (each rank in the Top 3), but guess who sells all the local advertising?

    That’s because each of those names are recognized by the locals as intuitive brands and each receives a hefty dose of direct navigation traffic. Yes, any site should always have at least Top 5 search engine rankings for their most obvious search word/phrase, but search engine rankings for a brand site is more of icing on the cake.

    February 19th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    stephen Douglas

    What I have always wondered about is how to reach the advertisers in a specific geo area? I own “NorcoHome.com” and this is a medium sized city in SoCal. I think my market would be real estate agents selling in this area. However, I tried to place an ad with the top newspaper stating that “Norcohome.com” was for sale, and they denied me the spot!

    Setting up a real estate website based on geo domains is a b*tch! It gets some traffic, but I would like to build it into a directory.

    My logical solution, pardons to the Castellos, is to hire three people at minimum wage to call up everyone in the yellow pages to get them to pay for a $99 a year listing on your sweet geo prodserv directory domain. Of course, your crew would be working on cold calling other potential advertisers for your 50 other domain directories, but if you can pull in 200 advertisers per directory at $99 yearly, that’s about $20,000 a year. Multiply that by 50 similar sites, and that’s Frank Schilling jing (umm monthly i think).

    The Castellos and Elliot have geo development down pretty well, and learning from their comments, mistakes and successes, is so valuable I can’t state that enough. What is sad is that most of the world isn’t reading this blog, to learn how to succeed in working from their home on their own business. On the other hand, do we need another 500,000 competitors in this biz? lol

    February 28th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    David J Castello

    One of the biggest shocks I ever received was when The Desert Sun told me they wouldn’t accept any ads with the word PalmSprings.com in it. I immediately called my attorney who assured me it was legal. Considering the current plight of newspapers, I now find it quite ironic.

    I’m curious to see how your strategy goes to hire a telemarketing staff to sell Geo ads. Seriously, please let me know.

    February 28th, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Stephen Douglas

    Hi David,

    Damn you NAILED the Desert Sun on target! That was the paper I talked to. I own about 10 Palmsprings and Las Vegas domains, along with a few other desert area cities, and i can’t get CRAP for promoting them even on radio stations (really, I tried!).

    A newspaper syndicate is a client of my Successclick domain consulting services, and they control hundreds of geo positions in the US. Newspapers are by nature, old school. However, this company hired someone who incessantly showed them the value of their content and their reach, and their domains, as applied online. That person reached out to me, and we’ve been working together to make a change to show newspapers that the online market only makes them money, and at less cost than printed publications.

    The Desert Sun, they don’t get it yet. They should be buying the domains that they are denying to be featured in their classified sections for “SALE”. Dave, you amaze me that you bit that biscuit about them right off the bat. Good job bro.

    March 1st, 2009 at 5:12 am

    Shai Neubauer

    Great tips here. This read was better than any book I ever read about online marketing. You guys are amazing for sharing this info this is what makes our industry so great.

    Now, when are you guys gonna develop Location.net so I can get some of that direct nav traffic to Location.com. Ill buy you a CASE of 95 Dom LOL

    November 9th, 2009 at 3:37 am

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